AskDefine | Define homosexuals

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

homosexuals
  1. Plural of homosexual

Extensive Definition

Homosexuality refers to sexual behavior or attraction between people of the same sex, or to a sexual orientation. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions primarily to" people of the same sex; "it also refers to an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them."
While "sexual orientation ranges along a continuum from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual," homosexuality is often contrasted with heterosexuality (primary or exclusive opposite-sex attraction) and bisexuality (a significant degree of attraction to both sexes). In a narrow sense, gay refers to male homosexuality, but it often is used in its broadest sense, especially in media headlines and reports, to refer to homosexuality in general. Lesbian, however, always denotes female homosexuality.
Homosexual behavior occurs among numerous non-human animals and particularly among social animals.

Overview

Homosexuality has been a feature of human culture since earliest history (see History section below). Generally, and most famously in ancient Greece, certain forms of erotic attraction and sexual pleasure between males were often an ingrained, accepted part of the cultural norm. However, particular sexual activities (such as anal sex in some cultures, or oral sex in others) were disapproved of, even as other aspects were admired. In cultures under the sway of Abrahamic religions, the law and the church established sodomy as a transgression against divine law, a "crime against nature" practiced by choice, and subject to severe penalties, up to capital punishment—often inflicted by means of fire so as to purify the unholy action. The condemnation of penetrative sex between males, however, predates Christian dogma, as it was frequent in Ancient Greece, whence the theme of action "against nature," traceable to Plato, originated.
In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, a different view began to predominate in medical and psychiatric circles, judging such behavior as indicative of a type of person with a defined and relatively stable sexual orientation. Karl-Maria Kertbeny coined the term homosexual in 1869 in a pamphlet arguing against a Prussian anti-sodomy law. Richard von Krafft-Ebing's 1886 book Psychopathia Sexualis elaborated on the concept. Although medical texts like these (written partly in Latin to obscure the sexual details) were not widely read by the general public, they did lead to the rise of Magnus Hirschfeld's Scientific Humanitarian Committee, which campaigned from 1897 to 1933 against anti-sodomy laws in Germany, as well as a much more informal, unpublicized movement among British intellectuals and writers, led by such figures as Edward Carpenter and John Addington Symonds.
In the course of the twentieth century, homosexuality became a subject of considerable study and debate in Western societies, especially after the modern gay rights movement began in 1969. Once viewed by authorities as a pathology or mental illness to be cured, homosexuality is now more often investigated as part of a larger impetus to understand the biology, psychology, politics, genetics, history and cultural variations of sexual practice and identity. The legal and social status of people who engage in homosexual acts or identify as gay or lesbian varies enormously across the world and in places remains hotly contested in political and religious debate.

Etymology and usage

The adjective homosexual describes behavior, relationships, people, etc. The adjectival form literally means "same sex", being a hybrid formed from the Greek prefix homo- ("same"), and the Latin root sex.
Many modern style guides in the U.S. recommend against using homosexual as a noun, instead using gay man or lesbian. Similarly, some recommend completely avoiding usage of homosexual as having a negative and discredited clinical history and because the word only refers to one's sexual behavior, and not to romantic feelings.
The first known appearance of homosexual in print is found in an 1869 German pamphlet by the Austrian-born novelist Karl-Maria Kertbeny, published anonymously. The prevalence of the concept owes much to the work of the German psychiatrist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing and his 1886 work Psychopathia Sexualis. As such, the current use of the term has its roots in the broader 19th century tradition of personality taxonomy. These continue to influence the development of the modern concept of sexual orientation, gaining associations with romantic love and identity in addition to its original, exclusively sexual meaning.
Although early writers also used the adjective homosexual to refer to any single-sex context (such as an all-girls' school), today the term is used exclusively in reference to sexual attraction and activity. The term homosocial is now used to describe single-sex contexts that are not specifically sexual. There is also a word referring to same-sex love, homophilia.
Other terms include men who have sex with men or MSM (used in the medical community when specifically discussing sexual activity), homoerotic (referring to works of art), heteroflexible (referring to a person who identifies as heterosexual, but occasionally engages in same-sex sexual activities), and metrosexual (referring to a non-gay man with stereotypically gay tastes in food, fashion, and design).
Pejorative terms in English include queer, faggot, fairy, poof, and homo. Beginning in the 1990s, some of these have been "reclaimed" as positive words by gay men and lesbians, as in the usage of queer studies, queer theory, and even the popular American television program Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. However, as with ethnic slurs and racial slurs, the misuse of these terms can still be highly offensive; the range of acceptable use depends on the context and speaker.
Conversely, gay, a word originally embraced by homosexual men and women as a positive, affirmative term (as in gay liberation and gay rights), has come into widespread pejorative use among young people.

History

The lives of many historical figures including Socrates, Alexander the Great, Lord Byron, Edward II, Hadrian, Julius Caesar, Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo DaVinci, and Christopher Marlowe included or were centered upon love and sexual relationships with people of their own sex. Terms such as gay or bisexual have been often applied to them. Some, such as Michel Foucault, regard this as risking the anachronistic introduction of a contemporary construction of sexuality foreign to their times , a view that is increasingly challenged.
A common thread of constructionist argument is that no one in antiquity or the Middle Ages experienced homosexuality as an exclusive, permanent, or defining mode of sexuality. John Boswell has criticized this argument by citing ancient Greek writings by Plato, which he says indicate knowledge of exclusive homosexuality.

Africa

Though often ignored or suppressed by European explorers and colonialists, homosexual expression in native Africa was also present and took a variety of forms:
  • Anthropologists Murray and Roscoe report that women in Lesotho have engaged in socially sanctioned "long term, erotic relationships" named motsoalle.
  • E. E. Evans-Pritchard reported that male Azande warriors (in the northern Congo) routinely took on boy-wives between the ages of twelve and twenty. The youths helped with household tasks and participated in intercrural sex with their husbands. The practice had died out in the early 20th century after Europeans had gained control of African countries but was recounted to him by the elders.

Americas

In North American Native Society, the most common form of same-sex sexuality seems to center around the figure of the Two-Spirit individual. Such people seem to have been recognized by the majority of tribes, each of which had its particular term for the role. Typically the two-spirit individual was recognized early in life, was given a choice by the parents to follow the path, and if the child accepted the role then the child was raised in the appropriate manner, learning the customs of the gender it had chosen. Two-spirit individuals were commonly shamans and were revered as having powers beyond those of ordinary shamans. Their sexual life would be with the ordinary tribe members of the same sex. Male two-spirit people were prized as wives because of their greater strength and ability to work.
Homosexual and transgender individuals were also common among other pre-conquest civilizations in Latin America, such as the Aztecs, Mayans, Quechas, Moches, Zapotecs, and the Tupinambá of Brazil. The Spanish conquerors were horrified to discover "sodomy" openly practiced among native peoples, and attempted to crush it out by subjecting the berdaches (as the Spanish called them) under their rule to severe penalties, including public execution and burning. In a famous example of cruelty against homosexuals, in 1513 the conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa discovered that the village of Quarequa [in modern-day Panama] was stained by the foulest vice. The king’s brother and a number of other courtiers were dressed as women, and according to the accounts of the neighbours shared the same passion. Vasco ordered forty of them to be torn to pieces by dogs. The Spaniards commonly used their dogs in fighting against these naked people, and the dogs threw themselves upon them as though they were wild boars on timid deer.

East Asia

In East Asia same-sex love has been referred to since the earliest recorded history. Early European travelers were taken aback by its widespread acceptance and open display. None of the East Asian countries today have specific legal prohibitions against homosexuality or homosexual behavior.
Homosexuality in China, known as the pleasures of the bitten peach, the cut sleeve, or the southern custom, has been recorded since approximately 600 BCE. These euphemistic terms were used to describe behaviors, but not identities (recently Chinese society has adapted the term "brokeback," 斷背 duanbei, from the success of Taiwanese director Ang Lee's film Brokeback Mountain). The relationships were marked by differences in age and social position. However, the instances of same-sex affection and sexual interactions described in the Hong Lou Meng (Dream of the Red Chamber, or Story of the Stone) seem as familiar to observers in the present as do equivalent stories of romances between heterosexuals during the same period.
This same-sex love culture gave rise to strong traditions of painting and literature documenting and celebrating such relationships.
Similarly, in Thailand, Kathoey, or "ladyboys," have been a feature of Thai society for many centuries, and Thai kings had male as well as female lovers. While Kathoey may encompass simple effeminacy or transvestism, it most commonly is treated in Thai culture as a third gender. They are generally accepted by society, and Thailand has never had legal prohibitions against homosexuality or homosexual behavior.

Europe

The earliest Western documents (in the form of literary works, art objects, as well as mythographic materials) concerning same-sex relationships are derived from ancient Greece. They depict a world in which relationships with women and relationships with youths were the essential foundation of a normal man's love life. Same-sex relationships were a social institution variously constructed over time and from one city to another. The formal practice, an erotic yet often restrained relationship between a free adult male and a free adolescent, was valued for its pedagogic benefits and as a means of population control, though occasionally blamed for causing disorder. Plato praised its benefits in his early writings, but in his late works proposed its prohibition. In Ancient Rome the situation was reversed. Though the young male body remained a focus of male sexual attention, free boys were off limits as sexual partners. All the emperors with the exception of Claudius took male lovers. The Hellenophile emperor Hadrian is renowned for his relationship with Antinous, but the Christian emperor Theodosius I decreed a law on August 6, 390, condemning passive males to be burned at the stake. Justinian, towards the end of his reign, expanded the proscription to the active partner as well (in 558), warning that such conduct can lead to the destruction of cities through the "wrath of God". Notwithstanding these regulations, taxes on brothels of boys available for homosexual sex continued to be collected until the end of the reign of Anastasius I in 518.
During the Renaissance, rich cities in northern Italy, Florence and Venice in particular, were renowned for their widespread practice of same-sex love, engaged in by a considerable part of the male population and constructed along the classical pattern of Greece and Rome. But even as many of the male population were engaging in same-sex relationships, the authorities, under the aegis of the Officers of the Night court, were prosecuting, fining, and imprisoning a good portion of that population. The eclipse of this period of relative artistic and erotic freedom was precipitated by the rise to power of the moralizing monk Girolamo Savonarola. In northern Europe the artistic discourse on sodomy was turned against its proponents by artists such as Rembrandt, who in his Rape of Ganymede no longer depicted Ganymede as a willing youth, but as a squalling baby attacked by a rapacious bird of prey.
The relationships of socially prominent figures, such as King James I and the Duke of Buckingham, served to highlight the issue, including in anonymously authored street pamphlets: "The world is chang'd I know not how, For men Kiss Men, not Women now;...Of J. the First and Buckingham: He, true it is, his Wives Embraces fled, To slabber his lov'd Ganimede;" (Mundus Foppensis, or The Fop Display'd, 1691.)
Love Letters Between a Certain Late Nobleman and the Famous Mr. Wilson was published in 1723 in England and was presumed to be a novel by some modern scholars. The 1749 edition of John Cleland's popular novel Fanny Hill includes a homosexual scene, but this was removed in its 1750 edition. Also in 1749, the earliest extended and serious defense of homosexuality in English, Ancient and Modern Pederasty Investigated and Exemplified, written by Thomas Cannon, was published, but was suppressed almost immediately. It includes the passage, "Unnatural Desire is a Contradiction in Terms; downright Nonsense. Desire is an amatory Impulse of the inmost human Parts." Around 1785 Jeremy Bentham wrote another defense, but this was not published until 1978. Executions for sodomy continued in the Netherlands until 1803, and in England until 1835.
Between 1864 and 1880 Karl Heinrich Ulrichs published a series of twelve tracts, which he collectively titled Research on the Riddle of Man-Manly Love. In 1867 he became the first self-proclaimed homosexual person to speak out publicly in defense of homosexuality when he pleaded at the Congress of German Jurists in Munich for a resolution urging the repeal of anti-homosexual laws.
Sir Richard Francis Burton's Terminal Essay, Part IV/D appendix in his translation of The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1885–86) provided an effusive overview of homosexuality in the Middle East and tropics. Sexual Inversion by Havelock Ellis, published in 1896, challenged theories that homosexuality was abnormal, as well as stereotypes, and insisted on the ubiquity of homosexuality and its association with intellectual and artistic achievement. Appendix A included A Problem in Greek Ethics by John Addington Symonds, which had been privately distributed in 1883. Beginning in 1894 with Homogenic Love, Socialist activist and poet Edward Carpenter wrote a string of pro-homosexual articles and pamphlets, and "came out" in 1916 in his book My Days and Dreams.
In 1900, Elisar von Kupffer published an anthology of homosexual literature from antiquity to his own time, Lieblingminne und Freundesliebe in der Weltliteratur. His aim was to broaden the public perspective of homosexuality beyond it being viewed simply as a medical or biological issue, but also as an ethical and cultural one.

Middle East, South and Central Asia

Among many Middle Eastern Muslim cultures egalitarian or age-structured homosexual practices were, and remain, widespread and thinly veiled. The prevailing pattern of same-sex relationships in the temperate and sub-tropical zone stretching from Northern India to the Western Sahara is one in which the relationships were—and are—either gender-structured or age-structured or both. In recent years, egalitarian relationships modeled on the western pattern have become more frequent, though they remain rare.
A tradition of art and literature sprang up constructing Middle Eastern homosexuality. Muslim—often Sufi—poets in medieval Arab lands and in Persia wrote odes to the beautiful wine boys who served them in the taverns. In many areas the practice survived into modern times, as documented by Richard Francis Burton, André Gide, and others.
In Persia homosexuality and homoerotic expressions were tolerated in numerous public places, from monasteries and seminaries to taverns, military camps, bathhouses, and coffee houses. In the early Safavid era (1501–1723), male houses of prostitution (amrad khane) were legally recognized and paid taxes. Persian poets, such as Sa’di (d. 1291), Hafez (d. 1389), and Jami (d. 1492), wrote poems replete with homoerotic allusions. The two most commonly documented forms were commercial sex with transgender young males or males enacting transgender roles exemplified by the köçeks and the bacchás, and Sufi spiritual practices in which the practitioner admired the form of a beautiful boy in order to enter ecstatic states and glimpse the beauty of god. Some crossed over from the idealized chaste form of the practice to one in which the desire is consummated.
In the Turkic-speaking areas, one manifestation of this same-sex love was the bacchá, adolescent or adolescent-seeming male entertainers and sex workers. In other areas male love continues to surface despite efforts to keep it quiet.
Today, governments in the Middle East often ignore, deny the existence of, or criminalize homosexuality. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during his famous 2007 speech at Columbia University, asserted that there were no gay people in Iran. Gay people do live in Iran, but most keep their sexuality a secret for fear of government sanction or rejection by their families.

South Pacific

In many societies of Melanesia, especially in Papua New Guinea, same-sex relationships were, until the middle of the last century, an integral part of the culture. The Etoro and Marind-anim for example, even viewed heterosexuality as sinful and celebrated homosexuality instead. In many traditional Melanesian cultures a pre-pubertal boy would be paired with an older adolescent who would become his mentor and who would "inseminate" him (orally, anally, or topically, depending on the tribe) over a number of years in order for the younger to also reach puberty. Many Melanesian societies, however, have become hostile towards same-sex relationships since the introduction of Christianity by European missionaries.

Demographics

Measuring the prevalence of homosexuality presents a number of difficulties:
  • Survey data regarding stigmatized or deeply personal feelings or activities are often inaccurate. Participants often avoid answers which they feel society, the survey-takers, or they themselves dislike.
  • The research must measure some characteristic that may or may not be defining of sexual orientation. The class of people with same-sex desires may be larger than the class of people who act on those desires, which in turn may be larger than the class of people who self-identify as gay/lesbian/bisexual.
  • In studies measuring sexual activity, respondents may have different ideas about what constitutes a "sexual act."
Reliable data as to the size of the gay and lesbian population would be valuable by informing public policy. For example, demographics would help in calculating the costs and benefits of domestic partnership benefits, of the impact of legalizing gay adoption, and of the impact of the U.S. military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.

Law, politics, and society

Societal attitudes towards same-sex relationships vary over time and place, from expecting all males to engage in same-sex relationships, to casual integration, through acceptance, to seeing the practice as a minor sin, repressing it through law enforcement and judicial mechanisms, and to proscribing it under penalty of death.
Most nations do not impede consensual sex between unrelated persons above the local age of consent. Some jurisdictions further recognize identical rights, protections, and privileges for the family structures of same-sex couples, including marriage. Some nations mandate that all individuals restrict themselves to heterosexual relationships; that is, in some jurisdictions homosexual activity is illegal. Offenders face up to the death penalty in some fundamentalist Muslim areas such as Iran and parts of Nigeria. There are, however, often significant differences between official policy and real-world enforcement. See Violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered.

Prejudice against gay and lesbian people

In many cultures, gay and lesbian people are frequently subject to prejudice and discrimination. Like many other minority groups that are the objects of prejudice, they are also subject to stereotyping. Gay men are seen as effeminate and fashionable, often identified with a lisp or a female-like tone and lilt. They are stereotyped as being promiscuous and unsuccessful in developing enduring romantic relationships, despite research to the contrary. Gay men are also often alleged as having pedophiliac tendencies and more likely to commit child sexual abuse than the heterosexual male population, a view rejected by mainstream psychiatric groups and contradicted by research. Lesbians are seen as butch, and sometimes "man-haters" or radical feminists.
Homosexuality has at times been used as a scapegoat by governments facing problems. For example, during the early 14th century, accusations of homosexual behavior were instrumental in disbanding the Knights Templar under Philip IV of France, who profited greatly from confiscating the Templars' wealth. In the 20th century, Nazi Germany's persecution of homosexual people was based on the proposition that they posed a threat to "normal" masculinity as well as a risk of contamination to the "Aryan race".
In the 1950s, at the height of the Red Scare in the United States, hundreds of federal and state employees were fired because of their homosexuality in the so-called Lavender Scare. (Ironically, politicians opposed to the scare tactics of McCarthyism tried to discredit Senator Joseph McCarthy by hinting during a televised Congressional committee meeting that McCarthy's top aide, Roy Cohn, was homosexual, as he in fact was.)
A recent instance of scapegoating is the burning of 6,000 books of homoerotic poetry of 8th c. Persian-Arab poet Abu Nuwas by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture in January 2001, to placate Islamic fundamentalists.

Sexual orientation and the law

  • Employment discrimination refers to discriminatory employment practices such as bias in hiring, promotion, job assignment, termination, and compensation, and various types of harassment. In the United States there is "very little statutory, common law, and case law establishing employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation as a legal wrong." Some exceptions and alternative legal strategies are available. President Bill Clinton's Executive Order 13087 (1998) prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in the competitive service of the federal civilian workforce, and federal non-civil service employees may have recourse under the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution. Private sector workers may have a Title VII action under a quid pro quo sexual harassment theory, a "hostile work environment" theory, a sexual stereotyping theory, or others.

Violence against gay and lesbian people

In the United States, the FBI reported that 15.6% of hate crimes reported to police in 2004 were based on perceived sexual orientation. Sixty-one percent of these attacks were against gay men. The 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student, is one of the most notorious incidents in the U.S.
Homosexual acts are punishable by death in some present-day countries including Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Politics

Although homosexual acts were decriminalized in some parts of the Western world, such as in Denmark in 1933, in Sweden in 1944, in the United Kingdom in 1967, and in Canada in 1969, it was not until the mid-1970s that the gay community first began to achieve actual, though limited, civil rights in some developed countries. A turning point was reached in 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, thus negating its previous definition of homosexuality as a clinical mental disorder. In 1977, Quebec became the first state-level jurisdiction in the world to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Since the 1960s, in part due to their history of shared oppression, many LGBT people in the West, particularly those in major metropolitan areas, have developed a so-called gay culture. To many, gay culture is exemplified by the gay pride movement, with annual parades and displays of rainbow flags. Yet not all LGBT people choose to participate in "queer culture", and many gay men and women specifically decline to do so. To some it seems to be a frivolous display, perpetuating gay stereotypes. To some others, the gay culture represents heterophobia and is scorned as widening the gulf between gay and non-gay people.
With the outbreak of AIDS in the early 1980s, many LGBT groups and individuals organized campaigns to promote efforts in AIDS education, prevention, research, patient support, and community outreach, as well as to demand government support for these programs. Gay Men's Health Crisis, Project Inform, and ACT UP are some notable American examples of the LGBT community's response to the AIDS crisis.
The bewildering death toll wrought by the AIDS epidemic at first seemed to slow the progress of the gay rights movement, but in time it galvanized some parts of the LGBT community into community service and political action, and challenged the heterosexual community to respond compassionately. Major American motion pictures from this period that dramatized the response of individuals and communities to the AIDS crisis include An Early Frost (1985), Longtime Companion (1990), And the Band Played On (1993), Philadelphia (1993), and Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1989), the last referring to the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, last displayed in its entirety on the Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1996.
During the 1980s and 1990s, most developed countries enacted laws decriminalizing homosexual behavior and prohibiting discrimination against lesbians and gays in employment, housing, and services. Yet as LGBT people slowly gained legal protection and social acceptance, gay bashing and hate crimes also increased due to heterosexism and homophobia (See Violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered).
Publicly gay politicians have attained numerous government posts, even in countries that had sodomy laws or outright mass murder of gays in their recent past.
Gay British politicians include former UK Cabinet ministers Chris Smith (now Lord Smith of Finsbury who is also a rare example of an openly HIV positive statesman) and Nick Brown, and, most famously, Peter Mandelson, a European Commissioner and close friend of Tony Blair. Openly gay Per-Kristian Foss was the Norwegian Minister of Finance until September 2005.

Coming out

Many people who feel attracted to members of their own sex have a so-called "coming out" at some point in their lives. Generally, coming out is described in three phases. The first phase is the phase of "knowing oneself," and the realization or decision emerges that one is open to same-sex relations. This is often described as an internal coming out. The second phase involves one's decision to come out to others, e.g. family, friends, and/or colleagues. This occurs with many people as early as age 11, but others do not clarify their sexual orientation until age 40 or older. The third phase more generally involves living openly as an LGBT person. In the United States today, people often come out during high school or college age. At this age, they may not trust or ask for help from others, especially when their orientation is not accepted in society. Sometimes their own parents are not even informed.
Outing is the practice of publicly revealing the sexual orientation of a closeted person. Notable politicians, celebrities, military service people, and clergy members have been outed, with motives ranging from malice to political or moral beliefs. Many commentators oppose the practice altogether, while some encourage outing public figures who use their positions of influence to harm other gay people.

Marriage and civil unions

Government recognition of same-sex marriage is presently available in six countries and two U.S. states. The Netherlands was the first country to authorize same-sex marriage in 2001 and they are now also recognized in Belgium, Canada, South Africa, Spain, and the U.S. states of Massachusetts and Iowa, though Iowa's issuance of marriage licenses is on hold until a Supreme Court appeal is heard. Israel's High Court of Justice ruled to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other countries, although it is still illegal to perform them within the country.
Other countries, including the majority of European nations, have enacted laws allowing civil unions, designed to give gay couples similar rights as married couples concerning legal issues such as inheritance and immigration. Most Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, with the sole exception of the Faroe Islands) have enacted civil union laws.
Jurisdictions in the U.S. that offer civil unions or domestic partnerships granting nearly all of the state-recognized rights of marriage to same-sex couples include California (2000), Vermont (2000), Connecticut (2005), New Jersey (2006), Oregon (2007), and New Hampshire (2008). States in the U.S. with domestic partnerships or similar status granting some of the rights of marriage include Hawaii (1996), Maine (1999), Washington (2007), as well as the District of Columbia (Washington, DC) (2001).

Parenting

Many openly LGBT people are parents, often by way of adoption, donor insemination, foster parenting, or surrogacy. In the 2000 U.S. Census, 33 percent of female same-sex couple households and 22 percent of male same-sex couple households reported at least one child under the age of 18 living in the home.
Gay and lesbian parenting enjoys broad support from a number of organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the American Bar Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychoanalytic Association, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
The American Psychological Association in particular has stated that: there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation: lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children…research has shown that the adjustment, development, and psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish….

Mental health

Negative societal attitudes toward homosexuality contribute to stress and related mental disorders, and even suicide, in the LGBT community. However, there is evidence that the liberalization of these attitudes over the past few decades has resulted in a decrease in such mental health risks among younger LGBT people.

Gay and lesbian youth

Gay and lesbian youth bear an increased risk of suicide, substance abuse, school problems, and isolation because of a "hostile and condemning environment, verbal and physical abuse, rejection and isolation from family and peers".
LGB youths are more likely to report psychological and physical abuse by parents or caretakers, and more sexual abuse. Suggested reasons for this disparity are that (1) LGBT youths may be specifically targeted on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation or gender non-conforming appearance, and (2) "risk factors associated with sexual minority status, including discrimination, invisibility, and rejection by family members... may lead to an increase in behaviors that are associated with risk for victimization, such as substance abuse, sex with multiple partners, or running away from home as a teenager."
Crisis centers in larger cities and information sites on the Internet have arisen to help youth and adults. The Trevor Helpline, a suicide prevention helpline for gay youth, was established following the 1998 airing on HBO of the Academy Award winning short film Trevor.

Military service

Some ancient and pre-modern societies, such as Greece and Japan, fostered erotic love bonds between experienced warriors and their apprentices. It was believed that a man and youth who were in love with each other would fight harder and with greater morale. A classic example of a military force built upon this belief is the Sacred Band of Thebes.
The adoption of Christianity by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century and subsequent predominance of Christianity led to a diminished emphasis on erotic love among military forces. By the time of the Crusades, the military of Europe had largely switched gears, asserting that carnal relations between males were sinful and therefore had no place in an army that served their perception of God's will. The Knights Templar, a prominent military order, was destroyed by accusations (probably fabricated) of sodomy.
The United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, and Israel admit openly gay service members, and others—like the United States, and many nations in South America and the Caribbean—either quiet or discharge anyone found to be engaging in homosexual relations or openly identifying as gay; the United States is known for its 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The traditional justification for excluding openly gay service members is that it may lead to "harassment, discord, blackmail, bullying or an erosion of unit cohesion or military effectiveness". The British military, which removed their restriction against gay service members in 2000, has not experienced any of these feared results.Exodus International is the largest ostensibly ex-gay group. A major ally of Exodus International is Focus on the Family, who works with Exodus International in their Love Won Out ministry.
The overall trend of greater acceptance of gay men and women in the latter part of the 20th century was not limited to secular institutions; it was also seen in some religious institutions. Reform Judaism, the largest branch of Judaism outside Israel has begun to facilitate religious weddings for gay adherents in their synagogues. Jewish Theological Seminary, considered to be the flagship institution of Conservative Judaism, decided in March 2007 to begin accepting gay and lesbian applicants, after scholars who guide the movement lifted the ban on gay ordination. In 2005, the United Church of Christ became the largest Christian denomination in the United States to formally endorse same-sex marriage.
On the other hand, the Anglican Communion encountered discord that caused a rift between the African (except Southern Africa) and Asian Anglican churches on the one hand and North American churches on the other when American and Canadian churches openly ordained gay clergy and began blessing same-sex unions. Other churches such as the Methodist Church had experienced trials of gay clergy who some claimed were a violation of religious principles resulting in mixed verdicts dependent on geography.
Some religious groups have even promoted boycotts of corporations whose policies support the LGBT community. In early 2005, the American Family Association threatened a boycott of Ford products to protest Ford's perceived support of "the homosexual agenda and homosexual marriage".

Art and literature

The record of same-sex love has been preserved through literature and art. Male homoerotic sensibilities are visible in the foundations of art in the West, to the extent that those roots can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. Homer's Iliad is considered to have the love between two men as its central feature, a view held since antiquity. Plato's Symposium also gives readers commentary on the subject, at one point putting forth the claim that male homosexual love is superior to heterosexual love.
The European tradition of homoeroticism was continued in the works of artists and writers such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Shakespeare. Since the Renaissance, both male and female homoeroticism has remained a common, if subtle and hidden, theme in the visual arts of the West.
In Islamic societies homoeroticism was present in the work of such writers as Abu Nuwas and Omar Khayyam. A large corpus of literature, numbering in the hundreds of works, fostered the shudo tradition in Japan, together with a widespread tradition of homoerotic shunga art.
In the Chinese literary tradition, works such as Bian er Zhai and Jin Ping Mei survivd th many purges to record the homoerotic climate of their time. Today, the Japanese anime subgenre yaoi centers on gay youths. Japan is unusual in that the culture's male homoerotic art has typically been the work of female artists addressing a female audience, mirroring the case of lesbian eroticism in western art.
In the twentieth century, entertainers such as Noel Coward, Madonna, k.d. lang, and David Bowie have brought homoeroticism into the field of western popular music. It is through these and other modern songwriters and poets that female homoerotic work by women, rather than erotic art by men with lesbian themes, has had its greatest cultural impact in the West since the ancient Greek poet Sappho.
In the 1990s, a number of American television comedies began to feature homosexual themes, and characters who expressed same-sex attractions. The 1997 coming-out of comedian Ellen DeGeneres on her show Ellen was front-page news in America and brought the show its highest ratings. However, public interest in the show swiftly declined after this, and the show was cancelled after one more season. Immediately afterward, Will & Grace, which ran from 1998 to 2005 on NBC, became the most successful series to focus on male homosexuality.
Playwrights have penned such popular homoerotic works as Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Tony Kushner's Angels in America. Homosexuality has also been a frequent theme in Broadway musicals, such as A Chorus Line and Rent. In 2005, the film Brokeback Mountain was a financial and critical success internationally. Unlike most gay film characters, both the film's gay lovers were traditionally masculine and married. The movie's success was considered a milestone in the public acceptance of the American gay rights movement.

Anthropology

Scholars who study the social construction of homosexuality investigate the various forms that same-sex relationships have taken in different societies, and look for patterns as well as differences. Their work suggests that the concept of homosexuality would best be rendered as "homosexualities". Anthropologists group these socio-historical variations into three separate categories:
Usually in any society one form of homosexuality predominates, though others are likely to co-exist. As historian Rictor Norton points out in his Intergenerational and Egalitarian Models, in ancient Greece egalitarian relationships co-existed (albeit less privileged) with the institution of pederasty, and fascination with adolescents can also be found in modern sexuality, both heterosexual and homosexual. Egalitarian homosexuality is the principal form present in the Western world, while age- and gender-structured homosexuality are less common. As a byproduct of growing Western cultural dominance, this egalitarian homosexuality is spreading from Western culture to non-Western societies, although there are still defined differences between the various cultures.

Sexual practices

Individuals may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors. According to a 1990 study of The Social Organization of Sexuality, out of 131 women and 108 men who self-reported same-sex attraction, only 43 men (40%) and 42 women (32%) had participated in gay sex. In comparison, a survey by the Family Pride Coalition showed that 50% of gay men had fathered children and 75% of lesbians had children, and even more have had straight sex without having children.
Lesbian sex can include tribadism, mutual masturbation, cunnilingus, and the use of sex toys for vaginal or oral penetration or clitoral stimulation. For men, gay sex can include mutual masturbation, frot, intercrural sex, oral sex and anal sex. As with any sexual relationship, people may begin with various forms of foreplay such as fondling, caressing, and kissing, and may or may not experiment with other practices, as they see fit.

Why some people are gay or lesbian

The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that "sexual orientation probably is not determined by any one factor but by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences."
The American Psychological Association has stated that "there are probably many reasons for a person's sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people". It also stated that for most people, sexual orientation is determined at an early age.
The American Psychiatric Association has stated that, "to date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality. Similarly, no specific psychosocial or family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified, including histories of childhood sexual abuse."

Biological explanations

In 1993, Dean Hamer found the genetic marker Xq28 on the X chromosome. Hamer's study found a link between the Xq28 marker and male homosexuality, but the original study's results have been disputed. Several mutations have been identified in flies, such as changes in the fruitless gene, cause male flies to court and attempt to mate with other males; however, when a modified male fruit fly is isolated with only female fruit flies, then he will attempt to mate with them. One common type of twin study compares the monozygotic (or identical) twins of people possessing a particular trait to the dizygotic (non-identical, or fraternal) twins of people possessing the trait. Bailey and Pillard (1991) in a study of gay twins found that 52% of monozygotic brothers and 22% of the dizygotic twins were concordant for homosexuality. Bailey, Dunne and Martin (2000) used the Australian twin registry to obtain a sample of 4,901 twins.

Prenatal hormonal theory

The hormonal theory of sexuality holds that, just as exposure to certain hormones plays a role in fetal sex differentiation, such exposure also influences the sexual orientation that emerges later in the adult.

Physiological differences in gay men and lesbians

Recent studies have found notable differences between the physiology of gay people and non-gay people. There is evidence that:
  • The average size of the INAH-3 in the brains of gay men is approximately the same size as INAH 3 in women, which is significantly smaller, and the cells more densely packed, than in heterosexual men's brains.
  • The suprachiasmatic nucleus was found by Swaab and Hopffman to be larger in gay men than in non-gay men , the suprachiasmatic nucleus is also known to be larger in men than in women .
  • The anterior commissure is larger in women than men, and larger in gay men than in non-gay men.
  • Gay men have, on an average, slightly longer and thicker penises than non-gay men.
  • Gay men's brains respond differently to fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.
  • The functioning of the inner ear and the central auditory system in lesbians and bisexual women are more like the functional properties found in men than in non-gay women (the researchers argued this finding was consistent with the prenatal hormonal theory of sexual orientation).
  • The startle response (eyeblink following a loud sound) is similarly masculinized in lesbians and bisexual women.
  • Three regions of the brain (medial prefrontal cortex, left hippocampus, and right amygdala) are more active in gay men than non-gay men when exposed to sexually arousing material.
  • Gay and non-gay people emit different armpit odors.
  • Gay men are more likely to have a counter-clockwise hair whorl pattern.
  • Gay and non-gay people's brains respond differently to two human sex pheromones (AND, found in male armpit secretions, and EST, found in female urine).
  • Finger length ratios between the index and ring fingers may be different between non-gay and lesbian women.

Cognitive differences in gay men and lesbians

Recent studies suggest the presence of subtle differences in the way gay people and non-gay people process certain kinds of information. Researchers have found that:
  • Gay men and lesbians are significantly more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous than are non-gay men and women; Simon LeVay argues that because "[h]and preference is observable before birth... [t]he observation of increased non-right-handness in gay people is therefore consistent with the idea that sexual orientation is influenced by prenatal processes," perhaps heredity. and lesbians are more verbally fluent than heterosexuals of the same gender (but two studies did not find this result).
  • Gay men may receive higher scores than non-gay men on tests of object location memory (no difference was found between lesbians and non-gay women).

Fraternal birth order

There is evidence from numerous studies that homosexual men tend to have more older brothers than do heterosexual men, known as the "fraternal birth order effect." One reported that each older brother increases the odds of being gay by 33%. Peter Bearman found no association between sexual orientation and number of older brothers, and questions the data sampling methods of researchers who find a correlation. There has been no observed equivalent for women.

Non-biological explanations

Environment

Researchers have found childhood gender nonconformity to be the largest predictor of homosexuality in adulthood. Daryl Bem's Exotic Becomes Erotic theory suggests that some children will prefer activities that are typical of the other sex and that this will make a gender-conforming child feel different from opposite-sex children, while gender-nonconforming children will feel different from children of their own sex, which may evoke physiological arousal when the child is near members of the sex which it considers as being "different", which will later be transformed into sexual arousal. Researchers have suggested that this nonconformity may be a result of genetics, prenatal hormones, personality, parental care or other environmental factors. Peter Bearman showed that males with a female twin are twice as likely to report same-sex attractions. He theorizes that parents of opposite-sex twins are more likely to give them unisex treatment, leading to less masculine influence on the males. Having an older brother decreases the rate of homosexuality. Bearman explains that an older brother establishes gendersocializing mechanisms for the younger brother to follow, which allows him to compensate for unisex treatment.
From their research on 275 men in the Taiwanese military, Shu and Lung concluded that "paternal protection and maternal care were determined to be the main vulnerability factors in the development of homosexual males." Key factors in the development of homosexuals were "paternal attachment, introversion, and neurotic characteristics." Other researchers have also provided evidence that gay men report having had less loving and more rejecting fathers, and closer relationships with their mothers, than non-gay men. Whether this phenomenon is a cause of homosexuality, or whether parents behave this way in response to gender-variant traits in a child, is unclear.

Innate bisexuality

Innate bisexuality (or predisposition to bisexuality) is a term introduced by Sigmund Freud (based on work by his associate Wilhelm Fliess) that expounds that all humans are born bisexual but through psychological development (which includes both external and internal factors) become monosexual, while the bisexuality remains in a latent state.
Alfred Kinsey's studies, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, found that the majority of humans have had homosexual experiences or sensations and are bisexual. The Kinsey Reports found that approximately four percent of adult Americans were predominantly gay or lesbian for their entire lives, and approximately 10 percent were predominantly gay or lesbian for some portion of their lives. Some studies have disputed Kinsey's methodology and have suggested that these reports overstated the occurrence of bisexuality and homosexuality in human populations.

Pathological model of homosexuality

Homosexuality is no longer regarded as a mental illness by the scientific community. In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality as a disorder from the Sexual Deviancy section of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-II. The World Health Organization's ICD-9 (1977) listed homosexuality as a mental illness, and in 1990, a resolution was adopted to remove it in the ICD-10 (1993). The ICD-10 added ego-dystonic sexual orientation to the list, which refers to people who want to change their gender identities or sexual orientation because of a psychological or behavioral disorder (). The largely religious groups who believe in conversion therapy do not accept the mainstream medical position.

Malleability of homosexuality

The American Psychiatric Association has stated "some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime." In combination with other major American medical organizations, they have put out a statement which said: "Sexual orientation develops across a person's lifetime—different people realize at different points in their lives that they are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual." A report from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health states: "For some people, sexual orientation is continuous and fixed throughout their lives. For others, sexual orientation may be fluid and change over time." One study has suggested "considerable fluidity in bisexual, unlabeled, and lesbian women's attractions, behaviors, and identities."
However, they have said "most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.." American medical organization have further stated therapy cannot change sexual orientation, and have expressed concerns over potential harms. The American Psychiatric Association has stated "To date, there are no scientifically rigorous outcome studies to determine either the actual efficacy or harm of "reparative" treatments," and supports research to further determines risks versus its benefits. Similarly, United States Surgeon General David Satcher issued a report stating that "there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed".

Homosexual behavior in animals

Homosexual sexual behavior occurs in the animal kingdom, especially in social species, particularly in marine birds and mammals, monkeys, and the great apes. Homosexual behavior has been observed among 1,500 species, and in 500 of those it is well documented. . This discovery constitutes a major argument against those calling into question the biological legitimacy or naturalness of homosexuality, or those regarding it as a meditated social decision. For example, male penguin couples have been documented to mate for life, build nests together, and to use a stone as a surrogate egg in nesting and brooding. In a well-publicized story from 2004, the Central Park Zoo in the United States replaced one male couple's stone with a fertile egg, which the couple then raised as their own offspring.
The genetic basis of animal homosexuality has been studied in the fly Drosophila melanogaster. Here, multiple genes have been identified that can cause homosexual courtship and mating. These genes are thought to control behavior through pheromones as well as altering the structure of the animal's brains. These studies have also investigated the influence of environment on the likelihood of flies displaying homosexual behavior.
Georgetown University professor Janet Mann has specifically theorized that homosexual behavior, at least in dolphins, is an evolutionary advantage that minimizes intraspecies aggression, especially among males. Studies indicating prenatal homosexuality in certain animal species have had social and political implications surrounding the gay rights debate.

References

Bibliography

Books

  • Kenneth J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality, , Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd. 1979, ISBN 0-674-36261-6 (hardcover), ISBN 0-674-36270-5 (paperback)
  • John d'Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970, University of Chicago Press 1983, ISBN 0226142655
  • Norman Roth. The care and feeding of gazelles - Medieval Arabic and Hebrew love poetry. IN: Lazar & Lacy. Poetics of Love in the Middle Ages, George Mason University Press 1989, ISBN 0913969257
  • Allan Bérubé, Coming out under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two, New York: MacMillan 1990, ISBN 0029031001
  • Bret Hinsch, Passions of the Cut Sleeve: The Male Homosexual Tradition in China, The University of California Press, 1990, ISBN 0-520-06720-7
  • Dynes, Wayne R. (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality New York and London, Garland Publishing 1990, ISBN 0824065441
  • Foucault, Michel, The History of Sexuality vol. 1: An Introduction, p.43. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage 1990
  • George Rousseau, Perilous Enlightenment: Pre- and Post-Modern Discourses--Sexual, Historical, Manchester University Press 1991, ISBN 0719033012
  • Lillian Faderman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth Century America, Penguin 1992
  • Arno Schmitt & Jehoeda Sofer (eds). Sexuality and Eroticism Among Males in Moslem Societies. Haworth Press, 1992
  • George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender Urban Culture and the Making of the Gay Male World, New York: Basic Books, 1994
  • Juanita Ramos , Compañeras: Latina Lesbians : An Anthology, Routledge 1994
  • Johansson, Warren and Percy, William A., (1994), Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence, Harrington Park Press
  • Robert T. Michael, John H. Gagnon, Edward O. Laumann, and Gina Kolata. Sex in America: A definitive survey. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995. ISBN 0-316-07524-8
  • Percy, William A Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece. University of Illinois Press, 1996
  • Lester G. Brown, Two Spirit People, 1997, Harrington Park Press, ISBN 1-56023-089-4
  • Bullough et al. (eds.) (1996). Handbook of Medieval Sexuality. Garland Publishing. ISBN 0-8153-1287-3.
  • Jennifer Terry, An American Obsession: Science, Medicine, and Homosexuality in Modern Society, University of Chicago Press 1999, ISBN 0-226-79367-2
  • Bullough, Vern L. Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context, Harrington Park Press 2002
  • Ruth Vanita, Queering India: Same-Sex Love and Eroticism in Indian Culture and Society, Routledge 2002
  • Joanne Meyers, Historical Dictionary of the Lesbian Liberation Movement: Still the Rage, Scarecrow Press 2003
  • David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004

Journal articles

  • Bowman, Karl M.; Eagle, Bernice The Problem of Homosexuality, Journal of Social Hygiene 1953
  • Norton, Rictor and Crew, Louis The Homophobic Imagination, College English 1974
  • Simon LeVay, A difference in hypothalamic structure between homosexual and heterosexual men, Science Magazine 1991
  • Christopher Bagley and Pierre Tremblay, On the Prevalence of Homosexuality and Bisexuality, in a Random Community Survey of 750 Men Aged 18 to 27, Journal of Homosexuality, Volume 36, Number 2, pages 1-18, 1998

Online articles

homosexuals in Afrikaans: Homoseksualiteit
homosexuals in Arabic: مثلية
homosexuals in Asturian: Homosexualidá
homosexuals in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Гомасэксуальнасьць
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homosexuals in Spanish: Homosexualidad
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homosexuals in Persian: همجنس‌گرایی
homosexuals in French: Homosexualité
homosexuals in Scottish Gaelic: Co-sheòrsachd
homosexuals in Galician: Homosexualidade
homosexuals in Classical Chinese: 斷袖之癖
homosexuals in Korean: 동성애
homosexuals in Hindi: समलैंगिकता
homosexuals in Croatian: Homoseksualnost
homosexuals in Indonesian: Homoseksualitas
homosexuals in Icelandic: Samkynhneigð
homosexuals in Italian: Omosessualità
homosexuals in Hebrew: הומוסקסואליות
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homosexuals in Kurdish: Homoseksûalîte
homosexuals in Latin: Homophylophilia
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homosexuals in Moldavian: Хомосексуалитате
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homosexuals in Dutch: Homoseksualiteit
homosexuals in Japanese: 同性愛
homosexuals in Norwegian: Homofili
homosexuals in Norwegian Nynorsk: Homofili
homosexuals in Uzbek: Gomoseksuallik
homosexuals in Piemontese: Omossessualità
homosexuals in Polish: Homoseksualizm
homosexuals in Portuguese: Homossexualidade
homosexuals in Romanian: Homosexualitate
homosexuals in Russian: Гомосексуальность
homosexuals in Scots: Homosexuality
homosexuals in Sicilian: Omosessualità
homosexuals in Simple English: Homosexuality
homosexuals in Slovak: Homosexualita
homosexuals in Slovenian: Homoseksualnost
homosexuals in Serbian: Хомосексуалност
homosexuals in Serbo-Croatian: Homoseksualnost
homosexuals in Finnish: Homoseksuaalisuus
homosexuals in Swedish: Homosexualitet
homosexuals in Thai: รักร่วมเพศ
homosexuals in Vietnamese: Đồng tính luyến ái
homosexuals in Turkish: Eşcinsellik
homosexuals in Ukrainian: Гомосексуалізм
homosexuals in Yiddish: האמאסעקסואלוטעט
homosexuals in Contenese: 同性戀
homosexuals in Chinese: 同性戀
homosexuals in Tamil: ஓரினச்சேர்க்கை
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