The History of Homosexuality in Finland

Early 1600’s the sin of sodomy was made illegal in the law of Sweden-Finland. The law wasn’t put into practice, because the people did not connect relationships between men with the sodomite that was depicted like a demon. The term homosexuality did not exist. Relationships and sexual interactions between men were not culturally significant.

Late 1800’s the term homosexuality is born when science starts to research sexuality.

In Finland’s first criminal law written in 1894 “fornication between people of the same gender” is defined as a crime that should be punished. This however is more a repetition of the old law relying heavily on the Bible than a representation of the cultures values.

1800–1920 Relationships or sexual acts between people of the same gender are not seen as a significant problem in Finland, and people are not persecuted or sentenced for homosexual acts.

1920 Touko Laaksonen is born.

1930–1945 Sexual desire between men is defined as an illness called homosexualism by the science community. This perception of homosexuality as a sickness that rots society and makes a nation weak spreads until it becomes shared by the majority. Sentences for homosexual acts increase rapidly in Finland. In the 30’s, incurable homosexualists with repeated homosexual crimes are castrated by the state.

1945–1971 The society and the state persecuted homosexuals trying to weed out the sickness from the nation. Homosexuals are forced into hiding. Fear, shame and hiding make the anonymous sex culture happening in parks and public restrooms the only way to treat the symptoms of your illness for the majority of homosexuals. The ever tightening persecution starts to bring forth unified identity in the oppressed.

In 1950’s Finland, the illness of homosexualism is a public concern and it’s spread and existence is actively fought against. The police make frequent raids and arrest homosexuals. The names of arrested homosexuals are made public in newspapers and suicides among homosexuals are common. Violence against a homosexual is seen as justified and not considered an act that should require a sentence. The concept of being closeted does not exist because no one can be openly homosexual. Being feminine is the dominant way of expressing being homosexual, because it is an act that you can not be convicted for.

1957 Physique Pictorial in the USA starts to publish Tom of Finland’s drawings.

In the 1960’s sexuality, and also homosexuality, enter the public debate in the USA and in Europe. Cultural influencers start to speak for sexual freedom and liberation and the common values begin to move towards this direction, especially in the academical scenes and with the youth.

In the 1960’s censorship laws are taken down in the USA and many European countries and Tom of Finland’s work starts to spread wider and without restrictions.

1967 The first organisation that promotes rights for homosexuals in Finland is founded as a result of the scandal article “Homosexual den” (1966) in the magazine Ilta-Sanomat. Freedom fighting starts for real. The general opinion of the nation has reached a tipping point.

1971 Homosexuality is decriminalised.

1976 MSC Finland Tom’s club is founded in Helsinki.

1981 Homosexuality is no longer officially an illness.

1985 Tom of Finland Foundation is founded in Los Angeles, USA.

1991 Tom of Finland’s first art exhibition is held in Finland. Touko Laaksonen passed away.

1999 The last clauses that segregate homosexuality in criminal law are removed.

2002 Same-sex couples can register their relationship. The rights and law is not yet the same as with married opposite-sex couples.

2009 Same-sex couples with a registered relationship can adopt children.

2015 Equal marriage law comes into effect. Finland’s law is finally fully equal to homosexuals and same sex couples have the same rights as opposite-sex couples.

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