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Where does homosexuality come from? Why do human beings prefer partners of the same gender? Should we blame a very strict mother or a weak father in the upbringing process? Does this problem originate from conflicts with peers? Is it possible an embryo has got very few or too many hormones in the womb? Why do such people appear? How should we treat them? Can we help them if they need it at all?
The subject of homosexuality has been surrounded with many prejudices and contradictions. Scientists consider it to be genetic pathology; psychologists define the prime cause in the upbringing and environmental influence; religionists review this problem as a result of social depravity. Therefore, this paper is aimed to define the reasons of this deviance; to research the social and psychological implications on the community, family and individuals; to search for the ways of reduction of this phenomenon if it is possible.
Historically, homosexual behavior was tolerated in many regions globally. Even the Christian church in Europe seemed not to care about it. Hostility towards homosexuality behavior began in twentieth century. Religions and other secular institutions turned against it completely and in particular European religions. In the modern society, almost every sector seems to have a negative attitude towards homosexuality. It has been fought through religious, medical and legal means. In this century, stiff criminal penalties were enacted against homosexuality acts. It was also in this century when psychiatrist joined religion and law, and concluded that those practicing homosexuality were mentally sick. This conclusion somehow helped in rectifying some laws because sickness could not be compared sinning.
Very few sociological researches of homosexuality were undertaken, probably because the problem was considered more suitable for psychologists and biologists. Greenberg (1988, p. 2) admits that “it is beliefs that homosexuality is evil, sick, or undesirable – and the corresponding efforts to punish, cure, or prevent it – that make homosexuality deviant”.
Bayer (1987, p. 22) mentioned that unlike those who considered this phenomenon to be abnormal sexuality, Freud defined it as “a natural feature of human psychosexual development”. All children experienced a homosexual stage in their psychosexual development. He said, “The homosexual tendencies are not … done away with or brought to a stop. They were rather deflected from their original target and served other ends”.(Bayer, 1987, p. 22).
Loftus (2001, p. 762) noticed that Americans have become much more negative as to the morality of homosexuality through 1990, but since then their attitude have increasingly changed on behalf of gays and lesbians. Two factors may have caused these changes: the first is different educational level of population which could cause liberalization to homosexuality; and the second is shifts in cultural ideologies.
There are normally two forms of defiance, that is, primary defiance and secondary defiance. Primary defiance is the act of violating a societal rule or norm, which can cause the one violating such a rule to be labeled as being defiant. People will tend to change their opinions towards such individuals just because of the label imposed on them. On the other hand, secondary defiance can be described as the continued act of violating the societal rule or norm normally because of your behavior expectations developed by other people based on your label. According to Ronald and Nelson (1976), homosexuality behavior is a critical example of secondary deviance. The two authors created a model to clarify their claims. Their model claimed that once individuals who are gay are alleged as homosexual, other people will see them differently and in this context, they will integrate their homosexuality into their own definition. This will cause them acquire the mentality that they will be placed into a defiant role. This will in turn cause them to experience negative consequences and stress of being part of the shame connected with homosexuality. Ronald and Nelson (1976) concluded that, such individuals will shift and adapt their relationships to other homosexuals or individuals sailing on the same ship. Due to their relationships with other homosexuals and “self-definitions”, they termed as secondary deviants. Their study was confirmed by a sample of 148 male homosexuals.
Amnesty International is a global movement of people fighting against injustice and defending human rights. It believes that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to enjoy all human rights, without exception. However, every day all over the world many people face different forms of discrimination, violence, imprisonment, or even execution.
For instance, Amnesty International reported that Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was sentenced to 36 months in prison for being homosexual, according to the Cameroonian Penal Code (Prisoner of Conscience, Imprisoned for Homosexuality). The Code provides imprisonment from six months to five years, including fine ranging from 35 to 350 US dollars as punishment for homosexuality. This contradicts the international and regional human rights treaties. Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was arrested by while meeting his male friend on March 2, 2011. He was charged with homosexuality and taken to prison in seven days, and was transferred to Kondengui Central Prison (Cameroon). Serving his sentence he is now at risk to be attacked by inmates or prison authorities for his sexual orientation. Besides, the prison conditions are bad: poor food and sanitation, overcrowded jail wards. The lawyers appealed against his Jean-Claude’s sentence on May 3, 2011. Unfortunately homophobia is common for Cameroonian society, and even the National Human Rights Commission refuses to promote the rights of homosexuals and transgender people.
“In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes” (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1967, p. 4, article 6) Although, it has been stated, “in spite of these human rights obligations, in seven countries – Iran, Mauritania, the Nigerian states that apply Shar’ia law, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen – consensual sexual relations between men can incur the death penalty”.(Amnesty International, 2008, p. 46).
Aarti Divani (2011) reports that in July 1995, Robert Mugabe shut down a book exhibition opened by homosexuals of Zimbabwe at the Harare International Book Fair. Mugabe said to defend his point of view, “if dogs and pigs don’t do it, why must human beings?” He explained his decision with the statement that homosexuality is not part of African culture. While the studies of historians discovered same-sex relationships to have existed in pre-colonial Africa. And social meaning of homosexuality has changed since the 1800s.
Much more democratic situation is in European countries. Homosexuality is generally well accepted in Denmark. This country is traditionally a very open and tolerant society towards anyone a little bit “different”, even more so than the other Scandinavian countries. This is reflected in their very progressive legislation on gay and lesbian equality. In 1989 Denmark became the first country in the world to introduce a law on registered partnership for same-sex relations. Employment protection for gays and lesbians was introduced in 1996 and in 1999 married gays were allowed to adopt the children of their partners.
Petersson J. (2005) distinguished fourteen European countries which provide some of legal protection to homosexual couples: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Croatia, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Luxembourg, Scotland, France, Iceland, Portugal, Britain and Hungary. Besides European Region of the International Gay and Lesbian Association promotes equal rights and supports different movements. Petersson J. (2005) represents one of gay couple (Marc Behrendt and Beso Khutishvili) which moved from the United States to the UK in order to search for recognition of their homosexual relations as equivalent to heterosexuals. Gay couples are entitled to the same pension, property and inheritance rights as traditional ones. But still, only Belgium and Netherlands allow marriage for the same sex. Spanish government has come up with a bill that will allow them to marry as well as adopting Spanish children. The law is expected to be approved by the end of June.
Mathews C., Booth M., Turner J.D. and Kessler L. (1986, p. 106) mentioned about the study in 1982 that was conducted in order to ascertain physician attitudes toward homosexuality in general and toward homosexual colleagues and patients in particular. They say that “physicians’ attitudes are important because of their normative role in society and because of the possible impact of such attitudes on the structure and quality of patient care”.(Mathews C., et al., 1986, p. 106). The results of the research revealed that response rate was 43 % out of 2,364 members of the San Diego County Medical Society. Nearly a quarter of respondents had strongly negative attitude, and 30 % would not let a homosexual applicant to medical school. Almost 40 % would discourage homosexual physicians from training in pediatrics or psychiatry. Three fifths of respondents stated that they wouldn’t have refused to treat homosexual patients.
LeVay S. & Hamer D.H. (1994, p. 44) mentioned that recent laboratory studies assure that genes and brain development play a significant role in sexuality. It is possible that genes influence the sexual differentiation of the brain and its interaction with the environment. Many researchers have searched for some features in human brain according to which we are divided into male and female. But there was not found any obvious dissimilarity. Twin and family tree studies were undertaken to find out if genetically influenced traits run in families. It was discovered that a brother of a gay man had a 14 % likelihood of being gay as compared with 2 % for the men without gay brothers. Another researches indicated that “the incidence of homosexuality in the adopted brothers of homosexuals (11%) was much higher than recent rate in the population (1 - 5 %)”. (Byne W., 1994, p. 50). This study considers the environment to influence strongly on sexual orientation.
Byne W. (1994, p. 50) noticed that “men are generally programmed for attraction to women, and women are generally programmed for attraction to men. Male homosexuals, according to this framework, have female programming, and lesbians have male programming”.
Remafedi G. (1987, p. 331) conducted the study in which 29 homosexual teenagers participated in anonymous and confidential interviews as to the impact of sexuality on family, employment, education, peers.
This study has revealed different social, psychological and medical problems among homosexual adolescents. Most of them are school problems, substance abuse and emotional difficulties in which involved more than half of the samples. Tartagni (1978, p. 26) has added that “one of the loneliest people in any high school in America is the rejected and isolated gay adolescent”.
According to Remafedi G., Farrow J.A., & Deisher R.W.(1991), “more than 5000 US adolescents and young adults ( aged 15 to 24) take their own lives each year. During the past 25 years, suicide rates for young men quadrupled, and self-inflicted death became the second leading cause of adolescent mortality”. Bell and Weinberg (1978) found that “ 1000 black and white homosexual men were, respectively, 12 and 3 times more likely than heterosexual men to report suicidal ideation or attempts”. Approximately one third of gay and bisexual youth in the study, conducted by Remafedi et al. (1991), reported at least one intentional self-destructed act, and almost half of them repeatedly attempted suicide.
Homosexuality acts in one way or another have negative impacts to the society. For instance, domestic violence among homosexuals is 20 times higher than heterosexuals. It is also influence child molestations. Child abuse cases associated with homosexuals are so rampant despite the fact that they only constitute 3% of the population (Meyer, 2003). In regions where homosexual marriages are accepted, family has fallen completely. In fact, 80% 0f children are born outside the family (Meyer, 2003). Children of homosexuals perform poorly academically compared to those of heterosexuals and other cohabitating couples. Homosexual behavior is also associated with the following vices: child sexual abuse, substance abuse, mental illness, physical disease, domestic violence and promiscuity. All these vices impact the community/society negatively. Societies should try to discourage homosexual behavior to avoid the negative implications. Although it is your right to respond to your sexual desires, considering the negative impacts associated with homosexuality, it is good to discourage it because it is doing more harm than good.
There is no unified opinion about the cause of homosexuality. In every particular case there exists combination of reasons. Environment and upbringing play a significant role in it, as well as inheritance and particular combination of genes. Although these approaches are mutually exclusive, each of them is trustworthy. Sexual orientation is being formed in different ways. We still don’t have the exact definition.
Homosexuality can’t be cured as a disease; it’s easier to bring somebody to a suicide. That’s what our society does with its prejudiced attitude. Many homosexual adolescents have taken their own lives, as they are grown up in the environment which inspires disgust and contempt to gays. They are doomed to live in the heterosexual society. Individuals having decided to commit a suicide are dying from the cruelty around, from the fear of their “otherness”.
Lives of homosexuals are even made harder by the fact that some psychiatrists and psychologists still hold negative attitudes towards them. Although, there is no clear evidence as to whether homosexuality can be classified as mental illness or associated with psychopathology, these individuals still require the support of psychiatrists and psychologists to help them deal with the stigma and stresses their undergo due to their conditions. Furthermore, sexual minorities also suffer from psychological distress and mental illness, and should be treated as equally human. In fact, it would be very surprising if they do not acquire psychological problems given the stresses created by sexual prejudice and stigma (Meyer, 2003). Therefore, homosexuals seek psychotherapy services for the same reasons as other individuals. Their sexual orientations should not be used to determine their treatment and other issues.
There is no empirical evidence as to what causes homosexual desire, but some suggestions have been made through different researches (Cameron, 1997). Some people argue that homosexuality is inherited but there has never been any scientific evidence to support that. However, some studies have suggested male homosexuality can be caused by the relationship between the boy child and his father before starting this behavior (Cameron, 1997). Researchers who support this claim argue that if the father distances himself from the boy by any means, the boy fails to identify his gender and possibly he can involve himself in homosexuality without knowing. The bonding between the father and son cannot be ignored because if it is not there, the boy will definitely seek bonding with other males which can result to a sexual bonding. Parents should reinforce their children gender and they should let them know about homosexuality. Through this, children will be in a position to differentiate to understand their gender and stay away from homosexuality. Parents are also encouraged never to shy away from inevitable sexuality questions asked by their children. They should explain to them black and white. Letting the children know about sex will help them understand about the good and bad associated with sexuality.
Homosexuality behavior can also be influenced by our cultures. For instance, if our culture approves homosexual sub-culture, a lot people would be curious and be encouraged to explore this behavior (Cameron, 1997). Authority figures practicing this behavior can also be a contributing factor as young people will try to emulate them or even begin their first experience with the authority figures. If homosexual is depicted as desirable and normal behavior within a society, many individual are likely to practice it. In many societies where homosexual acts are legally tolerated, people tend to indulge in this behavior and combine efforts to fight for their legal rights (Cameron, 1997).
Discrimination and prejudice against homosexual individuals normally have personal and social impact on them. How people stereotype members of homosexual group affects their social level (APA, 2008). These stereotypes are only perceptions of some individuals since they do not have any supporting evidence and are normally used as an excuse to treat the homosexual individuals unequally. Prejudice and discrimination against homosexuals can also subject them to mental illness due to the pressure of coping with social stigma and stresses associated with homosexuality. Stigma and stresses impact sometimes may worsen or reduce due to some factors such as race, religion, sex, disability and ethnicity (APA, 2008).
Although homosexual behavior is not a disease which can be cured by form of medicine, it is possible to control it. Just like how heterosexuals control their sexual desires to engage in extramarital or premarital sex, it is possible for the homosexuals to control themselves from homosexual contact (Cameron, 1997). Anyone willing to stay away from this behavior can do so by avoiding the company of practicing homosexuals. According to the researches, homosexual relationships in most cases do not last for long; therefore, it is easier to stop this behavior. Psychotherapy, ex-gay ministries and religious commitment can also help in avoiding this behavior (Cameron, 1997).