Heterosexuality, attraction to individuals of the other gender, is the cultural normality for the behavior of males and females. Bisexuality, attraction to members of either gender, as well and homosexuality, attraction to members of the same gender, are not completely understood by scientists. Scientists have pondered the theory for many years that sexual preference is a learned behavior that is developed during early childhood.
There are many theories regarding how a particular sexual orientation develops. Some scientists share the view that sexual orientation is shaped at an early age through interactions of biological, psychological and social factors. Other psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health professionals agree that homosexuality may be genetically predetermined.
Research over the past thirty-five years has determined that homosexuality is not an illesss, mental disorder or emotional problem. Other objective research shows that homosexual orientation is not associated with emotional or social problems. Because sexual orientation develops in early adolescence, without any prior sexual experience, it is believed that it is not chosen. It has been reported that some people try diligently to change their sexual preference from homosexual to heterosexual with no success. For this reason, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.
An untrue stereotype about homosexuals is the belief that gay men have more of a tendency than heterosexual men to sexually molest children. There is no evidence of this. Instead, recent studies have shown that homosexual parents are quite capable of rearing developmentally secure children who are intelligent, as well as being psychologically well adjusted. There is no evidence that homosexual parents are less capable of parenting than heterosexual parents.
Because therapy cannot change sexual orientation, it is important for society to become better educated about homosexuality, thus diminishing anti-gay prejudice. Accurate information for young people struggling with their own sexual identity is especially important. The belief that such information–when given to young people–will affect one’s sexual orientation is not valid.
The people who have the most positive attitudes toward gay men and lesbians are those who say they know one or more gay persons well. For this reason, psychiatrists believe that discrimination against homosexuality is based on his or her lack of knowledge concerning gay people. Therefore, educating all people about sexual orientation and homosexuality is likely to diminish anti-gay prejudice.
CRITIQUE Homosexuality was once believed to be a mental illness, due to the unfortunate fact that mental health professionals furnished society with incorrect information. Most studies about homosexuals only involved gay men and lesbians who were in therapy. They were seeking help for their problems, just as straight men and women do. These studies, and the misunderstanding of homosexuality, seriously damaged the acceptance of gay men and lesbians. The theories of homosexuals by psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, painted an untrue portrait of gay men and lesbians. This unfair portrayal directly attributed to the unacceptance of homosexuals.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association confirmed that homosexuals were not mentally ill, and it was not until two years later in 1975, that the American Psychological Association passed a resolution supporting this confirmation. Both associations urged all mental health professionals to help dispel the stigma of mental illness that had been associated with homosexual orientation. Since this original declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder, this decision has been reaffirmed by additional research findings and by both associations.
However, when one is reared to believe a certain way, it is not easy to change his or her opinion. Psychiatrists, psychologists and the Lord above could urge one to rethink a learned fact; however, to dispute a theory learned early in life is sometimes impossible. This unfair discrimination against homosexuals is an obstacle to their leading a