Gilbert Herdt


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Gilbert Herdt is Professor of Sexuality Studies and Anthropology at San Francisco State University, and Founding Professor of the Graduate Program in Human Sexuality at the California Institute for Integral Studies. Currently he is also the Chair of the Board of the International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society.


Gilbert Herdt completed his undergraduate B.A. degree with Honors in Anthropology, but with significant course work in Psychology, at Sacramento State College, where he went on to get an M.A. in Medical Anthropology. He began his PhD at the University of Washington in cultural anthropology, psychological anthropology, and Pacific studies, and was a teaching assistant in large introductory anthropology courses from 1972-74.          

Gil was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Australia in 1974 and enrolled as a doctoral student at the Australian National University, from which he conducted 2 years’ anthropological field work in Papua New Guinea for his dissertation on the “Individual in Sambia Initiation,” studying boy’s subjective reactions to manhood rituals. He received his PhD in 1978, and then studied adult psychiatry at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute with an Individual National Institute of Mental Health Postdoctoral grant (1978-1981).

            Since that time he has been an Assistant Professor at Stanford University (1979-85), a Professor of Human Development at The University of Chicago (1985-1997), and the Professor and Founder of the Department of Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University (1998 to present). He has under taken 15 field trips to Papua New Guinea among the “Sambia” people and continues research there. He has conducted research on sexual identity development, gender identity development, gender roles, sexual attitudes, sexual socialization, male/female differences, and has taught large courses on Sex Roles and Society (Stanford), Sexuality and Socialization (Chicago), Introduction to Human Sexuality, and Cross-Cultural Sex and Gender (San Francisco State), including many seminars on such topics as sexuality theory and methodology, sexuality policy and media, sexuality and human rights.

            Gil has published 34 books and 105 scientific peer-reviewed journal articles, chapters, encyclopedia articles, and scholarly reports, and is an expert in culture, HIV and sexual risk behavior. With an NIH grant he founded the Center for Culture and Mental Health at Chicago and helped many students to go on to work in these issues. He has received grants from foundations such the NIH, Spencer Foundation, Ford Foundation, Haas Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation to support his own research and that of his many students.

            Gil founded Summer Institutes on Sexuality and Society at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and San Francisco State, and has taught hundreds of students from all over the world on issues of sexuality. He founded and edited the Journal of Sexuality and Social Policy for many years in order to help implement scientifically based best practices. He is Emeritus Founder of the Ford Foundation-funded National Sexuality Resource Center, where the core concept was “sexual literacy” in the belief that people can have happy and healthy sexual lives, with an eye to scientific advocacy of heath and human sexual rights. At San Francisco State, Gil founded the first Master’s of Arts program in Human Sexuality at a public university in the U.S. Currently Gil is the recipient of a National Institute of Health multi-year grant to investigate the mental health effects of marriage denial on gay and lesbian people. Gil’s latest work is the culmination of many years’ teaching and research, a general textbook for undergraduates, Human Sexuality (with Nicole Polen), published by McGraw-Hill Textbook Co., 2013. Gil is editor, with Katherine Simpson, of Basic Terms in Gender Studies (University of Chicago Press, 2014).


Gil is editor (with Katherine Lepani) of New Sexual Citizens: Societal Sexual Status, Health and Rights in Papua New Guinea (Australian National University Press, projected for 2017). Currently, Gil is completing his master work, The Singers Are Gone: 40 Years of Sambia Sexual Culture Change. Gil lives in Bali, Indonesia.