Homosexuality Essay

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Homosexuality is a sexual orientation in which one experiences sexual attraction primarily toward members of one’s own sex and is also sexual behavior with partners of the same sex. The prefix homo- is from the Greek word for “same.” The general term gay, and the gender-specific terms gay man and lesbian, are commonly used to describe people who identify as homosexual. Homosexuality contrasts with heterosexuality, the sexual attraction to members of the other sex, and bisexuality, where there is sexual attraction to members of both sexes.

A variation on these categories derives from the work of Alfred Kinsey and colleagues in the late 1940s. Kinsey allowed people to describe their sexual interests on a 7-point scale from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual, with bisexual as the midpoint. It is also common to distinguish aspects of homosexual experience; sexual behavior, attraction, romantic interest, and social preference. Intimate same-sex interactions also inevitably create a challenge to gender-role expectations, whether by denying or confirming them, but with a clash between sex and gender role. Given the centrality of gender-role conflict, the acronym LGBT is often used to include lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgendered people under a common banner.

One way in which different perspectives on homosexuality can be framed is in terms of the debate between essentialism and social constructionism. The essentialist position presents homosexuality as a relatively fixed orientation held by a proportion of the population, with continuity of experience across history and culture, and with some basis in biology or very early social development. The social constructionist view proposes that sexualities, like gender and other important social categories, are constructed as part of processes of social power that are heteronormative and that homosexuality as a sexual orientation is a modern construction. There are many variations on these two approaches, adopting more or less of the perspective from each side of the argument and reflecting the diverse ways in which members of the gay and lesbian community experience their own sexual identity, interests, and history.

This diversity of views also informs social conflicts and the operation of social forces, which create ongoing inequities and threaten the liberty, and even life, of many homosexual people. In many cultures, religion plays a central role in these conflicts. For example, many Christians see homosexuality as a direct challenge to aspects of social order based on scripture and tradition, and, indeed, some political movements arising from “queer theory” actively challenge the assumptions underlying that social order. Other members of the gay and lesbian community affirm shared beliefs about the ideal nature of relationships, seeking a point of connection with the dominant social order in order to participate in social institutions such as marriage. Within the Christian tradition itself, homosexuality has also been a source of internal conflict and schism. More broadly, the status and legitimacy of homosexuality has varied across time as well as across cultures. Homosexuality continues to be an important domain of social conflict and social change, with ongoing reverberations through many aspects of individual and social life.


  1. Boswell, John. 1980. Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. New ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  2. Herek, Gregory M. 1998. Stigma and Sexual Orientation: Understanding Prejudice against Lesbians, Gay Men and Bisexuals. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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