Sexuality of Gay Lesbian and Bisexual Term Paper

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Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals

Sexuality of Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals

It is extremely difficult to define human sexuality. The first hurdle is determining a person's gender. In addition to male and female, there are people who do not fit neatly into either category, whether because of chromosomal or biological differences. The second hurdle is to define someone's sexual orientation, which refers primarily to sexual attraction, but is mistakenly used to define behavior. The problem with such a limited point-of-view is that sexual behavior does not necessarily follow from sexual attraction.

One of the most limiting views of human sexuality is the idea that sexuality is rigid and that people cannot be attracted to one sex and also be attracted to members of the other sex. To those that hold this view, there are two forms of human sexuality: homosexuality and heterosexuality. Others hold a different view of human sexuality and view sexuality and sexual attraction as a continuum, with those who are solely attracted to the same sex at the homosexual end of the spectrum and those who are solely attracted to members of the opposite sex at the heterosexual end of the spectrum. Whether one views homosexuality and heterosexuality as diametric opposites, or as ends of a broad spectrum, the terms are still used to define a person's sexuality by reference to which gender that person finds attractive.

However, while persons who are solely attracted to members of one gender may be easy to classify, there is an ongoing debate about when to classify a person who has experienced attraction to both genders as homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual.

With regard to identity, common controversial topics of procedure include whether someone should be categorized as "bisexual" by behavior if they have any sexual contact with members of more than one gender, and further, whether frequency of contact with either sex is a factor, whether group sex is admissible as an instance, and whether the occurrence of orgasm, as well as its frequency in terms of total encounters, has any bearing. (Wikipedia, "Sexual Orientation").

To those concerned with labeling sexual behavior, such categorization is very important. Is the coed who dates members of the opposite gender but kissed a same-sex roommate bisexual, homosexual, or heterosexual?

The mere fact that such labeling is considered so important and has been the subject of intense debate and study leads one to wonder about the historical basis of defined sexual orientation. Interestingly enough, there are several strong arguments for the idea that sexual orientation is a social construct. Support for this theory is found in the idea that until recently, in western societies, people spoke of specific sex acts but not of the participants in those acts (Wikipedia, "Sexual Orientation"). Furthermore, people cite civilizations were same-sex acts are considered appropriate between persons of different ages, or if an adult male is not penetrated, to support the idea that there really is no sexual orientation.

Others believe that sexual orientation is not merely a construct, but a genetic, biological part of each human being. There have been some studies indicating biological differences in certain areas of the brain in heterosexual and homosexual males. Of course, these studies are limited because the differences have been uncovered post-mortem and it is impossible to tell whether the brain difference causes the homosexuality, whether the homosexuality causes the brain differences, or whether a third variable causes both homosexuality and the brain difference. However, it is interesting to note that homosexual behavior has been observed in a wide-variety of animals, which does much to dispel the idea that the concept of homosexuality as a human construct.

In fact, looking at the homosexual behavior present in certain animals, it appears that there may be some biological basis to homosexuality, which deprives the construct argument of most of its validity. For example:

Some black swans of Australia form sexually active male-male mated pairs and steal nests, or form temporary threesomes with females to obtain eggs, driving away the female after she lays the eggs. More of their cygnets survive to adulthood than those of different-sex pairs possibly due to their superior ability to defend large portions of land. (Wikipedia, "Non-human Animal Sexuality").

Swans are not the only animals where homosexuality appears to have a positive evolutionary benefit. Because mitochondrial DNA comes solely from the mother, there is evidence that a person might be genetically closer to his or nieces and nephews than to his or her own children. Therefore, in terms of survivial of genetic material, especially in times where resources are scarce, homosexual behavior, which results in no offspring being born to certain individuals, might lessen the competition for those resources. In addition, those family members without children, having grown up in a community system, would be more likely to help the other members of the family, which would eventually ensure the survival of maternal genetic material (Athenadorus, 1-2). Therefore, there is some support for the idea that there is not only evidence that there is a biological basis for homosexuality, but also for the idea that homosexuality is actually a positive genetic adaptation.

Up to this point, the discussion has centered around the idea that there are two genders: male and female. Gender involves someones sexual identity, whereas sexual orientation refers to one's object of sexual attraction. There is some evidence of a third gender. The best support for the idea of a third gender is the fact that some persons exhibit genitalia that is However, there is a controversy around the existence of a third gender. Scientifically, there is some evidence for the existence of a third gender, because there are certain people whose genitalia exhibits both male and female characteristics. In addition, those who feel that their gender does not match their genitalia may consider themselves to be a member of this third-gender grouping. Interestingly enough, gender itself, while seemingly related to biological characteristics, may be somewhat of a societal construct. For example, "Non-Western cultures often had or have accepted gender roles for third-gendered people, for example the American Indian berdache and two-spirit people, the mahu in Polynesia, or the Indian hijras." (Wikipedia, "Third Gender"). There are many reasons why a genetic male or a genetic female might exhibit characteristics of the opposite gender. Furthermore, even resort to chromosomes reveals that there are not simply two genders. "Though high school biology teaches that men have XY and women XX chromosomes, in fact there are quite a few other possible combinations such as XO, XXX, XXY, XYY, XO/XY," in addition to the traditional XX female and XY male. (Wikipedia, "Intersexuality"). Therefore, it is not scientifically correct to speak solely in terms of two genders. However, Western societies are oriented towards two genders, therefore most members of the third-gender are identified as either male or female. Furthermore, classification of their sexual orientation is based upon resort to their primary gender identification.

The term sexual orientation, which is used to define one's object of sexual desire, is merely one of the components that help define one's sexuality. The first consideration is one's personal conception of gender. For example, a chromosomal male who has female genitalia may self-identify as female. Therefore one's sexual or gender identity is a primary component of sexual orientation. The second component involves an identification of which genders a person finds sexually attractive. The third component is based on behavior. For example, regardless of sexual orientation, one may engage in same-sex behavior, opposite-sex behavior, or choose to be abstinent. It is the behavioral component of sexuality that provides the most confusion in the entire debate over homosexuality.

For example, a male who is attracted to other males and a female who is attracted to other females are both considered homosexual. However, homosexuality refers to innate attraction. There is considerable disagreement…[continue]

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