It is said to be like flowing upstream, against the norm, yet so many luminaries in the past had such preferences. Think of a common thread binding philosopher Socrates, conqueror Alexander the Great, Roman emperor Julius Caesar, and artist Michelangelo. If “intelligence” is your response, think again, as that is a given. Apparently, all these men were also homosexual.
If that hasn’t diminished your perception of their ingenuity, also consider that much of both Michelangelo’s and Leonardo da Vinci’s visual art, and certain great literary works of ancient times, such as Homer’s Iliad or Plato’s Symposium dwell on homosexual love.
In ancient times
Theirs was no digressional penchant, as sexual attraction between males was an accepted part of ancient Greek culture. In fact, not just Greek, but early African, native American, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Roman cultures, to name a few, included homosexual practices.
At this point, it is essential to explain the word “homosexual” love, as it is often misunderstood. Homosexuality is derived from the words “homo” and “sex”. In this case, “homo” comes from the Greek word meaning “same” [think homogeneous] not “man” [as in Homo sapiens]. As a nomenclature, homosexuality thus sends out a message of comfort or attraction between persons of the same sex, and does not necessarily signal sexual activity between persons of the same sex. Homosexual love, in fact, speaks of love between two men or two women.
However, when most people refer to homosexuality, they talk of sexual desire for someone of the same sex. Now, once sexual desire, as opposed to love, enters the picture, homosexuality is condemned, as the pursuit of sexual gratification in the absence of love is thought to be immoral. For this reason, and also since same-sex sexual activity is contrary to the procreative purpose of sex, sex between males was condemned as being “against nature” even long ago in ancient Greece by none less than Plato.
Homosexual love vs lust
Nevertheless, ideally speaking, homosexual love and homosexual lust should be treated separately. Lust – whether heterosexual or homosexual – outside of a “steady” relationship is immoral and weak. Then why denounce only homosexuals? True – a much larger proportion of our population suffers from the former, but if “normal” is defined as living within the confines of one relation, then both classify as abnormal.
Perhaps because of this, after Karl-Maria Kertbeny coined the term “homosexual” in 1869 while arguing against a Prussian anti-sodomy law, a different perception of this condition began to emerge. Initially accepted in medical and psychiatric circles, this view gained momentum after the modern gay rights movement was launched in 1969. Today, persons with stable homosexual orientation, implying both the desire, and ability to stay within a permanent monogamous relation, are considered as capable of forming a stable family unit based on a commitment “for life”, and adopting children, as a heterosexual couple.
Sharing love and life
Research now indicates that lesbian and gay parents are as likely to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children, and that these children have the same chance of succeeding in life as those brought up in heterosexual couple households. Apparently, in the Census of 2000 in US, 33 per cent of lesbian households and 22 per cent of gay couple households reported at least one child under the age of 18 years living at home.
Changing perceptions suggest a wider acceptance of the homosexual way of life. Fortunately, more people are adopting a non-judgmental stance, believing that no human has the right to judge another for his or her romantic and sexual preferences.
Further, the fact that homosexual couples are leading ordinary family lives, and changing societal gender roles have seen men and women shed stereotypical role-playing has put paid to the belief that two men or two women cannot enjoy a typically complementary relationship.
What their love is all about
A better understanding of why some people are homosexuals has also fostered wider acceptance. Ancient homosexual practices, such as in Japan, were traced to a monastic life and the Samurai [meaning “to serve”, Samurai marks the Japanese warrior tradition]. In modern days, however, researchers have put forward a wide range of theories surrounding homosexuality – such as it being genetically mediated, or arising when children brought up to not conform to gender stereotypes feel different from children of their own sex and thence aroused when near members of this sex, or that gay men have had less loving fathers and closer relationships with their mothers, because of which they veer towards forming relations with men.
Of course, there are also the more radical explanations doing the rounds, such as Sigmund Freud’s position of innate bisexuality that suggests that humans are born with a predisposition to bisexuality but evolve into a monosexual state after undergoing psychological conditioning, thus relegating their bisexuality to a latent state. Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female could also be categorised as extreme, stating that a majority of humans have had some homosexual experience or sensations and are thus bisexual.
In a world where tolerance, rather acceptance, of different attitudes and positions is increasingly being emphasised as essential for harmonious living, it doesn’t really matter which reason appeals to your senses. Fact is – a negative societal attitude toward homosexuality contributes to stress and other mental disorders in homosexuals. Now that even knowledgeable groups such as the American Psychological Association have described homosexuality as “not changeable,” and discourage attempts to mitigate the feeling as not effective and potentially harmful, it’s time for every person to acknowledge this different way of life.
Let’s face it – some men and women are just made that way. Nevertheless, it also makes sense to say that as some men and women evolve that way, egalitarian [between people of the same age] homosexuality amongst adults is acceptable, but any form of initiating young men or women into homosexuality is a complete no-no.
Our acceptance of homosexual love eases the process of a homosexual coming out of the closet, so to speak, to declare his or her attraction – a prerequisite to enjoy a wholesome life – and for us to live as an integrated society. If you think of it, homosexual love, after all, is just another kind of love.
There is an interesting native North American custom revolving around the recognition and acceptance of individuals who have same-sex preferences. Such persons were perceived as being two-spirit individuals, who were ideally recognised for their leanings early in life, and then given the choice to be raised in the preferred gender if they were comfortable as such. Far from being shunned, two-spirit individuals were revered as having special powers, and encouraged to marry and settle down. In fact, male two-spirit people were prized as wives for their hardiness and greater strength.
Nowadays, it is advised to avoid the use of the word “homosexual” for its negative connotation in referring only to a person’s sexual orientation and not to his/her romantic feelings. Instead, use the words “gay” and “lesbian”.
In addition, the word “homosocial” describes same-sex relationships that aren’t sexual. Further, the word “homophilia” is used to refer to homosexual love, or love between people of the same sex.