Homosexuality is said to be a preface for affiliation and sexual activity with a person of the same sex. The potential for homosexual behavior appears to be a basic part of human sexuality, since many people experience homosexual interest, curiosity, or activity at some point in their lives. Homosexual behavior has been observed in most animal species. Many homosexuals prefer to be called gay or, in the case of women, lesbian because of the exclusively sexual connotation of homosexual. When individuals engage in both heterosexual and homosexual behaviors, they are said to be bi-sexual. THE ROAD TO ACCEPTANCE
Homosexuality, unlike many other psychological issues, is not associated with starting at birth. For the most part, it is an issue dealt with mostly by adolescence and adults. That is not to say that it does not become an issue sooner, it is just to say that it most commonly occurs later in life. Homosexuals have been the subjects of many studies to discover their multifaceted lives. These studies focus on steps and problems that homosexuals undergo and encounter on their journey to acceptance. WHERE TO BEGIN
According to Papalia, Olds, and Feldman (2001), sexuality may be influenced by a series of hormonal and neurological events during gestation. If the sex hormones are within the typical female range between two and five-month gestation, then the child, whether male or female, will be attracted to males. Similarly, if the hormone levels are within the typical male range during these same months of gestation, then the child, male or female, will be attracted to females. GENETICS
Genetics may also play a role in sexuality. Evidence has shown that children of homosexuals may inherit homosexuality. An identical twin of a homosexual parent may have as much as a 50% chance of being homosexual as well. Even adopted children of homosexuals have as much as a 10% chance. Remafedi, French, Story, Resnick, and Blum (1998) conducted a study that consisted of 29 white, middle class gay men. They found that 31% became aware of their attractions to males around age 6. The mean age of first awareness was 11 years old. FOUR STAGES
According to Beaty(1999), during adolescence, the homosexual individual is in the second of four stages, which is identification confusion. During this stage, the individual realizes he/she may be homosexual. Males seem to reach this self-identity about one and one half years sooner than females, although they started the process at about the same time (Rosario, 1996). Typically during this stage, the individual will feel troubled by his/her feelings and deny his/her homosexual orientation and assume heterosexual roles. It is also during this time that many adolescents begin abusing drugs and alcohol, attempt suicide, run away from home, or drop out of school (Dempsey, 1994). HIGH SUICIDE RATE
The rate of self-reported suicide attempts among bisexual and homosexual males in the age group of 12 – 14 years of age was 28.1% and 20.5% of bisexual and homosexual females of the same age group. Homosexual males are 7 times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual males. Homosexual females are twice as likely to attempt suicide, than heterosexual females (Remafedi, et al, 1998). In fact, homosexual youth suicide accounts for 30% of all teen suicides. The average age of the first attempt was 15 years old and of these, 30% did so the same year they identified themselves as homosexuals (Dempsey, 1994). EMOTIONAL TURMOIL
During this time of emotional turmoil, many homosexual adolescents turn to drugs and alcohol to alleviate their pain. In a clinical trial of gay teens, 58% reported that they regularly abused substances (Dempsey, 1994). In a sample of 136 males and 80 females, 48.2% of the males were reported heavy drinkers, more than 5 drinks at one time, and 27.1% of females were heavy drinkers. Four percent of the females consumed alcohol before school, whereas 19% of the males reported consuming alcohol before school. Females have more of a tendency than males to abuse drugs with a rate of 35.9% as compared to the males 25.5% (Coenen, 1998). COPING
Running away from home is another coping mechanism of adolescents. According to Dempsey (1994), 48% of gay teens in a non-clinical sample reported running away from home. Running away is a self-protective behavior in response to a disapproving or rejecting family or from fear of rejection. A study of gay males in 1987 found that sexual revelation causes stress in the parent-adolescent relationship (Dempsey, 1994). Over time, however, the relationship with parents tends to improve. Unsupportive families may make the achievement of a positive outcome much less certain (Beaty 1999). IDENTITY ASSUMPTION
The last two stages found in Beaty (1999) are Identity Assumption and Identity Commitment. Both of these are associated with young adulthood but actually occur primarily in the 20’s for both males and females. Identity assumption, occurring between the ages of 19 – 21 for males and 21 – 23 for females, is when the individuals define themselves as homosexual, develop homosexual friends, become involved in the homosexual community, and are involved in sexual experimentation. During this time, involvement in the gay community alleviates feelings of alienation. Many in this stage lead double lives, separating their social worlds into those who know who they are and those who do not know, hoping the two worlds never collide (Dempsey, 1994). IDENTITY COMMITMENT
Identity commitment usually begins in the early 20’s and is when the individual adopts homosexuality as a way of life. By this time, the individual has realized it is easier to be true to themselves and lead a homosexual life rather than continually try to pass themselves off as heterosexuals. It is at this point that the individual becomes aware that homosexuality is not merely a sexual orientation, but a way of life (Dempsey, 1994). HOMOPHOBIA
Attitudes toward homosexuality have begun to change in recent decades. Gays attribute this, in part, to their own increasing assertiveness about their rights and about pride in their orientation. Gay activism, which began in the late 1960s as a civil rights movement, has helped to change people’s thinking. While some attitudes change, however, prejudice against homosexuals still exists. The AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, to which many male homosexuals fellvictim, may have affected antigay prejudice. (Thompson 13-14) As more gays have identified themselves publicly, they have also formed more public organizations. There are gay newspapers and journals, gay political groups, and gay legal action committees. These groups support candidates for public office, fight battles in cases such as child custody, and work in other areas to eliminate discrimination. Yearly Gay Pride marches in major cities are intended to foster awareness by society. (Thompson 14) REFERENCES
influences_ on the coming out process_. Adolescence 34, 597-601. Journal of Homosexuality, 36, 73-86.
Families in Society, 75, 160-169.
Papalia, D. E., Olds, S. E., Feldman, R. D. (2001). Human Development (8th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Remafedi, G., French, S., Story, M., Resnick, M. D., and Blum, R. (1998). The relationship between_ suicide risk and sexual orientation: Results of a population based study_. American Journal of Public Health, 88, 57-60.
The Journal of Sex Research, 33, 113-126.
Sell, R. L., Wells, J. A., Wypij, D. (1995). The prevalence of homosexual behavior and attraction_ in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France: Results of national _ Thompson, M. (1987) Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning. New York: St. Martins Press. Zera, D. (1992). Coming of age in a heterosexist world: The development of gay and lesbian adolescents. Adolescence, 27, 849-854.