American Society To People With Homosexual Sociology Essay

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Homosexualita v USA
Autor práce: Filip Grék
Vedoucí práce: Mgr. Andrea Holešová, Ph.D.
Author: Filip Grék
Supervisor: Mgr. Andrea Holešová, Ph.D.
(Zadání vysokoškolské kvalifikační práce)
Cílem této bakalářské práce je popsat přístup americké společnosti k lidem s homosexuální orientací. Je nastíněna terminologie sexuality a homosexuality a první důkazy o homosexuálním chování a homosexualitě. Dále se bakalářská práce věnuje historii homosexuality v americké společnosti a jejím mílníkům. Následuje zmapování homosexuality ve vztahu k náboženství, zdraví, legislativě a armádě.
Klíčová slova:
homosexualita, Spojené státy americké, náboženství, zdraví, legislativa, armáda
The aim of this bachelor theses is to describe attitude of the American society to people with homosexual orientation. The terminology of sexuality and homosexuality and the first evidence of homosexual behaviour and homosexuality is outlined. Then, the thesis focuses on history of homosexuality in the American society and its milestones. Subsequently, the thesis pursues the relation of religion, health, legislation and military to homosexuality.
Keywords: homosexuality, United States of America, religion, health, legislation, military
I would like to thank to the supervisor of my bachelor thesis Mgr. Andrea Holešová, Ph.D. for her assistance, professional consultations and time spent. I would also like to thank Marriage Equality USA and Human Rights Campaign for providing PDF maps for the bachelor thesis.
Prohlašuji, že předložená práce je mým původním autorským dílem, které jsem vypracoval/a samostatně. Veškerou literaturu a další zdroje, z nichž jsem při zpracování čerpal/a, v práci řádně cituji a jsou uvedeny v seznamu použité literatury.
V Ostravě dne . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
An estimated 3.4% of USA adults identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender according to the Special Report of the Williams Institute. ( This estimate is not negligible and can be converted to a number of 10,700,208. ( This number is still an estimate but it is representing a quite strong minority. The aim of this thesis is to trace and present the current state of a part of this minority, homosexuals, in the USA. Another aim is to prove that living conditions of gays and lesbians have a tendency to improve and outline in what ways they will probably improve in the future.
In order to reach this aim many sources and official statistics are used. It should be pointed out, that this area of focus is a subject to constant changes and so the most helpful tools are the internet, scientific research and publications and reports of government agencies and various civil rights organizations. In order to investigate, analyze and describe situation around gays and lesbians in the USA, it is crucial to establish what sexual orientation, homosexual orientation and other terms mean. The second chapter is focused on the explanation of these terms. Third chapter is dedicated to the history of homosexuality. The first evidences of homosexual behaviour and homosexuality and brief history of homosexuality in the USA including Native American society and early legislation are presented here. Following chapters are focused on the homosexuality in the individual aspects of the USA society. Author decided to focus on history, health, religion, education, legislation and military because these aspects of the USA society have the biggest impact on homosexuals or present biggest challenges to them or both. The division into these aspects of the USA society also allows to more easily trace and present roots, agents and changes of position of homosexuals in the USA society. Everyday life of the homosexual minority, its challenges and problems have roots in these aspects of the USA society and are in these aspects subsequently reflected.
Sexual orientation – Terminology
Knowledge of terminology concernign sexual orientation is essential in order to write about homosexuality in the USA. This chapter is focused on this issue and will determine what is sexual orientation and homosexual orientation. Term homosexuality was first used in 1869 by a German legal reformer who wanted to change antisodomy laws. (Fausto-Sterling 13)
Sexual orientation and homosexual orientation
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines homosexuality as "erotic activity with another of the same sex" (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary). This is an elementary and most known explanation of the term homosexuality. But as will be described this is not necessarily true. If we want to describe someone as homosexual, he has to have attraction towards same sex, not only physical contact with it.
The American Psychological Association defines sexual orientation as follows:
Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person's sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviours, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions. Research over several decades has demonstrated that sexual orientation ranges along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the other sex to exclusive attraction to the same sex. (Answers to your questions)
This tells us that sexual orientation is not a simple matter. It is complex and subject to many variations. Sexual orientation can be also fluid and it can change over some time.
In his book Gay, Straight and the Reason Why LeVay describes sexual orientation as "... the trait that predisposes us to experience sexual attraction to people of the same sex as ourselves (homosexual, gay, or lesbian), to persons of the other sex (heterosexual or straight), or to both sexes (bisexual)." (1) It should be stressed that use of the word trait evokes an impression that it is a genetic predisposition. However, science does not have enough evidence to support either the nurture or nature theory [1] .
From the above stated definitions we can conclude that homosexual orientation or homosexuality is a sexual orientation with emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions towards individuals of the same sex. It should be also mentioned that not all people are exclusively heterosexual or homosexual and that intermediary ‘degrees’ exist. The most famous rating scale used for heterosexual-homosexual orientation was developed in 1948 by Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and Clyde Martin. The Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale (also known as the Kinsey scale) measures people from 0 to 7 while 0 means exclusively heterosexual and 7 exclusively homosexual. Since the development of the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale many other and more elaborate scales were developed in order to reach more detailed analysis of a person’s sexual orientation.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, LGBT and MSM a WSW
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary "gay" is an adjective which means "happily excited" or "bright, lively". Later it became to denote a "homosexual" or specifically "homosexual male". Use of this word is widespread today. It means not only a homosexual male but is also used as adjective interchangeable with homosexual. This can be seen when the articles and people are talking about gay rights, gay bars or gay parades, although expression "gay parades" is not used so often anymore and was replaced with "pride parades or gay pride parades".
The word "lesbian" means a "homosexual female". This word is derived from the name of a greek island Lesbos, home of famous female poet Sappho. Expression "bisexual" means males and females with bisexual orientation. Bisexuals are physically, romantically and emotionally atracted to both males and females. Bisexuals often show distinct preference for one sex but they do not exclude the other one.
An acronym LGBT is widely used today. It refers to "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender" individuals. LGBT is also commonly used among academics and scientists. It is used when refering to issues concerning gays and lesbians and also other two sexual minorities – bisexual and transegnder. Other version of this acronym is LGBTQ. This stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning.
When talking about homosexuality, in some fields of science other terms are used to denote gays and lesbians. In medicine, physicians and specialists often use terms describing persons behaviour. When talking about HIV and STIs, men who have sex with men (MSM) and women who have sex with women (WMW) are terms that are often used because they specifically describe hazardous behaviour which does not have to be connected with emotional or romantic parts of sexual orientation.
History of homosexuality
First section is focused on first evidence of homosexual behaviour and homosexuality and also on history of homosexuality in the USA. Section about history of homosexuality in the USA deals with homosexuality among Native Americans, early legislation and also history of gay and lesbian movement and its milestones.
First evidence
Many locations of archaeological interest can be found, where "first" evidence of homosexuality is present. These pieces of evidence are in most of the time inconclusive. The evidence gets more inconclusive as it gets older. Some of the first pieces of evidence of homosexual behaviour and homosexuality follow.
Acrobats of Gr. dell’ Addaura is a scene engraved in a cave in Sicily. Among many interpretations of this scene, one of the alternatives is that it depicts homosexual intercourse. (Mussi p. 344) Another evidence can be found in the tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep. Carvings in the walls depict the two manicurists of the king embracing one another, holding hands and positioned in intimate positions. Among others, carvings may also depict a homosexual couple. Homosexuality can be also found in Early Greece. Following quote from Plato’s Symposium illustrates the stance of Ancient Greek society towards male homosexuality. "For I know not any greater blessing to a young man who is beginning life than a virtuous lover, or to the lover than a beloved youth." (Symposium by Plato) It should be pointed out that love for males was not a fashion of privileged. In fact it had its place throughout whole Greek society and it held an honoured place from before 600 BC to about AD 400. (Crompton p. 2) Example of female homosexuality can be also found on the island called Lesbos. Word "lesbian" is derived from the name of the island. Famous poet Sappho was born here. Little is known about the life of Sappho, but she sang about the beauty of women and the lyrics she wrote illustrates her strong and powerful feelings towards women. (Crompton p.17)
History of homosexuality in the USA
First sub subchapter focuses on the Native Americans and the role of homosexuality in their culture and society. Second one describes the Sodomy laws and position of homosexuality in the colonial culture. Third one outlines and describes contemporary history of homosexuality in the USA.
Two-Spirit people and Sodomy Laws
Two-Spirit is a term for Native Americans who had many gender roles in their society and now is used for the Native Americans who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The term two-spirit was coined in the 1990s. The purpose was to replace obsolete and inappropriate "berdache".
Two-Spirit people had their own place in the Native American society (e.g. healers, shamans, ceremonial leaders) and they could be found in an overwhelming majority of tribes. (Roscoe) Two spirits were usually defined by their inclination to activities and "work" typical for the other sex. Even though they had a special role in the society, the two-spirit people are now facing discrimination not only from the major society but also from their own society and communities. (Roscoe)
The discrimination can be explained by interference of colonists and European and Christian culture. This interference destroyed traditional society of Native Americans and replaced it with a new one where the two-spirit people and their roles do not have their place as it used to be.
Colonial period presented a harsh time for homosexuals. First 13 colonies either enforced English law with or without incorporating it into their own laws or they adopted their own laws with the same punishment. English law punished ‘sodomites’ by death while interesting fact is that it perceived sodomy only as an act between men and lesbian acts were not criminalized by the English law. Early colonial laws which were in effect in the first 13 colonies perceived ‘sodomy’ as a capital felony and punishment for this felony was death. Overtime, colonial laws undertook many changes on their way to abolition of death penalty. Detailed overview of changes of laws in all colonies would be far beyond the needs of this thesis so the author mentions only particular laws or exceptionalities.
South colonies enforced English law without incorporating it into their own statutes with the exception of North Carolina which incorporated English law verbatim. On the other hand, north colonies laws were under the influence of the Puritans. Massachusetts’s Body of Laws and Liberties adopted in 1641 perceived sodomy as a capital crime punished by death. The language of the law was different from the English law and it incorporated the text of Leviticus 20:13: "If any man lyeth with mankinde as he lyeth wtih a woman, both of them have committed abhomination, they both shall surely be put to death". (Whitmore, 1890, p.55) According to Crompton the reason for incorporating Leviticus 20:13 was a fear of puritans from provoking divine wrath which could imperil their newly acquired land. New Haven laws were also under the influence of the Puritans. However, the law published in New Haven’s Settling in New-England and Some Lawes for Government in 1655 presented surprising departure from laws of other northern colonies. The law punished sodomy with death penalty as in the case of other laws however it extended the penalty to cover sodomy between women, heterosexual anal intercourse and in some cases even masturbation. This draconian law was in effect only for ten years till 1665 when New Haven joined Connecticut.
First colony to set off for brighter future was Pennsylvania. Under the influence of the Quakers humanism the Great Law was passed in 1682. The law limited a death penalty only to murder and penalty for sodomy was reduced .The great law stated that "if any "if any person shall be Legally Convicted of the unnatural sin of Sodomy or joining with beasts, Such persons shall be whipt, and forfeit one third of his or her estate, and work six months in the house of Correction, at hard labour, and for the Second offence, imprisonment as aforesaid, during life". However this liberal law didn’t have a long lifetime. It was regulated in 1700, 1705 and in 1718 was the Pennsylvanian law brought to accordance with the English law.
Ultimately, the death penalty was abolished in the colonies. American Revolution created an opportunity to reform laws or to create new ones. New laws were influenced by contemporary thinkers and religion on hand and advancing secularization and rationalisation of society on the other hand. First state to abolish death sentence in case of sodomy was Pennsylvania in 1786. Sodomy was punished with confiscation of all lands and property and a maximum of ten years of penal servitude. Other states followed Pennsylvania in abolishing death sentence for sodomy. The state which kept the death sentence for the longest period was South Carolina. South Carolina repealed the death sentence in 1873 and replaced it with up to 5 years imprisonment.
Approximate number of executions of homosexuals can be provided using a study made by M. Watt Espy, Jr. and John Ortiz Smykla. The study focuses on executions in the US or in the territories which later became part of the US. In this study, sodomy is categorized along with buggery and bestiality. The study mentions 15 executions in cases of sodomy/buggery/bestiality in 7 colonies between 1624 and 1801. Executions were carried out in following colonies: 4 executions in Connecticut, 3 executions in Massachusetts, 3 executions in New Jersey, 2 executions in New York (under the Dutch governance), 1 execution in Pennsylvania, 1 execution in Virginia, 1 execution in California (under Spanish governance). Nějaké pokračování?
Sodomy was perceived (by law) as a felony in every state until 1962. In the 1962 the State of Illinois decriminalized consensual sodomy and was the first state to do so. It was in 2003 when the Supreme Court in Texas (in Lawrence v. Texas) declared that "... the right to privacy protects a right for adults to engage in private, consensual homosexual activity." (Duke Law) Until 2003 thirteen states had laws prohibiting private, consensual homosexual activity. These laws became clearly unconstitutional by the ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. (Duke Law) Importance, real or symbolic, of this ruling for gays and lesbians across the USA does not need to be stressed.
Brief history of gay and lesbian movement
The history of homosexual culture, movements and communities in the USA is quite short. Best-known communities are located in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Reasons for this are two. A huge migration during farm crises in the first half of the 20th century is the first reason and the second one is massive rate of dishonourable discharges of gays and lesbians in army and subsequent dumping of them in port cities after W.W. II. (A Brief History of Homosexuality in America)
One of the first societies advocating, connecting and acknowledging gay men was the Mattachine Society. It was founded in 1950 by Harry Hay and Chuck Rowland. Mattachine Society was subject to FBI investigation at the time. (FBI — Mattachine Society) Many other similar organizations such as Daughters of Bilitis (the first lesbian rights organization) or One, Inc can be found. These organizations helped thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. Homosexuality was classified as an "illness" in the diagnostic manuals of American Psychiatric Association (APA) until 1973. (Morris) When APA changed this classification it significantly lowered the risk of detention of gays and lesbians (either by prison or psychiatric hospital) and losing their jobs or child custody. (Morris)
Another milestone of the gay rights movements were demonstrations which followed after new legislation outlawing racial discrimination. This happened in 1965. Four years later, on June 28, 1969, probably the most-known moment of lgbt history came. Patrons of Stonewall Inn in New York resisted and fought back against police raid. Pride marches commemorate this incident since the 1970s. (Morris)
In the following years, many political organizations emerged. Lesbians began to form their own groups, music festivals, record labels etc. This was due to the frustration from the male leadership of most gay movement groups. (Morris) Gays and lesbians also witnessed the first openly gay officials elected to public office in 1970s. Kathy Kozachenko was first openly gay person elected to public office. Among another famous officials elected are Allan Spear, Harvey Milk and Elaine Noble. There was also an opposition. Led by singer Anita Bryant, a big anti-gay campaign emerged in 1977. (Garraty 513) Bryant achieved some victories but was defeated in the end. Her achievements spawned other conservative anti-gay movements.
Through the 1980s, the main topic of gay movements was AIDS. AIDS decimated the gay male community, but at the same time AIDS strengthened it. In short period of time the gay community created many organizations, such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City. These organizations provided help, assistance and services for infected gays and lesbians. (Garraty 513) Another topic for gay movements to focus on was expulsion of gay and lesbian soldiers from army. Struggle in this area of focus resulted in not very comfortable solution called "Don’t ask, don’t tell" policy.
As the end of the 20th century approached, Americans witnessed coming out of actress Ellen DeGeneres on national television in 1997. This action was one of the first to prove the emerging gay celebrities and media power. Gay and lesbian celebrities became the most prominent voices of many individuals with one thing in common. The first decade of the 21st century presented new legal gains for gays and lesbians, one of the most important was already mentioned ruling in the Lawrence v. Texas case.
Homosexuality in the USA: Everyday life
This chapter is focused on certain areas or aspects of everyday life of homosexuals in the USA. These areas and aspects include health, religion and education. Health is an important topic because gay and lesbian health faces many challenges and difficulties, which do not have to be connected only with the sexual orientation itself but are more connected with the lifestyle. Religion is also an important topic when we consider that only 15.7 percent of American society described itself as without religion, atheistic or agnostic. (Kosmin and Keysar) Majority of the USA society is shaped by its believes and receive its attitudes from them. Subchapter on education focuses on education of homosexuals and education of heterosexual public about homosexuality.
Gays and lesbians are more exposed to some health issues than the rest of the population. STIs (HIV, HPV and others), mental health, suicide rates, violence and substance abuse are the main topics concerning gay and lesbian health.
It was mainly HIV and AIDS what brought attention to health issues of gays and lesbians. It mobilized doctors, scientists and government to analyze and fight against this virus. As said, it brought attention to health problems of gays and lesbians and showed that these individuals are also facing many more health issues which should not be omitted.
Lifestyle of certain gays and lesbians is the cause of diseases and health issues. Many of these are easily preventable. US government and LGBT movements have many initiatives to outreach exposed groups and individuals to help them. They spread information about safer sex, healthier regimen and try to eliminate substance abuse.
Chart no. 1 in appendices presents data about health issues and healthcare among gays, lesbians, bisexuals and heterosexuals in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA. Some of the figures are unexpected. The prevalence of healthcare insurance among gay men is surprising. Also a fact that higher cholesterol levels and hypertension are prevailing among heterosexual women does not entirely corresponds with higher obesity rates among lesbians although these problems does not have to have any connection. From the chart is clear that certain health problems are more endangering gays and lesbians than heterosexuals.
Coming out to a doctor
According to Human Rights Campaign, coming out to a doctor is one of the keys to good healthcare. It is logical that your doctor can not help you as best as he/she can if he/she does not know your sexual orientation. Coming out to your doctor may be difficult, especially if your doctor has not any gay or lesbian patients or if he has not enough knowledge about gay and lesbians issues.
Emergence of HIV in the US
At the beginning of 1980s, doctors in Los Angeles and New York were reporting all sorts of rare diseases which were present mainly among male patients who had sex with other men. (HIV/AIDS Basics – Questions and Answers) This is the begging of HIV in the US. The term AIDS appeared in 1982 among public health officials. It described occurrence of rare infections. No one knew what was causing AIDS until 1983 when HIV was discovered. (HIV/AIDS Basics – Questions and Answers)
HIV is primarily spread by unprotected sex, sharing needles and syringes and also by being born to an infected mother. Right now it is estimated that 1.2 million HIV positive people are living in the United States and approximately 50,000 Americans are infected with HIV each year. (HIV in the United States: At a Glance)
HIV/AIDS among gays and lesbians
Most exposed and affected subpopulations by HIV are young MSM (men who have sex with men) and black MSM. (HIV in the United States: At a Glance) If we take ethnicity and race into account, the most afflicted are Blacks and the severe affliction is among Hispanic/Latino population. (HIV in the United States: At a Glance) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 61% of all new HIV infections in 2009 were caused by MSM subpopulation. As far as women who have sex with women are concerned, there is significantly lower risk of transmission of HIV and other ways of transmission play bigger role. (
HIV/AIDS prevention
The most useful prevention is information. There are many governmental and public organizations and groups, who spread information about safer sex, safer drug use etc. These organizations can also offer syringe replacement programs, free HIV testing and support for low-income HIV patients.
As said in previous paragraphs HIV is transmitted via sexual intercourse mainly among men. The fact that 61% of all new HIV infections were caused by MSM is not negligible. It is not so difficult to minimize the risk of transmission but yet it seems that large numbers of gays do not take enough precautions. Above mentioned statistic may be also a proof of higher promiscuity of particular subpopulations of gay men – higher promiscuity of gay men in general is not proved.
Frequent diagnoses among men who have sex with men are syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and HPV (Human Papillomavirus). According to CDC the best way of protection is to abstain from sexual activity, or to live in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship. Risk of transmission of a STD can be reduced by using condoms. (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)
For women who have sex with women the most common infections are HPV (can be the cause of cervical cancer development in some women), herpes simplex virus, bacterial vaginosis and also infections of Treponema palladium (causative agent of syphilis) are on the rise. (Marrazzo) Sexual abstinence is the best prevention. Also screenings and prophylactic check-ups are recommended for sexually active lesbians.
Many sources state that best way of protection is a sexual abstinence. But it is hard to imagine that all people will abstain from sex because of possible STI transmission. The crucial problem may be that in the case of intercourse between men or women there is no fear of conception and therefore they are not forced to use some kind of contraception. This may be the reason why many gays and lesbians are not using protection during sex. This can result in higher numbers of STIs transmissions among gays and lesbians.
Gays and lesbians as well as the rest of the population should have annual prophylactic check-ups and screenings. Tests for STIs should be also included if they have higher number of sexual partners. This requires to have a personal doctor who knows the background of his/hers gay or lesbian patients.
Mental Health
It is clear that gays and lesbians are facing more problems concerning mental health than the heterosexual majority. This is mainly because of bullying, discrimination, homophobia, marginalization, family rejection or because of being closeted. All these factors may cause depression, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse, alcoholism, bipolar disorder and others. What can help improve mental health of gays and lesbians are supportive social environment, supportive family and friends.
Gays and lesbians are at a higher risk of depression then the general population. This is mainly because of the factors already mentioned. Treatment of depression is usually carried out through psychotherapy, prescription medication etc. What can also help is having supportive friends, family and environment. (Depression)
Suicide attempts, suicide ideation and self-harming
Hand in hand with depression go also suicidal tendencies. The most recent study was focused on the LGBT youth (aged 16 – 20) and it was collecting data from 2007 to 2011. The study found out that suicidal ideation was present at roughly 37.4% of participants at least once in the study. In addition, self-harm was present at 15.4% of participants at some point in the study. (Liu and Mustanski 224 - 225). Adults are also at higher risk of suicide, but the most recent concerns of public and scientist are about LGBT youth. Survey conducted in 2005 showed that 90% of LGBT students was verbally harassed or assaulted during the 2004. (Harris Interactive)
Coming out
Coming out may be one of the reasons of poor mental health. Coming out may help to get rid of the stress and fear from being outed (to disclose ones sexual orientation or gender identity without his/hers consent). On the other hand disclosure of sexual orientation may lead to more stress, pressure, worse mental health and discrimination etc. This may be caused by bad reaction of individuals and bad social environment. CDC states that research has shown that coming out have better health outcomes than staying closeted. (Mental Health)
Tobacco use
Smoking and tobacco use are also threats to gay and lesbian health. Smoking is more spread among gay and lesbian population than in heterosexual population. It can be explained by socializing in gay and lesbian bars, pubs, clubs etc., by stress caused by social stigma and many others. Graphs in appendices are from the report of American Lung Association Smoking Out a Deadly Threat: Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community.
Chart 1.
Chart 2.
From the charts above it is clear that smoking is a threat among gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Use of tobacco among these groups is increased by advertisements. Tobacco companies are targeting their advertisements on gay and lesbian consumers. This targeting is in a form of a visual presentation of a product. The visual presentation often portrays two women or men enjoying pleasant moments in each other’s company. For an illustration, two pictures of this advertisement targeting follows.
When this targeting of gays and lesbians emerged, it spawned various reactions. Some gays and lesbians were happy that they are not excluded any more but negative reactions were present as well. Smoking is concerned as big threat and many organizations are trying to reach out to LGBT smokers and help them quit. (; and others.)
Substance abuse
Use of alcohol and drugs is also widespread among lesbians and gays. Substance abuse among lesbians and gays may be a result of many factors. Many drugs affect CNS (Central nervous system) and they cause changes of mood and alter the users perception. Gays and lesbians may use them to find relief and alleviation from stress caused by for example marginalization. Alcohol and drugs are also present in a vast majority of gay and lesbian clubs and bars.
Unfortunately it is hard to estimate exact number or percentage of gays and lesbians who are using and abusing these substances. This is mainly because epidemiologic studies on alcohol and drugs rarely ask about sexual orientation. (A Provider’s Introduction to Substance Abuse Treatment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals .xiii)
According to Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), usage of drugs is higher among gays generally, not only in bigger communities in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles. GLMA namely mentions poppers, marijuana, ecstasy and amphetamines (Silenzio page number). As far as lesbians are concerned, GLMA states that research suggests that lesbians may use drugs more often than heterosexual women may, but it does not namely states what substances are used.
Research carried out between 2003 and 2006 showed that lesbians are overweight (BMI≥25 kg/m²) at higher rate (28.8%) than heterosexual women (22.3 %). (Dilley 464) The percentage of gays who are overweight is 14.2% in comparison with 23.5% of heterosexual men. (Dilley 464)
Results of the above mentioned study show that there is negligible difference in insufficient fruits and vegetables intake between heterosexual women (70.4%) and lesbians (70.6%). 81.4% of heterosexual men have insufficient intake of fruits and vegetables in contrary to 74.9% of gay men. (Dilley 464)
This difference can be explained in terms of different values. It is possible that men find beautiful and attractive partners more rewarding than women. This would explain why gay men are slimmer than lesbian women. However there is no study to back up this assumption. The higher rate of overweight lesbian women can be explained by regular or heavy drinking. The same study states that higher percentage of heavy drinkers is among lesbian women (9.2%) than among heterosexual women (5.1%). Calorie intake from alcohol is not negligible and in case of heavy or regular drinking might be a cause of problems with weight. (Dilley 464)
Unfortunatelly, the topic of religion is quite complex. Every religion has its own view or opinion on gays and lesbians, and as far as Christianity and Judaism are concerned we can find many views among various churches and denominations. This subchapter presents points of view and opinions of some of the largest religions in the USA.
It should be mentioned that attitude towards homosexuality can be accepted by some church or religion, but it has not to inevitably represent the attitude of a member of this church or religion. Personal opinion plays a great role in one attitude towards homosexuality and gays and lesbians in general.
Christianity is the largest religion in the USA. According to American Religious Identification Survey, conducted in 2008, 76.0% of the U.S. adult population identified themselves as Christians. (Kosmin and Keysar 3) Most of the Christians are of Catholic religious tradition (25.1%), second is the Baptist religious tradition (15.8%) and on the third place are Mainline Christian traditions (12.9%). 14.2% of self-identified U.S. adult population can be described as Christian Generic. (Kosmin and Keysar 5)
Roman Catholic Church
Stance of Roman Catholic Church is not very surprising. Family has important role in Roman Catholic Church and in Christianity in general. It is no surprise then, that they understand gay marriage and adoption as a threat to traditional model of family.
The Catholic Church does not consider homosexual orientation itself as a sin. But it perceives homosexual acts as unnatural and disordered. Heterosexual Catholics are expected to abstain from sex until marriage and then avoid using birth control. Gay and lesbian Catholics are expected to abstain from sex for life. It is considered to be sin if a Catholic does not do so. (Catechism of the Catholic Church) Catechism of the Catholic Church also states that people should avoid discrimination towards gays and lesbians.
Same sex marriage is neither accepted nor performed. Catholic Church distinguishes marriage from same sex unions. Marriage is one of the sacraments ordained by God and can by only the union of a man and a woman. (Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex Unions)
Catholic Church is in strong opposition to adoption by same-sex couples. An adoption by gays and lesbians is understood as violence against children as they will be raised in a wrong environment which will not enable them a full human development. (Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons) It is logical that Catholic Church is against the adoption by same-sex couples. It is unlikely that the children raised by gay or lesbian couples will be Catholics. If we think about this issue in this way the stance is also about the spreading of Christianity, namely Catholicism. But it should be pointed out that this maybe rather superficial point of view on the stance of Catholic Church. There is an active debate about the issue of adoption by gay and lesbian couples. More information will be mentioned in the chapter concerning laws.
The church has also encouraged increased government research into the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS.
Southern Baptist Convention
Southern Baptist Convention unlike many other Christian denominations supported and possibly still supports gay and lesbian discrimination. (Stances of Faiths on LGBT Issues: Southern Baptist Convention) They are also voices inside Southern Baptist Convention that condemn the teaching about LGBT people in public schools. (Stances of Faiths on LGBT Issues: Southern Baptist Convention) Southern Baptist Convention was also against the repeal of "Don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. Southern Baptist Convention’s stance on same sex marriage is same as the Roman Catholics one.
United Methodist Church
United Methodist Church understands marriage as the matter of "one man and one woman" only and thus same-sex unions are not recognized. United Methodist Church also disapproves with discrimination and violent acts against gays and lesbians as well as any other minorities. United Methodist Church also supported the repeal of the "Don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church)
Stances of the Christian denominations vary mainly in to what extent they support lesbians and gays. The three above mentioned denominations understand homosexual acts as a sin and they understand marriage as a union between a man and a woman. It is unlikely that they will change their approach towards same-sex marriage and change their laws. This can be understandable but it is problematic for gays and lesbians raised in Christian families. These people are facing impossible choice between their faith and what they are.
In his book Co vlastně Bible říká o homosexualitě? (What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality:) Daniel A. Helminiak examines the topic of homosexuality in the Bible. The author condemns literal interpretation of the Bible and he came to the conclusion that the Bible does not take any stance on homosexuality. Helminiak states that it is important to approach the Bible with historical criticism and to interpret it in the right context. (Helminiak p. 121 - 122) This is the reason why certain denominations of Christianity approve homosexual intercourse and gay marriages. They approach the Bible with historical critical methods and thus adjust them to the present society.
Judaism is also represented by several churches, this thesis will mention three of them. Judaism denominations have various opinions on homosexuality. What they have in common is that they condemn discrimination of gays and lesbians. Conservative Jews perceive homosexual act as a sin while in the eyes of liberal Jews it does not have to be necessarily sin. While conservative Jews interpret Halakha (Jewish law) "as it is written", liberal Jews are trying to understand these laws in the context of period in which they were written and interpret them in terms of present state of society.
Reformed Judaism welcomes gays and lesbians as members of their community as well as clergy. On its website, the Union for Reform Judaism states that it welcomes all people who wish to celebrate Jewish life including gay and lesbian Jews. (Why Join a Reform Congregation) The Committee on Homosexuality and the Rabbinate states that all rabbis should have opportunity to fulfil their mission in life regardless of sexual orientation. (Homosexuality and the Rabbinate) On the other hand, Conservative Judaism has very mixed stance towards gays and lesbians. Clergy, synagogues and other Conservative institutions may decide if they will permit same-sex marriages or not. The same stance is applicable on hiring gay or lesbian rabbis. (Goldstein and Epstein) This stance towards gays and lesbians presented by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards also mentioned that gays and lesbians are advised to reach for "restorative therapy" in order to change their sexual orientation. (Goldstein and Epstein) However this was only advice not an obligation. As its name suggests, Orthodox Judaism has the strictest view on homosexuality. Homosexual behavior is understood as absolutely forbidden by Jewish law. Orthodox Jews and synagogues have various attitudes towards homosexuals and they show various degrees of tolerance. Orthodox Judaism also stresses that there is a difference between toleration of an individual and recognition of a movement which presents homosexuality as normal. This is undoubtedly wrong by Jewish standards. (Weinreb) Orthodox Judaism understands marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman. In a resolution from October 12th, 2010 Orthodox Judaism Convention declares that they are disturbed by the effort to display homosexuality as morally equal to heterosexual monogamous relationships. The Convention also condemns the acceptance of sexual promiscuity. (OU Convention Resolution Text)
Islam is very conservative concerning homosexuality. Homosexual acts are perceived as a sin but there is no consensus on the punishment. Homosexuality and homosexual intercourse is also mentioned in the Quran. It should be pointed out that eight countries still have death punishment if gay relationship is proved. ( - male to male relationship – woman to woman only in Iran, more data is not available about death punishment) Gay and lesbian Muslims living in the US are not subject to such harsh physical punishments. But they often face verbal harassment and social exclusion from their Muslim communities.
Education plays important role in every society and allows it to progress and thrive. In this thesis is education considered from two perspectives; 1. Education of homosexuals and 2. "education" of heterosexual public about LGBT and their problems.
Education of homosexuals and LGBT students in general is more complicated. Many initiatives, government programs and organizations are trying to "adjust" or make education more LGBT friendly however they face many challenges. Coming out of students is one of them. Recent research made by HRC (Human rights campaign) presented interesting and valuable statistics about LGBT youth aged from 13 to 17. One of the topics mentioned in the research is coming out of students to their family, peers, classmates and teachers and subsequent impact and consequences of coming out. Among others, the research indicates that high school students are more likely to be out to their teachers and school than middle school students are. Also 67% of home-schooled youth are out to an immediate family in contrary to 57% of high school students and only 44% of middle school students. 31% of students are afraid, that they will be treated differently or they will be judged. 26% of students say that they did not see any reason to come out or they think that it is their own business. 9% of students are afraid of bullying and 7% are not out because their teachers and/or school are very conservative. ( It is crucial to enable homosexuals and LGBT students in general to study in a safe environment so they can come out (if they want to) without fear of bullying, being judged or treated differently. A federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human services informing about bullying and specific groups that are at risk presents several pieces of advice to create a safe environment for the LGBT youth. Schools should establish a safe and friendly environment by sending a message, adopting school policies protecting student’s sexual orientation and gender identity, they should also keep an open and frequent communication with LGBT students, support them, and protect their privacy. It is important to mention, that Federal civil rights laws do not condemn harassment based on sexual orientation, nevertheless this imperfection can be covered by Title IX., a part of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects from discrimination based on sex, or by a state level legislation protecting against bullying based on sexual orientation. (
Question is, whether these measures/steps are appropriate/convenient. Is this not only "a treatment of symptoms" instead of "a treatment of a disease"? It would be better to remove a stigma of homosexuality and change a point of view of straight youths and public in general. There are many ways and methods how to change the public opinion but as far as young students are concerned, the most suitable method may be including LGBT studies or LGBT topics in curriculums. The inclusion of LGBT topics and studies raises many questions and may be proven more difficult than inclusion of sexual education alone. On July 14 2011, California governor Jerry Brown has signed a Senate Bill 48 (also called FAIR Education Act), which mandates public schools to include historically important disabled, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans and their contributions into textbooks and social studies curricula. ( The bill has spawned various reactions and while certain legislators and groups are supporting it, pro-family, traditional and other groups and legislators are against it. Opposition of the bill is referring to traditional family values and to the possibility of accepting and choosing LGBT lifestyle by students when it is presented as good or neutral. (
There is a lack of information about results of the bill, but on July 14 2011, Carolyn Laub, executive director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network) in San Francisco said, that it was proved by studies that learning about LGBT in classrooms can reduce rates of bullying by more than 50%. (
A study called Implementing Lessons that Matter: The Impact of LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum on Student Safety, Well-Being, and Achievement and recently published by GSA Network presents what environment face LGBTQ students in schools and what results has the implementation of LGBTQ-inclusive lessons. The study shows that students think that schools are not equipped to deal with harassment and bullying and that LGBTQ students face hostile environment. Surveys on school climate presented in the study showed that in schools with LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum LGBTQ students fell safer and supported. Also reports of LGBTQ-related verbal and physical attacks. However, students also explained that LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum is not usual and is often limited to isolated lessons instead of broad integration into a school curriculum. The study also informs on frequent problems and barriers that complicate implementation of LGBTQ curriculum. Most frequent troubles are lack of state and district institutional support, fear of students/parents/community disapprobation and financial cuts. (p. 31) Implementation has also been a challenge in case of the FAIR Education Act in California, mostly because of the lack of state and district-level support, professional training on how to teach within new requirements and how manage harassment in classroom. (p. 32) These difficulties outline possible problems with implementation of LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum in other states without corresponding legislation support such as FAIR Education Act.
As far as the raising public awareness of the LGBT problems is concerned, many campaigns in the US exist or existed. Think Before You Speak is a radio, television, magazine and internet campaign addressing youth using derogatory language towards LGBT and organized by Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). The campaign started in 2008 and focuses on changing a vernacular of teens. ( The campaign features several celebrities and its commercials were broadcasted during 2012 Super Bowl. Another annual event also organized by GLSEN is a Day of Silence. During this day, students across USA take a vow of silence in a protest against bullying and harassment of LGBT. ( Another public campaign is called Americans for Marriage Equality and is organized by the Human Rights Campaign. The campaign’s goal is to engage public, start a discussion about LGBT marriage equality and lobby for repeal of the Respect for Marriage Act. The campaign features several athletes, actors and actresses, music celebrities and political and civil rights leaders. ( Majority of campaigns focuses on individual LGBT problems and combines education about these problems and call for action and lobbying. Campaigns are frequently organized by LGBT civil rights organizations.
Title of the chapter
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List of abbreviations
Explanation of the first abbreviation.
Explanation of the second abbreviation.
Explanation of the third abbreaviation.
STI stands for sexual transmitted infection and it is a recent term used instead of the term STD - sexual transmitted diseases. STI is a term with a wider meaning because person may have an infection but he/she does not have to have a disease.
Suicidal ideation is an act of imaging ones suicide.
Don’t ask, don’t tell policy was a policy in the US army. This policy guaranteed that gays and lesbians might serve in the army if they do not disclose their sexual orientation and at the same time, it guaranteed that gays and lesbians would not be asked about their sexual orientation.
Marriage - According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary the definition of marriage is "(1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage ."
Coming out is a term or rather a figure fo speech which when used in context with homosexuality means to disclose ones same-sex sexual orientation. Coming out is an important step in a life of a homosexual and it has very deep consequences, that is why it will be mentioned in almost every chapter. On the other hand
Outing means to disclose sexual orientation of other person without his/hers consent.
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