Homosexuality is not of the norm in our modern day society with regards to one’s sexual preference, but it is fast becoming an acceptable relationship. The family structure, as well as society in general, has had to deal with homosexuality on a personal basis and as a political issue as well. In the past, discrimination and barring of homosexual individuals from society was the norm; whereas in today’s society there are men and women who are proud of who they are and don’t hide. They hold positions of power in public office and are celebrities too. They adopt children and raise them in a same sex marriage family. Society no longer shuns them, but rather embraces them for their courage. However, there are still certain segments of the population that has little tolerance for homosexuality.
Homosexuality is a term that evokes many different reactions and feelings in people. Sometimes these feelings can and do lead to many forms of discrimination and harassment which are unjustified. A person’s sexual orientation and preferences, in no way, change the value of the person as a human being and should not be a basis for the judgement of that person’s character.
Don’t be gay” taunted the boy to his friend for not wanting to dive off the diving board at the town swimming pool. “This homework assignment is so gay” is shouted out from across the room as Mr. Clark hands out the topic of a term paper to his class. These are statements that underlie the negative attitude that being gay initially meant in society.
There is a real problem today in America with anything that has to do with gay people; gay rights, gay culture, gay marriage, gays in the workplace, or even saying the word gay. It seems to bring up a whole lot of discussion and opinions anytime it is mentioned. Some feel that the discrimination of gay people is said to be comparable to the discrimination of African American people. Even as more people in society accept the ideas and lifestyles of gay individuals, there will still always be that segment of society who are find reasons to reject the gay agenda. The bottom line is that gay people are being discriminated against; there are hate crimes being committed, and there are feelings being hurt. A person’s gender is predetermined before birth and to a degree so is their sexual orientation. Why should a person be shunned by society for something that’s beyond their control?
In different cultures and societies there are many different attitudes ranging from severe discouragement to acceptance and encouragement. In societies where it’s not approved of and is looked down upon highly, to be gay is to be setting oneself up for all types of discrimination. Being labeled a homosexual in that type of society can result in the loss of friends, housing and a job. For example, the Pilgrims of Massachusetts declared homosexual activity to be a capital offense and made the people that practiced it suffer the consequences. Another more modern example is the topic of gays in the military. President Clinton announced the DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) policy in July 1993. It tolerated lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBTs) in the military as long as they kept their sexual orientation and identity a secret. That is, they could stay as long as they “hid in the closet.” If caught, they would receive an honorable discharge or a
disnonorable one if they fought against it. However, there have been some who have
been turned around in their thinking and who are trying to turn the tide.
In 2005, Representative Marty Meehan from Massachusetts, introduced a House Bill called The Military Ready Enhancement Act of 2005 which stated that no gay person
could be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation. 1 It never got passed.
Lt. Col. Allen Bishop, a U.S. Military Academy Professor of philosophy at West Point,
stated in an article in the Army Times that “Despite our government’s claim of liberty for
all, we leave homosexuals out. If the American military sees and is allowed to see itself
as the protector of some but not all Americans, democracy fails.” 2
In a society where homosexuality is acceptable, such as among the ancient Greeks,
it was considered to be a natural feeling and the society didn’t make any attempts to
explain why one man was sexually attracted to another. So too among the Roman
society, where homosexuality appeared to have been common. The Romans felt the
capacity to have homosexual feelings was universal in that everybody had them. In this
day and age, there are states that don’t come right out and prohibit homosexual activities
but instead they make them into illegal and “unnatural acts.” Only recently is the tide
turning. In 1980, the New York high court strikes down what is known as the sodomy law. In 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to enact statewide gay rights legislation.
In 1984, Berkeley, California, became the first city in the U.S. to extend domestic
partner benefits to lesbian and gay city employees. However, not everyone feels the same way. In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Georgia sodomy law. In 1988, Citizens of Oregon repealed a ban on antigay job discrimination, paving the way for the antigay initiatives in Oregon in the early 1990s.
In contemporary society, many people regarded homosexuality as a disease and
they came to see the homosexual as someone who needed treatment. The goal of that
treatment was to bring about a change in that specific person’s sexual orientation.
Homosexuality is definitely not a natural act when viewed in terms of society’s norms
pertaining to sexuality between men and women. But it is not a disorder that should be
treated as a disease requiring a cure. In an ideal world, the only basic problems that a gay individual should have should stem from his or her inability to become comfortable with his/her sexual orientation and to come to terms with the lifestyle accompanying it. They shouldn’t have to deal with society’s acceptance of them as well.
In fact, discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation is very similar to
discrimination based on one’s religion. There are many different religions practiced in
our society today and tolerance is the key to co-existing with all of them. For example, in
the Old Testament, Leviticus, Chapter 18: Verse 22 it states “And with mankind thou
shalt not lie as with womankind; it is an abomination..” It is the Judeo-Christian
belief that homosexuality goes against g-d but it is still a personal opinion as
religion is still one’s personal opinion, and last I checked, there is a still a separation of
church and state. People should be free to live as they would like.
The low status that homosexuals have within the social context of society has
made them aware of the fact that they are members of a repressed minority. They wanted
to assert their rights and pursue their own way of life without any interference. These
feelings among the gay community resulted in the establishment of the Gay Liberation
Movement. In 1973 the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy
recognized the right of homosexuals to live as they pleased. In the same year, the
American Psychiatric Association voted to drop the category “homosexuality” from it’s
classification of mental disorders and labeled it as “sexual orientation disturbance.”
In 1975 it then released a public statement that homosexuality was not a mental disorder.
In 1994, two decades later, the APA finally stated, “…. homosexuality is neither a mental
illness nor a moral depravity. It is a way of the portion of a population expresses human
love and sexuality.” 3
In our society today, discriminating against the sexual preference of who a person
chooses who to have sexual contact with seems backward. People don’t make a
conscious choice to be gay, it is who they are. Those who are unaware should
be made to understand that gay people are not out to convert all people to their way of
thinking. According to Vern L. Bullough, Ph.D at the State University College at
Buffalo, he feels that “homosexuality is part of the human condition. The fact that it has
always existed under a variety of circumstances emphasizes the importance of biology as
a factor in homosexuality……..It has had and continues to have survival value. As a
good Darwinian I have to argue that anything that increases the potential survival of the
race is important.” 4 He’s not willing to rule out biology as a factor in homosexuality
and is of the opinion that it’s biological and natural and not a mental disorder. For
example, there are many cases of males who are isolated from females for a long period
of time as in prison or in the army. There still remains the basic necessity to nurture and
support each other. The homosexual relationship that may well develop under such
circumstances are labeled ” situational homosexuality,” but for it to exist at all there has
to be a built-in biological potential to house the feelings. Vern Bullough is saying that
homosexuality is a partly natural drive for it has to come within man himself to have
survived so long.
Chandler Burr is a leading scientist and theorist studying homosexuality and he
is of the opinion that homosexuality is something that is innate in a person and one
doesn’t get the choice. They are born with it. In his article “Homosexuality and Biology”, he referenced a 1992 documentary film produced by a psychologist named
James Harrison called “Changing Our Minds” that showed how the medical profession tried out any and all possible “cures” or “treatments” for “helping” homosexuals. In the film, both gay men and women were subject to all sorts of abuses like castration, lobotomies, and shock treatment. None of these could be shown to change the sexual orientation of the people involved. Burr also further stated that in the book “Being Homosexual,” written by psychoanalyst Richard Isay, after extensive research he was unable to find one person who naturally switched from being homosexual to heterosexual and if they did, they were suppressing homosexual feelings inside. Burr stated that psychiatry consistently failed to show that homosexuality was a preference or a pathology, therefore its roots are more biological and can’t be changed. 5 In stating so, if one can’t be changed and this is the way god made him, then why should he have to change or be discriminated against by society?
Burr also cited many different studies that have been done to find the causes of homosexuality. There was a study done by Dick Swaab, a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research that showed a cluster of cells in the human brain known as the superachiasmatic nucleus was bigger in homosexual men than in heterosexual men. In another study done by Northwestern University psychologist Michael Bailey and Boston University’s Richard Pillar, they looked at 56 identical twins, 54 fraternal twins and 57 genetically unrelated adopted brothers. They found a gay-gay concordance rate among the identical twins to be 52%, for the fraternal twins it was 22% and for the brothers it was 11%. The findings suggest that homosexuality is largely genetic in
origin.5 Michael Bailey also states that “I would-and have-bet my career on homosexuality’s being biologically determined.”5
If science plays such an important role in determining one’s sexual orientation, then the main question to be asked is how can society justify discriminating against a people on the basis of a characteristic? The answer is: one can’t. However, the issues of
human rights, human freedoms and human tolerance can’t be answered in a laboratory.
People have to live and let live. They have to be contentwith themselves
and let others live as they please without any interference about who or what’s right
or wrong. It is a long range goal that we, as a society, must endeavor to undertake and become more accepting of how others live their life.
1. The “Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2005,” Thomas, at http://thomas.loc.gov/
2. “Efforts Intensify to End Gay Soldier-Ban,” Associated Press, 2005-June 14, at http://www.gate.com/
3. Johnson, Ryan D. “Homosexuality: Nature or Nurture”- All Psych Journal-April 30, 2003
4. Bullough, Vern L. Ph.D-“Weighing the Shift from Sexual Identity to Sexual Relationships-Journal of Homosexuality-vol. 10(3/4)-Winter 1984
5. Burr, Chandler – “Homosexuality and Biology”-Atlantic Monthly-March 1993-Volume 272, No. 3