I. What is Homosexuality?
On the surface, defining homosexuality may seem simple. We all know what it entails and more than likely, we all know someone who is homosexual. But as you begin to delve into the many layers of this complex disorder, the term becomes much more complicated. Questions begin to arise, such as: Is homosexuality something that describes a person, or does it describe something a person does? Are both men and women homosexual? Are people born homosexual? Is it a sin? These questions have been asked by scientists, ministers, politicians and presidents, many times with completely different answers. Why does homosexuality cause so much emotion and controversy? Because it reaches a part of all of us that is very sacred--our sexuality--and the fact that there seem to be so many theories as to why it exists makes it all the more disturbing. The purpose of this resource is to educate you on the terms, the science, the politics and most importantly, the spiritual issues related to homosexuality.
Understanding the Terms
(Definitions according to Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, www.webster.com)
Homosexual: of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex; of, relating to, or involving sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex.
Bisexuality: sexually oriented toward both sexes
Lesbianism: female homosexuality
Pedophilia: sexual perversion in which children are the preferred sexual objects
Sodomy: Anal intercourse between a man and a woman or a man and a man
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus): Often refers to someone who is infected who does not have clinical AIDS HIV is commonly transmitted in infected blood and bodily secretions (such as semen) especially during illicit intravenous drug use and sexual intercourse.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome): when an HIV+ individual’s T-lymphocytes drop to 20 percent or less, they have AIDS. At this point, the patient becomes highly vulnerable to other infections and cancers that the body’s immune system can usually easily destroy.
"In the human, the term homosexuality generally connotes four behavioral dimensions: sexual fantasy, sexual activity, sense of identity, and social role. The most important dimension in assessing homosexual orientation is erotic fantasy. Such fantasy may be entirely private and may or may not motivate sexual activity with others. Someone may be celibate, for example, but homosexual in orientation." --Richard C. Friedman, MD and Jennifer Downey, MD, Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, Spring 19931
II. What Causes Homosexuality?
Contrary to some claims, there is no credible evidence that proves that homosexuality is genetic (or inheritable). If this is not the case, what are some of the reasons that a person is gay? More specifically, why do young men and women demonstrate what may be deemed as "homosexual traits" at a young age? These traits may include a high sensitivity to people and things in the environment, an artistic personality and a tendency to enjoy activities that are generally more acceptable among those of the opposite sex. Let's look at some of the theories.
1. The Genetic/Biologic Theories
A. CLAIM: There is a causal link between brain structure and sexual preference. In 1991, Simon LeVay, a former Salk Institute researcher, examined the brains in cadavers from over 30 people, 18 of whom were reportedly homosexual. He found the following:
"INAH 3 was more than twice as large in the heterosexual men as in the women. It was also, however, more than twice as large in the heterosexual men as in the homosexual men. This finding indicates that INAH is dimorphic with sexual orientation [i.e. shows a difference in structure between homosexuals and heterosexuals], at least in men, and suggests that sexual orientation has a biological substrate."2
Inconsistencies with LeVay's study include:3
- Six out of ten of the "heterosexual" cadavers had died from AIDS, which is far more common in homosexual men than heterosexual men. "There is the possibility," said LeVay, "that the small size of INAH3 in the homosexual men is the result of AIDS or its complications and is not related to the men's sexual orientation." Brain size of both homosexual and heterosexual men varied, forcing LeVay to admit, "sexual orientation, although an important variable, may not be the sole determinant of INAH 3 size."
- Brain size may have been affected by sexual behavior. Repetitive activity (concert piano player, professional tennis player) can affect areas of the brain making some areas smaller or other areas larger.
- "It is important to stress what I didn't find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn't show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain. INAH 3 is less likely to be the sole gay nucleus of the brain than a part of a chain of nuclei engaged in men and women's sexual behavior…. Since I looked at adult brains, we don't know if the differences I found were there at birth, or if they appeared later."4
B. CLAIM: There is a genetic link, as demonstrated in twins that causes homosexuality. The Archives of General Psychiatry published in 1991 a study by J. Michael Bailey and Richard C. Pillard that postulated the following:
"The pattern of rates of homosexuality by type of relative was generally consistent with substantial genetic influence."5
Inconsistencies of the Bailey and Pillard study include:6
- "Subjects…were recruited through advertisements placed in homosexual-oriented periodicals and, therefore, may not be typical of the homosexual population at large."7
- "Although identical twins have the same genetic code, non-identical twins and regular siblings share the same proportion of genetic material. Therefore, the genetic theories should show a similar amount of homosexual concordance between non-identical twins and regular siblings… There was no way to separate the intermingling of environmental and genetic effects, since all sets of twins in the study had been raised together and presumably subject to most, if not all, of the same environmental effects…If there is something in the genetic code that makes a person homosexual, why did not all of the identical twins become homosexual, since they have the exact same genetic code?"8 Only 50 percent of homosexual twins are homosexual.
C. CLAIM: Homosexuals have a "gay gene". Dean Hamer, a geneticist with the National Cancer Institute, incited a media frenzy in 1993, when he concluded the following:
"We have now produced evidence that one form of male homosexuality is preferentially transmitted through the maternal side and is genetically linked to chromosomal region Xq28…It appears that Xq28 contains a gene that contributes to homosexual orientation in males."9
Inconsistencies with Hamer's study include:10
- "(Dean) Hamer's genetic sequences have been calculated to affect about five percent of the homosexual population, so even if he is correct, there must be some other explanation for what causes the vast majority of homosexuality."11
- No other study has been able to duplicate Hamer's findings. A team of researchers reported in Science in 1999 that, "because our study was larger than that of Hamer et al., we certainly had adequate power to detect a genetic effect as large as was reported in that study. Nonetheless, our data do not support the presence of a gene of large effect influencing sexual orientation at position Xq28."12
2. The Hormone Theory: Hormones in the womb cause a person to be homosexual.
Researchers Byne and Parsons describe it as follows:
"The prenatal hormonal hypothesis of human sexual orientation holds that male heterosexuality and female homosexuality result from prenatal exposure to high levels of testicular hormones, while homosexual males and heterosexual females are exposed to lower levels and thus retain a female pattern of brain organization."13
Inconsistencies with this theory include:
- "If a hormonal imbalance was responsible for homosexuality, then perhaps a simple dose of hormones to an adult would cure homosexuality. This is not the case, as has been demonstrated several times."14
- "If the prenatal hormonal hypothesis is correct, then one might expect to find homosexuality in a large proportion of males with syndromes involving prenatal androgen deficiency or insensitivity, and also in females with syndromes involving androgen excess. However, extensive reviews of the literature suggest that this is not the case…Currently, data pertaining to possible neurochemical differences between homosexual and heterosexual individuals are lacking."15
3. The Developmental Theories: Homosexuality is caused by instances from early childhood. Many studies from the last century have asserted that parental influence can make a difference in the sexuality of children.
"Freud (1916) described the mothers of homosexuals as excessively loving and their fathers as retiring or absent. Stekel (1930) noted strong, dominant mothers and weak fathers. In 1936, Terman and Miles found the mothers of homosexuals to be especially demonstrative, affectionate, and emotional, while the fathers were typically unsympathetic, autocratic, or frequently away from home."16
"The 'classical' homosexual triangular pattern is one where the mother is CBI [close-binding-intimate] with the son and is dominant and minimizing toward a husband who is a detached father, particularly a hostile-detached one. From our statistical analysis, the chances appear to be high that any son exposed to this parental combination will become homosexual or develop severe homosexual problems."17
Other researchers have confirmed this theory:
- "The results strongly suggested poor parental relationships during childhood for the homosexual men, at least in retrospect."18
- "The homosexuals, in contrast to the heterosexuals, reported their fathers to be more rejecting and less loving. The homosexuals also described their mothers as less rejecting and more loving…the homosexuals indicated less closeness to their fathers than the heterosexuals."19
- Byne and Parson, 30 years later, confirmed the research on parental influence, when they said, "The literature suggests that many, perhaps a majority, of homosexual men report family constellations similar to those suggested by Bieber et al. to be causally associated with the development of homosexuality (e.g., overly involved, anxiously over-controlling mothers, poor father-son relationship). This association has been observed in nonclinical as well as clinical samples."20
4. The Child Abuse Theory: Children who are homosexually molested are more likely to be homosexual as adults.
Homosexually assaulted males identified themselves as subsequently becoming practicing homosexuals almost seven times as often as bisexuals and almost six times as often as the non-assaulted control group. Fifty-eight percent of adolescents reporting sexual abuse by a man prior to puberty revealed either homosexual or bisexual orientation (control group 90 percent heterosexual). “Nearly half of men who have reported a childhood experience with an older man were currently involved in homosexual activity.” A disproportionately high number of male homosexuals were incestuously molested by a homosexual parent. Conclusion was that the experience led the boy to perceive himself as homosexual based on his having been found sexually attractive by an older man.21
Other researchers have also validated this theory:
- "This evidence may suggest that abuse and early sexual experiences can contribute to homosexuality, perhaps because of familiarity with sexual acts, and in some cases because of an initial sexual experience with someone of the same gender."22
- Fifty-nine percent of male child sex offenders had been “victim of contact sexual abuse as a child.”23
- Nine hundred forty-two nonclinical adult participants, gay men and lesbian women reported a significantly higher rate of childhood molestation that did heterosexual men and women. Forty-six percent of the homosexual men in contrast to seven percent of the heterosexual men reported homosexual molestation. Twenty-two percent of lesbian women in contrast to one percent of heterosexual women reported homosexual molestation. 24
- Boys who were sexually molested have subsequently “a higher incidence of homosexuality.”25
The "C" Factor: Can Homosexuality Be Cured?
"Like most psychiatrists, I thought that homosexual behavior could be resisted, but sexual orientation could not be changed. I now believe that's untrue--some people can and do change." -- Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, prominent psychiatrist who previously had persuaded American Psychiatric Association to omit homosexuality from its list of disorders26
(more about Robert Spitzer
Studies on changing the behavior of homosexuals have been sparse in recent years, due to politically correct scientific journals refusing to publish articles that make homosexuality appear to be a disorder, and because of their fear of upsetting homosexual activists. Therefore, many studies that address whether or not homosexuality can be reversed were published between 1960 and 1980. They conclude the following:
- “The therapeutic results of our study provide reason for an optimistic outlook. Many homosexuals became exclusively heterosexual in psychoanalytic treatment. Although this change may be more easily accomplished by some than by others, in our judgment a heterosexual shift is a possibility for all homosexuals who are strongly motivated to change.”27
- “We have followed some patients for as long as 20 years who have remained exclusively heterosexual. Reversal estimates now range from 30 percent to an optimistic 50 percent.”28
- Of patients with bisexual problems, 90 percent were cured (i.e., no reversions to homosexual behavior, no consciousness of homosexual desire and fantasy) in males who terminated treatment by common consent. Male homosexual patients: 80 percent showed marked improvement (i.e., occasional relapses, release of aggression, increasingly dominant heterosexuality)… 50 percent changed.”29
- “Of 785 patients treated, 307, or approximately 38 percent, were cured. Adding the percentage figures of the two other studies, we can say that at least 40 percent of the homosexuals were cured, and an additional 10 to 30 percent of the homosexuals were improved, depending on the particular study for which statistics were available.”30
- Forty-nine patients changed (20 married, of these 10 remained married, 2 divorced, 18 achieved heterosexual adjustments); 18 partially recovered, remained single; 76 remained homosexual (28 palliated – 58 unchanged) “A large undisclosed population has melted into heterosexual society, persons who behaved homosexually in late adolescence and early adulthood, and who, on their own, resolved their conflicts and abandoned such behavior to go on to successful marriages or to bisexual patterns of adoption.”31
- Elizabeth James meta-analyzed over 100 outcome studies published between 1930 and 1976, and concluded that when all the research was combined, 35 percent of homosexual clients "recovered" and 27 percent improved.32
- “…Optimism in the psychoanalytic treatment of homosexual women. …at least a 50 percent probability of significant improvement in women with this syndrome who present themselves for treatment and remain in it.”33
- "For those homosexuals who are unhappy with their life and find effective therapy it is ‘curable’.”34
- “This conviction of untreatability also serves an ego-defensive purpose for many homosexuals. …however, there has evolved a greater therapeutic optimism about the possibilities for change… There is little doubt that a genuine shift in preferential sex object choice can and does take place in somewhere between 20 and 50 percent of patients with homosexual behavior who seek psychotherapy with this end in mind.”35
More recently, the issue of reparative therapy has been revived, particularly by Joseph Nicolosi, founder of the National Association of Research and Therapy for Homosexuals (NARTH). In 1998, Nicolosi surveyed 850 individuals and 200 therapists and counselors – specifically seeking out individuals who claim to have made a degree of change in sexual orientation. Before counseling or therapy, 68 percent of respondents perceived themselves as exclusively or almost entirely homosexual, but after treatment only 13 percent perceived themselves as exclusively or almost entire homosexuality. 99 percent of respondents said they now believe treatment to change homosexuality can be effective and valuable.36
In 2002, an article by Dr. Warren Throckmorton, director of college counseling and associate professor of psychology at Grove City College, was published in the June 2002 issue of the American Psychological Association's publication Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Dr. Throckmorton's article was entitled "Initial Empirical and Clinical Findings Concerning the Change Process for Ex-Gays," and "summarizes the experiences of thousands of individuals who believe their sexuality has changed as a result of reorientation ministries and counseling."
He concludes, "My literature review contradicts the policies of major mental health organizations because it suggests that sexual orientation, once thought to be an unchanging sexual trait, is actually quite flexible for many people, changing as a result of therapy for some, ministry for others and spontaneously for still others." He recommends that practitioners refer patients interested in reversing their homosexuality to ex-gay ministries and programs.
In the 1996 edition of the Journal of Mental Health and Counseling, Throckmorton says, "The available evidence supports the observation of many counselors – that many individuals with same-gender sexual orientation have been able to change through a variety of counseling approaches.”37
Other more recent studies on the rehabilitative efforts of homosexuality include:
- "These reports contradict claims that change is impossible. It would be more accurate to say that all the existing evidence suggests strongly that homosexuality is quite changeable."38
- “Certain individuals who want to change their homosexual preference can be helped by a short-term intensive intervention. The failure rate in helping dissatisfied homosexuals establish heterosexual lifestyles after the intensive phase of the intervention was 20.9 percent, and after 5 years’ follow-up it was 28.4 percent.39
- "In the sample he studied, Spitzer concluded that many (homosexuals) made substantial changes (after gender affirmative therapy) in sexual arousal and fantasy--not merely behavior. Even subjects who made less substantial change believed it to be extremely beneficial."40
- “…A considerable percentage of overt homosexuals became heterosexual… If patients were motivated, whatever procedure is adopted a large percentage will give up their homosexuality… The misinformation that homosexuality is untreatable by psychotherapy does incalculable harm to thousands of men and women…”41
- “Experience has taught me that healing is a difficult process, but through the mutual efforts of the therapist and the patient, serious emotional wounds can be healed over a period of time.”42
- "Forty-four persons who were exclusively or predominantly homosexual experienced a full shift of sexual orientation."43
- Four hundred twenty-two psychiatrists were asked if they had successfully treated homosexuals, and did they agree that a homosexual can be changed to heterosexual. Of the 285 responses, which involved 1,215 homosexuals, the survey stated that 23 percent changed to heterosexuality. 84 percent benefited significantly by reducing their attraction to other members of the same gender, with a decrease in homosexual activity.44
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