The “rightness” or “wrongness” of homosexuality has long been a subject for debate in both moral and social circles. Some have said that a person’s gender is their own choice and therefore should be respected. Some contend that homosexuality is brought on by factors both biological and environmental and should therefore be understood. Staunch Christian believers on the other hand point out that when God created humans, He created only man and woman. Anything that goes against that is simply wrong and immoral.
In the 19th century, homosexuality was defined as one person’s desire and interest for another person of the same sex (“Homosexuality,” 2004). Today, while the definition is still applicable, homosexuality has also come to be viewed as “wanting to be of the other gender” different from one’s own biology. “I can’t help who I am. ” Is a person’s homosexuality brought about as a matter of choice, by birth, or is it something in a person’s environment? There have been theories advanced in the field of psychology that state people are influenced by factors both external and internal.
The late nineteenth and early 20th centuries saw the first scientific studies into the origin of homosexuality (Vern & Vern, 1993). The first was Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895). He was one of the first acknowledged researchers into homosexuality as well as one of the first people to publicly admit he was gay. In those days, he called what we know now as homosexuality “urning” and stated that urnings should be considered simply as the “third sex. ” Richard von Krafft-Ebbing (1840-1902) was one of the first to issue views on homosexuality as a perversion.
Then again, all sexual acts undertaken without the purpose of reproduction, to him, were unnatural and “perversions of the sexual instinct. ” (Vern & Vern, 1993) Several studies then showed that homosexuality, particularly among males, was a common if not natural occurrence. In the journal “Yearbook for the Sexual Intermediates,” Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, a leading proponent of the thought that homosexuality was inborn and therefore natural, states: “In the embryonic state, people are bisexual, but in the course of their natural development, most lose their desire for members of the same sex.
These people are the heterosexuals, who love members of the opposite sex. Another category consists of those individuals whose sexual organs develop normally but in whom the desire for same-sex individuals in the feeling center fails to recede. The results are men who love men and women who love women. ” (Sappho and Socrates, 1896) (Russell, 1995) The field of psychoanalysis also presented their views on the origin of homosexuality. In the early days, homosexuality, as well as other “deviant” societal behaviors were viewed as “illnesses” that were treatable by psychoanalysis.
One explanation advanced was that of Freud’s Oedipus Complex among males and “penis envy” among the female homosexuals. Freud says that males with Oedipus complex, preferred their mother and hated their father. Perhaps this can be translated to males hating their “maleness” because they associate it with their fathers. Women on the other hand, realize “a repressed desire for a penis” in their psychosexual “phallic” and “oral” stages said Freud. (Webster, 2005, p. 324) Feminist critics of Freudian theory however said that Freud’s thinking were too misogynist and distinctly anti-feminine.
One pivotal development in psychiatric understanding of homosexuality was a study conducted by Irving Bieber (Dain et al. , 1962, p. 182). In a sample of 106 homosexual patients treated by either him or other psychiatrists, he found that feminine and cross-gender behavior patterns commonly manifested themselves even before the age of puberty. It is from this study that it was determined that homosexuality set in even before males were influenced by any hormonal surges and sexual awareness caused by puberty.
These results however, have been interpreted and over-simplified by some quarters to mean that homosexuality must then be attributed to a male individual’s relationship with a strong, dominant mother and a weak or absent father. It was then proposed that homosexuality was not an illness, but rather a developmental problem brought about by conditions of family relations particularly the relationship between father and son. Homosexuality was then treated as the product of a father’s failure to bond and impress the male gender identity on his son.
Father needs to mirror and affirm the boy’s maleness. As Payne explains, “The masculinity within is called forth and blessed by the masculinity without” ( 1985: 13 ). This beautiful and mysterious match is the union of an inner need and an outer reality. The boy seeks to take in what is exciting, fun, and energizing about his father. There is a freedom and power to outgrowing mother—and this power is personified by the father. If father is warm and receptive, the boy will be encouraged to dis-identify from the feminine and enter into the masculine sphere.
He will then become masculine-identified and most probably heterosexual. If both parents encourage the boy this way, he will be well on his way to fulfilling his male gender identification and heterosexuality. (Baird & Baird, 1995, p. 52) The year 1973 saw a change in the way homosexuality was viewed (Vern & Vern, 1993). Due to a vote held within the American Psychological Association (APA), homosexuality ceased to be an illness and was subsequently dropped from the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The debate on the origin of homosexuality is basically of a “nature vs. urture” perspective.
Some have posited the idea that being gay is not a choice, one is just born gay. Others have contended that homosexuality comes from failed or uneven relationships within the family. Which truly is which? Thinkers called “essentialists” hold forth the belief that man’s make up is biological and genetic. Sexual orientation is just one of the things that genes, hormones and brain make up decide. People are born gay and thus, cannot change or escape from that. (LeVay, 1996). (Seutter & Rovers, 2004) At the opposite end of the argument are the “constructionists. For them, nobody is born gay.
Sexual orientation is decided and influenced by an individual’s interaction and reinforced choices in the social context particularly in the family setting. (Seutter & Rovers, 2004) Family seems to play a key role in the determination of an individual’s gender. Be it taken from a genetic contribution to setting the environment that conditions and orients an individual with society. Many psychologists agree that a person’s relationship with people around one’s self will have influences of varying degrees on the individual’s choices and preferences.
In fact several theories have been advanced with their basis on such familial contributions. (Seutter & Rovers, 2004) Bowen’s “Family-of-origin” theory (1978) states that a person’s self-image, behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and values are formed by experiences within one’s “family-of-origin. ” Differentiation or the need to preserve one’s self in relationships as an individual as well as the level of intimacy reached is just one of the things that are developed in the family-of-origin.
Authority and power were the basis for Williamson’s concept of “Personal Authority” (1991) In his concept, Williamson believed that an individual’s person and feeling of personal was formed by leaving the parental home in the psychological if not physical sense. He further stated that only when an individual has “individuated” himself or set himself apart from the family and established his own identity can he reconnect voluntarily with his family. (Seutter & Rovers, 2004)
Nowadays, gays and lesbians have become more “empowered” as opposed to the years past when homosexuals lived in fear of being discovered and isolated from society or prohibited from living normally as they chose. In a journal article by Anthony R. D’Augelli (2003) for the American Journal of Community Psychology, he shares: Homosexuality was not removed from the psychiatric nomenclature in DSM until 1973, a year after I completed my doctoral training.
During my clinical training, I wanted to discuss my feelings with someone, but the idea was terrifying; and, I did not seek professional help because of fear that I would be removed from my program. (After all, who trains someone with a mental disorder to be a clinical psychologist? ) In addition, despite my sexual orientation, which was fairly clear to me at that point, I could not even bring myself to share this information even with the Army physicians during my physical examination after being drafted for service during the Vietnam era.
This simple truth would have removed me from induction, but I could not say the words. (D’Augelli, 2003) What the Church has to Say The growing numbers of “out” gays and lesbians have not escaped the notice of the Christian churches. Traditionally, churches of different religions have been hostile toward gays and lesbians. To them, there are only two genders: man and woman. There have even been some instances where there were accounts of physical and verbal humiliation and abuse gay worshippers suffered within the church, at time in the hands of a priest of Father confessor.