Is Homosexuality an Abnormality Across Cultures

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“In many ancient societies, it can be noted that there were high acceptance rates and encouragement of participating in same sex relationships. Such as, during the ancient Greece and/or Rome periods – in this era it is rumored that many adult males would have relations with adolescent males. However, this is not to say that all societies in precedent times were tolerant of this behavior. Many religious societies, such as Jewish, Christianity, and Muslim would often condemn, punish, and ban homosexuality and its activities. Homosexuality can be defined as one who is sexually attracted to people of one’s own sex, i.e. a female being sexually attracted towards another female and the same for males. Those who lived in the religious societies were not allowed to express their sexuality and fluidity within the same sex context. Due to the religious and cultural aspect, individuals involved in sexuality were considered an abomination and should be outcasted from the rest of the society before they ‘poison’ other individuals. From generation to generation families have passed down the ideology that it is unethical and sinful to act or participate in “homosexual activities”. Throughout time we have seen a reoccurrence of the theme ‘shaming those who are homosexuals”. Forcing people to suppress who they truly were and live in guilt and embarrassment.

To begin with, to understand the struggle of homosexuality one must first examine the reasoning behind classifying it as an abnormality. Majority of all modern attitudes regarding homosexuality can be rooted from the Christian Church throughout European religious institutions which later spread to the legal system. Through a religious perspective, homosexual acts were not considered God’s will because he created us to procreate more life. “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13) The behavior was sought to be unnatural and unholy therefore it shouldn’t be tolerated, permitted, or condoned. Thus, commencing a rippling domino effect throughout European civilization expanding to the United States of America. Many church-goers began to preach and instill this lesson of homosexuality into the psyche and minds of their children. During these times they begin to foster this fear on condemnation by associating homosexuality with hell. Since, members of the community are also policymakers they enforced several policies and laws which were used to regulate and diminish the LGBT group. Policies such as sodomy was derived from the church and design to prevent the fluid sexuality we see today. To further elaborate, sodomy was instituted to attack those who were considered homosexuals – “Many of the early American colonies, for example, enacted stiff criminal penalties for sodomy, an umbrella term that encompassed a wide variety of sexual acts that were nonprocreative (including homosexual behavior), occurred outside of marriage (e.g., sex between a man and woman who were not married), or violated traditions (e.g., sex between husband and wife with the woman on top).” Many of these were considered crimes and some civilizations allowed the punishment to be death. Religion and law interweaved together and created territory over the realm of homosexuality and all its activities.

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In the book, Homosexuality by Irving Bieber, it states that “Freud was the first to question the concept that homosexuality was a degenerative disease – a concept that was pseudoscientific reformulation of a moralistic attitude which considered homosexuality synonymous with degeneracy.” (Bieber, Pg.3) Not only has homosexuality been attached to and evaluated by religion and laws but also biological and social factors. Where does one begin to assess the psyche to determine how and why someone partakes in homosexual behavior? Well, “Freud believed that the sexual practices in the homosexual relationship symbolize regressions to developmental fixation points.” (Bieber, Pg.5) And that “[T]he basic underlying cause of homosexuality … is an abnormality of the chromosomal structure.” (Bieber, pg.13) Homosexuality as mental disorder/illness is the result of studying and examining sexuality through a biological scope. 19th century leading into the 20th century, medicine and psychology/psychiatry begin to develop their own theories and stray away from the thesis that religion and law have concluded. Now, there occurs a shift from crime and sin to psychotherapy and illnesses. This is just being done in the Westernized areas of the world; given the word “homosexuality” or “sexuality”, such a negative meaning with severe consequences.

Even though, homosexuality being unlawful and sinful originated from the church and furthered established itself inside the legal system; other cultures began to question the practices and treatment of homosexuals. In other words, certain cultures didn’t even recognize or acknowledge homosexual behavior as that, homosexual. Cultural practices, traditions, and institutions are removed from the contemporary Westernized conceptions of sexuality. Ethnographies of various cultural and social groups would suggest that sexual orientation goes far beyond that of a sexual relationship with he same sex. For example, there is a cultural ritual or practice, of the Sambian tribe of New Guinea, where the boys: drink the semen of the tribes’ mightiest warriors.” Due to the cultural differences and discourses, it isn’t seen as gay or homosexual when a boy drinks the sperm of another man. The members of this tribe only see it as rite of passage in teaching boys how to become men between the ages of 7 and 10. However, it is illegal for a male to engage in same-sex relationship; the penalty of doing such is imprisonment up to 14 years. They don’t believe in homosexual activity outside of the homosexual pedophilic rituals. They are still culturally influenced by the Christian church. Concluding that in this culture, homosexual activity is an abnormality if it is used for pleasure and not rituals.

Furthermore, “[The] acceptance of homosexuality is particularly widespread in countries where religion is less central in people’s lives. These are also among the richest countries in the world. In contrast, in poorer countries with high levels of religiosity, few believe homosexuality should be accepted by society.” According to, majority of Europe countries voted yes on society accepting homosexuality and its’ activities. In ancient Greece, there was a sexual ritual involving sexual relationships between an older man and young boy. However, this was done as a sort of mentorship; the older man acted as a guide, protector, teacher, and role model for the younger boy. Although, an abundance of the countries participated in these sorts of rituals only about half of the countries acknowledge, accept, and legalized same-sex marriages. Whereas in Africa, the rights of homosexuals and homosexuality activities is very limited in comparison to many other countries. It even goes to say that, only in 1 country can they be gay and serve in the military. Although, Africa has some unusual sex rituals such as virginity testing and wife stealing; none of them involve a male in sexual contact with another male. Moreover, examining middle eastern countries, there aren’t any homosexual rituals in which goes against their societal behavior. Thus, proving the statement on how higher levels of religiosity is responsible for the lower levels of acceptance of homosexuals.

Nature or Nurture

Mental disorders exist as social constructs meaning, “mental disorder, mental illness, and psychopathology are best understood as products of our history and culture and should not be defined as some sort of universal, scientific construct.” Therefore, as societies switch and time progresses, we develop new definitions and theories to suit the circumstances and living conditions. In 1973, homosexuality was removed from the DSM as a mental disorder and seen for what it truly was, a person making a choice or being innate. Only in the United States was homosexuality deemed a mental disorder – it wasn’t a universal construct. Many countries highly disapproved and even discriminated against it but they never deemed it to be an illness.

There is a current debate on whether homosexuality is a choice; if there is a biological reasoning or if it is a cultural factor. Someone’s environment affects their sexual relationship while their culture affects their views on that relationship. However, it may be there are studies in which indicate that “the structure of the brain might influence sexual preference – this [would] explain why many gay people feel that they have always been gay.” Social learning theory suggests that new behaviors, values, and attitudes are acquired by observing and imitating others. It has been argued that people learn how to be “homosexual” by being introduced into that lifestyle and/or by participating in homosexual activities. Homosexuality is a balance between the biology and environmental elements of oneself. “There is a belief that there must be some kind of genetic reasoning for homosexuality. If there is a genetic reason for homosexuality, then that means there is a “gay gene” Understanding this “gay gene” will explain this irreversible behavior.” Although, some have hypothesized and theorized that a gay gene may exist, the fact that it is a behavior means that it has been taught or at the slightest influenced. Concluded that although, it may start with a biological aspect it will form itself into a cultural/social aspect. Only because it is how one acts on the urges to be with the same sex – it’s the behavior technicality and socialization exposition.

Culture and Religion

“There is a strong relationship between a country’s religiosity and opinions about homosexuality. There is far less acceptance of homosexuality in countries where religion is central to people’s lives.” Those who live in the strong willed religious areas, most likely have an interdependent view of self. Meaning that they see themselves as part of a social unit and not separate. In areas where homosexuality is not socially tolerated and rejected, people will conform and feel as if they have an obligation or duty to the members of that community. As we learned in class, cultural practices of collectivist tend to focus on togetherness and others making decisions. Therefore, someone who lives in a country where culture and religion view homosexuality as a sin and will not tolerate – one will learn to not tolerate as well, or hide it from others and not be true to themselves. “Being-in-the-world” and “Thrownness”, are existential psychology words in which refer to the background practices of others. They are terms used to suggested the totality of a variety of cultural principals which is often separated into the three dimensions: historical, cultural, and interpersonal. Whereas thrownness is just another way of saying the background we were all born into – the society in which we have to follow the social construct. Making sacrifices against one’s better judgement because of what society and their family deems to be the common good.

In the American society and throughout most European civilizations, homosexual activity is not only condemned it is not accepted but a lot of the members through the community. However, in both civilizations they have progressed in the acceptance, decriminalization, and equality of those who are LBGT. On the other hand, Muslims , who “believe it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral” finding it intolerable and disgusting to have relations with the same sex, especially for males. In sum, religion plays an important role in deciding on how one is treated, viewed, and acknowledged in the homosexual community. It has been made very clear that those who wish to participate in homosexual activities, have strayed away from God and will go to hell. As well as, being labeled an outcast and ostracized from family and friends. However, there are a few exceptions such as India, who used to criminalize homosexuals as felons. Now, the Hijras are an openly proud group of intersex and transgender people.


After the research and studies I have reviewed I believe that homosexuality isn’t an abnormality throughout different cultures. It was once viewed as a mental disorder and illness because as a society were are not acceptance and comfortable with change. Therefore, we felt uncomfortable with the idea that homosexuals are regular people who just enjoyed sex with a same sex partner. They didn’t dare conform to our rules and regulations, our social constructs, and it upset us so bad they we diagnosed, found “cures” and “treatments”, shamed, and discriminated against them. We could not grasp the concept of homosexuality; therefore, we dissected them and treated them as a mentally ill patient. Which in my opinion seems slightly better than what the religion and law aspect had in store for them. Homosexuals were either punished to death, sentenced, surgically operated on, shocked until they associated pain and disgust with homosexuality, or medicated.

Although, homosexuality isn’t an abnormality cross culture; it still poses as a threat to a societies’ social norms. There lies this discerning pattern of mistreatment and abuse towards those who are homosexuals in almost every country I referenced to above. In my years of being a student I’ve learned that we have the power to give meaning to a word, discourse, and that it is up to us on if it is seen negatively or positively. I’ve also learned that homosexuality was deemed as a mental disorder due to social deviance which states that the behavior is abnormal because it deviates greatly from the accepted social standards, values, and norms of an individual’s culture.

In reference to ‘homosexuality as a deviance’, the evidence in which I used to support this context just seems mildly strange. Because I am not from that culture and never experienced that environment, it seems oddly weird and very pedophilic that young boys are supposed to drink a grown man’s semen. They consider it a rite of passage but I consider it disgusted and that of homosexual child molestation. The way homosexuality is experienced in different cultures is unusual. How is it okay for someone to participate in same sex relationships if it supposedly helps them become a man but not because someone they are actually in love with the same sex. I am completely baffled.”

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Is Homosexuality an Abnormality Across Cultures. (2021, May 29). Retrieved from