What is homosexuality?
Sexual orientation is a component of adult sexuality characterised by attraction towards members of a particular gender. Homosexuality is a sexual preference wherein a person feels sexually attracted to another person of the same sex. It is not a sexual perversion, nor is it a disease. Just like most people are attracted to members of the opposite sex and are called heterosexuals, a minority is attracted to members of the same sex and are called homosexuals.
In colloquial usage, a homosexual is also called 'gay'. 'Lesbian' is a specific term for homosexual women while homosexual men are usually called gay. Homosexuals experience similar feelings of love, attraction and romance like heterosexual individuals, the difference being that the feelings are felt towards a same-sex person.
All individuals have basic sexual rights which should not be violated. Some of them are:
- Freedom of sexual thought, fantasy or desire.
- Right to sexual entertainment.
- Right NOT to be exposed to sexual material or behaviour.
- Right to engage in consensual sexual activity.
What causes homosexuality?
The exact nature of the development of sexual orientation and preferences is still not known. It is not clear whether sexual preferences result from genetic causes or are moulded by the environment in which a child grows up. Though some research studies have suggested that homosexuality is genetic and is present at birth, there is no conclusive evidence to prove it. Studies conducted on twins have shown that if one of the twins is homosexual, there is a more than 50% chance that the other twin will also be gay. Some studies have also shown that there is a difference in the brains of homosexuals and heterosexuals.
There have been other studies to prove that homosexuality develops as a result of complex interactions between a child's social, psychological and physiological environment. The realisation whether an individual is homosexual or not, usually dawns after puberty. Just like heterosexuality, homosexuality is also an alternative way of life.
Is it a mental or emotional illness?
Homosexuality, historically had been considered a sin and a sexual abnormality. Till the 1970's it was considered a mental aberration and homosexuals were shunned in public life. Thus most homosexuals were afraid to reveal their sexual preference and were called 'closet homosexuals'. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the list of mental disorders.
Homophobia is the hatred or disgust that some people feel towards homosexuals. Homophobics refuse to be associated with homosexuals and have very rigid negative feelings for them. Homosexuals on the other hand may harbour anger towards heterosexuals for marginalizing them.
Do homosexuals have different feelings?
Homosexuals are not different human beings and do not have feelings any different from heterosexuals. However, since they are in a minority, they may develop a low self esteem because of the constant shunning by society. Most homosexuals in India, have still not been able to come out in the open with their sexuality because of the fear of societal censure. A long period of forced secretiveness about their sexuality may also have a negative impact on their psyche. Some gay men and lesbians may start dressing differently in order to make a statement to those around them, but this is most often a defence mechanism. When in a relationship, homosexuals are known to experience the same feelings as heterosexuals.
What are some of the myths surrounding homosexuality?
- "Homosexuality is a deviation"
Homosexuality is not a deviation, it is an alternate sexual lifestyle. Just like heterosexuality is a way of life, so is homosexuality.
- "Homosexuals have gender confusion"
This is not true. Most homosexuals dress, walk, talk and live like regular people. Any masculinity or feminity are individual personality traits and have nothing to do with one's sexual preference.
- "Homosexuals are always artistic"
Since most homosexuals lead sexually repressed lives, they may be more prone to expressing themselves by means of art and music. However, there is no scientific proof that homosexuals are more artistic than others.
- "Homosexuals are promiscuous"
Though not promiscuous per se, homosexuals may go through a period of promiscuity in an effort to assert their sexuality. However, once they realise their sexual orientation, homosexuals are faithful and monogamous with their partners, like heterosexuals.
What is the legal status of homosexuality in India?
The historic decision by Delhi High Court on 1 July 2009 states that homosexual sex between consenting adults is not a criminal act, overturning a 149-year-old British colonial law, which described sex between members of the same gender as an "unnatural offence". The ruling applies only to India’s capital, but it seems it will force the Central Government to either appeal the decision to the Supreme Court or repeal the law nationwide.