Homosexuality and Epstein

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The term homosexuality was created by 19th century theorists to describe a sexual and emotional interest in members of one's own sex. Homosexuality dates back to ancient pagan religious practices and until the thirteenth century the Christian tradition was ambiguous in its attitude toward homosexuality. But with the recodification of English canon law new attitudes set in and thereafter homosexual behavior was condemned as a heinous sin. The English brought these beliefs to North America and the power of religion in early America defined colonial attitudes. By making homosexuals the object of scorn, the hostility kept much homosexual behavior hidden (Brittannica.com). Since then, homosexuality has always been a target for many forms of social and political condemnation and many psychiatric theories have attempted to explain the biology of homosexuality. Biomedical researchers, health care professionals, activists, advocacy groups, people with AIDS or HIV infection, health educators, social scientists, politicians and public health officials, government agencies and advisory committees, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, writers, journalists, and institutions of mainstream and alternative media have had their hand in the pot of struggle for credibility claims. Steven Epstein, an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego, has published many articles and written a book on the sociology, biology, and politics of sexuality and gay identity. His book, Impure Science, is his most well-known and criticized piece of work that is based on his sociology thesis at the University of California. His work reflects his interest in the construction of expertise, the democratization of science, and the perpetuation of medical controversies. His areas of interest include social theory (classical and contemporary), sociology of medicine, sociology of science, social movements, sexuality, and lesbian/gay studies (Epstein’s Bio).

The biology of homosexuality has always been and will be a loaded controversial subject with questionable evidence, infinite research, and studies that has resulted in numerous opinions and hypotheses along with a multitude of political issues. Epstein’s work clearly illustrates how he effectively addresses issues of the biology of homosexuality with fairness, objectivity, factual and informative information, and by providing solid support for his conclusions and opinions. Throughout his work he poses questions in response to his findings and demonstrates that there still are so many unanswered questions. For example, in response to his own findings of how scientists try to exert their power in the scientific field, he asks, “What is the nature of power wielded by experts?” (Impure Science 2). And when he explored the possibilities of how laypeople involve themselves in the scientific field of HIV/AIDS, he asks, “What possibilities are there for laypeople to involve themselves meaningfully in the process of “doing science,” and what are the consequences of such incursions?” (Impure Science 2). He sees society as being divided into two groups, essentialists and constructionists. Essentialists believe that the biological factor is a major contribution to the sexuality of homosexuals and that homosexuality is due to some fundamental nature, genetics, or a gay core of their being exists. Constructionists believe that sexuality is a product of social constructions, not biology, and that “homosexual”, “gay”, and “lesbian” are labels constructed by society that homosexuals put on themselves. Epstein thinks that society’s understanding of homosexuality consists of the two views and that sexual theory has been preoccupied with that debate (Epstein, Identities 79). Homosexuals seek to justify their forms of sexual expression through explanations, strategies, and defenses that are articulated on an individual and collective level (Epstein,...
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