If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.
Leviticus 20:13. The Holy Bible (KJV)
Before arguing the finer points of same sex marriages, it bears merit on expound a little on the primary characters involved in such a union. Indeed gayness is no longer hiding in the closet these days. Homosexuals are everywhere, albeit at times controversial, but nonetheless a potent and ubiquitous aspect of modern social life. Homosexual issues are no longer easily relegated as minority issues for they have taken the forefront of public attention.
Homosexuality is the attraction and sexual inclination towards members of the same sex. It covers both male and female sexual preferences and in a loose way bisexuality and other sexual orientations associated with same sex behavior. Male homosexuals are often known as gay men, faggots, and queers, among other names while female homosexuals are known as lesbians. it is a social phenomenon to which there have been varied reactions and beliefs ranging from encouragement, approval, tolerance, punishment, banning, and/or condemnation. This term distinguishes transsexuals who feel that they are really members of the opposite sex trapped in the bodies that they have.
Until much recently homosexuality was viewed by many Western societies in mostly negative terms. In America it was viewed as a mental illness (American Psychiatric Association) until recently; and earlier as a crime “not fit to be named among Christians” (1987 Illinois court) and as a crime against nature.
The term which was invented by 19th century theorists to denote same sex behavior (1869; Hungarian physician Karoly Maria Benkert), has now evolved to homosexual orientation; a reference intended to neutralize the age-old hostility by Westerners towards gay people, labeling them pathological and immoral. It must be noted however, that being gay is no big deal among many other cultures. This is according to a 1951 survey that says that in 190 societies, 70% or 133 consider homosexuality an acceptable behavior.
The term is also somehow used to denote the now popular notion that the dichotomy between heterosexuality and homosexuality is not automatically rigid. This is as studies by modern theorists, most notably by Alfred Kinsey’s study on human sexuality in the 40s, suggested.
The practice of homosexuality is also common in ancient Greek and Roman cultures. There is still considerable debate over the prevalence of the practice of homosexuality in these cultures but it is certain that homosexuality in many forms is practiced and even institutionalized to an extent.
The practice of pederasty is widely practiced across different Greek cultures for a long time. It must be noted though that the Greek had no separate social classifications for a differing sexual orientation. The Greeks considered it normal to prefer members of either sex exclusively or otherwise and they did not have a notion of homosexuality yet.
Pedagogical pederasty is the institutionalized practice of an older more accomplished man taking on a younger man in a teacher-student function. But, to say that the said relationship was everything pederasty is about would be oversimplification. However, the homosexual aspects of it interest only us and not the Greeks themselves. What is remarkable though is the value that the Greeks put in the beauty of the male body and the maintenance of that ideal.
It is expected of the eromenos or beloved, often depicted as a young beardless man with a powerful chest, big arse, wide shoulders, healthy skin, and a small penis, according to the writings of Dover, to be unresponsive and passive, while the erastes, often depicted as a bearded man who plays an active role, pursuing the younger man and seeing to his education or teaching him the ways of adults. He courts his eromenos with gifts.
It is debated lately however that the eromenos really did not have any reactions to the erastes’ attentions or that pederasty was indeed only between an older and a younger man; neither are homosexual relations limited to pederastic relations alone as evidence shows that homosexuality is practice widely across all social classes in ancient Greece.
The practice was said to have originated from the Dorian’s initiation rites. The Dorian, the last tribe to settle in Greece, was known to be a tribe who valued masculinity. However, it is thought shameful for a bearded man to still engage in homosexual relations but this prohibition is rarely followed. It is is however, expected that a man will continue to perform in his masculine duties and as the adage illustrate, “women are for business and boys are for fun”, men had to continue their lineage with a woman.
Men who are known to have had plenty of experience in same sex relations are often laughed at and called wide arse. However, this is not to say that homosexuality is no longer practiced outside pederastic capacities as Greek culture is all about what is known and what happens when the bedroom door closes is between the occupants alone.
Although information on lesbianism is limited, it is known from literature by Sappho, who lived in the island of Lesbos (from which lesbian is derived), that the practice of homosexual love between females existed. However, since women had unequal status with men and their emotions are never paid any attention there is very little information about them.
Homosexuality is also practiced among many other ancient cultures. In China, it is called the passion of the cut sleeve, after the Emperor Ai who cut his sleeve rather than disturb the sleep of his boy lover, Dongxian. It is also known as the half-eaten peach after the Duke of Wei’s affair with a beautiful young man who shared a half eaten peach with him.
In China, homosexuality did not receive extreme persecution like those in western countries as a lot of their emperors had boy lovers at one tine or another. Also, many traditional religions like Confucianism and Taoism do not condemn homosexuality as long as a man is able to fulfill his duties. He cannot therefore be exclusively homosexual but instead he has to produce a son. Lesbianism is also evident from ancient literature and art.
In Japan, likewise, it is not viewed as a sin, rather it was permitted so long as it des not interfere with the performance of their duties as procreators. Homosexuality was only restricted periodically after exposure to western beliefs. The terms used for homosexuality are wakashudo, shudo, and nanshoku. Here same sex love is also practiced in teacher-students functions like a samurai training an apprentice. It is believed that Buddhist monasteries were the first centers of homosexuality before the ruling classes and the military class adopted its popular practice.
The earliest records of homosexuality were from Mesopotamia. The epic of Gilgamesh contains some homosexual matter.
Theories on Homosexuality
The views on homosexuality changed with the way people thought about its origins and how “becomes” gay. Proponents of theories like the natural law (Aquinas) lead the way for an anti-homosexual culture in the west.
Various theories have been developed to explain gayness. They are generally psychiatric and biological in nature. Some say that homosexuality is a sort of regression to the Freudian Oral Stage of childhood development. Others argue that most families with homosexual members have domineering mothers and absent fathers. Still others say that homosexuality is the reflection of an aversion to adult responsibility. Another contention, one associated with conservatives is the assumption that either a homosexual person had homosexual relations at an early age and liked it or the person was sexually molested. Then again there’s always scorned love and abusive relationships that sour people from heterosexual relations.
Biological theories however include contentions based on recent research on gayness. One such research found that there is a significant difference in size of a region of the hypothalamus among straight and gay men. According to Simon Levay’s study, homosexuality at least in males is related to brain functioning as part of the hypothalamus is smaller in homosexual men. Another explanation is that hormonal changes during pregnancy cause homosexuality. Other studies include homosexual reaction to certain “human pheromones” and slight differences in the X chromosome among straight and gay men.
The differing treatments and views about homosexuality across cultures and time periods is of course determinate of the social reactions to issues such as same sax marriages. In America, as well as in many other Western countries, the battle for gender quality has been a long and arduous one. The law’s treatment of homosexuality has varied across the states. Anti-sodomy laws were rampant in many of the states, calling for severe punishments most notably death or “curing”, and was thus the target of many early movements. Late in the 19th century, homosexuals were able to meet and organize themselves in increasingly anonymous cities in certain venues such as theatres, clubs, and bathhouses, etc. thus a gay subculture came to be.
After WWII, many homosexuals who had left home decided it was time to come and they did in increasing numbers. As numbers arise so did persecution, police officers were even at one tome encouraged to harass gay people and to raid gay meeting places. As a reaction to increased pressure may gay people started groups such as the Mattachine Society that remained small but with many chapters all over the country. However, after an incident at the Stonewall Inn in July 1969, where the raided gay men fought the policemen instead of surrendering, a cultural revolution sparked that changed America forever. By the late 20th century all states have decriminalized sodomy or homosexuality and eventually laws restricting social mobility and equity for homosexuals were removed. However, that did not stop the prejudice as the AIDS epidemic arose, the civil rights movements became a matter of survival.
It is a happy note though that the gay rights movement was instrumental for the gradual recognition of the various contributions to humanity by numerous homosexuals including Da Vinci, Alexander the Great, Walt Whitman, Silvia Plath, Katherine Lee Bates, Langston Hughes, and Oscar Wilde, among many others. Their lives and their works are slowly being re-evaluated in light of their social orientations.
Unfortunately the battle for equality is far from over. The right for homosexuals to marry is still a controversial issue. The most potent stand against same sex marriage is the natural law theory that encompasses beliefs ranging from the unnaturalness of homosexuality to its invalidity for not facilitating reproduction to a host of other reasons revolving around conservative traditions and the Judeo-Christian religions.
Thomas Aquinas argued that sex is only just or moral when it is between loving, married couples that furthered human goods such as love, friendship, and a legal offspring. He later adds that for a sexual relationship to be just it must be generative. Thus eternally eliminating the possibility of homosexual love ever being just for only through vaginal intercourse is procreation or generative sexuality possible. This contention however includes couples who have sex in spite of sterility.
Oddly this excludes loving long-term relationships between same sex couples who could have just as easily classified under loving sterile couples. However, since Thomists have argued procreation to centrality, they have subsequently alienated sterile marriages, degrading them.
Another part of their argument is the personal integration aspect. They argue that using one’s body or another’s merely as a means to an end of pleasure id disintegration. Meaning that one is using one’s body for a purpose other than it’s naturally meant to be used. However this goes back to the fact that since procreation is central to their argument they will have to argue that the natural fulfillment of marriage is procreation. This is to bypass the argument that two people engaging in sex doesn’t necessarily mean using another’s body as a means to mere pleasure. Unfortunately their argument is such that their focus on procreation goes back to the denigration of loving but sterile unions.
Others argue that parental influence from homosexual parents will result in the children being consequently homosexual. Prejudices often include homosexual parent being unfit for parenthood either because they are mentally ill or because they are less maternal or paternal, or that they will compromise their time with their children because of their relationships. They will simply have no time for the kids with all their sexual activity. This sort of prejudice has been explained previously and is similarly refuted. Gay parent, at least as much as heterosexual parents are, are not mentally ill or emotionally deficient. Also notions about femininity and masculinity of the parents make them no less paternal or maternal. Many researches can prove statistically the error of these assumptions.