Deviance is a behavior that does not conform to social norms, therefore is socially created. Since most people in the United States believe that homosexuality is wrong, society has created homosexuality to be a deviance. Since deviance is relative and not absolute to a society, homosexuality is not a universal form of sexual deviance. There are many cultures that accept forms of homosexuality. The Western society is not accepting of it though, and many times this non-accepting view cause discrimination towards homosexuals. Is homosexuality a way for some people to deviate, or is it just the way some people need to live their lives? If that is the way of life for some people than society has to become accepting towards this lifestyle.
Homosexuals are a minority since they differ from the accepted sexual orientation. They become objects of discrimination and contempt. Some of societies anti-homosexual attitudes come from homophobia. Homophobia is “the irrational fears of homosexuality in others, the fear of homosexual feelings within oneself, or self-loathing because of one’s homosexuality. It stems from ignorance and popular myths that give rise to homosexual prejudice”(Crooks 255).
Homophobia is expressed in many ways, both subtle and direct.
Telling jokes about queers, belittling their lifestyle, denying them housing, employment, membership into organizations, and engaging in violence against homosexuals. Heterosexuals also express homophobia by avoiding acts that would cause people to think they were gay. It affects men the most like this because it hinders male friendships. Men do not want to get too close to their male friends, or express emotions because they might be considered gay. Homophobia restricts the lives of both gay and straight people.
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Laws against homosexual behaviors have been very punitive. In the American colonies homosexuals were put to death by burning or drowning. Sodomy, which is oral or anal sex, was against the law in the United States until 1961. Illinois became the first state to repeal the sodomy laws. Now only 13 states continue to have sodomy laws. Even though these laws apply to all segments of the population, they are usually enforced against homosexual men. ” Sodomy laws are used to harass homosexuals, especially gay men, because women in general and lesbians in particular are socially invisible in society”(Eitzen 304).
An example of the injustice of sodomy laws is the case of Matthew Leeman. He has been sentanced to 17 years in prison under Kansas State sodomy laws. The details of the case are 18 year old Leeman was convicted of giving a 15 year old boy consensual oral sex due to violation of the state’s sodomy laws.
In Kansas sex with any minor is illegal, but there is also a Romeo and Juliet law that states sex with a minor is less of an offense if there is little age difference. Therefore if Leeman had given consensual oral sex to a 15 year old girl he would have received a 12 month sentance. But under the sodomy laws all same sex activities are illegal regardless of age, so the Romeo and Juliet exception does not apply to him. The case was appealed all the way to the Kansas State Supreme Court with the ruling upheld. So 18 year old Matthew Leeman will be in jail until he is 36 years old. The Supreme Court has upheld the right of states to prohibit sodomy in the case Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986. Recently the Supreme Court has decided it will revisit the issue of whether states can continue to prosecute homosexual men for having consensual sex in their homes.
A descion is expected in June of 2003. Bars where homosexuals frequent are often raided by the police and many are arrested under the sodomy laws. This practice makes it difficult for homosexuals when they apply for jobs. Applications for employment ask if a person has a criminal record. Since some gays have records for violation sodomy laws, they must write it on their application. Both these offenses, having a record and being gay, makes employment less likely.
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Homosexuals, especially males, are highly discriminated against in activities considered to be super manly. Up until recently a person could not be gay in the military. Homosexuals were honorably discharged from the military. In 1993 President Clinton attempted to change this tradition. He received much opposition from politicians, citizens and the military. The result was a compromise, a don’t ask, don’t tell rule. This meant that the military personal was not to inquire about sexual preference, and that service members were not to be blatant about their sexual orientation. Another macho activity is sports. Gay men in sport have not been accepted. ” There is much at stake in maintaining the silence about gay men in sports and in discouraging gay male athletes from revealing their identities”(Coakley 234).
To even talk about homosexuals in sports would threaten the system of gender classification. The fact is though there are homosexuals in sports and they are discriminated against. In the locker room athletes use anti- gay banter as part of daily life. Homosexuals in sports live in fear of the truth about their sexuality coming out. Although recently studies have shown that organized sports are becoming less homophobic. People in sports are becoming more tolerant of homosexuals. But the value of a homosexual athlete is of core importance. ” Gay athletes with high human capital are much more likely to come out of the closet to their teams than are gay athletes with medium or low human capital”(Anderson 12).
As homosexuals are slowly accepted by society, the gender lines that inhibit so many will slowly be erased.
Another way homosexuals are discriminated against is through family rights. No State in America allows marriage between members of the same sex. Aside from the emotional benefits, there are legal benefits that come with marriage. Health insurance coverage, inheritance of property, and tax benefits are just a few advantages that come with a legally recognized relationship. Parenthood is another aspect of life that homosexuals are disadvantaged. The rights of gay parents are usually denied. When two people divorce it is most often the mother that gains more custody. “However if the mother is an acknowledged lesbian, this may jeopardize her claim to custody”(Crooks 266).
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A homosexual man has an even harder time gaining custody, because he has a double disadvantage. Many gay couples are also denied the right to adopt children; in some states it is even illegal. Some lesbian couples have children through artificial insemination. The problem with this is that only the mother of the child is legally recognized as the parent. There are only eight states that “second-parent adoptions by lesbians and gays have been approved in California, Oregon, Alaska, Washington, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C.”(Strong 356).
Being homosexual should not prohibit people from raising a legally recognized family.
There are two ways that homosexuals deal with living in a hostile society. The first is to conceal their sexual preference from the world. When they are in the straight world they act heterosexual, and only within the confines of privacy do they act gay. The second strategy is to be a gay liberationist. Instead of keeping their sexuality a secret, they are openly gay at all times. They challenge societal norms in hopes that there will be a change in attitudes. Gay liberationist rose about in the early 1970s, after an event that took place earlier. On June 28, 1969, the police raided Stonewall Inn, a gay hangout. Instead of dispersing as usual, the customers rioted. This incident drew a lot of needed attention to problems of police harassment that homosexuals faced. “In effect Stonewall resistance came to symbolize the birth of the modern gay rights movement”(Eitzen 312).
Since Stonewall there have been many positive changes for gay rights. Now there are laws to protect the rights of homosexuals, where as before they had no laws protecting them. More and more people are coming out of the closet and are proud to be gay (A).
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As time continues homosexual rights will become stronger. This will only happen with the help of heterosexuals. Education is very important in the fight for gay rights. People must be informed that homosexuality is not a disease, or a sin; it is just the way of life for some people.
Homosexuals are not monsters who should be put to death. Homosexuality has been around since before the written word, and each society deals with it differently. Our own society is not accepting of it. These are just humans who have a different sexual preferences than the members of normal society. Homosexuals have relationships, families, and even children, most of which are happy and healthy. They do things heterosexuals do such as serve in the armed forces and play sports. Yet society discriminates against them, even to the point of violence. Even though gay activists have made some difference in how society views their lifestyles, it is not enough. There needs to be more of a change. We as society should be more accepting of these people. If not we are the ones being deviant, with our policies of discrimination and harassment.
Anderson, Eric. Openly Gay Athletes: Dealing with hegemonic Masculinity
And Homophobia. University of California
Coakley, Jay. “Sport in Society: Issues and Controversies” 7th ed.
Boston: McGrawHill, 2001.
Crooks, Robert. Our Sexuality. 6th ed. Pacific Grove: Brooks and Cole, 1996.
Curtan, Jim. “Gay Liberation=Spiritual Liberation.” Genre 81 (2000): 74.
Eitzen, D. Stanley. Social Problems. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997.
Strong, Bryan. The Marriage and Family Experience, Intimate Relationships in a
Changing Society. 7th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth, 1998.