Biological Basis for Homosexuality
In this discussion of changing the traditional definition of marriage, that it is the union of one man and one woman, has been frame in the parameters as a rights issue. The change that is being advocated for is the gender of one of the partners in marriage, with the result being same-sex marriage. But it is one particular group; homosexual advocates who are trying to change the definition of marriage. So, they attempt to speak of this change as homosexual marriage. In doing so there is one question that has yet to be answered. Who is a homosexual? When this question is answered, it then answers the question within the discussion of changing the definition of marriage as it pertains to being a rights issue. If there is no homosexual as a distinct class of individuals, in essence what is being advocated for is the legally sanctioning of homosexual behavior.
What follows are quotes to help answer the question. Who is a homosexual? Many of the books and articles cited below are by those advocating for homosexuality. First are quotes that address a biological basis for homosexuality. Then quotes are given in the parameter of who one is a homosexual or what one does homosexual behavior. In northern America and Western Europe homosexuals have chosen the terms gay and lesbian and there are quotes to help understand this concept of homosexuals as gay and lesbian. I am challenging the parameters of the discussion of homosexuality and the defining of terms within this discussion and I am doing so by using what homosexual advocates write in their books and articles.
Of relevance to this collection of papers is the danger of having the search for scientific facts comprised by the political ideologies of the investigators. In the case of historical there have been egregious examples of anachronism in the search for gay men and lesbians of the past and the attribution of the gay identity to the biblical David and Naomi, to Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, to the temple priests of classical Greece, and to medieval witches. By taking on the conflated notion of sexual identity, the biological research, in its search for physical markers that distinguish heterosexuals from homosexuals, has unwittingly enlisted itself in the politics of sexual identity. (De Cecco, and Parker, editors. Sex, Cells, and Same-Sex Desire: The Biology of Sexual Preference, p. 24)
As this survey indicates, research currently cited in support of a biological model of human sexuality is methodologically deficient, inclusive, or open to contradictory theoretical interpretations. In addition, much of such research concentrates on animal studies and therefore has little relationship to human behavior which is generally affected by cultural values. Therefore, this paper basic question is: How convincing is the biological evidence that details of human sexuality are directly due to innate traits and processes? The answer is the evidence is far from persuasive. We may conclude that the biological perspective on human sexuality has not yet made a substantial contribution to the balanced biosocial synthesis that the Baldwins (1980) have recommended This conclusion is not intended to imply that biology has nothing to do with human sexuality (since the two, are of course, inextricably intertwined). It means simply this: The claim that biological factors have an immediate, direct influence on such things as sexual identity, behavior, or orientation remains unproven. When biology seems to be critical in such matters, an intervening cultural factor is often more immediate. (De Cecco and Shively, Bisexual and Homosexual Identities: Critical Theoretical Issues p.150-151)
As this collection of papers has shown, the search for purely biological determines of sexual preference is fraught with short-comings. It conflates biological sex with gender and gender with sexuality, it reduces a given sexual preference to specific behaviors and further reduces those behaviors to biological processes, and it accepts and reinforces society’s whimsical moral judgments, categories, and proscriptions regarding sexuality. It is no wonder, then, that in spite of the zeal shown by researchers and the availability of sophisticated equipment and methodology over the past decade, the search for biological markers of sexual preference has failed to produce any conclusive evidence. (Parker and De Cecco, Sexual Expression: A Global Perspective, p. 427-428 in Sex, Cells, and Same-Sex Desire, edited by De Cecco and Parker)
Most researchers, however, acknowledge that biology does not completely account for homosexuality and that society and environment also contribute to gay and lesbian identities. In addition, because research on homosexuality does not occur in isolation, but rather in a cultural and historical context, it is subject to manipulation by persons with moral and political agendas. Critics have responded to this possible abuse of both science and subjects in two ways. They either conclude that any scientific investigation is comprised by the scientist’s subjective bias, or they assert that in the rigorous scrutiny of scientific methodologies will prevent unreasonable bias. (Murphy, Readers Guide to Lesbian and Gay Studies, p.84-85)
It remains difficult, on scientific grounds, to avoid the conclusion that the uniquely human phenomenon of sexual orientation is a consequence of a multifactorial developmental process in which biological factors play a part, but in which psychosocial factors remain crucially important. If so, the moral and political issues must be resolved on other grounds. (Bancroft, Homosexual Orientation The Search for a biological basis, p.439)
The argument for homosexual immutability betrays a misreading of the scientific research itself. Nothing in any of these studies can fully support the idea that homosexuality is biologically immutable; each study leaves open the possibility that homosexuality is the result of a combination of biological and environmental factors, and several suggest that homosexuality may be tied to a predisposition in temperament that could manifest itself in a number of ways. All, agree that biological, social, and psychological factors interact to produce and change the signs of homosexuality. Furthermore, these studies cannot comment effectively on the frequency of homosexuality in the general population. (Terry, An American Obsession p.394)
Biologic theories can account for the feelings that motivate behaviors; the behaviors themselves will be strongly determined by the environmental factors-in the case of sexual orientation such factors as available opportunities and social and legal sanctions. (McConaghy, Biologic Theories of Sexual Orientation, p.431)
Who one is: a homosexual
We tend to think now that the word homosexual has an unvarying meaning, beyond time and history. In fact it is itself a product of history, a cultural artifact designed to express a particular concept. (Weeks, Coming Out, p. 3)
While homosexual behavior can be found in all societies, though with very different cultural meanings, the emergence of the homosexual as a cultural construct can be traced to the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century in urban centers of north-west Europe (Trumnach 1989a, 1989b) and also linked with the rise of capitalism (D Emilio 1983). Medical and psychiatric discourses provided the concept and labels of homosexuality and inversion from the 1860s, . . . (Ballard, Sexuality and the State in Time of Epidemic, p. 108 in Rethinking Sex: Social Theory and Sexuality Research editors R. W. Connell and G. W. Dowsett)
For well over a century homosexualists have dreamed that the invention of the homosexual as a person would ultimately detoxicate homosexual behavior and win a place of equality alongside heterosexual behavior. (De Ceeo, Confusing the Actor With the Act: Muddled Notions About Homosexuality, p. 411)
Historians underscore an important distinction between homosexual behavior and homosexual identity. The former is said to be universal, whereas the later, is viewed as historically unique. Indeed, some historians hold that a homosexual identity is a product of the social developments of the late nineteenth-century Europe and the United States. In any event, it seems fair to say that a unique construction of identity crystallized around same-sex desire between 1880 and 1920 in America.
The modern western concept of the homosexual is, according to some historians, primarily a creation of late nineteenth-century medical-science discourses. In the context of elaborating systems of classification and descriptions of different sexualities, as part of a quest to uncover the truth about human nature, the homosexual is said to have stepped forward as a distinct human type with his/her own mental and physical nature. (Seidman, Embattled Eros: Sexual Politics and Ethics in Contemporary America, p.146)
Psychological theory, which should be employed to describe only individual mental, emotional, and behavioral aspects of homosexuality, has been employed for building models of personal development that purport to mark the steps in an individual’s progression toward a mature and egosyntonic gay or lesbian identity. The embracing and disclosing of such an identity, however, is best understood as a political phenomenon occurring in a historical period during which identity politics has become a become a consuming occupation. (De Cecco and Parker, The Biology of Homosexuality: Sexual Orientation or Sexual Preference, p. 20 in Sex, Cells, and Same-Sex Desire: The Biology of Sexual, Preference, editors De Cecco and Parker)
Who one is: homosexual as gay and lesbian
Lesbian and gay historians have asked questions about the origins of gay liberation and lesbian feminism, and have come up with some surprising answers. Rather than finding a silent, oppressed, gay minority in all times and all places, historians have discovered that gay identity is a recent, Western, historical construction. Jeffrey Weeks, Jonathan Katz and Lillian Faderman, for example have traced the emergence of lesbian and gay identity in the late nineteenth century. Similarly, John D Emilio, Allan Berube and the Buffalo Oral History Project have described how this identity laid the basis for organized political activity in the years following World War II.
The work of lesbian and gay historians has also demonstrated that human sexuality is not a natural, timeless given, but is historically shaped and politically regulated. (Duggan & Hunter, Sex Wars, p.151-152)
The idea of a gay and lesbian identity sexual identity has been formulated over the last two decades. Historically it is the product of the gay and lesbian liberation movement, which, itself, grew out of the Black civil rights and women’s liberation movements of the fifties and sixties. Like ethnic identities, sexual identity assigns individuals to membership in a group, the gay lesbian community. Although sexual identity has become a group identity, its historical antecedents can be traced to the nineteen-century notion that homosexual men and women, each a representative of a newly discovered biological specimen, represented a third sex. Homosexuality, which had been conceived primarily as an act was thereby transformed into an actor. (De Cecco, 1990b). Once actors had been created it was possible to assign them a group identity. Once a person became a member of a group, particularly one that has been stigmatized and marginal, identity as an individual was easily subsumed under group identity. (De Cecco and Parker, The Biology of Homosexuality: Sexual Orientation or Sexual Preference, p. 22-23 in Sex, Cells, and Same-Sex Desire: The Biology of Sexual, Preference, editors De Cecco and Parker)
It isn’t at all obvious why a gay rights movement should ever have arisen in the United States in the first place. And it’s profoundly puzzling why that movement should have become far and away the most powerful such political formation in the world. Same gender sexual acts have been commonplace throughout history and across cultures. Today, to speak with surety about a matter for which there is absolutely no statistical evidence, more adolescent male butts are being penetrated in the Arab world, Latin American, North Africa and Southeast Asia then in the west.
But the notion of a gay identity rarely accompanies such sexual acts, nor do political movements arise to make demands in the name of that identity. It’s still almost entirely in the Western world that the genders of one’s partner is considered a prime marker of personality and among Western nations it is the United States - a country otherwise considered a bastion of conservatism - that the strongest political movement has arisen centered around that identity.
We’ve only begun to analyze why, and to date can say little more then, that certain significant pre-requisites developed in this country, and to some degree everywhere in the western world, that weren’t present, or hadn’t achieved the necessary critical mass, elsewhere. Among such factors were the weakening of the traditional religious link between sexuality and procreation (one which had made non-procreative same gender desire an automatic candidate for denunciation as unnatural). Secondly the rapid urbanization and industrialization of the United States, and the West in general, in the nineteen-century weakened the material (and moral) authority of the nuclear family, and allowed mavericks to escape into welcome anonymity of city life, where they could choose a previously unacceptable lifestyle of singleness and nonconformity without constantly worrying about parental or village busybodies pouncing on them. (Duberman, Left Out, p. 414-415)
What one does: homosexuality/homosexual behavior
Our concepts and categories of sexual expression are based on the genders of the two partners involved: heterosexuality when the partners are of the opposite sex, and homosexuality when the partners are of the same sex. In other times and among other peoples, this way of thinking about people simply doesn’t seem to apply-anthropologists, historians, sociologists have described many cultures in which same-sex eroticism occupies a very different place than it does in our own. . . . Just as the Greeks and Romans had no words for our sexual categories, the Native American societies described by explorers, missionaries, and anthropologists from the seventeenth onward had sexual categories for which we have no words.
Consequently, in the sections that follow- an exploration of attitudes and customs of ancient peoples toward same-sex eroticism- the modern concepts of homosexuality or sexual orientation will be conspicuous by their absence. Within these cultures, sexual contact between persons of the same sex is not necessarily seen as characteristic of a particular group or subset of persons, there is no category for homosexuals. On the contrary, in some cultures, same-sex eroticism was an expected part of the sexual experience of every member of society, which would seem to argue against the existence of homosexuality as a personal attribute at all. (Mondimore, A Natural History of Homosexuality, p.3-4)
A second assumption is that homosexuality is a unitary construct that is culturally transcendent. However, a wealth of cross-cultural evidence points to the existence of numerous patterns of homosexuality varying in origins, subjective states, and manifest behaviors. In fact, the pattern of essentially exclusive male homosexuality familiar to us has been exceedingly rare or unknown in cultures that required or expected all males to engage in homosexual activity. (Byrne and Parsons, Human Sexual Orientation, p.228)
The presently dominant myth implies that "homosexuality" is a uniform category, that the history, the experience, the self- understanding of those whose love is directed to members of the same gender can be subsumed within the same definition, the same explanatory paradigm. Whereas in actuality, as many recent studies have acknowledged, even as they still use the word, we would do better to speak in the plural, to speak of homosexualities. (Downing, Myths and Mysteries of Same-Sex Love, p.6-7)
In sum, homosexuality is not one but many things, many psychosocial forms, which can be viewed as symbolic mediations between psychocultural and historical conditions and human potentials for sexual response across life course. (Herdt, Cross-Cultural Issues in the Development of Bisexuality and Homosexuality, p.55)
My interest in the discussion of homosexuality is a personal one. Up until ten years ago, I believed I was a homosexual. What was most instrumental in my overcoming homosexuality was when I understand the idea that it was not who one is a homosexual but what one did homosexual behavior. When I understood this, and was able to separate the behavior from the person, it empowered me to accept personal responsibility for attitudes and acts. It also gave me hope to look forward to the day when my life would not be ruled and led by my feelings and emotions, which can change from moment to moment and day to day, often influenced by external circumstances. I also have to accept the reality that my body will respond to same-sex sexual stimuli. But the question is not can I; but should I allow it to repeatedly do so. In essence seeking same-sex intimacy with others of the same-sex in sexual acts is an illegitimate way of meeting the legitimate need for same-sex intimacy. I am lobbying to maintain the status quo that marriage be defined as the union between one man and one woman. In doing so I understand to change the gender of one of the partners will only lead to further changes as in the number of partners, age of partners etc. I am not lobbying against individuals but how individuals wish to define themselves by the attitudes and acts they commit. Because I along with thousands of others have changed how we once defined ourselves in similar ways. Also I lobby understanding this is not an issues of rights but one of legally sanctioning homosexual behavior. With the end result being the continuation of the normalization and legitimatization of homosexuality.
Bancroft, John. Homosexual Orientation The search for a biological basis. British Journal Of Psychiatry. 1994, 164, 437-440.
Byne MD, PhD, William & Bruce Parsons, MD, PhD. Human Sexual Orientation The Biological Theories Reappraised”. Archives of General Psychiatry. Vol 50, March 1993, 228-239.
Connell, R. W. and G. W. Dowsett. Rethinking Sex Social Theory and Sexuality Research. Melbourne University Press. Melbourne, 1992.
De Cecco, John P. Confusing the Actor With the Act: Muddled Notions About Homosexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 1990. Vol.19, No.4, 409-412.
De Cecco, John P. PhD, and Michael G. Shively, MA, editors. Bisexual and Homosexual Identities: Critical Theoretical Issues. The Haworth Press. New York, 1984.
De Cecco, John P. PhD, and David Allen Parker, MA editors. Sex, Cells, and Same-Sex Desire: The Biology of Sexual Preference. Harrington Park Press, New York,
Downing, Christine. Myths and Mysteries of Same-Sex Love. Continuum Publishing Company. New York, 1989.
Duberman, Martin. Left Out. South End Press. Cambridge, MA, 2002.
Duggan, Lisa & Nan D. Hunter. Sex Wars Sexual Dissent and Political Culture. Routledge. New York & London, 1995.
Herdt, Gilbert. Same Sex, Different Cultures. WestviewPress. 1997.
McConaghy, DSc, MD, Nathaniel. Biologic Theories of Sexual Orientation.” Archives of General Psychiatry May. 1994, Volume 51, 431-431.
Mondimore, Francis Mark. A Natural History of Homosexuality. The John Hopkins University Press. Baltimore and London, 1996.
Murphy, Timothy F. Readers Guide to Lesbian and Gay Studies. Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. Chicago & London, 2000.
Seidman, Steven. Embattled Eros. Routledge. New York, 1992.
Terry, Jennifer. An American Obession Science, Medicine, and Homosexuality in Modern Society. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago and London, 1999.
Weeks, Jeffrey. Coming Out Homosexual Politics in Britain, from the Nineteenth Century to the Present. Quartet Books. London, Melbourne, & New York, 1977.