Teaching about homosexuality in North American public
Suggested topics 4 to 6
We recommend that a comprehensive course in homosexuality at the high school level
involve seven main topics. Topics 4 to 6 involve:
|Statements by non-theistic ethical groups, like Humanists, Agnostics,
|Findings of human sexuality researchers, starting with Evelyn Hooker's
pioneering work in the 1950s.|
|Statements by various professional associations of therapists,
counselors etc. concerning homosexuality.|
This essay is
currently being expanded
Different secular and religious groups and individuals sometimes assign conflicting
definitions and meanings to some homosexual terms. This makes dialogue very difficult. It
also makes it hard for people in one group to understand talks and articles
prepared by individuals from other groups. Students need to be aware of these
differences in terminology in order to understand material from
|Social conservatives, conservative religious groups and members, and Evangelical Christian para-church organizations,
such as the Christian
Coalition, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family,
Traditional Values Coalition, etc. may use one definition.
|Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, human sexuality researchers,
professional mental health organizations, religious liberals, secularists,
etc often use a different definition. We list these below under "others."|
|However there is a lot of cross-over usage where one group will often use the
definitions of another.|
Common conservative religious usage
Common usage by others
|Homosexuality is defined as:
||A sexual preference
||A sexual orientation
||Preference implies choice; orientation implies a fixed state.
|Homosexuality itself is...
||A sexual orientation
||Again, lifestyle implies a choice; orientation implies a fixed state.
|Nature of homosexuality
||A behavior; what one does
||An orientation, based on one's feelings, sexual
fantasies and self-identification.
||This is an important distinction because it defines who is gay and
who is "ex-gay"
||Some define it very broadly to
include: bestiality, homosexuality, necrophilia, abusive pedophilia,
||Comes in one of three types: homosexuality, homosexuality, and
||By including criminal activity within the definition of
homosexuality, the meaning of hate-crime legislation is totally changed.
|Role of sex-ed classes which discuss homosexuality
||May involve the promotion of homosexuality
||Educates students about homosexuality
||This involves whether education about something implies its
||Considered one of three sexual orientations.
||Again, this can determine who is gay and who is "ex-gay."
|Legislation guaranteeing human rights.
||Homosexuals seek special privileges.
||Homosexuals and bisexuals seek equal privileges.
||This involves whether homosexuality is an innate trait or a chosen
||A chosen lifestyle; an act of
rebellion against God and nature.
||Determined by genetics and perhaps triggered by
||If homosexuality is a choice, then it is probably changeable. If it
is genetic it is more likely fixed.
||Fear of homosexuality (a rarely used term).
||Analogous to sexism and racism: either denigration of
homosexuals or a desire to limit their rights.
||Many religious and social conservatives resent the term homophobic
being applied to them because they do not fear homosexuals.
|By defining homosexuality as a preference or a lifestyle, one implies
that it is a choice. By using the term "sexual orientation" one implies that
it is a fixed and unchosen trait. It is essentially impossible to refer to
homosexuality without implying one's beliefs about homosexuality.|
|By defining homosexuality in terms of behavior, then a person with a
homosexual orientation who decides to be celibate is considered no longer a
homosexual. They are an "ex-gay" and are considered cured of their
homosexual behavior; they have left the homosexual lifestyle. So too for a
bisexual who decides to restrict her/his sexual activity to members of the
opposite sex. |
By defining homosexuality in terms of sexual attraction to, and fantasies
of, persons of the same sex, then a person with a homosexual orientation who
decides to be celibate is still a homosexual; they are simply considered a
celibate homosexual. A bisexual who decides to restrict his/her behavior to
members of the opposite sex is still a bisexual.
|By enlarging the definition of sexual orientation to include criminal
acts such as abusive pedophilia the scope and meaning of human rights and
hate-crime legislation is totally changed. This definition is only used by a
minority of religious conservatives at this time, and has not been
recognized by legislatures, courts, dictionaries, etc. |
Throughout most of the essays in the
homosexual and bisexual
section of this web site, we have stressed the two extreme positions which
are commonly shown in the media.
|The position taken by many social and religious conservatives: They
define homosexuality in terms of behavior. They consider homosexuality to be an
abomination -- a serious, immoral, chosen, changeable, abnormal, unnatural
addiction that is hated by God and is destructive to the individuals who
decide to follow that lifestyle.|
|The position taken about homosexuality by most social workers, human sexuality researchers,
human rights organizations, liberal students and parents, gays,
bisexuals, and lesbians, and therapists (with the exception of those therapists
affiliated with the National Association for Research and Therapy of
Homosexuality [NARTH]): They define homosexuality in
terms of sexual orientation -- one's feelings of sexual attraction,
fantasies, and self-identification. They view homosexuality to be one of
three unchosen, fixed, and morally neutral sexual
orientations, which is natural and normal for a minority of adults.|
While these two positions do reflect the beliefs of the most vocal activists, there appears to be at least
four other well defined viewpoints about homosexuality. Author L.R. Holben describe these in his book: "What Christians think about homosexuality."1
The four intermediate viewpoints appear much less frequently in newspapers, periodicals, during church sermons and on TV. But some of them are held by substantial numbers
of Americans and Canadians.
From the most conservative to the most liberal, these have been called:
|Abomination: Homosexuality is a profoundly immoral behavior
whether it is in the form of casual sex or within a loving, monogamous, committed relationship. It is
to be condemned and perhaps criminalized. Homosexuals are driven by lust and are
intrinsically unable to enter into meaningful, long-term, faithful, loving
|Change is expected: Homosexuality is a broken, disordered
condition. Gays and lesbians can be easily healed by being converted to
heterosexuality through prayer and/or reparative therapy.|
|Celibacy is expected: Homosexuality is a fixed condition for all,
or almost all, gays and lesbians. They cannot change their sexual orientation. God,
religion and society expects them to remain celibate
throughout their lives.|
|Marginally acceptable: For those gays and lesbians who are unable
to convert to heterosexuality and cannot remain celibate, the least awful
option is for them to enter into a committed same-sex relationship. They can
never attain the intimacy and unity that a heterosexual couple can. But at
least in a committed relationship, they are not likely to be involved in
|Equality: Homosexuality and bisexuality are fixed normal, natural sexual
orientations for a minority of adults. Both same-sex and opposite-sex
behavior can be moral or immoral, depending upon the safety of the act and
the nature of the relationship. Persons of all sexual orientations should enjoy the same rights
and protections. They should all be allowed to marry the person that they love
and to whom they are committed.|
|Liberation: The morality of all sexual behavior -- same sex or
opposite sex -- should be primarily based on its ability to generate joy,
love and emotional growth. It is secondarily based on procreation. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and their supporters
have a special role to liberate society and the church sexually from its
historical fear and loathing of sexual behavior.
The Bible's six "clobber passages" as they are
traditionally translated into English and interpreted by conservative
theologians, do not reflect the will of God. |
More information on the diversity of viewpoints.
Positions held by various faith groups:
There are on the order of 1,500 denominations, new religious movements, para-church
organizations in North America. The vast majority identify themselves as
Christians. Similarly, about 75% of
North American adults
consider themselves to be Christian. However, there is no consensus
on exactly what criteria a believer or faith group must meet in order to be
considered Christian. Some of the more liberal Christian groups are quite
inclusive, accepting any group that considers itself Christian to be part of
that religion. But many conservative Protestant denominations consider only
fellow fundamentalist and other Evangelical denominations to be truly
Christians. The Roman Catholic Church considers Protestant and Anglican
denominations to be not "churches in the proper sense."
Some theologians consider Christianity to be more than a single religion.
Rather, they suggest that it is two or more religions
which share the name "Christianity" and the Bible, but which differ on many
Christianity outnumbers each of the
smaller organized religious groups in North America by a factor of 50 or more.
Thus, the relationship between homosexuality and religion in the U.S. and Canada
is almost entirely the relationship between homosexuality and Christianity.
|Religiously liberal groups, like the
United Church of
United Church of Canada and
Universalist Association have resolved the "homosexual issue."
The denominations work towards equal rights for gays and lesbians; they
welcome homosexuals as members; they ordain them as clergy.|
|Mainline denominations, like the
are experiencing major internal conflict over the issue. Disagreements are
deep and appear irresolvable, at least in the short term. There is a great
deal of impassioned debate and little dialog. Fault lines within the
denominations may appear on many levels:
|Young people may take a more liberal view; older members are often
more conservative. |
|There are often geographical divisions, with north eastern groups
being liberal and southern groups being conservative. |
|An urban/rural split is also common.|
|A major split is often between those who view homosexuals as a
group, and those who personally know a gay or lesbian as a close friend.|
|Religiously conservative groups, like the
the Assemblies of
God, and other Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christian denominations,
have also resolved the issue. They work towards maintaining special rights
for heterosexuals, defeating hate-crimes legislation that would protect gays
and lesbians, and promoting legislation to prevent homosexual marriages or
civil unions. Many denominations consider homosexuality to be a special type
of sin. Some teach, on the basis of
6:9, that gays are prohibited from
Kingdom of God (heaven).
They refuse membership and ordination to sexually active gays and lesbians.
They have no expectation of changing their policy in the future.|
In theory, "there should be at least one place where people who
experience same gender attraction can expect justice & respect and thatís in
a conservative Christian church." 1 They
teach that all people are sinners. Thus, gays and lesbians should be
accepted with open arms as fellow sinners. However, in practice, it does not
Justice and Respect, a conservative Christian group addressing
the homosexual issue comments: "Tragically, the knee jerk reaction of
'shooting our wounded' is never more apparent than it is with SGA
[same-gender attraction] and these people who most need a sense of Christian
love and community often receive the least. We ...made our offer of
love very conditional. It's time we stop tolerating our own unChristlike
behavior...It is time to become Jesus to the hurting ..." 1
Many gays and lesbians remain partially or completely in the "closet".
They often view the church as the last place that they would want to "come
out", because of quite valid expectations of rejection and homophobia. This
is a Catch 22 situation, because the most effective way of changing a
heterosexual's beliefs about homosexuality is for them to befriend a
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
L.R. Holben, "What Christians think about homosexuality: Six representative viewpoints," Bibal Press, (1999).
Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com
online book store.
- "Evelyn Hooker, PhD,"
Cited in David G.
Meyers & Letha Dawson Scanzoni, "What God has joined together? A Christian
case for gay marriage," HarperSanFrancisco, (2005-JUN), Pages 140 to 147. This is
based on a proof version of the book; the page number may be changed in the
final published copy.
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online book store.
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 2005-MAY-8
Latest update: 2005-MAY-9
Author: B.A. Robinson