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Homosexuality and bisexuality

Impact of multiple definitions and conflicting
beliefs about sexual orientation. Who cares?
Why is discussion of causes so controversial?

Impact of multiple, conflicting definitions:

Having multiple definitions causes major chaos. It is almost as if people with different views intentionally sat down and designed conflicting definitions that would make communication, dialogue and debate impossible. For example:

  • How can one discuss legislation that bans hate crimes or that bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation when some folks define sexual orientation in terms only of the gender to whom a person is attracted while other folks define sexual orientation in terms of sexual behavior, and go further by including pedophilia, bestiality, incest, and many other topics unrelated to sexual orientation.
     
  • If one group defines sexual orientation in terms of behavior and another group defines it in terms of sexual attraction, then how does one handle:
    • A lesbian or gay male who has been sexually active with one or more persons of the same sex in the past, but who has decided to become celibate now and for the rest of their life.
      • In terms of behavior, she or he is no longer homosexual and might be called "ex-gay."

      • In terms of sexual attraction, her or his sexual orientation remains homosexual and her or his self-identification probably remains lesbian or gay.
         
    • A bisexual male who has had sex with other men who simply decides to restrict his sexually active relationships to women only. This is often a wise decision in today's society because it reduces the chances of physical attacks, loss of employment, loss of acommodation, etc.

      In terms of behavior, many consider hiim to be no longer homosexual but view him as having become an ex-gay -- he has switched to heterosexuality. In terms of sexual attraction, his sexual orientation remains unchanged and remains bisexual.

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Beliefs about homosexuality by some theologians and scientists:

Normally, there are minimal conflicts between scientists and theologians. They usually work in different areas of study. Theologians are rarely interested in the tensile strength of steel. Scientists are rarely interested in the soul, salvation, heaven or hell. But there are some shared areas where both scientists and theologians promote their beliefs. Often, these beliefs are in conflict. The main areas of conflict are currently the origins of the universe, and various human sexuality topics including whether to allow same-sex couples to marry.

  • Homosexual orientation is measurable and is thus a legitimate area of study for human sexuality researchers. They have generally concluded that adult human sexuality comes in the three natural, normal, unchosen, and unchangeable orientations as defined in the previous essay.

  • Same-sex behavior is mentioned in the Bible, the Qur'an, writings of the Baha'i Prophet Baha'u'llah, and in other texts considered sacred in various world religions. Thus, homosexuality is also a legitimate area for theologians to study. Speaking generally:

    • Many religious conservatives who follow monotheistic religions believe that their holy texts were written by God, or dictated by an Archangel on behalf of God, or written by persons who were inspired by God to produce books which are inerrant -- free of error. They base their beliefs about homosexual behavior on their interpretation of the Bible -- often after the original author's autograph copy has been filtered through the biases of translators and translated from the original language into English. Many also base their beliefs partially on church tradition. They conclude that such behavior is unnatural, abnormal, chosen and changeable. Further, many believe that is condemned by God no matter what the nature of their relationship(s) are.

    • Religious liberals and progressives generally approach the Bible as a historical document. They note that the authors of their religious texts lived in a pre-scientific era and had no special knowledge of sexual orientation. Further, religious texts were often written at a time when their nation was under continual attack by neighboring tribes. They suppressed homosexual behavior because it lowered the birth rate and reduced the number of of soldiers available to defend the country.

      Religious liberals base their beliefs about homosexual orientation both on their interpretation of the Bible, on the findings of sexuality researchers, on church tradition, and personal experience. They generally agree with scientists that homosexuality is a natural, normal, unchosen, and unchangeable orientation among adults.

Unfortunately, little or no dialogue is happening between the various groups. Thus, differences are rarely resolved. Resolution only happens as a result of gradual changes of belief among the public. This generally takes decades.

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Who cares about the causes?

If the root cause of a homosexual orientation is genetic, as it is for Type 1 (early onset) diabetes and left-handedness, then the person will probably be unable to change their sexual orientation. As adults, they may decide to remain sexually inactive. However, their sexual orientation in terms of their fellings of attraction to persons of the same sex will remain.

If the root cause of a homosexual orientation is something in the environment, then there might be a significant possibility that the individual can change their orientation through therapy. Many religious and social conservatives believe that incompetent parenting and/or child sexual abuse can cause -- or at least influence -- a person to choose a homosexual orientation later in life.

Whether homosexuality is within or beyond the ability of a person to change will definitely influence people's attitudes towards homosexuality. It would certainly help homosexuals decide whether to try to change their orientation through reparative therapy in spite of its near zero success rate, cost, time, agony, and danger of extreme depression and suicidal ideation.

An article in The Advocate, a gay-positive magazine states:

"Polls repeatedly indicate that Americans who believe sexual orientation is either genetic or biological are much more likely to support gay and lesbian civil rights than those who believe it is determined primarily by environmental influences." 5

This may or may not be an accurate conclusion. Many religious and social conservatives are generally opposed to equal rights for sexual minorities, and believe on biblical grounds that sexual orientation is a decision made after puberty -- perhaps triggered by incompetent parenting or childhood sexual abuse. Those who favor gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual rights tend to base their beliefs more on scientific findings and less on holy texts. So the root cause of support for equal rights for all might be more related to religious beliefs than beliefs about the cause of homosexuality. Besides, race has been known for centuries to be genetically determined. Yet this knowledge has not eliminated racial bigotry.

Why it is the question so controversial?

This topic has triggered many angry Emails from visitors to this web site:

  • Many are from religious conservatives who are 100% certain that homosexuality is totally caused by something in the environment which leads a child to decide to adopt same-gender sexual behavior after puberty.

  • A few are from gays and lesbians who are 100% certain that homosexuality is totally caused by genes, and is thus pre-determined at conception, about nine months before their birth.

Past evidence seemed to point consistently to one or more genes as the root cause. They may lie dormant or be triggered into causing the individual to have a homosexual orientation later in life. One piece of evidence comes from studies of identical male twins who are separated at birth and raised apart. They have identical genes. If one develops a homosexual orientation later in life, the other has a ten-fold increase in the probability that he will also be gay.

Recent studies have suggested that epigenetics may be responsible for exposing an embryo or fetus to hormonal infuences in the womb that may cause them to have a homosexual or bisexual sexual orientation later in life. According to an article by the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBios):

"Epi-marks constitute an extra layer of information attached to our genes' backbones that regulates ...[the genes'] expression. While genes hold the instructions, epi-marks direct how those instructions are carried out -- when, where and how much a gene is expressed during development." 7

Such findings makes many people -- both religious conservatives and homosexuals -- angry because their cherished beliefs are threatened. Some direct that anger at us because we report the information. Fortunately, we have developed very thick skins at this job.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Rev. Lou Sheldon, "What is a 'Sexual Orientation'," News release, Traditional Values Coalition, 2007-JUN-04.
  2. "What is a 'Sexual Orientation'," Special report, Traditional Values Coalition, undated, at: http://www.traditionalvalues.org/
  3. "What is a 'Sexual Orientation'?" American Family Association, undated, at: http://www.afa.net/
  4. "Paraphilia," Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  5. David Mubarak, "Why are we gay? -- opinions and research," The Advocate, 2001-JUL-17, at: http://www.findarticles.com/
  6. Estimates of the numbers of adults with a homosexual orientation vary widely. Many religious, social, and political conservatives estimate on the order of 2%. Some LGBT groups stick with Dr. Kinsey's estimate of 10%. Some surveys of the general population estimate that on the order of 20% of adults are gay or lesbian. The most accurate data that we have seen indicates about 5% of adults have a homosexual orientation, and another 5% are lesbians.
  7. "Study Finds Epigenetics, Not Genetics, Underlies Homosexuality," NIMBioS, 2012-DEC-11, at: http://www.nimbios.org/

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Copyright © 1997 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update/rewrite: 2015-APR-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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