Thursday, September 25, 2014 11:31 am
A standard dictionary definition of the word ‘Homosexuality’ reads something like ‘Sexual desire or behaviour directed towards a person or persons of one’s own sex’. A more ‘medical’ description would ,be ‘Sexual orientation to, or activity with another of the same sex’. In order to fully embody the implication that this is a ‘way of life’ rather than a transient ‘aberration’ of behaviour, it has to be stated in the definition that this is the predominant or even exclusive modality of sexual expression of the individual.
Very few matters have excited as much controversy lately as the issue of how society should deal with homosexuality and homosexual persons. The international press has portrayed the dim view and harsh laws in place in many African countries as evidence of all manner of social negatives, from backward social mores to corrupt authoritarian despots, using a minority group as convenient scapegoats. And indeed the public view in Africa is overwhelmingly loaded against homosexuality, and homosexuals, in a very personal way. The 2007 Pan Global Attitudes Project showed that 97 per cent of the Nigerian public were of the view that homosexuality was a way of life that society should not accept. This was the second highest rate of non-acceptance in all the 45 countries surveyed.
The first known use of the word ‘homosexual’ was in 1868. The author was Karl-Maria Kertbeny. The platform was a scientific publication. The word was employed in the description of same-sex attraction and sexual behaviour in human beings.
It would appear that the tendency of some people to exhibit sexual orientation and behaviour that is different from the mainstream has been with humanity since the beginning of society. There is also some evidence that significant numbers of animals, including birds such as penguins and pigeons, mammals such as giraffes, monkeys, rams, and lions, and other species such as lizards and insects, are ‘guilty’ of occasional or exclusive display of same-sex preference.
It is instructive to note that up till two and a half decades ago, homosexuality was classified as a ‘disease’ in the extant international classifications of diseases. The standard ‘treatments’ for the condition in psychology and psychiatry included behaviour modification and ‘aversive’ techniques that were to be used on ‘patients’, especially those who were uncomfortable with their sexual orientation and desired a change. The ‘discomfort’ experienced by such individuals had a lot to do with the fact that they often had to keep their ‘problem’ a secret, even from family members. Many were compelled to live double lives, carrying on the appearances of ‘normal’ family and heterosexual lives while secretly indulging their preferred inclinations. The subterfuge that attended the whole life-style made them vulnerable to exploitation and blackmail by unscrupulous others, who could threaten to ‘out’ them. Being ‘out-ed’ as a homosexual, in many circles, could cost the individual his job, or lead to the breakup of precious relationships. Even in the armed forces of Western nations, known homosexuals often faced discrimination and the risk of loss of career.
Homosexuality is no longer regarded as a medical diagnosis, but the ‘medical’ controversies surrounding it are far from over.
Take the role of Psychology.
The preeminent psychological perspective of the homosexual tendency was provided several decades ago by Sigmund Freud, the originator of Psychoanalysis. According to his school of thought, human beings are inherently bisexual. This means that human beings are born ‘wired’ with some features of both sexes. Despite this, most humans show a clear identification with one sex, and a preference for the opposite sex in terms of their sexual orientation. However it is not unusual, given the inherent bisexuality of the species, that there would be people who show a sexual preference for the same sex, or who retain and express the inherent bisexuality in their sexual behaviour into adulthood. The explanation also provides a context for understanding other more exotic patterns of sexual behaviour such as transvestism, a condition in which a person derives sexual gratification from dressing up as a person of the opposite sex, and transexuality, another condition in which a person is convinced, often from an early age, that he (or she) is really of the opposite sex, and may insist on surgical ‘treatment’ in order to ‘correct’ the biological ‘mistake’. Following a sex-change operation, a man becomes a ‘woman’, and a woman becomes a ‘man’. In India the transexuals are substantial in numbers, and have formed a powerful lobby group. In official records, lately, they have secured the right to be documented as not male, not female, but a ‘third sex’.