Re: Homosexuality: male & female

Susan (
17 Sep 1996 14:47:52 GMT (Yousuf Khan) wrote:

>Who knows? The numbers are probably estimates based on the author's own
>personal experiences. If the author lives in a part of the world where
>homosexuality is more visible, then he could come up with higher numbers.

I would hope who ever generated the 10% number did more than cruise the
local scene at make counts! But I guess one can never assume.

>This might be taken to suggest that there
>>is a range of behavior classifiable as homosexual, which a given person
>>may or may not be engaging in at a given time.
>Stop right there. There is a difference between a bisexual and a
>homosexual. You are coming very close to stating that a homosexual can be
>converted to heterosexuality, because there are all of these bisexuals out
>there who can switch back and forth so easily.

Sorry, that wasn't what I meant. I was trying to convey that there are a
range of attitudes towards homosexuality and how it is defined, if you
look cross-culturally. The idea which is part of U.S. culture, and a
number of others, that homosexuality is fixed and unchanging, is not
necessarily true cross culturally. In a number of other cultures, there
is more fluidity in how the role is enacted and understood, with people
able to drop in and out of homosexual behavior (as opposed to the
homosexual role as the U.S. defines it) as their life changes. The
presence of bisexuals in this culture suggests that this may be true here
to some extent as well, but I was not suggesting that it is true of those
who identify as homosexuals here.

I am not suggesting that either kind of cultural understanding is
necessarily more accurate or better, just that there is a range of
understandings. I am also not suggesting that homosexuals here can or
should "convert" to anything. I just wanted to show the range of ways
other cultures interpret the fixedness of homosexual behavior.

> This does a disservice to
>homosexual feelings, because it somehow marginalizes it into something less
>than heterosexual feelings. "Heterosexual attraction is true attraction,
>but homosexual attraction is just a passing phase therefore it is not
>true", is what I'm sensing here. If someone is truly homosexual, then they
>cannot feel any attraction for the opposite sex -- period. If they can feel
>any attraction to the opposite sex, then they are bisexuals.

I am not about to argue that point with a homosexual in the U.S. What
they feel about their identity is paramount, as far as I'm concerned.
If they feel it's fixed, then it is. Period. But in the New Guinea
example I cited, there is no stigma attached to the "homosexual phase"
that all men go through. It is not considered better or worse or more or
less true than the later "heterosexual phase." It is all considered a
normal part of sexuality. Homosexuality is important because you can't
become a proper man without it, while heterosexuality is important
because you can't have children without it.

>"Bisexuals and homosexuals are all the same thing", is what I'm
>sensing here. You can't take cases of bisexuals and say because bisexuals
>can be attracted to the opposite sex, that homosexuals are capable of the
>same feelings. Why not just say, "Bisexuals and heterosexuals, they are all
>the same thing"; and then say because bisexuals can be attracted to the
>same sex, that heterosexuals therefore can be attracted to the same sex as
>well. Doesn't work does it?

Again, I didn't mean this. Basically, in the New Guinea example, there
is only one category-- sexual human-- where here there are three
categories-- heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual. I find this
interesting only because it is a different way of understanding the same
set of behaviors (i.e. various kinds of sexual attraction), and being an
anthropologist, that sort of variation interests me. But there is no
inherent rightness to either version, in the grand scheme-- just what is
meaningful to those who's roles these are.

>What is so hard about it? You are attracted to the same sex but never to
>the opposite sex, then you are homosexual. You are attracted to the
>opposite sex but never to the same sex, then you are heterosexual. If you
>have been attracted to either sex at some time in your life, then you are
>bisexual. Forget about lumping bisexuals and homosexuals together -- they
>are not the same thing.

I understand that. But I personally know two people who started out
heterosexual (and they were truly attracted to the opposite sex, not just
playig the game of social norms), then became homosexual. At the moment,
neither could imagine ever being attracted to the opposite sex, and both
identify as homosexual. So if you were counting at one point in their
lives as opposed to now, how would they be counted? And which would be
right? I suspect, and this is just my opinion, that there may be more
fluidity in sexual attraction than we in the U.S. acknowledge. But in
terms of gender, there is strong pressure to choose a role and stick to
it, perhaps as some studies suggest because the U.S. is very
uncomfortable with ambiguity. I understand the importance of
establishing identity, and I support those who identfy as homosexual to
be homosexual (not that they need my support,but I wanted to go on
record with it!). But I do wonder what would have happened to all of us
if we had been raised in a culture where roles were less strictly defined
in terms of sexual preference.

>>Some people have
>>suggested a more extreme view, that everyone has "homosexual potential",
>>but that it is culture which defines whether and how it is acted upon.
>>This, as you can imagine, is controversial, but it is an interesting
>You are reading too much into it, it doesn't mean that everyone is
>homosexual. A potential (any potential at all) could range anywhere from 0%
>(i.e. no chance) to 100% (i.e. already doing it). Everyone has a
>heterosexual potential as well, but that doesn't mean everyone can be
>heterosexual as well.

I agree. I did say that it was potential, not that everyone was
homosexual. And I did focus on homosexuality because of the current
debate, but of course it applies to heterosexuality too. And I'm not
reading anythig into it, it is stated pretty explicitly by people like
Gilbert Herdt that this is their reading of some implications of their
research. I only mentioned it, to be honest, because there are so many
heterosexuals who are completely intolerant of sexual varation, and I
take perverse pleasure in pointing out the possibility that they may have
potential for such variation themselves.

>There are many people who give absolutely no outward indication of
>homosexuality, but they are. These aren't the special cases, these are the
>majority cases. Homosexuals are walking amongst us now, and we won't be
>able to tell; they aren't even trying to act deceptive by hiding their true
>nature, because this is their true nature: completely normal in every
>aspect of life except one.
> Yousuf Khan

That was my point, actually. If the numbers are based on self
identification, then there may be validity to them. But if they are
based on some third party assessment (which IMO would be stupid, but not
unexpected), then I was wondering if "borderline" (and I use the
word in the sense of people making such observations, not in terms of
real sexual preference) males would be counted gay while "borderline"
females wouldn't.



"Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps."
-- Emo Phillips