The word homophile is an alternative to the word for homosexual or gay. The homophile movement also refers to the gay rights movement of the 1950s and '60s.

The term homophile is favoured by some because it emphasizes love ("-phile" from Greek φιλία) rather than sex. Coined by the German astrologist, author and psychoanalyst Karl-Günther Heimsoth in his 1924 doctoral dissertation "Hetero- und Homophilie," the term was in common use in the 1950s and 1960s by homosexual organizations and publications; the groups of this period are now known collectively as the homophile movement.

The term homophile began to disappear with the emergence of the Gay Liberation movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, replaced by a new set of terminology such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, although some of the homophile groups survived until the 1980s, 90s and even the present day.

In an 1896 article on vivisection in "Proceedings of the American Microscopical Society" Pierre A. Fish used the term "homophiles" in a hybrid way ('homo' in this case being latin for 'man'), denoting advocates of vivisection – as opposed to antivivisectionists whom he called 'zoophiles'.[1] This usage has not been widely acknowledged.



After the gains made by the homosexual rights movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the vibrant homosexual subcultures of the 20s and 30s became silent as war engulfed Europe. Germany, the traditional home of such movements (Scientific-Humanitarian Committee) and activists (Magnus Hirschfeld, Ernst Burchard, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs or Max Spohr), went from being the best place in Europe to be gay, lesbian or transgendered, to the worst, under the Nazis. The Swiss journal Der Kreis ("the circle") was the only homosexual publication in Europe to publish during the Nazi era. Der Kreis was edited by Anna Vock, and later Karl Meier; the group gradually shifted from being female-dominated to male-dominated through the 1930s, as the tone of the magazine simultaneously became less militant.

After the war, organizations began to re-form, such as the Dutch COC in 1946. Other, new organizations arose, including Forbundet af 1948 ("League of 1948"), founded by Axel Axgil in Denmark, with Helmer Fogedgaard publishing an associated magazine called Vennen (The Friend) from January 1949 until 1953. Fogedgaard used the pseudonym "Homophilos," introducing the concept of "homophile" in May 1950, unaware that the word had been presented as an alternative term a few months previously by Jaap van Leeuwen, one of the founders of the Dutch COC. The word soon spread among members of the emerging post-war movement who were happy to emphasize the respectable romantic side of their relationships over genital sexuality.

A Swedish branch of Forbundet af 1948 was formed in 1949 and a Norwegian branch in 1950. The Swedish organization became independent under the name Riksförbundet för sexuellt likaberättigande (RFSL, "Federation for Sexual Equality") in 1950, led by Allan Hellman. The same year in the United States, the Mattachine Society was formed, and other organizations such as ONE, Inc. (1952) and the Daughters of Bilitis (1955) soon followed. By 1954, the monthly sales of ONE's magazine peaked at 16,000. Homophile organizations elsewhere include Arcadie (1954) in France and the British Homosexual Law Reform Society (founded 1958).

These groups are generally considered to have been politically cautious, in comparison to the LGBT movements that both preceded and followed them. Historian Michael Sibalis describes the belief of the French homophile group Arcadie, "that public hostility to homosexuals resulted largely from their outrageous and promiscuous behaviour; homophiles would win the good opinion of the public and the authorities by showing themselves to be discreet, dignified, virtuous and respectable."[2] However, while few were prepared to come out, they did risk severe persecution, and some figures within the Homophile movement such as the American communist Harry Hay were more radical.

By the mid 1960s, gays, lesbians and transpeople in the United States were forming more visible communities, and this was reflected in the political strategies of American homophile groups. From the mid-1960s, they engaged in picketing and sit-ins, identifying themselves in public space for the first time. Formed in 1964, the San Franciscan Society for Individual Rights (SIR) had a new openness and a more participatory democratic structure. SIR was focused on building community, and sponsored drag shows, dinners, bridge clubs, bowling leagues, softball games, field trips, art classes and meditation groups. In 1966, SIR opened the nation's first gay and lesbian community center, and by 1968 they had over 1000 members, making them the largest homophile organization in the country. The world's first gay bookstore had opened in New York the year before. A 1965 gay picket held in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, according to some historians, marked the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. Meanwhile in San Francisco in 1966, transgender street prostitutes in the poor neighborhood of Tenderloin rioted against police harassment at a popular all-night restaurant, Gene Compton's Cafeteria. These and other activities of public resistance to oppression lead to a feeling of Gay Liberation that was soon to give a name to a new movement.

In 1963, homophile organizations in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. joined together to form East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) to more closely coordinate their activities. The success of ECHO inspired other homophile groups across the country to explore the idea of forming a national homophile umbrella group. This was done with the formation in 1966 of the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO, rhymes with Waco).[3] NACHO held annual conferences, helped start dozens of local gay groups across the country and issued position papers on a variety of LGBT-related issues. It organized national demonstrations, including a May 1966 action against military discrimination that included the country's first gay motorcade.[4] Through its legal defense fund, NACHO challenged anti-gay laws and regulations ranging from immigration issues and military service to the legality of serving alcohol to homosexuals.[5] NACHO disbanded after a contentious 1970 conference at which older members and younger members, radicalized in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall riots, clashed.[6] Gay Sunshine magazine declared the convention "the battle that ended the homophile movement".[7]

Meanwhile the Church of England has used the term "homophile" in certain contexts since at least 1991 – e.g., "homophile orientation" and "sexually active homophile relationship".[8]

In recent years the term has also been adopted by anti-gay groups and Christian fundamentalists, particularly in the United States and Poland, as a term of abuse for gay men and lesbians by attempting to imply a link between homosexuality and paedophilia. However crime statistics and studies on gay parenting have failed to demonstrate any higher prevalence of child abuse by gay or lesbian criminals or parents when compared to heterosexual criminals or parents.[9]

List of organisations and publications


  • Forbundet af 1948 (1948–?) and Pan (1954–present)
  • International Homosexual World Organisation (IHWO), 1952? – first half of 1970s, political since second half of 1960s, founded by Axel and Eigil Axgil, German chapter named: Internationale Homophile Welt-Organisation)


  • Arcadie (journal, published 1954–1982), and organisation with the same name. Often published with the subtitle "Mouvement homophile de France".

The Netherlands

  • COC (1946–present) is the earliest homophile organisation. Their first magazine, Vriendschap, was published from 1949 to 1964 (available online). They also produced a number of other publications.


  • RFSL, Riksförbundet för sexuellt likaberättigande — "Federation for Sexual Equality", known since 2007 as the "Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights" (1950–present)

United Kingdom

United States

  • Vice Versa: America's Gayest Magazine (1947–1948), the first lesbian periodical in the United States, was free. Lisa Ben (an anagram of “lesbian”), the 25-year old Los Angeles secretary who created Vice Versa, chose the name “because in those days our kind of life was considered a vice.”
  • Knights of the Clock (c. 1950—?); first interracial gay organization. Focused on social activities but also worked on employment and housing concerns for interracial couples.
  • The Mattachine Society (1950–1987) and the Mattachine Review (1955–1966);[10] Homosexual Citizen, (published by the Washington chapter, 1966–?)
  • The Daughters of Bilitis (1955–present) and The Ladder (1956–1972); Focus (published by the Boston chapter, 1971–1983); Sisters, (National, published in San Francisco, 1971–1975).
  • ONE, Inc. (1952–present) and One magazine (1953–1972);[10] Homophile Studies (1958–1964)
  • The League for Civil Education (1960 or 1961–?) and The LCE News (1961–?)
  • The Janus Society (1962–1969) and DRUM magazine (1964–1969). A racy gay-male oriented magazine, DRUM reached a circulation of 10,000 by 1966.
  • Society for Individual Rights (1964–1976)[10] and Vector (1965–1977)
  • The Homosexual Law Reform Society (1965–1969)
  • Phoenix Society for Individual Freedom, Kansas City MO, and The Phoenix: Midwest Homophile Voice, (1966–1972)
  • Society Advocating Mutual Equality (SAME) (1966–1968), Rock Island IL, "The Challenger" newsletter
  • Homophile Action League (Philadelphia) and the HAL Newsletter (1969–1970)

See also


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ Sibalis, Michael, 2005. Gay Liberation Comes to France: The Front Homosexuel d’Action Révolutionnaire (FHAR), French History and Civilization. Papers from the George Rudé Seminar. Volume 1 PDF link
  3. ^ Bianco, p. 174
  4. ^ Fletcher, p. 42
  5. ^ Bianco, p. 175
  6. ^ Armstrong, p. 79
  7. ^ Quoted in Armstrong, p. 79
  8. ^ Issues in Human Sexuality: A Statement by the House of Bishops of the General Synod of the Church of England, December 1991 (London: Church House Publishing, 1991). Annotated text online
  9. ^ Facts About Homosexuality and Child Molestation. Psychology.ucdavis.edu. Retrieved on 2010-12-25.
  10. ^ a b c "Sexuality Studies at UC Davis, Sexuality Studies Resources Held in the UC Davis Shields Library's Special Collections Department". Retrieved April 8, 2006.


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  • homophile — [ ɔmɔfil ] n. m. et adj. • v. 1970; de homo et phile ♦ Didact. Homme qui éprouve une affinité sexuelle pour les personnes de son sexe (REM. équivalent mélioratif de homosexuel), éventuellement sans pratiques homosexuelles (⇒ inverti). REM. Bien… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Homophile — Homophile: I.Homophile,der:⇨Homosexuelle(I) II.Homophile,die:⇨Homosexuelle(II) …   Das Wörterbuch der Synonyme

  • homophile — 1960, from HOMO (Cf. homo ) (2) + PHILE (Cf. phile). An attempt to coin a word for a homosexual person as part of a social group, rather than a sexual deviant …   Etymology dictionary

  • homophile — [hō′mō fīl΄, hō′məfil΄] n., adj. [ HOMO + PHILE] HOMOSEXUAL …   English World dictionary

  • homophile — ho·mo·phile hō mə .fīl adj of, relating to, or concerned with homosexuals or homosexuality <homophile lifestyles> also being homosexual homophile n HOMOSEXUAL …   Medical dictionary

  • homophile — /hoh meuh fuyl /, n. 1. a homosexual. adj. 2. advocating or supportive of the interests, civil rights, and welfare of homosexuals; gay: a homophile activist organization. [1955 60; HOMO + PHILE, on the model of HOMOSEXUAL] * * * …   Universalium

  • homophile — adjective Etymology: hom + 2 phil Date: 1945 gay 4b …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • homophile — 1. adjective a) Homosexual, gay or lesbian, having a sexual or romantic preference for persons of ones own gender; . b) Of or pertaining to the “”, a gay activist movement that used this term in English. 2. noun A homosexual, a gay man or lesbian …   Wiktionary

  • homophile — (Roget s Thesaurus II) adjective Of, relating to, or having a sexual orientation to members of one s own sex: gay, homosexual, lesbian. See SEX …   English dictionary for students

  • Homophile — Ho|mo|phi|le der u. die; n, n: svw. ↑Homosexuelle …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

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