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Papers & Essays

Relationships - Accepting One's Innate Sexual Orientation

Summary:
To lead a fulfilling, happy life, an individual must accept who he/she is. This includes accepting one's innate sexual orientation. When society discriminates against individuals who differ from what their society considers the norm, it results in that individual experiencing psychological harm. As caregivers of children we can work to change attitudes and eliminate discrimination against "homophilia" (same sex love).

Keywords:
discrimination, bullying, homophilia, heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, gay, lesbian
Caregiver Goals

We want children to live fulfilling, happy lives. This means being self-respectful--accepting himself/herself including physical and psychological traits as well as accepting his/her biological sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is linked to the personal relationships human beings form with others in order to meet their needs for love, attachment and intimacy. It includes non-sexual bonds like shared goals, values, support and commitment. The four distinct variations of human sexuality are: heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, and asexuality. It is difficult to get reliable information about the scope of each of these groups.

Available Data

Reliable data about the population of homosexuals within any given community is not available as these relationships are often kept secret, and furthermore, in a number of cases, persons who are homosexual do not associate themselves with the terms "homosexual," "gay," "lesbian," or "homophilia" (the preferred term, which signifies an inclusive bonding that is more than a sexual act.) It is estimated that same-sex behaviour is practiced by 2 to 10 percent of the population.

Homosexuality is outlawed in some countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the South Pacific, and in some areas it is punishable by imprisonment; in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, northern Nigeria, Sudan and Yemen it carries a death penalty.

Homosexuality has been decriminalized in: Poland, 1932, Denmark, 1933, Sweden, 1944, United Kingdom, 1967, India, 2009. When homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973 by the American Psychiatric Association, laws were created in many countries against discrimination in reference to sexual orientation within employment, housing and services. Today more and more individuals are open about their sexual orientation, perhaps in part due to the end of the U.S. military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" practice, and the legalization of same-sex relationships/marriages in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and in seven American states and specific cities and tribal jurisdictions.

Cause

Scientists and medical specialists who have studied sexual orientations believe that it is not a choice. The Royal College of Psychiatrists stated in 2007: "Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in formation of a person's fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation. It would appear that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice." The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers and the American Academy of Pediatrics state the same conclusions. In a 2010 abstract study Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state: "The fetal brain develops during the intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone surge. In this way, our gender identity (conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and the sexual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that (the) social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation."*1

Here are some people whose lives have been affected by discrimination related to homophilia.

Jason

Jason, sitting across the table from me at a local cafe, answered my questions about living as a young, gay guy.

Jason: As a teenager when I saw a man with his shirt off, I wanted to look at him. Great muscles! My interest didn't seem different. I knew the word "Gay" but I didn't apply it to me. Then one day my family and I were watching a dance extravaganza on TV. My folks were commenting about how well one guy danced and how he looked, and then someone said, "Well, he's probably gay." Suddenly it hit me. That's me. It called up a very negative feeling. I was scared. I felt trepidation. I've been raised in the church where you decide to let Jesus into your life and you become a super Christian. I hated sin. I was told that being gay was a problem God could heal. The church understood my "problem" provided I struggled against it and tried to be heterosexual. It had a bullying effect because it was an impossible expectation. I threw myself into religion, planned to attend Bible college, wanted to be a pastor.

About this time, when I was eighteen, I began to come out and confided to a few friends. They said I could change. If I raised my hand in a certain way, they'd stop me and say, "Don't do that. It's gay." I became very self-conscious of every movement and the way I talked. I was twenty when I told my family. Mother said that it was a sin, that I needed help; my sister thought I needed psychological help. My grandfather said I'd go to hell. I went to our family doctor and he said, "That can be fixed. There's shock therapy." For about a year and a half I felt very alone. My brother, who'd been a close buddy, refused to hear what was happening in my life. No one was interested in me anymore. I felt that my entire life was going to be a struggle. My mother said she didn't know what would become of me, and I told her, "Someday I'll marry my boyfriend, adopt kids and live the kind of life you want for me."

My grandmother, whom I seldom saw because she lived far away, was the last person I told. She said, "You know what I like about you? You're always honest. Please be careful. That world is dangerous." She cared about me. Her words of acceptance were what I needed most. When I was twenty-one I moved to live with my boyfriend, then I had to move back home because I got pneumonia--lost fifteen pounds in three or four days. People said it was God's punishment. At first I was very hurt, and then I got angry. I swore when anyone had an issue with my homosexuality. I went to college, got a degree, found friends at the Pride Peel Region organization. It took three or four years to come to terms with who I am. Now my family have come to accept me, and they have met every guy I've dated with open arms. My mom says, "I don't care, you're my son."

Edith

My friend Edith agonizes to me about her very attractive daughter's situation.

Sue has lived with her girlfriend a long time, but there is Ken, who has been a friend of our family since they were in high school together. Ken kept telling me that, one day, he was going to marry Sue, and Sue would laugh, but occasionally she wondered out loud what it would be like to marry Ken. I realize that Sue is gay, and I told both of them that it wouldn't work, but one day Sue phoned to say that she and Ken had eloped. I shook my head in disbelief. They stayed together only about a week, then Sue moved back in with her girlfriend. Well, she was pregnant, never-the-less she filed for divorce. The case went to court over the baby and Sue was declared an "unfit mother." She lost custody of their newborn daughter. Sue blames me for not supporting her enough--won't speak or come around. Ken lets me visit the baby, but it's miserable for all of us.

Having heard about Edith's experience, I wonder how often homosexual individuals marry someone of the opposite sex because they haven't accepted their sexual orientation or because they believe that they can change or that society demands that they live a heterosexual life style, and it results in a miserable situation for themselves and family.

Charles

Charles says that he was tormented, without fully understanding why, even by teachers and authority figures, from the time he was six years old in 1971. As a teenager, when he saw a movie with Sal Mineo playing the supporting role of Plato in "Rebel Without a Cause," he realized that Mineo was the kind of friend he wanted. Although reference to being gay was not used in the movie, Mineo was told to look at James Dean, playing the lead, like Dean looked his girlfriend. Later Mineo said that he was the first actor to play the part of a gay teenager. When Charles saw the movie again as an adult he realized that Mineo's character in the movie was ostracized just as he was being ostracized in high school, and that's when he realized that he needed to make friends with guys like himself. His parents had divorced and it set him deciding what sort of relationship he wanted. "But that was long ago," he said. He's lived common-law with his partner for many years.

Some names in the preceding interviews were changed to protect family members.

A father's story

About 500 young people die by suicide every year in Canada. Allan Hubley, Ottawa City Councillor, wants us to remember his son, Jamie, who died in 2011, and to stop the discrimination which led to Jamie's suicide. Jamie was a fifteen-year-old lad, a grade ten student and a figure skater. He sang in the choir, was treasured by his family, but struggled with depression largely because of years of homophilic taunts at school and on-line. When he was in the seventh grade his peers had tried to stuff batteries in his mouth. He wrote in his suicide note: "It's so hard. I'm sorry. I can't take it anymore."*2

Studies

"More than 34,000 people die by suicide every year," making it "the third leading cause of death among 15 - 24 year olds with lesbian, gay and bisexual youth attempting suicide up to four times more than their heterosexual peers." The study*3 reports that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) students say they do not feel safe at school; 90% of those students report that they have been harassed or assaulted during the year. They are likely to quit school, get into drugs, and the stress leads to cancer, heart disease, mental health problems and depression.

Conclusion

Caregivers can help youth accept their homosexual or heterosexual orientation. Bullying can be recognized and stopped. The topic of homophilia can be opened for discussion, which may help eradicate the discrimination that is damaging so many people.


References
Profile

Marlene_Ritchie.jpg Marlene Ritchie
For her writing Marlene Ritchie (née Archer) calls upon her experiences of teaching in the U.S., Japan and China, as a nurse and assisting-founder with Emma N. Plank of the Child Life and Education Program, which addresses the non-medical needs of hospitalized children, as a cofounder of Ritchies, a Toronto auction house, about growing up in a small Ohio town and about being a mother. Currently Marlene is a freelance writer and tutor living in Toronto, Canada. For the past eight years she has contributed to CRN.
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