Gays and Other Victims of Stigma
How many gays and lesbians are there in the United States? The answer depends on the definition of what constitutes being a gay or lesbian. Various studies state a lesbian or gay are a person with one or more of these characteristics: (1) same-sex feelings- being attracted to a person of the same gender, (2) same-sex behavior- having sex with same-gender person, and (3) identifying oneself as gay or lesbian. Myths about Homosexuality
Myth: Gay men are more likely to be “promiscuous”-- sexually active—than straight men because they are homosexual rather than heterosexual. Reality: Being promiscuous has nothing to do with being gay. It is a product of heterosexual society, which socializes men, both gay and straight, to be more sexually active than women. Myth: Children raised in a homosexual home are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and other psychological problems. Reality: Children raised in homosexual homes are just as mentally healthy as those brought up in heterosexual homes. Myth: When children grow up in homosexual homes, they are likely to become gay. Reality: Children brought up by homosexual parents are no more likely than children raised by straight parents to become gay and identify themselves as gay. Myth: Teenagers are aware of their homosexuality that they often call themselves gay or lesbian. Reality: Today teens usually avoid using the labels “gay” or “lesbian”. One popular myth about gay men is that they are typically effeminate and lesbians are masculine. Gays walk like women, talk like women, or just look like women. Lesbians are believed to walk, talk, and look like men. In reality, it is difficult to differentiate gays and lesbians from straights. Most gay men look and act like straight men and it is hard to differentiate lesbian women from straight women because of the same reason, unless they dress masculine. Another myth is that gays and lesbians play only one role with their partner, either as an active or passive partner in their sexual activities. The active partner is assumed to perform all the sexual activities on the passive partner. Truth is the roles are alternative between the two. It is believed that same-sex couples behave like traditional couples, one person being the dominant husband and the other the submissive wife. In same-sex relationships, they often resemble best friends and being equal, “share and share alike” so that both may disclose deep feelings.
What Are Lesbians Like?
Lesbians are somewhat the same as straight women besides appearance which still isn’t a big factor of differentiating them. The differences and similarities vary: -Lesbians rarely look for one-night stands in gay bars.
-Lesbians are more interested in making friends in the context of social gatherings. -Lesbians, like heterosexual women, carry on a comfortable relationship with straights by passing as one of them. -Many lesbians have the same desire as heterosexual women to become mothers, whether the decision is to adopt or to bear their own child through artificial insemination. -Lesbians are more likely to reject the traditional female role than heterosexual women. -Lesbians are more likely to be tough and gentle rather than rough only.
The “coming out” process is hard for homosexuals because it involves people publicly identifying themselves as gays or lesbians. It is difficult to come out especially revealing it to parents, friends, or co-workers, because the outcomes are shock, rejections, or worse. Many young gays and lesbians do not privately identify themselves as being homosexual. Sociologist Richard Troiden (1979) presents a detailed analysis of how most of the gay men he studied came to acquire their gay identity. The identity acquisition involved going through four stages of experience. Stage One: Sensitization
Around the age of 13; the start of puberty, one recalled, “I never felt as if I fit in. I don’t know why for sure but I feel different. I thought it was because I was more sensitive. Stage Two: Dissociation
Being called a faggot is a sign of dissociation; around the age of 17. “Before I was publicly labeled as a faggot, I realized that I wasn’t very interested in women. I had had enough experiences with girls to realize that while I was around them, I was also aroused by males and wanted to have sex with them. However, I thought that this was something I’d grow out in time, something that would straighten itself out as I matured.” Stage Three: Coming Out
It has been described as “an incredible sense of relief and renewal…like being born. The burden had been lifted from my shoulders. For the first time I felt like I had a life.” (Marcus 1993) Stage Four: Commitment
The gays, now mature adults are committed to gayness as a way of life. They are happy being gay and wouldn’t change if the opportunity was given.
Theories of Homosexuality
1. Biological theories:
a. Hormone Theory-gay men and lesbians have lower levels of certain sex hormones than straight men and straight women 2. Genetic Theory:
a. People are born gay/genetics
3. Brain Theory:
a. A difference in the size of hypothalamus, the cluster of nervous/nervous tissues in the brains lower area which controls sex drive and body temperature All of these theories are open to criticism. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) decided to define homosexuality as normal. Some psychiatrists try to “cure” homosexuals. They used to assume homosexuality was a form of mental illness but that theory was disproved. To sociologists, even if a biological predisposition exists, certain social forces subtly guide individuals into homosexuality.