For thousands of years, until the late 1800s, our ancestors were completely oblivious to the existence of a fundamentally distinct class of human beings. Indeed, during the long period of Greco-Roman antiquity and more than a millennium and a half of Christian civilization, man did not even have a name for this class.
Or so asserts an almost universal assumption fixed in the language almost everyone uses: that “heterosexuals” and “homosexuals” are two permanently and innately different kinds of human being, and that “sexual orientation” constitutes a difference comparable to the difference between male and female. Widespread acceptance of “homosexuality” and associated terms thus biases discussion of the subject before an argument is even formulated.
What might be called the philological evidence calls this notion into question. If it were true, someone would long ago have given this class a name. That no one did until very recently suggests that the notion is not true.
In the first footnote of the first chapter of Greek Homosexuality, which is generally regarded as the definitive treatment of its subject, Oxford classical scholar K. J. Dover points out that the ancient Greek language “has no nouns corresponding to the English nouns ‘a homosexual’ and ‘a heterosexual’.” Such an observation would seem to call for more notice than is accorded by a single short footnote, but even the apparent concession is misleading, insofar as it suggests that the absence of these terms is a peculiarity of Greek.