The term ”Sexual orientation” means to develop physical, romantic, emotional and sexual relationships with people.¹
A person is said to be gay or lesbian if they are sexually or romantically attracted to members of the same gender or sex. ¹
The term bi-sexual means a person is attracted to men and women.
Note: Being gay is not a mental disorder.
Is there a difference between sexual orientation and sexual behaviour?
- Sexual orientation is defined as who you are attracted to physically and/or romantically.
- Sexual behaviour is what we do sexually, both with ourselves and others.
- Note that sexual orientation is different from sexual behaviour because it refers to feelings and self-concept.
“The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.”
– Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948)
Sexual orientation lies along a continuum that ranges from an exclusively gay or lesbian orientation to an exclusively heterosexual orientation and includes various forms of bisexuality.
The core attractions that form the basis for adult sexual orientation emerge between middle childhood and early adolescence. These patterns of emotional, romantic, and sexual interest may arise without any prior sexual experience. People can be celibate and still know their sexual orientation – be lesbian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual.
Some people know that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual for a long time before pursuing relationships with other people. Some people engage in sexual activity (with same-sex or other-sex 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.
Note that gay or lesbian individuals are not sexually attracted to all members of the same gender any more than heterosexuals are sexually attracted to every person of the opposite sex.
There are many reasons, but colonial laws, religious morality, and the idea that homosexuality is imported by the West are among the most influential.²
Any therapy or effort to change sexual orientation from ‘gay’ to ‘straight’ is neither safe nor 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 gay feelings in oneself.
Hetero-sexism is a form of oppression (like other forms of oppression – racism, sexism, antisemitism, classism, ableism, etc.) that target gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.
In his article “When Homosexuality stopped being a mental disorder”, Neel Burton wrote that the DSM-II (the American Classification of mental disorders) was published for the first time in 1968. It then listed ”homosexuality” as a mental disorder. He said the DSM followed 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.
Burton states that 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 entirely 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 illness 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.
Source: Neel Burton M.D. Hide and Seek. When Homosexuality Stopped Being a Mental Disorder, Posted Sep 18, 2015
Discrimination against gay people
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people, encounter extensive prejudice, discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation. They are not legal entities in many countries. They are not allowed to get married or adopt children. They are excluded from specific employment sectors and housing allowances.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is another area where prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people have had adverse effects. Early in the pandemic, the assumption that HIV/AIDS was a “gay disease” 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 stigmatise lesbian, gay and bisexual people further.
Corrective rape is a hate crime in which people are raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity – an attempt to ‘cure’ them of being gay. The occurrence of corrective rape is about equality among gay men and women. A young man was, for example, raped by his mother in an attempt to ‘cure’ him of being gay. In almost all cases, the culprits are family members themselves, and this is why the victims mostly refrain from any legal recourse. It is very traumatising for them to speak about their brothers or cousins turning rapists.
*Marchant, van der Schyff, wrote in his report” An issue of social and political salience: a content analysis of how South African newspapers report on ‘corrective rape’ that ‘Corrective rape’, also known as ‘curative rape’, is distinctive amongst other categories of rape, as it refers principally to sexual assault on Lesbians that intends to humiliate and punish the victim. The rapist believes that they can “cure” a lesbian by raping them (Bryson, 2011). In South Africa, men who rape Lesbians seem to do so because of a desire to preserve community values – wherein Lesbianism is unnatural (Rape, 2012). For these men, Lesbians, or rather Lesbianism, threatens the notion that a woman belongs to a man because Lesbians do not exhibit or espouse subservience to males or their acts of domination. It is a perpetual feature of the patriarchy in South Africa and gives rise to anger feelings (often expressed through verbal abuse and physical acts of violence). Due to their economic, social and cultural discrimination, lesbian is one of the highest at-risk groups for violence (Kinama, 2011).
*Marchant also states that according to Triangle, a non-profit organisation based in Cape Town, support groups dealt with ten new ‘corrective rape’ cases every week. The number is increasing (Martin, Kelly, Turquet & Ross, 2009). Non-Profit Organisation, Luleki Sizwe, confirms this figure, adding that between 2010 – 2013, nine cases of gender-based murders were recorded (Beaty, 2013). It is difficult to determine exact figures of ‘corrective rape’ because the South African police do not specifically record these cases, nor does the issue receive active media coverage. Consequentially, victims of ‘corrective rape’ seldom seek assistance for fear of further violence towards themselves and their families
*Source: Marchant van der Schyff. An issue of social and political salience: a content analysis of how South African newspapers report ‘corrective rape’. 2018. (MSocSci: Media and Culture [UKZN]) He is a lecturer in Humanities, IIE at Varsity College Westville.
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 decide 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 optimistic 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. Discussing one’s sexual orientation with others also increases the availability of social support, which is crucial to mental health and psychological well-being. Heterosexuals, lesbians, gay men and bisexual people benefit from sharing their lives with and receiving 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 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 other 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, workplaces and faith communities. Supportive families, friends and schools are necessary 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 69 countries with criminal laws against sexual activity by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people (LGBTIs), but that’s an understatement.
Governments can impose the death penalty for same-sex intimacy in eight of them.
Can lesbians and gay men be good parents? ²
Myth: Children raised by gay couples will have trouble with their sexual orientation.
Truth: Research has shown that sexual and gender identities (including gender identity, gender-role behaviour and sexual orientation) develop in much the same way among children of lesbian mothers as they do among heterosexual parents. Few studies are available on gay fathers.
Myth: Children raised by gay couples can have problems in other areas than sexual identities, like being emotionally and psychologically more vulnerable.
Truth: Studies of personality, self-concept and behaviour problems show few differences between children of lesbian mothers and heterosexual parents. Few studies are available regarding children of gay fathers.
Myth: Children of gay parents are more likely to have problems with social relationships because of teasing or mistreatment.
Truth: Evidence indicates 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.
Myths: Children from gay couples are more likely to be sexually abused by a parent or by a parent’s friends or acquaintances.
Truth: 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.
Conclusion: Concerns are generally grounded in prejudice against and stereotypes about gay people, and they are unfounded because 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.
References & resources
² Answers to Your Questions. https://www.apa.org/topics/lgbtq/orientation.pdf
Main image by: Frieke Reither Pixabay