Human sexuality has been one of society’s most interesting, controversial, debated, and misunderstood topics. It has been the topic of numerous books, essays, documentaries, websites, and television magazine segments. More specifically, homosexuality is probably the most misunderstood aspect of human sexuality. This is mainly due to lack of education, exposure, or just a general close mindedness. Homosexual tendencies are genetically caused, but acting on these tendencies is a choice caused by a number of factors, different for different people.
In order to fully understand the issues discussed in this essay, it is necessary to define some terms that will be used frequently. Heterosexual, or straight, refers to people whose sexual and romantic feelings are for the opposite gender. Homosexual, or gay, refers to people whose sexual and romantic feelings are for the same gender. A person whose sexual and romantic feelings are for both genders is referred to as bisexual. The term lesbian is used to refer to a female who is homosexual.
Homophobia refers to society’s misunderstanding, ignorance or fear of gay, lesbian, or bisexual people. (PFLAG, 4) I firmly believe that a person’s sexuality is caused by the genetic makeup of that person. Homosexual tendencies, like eye color, skin tone, and height, are determined by your genetic makeup. A young child does not wake up one morning and decide that orange is his or her favorite color. For that same reason, an adolescent, or anyone does not wake up one morning and decide that they are attracted to a member of the opposite sex.
A study in 1991 done by Michael Bailey, a Northwestern University psychologist, and Richard Pillard, a psychiatrist at the Boston University school of medicine helped to prove the genetic basis of homosexuality. In researched published in 1991 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, [Bailey and Pillard] reported that among identical twins reared together, each individual had a high probability (52%) of being homosexual if the other twin was. For non-identical twins, adopted brothers, and non-twin siblings, the correlation was much lower (22%, 11%, and 9% repectively). (NGLTF)
The probability is more than half that if one identical twin were homosexual, then the other would be. The way this supports the genetic theory is that identical twins share many of the same genes; they share most of the same traits. If one of the twin’s traits is homosexuality, the chances are more than half that the other will have it. This is great proof that homosexuality is genetically carried Though the physical attraction to someone of the same sex may be genetic, acting upon that is caused by numerous factors. For example; an adolescent feels homosexual tendencies.
The household from which they come is accepting, and the community they live in is very open minded and equally accepting. In this type of situation, the adolescent would be less afraid of their homosexual tendencies, caused by their genetics, and they would probably be more likely to come to terms with it. Being from accepting households and communities, coming out of the closet would probably be the best thing for them and much less complicated to do. The greatest feeling for any gay or lesbian is to come out of the closet with little or no problems. They can be who they are without reservation or hesitation.
Take another adolescent who feels the some homosexual tendencies. However, homosexuality is not discussed in the home and is not present, or hidden, in the community. This type of environment would not change the fact that this person is sexually attracted to members of his or her own sex, but it may make the them less comfortable about coming out and less apt to do so. When and if they do, it is hard to say what will happen because the issue is so new or so avoided. Another teen may feel homosexual tendencies, but the household and community they live in may be totally homophobic.
This person may have several conflicts if he or she was to come out, or they may not come out at all. Environment plays a big role on whether or not a person decides to come out of the closet. Education plays a large role in a child’s or adolescent’s identification of their sexual identity. If parents avoid the topic of homosexuality, their children will have a difficult time identifying and accepting it. If a child is aware of something’s existence, they are more likely to be accepting and understanding of it. I remember when my family took a trip to Provincetown, MA, a largely homosexual populated area.
My mother said to me, “you may see some things that you haven’t seen before. Sometimes instead of boys and girls dating, two boys might date or hold hands. This is a normal thing where we are going. ” It is true that my eyes wandered towards these new and interesting things, but it was better that my mother brought up the topic beforehand. If not, I might have blurted some embarrassing phrase out such as “look at them! ” This is an example of how education and discussion of homosexuality make children, and people in general, more understanding and accepting of it. The topic of homosexuality is also avoided in our nation’s public schools.
When “Sex Education” was given to us in the fifth grade, we learned only that a man and a woman could have sexual relations. Besides the sexual aspect of it, the topic of two men or two women being in love or having a loving relationship was avoided. Schools then wonder why their students are homophobic by the time they reach high school. Since they have been unaware of it, it is not something that they are accustomed to, and, therefore, they form opinions about it earlier on. Education of this topic both at home and in schools is essential to create a more open-minded, accepting environment throughout a child’s development.
On the topic of schools, it is interesting how some literature that may be read in English class could stir a student’s homosexual tendencies. … the books he reads in English class are frequently filled with heroic adventures and keen friendships of men and boys…Many classic writings also celebrate the sensual beauty of young men…In the stories of Kipling and Dumas, the principle value celebrated is the comradeship of a band of brother, typically brothers-in-arms. (Klein, 169-170) A child who has not yet identified possible feelings for the same sex could ponder upon it from such readings.
Another example is the unusual relationship between Gene and Phineas in A Separate Peace by John Knowles. The opening chapters show the two teenage boys bonding through sports and deep conversations. As the book moves along, Gene becomes obsessed with being better than Phineas. The tense relationship between the two of them may also cause a student to identify with their homosexual side. When I read this book, I can certainly remember wondering if Gene possibly had any romantic feelings towards Phinease, even though it is not discussed in the book.
Keep in mind too that most of the above mentioned works are not introduce until a student reaches high school level. Possibly not having education on the topic of homosexuality, they may find it offensive or just find themselves confused by it. A person’s religion may also prevent them from identifying with their homosexuality. For instance, the Roman Catholic Church says it is ok to be gay, but acting upon those tendencies is a sin. Several other religions have similar beliefs, or they believe that having the tendencies is a sin itself.
I remember Beck 6 eginning to notice my attraction for other males around seventh grade. I will never forget what an eighth grade CCD teacher told me the following year. He told the class, plain and simple, that “all gays are going to hell. ” If I were told this now, I would not take it to heart as much as I did when I was thirteen years old. In my young eyes, the man teaching that class taught us everything we need to know about church and a lot about life. Although I will never forget that he said that, I was able to put that aside in time, and I came to terms with my homosexuality.
However, I can see where not everyone would be able to do the same. Perhaps there was someone else in that class that also felt homosexual urges. That impressionable young person may never come to terms with their sexuality. Religion, therefore, plays a large role in a person’s coming to terms with their sexuality. The reason I keep mentioning adolescence is because of an observation made by the American Psychological Association. They also share my beliefs made in my thesis statement: Sexual orientation emerges for most people in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience.
Although we can choose whether or not to act on our feelings, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed. Puberty is probably what causes the emerging of these sexual feelings; as our bodies change, humans start to have sexual thoughts. Also, the American Psychological Association agrees that a person does not choose his or her sexuality, but chooses whether or not to act on it. Society also has the misconception that an overbearing mother is to blame for her son’s homosexuality.
As boy reaches out to boy, the remonstrates of society and psychiatry induce a mother to bow her head in shame and heartache, pleading mea culpa. She invested too heavily in her son’s life, they say; she hovered too closely about him while he was growing up. She tried too hard to control him. She was too seductive. (Klein, 167) What might bring on this misconception is another misconception that all homosexual men are feminine; they like to shop, cook, dress up in women’s clothing, talk in a high pitched voice, and talk with their hands. This belief is just plain silly.
There are plenty of heterosexual men who enjoy cooking, shopping, and talk with their hands. I find it hard to believe to that a mother can simply wave her magic wand and make her son a homosexual. It may be true that if a son is brought up in a sympathetic and sensitive environment by a mother, he may be more likely to come to terms with his homosexuality. Being brought up in such an environment, however, does not determine whether or not he is homosexual. Despite constant homophobia, society seems to be becoming a bit more comfortable with homosexuality.
Several Hollywood actors have “come out of the closet,” and homosexuality is present on a few television shows. Ellen Degeneres received much criticism after coming out on her sitcom, “Ellen. ” But Ms. Degeneres paved the path for other shows and made people feel comfortable with being gay. Jack on the nighttime soap opera “Dawson’s Creek,” is a character that is gay, but the show has faced little criticism because of it. The same goes for the sitcom “Will and Grace,” one of the highest rated shows on television right now. Two characters, Will and Jack, are gay, but the show does not focus on just homosexual issues.
Will and Grace” has faced little criticism for bringing homosexuality in the limelight. Several public high schools, including Somers High School, now have Gay/Straight Alliances. These clubs are designed to bring all types of sexuality’s together for better understanding of one another. Although, as I mentioned before, by the time High School comes around, students have made up their minds about how they feel towards the topic. I had many feminine influences in my life. My father worked third shift, so I never got to see him very much. My mother did the bulk of my upbringing.
I spent more time cooking, shopping, and chatting with Mom than I did learning to play baseball and be tough with Dad. I also grew up in a neighborhood of girls. In lieu of playing with toy trucks, plastic guns, and dirt bikes, I played dress-up, house, and Barbies. I cried a lot as a child, and I still do today. Now you are probably thinking that playing with trucks and playing war does not make a young boy heterosexual. This is true, but the activities I partook in made me a more sensitive person. I was certainly in touch with my feminine side.
Being so sensitive and in such an environment, I believe that I came to terms more easily with my homosexuality and was less afraid of it. This is not to say I wasn’t afraid when I first became attracted to boys. Junior High is probably one of the most difficult points in any child’s life, and that is when I first noticed my homosexual tendencies. It was out of an insult that I first actually thought about. Someone started spreading a rumor that I had sent a fellow male classmate a carnation for Valentine’s day, which, of course, was not true.
Everyone thought I was gay, and insults were being thrown left and right. It’s what made me first identify it; “am I really gay? ” It’s just the same as someone being made fun of for being overweight; it would consume that person’s thoughts too. For a few years, I thought my attraction toward other guys was just a phase and that I would get over it. To hide and ignore this, I dated a couple girls, almost to convince myself that I wasn’t gay. I soon came to realize that this was not a phase, and that I was a homosexual. I told my friends first, and everyone I told was supportive.
Many of my friends believe that homosexuality is a sin, but they are still supportive. I am understanding of their beliefs just as they are of mine. I wasn’t sure how my parents would react because we never really discussed homosexuality in our house. They were fine with it, and I think it has brought us closer together. When I told them I was gay, they said “we still love you, Tony. You’re the same kid we’ve known for seventeen years, we just know more about you now. ” My only wish is that all parents would be as understanding as mine were if one of their children comes out of the closet.
I did not chose my sexuality, but my choice to act on it was due to the accepting environment I live in. Homosexuality is genetically based, but acting upon those tendencies is an individual choice. That choice can be influenced by environment, upbringing, education or lack there of, and religion. Society is slowly becoming more understanding and tolerant of gays and lesbians, but until the day people stop assuming everyone they meet is heterosexual unless told otherwise, I feel as if it is my duty to educate and make people aware of this topic. The more people know about it, the less afraid of it they will be.