Homosexuality is a controversial issue within any society in the world and has been debated upon in the public in recent years. The debate on homosexuality has typically concentrated on the social and legal issues surrounding the concept and little regard has been given to the cause of the problem. The controversy that has surrounded the homosexuality issue has spread to the determination of the cause of the phenomenon. This has been brought about by those arguing that homosexuality is caused by environmental factors whereas others argue that homosexuality is caused by biological factors.
This paper is going to give an analysis of whether homosexuality is a learned behavior or a biological one. Homosexuality: Homosexuality is a concept that has been controversial in many societies. Though the behavior has been widely spoken about in the recent past, it was almost forbidden in the traditional societies and anyone involved was considered immoral. Homosexuality has been defined as a romantic attraction towards individuals of the same sex.
Homosexuality is therefore part of the three notable sexual orientations exhibited in human species which also include bisexuality and heterosexuality.
Homosexuality has elicited a strong debate not only on its acceptability within the society but also regarding its causes. The controversy has led to the legal and social implications of the issue dominating the media as well as the biological debate sparked by the research finding in the recent past. The central question in regard to the causes of homosexuality has been on whether homosexuality is caused by biological concepts or it is a learned behavior that has been entrenched in the cultural norms (Lawrence, para 1).
Homosexuality is characterized by an individual having sexual preference with others of the same sex. In females, such preferences are referred to as lesbianism whereas in males it is called gay. This is in contravention to the conventional societal expectations of heterosexuality. Homosexuality has been met with social consequences especially for those with same sex sexual preferences. It has been estimated that between 2 and 5 percent of males are gays whereas between 1 and 2 percent of females practice lesbianism (Pease & Bull, para 5).
In the United States, despite the eminence of the phenomenon, most of the states do not approve of same sex marriages. It has been previously thought that homosexuality is a choice and that individuals do learn the behavior. A survey conducted in 1970 indicated that over 40 percent of the public were of the opinion that the young gays had learned the habit from the older ones (Pease & Bull, para 5). Homosexuality as a biological behavior: In the development of the child, genetics that are inherited from the parents play a vital role in the determination of character and behavior.
Genes are known to carry all the biological information and may be incorrectly placed during the cell division process through mutations. Homosexuality is considered as coming from gene mutation in human development. The biological explanation of the homosexual behavior was given impetus by Simon Levay who discovered that the hypothalamus of the brain in homosexuals was small compared to heterosexuals. He concluded that differences in the brain formation were responsible for homosexual behavior (Queer Foundation, para 4).
There is also a hormonal imbalance amongst the homosexuals. Hormones are responsible for controlling and stimulating the body and therefore any imbalance in hormones will lead to disorientation in the erotic attraction (Queer Foundation, para 4). Research has continued to point towards a biological cause of homosexuality. There are certain observations that point to the biological causes of homosexuality as observed by Dan Eden. According to Eden, the heterosexuals and homosexuals exhibit observable differences that have a biological orientation.
He observed that the index and the ring fingers are about the same in length for heterosexual women whereas in men, the index finger is usually shorter compared to the ring finger. On the contrary, lesbians’ finger length were more like men’s and this is also seen in other character traits including eye-blink patterns and other male traits (Eden, para 1). Research has also indicated the differences in the brain of the males and females. Studies that have been conducted indicate that there is sexual dimorphism in the hypothalamus of the two sexes.
The males have shown greater differences in terms of cell numbers compared to the females in this part of the brain. Studies have indicated that between two and four of the Interstitial Nuclei of the Anterior Hypothalamus (INAH) in males are double the size found in females. Since the INAH is responsible for sexual dimorphism, scientists believe that differences in this region of the brain are responsible for the sexual orientation in individuals (Deem, para 3). Another study done by scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden reinforced the notion that homosexuality is an inborn phenomenon.
In this study, both heterosexuals and homosexuals were exposed to sex hormones and their stimulation in the hypothalamus measured. There was a great difference in how the hypothalamus in the two categories of sexual orientation reacted to sexual hormones. Upon being exposed to the male hormones, the hypothalamus in heterosexual females and homosexual males was activated but heterosexual males did not respond to the same. Similar observations were observed when female hormones were introduced.
In this case, the heterosexual males’ hypothalamus got activated as opposed to heterosexual females and homosexual males (McHugh, para 3). Studies by biologists Ward Odenwald and Shan-Ding Zhang on fruit flies tend to indicate that homosexuality is a genetic issue. In their experiment, the two scientists transplanted a single gene into the flies which was responsible for the homosexual behavior that was observed. They inferred their findings to human homosexuality claiming that since there is the presence of a related gene in humans, homosexuality was a genetic issue though no much has been done to prove this claim.
The two scientists are however cautious on the issue and hopes that their revelation would be important in analyzing how the genetic make up in individuals could be responsible in influencing the sexual orientation (Thompson/Bethesda, para 2). Homosexual as a learned behavior: Socio-behaviorists are opposed to the biological notion in regard to the homosexual behavior in humans. Homosexuality is attributed to the environmental factors which hold that homosexuality is a learned behavior.
Behaviorists regard childhood experiences as responsible for homosexuality behavior that is exhibited by individuals. As a learned behavior, homosexuality can be traced by analyzing the play patterns during childhood, peer relations and interaction, and parental influence. Psychoanalysts in particular had extensive studies on homosexuality in trying to explain the ‘abnormal’ behavior. Their explanations seem to point to an individual’s upbringing as the main cause of the homosexuality. In simple terms, they were of the view that homosexuality was caused by environmental factors (Newman, para 1).
Homosexuality has been with us since the ancient times and it was accepted in some cultures. A Greek philosopher by the name Aristophanes believed that there is a longing between two souls to get together and that sexual desire on its own is not responsible for homosexuality thus culture has greater influence on the trend. In Greece, homosexuality was practiced in ancient times between young boys and adult males as part of initiation into adulthood. In New Guinea, there are instances where young males are inseminated by tribal warriors which is allowed y their culture.
In Crete, the male adolescents had to engage in a homosexual relationship as initiation to adulthood (Johnson, para 17). The social and cultural environment is therefore core in determination of the sexual orientation of the individuals. Behaviorists hold that “some sexual and gender identification differences result from roles imposed by family and friends upon children, such as the masculine and the feminine stereotypes” (Johnson, para 18). Some studies have contradicted the genetic determinism in homosexuality.
If genetics were fully responsible for homosexuality, then one would expect it will be permanent. Studies have however indicated that sexual preferences can change over time especially in females. In a five-year study conducted on female homosexuals, it was discovered that more than ? abandoned lesbianism with ? reclaiming heterosexuality. Other studies have continued to reinforce the notion that sexual orientation is not fixed and can change over time. A good example is given by Kerry Pacer who was a gay advocate when in High School but later changed to a heterosexual relationship.
It is therefore imperative to note that in some individuals sexual orientation is something that they can choose and thus a learned behavior. Some engage in homosexuality after being influenced by their role models or peers (Deem, para 17). For those arguing that homosexuality is a learned behavior, it is argued that children from a tender age have to be taught the acceptable standards of behavior in the society and that they should also be exposed to the right role models. Peer influence, the media and the internet has been blamed for having influenced the youth in practicing bad behaviors like homosexuality.
It is obvious that in the current times teenagers discover their sexual experiences at a tender age and that any harmful patterns of sexuality can have a lasting impact on these young people. Since sexual experience is pleasurable, it is usually reinforced by the experience irrespective of whether it is acceptable or not (Dolphin, para 21). Conclusion: The controversy surrounding homosexuality is far from over. Though increased research activity has surfaced to determine its cause, there is no universal agreement on the matter as the findings can not settle on a particular cause of the issue.
It will not be comprehensive to argue that homosexuality is caused by biological factors neither can it conclusively be argued that homosexuality is a learned phenomenon. The complexity surrounding the issue has led to a divided opinion on the matter. Nevertheless, it would be more accommodative to bring the two positions together and recognize that each can contribute to the same problem in a way. Biological causes can not be dismissed neither can we dissociate the environmental causes. Homosexual behavior is best understood if biological and environmental factors are incorporated.