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Homosexuality and bisexuality

A brief overview of homosexuality:
quotes, core problem, oppression, etc.

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Quotation sampler:

bullet "Because families are defined by love not gender. Because hatred is not a family value. Because equal rights are not special rights." Anonymous comment found on a gay web site.
bullet "If you're gay or a lesbian, its a biological error" Dr. Laura Schlessinger, physiologist and radio/TV talk show host.
bullet "Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness." Sigmund Freud (1935)
bullet "The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, THAT my friends, is true perversion."   Harvey Milk, a gay male who spoke the above words at the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Rally. He was killed later that year by a fanatic.
bullet "[Homosexuals are] brute beasts...part of a vile and satanic system [that] will be utterly annihilated, and there will be a celebration in heaven." Jerry Falwell, (1933 -  2007) a well known fundamentalist Christian teleminister.
bullet "The opposite of homosexuality isn't heterosexuality; the opposite of homosexuality is holiness." Mike Haley, the director of gender issues for Focus on the Family.
bullet "Whatever religious people may say about their love of God or the mandates of their religion, when their behavior toward others is violent and destructive, when it causes suffering among their neighbors, you can be sure the religion has been corrupted and reform is desperately needed." Charles Kimball and author of a book: When Religion Becomes Evil.
bullet "When religion sanctifies hatred, it lends to that hatred a special ferocity. Normal moral inhibitors are erased." Johannes Cardinal Wildebrands.
bullet "You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image, when it  turns out that God hates all the same people you do." Anne Lamott
bullet "...change is possible. No one is born gay. It's a perverted choice one makes. Why would God make anyone homosexual then bar them admittance into the Kingdom of Heaven?" From the "Christians No Longer Gay Living for God" web site." 1
bullet "Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands? Ernest Gaines
bullet "You could move." Abigail Van Buren in "Dear Abby" replying to a reader who was concerned that a gay couple had moved across the road from him; he wanted to know what he could do to improve the quality of the neighborhood.
bullet "It always seemed to me a bit pointless to disapprove of homosexuality. It's like disapproving of rain."  Francis Maude
bullet "The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to the heterosexuals. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision." Lynn Lavner

The core problem:

There is no consensus in North America about homosexuality:

bullet Some people consider homosexual behavior to be a crime. They believe that sexually active gays and lesbians should be arrested, charged, and perhaps imprisoned.
bullet Others feel that homosexuality is a disorder or an addiction that can be corrected through personal repentance and trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior, perhaps supplemented by reparative therapy and prayer.
bullet Still others consider homosexual orientation to be a morally neutral trait, like left handedness. It is normal, natural, and unchosen. Of course, homosexual acts -- like heterosexual acts -- can be sinful and sometimes criminal if they involve manipulation, coercion, lack of consent, significant danger of passing an STD, etc.

There is a major divide between those under 40 years of age -- who tend to have more liberal and inclusive beliefs about homosexuality -- and those over 60 who are much more conservative. As younger adults come into positions of power and older adults retire, a major shift in the acceptance of homosexuality is expected.

Oppression based on race, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity:

Over the past 150 years, there have been many groups who have sought the North American dream of "liberty and justice for all." Examples are:

bullet African-Americans seeking an end to slavery.
bullet Women seeking entry into professions that had been denied them.
bullet Women campaigning for universal suffrage.
bullet For the past few decades, gays and lesbians have been actively seeking the same equal rights and protections enjoyed by other groups, including the right to marry.
bullet Transsexuals are now beginning to seek equal treatment and protections as well.

The dispute over homosexuality is a little different from the previous two conflicts based on race and gender:

bullet It is generally obvious whether a person is Black or female. It is not obvious whether a person has a homosexual orientation. A gay or lesbian can try to stay in "the closet" and avoid discrimination.
bullet No consensus has been reached over the nature, cause, and permanence of homosexuality:
bullet Many social and religious conservatives believe that homosexuality is immoral, chosen after puberty, is a lifestyle, is defined by one's behavior, and is changeable.
bullet Most gays, lesbians, religious liberals, mental health professionals believe that homosexuality is morally neutral, is determined by some combination of genetics and environmental factors before school age, is a sexual orientation, is defined by ones sexual attraction to persons of the same sex, and is very rarely if ever changeable during adulthood.
bullet Homosexual orientation and behavior involve sexual attraction, sexual behavior, sexual fantasies, etc. -- topics about which many people feel awkward to consider or discuss.

The "warfare" among science & religions:

Normally, there are minimal conflicts between scientists and theologians. They usually work in different areas of interest. Theologians are rarely interested in the tensile strength of steel. Scientists -- at work, at least -- are rarely interested in the soul, salvation, Heaven or Hell. But there are shared areas where both scientists and theologians promote their own beliefs. Often, these beliefs are in conflict.

Lately, the main areas of religious conflict are the origins of the universe, discipline of children through corporal punishment, and various human sexuality topics:

bullet Homosexuality is measurable and thus is a legitimate area for human sexuality researchers to study. They have generally concluded that adult human sexuality comes in three natural, normal, unchosen, and almost always unchangeable orientations:
bullet Heterosexuality: Most people are sexually attracted only to members of the opposite gender.
bullet Homosexuality: A small minority of adults are attracted only to members of the same gender.
bullet Bisexuality: A smaller minority are attracted to both men and women, but not necessarily to the same degree. They are the only folks that can have a sexual preference in their relationships.
bullet Homosexuality is mentioned in the Torah and Bible, in the Qur'an, in writings of the Baha'i Prophet Baha'u'llah, and in other texts considered sacred in various world religions. Thus, homosexuality is a legitimate area for theologians to study.
bullet Many religious conservatives believe that God inspired the authors of their holy book to write material that is completely inerrant -- free of error. They base their beliefs about homosexual behavior on their interpretation of biblical passages. They generally conclude that it is sinful, unnatural, abnormal, chosen and changeable behavior.
bullet Religious liberals generally approach the Bible as a historical document rather than as the inerrant Word of God. They base their beliefs about homosexual orientation on their interpretation of the same biblical passages, and on general biblical themes of justice, love and acceptance. They also seriously consider the findings of human sexuality researchers. They generally agree with scientists that homosexuality is a morally neutral, natural, normal, unchosen, and unchangeable orientation for a minority of adults.

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Two opposing definitions:

In the above text, there are two opposing concepts as to the nature of homosexuality:

bullet According to almost all human sexuality researchers, mental health therapists, medical practitioners, religious liberals, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, etc., homosexuality is one of three sexual orientations. A person's orientation is based on the sex to which a person is attracted, the person's fantasies, and self-identification. Homosexuality is a part of what they are."
bullet According to most religious conservatives, the term "homosexuality" refers to behavior, not to sexual orientation. Homosexuality is a behavior that one does:
bullet A heterosexual is a person who has recently engaged in sexual behavior only with a person(s) of the opposite gender.
bullet A homosexual is a person who has recently engaged in sexual behavior with one or more persons of the same gender.
bullet Bisexuality is rarely mentioned.

This difference in definitions makes dialogue almost impossible. As examples:

bullet Consider a homosexual -- a gay or lesbian person who is only attracted to individuals of the same gender, and who has solely engaged in same-sex behavior. Most religious liberals and conservatives would both consider him/her to be a homosexual. However, if the individual now decides to remain celibate, then:
bullet Religious liberals and others  would generally consider her/him to be a celibate homosexual.
bullet Many religious conservatives would consider that he/she has "left the gay lifestyle" and is now an "ex-gay."

This leads to immense confusion, particularly if the persons life story is told in a way that seems to imply that their sexual orientation changed from homosexual to heterosexual, as is often the case.

bullet Similarly, a bisexual who had been sexually active with both men and women would be considered a bisexual by most religious liberals, but would be viewed as a homosexual by most conservatives. If the individual decided to restrict his/her sexual relationship(s) with persons of the opposite sex, they would be considered an ex-gay by most conservatives and a bisexual by most liberals.

A novel fundamentalist Christian definition of sexual orientation:

Fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians often assign unique meanings to commonly used words. A few influential fundamentalist Christian groups have taken this to an extreme by broadened their own definition of "sexual orientation" far beyond the three that other groups recognize.

They combined:

bullet The three sexual orientations: heterosexuality, bisexuality & homosexuality;
bullet Two sexual identities, transsexuality and being transgender;
bullet A large number of paraphilias; 4 and
bullet Some criminal acts like prostitution and incest.

and define the whole bunch of over 30 terms -- mostly behaviors -- to be sexual orientations. This causes mass confusion and makes dialogue essentially impossible.

More details.

Beliefs of the American public:

By far the most vocal groups in the media who discuss homosexuality are religious conservatives debating supporters of equal rights for gays, lesbians and bisexuals. But there are more than two viewpoints concerning homosexuality. We have been able to identify at least six viewpoints which we refer to as:

bullet Abomination (the most conservative position),
bullet Change is expected,
bullet Celibacy is expected,
bullet Marginally acceptable,
bullet Equality and
bullet Liberation (the most liberal position).

For simplicity, most of our essays compare and contrast very conservative with very liberal positions.

Equal rights for homosexuals is one of the most controversial and divisive social topics in North America. Evangelical Christians consider it to be the most important social conflict at the present time -- more important to them even than restricting or eliminating abortion access for women.

Polls report that public beliefs about homosexuality are in a state of flux.  Barna Research found that:

bullet Among Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians, 95% find the "lifestyle" to be unacceptable.
bullet Among born-again Christians, 66% agree.
bullet Among the general population, only 46% agrees.
bullet One indication of future trends is a survey of high school seniors taken in 2002; it indicated that only 39% believe that "gay lifestyles are morally wrong."

About homophobia:

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. defines homophobia as an "irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals" Unfortunately, the term has more than one meaning. This leads to a lot of hard feelings, confusion, and an inability to dialog. By this definition:

bullet One can be homophobic if one fears or hates gays and/or lesbians, even if one has no interest in oppressing or discriminating against them.
bullet One can be homophobic if one discriminates against them, even though one has no irrational fear or aversion towards homosexuals.

The term "homophobia" is in the same category as such words as: sexism, racism, and religious hatred. Sometimes they mean simple hatred or aversion; other times they refer to activities intended to restrict the human rights of people.

In terms of the victims' lives, simple hatred and aversion has little effect. It is action of oppression and discrimination which harm people.

We will use homophobia to refer to the latter activity -- desire and/or actions to oppress and discriminate against gays and lesbians. More details.

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:
  3. "What is a 'Sexual Orientation'?" American Family Association, undated, at:
  4. Paraphilias are recurrent, intense sexual urges, fantasies, or behaviors which are so powerful that they cause the person major concern and adversely affect his or her life.

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Copyright 1996 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated 2009-MAY-11

Author: Bruce A Robinson

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