Korea had Hwarang warriors, “flower boys of Silla,” the dynasty that united the Korean Peninsula in the 7th century. These elite archers who dressed in long flowing gowns have been interpreted by many historians to hold LGBTQ+ identities.
In India, the Kama Sutra, an ancient text on emotional fulfillment and sexuality, records several queer identities, including svairini, independent women who refuse husbands and love women.6 Depictions of queer relationships are also found in numerous pre-colonial temples.7 As in other countries, imperialism spread anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes and policies during the 19th century.
Throughout South Asia, the term Hijra includes transgender people, intersex people and non-binary people. These individuals, who have been well documented since antiquity, are officially recognized today by governments in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.
Many Asian cultures have long had terms for LGBTQ+ individuals who may not fit within Western or other traditional binary gender structures. These terms, sometimes treated as a third gender, include phet thi sam in Thailand, meti in Nepal, the khanith in the Arabian Peninsula, bakla in the Philippines and mak nyah in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, the Pacific Islands have a multitude of broadly LGBTQ+ traditions and identities, including mahu in Hawaii, fa’afafine in Samoa, fakaleiti in Tonga, vaka sa lewa lewa in Fiji, rae rae in Tahiti, fafafine in Niue, akava’ine in the Cook Islands and whakawahine among the Maori of New Zealand.