Topic of Homosexuality in the US
“In the recent past thinking of American’s has changed regarding the issue of homosexuality. Most educated people and people in general when thinking about sexuality, now mostly attribute a variety of behaviors to biological factors. In the United States topic of homosexuality has much wider audience than the rest of the world. There are various reasons for this. One of the reasons is that the topic gets a lot of attention in the US media because the topic has both social and political consequences attached with it. There are two categories of people: those who believe homosexuality has biological causes and those who believe homosexuality is by choice. There are opposing arguments given by both parties and the discussion is still open to this day. Today, I will discuss the causes of homosexuality and conclude whether homosexuality is a biological factor, or a matter of choice/circumstances which make people Homosexual or Heterosexual.
During the 2004 presidential debate Bush gave cautious reply to Journalist Bob Schieffer’s question because his answer would have severe electoral consequences. Bush said, “You know, Bob, I don’t know. I just don’t know.” Similarly, Kerry gave a more resolute response to maximize an expected electoral effect. Talking about Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter, he said: “…she would tell you that she’s being who she was; she’s being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it’s not a choice.” We just cannot ignore the political side of debate on homosexuality as there are more than a dozen examples which highlight this point.
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Attribution theory was put forward by Heider (1944-1958). He assumed people want to predict and control their surroundings. Heider proposed prediction and control can be achieved if we understand the causes of behavior. Building upon Heider’s theory Weiner introduced a lot of dimensions on the debate of homosexuality a few of them were internal/external factors that shape who we are going to be sexually and stable/unstable personality traits. Specifically, he introduced a third dimension in (1979-1985), controllability. Controllability defines whether a person can control his behavior. This is a very important dimension because if a person can control his behavior then we cannot say a person had no choice but to be homosexual on the other hand if he has no control over his behavior then people have no right to judge anyone because of their sexuality. Weiner, Perry and Magnusson in 1988 studied attributions of controllability on unfortunate and stigmatized individuals. The theory proposed by them states, “People who are observed to have caused their stigma will be evaluated more negatively than those who are stigmatized because of misfortune or the actions of others. Therefore, asserting that homosexuality is biological in origin suggests sexual orientation cannot be controlled”.
In contrast a large group of people believe that homosexuality is a matter of choice and that it is learned or acquired because we can control our behaviors and thus, we are responsible for our homosexual behavior. This thinking affects homosexuals and policies are made specifically to control homosexual behaviors. This type of thinking is shaped by elites who provide readymade accounts that are vital to the causal reasoning of public (Karp 1998; Lupia 1994; McGraw 2001; Riker 1986). This type of thinking is also refined and sharpened by ideological differences and conflict over LGBT rights. Not only political and government officials shape this thinking, but religious leaders also play a vital role. Religious education in most religions of the world contain negative references about homosexuals (Layman and Carmines 1997; Wood and Bartkowski 2004). Homosexuality is described as a grave crime or sin in the most religious books and considered against the moral, ethical norms of society and nature in general. According to religious leaders, homosexuality cannot be considered gene based or deterministic. Also, the assumption that homosexuality is a sin implies that one has a control over his choices. So, the people having religious exposure and people with conservative denominations consider homosexuality to be a matter of choice.
From 15 to 19 of October 2003, Pew Research Centre for the People and Press conducted a survey regarding the “Homosexuality and Religion”. This survey provides some useful insights about the people thinking on the concerned topic. Respondents were asked questions such as, “In your opinion, when a person is homosexual is it…something that people are born with, or is it something that develops because of the way people are brought up, or is it just the way that some people prefer to live?”. The results of the survey are not very surprising. About 30% chose people are born homosexuals, 14 percent believed that our upbringing makes us homo or heterosexuals and 40 percent believed homosexuality is a personal choice. Rest 14 percent didn’t provide any answer. So, from the total number of respondents about 47 percent consider homosexuality as controllable state.
In the recent past the idea that we are born this way has seen increased support and more people now believe that the sexuality is genetic in nature. This idea has got some political backing as well to protect LGBT rights which is an effective way to reduce discrimination. In the recent decades the search for “gay gene” has received a lot of funding and support. Simon Levay published a study in 1991 that considers small differences in the size of certain brain cells can determine sexual orientation in men. In 1993 Dean Hamer claimed markers on the X chromosome influence the development of homosexuality in men. Dr. Sanders also published same results recently when he studied the genes of 409 gay pair brothers. Independent research groups who have studied twins argue that genetic factors explain differences between sexual orientation of about 25-30% people. Twin studies give us first glimpses of “gay gene” and that the genetics play an important role in our sexual orientation. Different genetic studies show gay brothers share genetic markers on the X chromosome.
However, it is not only the genes that paint complete picture about the sexual orientations. A study suggests sex hormones in prenatal life also play a vital role. Girls born with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) show relatively high rates of same sex attractions. CAH results in high levels of male sex hormones in girls. Further evidence emerges from genetic males who were born without penises or accidentally had their penises removed and raised as girls. When such males are adults, they are typically attracted to women and not men. So, the fact is you cannot make a genetic male sexually attracted to another male by raising him as a girl makes many social theories about sexuality very weak. Genes can make one incline towards a particular sexual orientation or genes may combine with other external factors (such as prenatal sex hormones) to influence one’s sexual orientation.
Another study suggests that the brains of gay and heterosexual people are also organized differently. Similar brain patterns can be observed for gay men/heterosexual women and lesbian women/heterosexual men. Brain patterns of gay men appear more closely related to female typical and lesbian women are more male typical. These differences in brain organization means different psychology of heterosexual and gay people.
Now let’s explore homosexual behavior from another angle. Homosexuality seems to be a natural biological feature which is common among humans and animals. Different species of animals have lasting preferences for same sex partners this trait can be commonly observed in sheep. Animal species also display bisexual behaviors as humans. A study proposed that this same partner sex in animals increased successful chances of breeding with the opposite sex. This also explains why homosexual behavior is a biological one.
All of these studies have sparked massive confidence in the LGBT community because more and more people now tend to believe the origin of gay gene. Now let’s have a look at the opposing arguments. Let’s explore what other side has to say about the history of sexuality and why gay gene narrative doesn’t seem appropriate to few people.
Let’s take a look at the perceptions of female beauty throughout the different ages. Women with large breasts and hips were considered sexy and beautiful in the Renaissance period. On the other hand, in the Victorian Era women with hourglass figure were considered sexy and beautiful. Both of these perceptions are very different to mainstream female body perceptions of today. Today women having model type figure and thinness are considered beautiful. Why is this so? If our sexual desires and orientations are biological, then this should not have happened because our biological bodies don’t achieve massive transformation in few hundred years. This is one of the major criticisms that the advocates of gay gene have to face. Because the opponents argue that our sexual desires and ideals change according to our society and given time. Opponents argue, “Do those in Ancient Greece or in the Sambia had/have a greater prevalence of a gay gene than we do today? Do our perceptions of female beauty change over the times because of shifts in the genes of straight men”?
There is no clear explanation as to why some people end up with different sexual orientations because we don’t know how sexuality is created. If we take a look at the history, it becomes apparent that homosexuality is not because of some inherent genetic marker. Studies conducted by Jenny Graves at La Trobe University in Australia suggest it is highly likely that both women and men inherit genetic variations that lead them somewhere between “very female loving and very male loving”. Or we can rephrase it as that we have the human loving genes. Therefore, homosexuality is not dues to genes, but it develops over time as Julie Bindel says, due to “a mix of opportunity, luck, chance, and, quite frankly, bravery.”
Now I conclude my topic with a thought. It doesn’t matter whether homosexuality is by birth or a choice. The truth is that some people are homosexual by birth and some are result of internal or external environmental factors. But should it matter? I think not, what matters is that we are all human beings, so we have to respect each other’s sexual preferences.”