A Critical Introduction to Human Sexuality
A Critical Introduction to Human Sexuality

A Critical Introduction to Human Sexuality

Lead Author(s): Nicole McNichols, Matt Numer

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A modern, comprehensive and research-based exploration of human sexuality that incorporates real life perspectives on contemporary issues.

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Key features in this textbook

Human Sexualiuty includes Spotlight Stories: Audio interviews that relate text content to the real world, including an interview with Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands.
25-40 built-in assessment questions embedded in each chapter, as well as comprehensive test banks for students to test their knowledge.
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Comparison of Human Sexuality Textbooks

Consider adding Top Hat’s A Critical Introduction to Human Sexuality textbook to your upcoming course. We’ve put together a textbook comparison to make it easy for you in your upcoming evaluation.

Top Hat

Nicole McNichols, Matthew Numer, “A Critical Introduction to Human Sexuality”, Only One Edition needed

Oxford Press

Baldwin, Janice & John Baldwin & Simon LeVay, Discovering Human Sexuality (3rd ed.)

McGraw-Hill

Hyde, Janet and John DeLamater, Understanding Human Sexuality (13th ed.)

Pearson

Hock, Roger R., Human Sexuality (4th ed.)

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

$67.95

E-book

$169.95

Hardcover print text only

$90

E-book

$180

Hardcover print text only

$199.95

Hardcover print text only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Content meets standard for Human Sexuality. Constantly revised and updated by a community of professors with the latest content

In-Book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Top Hat

Nicole McNichols, Matthew Numer, “A Critical Introduction to Human Sexuality”, Only One Edition needed

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

Oxford Press

Baldwin, Janice & John Baldwin & Simon LeVay, Discovering Human Sexuality (3rd ed.)

$67.95

E-book

$169.95

Hardcover print text only

McGraw-Hill

Hyde, Janet and John DeLamater, Understanding Human Sexuality (13th ed.)

$90

E-book

$180

Hardcover print text only

Pearson

Hock, Roger R., Human Sexuality (4th ed.)

$199.95

Hardcover print text only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Constantly revised and updated by a community of professors with the latest content

Top Hat

Nicole McNichols, Matthew Numer, “A Critical Introduction to Human Sexuality”, Only One Edition needed

Oxford Press

Baldwin, Janice & John Baldwin & Simon LeVay, Discovering Human Sexuality (3rd ed.)

McGraw-Hill

Hyde, Janet and John DeLamater, Understanding Human Sexuality (13th ed.)

Pearson

Hock, Roger R., Human Sexuality (4th ed.)

In-book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Top Hat

John Redden & Joe Crivello, Human Physiology, Only One Edition needed

Oxford Press

Baldwin, Janice & John Baldwin & Simon LeVay, Discovering Human Sexuality (3rd ed.)

McGraw-Hill

Hyde, Janet and John DeLamater, Understanding Human Sexuality (13th ed.)

Pearson

Stuart Fox, Human Physiology (14th ed.)

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

Top Hat

John Redden & Joe Crivello, Human Physiology, Only One Edition needed

Oxford Press

Baldwin, Janice & John Baldwin & Simon LeVay, Discovering Human Sexuality (3rd ed.)

McGraw-Hill

Hyde, Janet and John DeLamater, Understanding Human Sexuality (13th ed.)

Pearson

Hock, Roger R., Human Sexuality (4th ed.)

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Top Hat

John Redden & Joe Crivello, Human Physiology, Only One Edition needed

Oxford Press

Baldwin, Janice & John Baldwin & Simon LeVay, Discovering Human Sexuality (3rd ed.)

McGraw-Hill

Hyde, Janet and John DeLamater, Understanding Human Sexuality (13th ed.)

Pearson

Hock, Roger R., Human Sexuality (4th ed.)

About this textbook

Lead Author

Nicole McNichols, Ph.DUniversity of Washington

Nicole McNichols is a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she also received her PhD in Social Psychology. Over the past five years, Nicole has built her class, The Diversity of Human Sexuality, into the University of Washington’s largest and most popular undergraduate course with over two thousand enrolled students each year. Nicole is frequently a guest lecturer and speaker regarding topics in human sexuality. She was at the forefront of the University of Washington’s push to adopt and develop active learning techniques and technologies to bring scientific subject matter to life in the classroom. Nicole is an active member of a variety of societies for teaching human sexuality and was recently the keynote speaker at the University of Washington’s Psychology graduation. Nicole received her BA from Cornell University and her MA from NYU.

Lead Author

Matthew Numer, Ph.DDalhousie University

Matthew Numer is an Assistant Professor in the School of Health and Human Performance at Dalhousie University and cross-appointed to the Gender and Women’s Studies Program. He has been funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for his work in the areas of gender, sex and sexuality. His research interests include substance use, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men’s health, sexual health, online technologies, LGBTQ2S health, masculinities, Indigenous boys’ and men’s health, and post-secondary pedagogical practices. He has received numerous awards for his interactive teaching methods and is widely known as an innovator in the classroom. He is the former Chair of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, was a member of the board of directors for the Halifax Sexual Health Centre for eight years, and currently serves on the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia: Gay Men’s Health Advisory Committee.

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Chapter 7: Sexual Orientation

7.1 Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Define sexual orientation and understand how it is different from gender.
  • Know the four models of sexual orientation (dichotomy, continuum, vector, KSOG).
  • Understand the cultural variants of sexual orientation.
  • Be familiar with different subcultures within the gay and lesbian community.
  • Define and describe issues related to bisexuality in U.S. culture.
  • Understand the possible evolutionary basis for same-sex behavior.
  • Understand biological theories concerning the etiology of sexual orientation.
  • Describe Bem's model for the development of sexual orientation.
  • Be familiar with the history of the gay rights movements and important legislation applicable to it.
  • Understand sexual prejudice including its causes and consequences.
  • Examine the contexts of growing up LGBTQ.
  • Discuss LGBTQ families.
  • Explore social support and resources available to LGBTQ people.


Discussion 1

To what extent do you think people’s sexual orientation is fixed (either always gay or straight) versus fluid (can change over time)?

Discussion 2

To what extent do you think people’s sexual orientation is fixed (either always gay or straight) versus fluid (can change over time)?

Discussion 3

To what extent do you think people are born with a sexual orientation?

Discussion 4

To what extent do you think people are born with a sexual orientation?

Discussion 5

To what extent do you think people are born with a sexual orientation?


7.2 Defining Sexual Orientation

To whom are you attracted? Men? Women? Both? Neither? People who do not identify along traditional gender roles? We tend to live in an "either/or" society, and sexual orientation is no exception to this dichotomous, oversimplified way of thinking. Many assume that people are either gay or straight, heterosexual or homosexual. The reality, however, is that sexual orientation is far more complicated than checking a box, and people often do not fit into neat, tidy categories. 

According to the American Psychological Association, sexual orientation is an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic or sexual attraction. For some, this attraction is based on particular types of bodies (female, male, trans). For others, this attraction depends on the other person's gender (cisgender man, cisgender woman or genderqueer). Sexual orientation is not determined by gender, however. A person of any gender—regardless of their gender identity, gender expression or gender role—is capable of being sexually attracted to any other person of any other gender. Sexual orientation also operates separately from biological sex. A person's body creates no restrictions on whom they can be attracted to or with whom they can share sexual experiences.

Finally, sexual orientation involves an identity. The most common labels for sexual orientation are heterosexual ("straight"), meaning attraction to someone of the opposite sex, and homosexual ("gay"), meaning attraction to someone of the same sex. The term lesbian often refers to homosexual women, whereas gay usually refers to homosexual men, although it is also an umbrella term for anyone who identifies as homosexual. People who identify as bisexual ("bi") are attracted to both men and women. Pansexual refers to attraction toward persons of all gender identities and biological sexes. Some argue that being polyamorous (attracted toward having multiple, consensually non-monogamous relationships) is also a sexual orientation. This comes from the feeling many polyamorous people share that they are "wired this way." Finally, the term queer is used by people who are not heteronormative or gender-binary and who aim to transcend traditional gender roles. The identities pansexual, polyamorous, and queer all reject traditional ideas about sexuality, especially those that favor heterosexuality and/or monogamy. 

Importantly, the label by which a person identifies is not a perfect predictor of their behavior. As we will explore, some people who identify as straight occasionally engage in same-sex behavior and some people who identify as lesbian or gay may engage in cross-sex behavior. It is not that these individuals are lying to themselves or are living in a cloud of denial and self-delusion. Sexual identity reflects a very real and central component of a person's self-concept and often provides a sense of a community and lifestyle to which a person feels best suited. 

This chapter will primarily focus on sexual orientations other than heterosexual or straight. We all have a sexual orientation and being straight is no exception. The reason we focus on non-heterosexual orientations is that in most, if not all societies, heterosexuality is the norm. As such, most people are quite aware of what it means to be straight. Further, most of this text focuses on heterosexual sexuality because they represent the largest proportion of sexual identities and most of the research is focused on this population. As a result, this chapter is primarily dedicated to sexual orientations outside of straight. 

7.2.1 Models of Sexual Orientation

In 1948, sex researcher Alfred Kinsey famously declared the following: 

"The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats, and not all things are black nor all things white. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior, the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.” 

With this declaration, Alfred Kinsey pioneered a new approach to measuring sexual orientation that rejected a dichotomous categories model, which depicts sexual orientation as strictly binary (heterosexual vs. homosexual). Instead, Kinsey suggested that sexual orientation resides along a continuum (the Kinsey Scale), anchored by zero (representing exclusive heterosexuality) and six (exclusive homosexuality) with three representing equal levels of homosexuality and heterosexuality. Importantly, Kinsey concluded that rather than remaining permanently fixed in one category over their entire lifespan, people sometimes move to different areas of the scale at different times of their lives, and with different relationship partners. Though pioneering for its time, Kinsey's model was far from perfect. First, many researchers took issue with the fact that homosexuality and heterosexuality were part of the same continuum as this erroneously implied that a person highly attracted to the opposite gender must be low in attraction to the same gender, and vice versa. It also neglected to account for asexuality, which describes those who are attracted to neither gender. To correct for this, various researchers updated Kinsey's model to include two overlapping continuous vectors, with one vector representing attraction toward the same gender and the other representing attraction toward the opposite gender. By depicting homosexuality and heterosexuality as independently operative continuums, such presented sexual orientation in more accurate and nuanced ways. 

Figure 7.1. Kinsey's 1948 scale. Notice that it is anchored by 0, representing exclusive heterosexuality and 6, representing exclusive homosexuality. All categories in the middle depict varying levels of bisexuality, with the blue shaded areas illustrating the relative proportion of homosexuality and heterosexuality inherent to each category.

Though pioneering for its time, Kinsey's model was far from perfect. First, many researchers took issue with the fact that homosexuality and heterosexuality were part of the same continuum, as this erroneously implied that a person highly attracted to the opposite gender must be low in attraction to the same gender, and vice versa. It also neglected to account for asexuality, which describes those who are attracted to neither gender. To correct for this, various researchers updated Kinsey's model to include two overlapping continuous vectors, with one vector representing attraction toward the same gender and the other representing attraction toward the opposite gender. By depicting homosexuality and heterosexuality as independently operative continuums, such vector models presented sexual orientation in more accurate and nuanced ways. 

Figure 7.2. Vectors Model.​​

During the 60s and 70s, our understanding of sexual orientation continued to grow more complex and sophisticated, leading to more dynamic models that teased apart various aspects of sexual orientation. Klein's Sexual Orientation Grid (KSOG) (1978), for example, asserts that sexual orientation is fluid, and thus can be measured in terms of "past", "present" and "idealized future" states. Furthermore, KSOG acknowledges that there are many aspects to a person's sexual orientation and these aspects are frequently inconsistent. The gender to which you are romantically attracted to, for example, may be completely different than the gender to which you feel sexually attracted. To get a clearer picture of this approach, take a look below at the scale developed by Klein. 

 Variable

 Past 

 Present

 Ideal

 A. Sexual Attraction. To whom are you sexually attracted?

 

 

 

 B. Sexual Behavior. With whom have you had sex?

 

 

 

 C. Sexual Fantasies. About whom are your sexual fantasies?

 

 

 

 D. Emotional Preference. Who do you feel more drawn to or close to emotionally? 

 

 

 

 E. Social Preference. Which gender do you socialize with?

 

 

 

 F. Lifestyle Preference. In which community do you like to spend your time? In which do you feel most comfortable?

 

 

 

 G. Self Identification. How do you label or identify yourself?

 

 

 


Question 7.01

Match the model of sexual orientation with its correct description.

Premise
Response
1

Dichotomous categories model

A

A range anchored by homosexuality and heterosexuality

2

Vectors model

B

A profile on several individual scales

3

Continuum model

C

Two outcomes - homosexual vs heterosexual

4

KSOG

D

Two independent continuums create four quadrants

Emerging in the field of orientation is a highlighted focus on this distinction between sexual and romantic orientation. In addition, current models acknowledge varying degrees of asexuality, such as "demi" (attraction which occurs only when a strong emotional connection has been established) and "gray" (attraction that sometimes but only rarely occurs.) In addition, modern reflections of GRID models acknowledge that some people are attracted to all genders and sexes (pansexuality) and that some people are attracted to multiple relationship partners all at once (polyamory).

The table below illustrates the emergence of sexual orientation labels that are popular among LGBT college-aged students (Zoksky & Alberts, 2016). Interestingly, these labels borrow from the KSOG model by recognizing the distinction between romantic versus sexual attraction but marry this approach with more modern notions of asexuality, pansexuality, and polyamory. These terms reflect the idea that sexual orientation is not merely who we desire or have sex with, but rather encompasses identity formation, attraction, relationships, emotion, cognition and more. 

Table 7.1. This table reflects popular labels to describe sexual orientation among LGBTQ youth. Although not a formal model, these identities intuitively blend aspects of KSOG with more modern notions of pansexuality, asexuality, and polyamory.​


Question 7.02

Jordan only really likes to get involved with someone after they have built a strong emotional bond through dating and establishing an intimate experience. What orientation best describes Jordan?

A

Heteroromantic

B

Pansexual

C

Greyromatic

D

Demiromantic


7.2.2 Cultural Variants of Same-Sex Behavior

When thinking about the models presented above, it is important to remember that they are all situated within a particular social and cultural context. Terms such as 'lesbian' and 'gay,' for example, tend only to exist in monosexual cultures, where it is assumed that a person has a static sexual orientation that defines them throughout their entire lifespan. Within such monosexual societies, the relative status of those in the designated "homosexual" role varies. For example, the Native American Two-Spirit are highly revered as spiritual leaders within their own culture. Euro-American people who identify as LGBTQ2 (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Two-Spirited) in the US, however, have been historically reviled and discriminated against and continue to struggle for equal treatment. 

The idea that a person has a single, fixed sexual orientation is by no means a universal assumption. For example, consider the Marind Anim in New Guinea, where an adult male may have two concurrent sexual roles—one that is cross-sex (husband to his wife) and another that is same-sex (godfather to his male, "foster" son). Other cultures also reject monosexuality but assume that sexual orientations occur sequentially. In the Batak of Indonesia, for example, boys engage exclusively in same-sex behavior prior to marriage during adolescence and then switch to exclusively cross-sex behavior after marriage. 

Cross-cultural data also suggests that there are many different patterns of same-sex behavior ("SSB") depending on the age, gender role, marriage status and social/sexual role of the partners involved. Specifically, the following patterns are found repeatedly throughout the world:

  • Transgenerational vs. intragenerational ("Rite of Passage"). (SSB between people of different ages vs. SSB between peers.) For example, the Marind Anim, where adult males are assigned a godfather role, is transgenerational; the Batak, where boys engage in SSB only with other boys, is intragenerational.
  • Gender-conforming vs. nonconforming. SSB is considered gender non-conforming if both partners have the same gender and one partner expresses traits typically associated with a different gender. This can vary across cultures as gender role expectations vary. 
  • Extramarital vs. contramarital. In an extramarital relationship, a person maintains a heterosexual marriage and engages in SSB in outside relationships—for example, in harems where women engage in SSB in addition to sex with husbands. Contramarital SSB occurs when an individual is not expected (or refuses) to maintain a heterosexual marriage and instead enters into an informal or formal same-sex marriage. For example, in the Guangdong province of China, some lesbians cloister themselves in sisterhoods (Blackwood, 1986). In the US prior to the 1970s most gay and lesbian SSB was extramarital; however, today it is either contramarital or else part of a legally recognized marriage.
  • Fixed role vs. fluid sexual role. Sometimes SSB occurs between partners who assume permanent top/bottom (insertive/receptive) roles. In some cultures, the partner who assumes the top role has the "straight" status and the partner who assumes the bottom role has the non-heterosexual status. For example, males in Greece, Morocco, Mexico, Brazil and Turkey who assume the top role usually view themselves as "straight." This is in contrast to partners who assume fluid roles where both partners engage in the full range of sexual behavior and one's role during sex does not influence one's status, as both partners are considered "gay." This is usually the case among Euro-Americans and Europeans. 
Question 7.03

According to cross-cultural studies of homosexuality:

A

same-sex behavior occurs primarily in industrialized cultures.

B

inferior social status accompanies virtually all same gender sexual behavior.

C

cultures that have "sequential" or "concurrent" bisexuality usually don't have a separate "homosexual" role.

D

same-sex relations between women are generally more reviled than those between men.


Question 7.04

Two-Spirited Native Americans show a pattern of SSB that is:

A

Cross-gender (gender nonconforming)

B

Equivalent (not hierarchical)

C

Fixed

D

All of the above


Question 7.05

The monosexual social construction of sexual orientation assumes that a person will be expected/able to engage:

A

in sex without regard to issues of sex, gender or orientation.

B

exclusively in either same-sex or cross-sex behavior through the lifespan.

C

in same-sex and cross-sex behavior but at different stages of life.

D

in same-sex and cross-sex behavior but under different social roles.


7.2.3 Measurement and Prevalence of Sexual Orientation

What exactly is the distribution and landscape of sexual orientation throughout the US? There are a number of ways to looks at this question. Below are the results of the 2016 National Health Statistics Report, which asked women and men ages 18-44 to which sex they were attracted.

 

 Only opposite 

 Mostly opposite

 Both

Mostly same 

Only same

 Not sure

 Women

 81%

 12.9%

 3.2%

 .8%

 .8%

 1.2%

 Men

 92.1%

 4.1%

 .9%

 .8%

 1.5%

 .7%

As noted above, 81% of women and 92.1% of men reported that they were only attracted to the opposite sex, and another 12.9% of women and 4.1% of men report they are "mostly" attracted to the opposite sex. This is, in fact, what is most frequently reported in random, nationally representative samples. When asked to label their own sexual orientation, however, the data looks a bit different.

 

 Heterosexual or straight

 homosexual, gay, lesbian

 Bisexual

 Did not report

 Women

92.3% 

1.3% 

 5.5%

 .9%

 Men

 95.1%

 1.9%

 2.0%

 1%

Consistent with other reports from nationally representative samples, more men than women report they are exclusively homosexual, and more women than men report that they are bisexual. Note that this is true whether people are asked either which sex they are attracted to or the label by which they identify.  

What about sexual behavior? Here is what individuals aged 18-44 from the sample above report.

 

 Any opposite-sex sexual contact

 Any same-sex sexual contact

 Women

 95.3%

 17.4%

 Men

 93.5%

6.2% 

As shown above, 17.4% of all women and 6.2% of all men report having had same-sex sexual contact at some point in their lives. Interestingly, of those women who report having had same-sex sexual contact, 61% report being attracted to only or mostly the opposite sex, and 12.6% identify as heterosexual. Among men who have reported having had same-sex sexual contact, 29% report being attracted only or mostly to the opposite sex, and 2.8% identify as being heterosexual. As you can see, even in the United States, sexual orientation is far from being a simple construct into which individuals can be neatly categorized. The following video asks people to estimate the number of people who are "gay."

Question 7.06

Which of the following is true regarding sexual orientation in the United States?

A

Over 95% of both men and women report they are exclusively attracted to the opposite sex.

B

Around 80% of women and 90% of men report that they are exclusively attracted to the opposite sex.

C

Virtually all men who have ever engaged in same-sex behavior identify as being homosexual.

D

Virtually all women who have ever engaged in same-sex behavior identify as being homosexual.


7.3 Etiology of Sexual Orientation

Like sexual orientation itself, the science of identifying the specific factors that cause a person to be gay, straight, pansexual or bi are tremendously complex. Genes, environment and other factors are all likely at play, but figuring out how these specific factors interact to cause something as complex as sexual orientation is difficult, to say the least. Our society's obsession with this question is even a phenomenon within itself. Why do we care so much about what "causes" a person to be gay? Maybe we should be more focused on why our culture discriminates against sexual minorities. What are the causes of such prejudice?  

Even if certain variables are found to co-occur with particular sexual orientations, it's difficult to figure out whether these factors simply correlate with sexual orientation or actually cause it. Even if causality can be established, how much of the variation in sexual orientation can be explained by any one variable? Is the factor that causes straight males to be attracted to females and gay females to be attracted to females the same? Is the factor that causes gay males and straight females to be attracted to males the same? Are the factors that predict gender-typical gays and lesbians the same as those that predict those who are gender-atypical? The answer to all of these questions is "probably not."  

It is also important to remember that the labels "heterosexual" and "homosexual" did not even exist until the late 19th century. Although many people have always engaged in same-sex sexual behavior, only in the modern Western era did identity labels get assigned to these acts (Katz, 2007). A queer perspective disrupts the notion that only certain sexual identities, namely those related to heterosexuality, are "natural" or "normal." The following videos illustrate this point, and shows the "invention" of both heterosexuality and homosexuality in Western culture. 


Despite our modern understanding of the complexity of sexual identity categories, there is research that sheds some light on the origin of same-sex sexual behaviors, and what causes some people to engage in them more frequently than others.  We will begin this section with an exploration of biological factors, looking specifically at evolution, brain differences, genetics, and prenatal environment. Next, we will consider psychosocial factors including gender role socialization.  

7.3.1 Same-Sex Behavior and Evolution 

Same-sex behavior (SSB) has been extensively documented in over 400 species (Bailey & Zuk, 2009). SSB has been observed in mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, mollusks and nematodes in both laboratory settings as well as in the wild. SSB includes persistent genital stimulation and arousal and mimics male-female sexual behavior, not simply dominance. Animals that engage in SSB frequently also engage in cross-sex behavior and seem to suffer no negative consequences, such as sterility or morbidity, that threaten their survival. Evolutionary psychologists have regarded this as somewhat of a puzzle. What could possibly be the evolutionary advantage of engaging in sex that is entirely non-procreative? How does it survive natural selection? Below are some proposed explanations that have received good support from research. 

  • Biodiversity - the vitality of a biological system is a direct consequence of the diversity it contains. Diversity increases the stability and resilience of a species.
  • Social glue - Same-sex behavior eases conflict, prevents future conflict and facilitates reconciliation after a conflict has occurred. There is solid evidence for this among bonobo monkeys, dolphins, woodpeckers and macaques.
  • Kin selection - sometimes referred to as "the good uncle effect," the idea is that by engaging in SSB, more resources are available for the children of one's siblings, which enhances their chances of survival and indirectly pass on your DNA. The main group for which this has been proposed are humans, but the support is somewhat weak.
  • Practice - immature individuals learn from more mature members of their species how to have sex through same-sex activity. Observed in fruit flies as well as humans, such as the Muria, discussed in Chapter One.     
  • Sexually antagonistic selection - By promoting SSB in one sex, genes confer an advantage to the other sex (i.e., possibly increasing their fertility) and are therefore maintained by selection. The evidence to support this idea comes from studies which have observed that the female relatives of gay males produce larger amounts of offspring than the relatives of straight males (Ciani et al., 2008). In other words, the gene for male homosexuality persists because it promotes—and is passed down through—high rates of procreation among gay men's mothers, sisters, and aunts. The theory does not account for female homosexuality which researchers believe is attributed more to non-genetic factors.
  • Balanced polymorphism - the trait is retained because it co-occurs with some other adaptive trait.

7.3.2 Hormones, Brain Structure, and Genes Predict Sexual Orientation

The prenatal hormone theory is currently the best-supported theory of sexual orientation. The theory proposes that, like other aspects of gender, sexual orientation reflects brain differentiation that occurs in response to circulating levels of androgens in the prenatal environment. Remember that during sex development, once the ovotestes in males develop into testes, they begin secreting androgens (testosterone.) Females fetuses are also exposed to androgens in the prenatal period, but usually not to the same degree. The prenatal hormone theory posits that when androgen levels are present in a concentration that is beyond a certain threshold, fetuses become gynephilic (sexually attracted to females). Thus, most males and some females who happen to be exposed to abnormally high levels of androgens during the prenatal period will develop later into gynephilic adults (primarily heterosexual men, and lesbian women). What about fetuses who are exposed to androgens below the threshold (most females, and some males)? According to the theory, these individuals will become androphilic (sexually attracted to males) later in life and develop into gay males and straight females.      

It is possible, of course, that it is not the hormones themselves but the developing brain's sensitivity to them that produces androphilic or gynephilic individuals. Evidence in animal studies does show, however, that modifying androgen levels during development does affect later sexual orientation (Alexander et al., 2011). And as discussed, individuals with CAH, who are naturally exposed to abnormally high levels of androgens during the prenatal period, do tend to experience increased levels of same-sex attraction compared to their unaffected sisters. 

How exactly do differences in androgen levels lead to differences in sexual orientation? Some researchers believe it has to do with how those hormones direct the development of the structures of the brain responsible for sexual behavior. In females, the hypothalamus is known to play a key role in the regulation of sex hormones and the menstrual cycle. Evidence also suggests that in males, the medial preoptic area, located in the front of the hypothalamus, is primarily responsible for sexual behavior, including the selection of sexual partners. Within the medial preoptic area, there is a cell group called INAH3, the size of which is determined by circulating androgen levels during the prenatal period. Although the number of neurons in the INAH3 area is equal in both males and females, the volume is significantly larger in males than in females. Autopsy studies have revealed, however, that the INAH3 area in gay men is smaller, on average, than that of straight males and is, in fact, more similar in size to that of women (LeVay, 1991). These findings have been replicated not only in humans but also in sheep, a species in which about 8% of males (rams) prefer same-sex mating partners (Byne et al., 2001; Roselli & Stormshak, 2009). 

Keep in mind that as intriguing as these findings are, they are limited by their correlational nature. Scientists can not yet say for sure that hypothalamic differences between gay and straight people are the cause of difference in sexual orientation. It's possible, for example, that differences in INAH3 volume result not from the prenatal hormonal environment, but rather from differences in behavior or feelings exhibited by gay and straight people later in life. Or there could be some third variable yet to be accounted for that is simultaneously causing both. 

In addition to structural differences, functional differences also exist in the hypothalamus between gay and straight individuals, particularly in response to sex pheromones. (Sex pheromones are chemical messengers released by mammals, usually via sweat or urine, that cause a response in the opposite sex.) Studies show that when exposed to male pheromones, the neural response in gay males mimics that of straight females (Savic et al., 2005). Likewise, when exposed to female pheromones, studies show that the neural response of lesbian women imitates that of straight men (Berglund et al., 2006).    

The prenatal hormone theory and differences in brain structure between gay and straight individuals offer an interesting explanation for what causes sexual orientation. The validity of the explanation, however, is limited by a number of factors. First of all, researchers still do not understand why androgen levels (or brain sensitivity to androgens) differ between "gay" versus "straight" individuals. Could it be caused by genes? Possibly, as studies looking at monozygotic ("identical") twins show that they are more likely to share the same sexual orientation than dizygotic ("fraternal") twins who do not share the exact same DNA. In a study involving 408,000 men and women, it was found that genetics explains about 32% of the influence on whether someone has same-sex sex.  The authors of this study assert that the influence comes not from one gene but perhaps thousands, each with a tiny effect — and the rest of the explanation includes social or environmental factors — making it impossible to use genes to predict someone’s sexuality. In addition, the researchers found no correlation between a genes and the number of same sex experiences the person had, or whether they were gay vs bisexual, etc. In other words, genetics seem only to account for whether a person will have at least one, single, instance of same-sex over their lifetime.

7.3.3 The Maternal Immune Response and Sexual Orientation

One other mystery surrounding the origin of sexual orientation concerns the fraternal birth order (FBO) effect, which describes the intriguing fact that, on average, gay men have more older brothers (but not sisters) than do heterosexual men. In fact, according to research, each additional older brother a male has increases the chance of his being gay by 33% (Blanchard & Bogaert, 1996). Why is this? Evidence suggests that this may be due to a maternal immune response to an XY (male) pregnancy, triggered specifically in reaction to the protein H-Y antigen, which is coded for by the Y chromosome (Bogaert & Skorska, 2011; Goldberg, 1988). Researchers believe that as a result of the mother's allergic response, maternal antibodies remain in the mother that alter the development of the anterior hypothalamus of her future male offspring, causing a de-masculinization of the brain during the prenatal period. (The anterior hypothalamus, as discussed above, is of central importance in determining sexual behavior and sexual orientation.) The more XY pregnancies a female has, the stronger her immune response, and the more likely her next male offspring will be gay. Researchers believe that the maternal immune response to H-Y antigen is a causal factor in 15-30% of all gay males. 

7.3.4 The Exotic Becomes Erotic

Daryl Bem's model, termed The Exotic Becomes Erotic (TEBE), offers a different perspective on the role hormones, genes and brain neuroanatomy play in determining sexual orientation (Bem, 1996). Bem suggests that rather than coding for sexual orientation per se, biological factors determine temperament, which in turn influences a child's preference for gender typical versus gender atypical toys, playmates, and activities. In the case of heterosexuality, for example, a very active, rough-and-tumble boy might prefer rougher sports and hanging out with like-minded male playmates, whereas a girl is more apt to prefer gentler types of play and her relatively calmer girlfriends. As a result, each comes to view their opposite-sex peers as exotic. Then, Bem proposes that this exoticism is eventually eroticized during the rush of hormones brought on by puberty. What about homosexuality? According to Bem, homosexuality occurs when genes, hormones, and neuroanatomy cause a child to have a temperament that is sex-atypical and more like that of their opposite-sex peers. As a result, the more rough-and-tumble girl bonds more easily with boys and comes to view girls as exotic. The calmer, gentler boy bonds with his female playmates and comes to view boys as exotic. Again, puberty occurs, and hormones eroticize the exotic, making these gender atypical children attracted to their same-sex peers.  

The Exotic Becomes Erotic is compelling in that it blends biological models of sexual orientation with a more social constructionist approach. As mentioned, biological models fail to account for the exact pathway by which genes, hormones, and neuroanatomy lead to such a complex pattern of behavior and identity, and Bem's model neatly fills this gap. EBE is hardly without its critics, however, all of whom point to several glaring problems (Peplau et al., 1998). First of all, the model assumes that biological factors create a "temperament," or predisposition for gendered behavior, yet fails to account for exactly how this occurs. Also, how exactly do hormones render the exotic erotic? The mechanism underlying this assumption remains somewhat of a mystery. 

Perhaps most importantly, EBE's shortcomings reflect an overstatement of the role of gender nonconformity in the development of sexual orientation. Research does suggest that gender nonconforming children (those who exhibit cross gender traits) are more likely to grow up gay. Both lesbians and gay men do recall from their childhoods more instances of their own gender nonconforming behavior than their heterosexual counterparts, and longitudinal studies that have looked at gender nonconforming boys, in particular, have found that about 75% of them do grow up to be gay. EBE, therefore, may help explain the development of sexual orientation in some people. The issue, however, is that not all gender nonconforming children grow up to be gay or lesbian, and not all lesbians and gays were gender nonconforming as children. For women, especially, the link between being gender nonconforming as a child and growing up to be a lesbian is particularly weak. So although EBE may explain why some people, particularly gay men who were gender nonconforming as children, grow up to be gay, the model is irrelevant in explaining the sexual orientation of a great number of lesbian and gay individuals. 

Question 7.07

Levay's research on the INAH3 nuclei of the hypothalamus and sexual orientation is noteworthy because his results provide support for the idea that:

A

sexual orientation may have a biological component in the brain.

B

the brain difference observed between gay and non-gay men probably results from their different lifestyles.

C

genetics must play some role in the development of sexual orientation.

D

the brains of gay men and lesbians are similar to each other, and different from that of straight men and women.


Question 7.08

Which statement is true and directly supports a genetic basis for sexual orientation?

A

The INAH3 area of the brain in gay males is twice as large as that of straight males.

B

Children of gays and lesbians are more likely than the offspring of heterosexuals to be gay.

C

Monozygotic twins (100% genetic overlap) are more concordant for homosexuality than Dizygotic twins (50% genetic overlap).

D

Lesbians, but not gays, show an inheritance pattern for homosexuality that implicates a Y-linked gene.


Question 7.09

Bem's model of sexual orientation proposes that:

A

the familiar becomes erotic.

B

parental rearing is the cause of gender atypical behavior that leads to homosexuality.

C

most gender non-conforming boys will not bond with gender conforming boys during childhood and thus boys become mysterious to gender nonconforming boys.

D

gender conforming boys will have a higher likelihood of becoming gay if they have a close relationship with their fathers.


7.4 History of the Gay Rights Movement

The discrimination and prejudice that gays and lesbians have had to fight against is an important and unfortunate part of history. The first gay rights organization, the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, was founded in Berlin in 1897 and led by Magnus Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld was a gay Jewish doctor and sexologist who fought for 30 years to have German sodomy laws overturned. Ultimately, his fight was unsuccessful. During the Nazi regime, thousands of gays and lesbians were sent to concentration camps, where most of them died.

In the 1950s in the U.S., gay and lesbian organizations such as the Mattachine Society began to crop up in Los Angeles and San Francisco in an effort to provide support to the gay and lesbian community. By the mid-1960s, these organizations established a presence on the East Coast and became more politically active (e.g., picketing the White House to protest the firing of gay federal employees). In the early morning of June 28th, 1969, a riot erupted outside Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City's Greenwich Village. The riot was in reaction to a police raid, an event frequently endured by gay bars in the 1960s and led to a series of violent demonstrations that came to be known as the Stonewall Riots. The Stonewall Riots led to gay rights organizations becoming more confrontational, a reflection of gays' growing intolerance of the discrimination they constantly experienced. Despite the efforts of these groups, LGBT individuals were subjected to enormous oppression in the 1960s. The American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a mental disorder, sex between men and between women was illegal in most states, and the majority of Americans thought homosexuality was morally wrong. 

The Stonewall Riots are viewed by many historians as the official start of the Gay Rights Movement, and as a result, the 1970s began a time of rapid change. The first gay rights marches occurred in 1970 and 1971, and the National Organization for Women officially acknowledged their lesbian members. In 1973, homosexuality was finally deleted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), signaling an important step toward recognition and acceptance.

In 1977, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to city government in the United States as city supervisor of San Francisco. During his short tenure (1977-1978), Milk successfully led the campaign to defeat Proposition 6, which would have made it illegal for gays and lesbians to be school teachers, and he played an integral role in passing San Francisco's first gay rights ordinance. On November 27th, immediately following the defeat of Proposition 6, Milk, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, was shot dead in his office by the anti-gay city supervisor, Dan White. White was sentenced to an extraordinarily light sentence, only eight years, by convincing the jury the murder was a result of his depression, evidenced by the fact that his diet transformed from one that was healthy to one that included an extraordinary high consumption of Twinkies.  White's Twinkie Defense, as it later became known, served to highlight how hatred and violence towards gays was still viewed as acceptable by many Americans in the 1970s.     

After Milk's assassination, urban gay districts such as those in San Francisco continued to draw increased numbers of gay men from around the country and served an important role in their social, sexual and political lives. Although hatred and discrimination against gays and lesbians continued, enough support grew during this time that by 1977, 40 cities had enacted some form of an anti-discrimination ordinance. 

During the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic took over 65,000 American lives in a single decade, the majority of which were gay. Initially, the public response was to label AIDS a "gay" disease, with many Americans dismissing it as irrelevant to their own lives and many even blaming AIDS victims. In response, thousands of gays came out of the closet in an effort to support each other through political activism. The decade saw the creation of the first co-gender gay and lesbian rights organizations as lesbians, who had previously mostly been involved in feminist causes, were motivated to join forces with gay men. As a result, the percentage of Americans who said they personally knew someone who was gay rose dramatically, and public sentiment began to shift.

7.4.1 Diversity Within The Gay Community

Figure 7.3. Bears, known for their big bellies, hairy bodies and cuddly dispositions, are one example of a subculture within the gay community. [1]

There is an incredible range of lifestyles that are found within lesbian and gay communities. Some lesbians and gay men either seek or are engaged in very traditional, monogamous, family-oriented relationships. Many of these couples may choose to start a family, either through adoption or with the help of a surrogate (a woman who carries to term the child) or a sperm donor. Other lesbian and gay people may choose more radical affiliations that aim to break down sexual taboos and overturn gender stereotypes. For example, within the gay community, there is an extensive BDSM culture which overlaps with the "leather community." Bears are another subculture of gay men whose physical body type resembles that of a bear, complete with lots of hair and a big belly. This physique is coupled with a warm disposition that specifically aims to reject the "muscle boy" or "pretty boy" images so prevalent in the gay world. 

Although some subcultures of lesbians do exist (i.e. "feminist lesbians," "dykes on bikes," "lipstick lesbians," BDSM), they are generally not as prominent as their male equivalents. Instead, many lesbians belong to social subcultures, ranging from literary groups to sports teams to annually held music festivals. Michigan Womyn's Musical Festival has been held annually for the last 40 years, for example. The group recently announced that this would be its last year, however, partly as a result of criticism for its exclusion of transgender women. 

The absence of more strongly defined lesbians subcultures also simply reflects the fact that so many women today reject the lesbian/straight and gay/straight dichotomies of the past and instead fluidly move in and out of relationships with both men and women. Some of these women identify as bisexual, but others completely reject the idea of having to assume any kind of label and instead define their orientation simply in terms of who they are presently attracted to.  

Figure 7.4. The Dykes on Bikes motorcycle group clears the street in anticipation of the 2014 D.C. Capital Pride parade, held in Washington, D.C., in the United States on June 7, 2014. [2]

Some women, of course, do strongly identify with being a lesbian, and the lesbian community is quite vibrant. Lesbian bars, coffee houses, sports teams, and political organizations, as well as lesbian-owned businesses, are quite common and add to the rich diversity of lesbian culture. What is less common today than it was a generation ago are the subtypes of lesbians that used to divide women based on gender characteristics. Although butch lesbians (lesbians that look, dress and act in ways that reject femininity and are more traditionally masculine) and femme lesbians (lesbians that look, dress and act in ways that are considered more traditionally feminine ) still exist, there has been a relaxation of gender norms within the lesbian community that has led to a more diverse range of roles and types within lesbian relationships. The same has been observed within gay male relationships; a generation ago there was usually a top, who assumed a more masculine role and preferred an insertive role in sex versus a bottom, who took on a more feminine role and preferred a receptive role in sex. As in lesbian relationships, the tendency to mimic heterosexual relationships by adopting masculine and feminine roles is currently far less common in gay relationships than it once was. 

Figure 7.5. The official Lipstick Lesbian Pride Flag. [3]

For some women and men, the label of lesbian or gay simply does not fit their more fluid form of sexuality. They are bisexual, meaning that they are attracted to both men and women, oftentimes depending on the context and relationship. Unfortunately, bisexuals have had to fight against the societal misconception that bisexuality is just a transitional stage between being homosexual or heterosexual. As a result, bisexual men and women often find that their bisexual identities are questioned by the LGBT community, leading them to feel rejected not only by lesbians and gays but also heterosexuals. This can result in feelings of intense isolation and rejection on the part of bisexuals.

Figure 7.6. Bisexual comedian Margaret Cho at the Los Angeles Gay Pride parade in 2011. [4]​

Research suggests that contrary to our society's beliefs, bisexuality is not just a transitional phase. In one study, for example, women were asked to identify their sexual orientation over a ten-year period (Diamond, 2000). The authors found that two-thirds of the women changed their self-descriptors during this time, and about one-third did so more than once. Significantly, more women adopted the bisexual label rather than gave it up, suggesting that bisexuality is not just a stop one makes on their way to homosexuality or heterosexuality. Even for people who become gay or heterosexual after being bisexual, their bisexual experiences are genuine and should not be dismissed.      

Question 7.10

Question 7.10

Studies show that bisexuality and sexual fluidity is much more common among women than among men. Do you think this has more to do with biological differences between men and women, or is due to the effect of our culture's gender stereotypes? Explain.

7.4.2 Important Legal Decisions Concerning Gays and Lesbians.

The period since the 1980s has seen a sharp increase in pro-gay attitudes, with the number of Americans saying that homosexuality is always wrong decreasing from 76.4% in 1990 to 45.5% in 2012. Reflecting public opinion, a number of laws have been enacted serving to slowly overturn the oppression gays and lesbians have historically faced. Below is a summary of some particularly important legislation.

Lawrence vs. Texas (2002): The Supreme Court makes it clear that state laws banning gay sex (primarily anal and oral sex) were unconstitutional. (The case overruled Bowers and Hardwick (1986), which upheld the constitutionality of such laws.)

In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:

“The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime... full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government… There is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter... The present case does not involve minors. It does not involve persons who might be injured or coerced or who are situated in relationships where consent might not easily be refused. It does not involve public conduct or prostitution. It does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.”    

 Obergefell vs. Hodges (2016): The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy writes in his majority opinion :

“No longer may this liberty be denied. No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”  

2011 - End of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" - Gays and lesbians can speak openly of their sexual orientation in the military.

2014 - 20 states plus Washington, D.C. ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing, and public accommodations. An additional three states provide partial statewide non-discrimination protections.  

Although the above represent important judicial and legislative advancements for gays and lesbians, the fight for equality and an end to discrimination remains an important battle to be fought, especially given the particular challenges presented in our current political climate. 

Question 7.11

The ________\_\_\_\_\_\_\_\_ are considered to be the historical event that started the modern-day gay rights movement.


Question 7.12

Who was the first, openly gay San Francisco city supervisor who was murdered by his anti-gay opponent?


Question 7.13

In Obergefell vs. Hodges (2016):

A

state laws forbidding gay marriage were declared unconstitutional.

B

laws protecting gays and lesbians from hate crimes were enforced in every state.

C

sodomy laws were overturned and deemed unconstitutional.

D

abortion became a protected constitutional right.


7.5 Sexual Prejudice

Figure 7.7. Homophobia continues to be an issue for many LGBTQ people today. [5]​

Unfortunately, there is a spectrum of sexual prejudice that continues to exist today in our culture, ranging from stereotyped beliefs to violent hate crimes. Below is a description of the different types of prejudice that exist along this spectrum.

  • Stereotyped belief - e.g., "lesbians are all man-haters."
  • Negative attitude - e.g., "gays/lesbians should not be allowed to be teachers/nurses/adoptive parents"
  • Discriminatory actions - e.g., gays/lesbians denied employment, housing, medical care, ability to serve in the military.
  • Verbal abuse - e.g., anti-gay graffiti, name-calling, harassment 
  • Hate crime - e.g., gay bashing, physical assault, sexual assault

Negative attitudes and discrimination toward LGBT individuals remain rampant even today. As this recent New York Times article by Frank Bruni points out, although many areas of the country have witnessed tremendous progress in LGBT rights and protections, there are still states, and even cities within states, where extreme prejudice towards these groups prevails. For example, consider Texas, where in June 2017, lawmakers signed a bill allowing child welfare groups to deny adoption to gays and lesbians by claiming that it contradicted their "sincerely held religious beliefs." In that same month, the Texas Supreme Court approved a lawsuit seeking to challenge Houston's provision of equal benefits to same-sex married couples, disregarding the Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. Overall, a total of 20 states lack hate crime laws that protect LGBT individuals. 29 states do not have laws that prohibit establishments from discriminating against LGBT customers, and 28 states lack employment protections for LGBT. Only nine states offer protections for youths from conversion therapy, a widely discredited medical practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. (For an interesting look at why this insidious practice continues even today, see this article from the Washington Post.) 

Heterosexism is the assumed superiority of heterosexual feelings, fantasies, acts, and persons. Heterosexism permeates the structure of our culture's institutions, including laws, norms, and sanctions. It also shows up as discrimination or prejudice demonstrated through the assumption that all people are automatically heterosexual or straight until proven otherwise. For instance, asking a man if they have a girlfriend rather than a partner assumes the person is heterosexual. Though this seems like a minor situation, it requires non-heterosexual people to identify themselves within a heterosexist society. Heterosexism is similar to other “isms,” such as racism and ageism, in that it is a belief system that denigrates and stigmatizes. There are a myriad of ways in which heterosexism shows up in our culture and other cultures around the world. The media (magazines, TV, movies) generally feature heterosexual relationships and exclude homosexual relationships. Schools sometimes fail to allow or recognize Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) or assume that opposite-sex parents are superior to same-sex parents. Heteronormativity is similar to heterosexism in that it reflects the assumption or belief that heterosexuality is "the norm" and therefore superior to other sexualities. It propagates the notion that and that society should function to support only heterosexual relationships, usually in social/institutional scripts that involve opposite-sex dating, relationships, marriage, and divorce. 

The term "homophobia" is often used to describe the attitude of those individuals who express a consistent pattern of prejudice toward gays and lesbians. Homophobia is also rooted in culture, in that it refers to antigay institutional biases and prejudices. The term was coined in the 1960s by George Weinberg and describes the fear of contamination of those who love and sexually desire those of the same sex. This fear can operate at a conscious or unconscious level and is particularly pernicious in that it likens homosexuality to a disease that one can catch. As described by Weinberg himself:

“It was a fear of homosexuals which seemed to be associated with a fear of contagion, a fear of reducing the things one fought for — home and family. It was a religious fear, and it had led to great brutality, as fear always does.”  

Hate crimes are crimes motivated by prejudice against a social group, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) people. Gay bashing involves verbal and/or emotional denigration or physical violence against gays and lesbians (Meyer, 2015). In the US, LGBTQ rights are not universal. In other words, there is no federal law that bans discrimination against LGBTQ people. Often these laws are left up to individual states which frequently leaves LGBTQ people in certain states without protections against many forms of discrimination. 


Question 7.14

What are the state laws that restrict teachers in public schools from mentioning homosexuality and specify that "homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public" known as?

A

Anti-LGBTQ Laws

B

Protection of Heterosexuality Laws

C

Obvious Discrimination Laws

D

No Promo Homo Laws

Clearly, the differences in laws across the US create an inequitable society. Laws, however, are not the only issue that impact the social conditions of homophobia and heterosexism. Many people argue that laws alone do not create an equitable society and there is still much more needed from governments and communities to combat the effects of homophobia and heterosexism. A wide range of resources can be found on the Human Rights Campaign website where a number of topics address LGBTQ inequality. One example of combatting homophobia is including sexual orientations and gender identities in mainstream culture. Some states purposefully make LGBTQ issues part of sex ed curriculums, while others actively forbid them. 

One area that attempts to protect LGBTQ people in the US is hate crimes legislation. Federal law prohibits hate crimes under the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. This legislation specifies that crimes motivated by certain prejudices such as homophobia constitute hate crimes. Here is the story of Matthew Shephard, the person the bill was named after.

Hate crimes legislation attempts to curb the violence against the LGBTQ community such as the Matthew Shephard incident. Many people argue that social conditions for LGBTQ people are improving. We frequently look to youth to tell us how we are doing.

Sadly, homophobia is expressed in unintentional ways as well. Research has shown, for example, that if a person is led to believe that a co-worker is gay, that person will psychologically distance themselves from the coworker, even if the person is not overtly prejudiced against gays and lesbians (Talley & Bettencourt, 2008). Studies also show that implicit bias towards gays and lesbians is so prevalent that it can be measured directly in word association tests, and most people have been found to have an implicit bias (Banse et al., 2001). Similar to other societal stereotypes, homophobia is especially dangerous in that it can be internalized by its victims, leading LGBTQ people to assume these negative views as being true. As a result, gays and lesbians become even more susceptible to self-hatred, depression, and suicide.  

Most people have at least a small unconscious bias against gays and lesbians that influences their behavior in ways they are not even aware of. You can test your own implicit bias against gays and lesbians by taking this online test from the Project Implicit web page. First, click "I wish to proceed" and then select "Sexuality IAT" from the list. Try taking a test—the results will likely surprise you.

Question 7.15

Question 7.15

Completing an implicit association test enables a person to witness the tension between one's explicit, conscious beliefs versus one's unconscious. less controllable attitudes. Did you experience this tension while taking the IAT for sexual orientation? What was your experience like? Did your results surprise you?

The term extreme homophobia is reserved for those who demonstrate an extreme form of hatred and disgust toward gays and lesbians. Research shows that extreme homophobia tends to be correlated with a number of personality factors, including:

  • rigid, stereotypical male gender roles/attitudes 
  • ultra-conservative religious beliefs (e.g. fundamentalist)
  • the belief that homosexuality is a choice
  • erotophobia (high amount of sexual guilt) 
  • the belief that sex is fundamentally for procreation and/or heterosexual marriage

Unfortunately, extreme homophobia leads to an extraordinary amount of verbal abuse and hate crimes directed against gays and lesbians in our country. In 2014, the FBI reported that 20.8% of all hate crimes were founded on perceived sexual orientation, and 61% of those attacks were on gay men. According to the U.S Department Of Justice, "homosexuals are probably the most frequent victims of hate violence in America," despite vast underreporting of such crimes. The FBI agrees, adding that "homosexual teens are much more likely to experience extreme forms of violence than heterosexual teens." 

Figure 7.8. A map of US states with hate crime laws as they pertain to sexual orientation and gender identity. Dark blue = Sexual orientation recognized in state hate crimes law.

What causes homophobia? Cultural indoctrination from parents, teachers, and peers as well as religious and political figures is the most obvious culprit. In addition, however, a mounting body of evidence suggests that repressed homosexual desires may be to blame. In one study, measures of homophobia were used to divide men into homophobic versus non-homophobic groups (Adams et al., 1996). Next, both groups watched two sets of sexual videos. The first set of videos showed sex between a heterosexual couple and the second set showed sex between two gay men. As they watched these videos, changes in the subjects' penis circumference were monitored via a recording device. Whereas the non-homophobic men's penises showed evidence of arousal (grew larger) only in response to the heterosexual videos, homophobic subjects' penises became aroused in response to the homosexual sex videos as well. Consistent with these results, another study using response time found that homophobic subjects were more likely to associate words like "gay" and homosexual" with words like "me" and "self" compared to men who were not homophobic. Interestingly, this effect was especially true for homophobic men who reported that they had had very authoritarian parents.  

​Attitudes toward LGBTQ people have improved marginally in the US in recent decades. Younger generations have stronger supportive views of LGBTQ rights than the average American. Public opinion polls show a gradual trend toward support for marriage equality with more than half of Americans in favor since 2010. Pew Research Center polling suggests conservatives, supporters of the "Tea Party" movement, people with religious beliefs that conflict with homosexuality, members of the Republican party, and the states Mississippi and West Virginia all hold a majority in opposition to marriage equality. Marriage is not the only issue that defines support for LGBTQ rights. According to a Williams Institute Report, general support for lesbians and gay men has doubled over the last 30 years. Further, these cultural shifts are not exclusive to young people. Older adults have a more positive view of LGBTQ people. Few surveys have asked about support for transgender issues, but there has been some improvement in the surveys that have. Nonetheless, support for transgender people remains less than lesbian and gay people. 

Question 7.16

Which of the following was found in a study looking at the sexual response of homophobic versus non-homophobic men to sexual images?

A

Only non-homophobic men became aroused in response to images of homosexual sex.

B

Only homophobic men became aroused in response to images of homosexual sex.

C

Only non-homophobic men became aroused in response to images of heterosexual sex.

D

Sexual response did not vary between homophobic and non-homophobic men.


Question 7.17

Extreme homophobia is correlated with all of the following except:

A

rigid, stereotypical male gender roles.

B

a belief that homosexuality is a choice.

C

a low level of sexual guilt.

D

a belief that sex should function only for procreation.


7.6 Growing Up LGBTQ

Figure 7.9. LGBTQ rights impact young people growing up and coming out. [6]​

In the following section, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are often discussed together. It is recognized that being transgender does not mean someone has a same-sex attraction. The groups are presented together because their advocacy efforts have often been symbiotic. In other words, “queer rights” have often included all of these groups. There are many similarities in the challenges LGBTQ youth face. The marginalization, discrimination, prejudice, and violence LGBTQ youth encounter are often rooted in gender transgressions.

There is a wide variation in the development of LGBTQ people. It is difficult to state exactly what the course of development is because people “come out” at different times in their lives. When asked to reflect on their childhood, many LGBTQ report engaging in a variety of types of play that often crossed traditional gender lines; this is referred to as gender nonconformity or “gender bending.” While numerous studies have linked gender nonconformity with homosexuality (Rieger et al., 2008), this may not reflect the experience of all LGBTQ people. While on average gay men tend to be somewhat more feminine, and lesbians somewhat more masculine than heterosexual people of their own sex (Lippa, 2005), this is only a measure of people that are out and live openly as lesbian or gay. Thus, there is not a causal link here; there is no evidence to suggest that cross-gender play (such as boys playing with dolls, girls playing with trucks) causes someone to be gay or transgender. Yet, this nontraditional play may result in teasing and feelings of alienation while growing up, also known as gender role strain. These feelings of difference and not fitting in generally don’t go away, but rather are amplified throughout the middle childhood and teenage years. In later life, some LGBTQ people express a sense of freedom and liberation from the gender roles that order how many people live their lives in Western cultures. 

Question 7.18

Question 7.18

Discuss your reaction to the film "In a Heartbeat" presented at the opening of the chapter. In what ways does this film reflect the challenges unique to LGBTQ youth? In which ways does it resemble the same anxieties encountered by straight youth?

7.6.1 Coming Out

Figure 7.10. The term "coming out" or coming out of the closet represents a significant act for LGBTQ people in which they publicly declare their sexual orientation​. [7]

The term “coming out” refers to the lifelong process of revealing one's LGBTQ identity. Several models of coming out and sexual identity development have been constructed. Karl Heinrich Ulrichs introduced the first model of coming out in 1869. A description is detailed here.

Vivienne Cass’s model is another model which includes six stages: identity confusionidentity comparison, identity tolerance, identity acceptance, identity pride, and identity synthesis (Cass, 1979). Eli Coleman offered a similar model with five stages: pre-coming out, coming out, exploration, first relationships, and integration (Coleman, 1982). Coming out is widely varied for different people, as this process may take place at any point in the life-course. Consider the different paths of the following people who might come out as non-heterosexual: a teen in high school, a person married to someone of the opposite sex, a parent, a grandparent, someone living in long-term assisted care. The important thing to note is that coming out is not a one-time event, such as telling parents or peers; instead, it is a lifelong process because people are often assumed to be straight in our society until they state otherwise (Manning, 2014). One similarity that almost all LGBTQ people have in common is that they have a “story” about their coming out and life as a non-heterosexual person. Rarely, if ever, would a straight person need to identify themselves as such. LGBTQ people, however, often find themselves in this position. 

It is not just young people who “come out.” The stories of LGBTQ seniors can be quite profound and help us understand the history of the LGBTQ movement.


Question 7.19

According to the video, how many countries still criminalize homosexuality?


7.6.2 LGBTQ Families

GIven that same-sex behavior is non-procreational, many often don't think about the fact that parenting is often an important aspect of LGBTQ lives. LGBTQ people may have children from a previous heterosexual relationship and then become stepparents with their new same-sex partners. Other times, they may choose to become pregnant while already in a same-sex relationship by using a sperm donor or surrogate mother. Other LGBTQ people choose adoption. Unfortunately, many states prevent same-sex couples from jointly adopting a child together, even though The American Academy of Pediatrics and American Psychological Association both openly support gay adoption. 

Scores of research suggest that same-sex parents are just as capable and proficient at parenting as heterosexual parents and that their children are just as likely to be psychologically well-adjusted (Short et al., 2007). Children in LGBTQ families are also no more likely to be LGBTQ than any other child. Research by Black, Sanders, and Taylor even indicates that children might be advantaged by non-heterosexual relationship because the parent(s) must often go to different measures to either conceive children or adopt (Black et al., 2007).

Figure 7.11. Meet the Loudons - Mary (right) and Mugs (left)! [8]

The Loudons are a lesbian couple living in Seattle with their two young children, ages four and six. Listen to them describe the happy story of how they met as well as the joys and challenges of parenthood from their own unique perspective.

Question 7.20

Question 7.20

What surprised you most about the Loudons? What elements of their story were the most unexpected?

Question 7.21

Question 7.21

In what ways do you think the Loudons' experience with parenting two small children is similar to that of more traditional heterosexual couples? In what ways is it different?

Question 7.22

Question 7.22

According to the Loudons, what situations for them present the most challenge when it comes to parenting?

Question 7.23

Question 7.23

Describe the ways in which the Loudons believe having lesbian parents benefits their children. In which ways might it impact their cognitive development?


7.7 Social Support

In a recent study by Russell and Fish on LGBTQ youth mental health, the authors teased apart the factors that harm versus provide protection (Russell & Fish, 2016). Protective factors include school policies and programs, family support, opportunities to date, and the ability and support to "come out." Risk factors are numerous and include institutionalized bias and lack of protections for LGBTQ youth, prejudice-based bullying or harassment, family rejection and societal attitudes that discriminate and marginalize LGBTQ people. In addition, Gay-Straight Alliances and connections to other gay-related organizations have a positive impact on most youths. The following is a list of US LGBTQ support organizations:

The Human Rights Campaign:

Their website states: The Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than 3 million members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights and can be open, honest, and safe at home, at work, and in the community.

GLAAD:

Their website describes them thus: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.

Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN):

GLSEN MissionOur mission is to create safe and affirming schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

As you can see, there are many attitudes and opinions related to LGBTQ rights and issues. These groups are primarily focused on advocacy for LGBTQ people. For a full list of resources across the US, click here


7.8 References

Alanko, K., Santtila, P., Harlaar, N., Witting, K., Varjonen, M., Jern, P., . . . Sandnabba, N. K. (2009). Common Genetic Effects of Gender Atypical Behavior in Childhood and Sexual Orientation in Adulthood: A Study of Finnish Twins. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(1), 81-92. doi:10.1007/s10508-008-9457-3

Bagemihl, B. (2000). Biological exuberance: animal homosexuality and natural diversity (1st ed.). New York, NY: St. Martins Press.

Bem, D. J., Ph.D. (2000). Exotic Becomes Erotic: Interpreting the Biological Correlates of Sexual Orientation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 29(6), 521-548.

Black, D. A., Sanders, S. G., & Taylor, L. J. (2007). The Economics of Lesbian and Gay Families. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(2), 53–70. https://doi.org/10.1257/jep.21.2.53

Bronski, M. (2012). A queer history of the United States. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Claxton-Oldfield, S., & O’Neil, S. (2007). Perceptions of gay and lesbian stepfamilies. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 46(3–4), 1–8.

Coleman, E. (1982). Developmental stages of the coming out process. Journal of Homosexuality, 7(2–3), 31–43.

Copen, C., Chandra, A., & Febo-Vazquez, I. (2016). Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Orientation Among Adults Aged 18-44 in the United States: Data From the 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth. National Health Statistics Reports, (88), 1-14.

Diamond, L. M. (2000). Sexual identity, attractions, and behavior among young sexual-minority women over a 2-year period, Developmental Psychology,2,241-250.

Diamond, L. M., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (2000). Explaining Diversity in the Development of Same-Sex Sexuality Among Young Women. Journal of Social Issues, 56(2), 297-313. 

Diamond, M. (1993). Homosexuality and bisexuality in different populations. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 22(4), 291-310. 

Gavrilets, S., & Rice, W. R. (2006). Genetic models of homosexuality: generating testable predictions. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 273(1605). doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.3684

Green, R., Roberts, C. W., Williams, K., Goodman, M., & Mixon, A. (1987). Specific cross-gender behaviour in boyhood and later homosexual orientation. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 151(1), 84-88. 

Herek, G. M. (2000). The Psychology of Sexual Prejudice. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 19-22.

Hines, M. (2011). Gender Development and the Human Brain. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 34, 69-88.

​Katz, J. (2007). The invention of heterosexuality. University of Chicago Press.

Kirkpatrick, R. C., Plato, & Lévi-Strauss, C. (2000). The Evolution of Human Homosexual Behavior. Current Anthropology, 41(3), 385-413. 

LeVay, S. (1991). A Difference in Hypothalamic Structure between Heterosexual and Homosexual Men. Science, 253 (5023), 1034-1037. 

Lippa, R. A. (2005). Sexual Orientation and Personality. Annual Review of Sex Research, 16(1), 119–153. https://doi.org/10.1080/10532528.2005.10559831

Manning, J. (2015). Communicating Sexual Identities: A Typology of Coming Out. Sexuality & Culture, 19(1), 122–138. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-014-9251-4

Mcconaghy, N. (1987). Heterosexuality/homosexuality: Dichotomy or continuum. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 16(5), 411-424. 

McWhirter, D. P., Sanders, S. A., & Reinisch, J. M. (1990). Homosexuality/heterosexuality: concepts of sexual orientation. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Meyer, D. (2015). Violence against queer people: Race, class, gender, and the persistence of anti-LGBT discrimination. Rutgers University Press.

Mustanski, B. S., Chivers, M. L., & Bailey, J. M. (2002). A Critical Review of Recent Biological Research on Human Sexual Orientation. Annual Review of Sex Research, 13, 89-140.

Ochs, R., & Rowley, S. E. (2009). Getting bi: voices of bisexuals around the world (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Bisexual Resource Center.

Pew Research Center. (2013, June 04). The Global Divide on Homosexuality. Retrieved December 04, 2017, from http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/06/04/the-global-divide-on-homosexuality/

Pillard, R. C., & Bailey, J. M. (1995). A biologic perspective on sexual orientation. The Psychiatric clinics of North America, 18(1), 71-84.

Rieger, G., Linsenmeier, J. A., Gygax, L., & Bailey, J. M. (2008). Sexual orientation and childhood gender nonconformity: evidence from home videos. Developmental Psychology, 44(1), 46.

Russell, S. T., & Fish, J. N. (2016). Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Youth. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 12(1), 465–487. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-021815-093153

Short, E., Riggs, D. W., Perlesz, A., Brown, R., & Kane, G. (2007). Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parented families. Melbourne: The Australian Psychological Society.

Steensma, T. D., Kreukels, B. P., De Vries, A. L., & Cohen-Kettenis, P. T. (2013). Gender identity development in adolescence. Hormones and behavior, 64(2), 288-297. doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2013.02.020

Vivienne C. Cass MPsych, Map. (1979). Homosexuality Identity Formation: Journal of Homosexuality, 4(3), 219–235. https://doi.org/10.1300/J082v04n03_01

Williams, W. L. (1992). The spirit and the flesh: sexual diversity in American Indian culture. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Zosky, D. L., & Alberts, R. (2016). What’s in a name? Exploring use of the word queer as a term of identification within the college-aged LGBT community. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 26(7–8), 597–607.

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7.9 Answers to Discussion Questions

Answer to Question 7.10

It is likely to be a combination of both biological and social factors. Most of the studies that have examined brain difference and sexual orientation have primarily focused on gay males. Female sexual orientation may be determined by a greater variety of factors, therefore, than just biology and some of these may be more sociological in nature than they are for males.  Students will likely report that they feel there is more tolerance at a cultural level for females who experiment with same-sex relationships than there is for males and that, at times, such experimentation is even met with social rewards and approval. With males, this is much less the case.



Answer to Question 7.15

Most people find that the results do surprise them as most find that they show at least a small unconscious bias against gays and lesbians. Even among those who outwardly express strong egalitarian beliefs, there is usually at least a small amount of implicit bias that is picked up by this test. The fact that most people are faster to pair “straight” with “good” than they are to pair “gay” with “good” is a disturbing finding especially for those who identify as being completely open and comfortable with various types of sexual orientations. It is an important test, however, because it shows how widespread and ingrained heterosexism is in western culture.  



Answer to Question 7.18

In many ways, the experience is the same – being nervous, excited, overwhelmed and happy.  This couple demonstrates how being LGBTQ heightens feelings of self-consciousness though and intensifies fears of what others think. Imagine if this couple lived in an area where being gay was not tolerated. The ending would be different. 



Answer to Question 7.20

​Students might find it surprising that the story of how they met and fell in love in many ways resembles that of any other heterosexual couple. The fact that raising and caring for children is also largely the same is also surprising.  The description of Mugs of taking her daughter to the bathroom, and feeling uncomfortable at times with this is probably an aspect of gay parenting many students haven’t considered. 



Answer to Question 7.21

It is only different in that questions about gender and gender identity have come up for their children at an earlier age than it may for other children. In all other, ways it is very much the same!




Answer to Question 7.22

Mugs says that using the public restrooms are the most challenging, yet also muses about how heterosexual parents likely face this challenge too if one parent is out alone with their opposite-sex child and they need to use the bathroom.




Answer to Question 7.23

Mary discusses how it improves cognitive flexibility and an early understanding that not all people or relationships can be neatly categorized.




7.10 Image Credits

[1] Image courtesy of EvilHom3r under CC BY-SA 3.0.

[2] Image courtesy of Tim Evanson under CC BY-SA 2.0.

[3] Image courtesy of xles under CC BY-S 4.0.

[4] Image courtesy of Danlev under CC BY-SA 3.0.

[5] Image courtesy of Alisdare Hickson under CC BY-SA 2.0.

[6] Image courtesy of William Murphy under CC BY-SA 2.0.

[7] Image courtesy of Kurt Löwenstein Education Center under CC BY 2.0.

[8] Image courtesy of Mary and Muggs Loudon, used with permission.