Monday, September 24, 2007
Homosexuality has been a feature of human culture since earliest history (see History section below). Generally, and most famously in ancient Greece, erotic attraction and sexual pleasure between males has been an ingrained, accepted part of the cultural norm. However, particular sexual activities (such as receptive anal sex in some cultures, or oral sex in others) were disapproved of, even as other aspects were admired. In cultures under the sway of Abrahamic religions, the law and the church established sodomy as a transgression against divine law, a "crime against nature" practiced by choice, and subject to severe penalties, including capital punishment - often inflicted by means of fire so as to purify the unholy action. The condemnation of penetrative sex between males, however, predates Christian dogma, as it was frequent in Ancient Greece, whence the theme of "crime against nature," traceable to Plato, originated. In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, a different view began to predominate in medical and psychiatric circles, judging such behavior as indicative of a type of person with a defined and relatively stable sexual orientation. Karl-Maria Kertbeny coined the term homosexual in 1869 in a pamphlet arguing against a Prussian anti-sodomy law. Richard von Krafft-Ebing's 1886 book Psychopathia Sexualis elaborated on the concept. In 1897, British physician Havelock Ellis published similar views in his influential book Sexual Inversion. Although medical texts like these (written partly in Latin to obscure the sexual details) were not widely read by the general public, they did lead to the rise of Magnus Hirschfeld's Scientific Humanitarian Committee, which campaigned from 1897 to 1933 against anti-sodomy laws in Germany, as well as a much more informal, unpublicized movement among British intellectuals and writers, led by such figures as Edward Carpenter and John Addington Symonds. In the course of the twentieth century, homosexuality became a subject of considerable study and debate in Western societies, especially after the modern gay rights movement began in 1969. Viewed by some as a pathology or mental illness to be cured, homosexuality is now more often investigated as part of a larger impetus to understand the biology, psychology, politics, genetics, history and cultural variations of sexual practice and identity. The legal and social status of people who perform homosexual acts or identify as gay or lesbian varies enormously across the world and remains hotly contested in political and religious debate.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.org
More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality
Homosexuality can refer to both attraction or sexual behavior between people of the same sex, or to a sexual orientation. When describing the latter, it refers to enduring sexual and romantic attraction towards those of the same sex, but not necessarily to sexual behavior. Homosexuality is contrasted with heterosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality.
The word homosexualis a Greek and Latin hybrid with homo (often confused with the later Latin meaning of "man", as in homo sapiens) deriving from the Greek word for same, thus connoting sexual acts and affections between members of the same sex, including lesbianism. In the English-speaking world, the term gay had been used within the subculture for decades before becoming popularized by the gay rights movement in the 1970s. In a narrow sense, gay refers to male homosexuality, but it often is used in its broadest sense, especially in media headlines and reports, to refer to homosexuality in general. Lesbian, however, always denotes a homosexual woman.
Etymology and usageThe adjective homosexual describes behavior, relationships, people, etc. The adjectival form literally means "same sex", being a hybrid formed from the Greek prefix homo- ("same"), and the Latin root sex. Many modern style guides recommend against using homosexual as a noun, instead using gay man or lesbian. Similarly, some recommend completely avoiding usage of homosexual as having a negative and discredited clinical history and because the word only refers to one's sexual behavior, and not to romantic feelings. Gay and lesbian are the most common alternatives. The first letters are frequently combined to create the acronym LGBT (sometimes written as GLBT), in which B and T refer to bisexuals and transgender people. The first known appearance of homosexual in print is found in an 1869 German pamphlet by the Austrian-born novelist Karl-Maria Kertbeny, published anonymously. The prevalence of the concept owes much to the work of the German psychiatrist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing and his 1886 work Psychopathia Sexualis. As such, the current use of the term has its roots in the broader 19th century tradition of personality taxonomy. These continue to influence the development of the modern concept of sexual orientation, gaining associations with romantic love and identity in addition to its original, exclusively sexual meaning. Although early writers also used the adjective homosexual to refer to any single-sex context (such as an all-girls' school), today the term is used exclusively in reference to sexual attraction and activity. The term homosocial is now used to describe single-sex contexts that are not specifically sexual. There is also a word referring to same-sex love, homophilia. Other terms include men who have sex with men or MSM (used in the medical community when specifically discussing sexual activity), homoerotic (referring to works of art), heteroflexible (referring to a person who identifies as heterosexual, but occasionally engages in same-sex sexual activities), and metrosexual (referring to a straight man with stereotypically gay tastes in food, fashion, and design). Pejorative terms include queer, faggot, fairy, poof, and homo. Beginning in the 1990s, some of these have been "reclaimed" as positive words by gay men and lesbians, as in the usage of queer studies, queer theory, and even the popular American television program Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. However, as with ethnic slurs and racial slurs, the misuse of these terms can still be highly offensive; the range of acceptable use depends on the context and speaker. Conversely, gay, a word originally embraced by homosexual men and women as a positive, affirmative term (as in gay liberation and gay rights), has come into widespread pejorative use among young people.
Prejudice against gay and lesbian peopleIn many cultures, gay and lesbian people are frequently subject to prejudice and discrimination. Like many other minority groups that are the objects of prejudice, they are also subject to stereotyping. Gay men are seen as effeminate and fashionable, often identified with a lisp or a female-like tone and lilt. They are stereotyped as being promiscuous and unsuccessful in developing enduring romantic relationships, despite research to the contrary. Gay men are also often alleged as having pedophiliac tendencies and more likely to commit child sexual abuse than the heterosexual male population, a view rejected by mainstream psychiatric groups and contradicted by research. Lesbians are seen as butch, and sometimes "man-haters" or radical feminists. Homosexuality has at times been used as a scapegoat by governments facing problems. For example, during the early 14th century, accusations of homosexual behavior were instrumental in disbanding the Knights Templar under Philip IV of France, who profited greatly from confiscating the Templars' wealth. In the 20th century, Nazi Germany's persecution of homosexual people was based on the proposition that they posed a threat to "normal" masculinity as well as a risk of contamination to the "Aryan race". In the 1950s, at the height of the red scare in the United States, hundreds of federal and state employees were fired because of their homosexuality in the so-called lavender scare. (Ironically, politicians opposed to the scare tactics of McCarthyism tried to discredit Senator Joseph McCarthy by hinting during a televised Congressional committee meeting that McCarthy's top aide, Roy Cohn, was homosexual, as he in fact was.) A recent instance of scapegoating is the burning of 6,000 books of homoerotic poetry of 8th c. Persian-Arab poet Abu Nuwas by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture in January 2001, to placate Islamic fundamentalists.
Sexual orientation and the lawIn some cultures homosexuality is still considered "unnatural" and is outlawed. In some Muslim nations (such as Iran) and African countries it remains a capital crime. In a highly publicized case, two male teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, were hanged in Iran in 2005 reportedly because they had been caught having sex with each other. Employment discrimination refers to discriminatory employment practices such as bias in hiring, promotion, job assignment, termination, and compensation, and various types of harassment. In the United States there is "very little statutory, common law, and case law establishing employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation as a legal wrong." Some exceptions and alternative legal strategies are available. President Bill Clinton's Executive Order 13087 (1998) prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in the competitive service of the federal civilian workforce, and federal non-civil service employees may have recourse under the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution. Private sector workers may have a Title VII action under a quid pro quo sexual harassment theory, a "hostile work environment" theory, a sexual stereotyping theory, or others. Housing discrimination refers to discrimination against potential or current tenants by landlords. In the United States, there is no federal law against such discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but at least thirteen states and many major cities have enacted laws prohibiting it. A sodomy law is a law that defines certain sexual acts as sex crimes. The precise sexual acts meant by the term sodomy are rarely spelled out in the law, but is typically understood by courts to include any sexual act which does not lead to procreation. Furthermore, Sodomy has many synonyms: buggery, crime against nature, unnatural act, deviant sexual intercourse. It also has a range of similar euphemisms. While in theory this may include heterosexual oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, and bestiality, in practice such laws are primarily enforced against sex between men (particularly anal sex). In the United States, 47 out of 50 states had repealed any specifically anti-homosexual-conduct laws when the Supreme Court invalidated all sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas. Hate crimes (also known as bias crimes) are crimes motivated by bias against an identifiable social group, usually groups defined by race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, or political affiliation. In the United States, 45 states and the District of Columbia have statutes criminalizing various types of bias-motivated violence or intimidation (the exceptions are AZ, GA, IN, SC, and WY). Each of these statutes covers bias on the basis of race, religion, and ethnicity; 32 of them cover sexual orientation, 28 cover gender, and 11 cover transgender/gender-identity.
Violence against gay and lesbian peopleIn the United States, the FBI reported that 15.6% of hate crimes reported to police in 2004 were based on perceived sexual orientation. 61% of these attacks were against gay men. The 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student, is the most famous incident in the United States. Homosexual acts are punishable by death in some present-day countries including Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Coming outMany people who feel attracted to members of their own sex have a so-called "coming out" at some point in their lives. Generally, coming out is described in three phases. The first phase is the phase of "knowing oneself," and the realization or decision emerges that one is open to same-sex relations. This is often described as an internal coming out. The second phase involves one's decision to come out to others, e.g. family, friends, and/or colleagues. This occurs with many people as early as age 11, but others do not clarify their sexual orientation until age 40 or older. The third phase more generally involves living openly as an LGBT person. In the United States today, people often come out during high school or college age. At this age, they may not trust or ask for help from others, especially when their orientation is not accepted in society. Sometimes their own parents are not even informed. Outing is the practice of publicly revealing the sexual orientation of a closeted person. Notable politicians, celebrities, military service people, and clergy members have been outed, with motives ranging from malice to political or moral beliefs. Many commentators oppose the practice altogether, while some encourage outing public figures who use their positions of influence to harm other gay people.
Mental health issuesHomosexuality is no longer regarded as a mental illness by the scientific community. In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality as a disorder from the Sexual Deviancy section of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-II. The World Health Organization's ICD-9 (1977) listed homosexuality as a mental illness, and in 1990, a resolution was adopted to remove it in the ICD-10 (1993). The ICD-10 added ego-dystonic sexual orientation to the list, which refers to people who want to change their gender identities or sexual orientation because of a psychological or behavioral disorder (F66.1). Some organizations, including the United States Department of Defense and those who believe in reparative therapy, do not accept the mainstream medical position.
Sexual practicesLesbian possibilities include tribadism, mutual masturbation, cunnilingus, and the use of sex toys for vaginal or oral penetration or clitoral stimulation. Gay men can engage in mutual masturbation, intercrural sex, oral sex and anal sex. As with any sexual relationship, people may begin with various forms of foreplay such as fondling, caressing, and kissing, and may eventually progress from there.
Theories on homosexualityThe American Academy of Pediatrics has stated, "Sexual orientation probably is not determined by any one factor but by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences." The American Psychological Association has stated that "there are probably many reasons for a person's sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people". However, it states that for most people, sexual orientation is determined at an early age. The degree to which sexual orientation is determined by genetic or other prenatal factors plays a role in political and social debates about homosexuality, and also raises fears about genetic profiling and prenatal testing.
Biological explanationsIn 1993, Dean Hamer found the genetic marker Xq28 on the X chromosome. Hamer's study found a link between the Xq28 marker and male homosexuality, but the original study's results have been disputed. Several mutations have been identified in flies, such as changes in the fruitless gene, cause male flies to court and attempt to mate with other males; however, when a modified male fruit fly is isolated with only female fruit flies, then he will attempt to mate with them. Twin studies give indications that male homosexuality is genetically mediated. One common type of twin study compares the monozygotic (or identical) twins of people possessing a particular trait to the dizygotic (non-identical, or fraternal) twins of people possessing the trait. Bailey and Pillard (1991) in a study of gay twins found that 52% of monozygotic brothers and 22% of the dizygotic twins were concordant for homosexuality. Bailey, Dunne and Martin (2000) used the Australian twin registry to obtain a sample of 4,901 twins.
Prenatal hormonal theory
In experimental animals it’s been well established that the sexual differentiation of the body and brain results primarily from the influence of sex hormones secreted by the testes or ovaries (Arnold 2002). Males have high levels of testosterone in fetal life (after functional development of the testes) and around the time of birth, as well as at and after puberty. Females have low levels of all sex hormones in fetal life, and high levels of estrogens and progestagens starting at puberty. High prenatal testosterone levels organize the brain in a male-specific fashion; low levels testosterone permits it to organize in a female-specific fashion. Hormones at puberty activate the circuits laid down in prenatal life but do not fundamentally change them. Thus, the range of sexual behaviors that adult animals can show is determined in large part by their prenatal/perinatal hormone exposure—manipulating these hormone levels can lead to atypical sex behavior or preference for same-sex sex partners as well as a range of other gender-atypical characteristics.
Physiological differences in gay men and lesbiansRecent studies have found notable differences between the physiology of gay people and straight people. There is evidence that: The average size of the INAH-3 in the brains of gay men is approximately the same size as INAH 3 in women, which is significantly smaller, and the cells more densely packed, than in heterosexual men's brains. The anterior commissure is larger in women than men, and larger in gay men than in straight men. Gay men's brains respond differently to fluoxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. The functioning of the inner ear and the central auditory system in lesbians and bisexual women are more like the functional properties found in men than in straight women (the researchers argued this finding was consistent with the prenatal hormonal theory of sexual orientation. The startle response (eyeblink following a loud sound) is similarly masculinized in lesbians and bisexual women. Three regions of the brain (medial prefrontal cortex, left hippocampus, and right amygdala) are more active in gay men than straight men when exposed to sexually arousing material. Gay and straight people emit different armpit odors. Gay and straight people's brains respond differently to two human sex pheromones (AND, found in male armpit secretions, and EST, found in female urine). Gay men have, on an average, slightly longer and thicker penises than straight men. Finger length ratios between the index and ring fingers may be different between straight and lesbian women.
Cognitive differences in gay men and lesbiansLikewise, recent studies have found notable differences between the cognitive features of gay people and straight people. There is evidence that: Gay men and lesbians are significantly more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous than straight men and women; Simon LeVay argues that because "[h]and preference is observable before birth.. [t]he observation of increased non-right-handness in gay people is therefore consistent with the idea that sexual orientation is influenced by prenatal processes." Gay men and lesbians are more verbally fluent than heterosexuals of the same gender (but two studies did not find this result).Gay men are better than straight men at object location memory (no difference was found between lesbians and straight women).
Fraternal birth orderThere is evidence from numerous studies that gay men tend to have more older brothers than do straight men. One reported that each older brother increases the odds of being gay by 33%. To explain this finding, it has been proposed that male fetuses provoke a maternal immune reaction that becomes stronger with each successive male fetus. Male fetuses produce H-Y antigens which are "almost certainly" involved in the sexual differentiation of vertebrates. It is this antigen which maternal H-Y antibodies are proposed to both react to and 'remember.' Successive male fetuses are then attacked by H-Y antibodies which somehow decrease the ability of H-Y antigens to perform their usual function in brain masculinization. This is now known as the fraternal birth order effect. There is a link to homosexuality only if the older brothers were biologically related and even when they were not raised together. Interestingly, this relation seems to hold only for right-handed males. There has been no observed equivalent for women.
EnvironmentThere is some evidence that gay men report having had less loving and more rejecting fathers, and closer relationships with their mothers, than straight men. Whether this phenomenon is a cause of homosexuality, or whether parents behave this way in response to gender-variant traits in a child, is unclear. One researcher's Exotic Becomes Erotic theory theorizes that some children will prefer activities that are typical of the other sex and that this will make a gender-conforming child feel different from opposite-sex children, while gender-nonconforming children will feel different from children of their own sex, which may evoke physiological arousal when the child is near members of the sex which it considers as being "different", which will later be transformed into sexual arousal.
Malleability of homosexualityIn 1985, Fritz Klein argued that sexual orientation may change over time and is composed of various elements, both sexual and non-sexual. A psychologist from the University of Utah measured changes in sexual attractions among white, highly educated lesbians and bisexual women over a two-year period and found that changes in sexual attraction were generally small (more so in lesbians), but that their self-identification of their sexualities and their sexual behavior were more variable. The American Psychological Association (APA) states that homosexuality "is not changeable", and that attempts at eliminating same-sex attractions are not effective and are potentially harmful. More generally, the APA states, "psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed", and in 2001 United States Surgeon General David Satcher issued a report maintaining that "there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed".
Homosexual behavior in animalsHomosexual sexual behavior occurs in the animal kingdom, especially in social species, particularly in marine birds and mammals, monkeys, and the great apes. Homosexual behavior has been observed among 1,500 species, and in 500 of those it is well documented. For example, male penguin couples have been documented to mate for life, build nests together, and to use a stone as a surrogate egg in nesting and brooding. In a well-publicized story from 2004, the Central Park Zoo in the United States replaced one male couple's stone with a fertile egg, which the couple then raised as their own offspring. The genetic basis of animal homosexuality has been studied in the fly Drosophila melanogaster. Here, multiple genes have been identified that can cause homosexual courtship and mating. These genes are thought to control behavior through pheromones as well as altering the structure of the animal's brains. These studies have also investigated the influence of environment on the likelihood of flies displaying homosexual behavior. Georgetown University professor Janet Mann has specifically theorized that homosexual behavior, at least in dolphins, is an evolutionary advantage that minimizes intraspecies aggression, especially among males. Studies indicating prenatal homosexuality in certain animal species have had social and political implications surrounding the gay rights debate.