LGTB rights is one of the most controversial and debated argument in the modern world, since in the 60s a much more liberal attitude toward homosexuality, and sexuality in general, developed in the society.
Alongside with the liberal ones there have always been conservatory opinions, which keep forth more traditional attitudes often sustained by religious belief and old moral values. In fact homosexuality has long been, and still is, seen as a threat to the equilibrium of the family based society, existing it thanks to heterosexuality. It actually appears clear though that such critics are not based on a deep study and observation of the phenomenon, since we are usually prevented by a cultural obstacle.
For instance, in some non-Western cultures, same-sex relationship are fully accepted and even encouraged. Let’s focus on the Batak people of northern Sumatra. Boys belonging to this specific community leave the parental home at puberty and, as a premarital ritual, sleep in a dwelling with a dozen or so older males who initiate them into same-sex practices.
There would be many more examples as this one, but what is important to realize is: how much is commonly known about homosexuality? The answer can be only one: little.
As a first bit of what society’s public opinion lack, we can tell there are numerous sexual orientations other than just two. Judith Lorber (1), in fact, distinguishes as many as ten different sexual identities (!): straight woman, straight man, lesbian woman, gay man, bisexual woman, bisexual man, transvestite woman, transvestite man, transsexual woman and transsexual man; and recognizes that in all societies there are sexual norms that approve some of these practices while discouraging or outlawing others.
Another distinction has to be made regarding the homosexual experience an individual lives. Kenneth Plummer (2) described four different types of homosexuality in modern society.
Casual homosexuality : it is a passing encounter that does not substantially structure a person’s overall sexual life.
Situated activities : these are circumstances in which same-sex acts are regularly carried out but do not become an individual’s overriding preference. Think about sets such as prisons or military camps, same-sex behavior of this kind is common, but it is regarded as a substitute for heterosexual behavior rather than as preferable.
Personalized homosexuality: it refers to individuals who have a preference for same-sex activities but are isolated from groups in which this is easily accepted. Same-sex relationships here are secretive activities, hidden away from relatives, friends and colleagues.
Homosexuality as a way of life: it refers to individuals who have “come out” and made associations with others of similar sexual tastes a key part of their lives. Such communities often provide the possibility of collective political action to advance the rights and interests of the LGBT community.
As you can see there is much more to know than what come to an eye. As for any form of discrimination, ignorance plays a key role in generalizing an entire category of people. Being this community in growth, it will be unavoidable for the society to become aware of what homosexuality is, and to put an end to a blind fear and an irrational disgust toward different sexual orientations (3).
- (1994) Professor Emerita of Sociology and Women’s Studies at The CUNY Graduate Center and Brooklyn College of the City University of New York
- (1975) Emeritus professor of Sociology at the University of Essex
- “Sociology” Anthony Giddens, Philip W.Sutton, 7th edition
(Photo Credit: Beatrice Murch)