Gilbert Herdt

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Gilbert H. Herdt (born February 24, 1949) is Professor of Human Sexuality Studies and Anthropology and a Founder of the Department of Sexuality Studies and National Sexuality Resource Center at San Francisco State University.


Herdt is a gay activist[1] who has taught at Stanford University, the University of Chicago, the University of Amsterdam, and the University of Washington. In 2000, Herdt cofounded the Institute on Sexuality, Social Inequality and Health that studies all forms of sexuality and discrimination that affect community building, sexual culture and sexual health.

He specializes in sexuality and gender identity-based cultures. His studies of the 'Sambia' people — a pseudonym he created — of Papua New Guinea analyzes how culture and society create sexual meanings and practices. The Sambia are unique in that in the past they require males to undergo three specific sexual phases in their lives. Boys must provide sexual service to young men, adolescents must then receive oral sex from boys, and males enter adulthood by becoming heterosexual.[2]

In the United States, Herdt has also studied adolescents and their families, the emergence of HIV and gay culture, and the role that social policy plays in sexual health.

He has written and edited some 30 books, and more than 100 scientific papers. He is also the general editor of Worlds of Desire, and an associate editor of Journal of Culture, Sexuality, and Health, Journal of Men and Masculinities, and Transaction: Journal of Social Science and Modern Society.[3]


Herdt is the recipient of various awards and research grants, including:


  • 2014 Critical Terms for the Study of Gender editor with Catharine R. Stimpson. University of Chicago Press
  • 2007 21st Century Sexualities: Contemporary Issues in Health, Education, and Rights, editor with Cymene Howe. Routledge
  • 2006 Sexual Inequalities and Social Justice, editor with Niels Teunis. University of California Press
  • 2001 Children of Horizons: how gay and lesbian teens are leading a new way out of the closet, editor with author Andrew Boxer. Beacon Press
  • 2001 Secrecy and Cultural Reality. University of Michigan Press
  • 2000 Something to Tell You: The Road Families Travel When a Child Is Gay. Columbia University Press
  • 1999 Sambia Sexual Culture: Essays from the Field. University of Chicago Press
  • 1998 Rituals of Manhood, edited by Gilbert Herdt. Transaction Publishers
  • 1997 Sexual Cultures and Migration in the Era of AIDS: Anthropological and Demographic Perspectives (International Studies in Demography). Oxford University Press
  • 1993 Gay Culture In America: Essays From the Field. Beacon Press
  • 1987 The Sambia: Ritual and Gender in New Guinea. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  • 1984 Ritualized Homosexuality in Melanesia (Studies in Melanesian Anthropology), editor Gilbert Herdt. University of California Press
  • 1981 Guardians of the Flutes: Idioms of Masculinity. McGraw-Hill.


  1. ^ Browning, Frank (April 1, 1998). A Queer Geography: Journeys Toward a Sexual Self. Macmillan. p. 25.
  2. ^ Herdt, Gilbert. Guardians of the Flutes. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981.
  3. ^ Trauma, Culture, and the Brain Conference

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