Professor Mayurakshi Chaudhuri
Marriage and Family
9 November 2014
A. Describe how the idea of sexual identity developed in social sciences.
B. Elaborate on the debate about the origins of homosexuality, and focus particularly on why have biological studies of homosexual origins been controversial.
C. How is the network of friends of a gay or lesbian couple different from a kinship network?
“Sexual identity is a set of sexual practices and attitudes that lead to the formation in a person’s mind of an identity as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual (Cherlin).” The idea that individuals have a sexual identity for same sex or opposite sex partners did not exist until the nineteenth century. Before then, though religious principles and civil laws prohibited several sexual practices, a person who broke those laws was not thought to have a different personality from people who have displayed conventional sexual behavior. Some sociologists and scholars say that sexual identities are fully determined by society. Others take the position that biological influences may also have a significant role in sexual identity. The belief that human sexual identities are entirely socially constructed is called social constructionist perspective. Advocates note the unclear boundaries of the two-gender, heterosexually dominant model. For instance, they might cite the between-man-and-woman genders such as two spirits. They would also note that in much of ancient Greece and Rome, men were allowed and sometimes expected, to desire sex with other men or boys as well as with women. The sexual constructionist would also argue that even today sexual identities vary from culture to culture.
The emergence of homosexuality was in the late nineteenth century. At that time, homosexuality was categorized on an individual case; they were known as homosexual persons, whom were people suffering from a psychological illness that altered their sexual preferences. Medical literature stated that their supposedly unnatural condition was labeled “homosexuality,” and it was said to infuse their personalities. In comparison, the same writers defined a normal sexual preference for the opposite sex as “heterosexuality.” Heterosexuals were seen as mentally healthy opposed to sick or homosexuals. Until 1973, this medical model was dominant, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Sexual orientation is like any other human behavior, experienced in a variety of ways, which influenced biological and social factors. In our society, people are subjected to discrimination on the basis of differences in biology and culture, like sex, skin color, ethnicity and religion. Nevertheless of the extent to which biology impacts ones sexual individuality, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals should be given security against discrimination resulting from their sexual orientation. The promise of a quick scientific fix for the problem of discrimination against homosexuals sidetracks us from the larger social issue. Homophobia and discrimination exist and it is immature to think that a genetic explanation of homosexuality will change that. Only thing that could possibly change those issues are social and political remedies. Biology is not the issue; society is what causes these social issues like homophobia and discrimination. Relatively, society must acknowledge the validity of lesbian and gay lifestyles. We need an end to bias, an acceptance of all human beings, and a celebration of diversity, whatever its origins. Society must recognize the validity of lesbian and gay lifestyles. We need to end discrimination and accept all human beings, and a celebration of diversity, whatever its origins (Silverman).
Lesbians and gay men use the term “family” to describe their close relationships, but they mean something different from the standard, marriage-based family. Many lesbians and gay men have no family that does not