LGBT continues to be a contentious matter for several major religions of the world. A few religions have stringent preaching against homosexual and bisexual activities. Some religions are relatively less stringent. Very few religions have warmly welcomed the LGBT community around the world. Mythologies have had many LGBT characters and religions are varyingly connected to such stories. Several religions have mythological contexts but that does not imply the LGBT characters or their stories were widely accepted over the centuries.
LGBT Themes in Religions
Religions have different responses to homosexual and bisexual activities. One religion can simply discourage it while another can have the punishment of death by execution for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. There are three Abrahamic religions in the world, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. All three forbid same sex relationships. The original teachings of all the three prohibit sodomy. They condemn homosexual activity as sinful. Some reformed versions of these religions have been more accommodating of the LGBT community in modern times. Reform Judaism, the Metropolitan Community Church, the United Church of Christ, Anglican and Presbyterian Churches do not have any discriminatory practice for their LGBT members.
Reform Judaism allows gay and lesbian rabbis. It also has same sex marriage liturgies. Conservative Judaism and Re-constructionist Judaism also allows same sex unions and gays or lesbians can aspire to become rabbis. Such ordination is not universal though. It is more common in certain provinces than others. Historically, all Abrahamic religions have been based on a set of rules. These rules are laid down in the respective books, the Torah for Judaism, the Bible for Christianity and the Quran for Islam. None of these three endorse LGBT people or homosexual and bisexual activities. These books clearly condemn such behavior and the genders as a sin.
Mormons are not condemned for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Same sex relationship is not deemed to be sinful. However, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does propagate the idea that as per the creator it is for a man and a woman to be in a relationship to further the species. Mormons are also discouraged from engaging in sexual activity prior to and outside of marriage. This applies to both heterosexual and homosexual activities. Liberal Christians, Jews and Muslims do not consider homosexuality as sinful. Orthodox Christians, Jews and Muslims do not accept the LGBT community. Islam has a death penalty for homosexuality. There is no formal version or school of Islam that does not condemn homosexuality.
There are four major Indian religions, all of which are not practiced in various parts of the world. The three religions originating in ancient India are Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The fourth religion of Sikhism originated in medieval India. These religions have interesting takes on LGBT. Hinduism is rather ambiguous about homosexuality. This is primarily because Hinduism is not based on any one book. There is no one set of distinct principles or tenets that make one a practicing Hindu. Hinduism is the most fluid and hence flexible religion in the world. There are many LGBT themes in Hindu mythology. Many gods in the Hindu pantheon have fluidic gender. There are many references to half man and half woman. There are gods who can change their gender. Ancient sculptures found in many parts of the country depict homosexual activity, including some on temples that are revered by millions of people.
Buddhism, which is the major religion in China and Japan among some other Southeast Asian countries, originated in India but it is not practiced by many there. Buddhism has a neutral stance on homosexuality. This is not owing to its specific preaching pertaining to LGBT but its general propagation of renunciation. Buddhism encourages its followers to give up lust and sensual pleasures. This applies to both heterosexual and homosexual pleasures. There are versions of Buddhism where sensual pleasures are permitted but non-vaginal sex is not.
Sikhism does not have any written scripture or teaching addressing homosexual and bisexual activities. There are Sikhs who do not endorse the LGBT community and there are those who are welcoming. Some gurus state that homosexuality should not be encouraged. There are Sikh gurus who say that Sikhism is about equality and that it extends to LGBT people. Sikh marriages are not considered to be a union of a man and a woman. Sikh marriages are a union of two souls. A soul has no gender so according to the literal sense or technicality of the religious practice, two people of same sex can have a union of souls.
Zoroastrianism condemns homosexuality. Reformists among the religious do not. Confucianism does not have any take on homosexuality but it does celebrate male bonds in the form of a master and disciple. Taoism takes no stand in favor or against the LGBT people. Satanism celebrates every form of sexuality. Unitarian Universalism accepts all genders and forms of sexual activity. Humanism not only accepts LGBTQ and their sexual preferences but also propagates for their equal rights, including the freedom to marry whoever they want.
LGBT Characters in Mythologies
The LGBT themes in religions are often rooted in characters of the respective mythologies. Not every religion has a plethora of mythologies. Not all mythologies have any transcendental effects on the origin or development of a particular religion. LGBT themes and characters in mythologies are not always depicted in a flattering manner or to propagate the idea that such activities are acceptable. Some mythologies convey the message that such behavior is sinful. It is not always easy to decipher what the mythologies actually wanted to mean.
There is a book called Kama Sutra that was written sometime in 150 B.C. It is an Indian book, originally in Sanskrit language, about sexuality and eroticism. It is considered by many as a guidebook for sex but it is also a lesson to attain emotional fulfillment. The book is not a mythology or an epic story. It is simply about sensual pleasures and emotional pursuits. The Kama Sutra describes eunuchs performing oral sex on males. The earliest known text about erotic love in the world comes from India and it clearly does not discriminate against LGBT. There are Hindu and Jain temples in Khajuraho, in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India. Many walls of these temples have sculptures depicting sexual activity, including different positions, regardless of gender or sexuality.
LGBT themes in mythologies from around the world are quite interesting. Some refer to the romantic aspect of homosexuality. Some depict the unadulterated carnal instinct. Then there are some stories where divinity is an underlying theme. Western mythologies have been extensively studied and experts have published their findings over the years. Greek mythologies have gay characters. There were relationships between Achilles and Patroclus, Agamemnon and Argynnus, Achilles and Troilus, Ameinias and Narcissus among others. Apollo had same-sex relationships with many, including Admetus, Adonis, Branchus, Carnus, Cyparissus, Helenus, Hyacinth, Hymenaios and Iapis. Chrysippus had a relationship with Laius, Cycnus was with Phaethon, Daphnis, and Pan, Dionysus, and Prosymnus or Dionysus and Ampelus and many such examples exist. Poseidon had relationships with Nerites and Pelops. Zeus had relationships with Artemis and Callisto.
Norse and Celtic mythologies do not have any reference to gays or lesbians. Asian mythologies, on the contrary, have plenty of LGBT characters and some even explicitly depict homosexuality. Chinese mythologies have many stories of homosexuality. Japanese mythology actually has a folk tale about Shinu No Hafuri and Ama No Hafuri that had supposedly introduced homosexuality.