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.
See also: A Summary of Studies on the Origins of Sexual Orientation
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.
See also: More Professional Positions on Homosexuality
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."
See also: More Professional Positions on Homosexuality
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.
See also: Notable Gay, Lesbian, & Bisexual People
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:
- Women (and therefore lesbians) were excluded from the survey.
- Participants 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.
- The 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.