A person is said to be homosexual if he or she is sexually or romantically attracted to members of the same gender, or sex.
The core attractions that form the basis for adult sexual orientation typically emerge between middle childhood and early adolescence. These patterns of emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction may arise without any prior sexual experience. People can be celibate and still know their sexual orientation–be it lesbian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual.
Some people know that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual for a long time before they actually pursue relationships with other people. Some people engage in sexual activity (with same-sex and/or othersex partners) before assigning a clear label to their sexual orientation. Prejudice and discrimination make it difficult for many people to come to terms with their sexual orientation identities, so claiming a lesbian, gay or bisexual identity may be a slow process.
This doesn’t mean that homosexuals are sexually attracted to all members of the same gender any more than heterosexuals are sexually attracted to every person of the opposite sex. Typically, the words “gay” and “lesbian” are used to refer to homosexual men and women respectively. The term “bisexual” refers to people who are attracted to both men and women. People can be celibate and still know their sexual orientation-–be it lesbian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual.
Most people experience no sense of choice about their sexual orientation. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder – both heterosexuality and homosexuality are normal aspects of human sexual behaviour. Any therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation from ‘gay’ to ‘straight’ is neither safe or effective.
‘Coming out” means sharing your sexual orientation with one or more people.
Homophobia is the irrational fear, disgust, or hatred of gays, lesbians, or bisexuals or of the homosexual feelings in oneself.
Heterosexism is a form of oppression (like other forms of oppression – racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, classism, ableism, etc.) that targets gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.
The DSM-II (the American classification of mental disorders) was published for the first time in 1968, and it listed homosexuality as a mental disorder.
In this, the DSM followed in a long tradition in medicine and psychiatry, which in the 19th century appropriated homosexuality from the Church and, in an élan of enlightenment, transformed it from sin to mental disorder.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) asked all members attending its convention to vote on whether they believed homosexuality to be a mental disorder. 5,854 psychiatrists voted to remove homosexuality from the DSM, and 3,810 to retain it.
The APA then compromised, removing homosexuality from the DSM but replacing it, in effect, with “sexual orientation disturbance” for people “in conflict with” their sexual orientation. Not until 1987 did homosexuality completely fall out of the DSM.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) only removed homosexuality from its ICD classification with the publication of ICD-10 in 1992, although ICD-10 still carries the construct of “ego-dystonic sexual orientation”. In this condition, the person is not in doubt about his or her sexual preference, but “wishes it were different because of associated psychological and behavioural disorders”.
The evolution of the status of homosexuality in the classifications of mental disorders highlights that concepts of mental disorder can be rapidly evolving social constructs that change as society changes.
Today, the standard of psychotherapy in the U.S. and Europe is gay affirmative psychotherapy, which encourages gay people to accept their sexual orientation.
Discrimination against gay people
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people encounter extensive prejudice, discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation. They are not a legal entity in many countries, they are not allowed to get married or adopt children. They are excluded from certain employment sectors and housing allowances.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is another area in which prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people have had negative effects. Early in the pandemic, the assumption that HIV/AIDS was a “gay diseases” contributed to the delay in addressing the massive social upheaval that AIDS would generate. Gay and bisexual men have been disproportionately affected by this disease. The association of HIV/AIDS with gay and bisexual men and the inaccurate belief that some people held that all gay and bisexual men were infected served to further stigmatize lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
The 11th of October is National ”coming out” day.
What is ”coming out”?
The phrase “coming out” is used to refer to several aspects of lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons’ experiences: self-awareness of same-sex attractions; the telling of one or a few people about these attractions; widespread disclosure of same-sex attractions; and identification with the lesbian, gay and bisexual community. Many people hesitate to come out because of the risks of meeting prejudice and discrimination. Some choose to keep their identity a secret; some choose to come out in limited circumstances; some decide to come out in very public ways.
Coming out is often an important psychological step for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Research has shown that feeling positively about one’s sexual orientation and integrating it into one’s life fosters greater well-being and mental health. This integration often involves disclosing one’s identity to others; it may also entail participating in the gay community. Being able to discuss one’s sexual orientation with others also increases the availability of social support, which is crucial to mental health and psychological well-being. Like heterosexuals, lesbians, gay men and bisexual people benefit from being able to share their lives with and receive support from family, friends and acquaintances. Thus, it is not surprising that lesbians and gay men who feel they must conceal their sexual orientation report more frequent mental health concerns than do lesbians and gay men who are more open; they may even have more physical health problems.
The risks and benefits of coming out are different for youths in different circumstances. Some young people live in families where support for their sexual orientation is clear and stable; these youths may encounter less risk in coming out, even at a young age. Young people who live in less supportive families may face more risks in coming out. All young people who come out may experience bias, discrimination, or even violence in their schools, social groups, work places and faith communities. Supportive families, friends and schools are important buffers against the negative impacts of these experiences.
79 countries where homosexuality is illegal
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, or ILGA, lists 75 countries with criminal laws against sexual activity by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people (LGBTIs), but that’s an understatement.
The death penalty can be imposed for same-sex intimacy in eight of them.
Can lesbians and gay men be good parents?
1. Do children of lesbian and gay parents have more problems with sexual identity than do children of heterosexual parents?
For instance, do these children develop problems in gender identity and/or in gender role behavior? The answer from research is clear: sexual and gender identities (including gender identity, gender-role behavior and sexual orientation) develop in much the same way among children of lesbian mothers as they do among children of heterosexual parents. Few studies are available regarding children of gay fathers.
2. Do children raised by lesbian or gay parents have problems in personal development in areas other than sexual identity?
For example, are the children of lesbian or gay parents more vulnerable to mental breakdown, do they have more behavior problems, or are they less psychologically healthy than other children? Again, studies of personality, self-concept, and behavior problems show few differences between children of lesbian mothers and children of heterosexual parents. Few studies are available regarding children of gay fathers.
3. Are children of lesbian and gay parents likely to have problems with social relationships?
For example, will they be teased or otherwise mistreated by their peers? Once more, evidence indicates that children of lesbian and gay parents have normal social relationships with their peers and adults. The picture that emerges from this research shows that children of gay and lesbian parents enjoy a social life that is typical of their age group in terms of involvement with peers, parents, family members and friends.
4. Are these children more likely to be sexually abused by a parent or by a parent’s friends or acquaintances?
There is no scientific support for fears about children of lesbian or gay parents being sexually abused by their parents or their parents’ gay, lesbian or bisexual friends or acquaintances.
In summary, social science has shown that the concerns often raised about children of lesbian and gay parents, concerns that are generally grounded in prejudice against and stereotypes about gay people, are unfounded. Overall, the research indicates that the children of lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from the children of heterosexual parents in their development, adjustment or overall well-being.