What is homosexuality?

The term “homosexual” is used to describe a person who in adult life has an enduring, definite and preferential erotic/sexual attraction to members of the same sex and who usually engages in overt sexual relations with them.1 The term “gay” is typically used to describe homosexual men and “lesbian” to describe homosexual women.

  • Biological Sex in human beings is genetically determined from the moment of conception as being male (boy) or female (girl). Approximately 0.02% of the population is at risk of being born with external genitalia that differ from the standard male and female appearance and an intersex condition occurs in about 0.05% of births2, 3 (which does not automatically result in the individual experiencing same sex attraction), but even in intersex individuals, their sex is determined and assigned within a few weeks after birth and following medical examination.
  • Gender identity answers the question: “Am I male or female?”, and is related to social and cultural beliefs about masculinity and femininity. Our gender identity is developed through the growing years of childhood until young adulthood.  When gender identity is not successfully developed, confusion over sexual identity may arise.
  • Sexual identity answers the question: “Am I heterosexual (sexually attracted to the opposite sex) or homosexual (sexually attracted to the same sex)?” Some people consider themselves bisexual (sexually attracted to members of both sexes). Sexual identity is related to, but not the same as, gender identity.

Contrary to popular understanding, homosexuality is not so much driven by sexual needs as it is driven by a (conscious or unconscious) desire to be loved and to love another person, especially of the same-sex.4, 5

Endnotes
1. Lawrence Hatterer, Changing Homosexuality in the Male: Treatment for Men Troubled by Homosexuality (New York McGraw-Hill, 1970)
2. Garry L. Warne (MBBS, FRACP), Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. (Victoria, Australia: Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Royal Children’s Hospital, 1997)
3. Emily NussbaumA Question of Gender. (Discover, January 2000, pp 92-99)
4. Jason Park, Overcoming Male Homosexual Problems (Century Publishing, 1998)
5. Anne Paulk, Restoring Sexual Identity: Hope for Women Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2003)

What makes a man “gay”?

Often, a boy who is unable to form a meaningful connection and bond with his father (or older, trusted male equivalent) may be left confused and conflicted about his own gender identity. He may view his father as cold and distant, and detach himself from males because of the hurt or rejection experienced in his search for a masculine role model. When the boy reaches the next stage of his identity development, he may sub-consciously seek to establish that connection and bond with another man.

Other factors that make up each homosexual man’s unique struggle may include:

  • Sexual violation, such as incest, molestation or rape
  • Sexual experimentation with men/boys
  • Exposure to pornography
  • Media influences
  • Personality and temperament
  • Negative body image
  • Teasing, peer labelling, harassment/bullying or alienation
  • Fear of or inability to relate to the opposite sex
  • Dysfunctional family relationships
  • Negative spiritual influences

Homosexuality is complex and a combination of factors is at work; it is too simplistic to attribute undue significance to any single aspect as the cause.1

“Gay” as a term has been used both derisively and in a celebratory manner. In comparison with the more clinical-sounding word “homosexual”, it is emotionally as well as politically-charged and may thus not be useful in aiding our understanding of the issue.

Endnotes
1. Mike Haley, 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality(Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2004)

Aren’t homosexuals born that way?

The widespread popular belief of a biological or genetic origin to homosexuality can be traced to three highly publicized studies:

  • Simon LeVay and the INAH-3 (1991): post-mortem examinations of the brains of cadavers.
  • (J. Michael) Bailey and (Richard C.) Pillard Twin Studies (1991): study comparing identical and fraternal twins, and adoptive brothers.
  • Dean Hamer and the X Chromosome (1993): study found a specific “chromosomal region” containing “a gene that contributes to homosexual orientation in males”.

Perhaps what is less widely known is that each of these studies suffered from serious methodological weaknesses, such as small sample sizes, non-random samples and even possible misclassification of their subjects, which bring the validity of their conclusions into question. Other scientists have also been unable to replicate the same dramatic findings of these studies.1, 2

Michael Bailey conducted a subsequent study3 on a larger sample size of 27 Australian male identical twin pairs, where at least one of the twin brothers was homosexual. Since identical/monozygotic twins have identical genes, we should expect that whenever one twin is homosexual, the other twin would be as well (100% concordance rate). Instead, “in only three of the pairs were the second twin brother gay as well” (11% concordance rate).

Researchers Peter Bearman and Hannah Brückner, from Columbia and Yale Universities respectively, studied data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, and found even lower concordance rates for homosexuality in identical twins (6.7% for male; 5.3% for female), neatly refuting several of the biological theories for the origin of homosexuality. On the contrary, social experiences in childhood are found to be a far more significant contributor.4

 

Endnotes
1. Family Research Council, The Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality (Washington)
2. Mike Haley, 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality(Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2004)
3. J. Michael Bailey, Michael P. Dunne & Nicholas G. Martin, Genetic and Environmental Influences on Sexual Orientation and Its Correlates in an Australian Twin Sample (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2000, Vol 78(3), pp 524-536)
4. Peter S. Bearman & Hannah Brückner, Opposite-Sex Twins and Adolescent Same-Sex Attraction (American Journal of Sociology, 2002, Vol 107(5), pp 1179-1205)

Am I homosexual if I’m attracted to a person of the same sex?

Same-sex attraction is not the same as homosexuality. A person can experience different types of attraction toward another person, whether of the same or opposite sex. Not every form of attraction is necessarily sexual or erotic in nature. Accordingly, experiencing same-sex attraction does not mean that a person is homosexual.

  • Same-sex attraction can take several forms – it may not be sexual, such as in an adolescent crush; and may be involuntary – it appears to be something that “cannot be helped”. Innocent same-sex attractions can spring from a normal need for appropriate affection, affirmation from and relationship with someone of the same sex whom one admires. On the other hand, same-sex attraction can also take on a sexual nature.
  • Same-sex sexual attractions are not immutable  –  they can be controlled and/ or changed. This is similar to how a married person can be “unwittingly” attracted to someone other than his/ her own spouse, but may not necessarily start an affair. Engaging in same-sex sexual behaviours or the homosexual lifestyle is clearly voluntary and based on a choice made by the individual. Heterosexuals have thus been known to “turn” homosexual or bisexual (sexually attracted to both male and female) by choosing to act on the same-sex sexual attractions they experience.
  • Sexual orientation refers to a person’s tendency to be consistently attracted to persons of the same or opposite sex in an erotic way. A lesser or unconfirmed orientation is sometimes referred to as a sexual inclination.
  • Sexual behaviour refers to the actions that a person undertakes in order to satisfy his or her sexual attractions or sexual orientation.
  • Sexual life(style) results when a person embraces his or her sexual behaviour and sexual relationships as a norm, e.g., a promiscuous sexual lifestyle.

Homosexual behaviour takes what could have been a harmless same-sex attraction further into an orientation and lifestyle that ultimately define who the person is.

While there are clearly exceptions to the case, research has shown that children who have experienced rejection, abuse or inadequate gender-affirming relationships are at greater risk of becoming confused about their feelings for someone of the same sex. In a study of 942 adults, almost half of the homosexual men (compared to only 7% of heterosexual men) reported molestation by a member of the same sex. In the same study, 22 times more homosexual women than heterosexual women reported molestation by a member of the same sex.1

Indiscriminate and excessive teasing – or even bullying – may push young people to misunderstand their gender identity. This may cause confusion over their sexual identity and orientation especially when innocent same-sex attractions become sexualised during puberty. This may lead them to experiment with homosexual behaviour and eventually embrace the homosexual lifestyle. Healthy intervention is needed to prevent young persons from misunderstanding their need for natural affections as homosexual inclinations to be acted upon.

 

Endnotes
1. M.E. Tomeo, D.I. Templer, S. Anderson & D. Kotler,  Comparative Data of Childhood and Adolescence Molestation in Heterosexual and Homosexual Persons,(Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 2001 October, Vol 30(5), pp535-41.)

What makes a woman “lesbian”?

A woman who experiences emotional dependency on another woman may develop same-sex sexual attractions to that other woman. Emotional dependency takes the form of a consuming, unhealthy attachment to another person of the same-sex, from whom a person derives identity, validation and well-being. The relationship, if founded on emotional dependence, may then take on a sexual nature and develop into a lesbian relationship.

Emotional and relational attachment seems to be as important as erotic attraction in lesbian relationships.1 However, a lesbian’s primary yearning to find self-completion or a sense of wholeness can take place within real or imagined relationships with other women.2

Mike Haley explains some contributing factors to lesbianism3:

Childhood trauma. In one study, an astounding 90% of the lesbians surveyed experienced some form of abuse, including witnessing abuse against a family member. The three most common forms of abuse experienced before the age of 18 were emotional (almost 70%), sexual (more than 60%), and verbal (more than 50%).

Damaged mother-daughter relationship. When a girl is neglected by her mother in her earliest phase of life (birth to 2.5 years) and does not receive the maternal affection she needs, she may grow up believing that her mother is unreliable and decide not to identify with or trust her. In the process, she may reject and suppress her own femininity.

Unhealthy father-daughter relationship.If a father is abusive to his wife or daughter, his daughter is less likely to enjoy her femaleness and may even reject her femininity. If the father is hostile or emotionally unavailable to his daughter, he communicates a bad feeling about being a woman to her.

Atypical childhood play patterns. Avoidance or rejection of typical female games and activities, preference of male over female playmates, and unwillingness to participate in typical female interests may reveal how a girl sees and accepts herself as a female in childhood. This gender identity alone does not necessarily predispose a female to same-sex attraction later in life.

Personality or temperament. Little girls are often expected to be soft, sweet and compliant. Some parents don’t hide their disappointment or disapproval when they aren’t and may inadvertently leave their daughters feeling rejected. If her sense of self and female identity is wounded, it makes a girl more vulnerable to lesbianism at a later stage of life.

Media propaganda. Today, the mainstream media has glamourized homosexuality as fashionable and progressive through depictions of attractive persons in same-sex intimate relationships, and through celebrities who have “come out” to declare themselves homosexual. As such, one may today observe more young ladies displaying intimate affection towards each other in public and more readily identifying themselves as lesbian.

Endnotes
1. Janelle Hallman, The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction: A Comprehensive Counselling Resource (IVP Books, 2008)
2. Love Won Out series: The Heart of the Matter: The Roots and Causes of Female Homosexuality (Focus on the Family, 2005)
3. Mike Haley, 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality(Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2004)