Homosexuals have under the course of history been one of the most heavily criticized groups in society; they have been harassed and declared sinners and as mentally ill for their sexual orientation. Solely for their personal sexual preferences have they been persecuted and murdered. It is understandable that scientific research aiming to discover the origin of homosexuality often is considered unethical, as there are still many religious fundamentalists and other bigoted, biased groups who would use the eventual discoveries to try to eliminate all heterosexual deviation with circumscribing means on individuals.
Today the view on homosexuality has generally improved and homosexuals are widely accepted in most modern societies as homosexuality is considered a normal sexual variety rather than an orientation emerged from evil or mental disorder. However, the question remains – why does homosexuality exist? Is homosexuality genetic or does the environment determine which gender one is attracted to? The purpose of this essay is to try to determine the cause for homosexuality.
3.1 Environmentally linked
The psychological school has since its birth been very interested in homosexuality. It is logical that psychologists working out of a psychodynamic perspective have such an interest in homosexuality with the perspective´s great focus on sexuality´s effect on the human psyche and thereby a certain interest in norm breaking sexuality. These psychologists have been leading the field with research in homosexuality, while there have been other psychologists working out of other perspectives besides the psychodynamic with more objective studies.
A classic explanation from the psychodynamic school is that homosexuality is a result of a dominating and overprotective mother and an absent or negative father, with emphasis on the father, which has a solid statistical basis. According to the theory the father becomes inadequate as a father figure and the boy will therefor have difficulties breaking the early childhoods bond to the mother and as a result of that he will identify with the mother rather than the father, leaving the bond to the mother overly strong.
This identification is also enhanced if the mother is dominant. A negative father, for instance a violent one, also has a clear effect – a hatred towards the male nature is created and thereby a denunciation from the male nature. Identification is then made with the mother instead of the father. It is clear that the issue is more distinct with young boys. Out of a psychodynamic perspective, as with other psychologists whom emphasize the environments effect over the genetics, this is a consecutive explanation why exclusive homosexuality is more consistent amongst men.
The social psychological perspective highlights the cultures role in the forming of the human psyche and sexuality. Concerning homosexuality the social psychological school means that it is the culture in which the person was raised in who has made the person attracted to the same sex, rather than the persons genes. They base this on the fact that there does not exist homosexuality at all in several societies shielded from civilization. Acts of homosexual nature does happen but merely as a substitute to heterosexual ones. In some societies homosexual relationships simply does not exist at all.
Arguments for the environment/culture having a greater impact than the genes on the sexual orientation is that it does not evolve in the same way that for example eye colour, which has a direct genetic link, while behavioural patterns are effected by multiple genetic prerequisites which develop differently depending on environment. Sexual behaviour in human beings differs from many other, less evolved, animals, which solely has a sexual drive rather than a behaviour or activity. Humans have sexual intercourse for other reasons than to reproduce. According to Irvin Biebers study it is possible to convert homo- and bisexuals to exclusive heterosexuality through psychoanalysis, a study that has been verified by several independent researchers. Lastly you can also argue that twin studies have not shown a high enough correlation between identical twins to claim that genes are the reason (this is explained further down the text).
3.2 Genetically linked
The biological perspective sees the genetic legacy as an explanation to why some become homosexuals. As genetics are hard to “code” there is not an exact explanation but there are valid theories based on solid research. They have not found the specific genes, the “homo-gene”, that determines ones sexuality but there is ground to believe that it is linked to genetics.
Amongst these studies indicating homosexuality is genetically linked is one that shows that mothers with homosexual sons often have more children than mothers with solely heterosexual sons. This study indicates that there is a gene that makes people socially relaxed, making them more prone to get married and raise children, and sexually healthier (no pregnancy complications and stronger sexual drive). However, it contradicts the evolutionary theory, as homosexuality would be contra productive one of the basic principles of evolution – to reproduce, it would be illogical that there would exist a gene that drives people to go against this urge. Another way to interpret the results of the study is to assume there is a gene that enhances sexual attraction to men no matter what gender, a reasonable explanation.
Another study has been made on white mice, where they bred away their natural serotonin levels to nearly non-existent resulting in the male mice converted from exclusive heterosexuality to bisexuality, a strong indication for a link between genetics and sexuality.
A flaw in the theory about genetics being the reason for homosexuality is illuminated when looking at the biggest study in the field, which was made on twins and siblings. The study shows that only 52% of identical twins, 22% of fraternal twins and 9,2% of biological brothers are both homosexual while with adoptive brothers 10,5% were both homosexual.
Out of an evolutionary perspective a deviance from the heterosexual norm is illogical. Humans having a genetic instinct to reproduce, as all animals, is a basic principle widely accepted as a fact among scientists and cultivated. Humans are built in a way that we can only reproduce when sexual acts are committed by man and woman, not by man and man or woman and woman. Homosexuality is thereby a very interesting deviance as it contradicts this basic instinct.
What can be said about mankind, which cannot be said about most other animals, is that we do not have sex merely for reproduction but also for a pure recreational purpose. Sexuality being behaviour rather than a drive within humans contradicts the biological perspective, behaviours are not established at birth but rather grow forth during life. Behaviour is strongly linked to the individual’s growth and thereby it is hard to see how sexuality would be determined by exclusively genetics. The fact that conversion from homosexuality to heterosexuality has been proven successful is a strong indication that it is environmentally linked. In psychoanalysis they try to effect the individuals psyche rather than its physical state as their serotonin levels. What the psychodynamic perspective fails to explain is how people with a “correct” upbringing can be homosexuals.
The study on white mice is not completely clear either. That there would be a connection between low serotonin levels and homosexuality insinuates that all homosexuals are depressed and that it is obviously not the case. If homosexuality was linked to genetics then the study on twins should show a higher correlation between homosexual brothers where both brothers were either homo- or heterosexual, as they share genetics. However, fraternal twins do not share genes but often grow in almost identical environments.
A reasonable conclusion is that there are genetic prerequisites that with influence from the environment are catalysed, that there are genes that enhance the probability for homosexuality. The fact that homosexuality barely exists but as a substitute to heterosexual acts in some smaller societies indicates that culture/environment truly does have an important impact on humans sexual preferences and orientation.
Courtney from Study Moose
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