In order to understand homosexuality, one must first conclude whether homosexual orientation is chosen or predetermined, which was the purpose of this research. This is an area of huge interest to many people, mainly because the options of personal preference and predetermination are each at such far and opposite ends of the spectrum. Can the answer really be so black or white, or is it somewhere in the gray area in between? Alfred Kinsey “did not trust people’s self classification as homosexual or heterosexual” (Bullough, 1998, p130). Kinsey suggested that when people rated themselves on a seven point scale, with one extreme being zero and the other extreme being six, most people would place themselves somewhere in the middle (Bullough, 1998).
The question of homosexuality’s origin meets Repko’s (2005) test of complexity because it “crosses boundaries between disciplines” (p88). It deserves to be addressed from an interdisciplinary approach because of its complexity. Insights from multiple disciples are necessary because a topic as multifaceted as homosexuality cannot be fully understood from only one disciplinary perspective. Interdisciplinary understanding is defined by Veronica Boix Mansilla as “the capacity to integrate knowledge and modes of thinking in two or more disciplines to produce a cognitive advancement -e.g., explaining a phenomenon, solving a problem, creating a product, raising a new question- in ways that would have been unlikely through single disciplinary means. (Boix Mansilla, 2004).”
The disciplines that are most relevant to understanding whether homosexuality is a preference or predetermined by other factors are biology, psychology and sociology. The disciplines are arranged in this order because one must first understand the physical make up of a person (biology) before they can understand their mind (psychology), which influences their social behavior (sociology).
Biology is important in understanding homosexuality because it wants to “quantify the evidence” (Repko, 2005, p52) of it. “When biologists venture into the world of humans, they look for physical, deterministic explanations of behavior, such as genes and evolution” (Repko, 2005, p52). This is often investigated thru the Scientific Method (Repko, 2005). More specifically, biologists are seeking to verify whether or not a “gay gene” exists, and if so, which one is the cause (Byne, Kerin, Schuklenk, and Stein, 1997). They want to know “whether one’s sexual partner preference can be understood by natural science or is a function of social opportunities, circumstances, and outright choice” (Gladue, 1994, p150).
Psychology “seeks to understand basic human behavior” focusing on their “mental activity” (Repko, 2005, p59). It gathers its evidence thru observation and discussion (Repko, 2005). Psychology is also necessary in understanding the why of a person’s actions. This may be understood by a person’s cognitive foundation. For example, studies have been held where homosexual men perform within the guidelines of how heterosexual women perform on the same task relative to cognitive ability (Gladue, 1994, p150). Psychology is very interested in homosexuality because it was listed as a mental disorder until 1975 (American Psychological Association, 2008). Also, the American Psychological Association (2008) states that “the discipline of psychology is concerned with the well-being of people and groups and therefore with threats to that well-being”. Since many people who identify themselves as gay, lesbian and/or bisexual are discriminated against, psychology is interested because of the psychologically negative affects that discrimination and prejudice can have (American Psychological Association, 2008).
Sociology is important in understanding homosexuality because it focuses on other individuals and society as a whole. Research has suggested that “what the original causes were may not even be very important for the patterns of homosexuality observed in a society” (Gagnon and Simon, 1967, p179). This means that the cause of homosexuality may be completely detached from what causes it to be either suppressed or to flourish. This is where details of acceptance or discrimination of homosexuals will be discussed. Religious beliefs can have a large impact on social behavior as well.
Next, a brief history of homosexuality will be laid out. Also, who homosexuality effects will be discussed. This is all necessary to present a more holistic, interdisciplinary understanding of the topic, and hopefully answer the question once and for all.
The term ‘homosexuality’ was coined in the late 19th century by a German psychologist, Karoly Maria Benkert” (Pickett, 2006). He and his colleagues were “interested in bringing greater understanding to the phenomenon of homosexuality to help repeal laws making same-sex relations illegal” (McDaniel, 1992). However, the actual practice of homosexuality dates back much further.
In the Priesthood of Christianity, the priests are required to remain celibate, which means they are not allowed to engage in sexual intercourse. This, in turn, attracted homosexual men into the priesthood who wanted to hide from heterosexual marriage. “The evidence is clear that the priesthood of the Western Church became the largest closet in which gay men hid their sexual orientation during the Middle Ages” (Spong, 2001). However, it is explicitly written in the Old Testament of the Bible that “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). Therefore, homosexuals were hiding from lying with a woman, but were expressly wrong in their desires to lie with a man. This is something that a man who becomes a Priest would accept as truth, due to his dedication to Jesus Christ and acceptance of the Bible as truth.
In contrast, homosexuality in ancient Greece was exalted. “The seduction of young boys by older men was expected and honored. Those who could afford, in time and money, to seduce young boys, did so” (Prager, 1993). Also, many of the leading citizens in ancient Greece practiced bisexuality. The men were “expected to sire a large number of offspring and to head a family while engaging a male lover” (Prager, 1993).
Homosexuality was practiced openly in the eleventh century and is described to have “flourished in the monasteries of the time”. “Many of the priests and abbots not only left literature celebrating their gay lovers, but some of the poetry they left us was baldly erotic. Consider this poem from Marbod, Bishop of Rennes (d. 1123 C.E.)”:
The Unyielding Youth
Whose face was so lovely he could easily have been a girl, Whose hair fell in waves against his ivory neck, Whose forehead was white as snow and his eyes black as pitch, Whose soft cheeks were full of delicious sweetness When they bloomed in the brightness of a blush of beauty, His nose was perfect, his lips flame red, lovely his teeth– An exterior formed in measure to match his mind. ( Bidstrup, 2001).
Upon the coming of the twelfth century, there became a need for order and uniformity, which led to repression of homosexuality. The church and the state began to cooperate with one another in the early Roman Empire. As a result, due to the involvement of the church, “sexual mores found increased regulation” (Bidstrup, 2001). The rising intolerance led to a revolt, known as The Enlightenment:
“It was the realization that the emphasis on conformity and the repression of alternative ideas represented a great loss – a loss of the civility that made classical Greece and the Roman republic what they had been. The result was that the intellectual community began a quiet rebellion, begun first by Martin Luther with his rebellion against Catholic corruption, and followed by the great thinkers of the Enlightenment, who pointed out the fallacies of the confluence of church and state. The first great result was the American Revolution, followed in short order by revolutions in France and the rest of Europe, throwing off the old order and establishing democracy for the first time since the end of the Roman republic. The thinkers took for a description of themselves, the Latin word, “Libre, meaning “Free.” This implied freedom from the intellectual repression of the church and the state which the church cooperated. The word of course eventually became the English word, ‘liberal’” (Bidstrup, 2001).
This lead to people who support homosexuality being labeled liberal and those who do not being labeled conservative.
For the next several centuries in Europe, the laws against homosexual sex were severe in their penalties” (Pickett, 2006). It was not until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that a more secular view became common, most specifically in medicine and psychology. In the twentieth century, premarital sex began to be more commonly accepted and gay sex became more difficult to argue against (Pickett, 2006).
More recently, homosexuality has become a more accepted sexual orientation due to the fact that the American Psychological Association (APA) decided to remove it as a disorder from the Sexual Deviancy section of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM, stating that “both homosexual behavior and heterosexual behavior are normal aspects of human behavior” (American Psychological Association, 2008). In order to understand exactly what is meant by sexual orientation, it must be defined. Sexual orientation is the “enduring pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes, and a persons sense of identity” based on those feelings (American Psychological Association, 2008). There still remained individuals who were unhappy about their homosexuality and sought treatment for it. They were diagnosed as suffering from Sexual Orientation Disturbance (Cecco, 1987).
As people seek to determine why certain people are of the homosexual orientation, it is important to define who is of the homosexual orientation. One of the major predictors of homosexuality in adulthood is childhood gender nonconformity. Gender nonconformity is the behavior or activity of the opposite sex in children (Bailey, 1995). If a male child plays with and associates with things or toys that are traditionally labeled as female, they are displaying childhood gender nonconformity. Sociologist, Peter Bearman asserts that males with a female twin are fifty percent more likely to become homosexual, while a male who has an older brother is less likely to become a homosexual in adolescence or adulthood (Bearman, 2002). When information is solicited about homosexuality, the result varies depending on what is analyzed. In general, if information is requested about attraction to the same sex, the greatest prevalence of homosexuality is revealed. However, “reports of same-sex behavior usually exceed those of homosexual identification” (Savin-Williams, 2006). This means that there are many people who are engaging in homosexual behavior who do not claim to be homosexual and even more who have homosexual attraction.
All of this information leads to the idea that literally anyone can be homosexual. Children can be identified early as having a probability of becoming gay, teenagers can be gay, and adults can be gay. Both men and women can be gay. Homosexuality is found in churches and politics, among the free and the incarcerated, and among the wealthy and the poor. All people are included because homosexuality is so widespread.
Next, the interdisciplinary process will continue as insights to the individual disciplines are laid out as they apply to homosexuality. Once a common ground between them has been established, they will be integrated to form a solution to the debate of whether a person’s sexuality is a choice or if it is determined by factors beyond their control. In order to do this properly, integration must be in the form of a comprehensive perspective. This places a great emphasis on education and real problems. It is ideal to have a broad education or skill basis in order to properly address any real, interdisciplinary problem. This is all necessary to present a more holistic, interdisciplinary understanding of the topic, and hopefully answer the question once and for all.
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