Definition - Approach - Acceptance
Anastasios D. Kalantzis, Surgeon Urologist-Andrologist
As homosexuality is defined the sexual attraction or/and sexual intercourse between people of the same sex. The term homosexuality is newer, a scholar translation loan. It was established through the translation of the German word Homosexualität. The German term was created by the Austrian neurologist-psychiatrist vonKrafft-Ebing, who systematically studied sexual deviations.
In the 20th century, homosexuality became the object of remarkable studies and debates in the western societies, especially after the movement for the rights of the homosexuals that began in 1969.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Society did not include homosexuality in the third edition of the diagnostic and statistic manual of psychological disorders (DSM-III) and in 1980 it stopped being referred to in the diagnostic statistic manual of the USA, while also in the following versions the word does not exist. Also the term "ego-dystonic homosexuality", which rather created problems than provided solutions in the clinical application, ceased to exist. In essence, homosexuality does not constitute a psychiatric disorder and does not come under the criteria of a psychiatric disorder which needs therapy and psychiatric observation.
Homosexuality has always been and still is viewed by many people as a negative thing. Many religions consider it and address it as a sin and is stigmatized as an unwanted phenomenon. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are against homosexuality, based on their holy documents. The main reason for the negative attitude towards homosexuality is the violation of the established scheme in which the male mates with the female. For this reason it has been characterized as "unnatural attraction", meaning that nature has created the two sexes bearing differences, aiming to one being sexually attracted by the other.
Furthermore, according to recent research, more than 450 animal species present homosexual behavior. In every part of the planet, animals of every kind send sexual calls to animals of the same sex. The National Geographic combines research with material which has never been presented again in this unknown field in order to make a fascinating and innovative documentary. It examines this behavior and sets questions regarding its causes. A first attempt to explain such a behavior is that some animals, and this concerns homosexuality among male animals, tend to seek mates of the same sex in order to achieve better protection and survival chances. But even this is still just a possible and/or partial explanation, not a final or definite conclusion.
It should be advisable, however, that the scientists and any other parties involved in such studies be very careful, as they are using such examples derived from the animal kingdom, in order to study, justify and prove which behaviors and cases are acceptable in the human society. However, even infanticide is observed in the world of animals, but could it ever be accepted in our society?
Some of us may consider this example extreme and exaggerated, but also the comparison of the animal society with that of humans is just as unlucky.
Among the first who spoke about homosexuality was the father of psychodynamic theory, Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that homosexuality is not inherent or inborn, but acquired, the result of certain psychological activities that take place during childhood. More specifically, according to his theory, the determining factor that makes someone a homosexual is the "phase of a very powerful but brief possible association of the child with a woman". Another determining factor is the intense paternal absence which, according to Freud, "is likely to lead to the same psychological imprint / identification".
Naturally, Freud referred mainly to male homosexuality, leaving the explanation of female homosexuality to his general theory (which of course is considered as highly phallocratic, and for this reason some meta-Freudian researchers tried to change it).
Therefore, according to the father of Psychoanalysis, a homosexual relationship is not merely a sexual intercourse between two men with which they just satisfy their sexual drives. It is something more, as it involves a deeper emotional and psychological connection of the two people, in the same way as in heterosexual relationships.
Homosexuality is solidified as a firm choice usually after the end of adolescence.
Regarding the question whether homosexuality is an inherent tendency or an acquired behavior, various studies suggest a possible genetic basis for the homosexual behavior.
Studies on homosexuality present difficulty in characterizing people as homosexuals. It is advisable that researchers decide whether they shall depend on the frequency of homosexual behavior, the starting age or the presence of homosexual fantasies. The problem becomes even more difficult because many people are not willing to recognize or accept their sexual orientation.
The research in the biological basis of homosexuality has focused on four areas:
- Structural cerebral measurements
- Genetic data
- Family tendencies
- Anatomic similarities
In a brain study, LeVay & Hamer referred, in 1994, that a part within the human brain constitutes a biological fact for male homosexuality.
They studied a part of the hypothalamus of the brain in autopsy specimens from 19 homosexual and 16 heterosexual men and 6 women of unknown sexual orientation. The researchers found that the area studied was twice in size in heterosexual men than in women, and twice or three times larger in the heterosexual men than in the homosexuals. Of course, it was claimed that the research might have been problematic, as all people had died of AIDS and the differences in the brain may have resulted by hormonal anomalies connected with AIDS, since some of the symptoms of AIDS are neurological alterations or disorders.
Other research findings suggest that an area of X chromosome may play some rose in the determination of the male sexual orientation (Hamer, Hu, Magnuson, HU & Pattatucci, 1993, Hu, Pattatucci & Hamer 1995, LeVay & Hamer, 1994). The researchers reported that 33 of the 40 chromosome pairs of homosexual brothers had the same q28 indexes in X chromosomes. This research was criticized of covering only a small sample of homosexual men, without tests performed on their heterosexual siblings. Cherny, however, presented a study which not only confirmed the findings using a new sample of 33 homosexual pairs, but also found that Xq28 index did not exist in their heterosexual brothers. (Holden, 1995).
These findings created the hypothesis that maternal influence was very important in homosexuality, as a possible genetic carrier of a gene related to homosexuality.
The studies conducted on twins and their families were based on the principle that genetic characteristics run in the family.
Bailey και Bell (1993) examined a large group of homosexual and heterosexual males, including homozygous and heterozygous twins, non-twin siblings and adopted siblings.
The results showed that in 52% of homozygous twins both brothers were homosexuals, as opposed to 24% of heterozygous twins. Given the fact that homozygous twins share 100% of genes and heterozygous twins approximately 50%, these results suggest a biological basis for homosexuality. Additionally, it was found that among the non-twin brothers (who also share approximately 50% of their genes), only 9% were both homosexuals. Also, among the adopted brothers, who do not share any genes, both siblings were homosexuals in 11% of the cases.
According to researchers, the results show that homosexuality concerns a greater percentage of people than the usual 1-5% referred in the statistics, and environment is considered to play an active role in sexual preferences. Consequently, overall results show that, while genetics is possible to play its role in homosexuality, environmental factors contribute equally, and possibly in a higher degree, in sexual orientation. (Byne 1994, Haynes 1995).
There are many references on homosexuality in Ancient Greece, which makes many researchers believe it was a given fact. In Ancient Athens it is considered a part of "paedagogical love", in which the teacher's interest in the student wasn't strictly spiritual or intellectual. In Sparta and the Doric societies it was believed to constitute a part of the life of soldiers and an integral and inseparable part of community life.
However, homosexuality in Ancient Greece was not "free", but codified according to strict rules. Not only did they exclude intercourse between slaves and free people, but they also rejected passive pleasure and prostitution, as well as anything that was based solely on pleasure, deprived of any paedagogical purpose.
These limitations were written in the framework of urban laws, did not dispute the "natural" character of homosexuality, but they expressed the intentions to set boundaries in the spreading of an instinct which was considered "dangerously natural" and should be under strict control, for the common interest.
Ancient Greeks never sought "causes" for homosexuality, nor did they make any effort to explain it. They considered the attraction a human being experiences in the view of another person's beauty, regardless of sex, was absolutely natural
Aristophanes characterizes homosexuality as a "natural necessity", placing it next to heterosexual desire, the desire to eat, drink, laugh. (Nephelai, 1075).
The moralist Plutarch mentions that "the noble lover of beauty feels eros for every creature that is exceptional and with wonderful natural gifts, without being restricted by any difference of gender."(Eroticus).
Xenophon has the tyrant Hiero say "my love for Dailakhos may be connected with what human nature perhaps compels us to want from the beautiful, but my deepest burning desire is to owe the object of my desires but to his love for me and his own free will." (Hiero, Ι, 33).
Euripides doesn't find a better way to justify Laius who kidnapped young Chryssippus, than by saying "I took everything into account, but nature compelled me to do it" (Abstract, 840).
In Homer's works, the references on the friendship between Achilles and Patroclus, and especially the former's "mourning" for his companion's loss, make many believe that they were lovers.
The philosopher Aristotle resorts to human nature in order to make a free from any moral judgment reasoning about homosexuality: "When nature is the cause, nobody would call these people immoral, no more than they would call women immoral on the grounds that they have a passive rather than an active role in sexual coitus". (Nicomachean Ethics, 7, 5, 3).
On the other hand, Plato contradicts, confutes and recalls his views. In his entire work "Symposium", he presents sexual desire as almost completely homosexual and refers to the infamous apology of man's love for man. If men naturally attracted by people of the same sex end up marrying women, this happens accidentally, by mistake and under the pressure of their environment.
They take wives and have children because "they are forced by habit, without being led to it by nature". In his "Laws", however, Plato condemns homosexyality in the name of nature. A good legislation, he suggests, should ban such types of relationships. What he mostly reprehends in homosexuality is rather the unjustified aspect of pleasure, lechery in pleasure (Ι, 636), the boisterous quest for pleasure, than man's love for man itself.
Socrates appears rather cautious, mostly worried about the establishment of a connection between homosexuality and the quest for wisdom, the moral exaltation and the pursuit for good, thus revealing his will to tame the irrational element of eroticism.
Drawing from historical books on the manners of the ancients, Michel Foucault, in his book "L 'usage de plaisir" (Chapter IV, 1), makes the conclusion that the demarcating, moral line in Greece, did not pass between homosexuals and heterosexuals, but between the self-contained and the promiscuous. Not being able to resist boys was no more serious than to give in to the charms of a woman and only the lack of self-control drew disapproval. Conversely, in order to praise a man's self continence, they focused on his ability for abstinence from both boys and women.
In conclusion, the sexual quest and more specifically the attraction to the same sax, from the works of Plato, Homer, Aristotle etc. to the modern queer theory, shows and raises enormous social and philosophical interest.
In a few words, queer theory (movement) started as a pejorative word for homosexuals around the world. When it first emerged, at the beginning of the 20th century it was used to mean anything strange, different etc. For the larger part of 20th century its concept remained negative mostly aiming at the effeminate and womanish gay males etc., until it was gradually adopted by homosexuals themselves, this time deprived of its pejorative connotations, in order to define a specific way of life and expression, as well as a field of scientific research.
Queer theory has its roots in Foucault's meta-constructionism and the French psychoanalysis school, and made its appearance at the beginning of the '90s in the field of Gender Studies, the feminist theory and the gay and lesbian movement.
A major question raised by the queer theory is to what extend homosexuality, heterosexuality and biosexuality are social products or are merely based on biological structures and needs.
The homosexuals have always shared the history of a repressed and scorned minority with particular ideological views, specific culture (regardless of their race and social class), and with specific pursuits in a political and social level.
As pointed out by Judith Butler, perhaps the most famous theoretician of the queer movement in her "Gendertrouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity" (1990), homosexuality is not a specific identity which leads to a model of action, but a socially predetermined model of action which gives the impression that it derives from a specific identity, A tool of political speech and action against dominance, "a starting point in a strategic conjuncture".
As noted by the anthropologist Costas Giannakopoulos in the preface of the collective volume "Sexuality – Theories and Policies of Anthropology", "those males/females identified as queer do not have as point of reference a common sexual nature or essence, but a stand of diversification, resistance to the hierarchical dichotomous scheme of heterosexuality/homosexuality and, in general to the hegemonic ideologies of gender and sexuality".
Homosexual activity in adolescence is observed more frequently than in adult life and this applies to both boys and girls. It characterizes the teenage restlessness and experimentation together with the awakening of senses and the development of the physical ability for sexual action. In adult life, only a very small percentage of these adolescents finally become homosexuals.
Also other theories claim that the early sexual experiences (pleasant or traumatic) affect the sexual identification of a person. For example, a girl who was raped in a young age by a man, is likely to not be attracted by men in her adult life, and for that she may become a lesbian, while a boy who was molested by a man and found satisfaction in this experience may become a homosexual in his adult life. These theories, however, fail to explain why people whose early sexual experiences are heterosexual, become homosexuals instead.
For many parents it is difficult to accept their child's homosexuality. However, punishing your child or trying to force him or her to the opposite direction is pointless, as, according to the specialists, there will be no result, and the only thing you will achieve is to damage your relationship and it is possible that you will contribute in your child adopting extreme behaviors as an adult.
You may have feelings of deep sorrow for what was revealed to you, like you have just experienced a loss, and this is absolutely normal. In your minds you had specific dreams for your child and the news you just heard undermined those dreams. His or her life will be different from what you imagined, but this does not mean that it won't be meaningful and happy.
It may be difficult for you to believe that (given all the negative connotations that homosexuality brings to mind), but experience has shown that the homosexuals who accept their identity lead far happier lives than those who try to repress it. On the contrary, people who try to "kill their feelings" experience, in much higher frequency, depression, anxiety, substances abuse and suicidal ideation.
If you are wondering why your child has chosen to be a homosexual and, at the same time doubt yourselves as parents and question the way you raised him or her, maybe you are making the wrong question. Try to consider: Why would someone choose to be something that bears such a negative stigma and knows that they possibly create problems and cause shame to their family? Why would they choose something that may cost rejection from their loved ones, as well as social rejection? Why would they choose a sexual identity which they first have difficulty in accepting themselves? Therefore, it may not be their choice, the same way that it is not a heterosexual's choice to be heterosexual.
The process of accepting this new reality is difficult, because it bears feelings such as shock, disappointment because things are not and will be not as you have imagined them, as well as worry about your child's future. But if you had been able to trust your child and recognize his or her talents and graces until yesterday, remember that it is still the same person standing in front of you.
The major problem is that ignorance, promiscuity and lack of control, not using prophylactic measures and "sacrificing everything in the alter of pleasure" has had negative effects on our own life.
The first cases of HIV/AIDS were reported in 1981 in young homosexual males. The disease became rapidly pandemic, and continues to spread worldwide, with very high percentages in developing countries and constitutes one of the main causes of death in young people. Within the years 2001-2005 there was 11% increase in της μόλυνσης HIV/AIDS infections in homosexual men. The active examination of population for STDs is still falling short internationally, although its value and importance have been recognized. Furthermore, many researches have confirmed that homosexuals far more frequently present depression, generalized anxiety disorder, conduct disorder, substances abuse and alcoholism.
Abstinence from sex and monogamous relationships cannot be the solution or preventive measure for STDs. It is impossible unattainable and utopian.
It is important that the teenager learn how his sexual life can affect the lives of others. It would be good for them to realize that part of their inclusion in the society, there are rules and limitations that apply to their sexual behavior, and they should accept them so as not to jeopardize their own self and their loved ones, and to have a good quality of life, no matter what their choice (sexual identity) is.
Besides, as Aphrodite Politi writes in her article in Epsilon magazine: "Gay, straight or lesbians, we'll never get a pension! How queer is that!"
In the 21st century, it sad that we reach such extremities for a matter so sensitive and crucial, extremities that do not assist in seeking solutions. It is unacceptable, unethical and anti-deontological that political and economic pressures and interventions placing other ends and goals over medical sciences, thus leading it be harmful than helpful and beneficial.
"Every doctor, when exercising the medical profession, enjoys scientific freedom and freedom of his/her conscience" and "acts if full freedom in the frame of the generally accepted rules and methods of the medical science, as these are formed based on the results of modern scientific research".
Greek Code of Medical Ethics