Essay on Homosexuality and Science

Research PaperScience
May 26, 2019

Society previously perceived homosexuality as an abnormal condition. Religions regarded homosexuality as a sin and homosexuals as sinful individuals. Furthermore, even the American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a psychiatric condition for about two decades. The negative perceptions towards homosexuality led homosexuals to become social deviants and societal outcasts. Society saw them as unnatural since they ignore sexual norms. However, modern research has shown that some of the factors affecting the development of homosexual behaviors are natural. Through scientific discoveries and research, society is slowly accepting the concept of homosexuality and allowing homosexuals freedom from stigma.

Perspectives on Homosexuality Through History

The advent of religions, particularly Christianity, led to homosexuality and homosexual behaviors becoming negative concepts. However, history can reveal that early civilizations had an open approach to the concept. For instance, Ancient Greece had no concept of homosexuality and heterosexuality. While they had the concept of conjugation between husband and wife, they also accepted the attraction towards beauty regardless of gender (Pickett, 2021). For the Ancient Greeks, it was acceptable to have an erotic attraction towards the same sex as it expresses one's attraction to beauty. Homosexuality started receiving negative responses from society during the Roman period. This was perhaps due to the economic and social issues that the Romans faced which required them to go to war. (Pickett, 2021). Roman society may have wanted to encourage the image of strong soldiers; individuals who possessed peak masculinity. 

When Christianity became prominent in societies, homosexuality became a mortal sin. The church started to preach against homosexual behaviors which led to widespread negative connotations toward homosexuals. Eventually, European countries established laws that made homosexuality a capital offense (Pickett, 2021). Homosexual individuals became subject to capital punishment. Only after Napoleon Bonaparte established the Napoleonic Code that governments removed homosexuality as a capital offense. However, the negative connotations persisted, leading to continuous persecution. By 1952, the American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Psychiatrists attempted to treat the condition using various treatments. However, By 1973, the association removed the classification as research began to shed light on how homosexual behaviors appear in an individual.

Homosexuality as a Natural Phenomenon

One of the arguments regarding homosexuality is that it is an unnatural phenomenon. Anti-gay activists often argue that heterosexuality is the correct and natural way since a man is for a woman and vice versa. Therefore, homosexual behaviors and other sexual preferences are unnatural. However, some studies have shown that homosexuality is also present in animals (Bailey, 2006; Grueter & Stoinski, 2016). Scientists observed homosexual behaviors among monkeys, apes, sheep, birds, and other mammals. Studies suggest that around 1,500 animal species engage in same-sex coupling (Brandlin, 2017). Such behavior involved both males and females, and homosexual relationships varied, involving short-term mating and lifelong coupling.

The presence of homosexual behaviors in nature was a leap in the study of homosexuality. It showed that homosexuality is not exclusive to humans and there may be a biological reason behind the behaviors. This meant religious arguments, such as demonic influences, lost their merits.  For instance, Grueter & Stoinski (2016) observed homosexual behaviors among female gorillas which they hypothesized came from various possible factors. The researchers suggested that homosexual behaviors among the gorillas may be a show of dominance or as simple as an attempt for sexual gratification. Regardless of the correct reason, the study is proof that homosexuality is a natural phenomenon.

Search for the Gay Gene

Aside from homosexual behaviors in animals, scientists also theorized that a single gene could be responsible for individuals developing homosexual behaviors. Through this notion, homosexuality becomes a hereditary trait which supports the argument that it is a natural phenomenon. Earlier studies attempted to find the “gay gene” to prove that homosexual behavior is hereditary (Ganna et al., 2019; Kaiser, 2019). However, these studies failed to find the gay gene but instead learned that homosexual behaviors come from genetic patterns among genes. This means that while no single gene can cause homosexuality, genetic patterns and other external factors may increase the risk of homosexual behaviors developing in an individual.

Certain studies have also linked homosexuality with birth order. In one seminal study, the researchers found that the more older brothers a man has from the same mother, the higher the chances of having a homosexual orientation (Blanchard et al., 1998). Succeeding studies investigating the same topic arrived at similar findings, such as in the case of a recent study which found that maternal immune response to a Y-linked protein increases with each new male gestation, thus establishing a biological underpinning of the process that increases the likelihood of homosexuality in men with older brothers (Bogaert et al., 2019). However, modern researchers have recognized that the influence of genes on homosexual behaviors is minimal. Meaning that other factors, such as environmental and social, may have larger roles in the process. Still, genetic influence will increase the chance of homosexual behavior development which can put an individual in a position where they have no choice in the matter.

Since researchers have agreed that there might not be a single “gay gene”, scientific studies on homosexuality have shifted their focus. Currently, scientists are focusing on genome-wide associations to map the genetic patterns that may influence homosexual behaviors (Akpan, 2019). Through this type of study, researchers can better understand the association between the genes containing the genetic pattern. For instance, there is a hypothesis that homosexual behaviors may be an evolutionary by-product (Reardon, 2021). Early humans may have benefited from the behaviors, allowing them to survive certain conditions. Genome-wide associations can lead to understanding the origins of homosexuality-related genetic patterns and homosexuality, in general.

Disproved Homosexuality Myths

Aside from attempting to discover the origins of homosexuality and how it develops, science also helped disprove myths about homosexuality. These myths came from the many misconceptions regarding homosexuality, many coming from anti-LGBT movements. For instance, the now-discredited psychologist Paul Cameron spread the myth that gay men were more likely to molest children than straight individuals (Schlatter & Steinback, 2011). This myth became a widespread rumor that significantly affected society's perception of homosexuals. Fortunately, the American Psychological Association stated that LGBTs are not likely to molest children. The Child Molestation Research & Prevention also noted that the majority of child molesters are men married to women (cited in Schlatter & Steinback, 2011). These showed that even studies not directly focused on homosexuality or other sexual preferences can help shed light on the topic.

Another homosexuality myth came from neo-Nazis as they attempt to associate homosexuals with Nazism . In the book “The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party” (1995), the authors stated that homosexuals controlled the Nazi Party and helped in the Holocaust (cited in Schlatter & Steinback, 2011). The book insisted that homosexuals were not victims during the Holocaust and that Hitler allied with them because of their “unusual brutality”. Despite the controversial claims of the authors, many historians and scholars published refutations against the book. The historians and scholars criticized the poor research and credibility of the publication. While the response of historians and scholars is to preserve the truth about the Holocaust, it also showed that researchers are willing to defend homosexuals against various forms of bigotry.

Conclusion

Many scientific studies have supported the notion that homosexuality is a natural and normal phenomenon. Animal observations revealed that homosexuality appears in nature. Hereditary studies showed that birth order may influence the manifestation of homosexual behaviors. Genetics has also shown that while genes have minimal effects on developing homosexual behaviors, genetic patterns can increase the chance of homosexuality. These studies, along with others, have provided objective data that disproved misconceptions and helped shed light on LGBT+. As researchers conduct more studies on the topic, they can help the LGBT+ community fight for equal rights and fully transcend the prejudice against homosexuality and other sexual preferences.

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References

Akpan, N. (2019). There is No “Gay Gene.” There is no “Straight Gene.” Sexuality is Just Complex, Study Confirms. PBS. Available at https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/there-is-no-gay-gene-there-is-no-straight-gene-sexuality-is-just-complex-study-confirms. Accessed: October 17, 2022.

Bailey, N.W. & Zuk, M. (2009). Same-Sex Sexual Behavior and Evolution. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 24(8), 439-446.

Blanchard, R., Zucker, K. J., Siegelman, M., Dickey, R., Klassen, P. (1998). The Relation of Birth Order to Sexual Orientation in Men and Women. Journal of Biosocial Science, 30(4), 511-519. doi: 10.1017/s0021932098005112

Bogaert, A. F., Skorska, M. N., Wang, C., Gabrie, J., MacNeil, A. J., Hoffarth, M. R., Vanderlaan, D. P., Zucker, K. J., & Blanchard, R. (2018). Male Homosexuality and Maternal Immune Responsivity to the Y-linked Protein NLGN4Y. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(2), 302-306. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1705895114

Brandlin, A. (2017). 10 Animal Species that Show How Being Gay is Natural. Deustche Welle. https://www.dw.com/en/10-animal-species-that-show-how-being-gay-is-natural/g-39934832

Ganna, A., Verweij, K. J. H., Nivard, M. G., Maier, R., & Wedow, R., Busch, A. S., Abdellaoui, A., Guo, Shengru, & Sathirapongsasuti, J. F. (2019). Large-Scale GWAS Reveals Insights into the Genetic Architecture of Same-Sex Sexual Behavior. Science, 365(6456). doi: 10.1126/science.aat7693

Grueter, C. & Stoinski, T. (2016). Homosexual Behavior in Female Mountain Gorillas: Reflection of Dominance, Affiliation, Reconciliation, or Arousal? PLoS One, vol. 11(5). Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4864209/. Accessed: October 17, 2022.

Kaiser, J. (2019). Genetics May Explain up to 25% of Same-Sex Behavior, Giant Analysis Reveals. Science Magazine. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/08/genetics-may-explain-25-same-sex-behavior-giant-analysis-reveals

Pickett, B. (2021). Homosexuality. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at https://plato.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/encyclopedia/archinfo.cgi?entry=homosexuality. Accessed: October 17, 2022.

Reardon, S. (2021). Genetic Patterns Offer Clues to Evolution of Homosexuality. Nature. Available at https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02312-0. Accessed: October 16, 2022.

Schlatter, E. & Steinback, R. (2011). 10 Anti-Gay Muths Debunked. The Intelligence Report. Available at https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2011/10-anti-gay-myths-debunked. Accessed: October 17, 2022.

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