While some opponents of homosexuality often claim that it is “unnatural” (a claim which is thoroughly refuted in the essay), for me, my homosexual feelings were very natural indeed. when one grows up and hears words like “gay” or “homosexual”, one thinks of rather Introduction Issues surrounding the topic of homosexuality have sparked emotional debate in our Nation’s Capitol and in our state legislatures. Homosexuality has become a mainstay for radio and television talk shows and is addressed now more than ever in casual conversation.
This web site was designed to address common questions about homosexuality, and to discuss the misconceptions and stereotypes that are all too often portrayed as fact. When you have finished viewing the information at this web site, please take a moment to complete the survey. Your input will provide me with a better understanding of the types of people visiting this web site, feedback on its design, and will aid in the determination of future content. Links to the survey are provided at the top and bottom of each page.
The Origins of Sexual Orientation What causes homosexuality? Is it a choice? Sexual orientation, whether it be heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual does not appear to be something that one chooses. Recent studies suggest that sexual orientation has a genetic or biological component, and is probably determined before or shortly after birth. Like heterosexuals, gays and lesbians discover their sexuality as a process of maturing, they are not recruited, seduced or taught to be homosexual (Bell, Weinberg, M. S. Hammersmith, 1981), (Troiden, 1989).
The only choice most gay or lesbian people have is whether or not to live their lives honestly, or according to societies unrealistic expectations. Is homosexuality a psychological problem or mental illness? The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association do not consider homosexuality to be an emotional or mental disorder. Published research is overwhelming – there is no significant difference between the mental health of heterosexuals and the mental health of homosexuals.
However, the social stigma associated with being gay can be emotionally trying. Is homosexuality brought about by poor parenting, or lack of religious beliefs? Gay people grow up in all types of homes, with all types of families. They are raised in rural areas, large cities and everywhere in between. Gay men and lesbians represent every socioeconomic, ethnic, and religious background possible. “There is evidence, that parents have very little influence on the outcome of their children’s sexual orientation under normal upbringing conditions. Reinisch, 1988).
However, a parents’ attitude can influence the way a child chooses to relate to his or her sexuality, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual. Is homosexuality caused by abuse, or a bad experience with someone of the opposite sex? Many people suffer from all types of abuse and neglect as children, yet grow up to be heterosexual. Many people, both heterosexual and homosexual, have had bad experiences with a person of the opposite sex. There is no correlation between any of these occurrences and homosexuality. Can homosexuality be cured?
Since homosexuality is not a disease or disorder, there is nothing to cure. A few therapists claim that they can rid gay people of their homosexual desires, but their methods remain extremely questionable and rarely, if ever, have resulted in permanently changing anybody’s sexual orientation (Haldeman, 1994). According to the American Psychological Association, no scientific evidence exists to support the effectiveness of any therapies that attempt to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals. The American Psychological Association Executive Director Dr.
Raymond Fowler also states that “Groups who try to change the sexual orientation of people through so-called conversion therapy are misguided and run the risk of causing a great deal of psychological harm to those they say they are trying to help. ” The American Academy of Pediatrics states: “Therapy directed at specifically changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation. ” The American Medical Association “does not recommend aversion therapy for gay men and lesbians.
Through psychotherapy, gay men and lesbians can become comfortable with their sexual orientation and understand the societal response to it. ” The American Psychiatric Association states: “There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change ones sexual orientation. ” The American Psychiatric Association also states: “gay men and lesbians who have accepted their sexual orientation positively are better adjusted than those who have not done so. ” The Gay Lifestyle What is the gay lifestyle?
Just as there is no such thing as a single heterosexual lifestyle, there is no such thing as a single gay lifestyle. Anti-gay activists have promoted the idea that the lives of homosexuals revolve around sex and the pursuit of sexual encounters, and that the only identity homosexuals have is with being gay. To anti-gay organizations this is the only gay lifestyle that exists, and they do their best to promote this misconception. In reality, the lives of gays and lesbians are as varied as the lives of heterosexuals (Garnets & Kimmel, 1993).
Some choose to live in long term committed relationships, others choose to remain single. Some couples choose to raise children, others do not. Hobbies, occupations and activities are just as varied as within the heterosexual population. How many gay people are there? For decades the incidence of homosexuality in the general population has been estimated to be approximately ten percent. Organizations opposed to gay rights have consistently claimed the number to be much lower.
Despite the controversy, ten percent still remains the most widely accepted estimate. In an attempt to diminish the legitimacy of civil rights protection for gays and lesbians, anti-gay organizations and homophobic politicians were quick to misuse information gathered from the Battelle Institute Study, claiming that only one percent of the population is homosexual. The Battelle Study, however, was not intended to determine the sexual orientation of those surveyed, but rather the sexual practices of those surveyed – two entirely different concepts.
The Batelle Study surveyed males in their 20’s and 30’s asking questions about sexual activity over the last ten years, and whether or not they considered themselves to be exclusively homosexual. Several problems are apparent: oWomen (and therefore lesbians) were excluded from the survey. oParticipants were males in their 20’s and 30’s. Many gay men (and lesbians) in their 20’s are still unsure about their sexual orientation – even if they have had homosexual experiences, they may be reluctant to label themselves as homosexual.
It’s not uncommon for gay men (and lesbians) who have not fully accepted their sexual orientation to engage in heterosexual behavior as a means to deny their same-sex feelings. This in itself may have prevented participants from labeling themselves as exclusively homosexual, even though their desires may have been predominately for members of the same-sex. oThe survey did not provide for anonymity (social security number, place of employment, and references were required). Gays who are not out at work, with friends or with family would have been less likely to answer questions honestly.
Most gay men (and lesbians) are in the closet, and would probably not participate in a survey such as this. Until the stigma associated with homosexuality is removed from society, and gays and lesbians are allowed the freedom to be honest about their lives, the controversy is likely to continue. It is however, safe to say that almost everyone has contact with at least one gay or lesbian person on a regular basis whether they are aware of it or not. Aren’t gay people obsessed with sex?
Contrary to popular belief, gay men and lesbians are no more inclined to be consumed with sexual thoughts or feelings than their heterosexual counterparts (Bell, Weinberg, 1978), nor are they attracted to everyone of the same sex they meet. The lives of homosexuals, like the lives of heterosexuals are about much more than sex, but it’s easy to see why people believe these common misconceptions. Many people do not even realize that they know someone who is gay. Consequently, their only knowledge of homosexuality comes from the media or out-spoken anti-gay organizations, neither of which is likely to show the average gay person or couple.
The media is in the business of selling news, and radical behavior of any kind sells. Anti-gay organizations are in the business of making gay people appear as hedonistic as possible. They will obviously focus their attention on the most radical behavior that can be found within the gay community. Aren’t homosexuals promiscuous? Promiscuity has nothing to do with one’s sexual orientation, but rather one’s values and beliefs. Just as in the heterosexual community, some gay people are promiscuous, some are not. In a 1992 study, 55. 5% of gay men and 71. of lesbians reported to be in steady relationships(Overlooked Opinions, 1993). Are homosexuals miserable, lonely people? Members of anti-gay organizations like to offer proof that the gay lifestyle is bad by stating that most gay people are miserable and lonely. First of all, the majority of homosexuals are not terribly unhappy or lonely, but these organizations may have a point. Being gay in our society is not easy. The social stigma, rejection by family, friends, and church, the discrimination and the sense of social isolation can all be emotionally devastating.
What these anti-gay organizations fail to admit is that they are a large part of the problem. By spreading malicious lies, which demonize gays and lesbians, they spread their homophobic attitudes through out society, making the world a sometimes intolerant place for homosexuals. Are lesbians radical feminist man-haters? While the overwhelming majority of lesbians are feminists, most feminists do not hate men. They simply support the belief that women deserve the same rights to make personal decisions and the same opportunities for social and professional growth that men currently enjoy.
Why do gay people flaunt their sexuality? Why don’t they just keep it private? The majority of gay people don’t flaunt their sexuality. As a matter of fact, many go to great lengths to hide their sexual orientation. There is a double standard in our society. What some consider to be flaunting by homosexuals is usually regarded as everyday behavior for heterosexuals. A heterosexual couple walking hand in hand is perceived as normal. Very few would consider their behavior to be inappropriate, if they even noticed it at all.
On the other hand, a lesbian or gay couple exhibiting the same behavior would almost certainly be noticed, and most likely be accused of flaunting their sexuality or promoting their lifestyle. They may be harassed or worse yet, physically attacked. Heterosexuals are free to talk about their spouses or dates. They can wear their wedding rings, display pictures of their loved ones on their desks, kiss good-bye at the airport, include their significant other in company parties and so on. A gay person who chooses to do the same may be seen as a trouble maker, or a radical homosexual out to prove a point.
The truth is most gay people are not out to make a statement. They simply want to be able to incorporate the many aspects of their lives the way heterosexuals are permitted to do. What the majority of people mean when they say that gay people should keep their lives private, is that gay people should keep their lives secret. Imagine for a moment, having to hide the very existence of the most important person in your life. What gay people do in bed is disgusting and perverted! First of all, what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom is nobody’s business but their own.
Secondly, gay people don’t do anything in bed that heterosexuals don’t do themselves. Intimate behavior between many gay couples could be perceived as mild when compared to what some heterosexual couples do. Homosexuality, Children & Family Values Are homosexuals more likely to molest children? One of the most enduring and damaging myths equates homosexuality with child molestation. In truth, the most likely person to sexually abuse a child is a heterosexual male; in many cases this person is a family member or close family friend (Falk, 1989), (Koss, 1994).
Pedophiles who molest children of the same sex are almost never homosexual in their adult sexual relations (Groth & Birnbaum, 1978). Furthermore, the molestation of children by heterosexual women appears to be uncommon, and even less common among lesbians (Erickson, Walbek & Seely, 1988) (Finkelhor, 1984) (Johnson & Shrier, 1987). Don’t homosexuals recruit children and seduce naive adults? In an effort to spread fear and ignorance, organizations that oppose gay rights often portray homosexuals as sexual predators out to recruit or seduce as many people as possible.
Homosexuals, like heterosexuals discover their sexuality as a process of maturing; they are not recruited, seduced or brain washed into the gay lifestyle (Bell, Weinberg Hammersmith, 1981), (Troiden, 1989). Common sense proves the difficulty gay people would face in trying to recruit. What would they have to offer? Rejection by family and friends, fear of discrimination, the opportunity to experience harassment, violence and possible death at the hands of a homophobe? The idea of recruitment is utterly without scientific foundation (Weinberg, 1977) .
Why is it important to educate our youth about homosexuality? Not all teenagers are heterosexual. As many as 7. 2 million Americans under the age of twenty are gay or lesbian (Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1991, & Kinsey’s estimates). In 1992 the Hetrick-Martin Institute reported that eighty percent of gay and lesbian teens experience feelings of severe isolation. Forty-five percent of gay males, and twenty percent of lesbians experience physical or verbal assault while in high school, and twenty-eight percent of these teenagers feel forced to drop out of school.
Gay and lesbian teens are also two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers and account for up to 30% of all completed suicides among teens. In 1989 suicide was the leading cause of death among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth (Gibson, 1989). It should be obvious that honest information, positive role models, support from well informed teachers, counselors and friends could be immensely helpful to a teenager who is struggling to come to terms with his or her sexual orientation.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that “Pediatricians should be aware that some of the youths in their care may be homosexual or have concerns about sexual orientation. Care givers should provide factual, current, non judgmental information in a confidential manner. ” Gay and lesbian youth are not alone in their need for honest information about homosexuality. The most common perpetrators of anti-gay violence are young men, ages 21 or under (Comstock, 1991). In 1988 a national survey indicated that only 12% of males ages 15 to 19 felt they could befriend a gay person (Marsiglio, 1993).
Honest information that disputes the myths surrounding homosexuality would help insure that we do not raise a future generation of children filled with ignorance, fear and intolerance for people different from themselves. See also: Gay and Lesbian Youth If my child is exposed to homosexuality, is he/she more likely to become gay or lesbian? It is unlikely that information about homosexuality or exposure to gay men or lesbians will influence a child’s sexual orientation.
Current research suggests that sexual orientation is influenced by genetic or biological factors and is probably determined before or shortly after birth. If a child is going to be gay, it is likely that the child is going to be gay regardless of whether or not he/she is exposed to homosexuality. Almost all gay men and lesbians have grown up in a heterosexual world, with very little exposure to homosexuality. The overwhelming majority of gay men and lesbians were raised by heterosexual parents, educated by heterosexual teachers, and socialized with heterosexual siblings and friends.
They were surrounded by heterosexism in magazines, books, movies and on television, yet they grew up to be gay. It should also be noted that children raised by gays and lesbians are no more inclined to be homosexual than children raised by heterosexual parents. Are children of gay and lesbian parents more likely to be gay, and have more emotional or social problems? There are currently between one million and five million lesbian mothers and between one million and three million gay fathers in the United States (Patterson, 1992).
The majority of these children are from previous heterosexual marriages, but many gay men and lesbians are choosing to adopt or become foster parents, and lesbians are increasingly opting for artificial insemination. In some states gay men and lesbian women are allowed to adopt or provide foster care, but in many cases only one parent is allowed to become the child’s legal guardian. Policies such as these do little to help promote family unity, not to mention the legal ramifications of such an arrangement should the legal guardian die, or the couple separates.
None-the-less, many gays and lesbians manage to raise their children in a successful manner. A review of nine studies concerning aspects of personal development, such as, self-concept, moral judgment, and intelligence, revealed no significant difference between children of lesbians and gay men and children of heterosexuals (Patterson, 1992). There are also 35 different studies conducted within the last fifteen years that have shown that children of gay and lesbian parents are no more likely to become homosexual than children of heterosexuals, and are just as well adjusted (Gross, 1991).
A recent study conducted by Fiona Tasker of Birkbeck College in the Netherlands indicates that non-biological lesbian co-parents are usually more involved with the children and are more likely to assume common child-raising tasks, than are the fathers of heterosexual couples. Aren’t homosexuals opposed to family values? What the majority of gay people object to has nothing to do with the values families wish to instill in their children, but rather the narrow definition of family certain organizations wish to promote.
The idea of a father, a mother, and their children, as being the only legitimate type of family is not only unrealistic in our society, but is demeaning to the millions of American families that do not meet this narrow definition. Single parent families, step families, adoptive families, extended families, and gay and lesbian families are all valid family units and deserve to be recognized as such. Traditional American values such as love, compassion, responsibility, honesty, integrity, self-reliance, accountability, and respect are values most parents wish to instill in their children, regardless of sexual orientation.
The American Home Economics Association and the American Association of Family and Consumer Science define the family unit as: “two or more persons who share resources, share responsibility for decisions, share values and goals, and have commitment to one another over time. The family is that climate that one “comes home to” and it is this network of sharing and commitments that most accurately describes the family unit, regardless of blood, legal ties, adoption, or marriage. ” Civil Rights & Marriage What is the gay agenda?
Organizations opposed to gay rights claim homosexuals have some hidden plan to tear apart the moral fabric of American society and often refer to the gay communities’ efforts to obtain equal rights as the “gay agenda” or the “hidden gay agenda”. To the contrary, gay men and lesbians tend to be fairly straight forward about what it is they are seeking – equal rights and equal protection of those rights with regard to housing, employment, public accommodation and the ability to offer financial and legal security to their families.
The invention of the “hidden gay agenda” is nothing more than a scare tactic employed by anti-gay organizations in an effort to place fear in the minds of the American public. Why are so many gay people involved in Civil Rights Issues? Civil rights issues are important to the gay community because in many circumstances homosexuals do not have the same basic rights other citizens in our country do. In most states and cities a gay person can legally be denied housing, employment, and public accommodation simply because of their sexual orientation. Why should we grant civil rights protection on the basis of behavior?
Some claim that gays are not deserving of civil rights protection, because unlike racial minorities, homosexuality is defined by behavior, not something innate such as skin color. But what they fail to consider is that current scientific research suggests sexual orientation to be innate and is probably in place very early in the life cycle. Furthermore, homosexuality can not be defined simply by behavior. Sexual orientation (whether it be homosexual or heterosexual ) is distinguished by an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, spiritual, and affectional attraction to individuals of a particular sex.
Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. A persons behavior may or may not reflect his/her true sexual orientation. A person can be gay regardless of whether or not they have had a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex. Likewise, a heterosexual can engage in homosexual behavior, but this does not make him/her gay. Don’t homosexuals want special rights? Organizations opposed to laws that would prevent the discrimination of homosexuals promote the idea that gays want special rights.
They claim that everyone is already protected equally, and that laws which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation would be designed primarily to protect the rights of homosexuals, thus making them special rights. What they fail to realize is that heterosexuals are unlikely to be fired from their jobs or evicted from their homes simply because of their sexual orientation. Gays and lesbians on the other hand, are far more likely to face this type of discrimination.
The gay community is not interested in obtaining special rights of any kind. They simply want equal rights and equal protection of those rights with regard to employment, housing, and public accommodation. The gay community does not intend for laws to legislate affirmative action programs such as quotas or financial incentives offered to employers who hire homosexuals. Nor do they intend to force private citizens who rent out rooms in their homes to be obligated under law to rent to anybody who is unwilling to abide by the rules of their home.
Similarly, churches and other religious institutions would be exempt from any laws governing the employment of gays and lesbians. How can gays claim to be discriminated against when they have higher than average incomes? Professor Lee Badgett of the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland reported in the July 1995 issue of Industrial and Labor Relations Review That data from the General Social Survey of 1989-1991 indicated that gay mens’ incomes ran 11% to 27% below average, and that lesbian incomes were 12% to 30% below average.
Professor Badgett also cites a 1988 survey of 191 employers in Anchorage, Alaska, in which 27% said they would not hire gays or lesbians, 26% said they would not promote gays or lesbians, and 18% said they would fire them. Because of the difficulty associated with obtaining a representative random sample, very few surveys have attempted to estimate the average incomes of gay men and lesbians. To date Professor Badgett’s study is the only one which has relied on data taken from a national random sample survey that specifically asked about income and sexual orientation. Why do gays want the legal right to marry?
Why don’t they just live together? Gay couples desire to marry for the same reasons heterosexuals couples do: love, companionship, shared interests, common goals, emotional and financial security, and in some cases to raise a family. Millions of gay men and lesbians are living in long term committed relationships despite the fact that homosexual unions lack many of the financial, legal and social benefits which are automatically provided for heterosexual couples upon marriage. Currently, gay couples do not have the automatic right to make medical, legal, or financial decisions on behalf of their partner should the need arise.
They may be denied access to visit their spouse in intensive care units and other hospital departments. Gay and lesbian couples do not have the automatic right to make funeral arrangements, or to assume ownership of property (even jointly owned property) when a partner dies. Gay couples also lack many of the financial benefits of marriage. They may not have access to their spouses’ employee health insurance, retirement or death benefits. They are not eligible for tax breaks heterosexual couples receive, nor are they eligible for insurance discounts which are frequently provided for married couples.
Gays and lesbians would like to see same-sex marriages legalized so that they could provide the same type of legal, financial, and emotional security for their loved ones that heterosexual couples currently enjoy. Can’t same-sex couples obtain legal benefits without being married? With the help of an attorney, some of the benefits of legal marriage can be obtained by same-sex couples, but many cannot. A valid will and power of attorney can provide some protection, but this takes time and money, and is subject to challenges from biological family members and the government.
Until same-sex couples are allowed to marry, their rights and benefits will not be equal to, or as secure as the rights and benefits granted to heterosexual couples upon marriage. Tradition defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, for the purpose of raising children. Tradition alone is not a sufficient reason to deny gay and lesbian couples the legal, financial, and emotional benefits of a civil union. Not long ago, the thought of abolishing slavery, allowing women to vote, interracial marriage, and women serving in the military, were also met with strong opposition because they went against tradition.
One purpose of marriage is to raise children (as some gay couples do), but the opportunity to have and raise children is not the only reason people choose to marry. Companionship, love, shared interests, common goals, financial and emotional security are also reasons couples choose to wed. Won’t granting homosexuals the right to marry devalue heterosexual marriage? The belief that allowing gays to legally marry would devalue heterosexual marriage is absurd. This attitude operates under the assumption that the value of heterosexual marriage is dependent upon the deprivation of a certain group of people in our society.
Giving gay couples the right to marry would not take away any of the rights heterosexual couples currently enjoy, it would only extend those rights and responsibilities to everyone in our society. If gays and lesbians are allowed to marry, where will it end? Some hypothesize that marriage between gays and lesbians will lead to men marrying boys and fathers marrying daughters. They even go so far as to say that people will fight for the right to marry their pets. These same arguments were used by those who opposed interracial marriage. They were not valid then, and they are not valid now.
Same-sex marriage, like heterosexual marriage, would consist of two consenting adults. There’s no reason to believe that same-sex marriage will lead to legalized incestuous relationships or the abuse of animals anymore so than heterosexual marriage already does. Isn’t homosexuality abnormal or unnatural; after all, they can’t have children? Homosexuality is not the sexual orientation of the majority of people, but that in itself does not make it abnormal. If we were to use that type of logic, then we would have to consider left handed people to be abnormal also.
To a heterosexual person, an intimate relationship with someone of the same sex might seem abnormal or unnatural, but not any more so than heterosexual relations would seem to someone who is gay. Furthermore, there is nothing abnormal or unnatural about wanting to share your life and love with another person. Having the ability to produce offspring is not a prerequisite. If it were, we would have to deny marriage licenses to heterosexual couples who did not wish to, or for some reason could not have children. Homosexuality & Religion
Doesn’t the Bible condemn homosexuality? Some Biblical scholars believe that the Bible condemns homosexuality, others do not. Different denominations use the Bible as a basis for their faith, yet beliefs between these churches can be quite diverse. Throughout history some mainstream Christian churches have used the Bible to justify slavery, racism, child abuse, domestic violence, and sexism. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used Scripture to inspire those struggling to overcome racism at the same time others used the Bible to promote racial segregation and violence.
Obviously, the Bible can be interpreted in many different ways. Out of the 31,173 verses contained in the Bible, there are less than a dozen that allegedly deal with the topic of homosexuality. The meaning of these verses remains fairly obscure to many Biblical scholars, especially in the context of loving committed relationships. Jesus himself said nothing, which leads many people to believe that the subject of homosexuality was not a concern. Interestingly enough, the word homosexual did not appear in any translation of the Bible until 1946 (Blumenfeld, & Raymond, 1988).
Likewise, there are words in the Greek language for same-sex sexual activities, yet they never appear in the original text of the New Testament (Blumenfeld, & Raymond, 1988). But my church teaches, and I believe, that homosexuality is morally wrong. As citizens of this country we have the right to pursue the faith of our choice without fear of persecution; but, as citizens of this country we also have the responsibility to insure that no one persons’ beliefs, religious or otherwise, interfere with another persons basic civil rights.
Some religious faiths teach that eating meat or consuming caffeine is wrong. Others prohibit dancing, the use of modern technology, eating pork, or the use of birth control. These people have the right to live by the teaching of their faiths, but they do not have the right to insist that all people live according to their personal beliefs. Our government is not a theocracy based on Biblical law. Legislation must reflect a tolerance for diversity in extending basic civil rights to all citizens with respect for the common good of society. As demonstrated in Baehr v.
Miike (Hawaii same-sex marriage case) same-sex marriage would not adversely affect society, children, or the institution of marriage (Baehr v. Miike, 1996). If gay marriage were legal, wouldn’t that force my church to perform same-sex marriages? As with heterosexual marriage, religious institutions maintain the power to choose who they will marry based on their own policies and beliefs. Gays and lesbians are not seeking the right to get married in the church of their choice, but rather the right to a legal union and the benefits provided by our government to married couples.
There are already several churches that perform same-sex union ceremonies, but these ceremonies provide none of the legal benefits of marriage. Gays and lesbians are not looking to marry in the religious sense (they already can), they are seeking the right to marry in a legal sense. Are gay people religious people? Although religion has traditionally been a major source of oppression for gay and lesbian people, many still actively participate within their respective religions.
The degree to which they are able to be open about their sexuality is dependent upon their particular religion, denomination, and congregation. The issue of homosexuality has been given much consideration by a number of mainstream religious organizations within the last few decades. Many still hold conservative views about homosexuality, while several have become more welcoming to gay and lesbian people, and supportive of homosexual issues and concerns. See also: Summary of Religious Views on Homosexuality AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality!
HIV is a virus that has the potential to infect anyone. Over 70% of HIV infection world wide is the result of heterosexual contact (World Health Organization, 1996). According to CDC statistics (July, 1997) heterosexual sex is the fastest growing mode of transmission for HIV in the United States – growing at a rate of 15 to 20 percent a year, compared to 5 percent for intravenous drug users and 5 percent for gay males. Lesbians remain the least likely group of people to acquire HIV through sexual contact. Simply put, AIDS is a disease, like any other disease.
If we believe that disease is a form of punishment, then what did the people who suffer from cancer do to deserve such a fate? What about Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, and the thousands of other horrible diseases, birth defects, and illnesses? Who are these anti-gay organizations, and what is their goal? Anti-gay organizations have played a paramount role in the opposition of gay rights. In an effort to gain wide support, they often operate under the premise of defending Christian values or traditional family values. The real motivation behind these organizations is political power and greed.
Relying on society’s ignorance about homosexuality, they exploit the faith of their followers by perpetuating myths and twisting factual information to suit their self-serving needs. They show a blatant disregard for scientifically sound research, while promoting the findings of inherently flawed studies, placing unwarranted fear in the hearts and minds of the nations faithful. Many mainstream Christian churches are appalled by the behavior of homophobic organizations which profess to teach the word of God by spreading lies that perpetuate ignorance, resulting in hatred, fear and all to often violence.
Policy makers and members of the public are routinely confronted with questions about lesbians and gay men. Are they mentally ill? Do so-called conversion therapies change sexual orientation? Are homosexuals more likely than heterosexuals to molest children? Such questions arise from long-standing cultural stereotypes that depict lesbians and gay men as immoral, criminal, sick, and drastically different from what society considers “normal. ” A considerable body of social science data now is available to answer such questions and to separate falsehood from fact.
The following links provide an overview of social science theory and empirical research concerning sexual orientation. I. Introduction The following has been asserted: [P1] Being homosexual is much less fulfilling than being heterosexual. [P2] It is possible to choose whether one is homosexual or heterosexual. [P3] It is the responsibility of government and/or civil society to direct people towards leading as fulfilling lives as possible. [C] Therefore, it is the responsibility of government and/or civil society to direct people towards being heterosexual rather than homosexual. Refer to this as the wavering argument.
In this essay, it is my purpose to take a closer look at the three premises and the conclusion. I will show that this argument is not valid, as there are severe problems with the premises. Instead, I will claim that being homosexual can be just as fulfilling as being heterosexual, that most people do not choose their sexual orientation, that government should not interfere with basic decisions about identity and the structure of life, and that civil society should try to facilitate the lives of homosexuals. II. On premise one [P1] Being homosexual is much less fulfilling than being heterosexual.
Let me begin with a terminological comment. I will interpret “being homosexual” as saying “identifying oneself as a homosexual and engaging in erotic and/or amorous relationships only with persons of the same sex”, and I will interpret “being heterosexual” as saying “identifying oneself as a heterosexual and engaging in erotic and/or amorous relationships only with persons of the opposite sex. ” For the sake of argument, at the time being, I will assume that these alternatives are exhaustive and that each person can be categorized as being either homosexual or heterosexual, as defined.
With this in mind, the question is if the premise should be interpreted as saying that it is a logical necessity that being homosexual is less fulfilling than being heterosexual, or if it merely states that, as a matter of fact, being homosexual is on average less fulfilling than being heterosexual. The first alternative is clearly false, since it would imply, were it to hold, that no homosexual could lead a more fulfilling life than any heterosexual. The second alternative is, then, what is referred to.
But there are severe measurement problems involved here, since we are now dealing with an empirical issue which can only be settled by means of real-world investigation. First, how does one measure fulfillment on an individual level? It seems to me that this is a highly fluctuating and subjective variable, which cannot easily be ascertained by any one individual in his or her own case, and even less so by a researcher. The latter may try to approximate fulfillment by looking at aggregate, average numbers, e. g. , on education, income, life expectancy, etc. nd although these factors may be positively correlated to fulfillment, this is by no means certain (wealth may not entail happiness, a long education can lead people to rack their brains over, and a short life can be of very high quality). Another approach would be to interview people who are homosexual and heterosexual, but how does one get representative samples, when fulfillment is a variable which varies immensely between individuals (and for a given individual, over time), and how can one ascertain that people are telling the truth?
In fact, many could be expected to have rather strong incentives to present their lives as more fulfilling than they, in fact, are, especially if they know that someone is studying the degree of fulfillment of people of their sexual orientation. The problem with representative samples is, in fact, serious not only because fulfillment is a tricky variable to measure but also because it is hard to measure sexual orientation. Thus far, we have treated this as a binary variable when it, in fact, is continuous.
There are, in other words, bisexuals of various kinds, and since most of them can plausibly be expected to be categorized as heterosexuals, since most of them have (plausibly) chosen to live with persons of the opposite sex, this would produce incorrect sampling. Also, due to fears of stigmatization, many homosexuals could also be expected to report being heterosexuals. On the (highly questionable) view that my criticism is not convincing, a few arguments seem to recur as a basis for believing premise one.
It has been alleged that homosexuals lead less fulfilling lives because they are said to lead shorter lives, that they are subjected to hate crimes and stigmatization, and because they suffer from more diseases (not the least AIDS). As for shorter lives, this is not known. Some claim to know, but since their basis for claiming this is the shady “research” of one Paul Cameron, this cannot be trusted. For an exposition of Cameron’s “research” methods, see an analysis by Dr. Gregory M. Herek at the University of California at Davis. Dr. Herek concludes: “The Cameron group’s gay obituary study reports many numbers and statistics.
However, they are absolutely worthless for estimating the life expectancy of gay men and lesbians. ” As for hate crimes and stigmatization, it is true that some open homosexuals suffer from these, but one problem here is that those who say that homosexual lives are less fulfilling for this reason most often actively contribute to the disapprobation of homosexuality that leads to hate crimes and stigmatization. And most homosexuals handle these things rather well: in fact, the “coming-out” process is often seen as strengthening, ex post, even though negative reactions can be hard to face when they are delivered.
As for AIDS, a majority of gay men do not suffer from it, and a homosexual (or heterosexual) who does not want to take risks that can lead to an HIV infection certainly knows how to avoid being infected. Furthermore, lesbians report lower AIDS rates than heterosexuals. And as for other venereal diseases, it seems to be the case that gay men are overrepresented, but this cannot be taken to mean that being homosexual implies that your life is less fulfilling.
First, most gay men do not get venereal diseases, and second, those who do may have attracted those diseases while engaging in very fulfilling sexual behavior which, on net, means, that their fulfillment levels may be quite high. What about the higher suicide rates among homosexual teenagers? E. g. , according to a 1989 U. S. Department of Health and Human Services study, up to 30 percent of successful teen suicides are by gay or lesbian youths, and gay teens are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than are other youth.
Does not this imply that being homosexual is less fulfilling than being heterosexual? Yes and no. Yes, from the point of view of many young people, who begin to detect that they are different from their peers, it can be very painful to realize that they are part of a shunned minority. Most of all homosexuals have gone through this phase. But the key points to note is that this dissatisfaction comes about because one feels lonely and odd in a world (including one’s family, school, friends, and church) which affirms heterosexuality as the norm and that this is a passing phase for almost all.
The American Psychological Association states: “Much objective scientific research over the past 35 years shows us that homosexual orientation, in and of itself, is not associated with emotional of social problems. ” And the American Psychiatric Association concurs: “The Board recognized that a significant portion of gay and lesbian people were clearly satisfied with their sexual orientation and showed no signs of psychopathology. It was also found that homosexuals were able to function effectively in society, and those who sought treatment most often did so for reasons other than their homosexuality.
What about not having children? First, homosexuals can have children – although by non-conventional means such as insemination and adoption. Interestingly, those who state that homosexuals do not lead fulfilling lives because they do not have children oftentimes try to prevent homosexuals from having children the most. And second, life can be fulfilling also without children, partly because homosexuals can interact with, say, the children of siblings and because there are other projects in life which one can engage in which can be highly meaningful.
Lastly, if one looks at income and education, it is commonplace for critics of homosexuality and homosexuals to claim that homosexuals earn much more and have higher education, on average, than heterosexuals (this is often taken as a reason for the government not to offer certain benefits to homosexuals, “since they are so well off anyway”). Such statistics must, of course, also be taken into account, if one thinks that such statistics are meaningful and reliable.
So, in all, it seems more or less impossible to know how sexual orientation relates to fulfillment. But if one, despite my criticism, still thinks that these things can be measured in a meaningful way, it is certainly not wise to be too confident that it will turn out that homosexuals lead less fulfilling lives than heterosexuals. Clearly, premise one is highly incredulous. III. On premise two [P2] It is possible to choose whether one is homosexual or heterosexual. First, it is essential to understand the concept of sexual orientation properly.
As the American Psychological Association clarifies, sexual orientation is a continuous variable with three subcategories: homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual, and the category to which any person belongs is not chosen. An exclusive homosexual is only sexually and emotionally attracted to persons of the same sex, an exclusive heterosexual is only sexually and emotionally attracted to persons of the opposite sex, and a bisexual is sexually and emotionally attracted to persons of both sexes. (See my essay “Does Homosexuality Pose a Threat to Society” for the basis of these facts.
Hence, the wavering argument simply does not apply to those who are more or less exclusively homosexual, as they cannot choose to be heterosexual. And attempts by government and/or civil society to direct them to become heterosexual can only make their lives less fulfilling, for no good purpose at all. This significantly weakens the argument. However, even though exclusive homosexuals may not be able to choose to be heterosexual, it can still be argued that bisexuals are true waverers, who can make genuine choices on what sex the people they engage in erotic and/or amorous relationships with belong to.
This, I grant, is true. But, of course, there are two problems involved here. First, as we found above that there is no firm indication that being heterosexual is more fulfilling than being homosexual, there is no reason to bother about whether a bisexual chooses to restrict himself to a certain sex or not. Second, since most studies indicate that the share of bisexuals is quite small, making the lives of all homosexuals less fulfilling through deliberate government and/or civil-society methods in order to influence a few bisexuals is ethically questionable.
An additional “cost” which must be taken into account is the effect the direction of bisexuals and quite a few homosexuals into heterosexual unions has on their families. Is it ethically right to marry a woman if one, as a man, really does not love her erotically and amorously – largely because this is the easiest way to live? Is it right to the (possible) children? IV. On premise three [P3] It is the responsibility of government and/or civil society to direct people towards leading as fulfilling lives as possible.
This is a normative issue, which is not the primary focus of this essay. My personal view is that this premise should be rejected. If a person (who can choose) would like to lead his life as part of group A rather than as part of group B, then, by invoking the principle of revealed preference, he does so on the calculus that group A offers him or her a more fulfilling life. And it turns out that this was a mistake, it is possible, then, for such a person to change groups later. These choices should be left to this person and be no business of society at large.
Welcome to read more on my page “In Defense of Freedom. ” V. On the conclusion [C] Therefore, it is the responsibility of government and/or civil society to direct people towards being heterosexual rather than homosexual. Let us see whether the conclusion of the wavering argument holds. In order for it to hold, premises one, two, and three must be true. We saw that there is no basis for thinking [P1] true; we saw that [P2] only holds for bisexuals; we rejected [P3] on philosophical grounds; and we are left with our conclusion: [C] cannot be established.
VI. Some final remarks Consider the following argument: [P1′] Being black is much less fulfilling than being white. [P2′] It is possible to choose whether one is black or white. [P3′] It is the responsibility of government and/or civil society to direct people towards leading as fulfilling lives as possible. [C’] Therefore, it is the responsibility of government and/or civil society to direct people towards being white rather than black. Do you think this is a valid argument?
I claim that to be logically consistent, if a person agrees finds the wavering argument valid, then he or she must also find this argument valid, and vice versa. Remember: if one thinks it meaningful to compare how fulfilling a certain group’s lives are, on average, then surely, most indicators imply that blacks lead less fulfilling lives than whites (blacks have lower incomes, lower education, shorter life expectancy, they suffer more from crime and discrimination, etc).
And as for [P2′], I advise you to consider mulattos (the equivalent of bisexuals). The ethical issue: Should government and/or civil society make life less fulfilling for all blacks (homosexuals) simply for mulattos (bisexuals) to choose to lead their lives, to the highest extent possible, in the white (heterosexual) world? I think the answer is “No. ” Lastly, if one believes that the lives of homosexuals on average are less fulfilling than those of heterosexuals, then what conclusion should one draw from that belief?
If one’s goal is for people to lead fulfilling lives (as the wavering argument supposes), then it seems to me to follow that one should strive to help homosexuals lead more fulfilling lives instead of consciously making their lives less fulfilling in order to deter a few bisexuals. This would, of course, give homosexuals an improved quality of life, but, notably, it would also make a choice of a bisexual to lead a homosexual life less detrimental for him, from the point of view of the paternalistic government and/or civil society.
This much more humane and compassionate avenue seems, for some reason, to have escaped those who invoke the faulty wavering argument. Introduction Why is it that so many people seem to have negative attitudes towards homosexuality? The thesis that I wish to present is that these attitudes are emotional in character, and that they are not really the result of intellectual analysis, which some pretend or mistakenly think to be the case. I refer to these negative attitudes as “homophobia”.
In fact, I propose that intellectual analysis can be used to demonstrate that these emotions are untenable and unreliable as a proper guide to how one should view other people and as a guide to public policy. I furthermore argue that these emotions can and should be altered, although that is a somewhat difficult process; at least, they should not be allowed to form the basis of how one treats fellow human beings, neither in person nor in legislation.
It is important, at the outset, to understand that I view homosexuality as a non-chosen, non-changeable sexual orientation which entails emotional-sexual attraction between persons of the same sex. The Crucial Role of Emotional Reactions There is a lot that unites human beings, but it is also the case that there is a lot that separates us. Although most of us have a capacity for empathy (to which I will appeal later in this essay), it is really quite impossible for us to truly understand how another person experiences life.
By analogy, we can interpret many things that others go through in a way which is similar to the way they interpret them, but especially in cases which are unfamiliar to us, we are at a loss when it comes to genuine comprehension. I suggest that a heterosexual person cannot truly understand the feelings and experiences of a homosexual person, and vice versa. If it were the case that a heterosexual could truly understand same-sex attraction, and all that goes with it, then I submit that he would not view it negatively.
Then he would easily accept the co-existence of this different category of persons on the basis of a realization that it is merely an expression of harmless and edifying love between consenting persons something which, on reflection, should be acceptable to all. But the fact is that many heterosexuals do not feel accepting towards homosexuality. Why is that? Because they cannot truly understand homosexuality, as it is a trait of some human beings which they have not themselves experienced, and hence they evaluate it on purely emotional grounds.
That is to say, they hear “homosexuality” and proceed to imagine themselves in a situation of homoeroticism, possibly their kissing or having anal sex with some ugly man, to which their feelings respond strongly and negatively. They experience disgust at this thought experiment. And that is no surprise, since their nature is wired so as to feel erotically attracted only towards persons of the opposite sex. As a result, these people talk and act in a way which communicates this homophobia, and they dislike legal reform which is beneficial to homosexuals for the same reason.
This theory as to the origin of homophobia seems to conflict with the popular notion that negative attitudes towards homosexuality reflect an intellectual analysis, the outcome of which is the presentation of valid reasons, of a non-emotional character, for disliking and working against homosexuality. My view is that there is such a conflict and that my theory is the correct one, which among other things implies that negative attitudes towards homosexuality are fueled by emotional reactions from hypothetical, homoerotic thought experiments performed by heterosexuals.
Without such an emotional basis, I posit that there would be no attempts to formulate ostensibly intellectual arguments against homosexuality. The order of causality is emotional disgust when considering homosexuality –> “intellectual” reasons for disliking homosexuality and not the other way around. That is, the emotional reactions predate any rules, laws, or other injunctions against homosexuality. I have personally found this understanding of things confirmed in conversations with some homophobic heterosexuals. They have started out by giving “intellectual” reasons for why they dislike homosexuality (e. , “it does not produce children”), so as to give a serious impression to the effect that this dislike is based on properly reflected-upon arguments. But then I have inquired what they think of lesbianism, and then they almost always respond by voicing their approval. This, I think, clearly reflects that these men use the thought-experiment procedure I described earlier: and then, they found the thought of their having sex with another man disgusting, whilst they found the sexual fantasy of two girls having sex arousing. In spite of lesbian sex not bringing forth children, I might add.
However, it is important to note that the source of emotions can be both biological and cultural. The type of emotions described thus far, I mainly take to be of a biological character. But there is also another source of homophobic emotions, namely, the cultural or social influence. If a person is born into a culture where heterosexuality is predominant in all contexts and if it permeates family life, the media, the religions, and legislation, then the biological tendency for a heterosexual to react negatively towards homosexuality is reinforced by the society around him.
This is especially the case if, in addition to the total dominance of heterosexuality, explicit homophobia is part of the culture. I think that cultural attitudes of this sort mainly stem from biological emotions, which means that the instinctive homophobia of heterosexuals leads them to incorporate a pro-heterosexual attitude into their life environments. Hence, I think that the ordinary heterosexual who is in possession of negative attitudes towards homosexuality has them because of a combination (in varying degress) of a biological, instinctive feeling of disgust and a cultural, internalized disapprobation.
The latter, in turn, is the result of other persons having had a biological, instinctive feeling of disgust at the thought of homosexuality which they thought proper to spread via modes of upbringing, religious books and sermons, legislation, etc. Are Homophobic Emotions Acceptable? If this thesis as to the origin of homophobia is correct, how can these emotions, and the attitudes that go with them, be evaluated? Does the existence of anti-homosexuality emotions display rational moral intuitions, in the sense that they can be shown to contribute to the realization of some reasonable moral value?
In other words, are heterosexual homophobes justified in displaying homophobic attitudes? I think not. What I have tried to do above is merely to explain, as a factual matter, the origin of homophobia. Whether homophobia is normatively acceptable is another matter entirely. As I view the culturally transmitted disapproval of homosexuality as an extension of the biological, instinctive dislike, and as I do not think that any occurrence in nature (i. e. f biological origin) automatically makes it morally acceptable, we must evaluate emotions rationally and see if their existence is conducive to the attainment of some moral value or, indeed, if their existence is detrimental to the attainment of some moral value. That is, “is” does not necessarily imply “ought”. So let us begin by specifying that the moral value that we are interested in is the furtherance of the highest possible amount of subjective preference satisfaction in some population. (For a more detailed discussion of this moral principle, and why I deem it reasonable, see my essay “My Personal Moral View”.
Given this goal, two things follow. First, mere homophobic attitudes cannot really be said to be either good or bad, so long as they remain mere attitudes and are not reflected in any action. Second, if these attitudes lead to homosexual persons feeling substantially less satisfied in life (perhaps as the result of discriminatory legislation or practices, or as the result of verbal admonitions), then the manifestations of these attitudes can be said to constitute behavior which is inconsistent with our goal.
And hence they are irrational. (This assessment rests on the reasonable assumption that such maltreatment of homosexuals induce only minor feelings of satisfaction in homophobes; for more on utilitarianism and the maltreatment of minorities, see R. M. Hare, Moral Thinking: Its Level, Method and Point (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), pp. 140-2. ) Now, it is possible that there is some other moral value which is better attained by such manifestations, and then they are not irrational, but nevertheless bad, from my moral point of view.
The outcome of this line of reasoning is that actions rooted in negative feelings towards homosexuality are to be discouraged. This could be done in three basic ways. First, it is perhaps possible, although probably quite difficult, to alter a persons feelings towards homosexuality. After childhood, when it seems that humans are most open to influences of this sort, I would think that such a procedure requires the explicit cooperation of the individual whose feelings need to be changed. One similar example is my own personal feelings towards masturbation.
As a child, I felt shame after having masturbated, but as I grew up, I reflected on this act and found it perfectly healthy and beneficial. I then gradually worked at eliminating the negative feelings, and eventually I succeeded. Second, even if a person retains an instinctive dislike of homosexuality, in the sense that he would not like do engage in same-sex acts himself, he may realize, on an intellectual level, that such feelings are personal, rooted in biology, and not beneficial as a basis for behavior towards other humans. My heterosexual friend Fredrik Bendz is an example of such a person, as told in his essay “Homosexuality”.
My experience tells me that this type of insight reflects personal contact with someone who happens to be homosexual and whom the instinctive homophobe likes and respects as a person. Such contacts help the heterosexual person gain a bit more understanding of what homosexuality is all about: the simple manifestation of love between persons of the same sex. Nothing else. And such a thing should not be feared or discouraged. Third, one could impose legal sanctions on persons who defame, discriminate against, or attack homosexuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. In my view, the second approach is the most realistic and functional.
Some Possible Counter-Arguments But does this account of the origin of homophobia explain the case of homosexuals who have negative attitudes towards their own homosexuality? I will discuss two cases, but I think this phenomenon can be explained by the influence of internalized cultural attitudes. That is, these feelings are not instinctive and biological in origin, but they stem directly from the process of upbringing and the surrounding society (of which organized religions are part). Thus, these feelings really reflect the biological and instinctive attitudes of some heterosexual homophobes of the past.
The first case is my own case. Between the ages of 16 and 27 I was a Christian of the born-again, fundamentalist, bible-believing sort. Before the age of 16, I had felt attracted to other boys for as long as I could remember. As a Christian, I gradually came to regard homosexual acts as sinful, which made me dislike my homosexuality strongly. However, deep down inside, I liked the way I was: it was me, it felt good, and it was about love! Eventually, when I began to realize that Christianity was not true, I could drop the culturally imposed categorization of homosexual acts as sinful, and live my life in accordance with my true self.
Read more in “My Personal Story: Growing Up Gay”. ) The second case is about recent similar experiments at the University of California at Berkeley and at the University of Georgia. At each experiment, a group of self-identified heterosexual male students were enrolled, and on the basis of their answers to various questions, such as their attitude towards homosexuality, they were divided into two subgroups: one with stated heterosexuals who were accepting of homosexuality and one with stated heterosexuals who were homophobic.
All students were then showed different pornographic films, during which their degree of sexual arousal was observed (by measuring the degree of erection carefully). It turned out, in both experiments, that a large majority of the homophobic “heterosexuals” were sexually turned on by gay pornography, whereas only a small minority of “homo-friendly” heterosexuals were turned on by these films.
It seems that Freuds discussion of reaction formation was vindicated in these experiments: homophobes may, to a large extent, be homosexuals who have internalized cultural attitudes of dislike and disgust towards their own sexual orientations (probably unconsciously in most cases). Again, negative attitudes towards homosexuality are the result of culturally transmitted homophobia of some heterosexuals of the past, who felt instinctive revulsion at the thought of engaging in homosexual acts.