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Homosexuality Essay, Research Paper

In the earliest years of life, long before questions about the choice of a partner for sexual activity can arise, small boys and girls manifest differences in attitudes, interests and behaviour, and develop a strong feeling of belonging to either the male or female sex. By the time they reach the age of romantic or erotic attachments, their own self-image, and everything they have learned to associate with masculinity and femininity , dictates that they should choose a partner of the opposite sex. A small minority of boys and girls fail to acquire the attitudes and styles of conduct considered appropriate to members of their sex.

Both men and women are liable to homosexuality; the word has nothing to do with maleness. Homosexuality and Heterosexuality, which literally means the same and other sex, are terms needed to distinguish between erotic attraction to one s own or to the opposite sex. The use of the word homosexual as a label for persons is ambiguous. Few people pass through life without at some stage experiencing homosexual feelings, even if only slight and fleeting. ( West. 1977. Pg-1 )

The term homosexual should be applied with caution. In this paper I will use it to describe persons whose erotic concerns are predominantly directed towards their own sex. Among this minority there are many who can obtain no stimulation from the opposite sex, and may also experience revulsion at the idea of heterosexual contact. Being forced to seek sexual satisfaction exclusively with their own gender. These feelings usually occur long before adolescence, and by the time adolescence has passed, self identity as a homosexual, is well established . ( West. 1977. Pg-16 )

Though it may be argued that homosexuality was not always around records show that homosexuality has been around since the beginning of man.

Civilizations varied in opinion when concerning the topic of homosexuality. Different cultures tolerated different types of sexual intercourse. In time most of these cultures learned to accept of disapprove of these sexual acts.

Anthropological records have tended to treat same-sex loving as a phenomenon, hiding references to it in a passing remark or a footnote. This attitude has gradually changed and recently, to offer one example, a detailed study of homosexuality in Papua New Guinea and the Melanesian islands has been published. ( Spencer. 1995. Pg-17 )

Until the arrival of Westerners in the nineteenth century, it is thought that the lives if these people continued unchanged for thousands of years, so a study of their rites and customs, some of which are still practiced today, give us an important link with the past. The evidence from linguistics and immigration patterns suggests that the tribes practicing some forms of homosexual ritual in Melanesia first colonized the lands around 10,000 years ago.

This study also shows that each tribe had its corresponding view of the role of women in that society. So how the tribe views women indicates the ideology and character of its homosexual structure. Or how males construct creation myths and where they place the female principle dictates the variety of accepted homosexual behaviour.

Each of the tribes studied had remarkably different rituals involving sexuality, yet many based their ideology on the ritualized homosexual insemination of young boys. Take the Marind and the Kiman tribes. Here every boy past infancy was taken away from his mother and the women s house to sleep with his father in the men s house. At the first signs of puberty, his maternal uncle was appointed to penetrate the boy anally, thus feeding him with the sperm which would make him strong. The boys remained in this phase for about three years. ( Spencer. 1995. Pg-17-18 )

Culture is an overwhelmingly important force in determining the different forms that homosexual behavior takes in society. Studies of other cultures offer and impressive contrast to the American notion that homosexuals are always scorned, abnormal, acting like the opposite sex, dangerous, likely to molest innocent children, and easily distinguishable from normal heterosexuals.

In Ancient Greece, attitudes toward what we now call homosexuality varied from time to time and from place to place. Greek writers in ancient times wrote as if they considered the pleasures of one sex as opposed to the other to be morally equivalent, and as if a particular person could find pleasure in one sex one day and another sex the next. In fact, it seemed logical, for them to assume that the most masculine men would want to associate with and have sex with other men. Sappho, whose famous poetry expressed her love for young woman, was not considered anything but feminine ( Gonsiorek & Weinrich. 1991. Pg-48 )

In today s society it is a stereotype that lesbians are masculine, and that gay men are feminine. Gay civil rights groups often point out that most homosexuals today do not cross-dress, that many transvestites are heterosexual.

In the Arabic culture of Oman, it is hard to imagine an enviornment more hostile toward homosexuality . Islam prescribes the death penalty for homosexual behaviour, and many aspects of one s life are completely determined just by one s sex. Men are not permitted to be in the presence of a woman for even a moment unless a man related to the woman is present.

Being reared in ways more suited to a girl, being frightened off sex by puritanical parents, being seduced by older boys or men, being the youngest or oldest or only son of a possessive mother, being segregated from women, being shy of ineffectual in making contact with the opposite sex, or being rejected by girls, are just a few of the countless reasons put forward to account for some boys becoming homosexuals. ( West. 1977. Pg-85 )

Most experts agree that with the layman s view that male homosexuals

tend to have dominating, possessive mothers who, from infancy, smother their

sons with maternal over-solicitude, keep them tied to the proverbial apron

strings, and crush their early attempts to masculine independence.

Irving Bieber noted that very few homosexual patients enjoyed a warm relationship with their father. Over four-fifths of the homosexuals fathers were absent altogether from the home or spent very little time with their son.

Sexual preference is characterized as a matter of learning and forced choice. M.D. Storms study (1980) disconfirmed the notion that homosexual men are less masculine and/or more feminine than their heterosexual counterparts; sexual preference was shown to relate to the type and extent of one s erotic fantasy.

Most of the research reported on attitudes and stereotypes toward homosexual acts and actors has been collected from heterosexual respondents. These studies assess global cultural beliefs about and fears of homosexual acts and actors and are generally discussed in the context of homophopia . These studies reflect limited or no experience with homosexuals themselves. In fact, individuals who report having a friend or relative tend to score in the direction of positive attitudes on these scales.

A particularly powerful cultural image of out-groups portrays them as threats to the in-groups most vulnerable members (for example, children, women ). ( Gonsiorek & Weinrich. 1991. Pg-70 )

Gay men are no more likely than heterosexual men to molest children. Why do many people continue to believe this stereotype? Falsely accusing minority group members of child molestation is not a strategy unique to antigay activists.

Here are three myths about homosexual relationships:

MYTH #1- Homosexuals don t want enduring relationships-and can t achieve them. Studies of homosexuals attitudes about relationships find that most homosexuals say they very much want to have close relationships. In surveys of gay men and women, between 40% and 60% of the men questioned were currently involved in a steady relationship.

MYTH#2- Gay relationships are unhappy, abnormal, dysfunctional, and deviant. A study of heterosexual college students found that they expected gay and lesbian relationships to be less satisfying, more prone to discord, and less in love than heterosexual relationships.

MYTH#3- Husband and Wife roles are universal in intimate relationships. Today however, research shows that most lesbian and gay men actively reject traditional husband-wife roles.

The content of prejudice against homosexuality is presumably based on a specific kind of act. The historical process of persecution, ostracism, and prejudice extend beyond the act to the actor. Individual lives are controlled by the criminal justice system and by social sanction. Not only are specific acts, and behaviors affected, the human dignity of the actors is destroyed. ( Nungesser. 1983. Pg-107 ). Prejudice against homosexuals may be characterized by a set of unfounded negative beliefs and stereotypes about the homosexual . The sources of prejudice against homosexuals have been listed by Weinberg (1972). They are: (1) the Judeo-Christian religious taboo on homosexuality, (2) the secret fear of being homosexual, (3) repressed envy of perceived homosexual ease in life, (4) the idea that homosexuality is a threat to society and family values, and (5) the reawakening by homosexuals, as persons without children, of fears of death.

Institutional and personal hostility toward lesbians and gay men is a fact of life in the United States today. Roughly two-thirds of Americans condemn homosexuality or homosexual behavior as morally wrong or a sin (polls by ABC, 8/87; Los Angeles Times, 8/87; Roper, 9/85); this pattern has appeared not to have changed significantly from the late 1970 s. According to Gallup polls (Colasanto, 1989), only a plurality of Americans feel that homosexuality should be legal (47% versus 36% who say it should not be legal). Many heterosexual Americans also reject gay people at the personal level. In 1987, a Roper poll found that 25% of the respondents to a national survey would strongly object to working around people who are gay, and another 27% would prefer not to; only 45% wouldn t mind. In a 1985 Los Angeles Times poll, 50% of respondents reported that they did not feel uncomfortable around homosexuals, while 35% reported discomfort.

Negative attitudes often are expressed behaviorally. Of 113 lesbians and 287 gay men in a national telephone survey, 5% of the men and 10% of the women reported having been physically abused or assaulted in the previous year. Nearly half (47%) reported experiencing some form of discrimination (job, housing, health care, or social) at some time in their life based on their sexual orientation ( Results of poll, 1989). Other research similarly has found that significant numbers of gay men and women have been the target of verbal abuse, discrimination, or physical assault.

The proportion of American adults surveyed by the Gallup organization who say that homosexual men and women should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities increased from 56% in 1977 to 59% in 1982, to 71% in 1989. Similarly , Roper surveys found that the proportion of Americans agreeing that homosexuals should be guaranteed equal treatment under the law in jobs and housing rose from 60% in 1977, to 66% in 1985.

Although they show increasing willingness to extend basic civil liberties to gay men and lesbians, most heterosexual Americans continue to condemn homosexuality morally and to reject or feel uncomfortable about gay people personally.

Discrimination in employment, housing, and services, in contrast, frequently is justified on the basis of beliefs that gay people possess various undesirable characteristics, for example, that they are mentally ill and dangerous to children. A principal justification for discrimination and hostility toward gay people appeals to religious morality. Because homosexuality is condemned by several major religions, it is argued, laws prohibiting discrimination would require heterosexual individuals to violate their personal moral standards. Gay people can be viewed as a religious minority group: Although they do not manifest a unified religious ideology ( Gonsiorek & Weinrich. 1991. Pg-64 )

Gay people can be viewed also as members of a political minority. They relatively recent flourishing of visible gay communities is largely a result of political and legal struggles against prejudice and discrimination that have spanned four decades. These communities constitute a political force for gay concerns. The political minority status of gay people was recognized by the California Supreme Court in 1979 ( Gay Law Students Association v. Pacific Telephone and Telegraph, 1979 ). The court ruled that discrimination against openly gay individuals constitutes illegal discrimination on the basis of political activity.

Empirical research has demonstrated that heterosexual s attitudes toward gay people are correlated with various psychological, social, and demographic variables. Those with negative attitudes are (1) more likely to express traditional attitudes about gender roles; (2) less likely to report having themselves engaged in homosexual behaviors or to self-identify as lesbian or gay; (3) more likely to perceive their peers as manifesting negative attitudes; (4) less likely to have had personal contact with homosexuals; (5) likely to be older and less well educated; (6) more likely to have resided in areas where negative attitudes represent the norm; (7) more likely to be strongly religious . ( Gonsiorek &Weinrich. 1991. Pg-65 )

Like members of other stigmatized groups, gay people face numerous psychological challenges as a result of society s hostility toward them. As a result of antigay prejudice, many individuals feel compelled to hide their sexuality. Respondents to the Teichner national survey of lesbians and gay men, for example waited an average of 4.6 years after knowing they were gay until they came out. Depending on the area of the country, between 23% and 40% had not told their families that they were gay; between 37% and 59% had not disclosed their sexual orientation to coworkers ( Results of Poll, 1989).

Once they came out, lesbian and gays risk rejection by others, discrimination, and even violence, all experiences with psychological consequences that can endure long after their immediate physical effects have dissipated. Suffering assault or other overt victimization can create considerable psychological distress. Feelings of personal loss, rejection, humiliation, and depression are common. Behavioral and somatic reactions include sleep disturbances and nightmares, headaches, diarrhea, uncontrollable crying and restlessness, increased use of drugs, and deterioration in personal relationships. Those who are still coming to terms with their gay identity may experience added psychological distress, both because they lack a strongly developed gay identity that would increase their psychological resilience and coping skills, and because they lack adequate social support from others who can affirm their gay identity.

Although not often discussed, antigay prejudice also has negative consequences for heterosexuals. Because of the stigma attached to homosexuality, many heterosexuals restrict their own behavior in order to avoid being labeled effeminate . Antigay prejudice also interferes with same-sex friendships. Males with strongly antigay attitudes appear to have less intimate nonsexual friendships with other men.

In Holland, where the Code Napoleon had operated since 1811, the law was modified in 1911, by article 248 bis, proposed by a Roman Catholic Minister of Justice, and carried through Parliament against considerable opposition. It raised the age of consent for homosexual acts to 21, leaving that for heterosexual acts unchanged at 16. The modern Penal Code of Switzerland punishes immoral acts, whether heterosexual or homosexual, with children under 16 and 20 only if committed by persons of the same sex.

In Germany, with the formation of the Reich in 1871, homosexual acts between male became an imprisonable offense under the Article 175 of the Penal Code. Article 175 was still in force when Hitler came to power. The Nazi regime in fact increased the penalties, specifying tongue kissing between men as punishable under Article 175, and introducing a penalty for homosexual prostitution of up to ten years imprisonment. After the war, attempts were made in the Federal Republic of Germany to have Article 175 declared a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which guarantees the sanctity of private life. The attempt foundered because the Convention permits some regulation of family life for the protection of the health and morals of the community as a whole. However, in 1967, the law was eventually repealed and homosexual acts in private between males over 21 ceased to be a crime.

On January 1, 1962 punishment of adult homosexuality ceased in Czechoslovakia. According to Paragraph 244 (1) of the Penal Code, anyone over 18 who commits an immoral act with a person under 18 of the same sex is liable to one to five years of imprisonment.

The legal system of Japan is outstanding in that homosexual practice as such is not a criminal offense.

Until approximately 1962, the sexual conduct of most Americans was criminalized. Ninety-five percent of all American men were committing sexual acts that were considered criminal. Many states in the 1970 s adopted the Model Penal Code, which decriminalized private, adult, consensual sex regardless of the gender of the partners. In the 1970 s and 1980 s, other states decriminalized most sexual conduct, including same-sex, by action of their highest state courts, which founded such laws to be unconstitutional under the privacy rights granted by the particular state s constitution.

In 1968, the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut found a fundamental right of privacy in the married sexual union. A setback occurred in 1975, when a federal three-judge panel upheld the Virginia sodomy law. In Dow v. Commonwealth s Attorney. The arguments were four in number: (1) a secular argument grounded in the Judeo-Christian religious beliefs about same-sex conduct as a sin, (2) a historical argument that since such laws had been on the books for a long time, they were , by their very longevity, valid, (3) an argument that same sex conduct undermined the American family and that gay Americans were no portion of marriage, home or family life and (4) a circular argument that since the Virginia legislature had long criminalized such conduct.

In 1985, gay legal activists seeking to overturn sodomy laws believed they had the perfect case to take the Supreme Court. In Georgia, Michael Hardwick was arrested in his own bedroom within a private home while having sex with another adult male. The decision of the Supreme Court in 1986 in Bowers v. Hardwick stunned both gay and nongay legal activists. The court in upholding Georgia s right to criminalize adult, consensual, private sex between two persons of the same gender, selectively ignored prior privacy precedent. Opinion polls in the 1980 s showed that most Americans believed all Americans had a fundamental right of privacy for adult, consensual sex.

The one legal issue that presses on the daily existence of almost all gay citizens is employment discrimination. Gay employees wonder whether, in order to pursue a career and a stable livelihood, they must be closeted and live in a constant fear of being fount out. (Gonsiorek & Weinrich. 1991. Pg-88). A small number of cities and counties in the United States have unemployment laws that protect employees on the basis of their sexual orientation. However, by far the majority of these statutes apply to public not private employers.

Protecting one s self from the homophobic actions of employers is still difficult, especially in private employment. However, for both the state and local government employees, prospects of a harassment free and firing free workplace are much better than 10 years ago. A federal bill adding sexual orientation to the list of federally protected categories of Title VII has perennially languished in the House and Senate since its first introduction in 1981.

In 1944, as the war was ending and the need for unlimited manpower no longer existed, the U.S. military instituted formal rules prohibiting gay men and women from serving their country. Some military personnel were excluded or removed under these regulations with dishonorable discharges and often harsh interrogations. Most gay military cases prior to the 1970 s concerned persons caught in the midst of the forbidden act. In 1976 Leonard Matlovich, a decorated Vietnam war hero and airman, directly challenged the system by announcing his sexual orientation to the Secretary of the Air Force, his military unit. He was immediately dishonorably discharged.

Gay military personnel have constantly challenged the military regulations in American courts. The case closest to success was Watkins v. United States, in which a three-judged panel of the 9th Circuit held, two to one, that the military regulations were unconstitutional because gays and lesbians constituted a suspect class .

Congressional inquiry has revealed that weeding gay personnel out of the military costs the American taxpayers $23 million a year. (Gonsiorek & Weinrich. 1991. Pg-87)

In Boutilier v. Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1967, the Supreme Court upheld a prohibition against gay and lesbian immigration because the immigration law forbade the entrance of psychopathic personalities . Gay men and women, according to the Court, fell under that diagnosis. In 1979, the Public Health Service, through the Surgeon General of the United States, announced that public health doctors would no longer certify gay people as psychopathic personalities because new studies clearly indicated that a same-gender sexual orientation was not a diagnosable mental illness. Following this policy Immigration and Naturalization Service said that without such certification, gay and lesbian immigration had to be admitted.

In 1990, by the passage of a new federal immigration law that removed the prohibition of gay and lesbians immigration based on sexual orientation, resolved the immigration issue.

Christian Churches have always been identified with a conservative, family-based morality inimical to sexual permissiveness in general and to homosexuality in particular. Homosexuality as being a sin remains the orthodox view of all the major Christian sects.

Christian writers these days are tending to adopt softer and more fashionable attitudes towards homosexuals, tempering their rejection with expressions of concern and sympathy.

An unusually sympathetic view from a Roman Catholic source has appeared in a pamphlet on the pastoral care of homosexuals by Michael Hollings (1972). Nowhere does he deny the sinfulness of homosexuality. He tries to use neutral language, although in doing so he knows he may incur the censure of clergy of theologians who would prefer to see an outright statement on sin . He pleads for an understanding of homosexuals, and a recognition of their human needs. He asks the question whether the Church has any advice to offer other than total abstention. (West. 1977. Pg-311)

In secular law there can be no such thing as a marriage except between a man and a woman. No institutional church in England recognizes or solemnises homosexual marriages. In California Troy Perry (1972) pastor of Pentecostal Church, who was dismissed on account of homosexuality, set up a church of his own where homosexual members would be welcome and where he could celebrate homosexual marriages.

In the early days of the movement for social justice for homosexuals the reformers were glad of any support they could win from the established churches. Backing from the Moral Welfare Council of the Church of England helped in the formulation and eventual implementation of the Wolfenden decriminalization proposals. In the United States, the tireless efforts of the Rev. Alfred Gross, executive director of the G.W. Henry Foundation gave a respectable, religious backing to pleas for law reform and for a better deal for sexual variants.

Homosexuals ceased to present themselves as sinners, begging for tolerance and forgiveness from more virtuous Christians. Standing proud, and asserting their moral right to live as they please, they decisively rejected as stupid and outmoded the so-called natural law that condemned them.

It may be argued that homosexuals didn t exist until about 150 years ago. Homosexuality certainly did, as our historical survey showed, but individuals who fell in love with members of their own sex weren t thought to be a particular kind of person. Often, the gender of one s sexual partners was less important than attributes like their age and social status. One the other hand, some societies, such as many in pre-Columbian America, recognized a separate class of persons whose gender and sexual orientation was different and afforded them a special status. In times and cultures in which individual behavior was highly regulated in deference to group solidarity, such as among the Isrealites, reproductive sexuality was the mandate and any other form of sexual expression forbidden and punished.

The study of the forces of stigma and bigotry shows us that unfamiliar to dangerous is a step easily taken among humans. Homosexuals in Western society have been identified with others considered dangerous persons since the late Middle Ages: sinners, infidels, foreign enemies, the mentally ill, criminals.

For several hundreds of years, the institutions of the majority considered homosexuality something a person did and called it sodomy, buggery or a crime against nature. During the nineteenth century, a shift occurred, and a few individuals began to talk about homosexuality as something a person was.

In the late twentieth century, the sciences of biology have again begun to consider the phenomenon of homosexuality and to apply techniques and develop theories to understand it. In measuring the size of certain brain structures, performance on psychological tests, and the structure of chromosomes, differences are found between homosexual and heterosexual individuals- differences, not abnormalities.

Homosexuality is a natural, normal sexuality for some people. Fear of homosexuals has been exploited by the misguided in the pursuit of wealth, power , revenge, political influence, and cultural control.

It is possible that prejudice against homosexuals will one day be as unacceptable in our society as prejudice against ethnic or religious minorities. For a hundred years of so, homosexuals have struggled against forces that would oppress and persecute them. Some of them were given a pink triangle to wear and were murdered for their protest. Many more now proudly put on a pink triangle and march down Main Street to celebrate who they are. They march for acceptance and freedom and call on their family and friends to join them.

Works Cited

1) West, D.J.. Homosexuality re-examined. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1977

2) Gonsiorek, John & Weinrich, James. Homosexuality. U.S.A: Sage Publications, 1991

3) Nungesser, Lon G. Homosexual Acts, Actors, and Identities. New York: Praegar Publishers,


4) Spencer, Colin. Homosexuality in History. U.S.A: Harcourt Brace & Company,


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