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Psychology of Homosexuality
By Carman Bradley
the homosexual orientation is not “originally” and “predominately” rooted in
something physical, biological or genetic, what other factors differentiate the
development of homosexuals from heterosexuals?
A number of clues have been discovered.
1952, Dr. Irving Bieber began directing a research team in a nine-year project
studying male homosexuality. In all, 77 analysts, each a member of the Society
of Medical Psychoanalysts, provided information on two patient samples
consisting of 106 male homosexuals and a comparison group of 100 male
heterosexuals. The result was the most authoritative study of its kind.[i] No one has ever gathered so much finely
discriminating detail on so many homosexuals, treated in depth by so many
different doctors, and put through so many evaluations.[ii] Dr. Bieber writes:
We have come to the conclusion
that a constructive, supportive, warmly-related father precludes the
possibility of a homosexual son....[iii]
psychiatrist, after many years of study and practice treating male homosexuals,
noted, "Homosexuals consistently describe their fathers as a weak,
shadowy and distant figure, or an angry, cold or brutalizing one."[iv] Dr. Elizabeth Moberly received her Ph.D. in
psychology from Oxford University for her study of homosexuality. She found "that
the homosexual - whether man or woman - has suffered from some deficit in the
relationship with the parent of the same-sex; or 'homosexual,'
relationships."[v] Sharon Wegscheider, a certified alcoholism
specialist, a family therapist, a member of Virginia Satir's AVANTA network,
and president of ONSITE, provides an illustration of how this can happen when
she describes the patterns that appear in the family of a chemically dependent person.
She describes one of the characters in this family as "the Lost
He becomes a loner,
looking after his needs himself and staying out of everyone's way...."[vi] "Since he has never experienced warm
human closeness, he is not prepared to make friends and engage in the social
give and take of day-to-day school contacts. Yet in the midst of the crowd,
withdrawing into himself leaves him feeling lonely, different, inept."[vii]
human being learns what it means to be a man or a woman from the adults in his
or her childhood family. The same-sex
parent provides a lasting model of what he is to be, and the other parent an
object for his first important relationship with a person of the opposite sex. These are powerful teachings if they
occur. The Lost Child, however, has
never felt close to either of his parents; he has been too insulated from them
to experience this kind of learning. Consequently, he reaches puberty with no
clear sense of his own sexual identity or how to relate in a healthy way to those
of the opposite sex. As adolescent
sexuality increasingly colors all aspects of the daily world he occupies, he is
engulfed by yet another kind of confusion.
True to his pattern, he withdraws.
He rarely dates and in his loneliness suffers growing doubts about his
own sexual normalcy."[viii] Thus Ms. Wegscheider lists among the common
characteristics of the Lost Child, problems with sexual identity and confusion
about sex roles and sometimes about sexual preference:
Alcoholism and drug addiction are
only two of many family experiences which can lead to confusion in sexual
identity and sexual preference. Many
things less severe than chemical dependency can result in a deficit in our
relationship with our same-sex parent. A sensitive child can be easily hurt. My father was a fine man who had no problem
with alcohol or drugs. He did, however,
want me, his first born, to be exactly like he was: strong, tough, a fighter,
and a doctor. These were things God had
not equipped me to be. I felt that I
was not what my father wanted, and that he did not love me. So I put up a wall between us and missed the
love I needed to develop a healthy gender identity. Had you asked about our relationship, I would have told you,
‘It's fine.’ But, if I was being complete, I would have added the revealing
words, ‘but we're not close.’ [ix]
psychologist, Dr. Moberly suggests other situations that may cause difficulty:
The illness of the child, especially when this involves
hospitalization, i.e., a large measure of separation from parental care.
The illness of a parent.
Even when this does not involve hospitalization, it may mark a period of
inability to care for the young child, which may in turn affect the child's
capacity for attaching to the parent.
The birth of a sibling, especially when this involves the
mother's absence due to hospitalization, or a conspicuous lessening in the
amount of care she gives to the child she has already.
The temporary, prolonged, or permanent absence of a
The separation or divorce of the
The death of a
Adoption, fostering or living in an orphanage.
Being brought up in a succession of nurses, governesses,
etc., i.e., a constantly changing succession of 'parental' figures.[x]
illustrate Moberly’s observations on the psychology of homosexuality, we need
only look at the two principal lovers in Oscar Wilde’s life – a set of
circumstances well documented in history.
First, when Oscar was fifteen, the boy who is recognized to have led
Wilde into gay sex was born, in Canada, under the name Robbie Ross. Robbie’s father, John Ross had become
Solicitor-General of Upper Canada, at the age of thirty-three, in 1851. His father’s early death in 1871 greatly
impacted Robbie. The tragedy left
Elizabeth Ross not only as a young widow, but a single mother with five small
children, Robbie being the youngest aged two.
Money from her father’s estate left her comparatively wealthy and with
the means to move back to England that year. Montgomery Hyde writes:
When it soon became clear that little Bobby was a rather
small and frail child, Elizabeth’s protectiveness became all the more
pronounced. This infuriated his
sisters, Mary and Lizzie, who began to see him as a mummy’s boy. Interestingly, though, his two brothers,
Jack and Aleck – ten and nine years older than him respectively – both
displayed a rather paternal attitude towards him. [xi]
Back in England, Elizabeth
had plans for her own life, which included travel on the Continent, as well as
finding a place in London society. She
soon dispatched Robbie to a prep school within easy distance of London:
Sandroyd, at Cobham in Surrey. Sandroyd
was designed to prepare young boys for future study at major public schools
such as Eton or in some cases the Royal Navy.
Later Robbie would stay at the Wilde residence. Writes Hyde:
His small size and rather weak
constitution ill-suited him for sports.
He rarely mentioned his schooldays in later life, or if he did, his
comments were not recorded. It is highly
likely, though, that with his looks he would have attracted quite a lot of
amorous attention from older boys, or indeed, some of the masters. While any such experience, physically
consummated or not, need not necessarily affect the sexual development of an
individual, something certainly happened somewhere, either at school or on his
travels abroad, to make him not just enthusiastically but contentedly
homosexual by his late teens.[xii]
is Wilde’s lover Bosie Douglas. John
Sholto Douglas (Bosie’s father) was the ninth Marquis of Queensbury. Hyde describes John Douglas as an eccentric
Scottish nobleman; he may have been mentally unbalanced. His principal preoccupations were sport and
atheism, and he knew much more about his horses and dogs than about the human
members of his family. Apart from his
ill-fated quarrel with Wilde, he is chiefly remembered as the author of the
rules, which govern amateur boxing.
But his profession of atheism had already won for him a contemporary
notoriety. As a representative peer of
Scotland he refused to take the oath in the House of Lords on the ground that
this necessary preliminary was mere “Christian tomfoolery”. In his private life he bullied his wife, who
subsequently divorced him, on 22 January 1887, on the grounds of his adultery
with Mabel Gilroy. He neglected
his children, preferring instead the society of his mistresses and his sporting
cronies. He was arrogant, vain,
conceited, and ill-tempered.[xiii] It is one of the great ironies of history
that the undoing of the aesthetic Oscar Wilde was by an obsessed gay son and
his devout atheist father, and not as commonly assumed by the homophobic
Christian right or a puritanical society.
correspondence to his son “Queensbury” registered his complaint over his son’s “intimacy
with this man Wilde.” Bosie’s only
response to this letter was to send him a telegram, which read simply: “What
a funny little man you are! Alfred Douglas.” Queensberry replied:
If I catch you again with that man
I will make a public scandal in a way you little dream of; it is already a
suppressed one. I prefer an open one,
and at any rate I shall not be blamed for allowing such things to go on.[xiv]
told Bosie that all future cards would go in the fire unread. He then repeated the threat of a thrashing. “You
reptile,” concluded this paternal epistle, “You are no son of mine, and
I never thought you were.”[xv] Wilde met Bosie in 1892; Wilde
was 38 and Douglas 22. Leaving aside
briefly the issue of homosexuality, ask yourself as a parent or potential
parent: Where you would stand, if your 22 year old daughter started a sexual
relationship with a married man, sixteen years her senior, with two children
and a wife? What would a Christian
this would come as little surprise to psychologists thinking like Moberly, but
two years after the death of Constance Wilde, and after his own father’s death,
Bosie arose from his homosexual “blindness” to contract a runaway marriage with
a poetess Olive Custance, an heiress, who soon found that even her substantial
fortune was insufficient to keep him in the style to which he was accustomed.[xvi]
While the experiences, listed by Dr. Moberly, do not
always result in homosexual feelings, they can, in a sensitive child, cause a
hurt which leads to such problems. To
develop in a healthy way, a child needs love from its parent (or a consistent
parent substitute) of the same-sex. Dr.
Needs for love from, dependency
on, and identification with, the parent of the same-sex are met through the
child's attachment to the parent. If,
however, the attachment is disrupted, the needs that are normally met through
the medium of such an attachment remain unmet.[xvii]
If these needs go unmet over a period of time, the child
develops mixed and contradictory feelings towards its same-sex parent and
tries, through a process of detachment, to survive without the love he or she
deeply needs. The emotionally hurt youngster says of the same-sex parent,
"I don't want to be like you." These feelings are transferred to all
members of the same-sex so that the person experiences, at the same time, a
deep desire for intimacy with persons of the same-sex and a strong desire to
flee such intimacy. When puberty comes, these feelings get confused with erotic
intimacy and a homosexual struggle begins.
Homosexual behavior is a mistaken attempt to meet a real
need for non-sexual, same-sex, parent-child love. This need has been falsely
understood as sexual, but homosexual behavior actually lessens the possibility of
getting the real need met, because it involves guilt, deepens feelings of
inferiority, and increases the ambivalence experienced in the same-sex
relating. As Dr. Earl D. Wilson has
noted, "The anonymous sex which many homosexuals experience seems only to
strengthen the reparative urge and leave the person more desperate."[xviii] All this reduces a person's ability to have
those healthy relationships with members of the same-sex, which are vital to
coming to freedom from homosexuality.
As Dr. Moberly puts it:
Homosexuality is the kind of
problem that needs to be solved through relationships. The solution of same-sex deficits is to be
sought through the medium of... non-sexual relationships with members of the
same-sex. It is the provision of good
same-sex relationships that helps meet unmet same-sex needs, heals defects in
the relational capacity, and in this way forwards the healing process.[xix]
Here a good same-sex counselor may also be needed to help
work through deep-seated hurts from the past.
to Neil Whitehead, “Homosexuality fits much more naturally into that group
of human behaviors which are psychological in nature.” Moreover, he says incidence studies argue for a high
environmental influence in homosexuality:
A large Chicago study
asked where people had been brought up during ages fourteen to sixteen years
and whether they had any male homosexual partners during the last year. The percentages differed for different
degrees of urbanization; 1.2 per cent of the males surveyed who had been raised
in rural areas reported having homosexual partners during the last year; 2.5
per cent who had been raised in medium-sized towns reported having homosexual
partners, and 4.4 per cent who had been raised in large cities reported being
active homosexuals. For women, the
percentages were 0.7 per cent, 1.3 per cent and 1.6 per cent,
respectively. In other words where you
are brought up is quite an important factor in whether you end up having
noted that if homosexuality was genetically influenced, and for the sake of
argument the rural rate of 1.2 per cent was used as the base, then in the
cities, the balance (3.2 per cent) would be exclusively due to social
factors. This means for males, that the
environmental factor (3.2 per cent) is far more important than the alleged
genetic factor (1.2 per cent).[xxi]
also looked at the diversity of homosexual expression and culture and concluded
again, there was little evidence of a genetic foundation. In 1994, an Italian-American geneticist,
Cavalli-Sforza, published a huge genetic atlas, the outcome of a monumental
study of the genetic characteristics of different ethnic groups. His conclusion was that, in spite of
superficial differences (e.g. skin color), the different races are essentially
the same genetically. In fact,
something between 99.7 per cent and 99.9 per cent of the genes in any two
unrelated people are the same.[xxii] If all ethnic groups share similar genes two
assumptions can be drawn about genetically determined behavior: it will be
predictable, specific in nature and similar all over the globe; and it will be
present at roughly the same incidence in all cultures. If we look at homosexuality, we find none of
the characteristics of genetic properties:
There is a huge
variety of homosexual practices between cultures and even within them.
The incidence of
homosexuality has varied considerably in different cultures. In some cultures, it has been unknown; in
others, it has been obligatory for all males.
There have been, and
are, rapid changes in homosexual behavior – even over a lifetime. Not only that, but entire types of
homosexuality have disappeared over the course of just a few centuries.
anthropologists have found such huge variants in heterosexual and homosexual
practice from culture to culture…that they mostly want to say that all sexual
behavior is learned.[xxiii]
study by Yale University surveyed 190 different cultures, discovering that
there was a wide range of heterosexual activity. There was no breast stimulation in six cultures; no kissing in
nine; in two others, sexual excitement was correlated with scratching or
biting; in one, urination was part of foreplay; in another, guest sex was
practiced (i.e., it was good hospitality to offer your wife to a visitor). Among the Lepchas, all young girls were
sexually experienced by eleven or twelve, and even as young as eight. Bestiality occurred only erratically in
cultures; in some it was unknown; in others, it was tolerated. A survey by Paul Gebhard of the Kinsey
Institute noted that fetishism, voyeurism, exhibitionism, and well-developed
sadomasochism were very rare or absent, appearing only in more “advanced”
societies.[xxiv] The exponential rise in gay sexual liaisons
– 20, 50, 200, 500, 1000, witnessed in the 1970s was not the result of genetics
but the outcome of highly commercialized sex and gay liberation culture. We must ask ourselves, what portion of this
past forty years of GBLTQ history was constituted from individual choice?
to Whitehead heterosexuality requires a conducive nurturing environment to
develop properly. In the 1950’s, the
World Health Organization asked British psychoanalyst John Bowley to research
the mental health of homeless children.
His response was a monumental book, Attachment
and Loss. Bowley found that extreme
emotional deprivation in early childhood produced children with very cold
personalities who were unable to form lasting relationships. They also craved affection.[xxv] Psychologists differ over the
details of the process, but all concede the importance of attachment to the
parent of the same-sex (or a surrogate), the start of a dependent relationship,
and imitation and modeling of that parent for formation of a sense of gender
identity. A “bad” father who creates
conflict is worse for the boy’s masculinity than no father at all.[xxvi]
described the separate gender identities of very young children (3-4
years). By the age of eight, roughly 85
per cent of both sexes believe their own sex is best. Boys or girls who cross the line are mercilessly teased. Says Whitehead, “’No-girls-allowed’
activities are common to boys, in the attempt, some psychologists believe, by
the boy to consolidate his gender identity following the shift in
identification to his father.” R.A.
Latorre wrote, the sexual orientation “soaks in from the outside.” A similar process happens for girls. The peer group has a similar role to that of
the same-sex parent. Mixing mainly with
their own sex strengthens a child’s sense of being male or female, and the
differences deepen.[xxvii] This importance of parental and peer
influences on later sexual behavior is revealed in the following scientific
colleagues at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge allowed ten ewes to raise
goats from birth and ten nanny goats to raise lambs from birth. The fostered kids and lambs grew up in mixed
flocks of sheep and goats but the kids fraternized mainly with lambs and
adopted their play and grooming habits, and lambs fraternized mainly with
kids. Once mature they ignored their
own species and tried to mate 90 per cent of the time with the foster mother
species. They kept this up every day
during the observation period of three years, and even after years of mixing
with their own species, the males did not revert (but females did).[xxviii]
Whitehead, “If the sexuality of these lower animals was so influenced by
learning, human sexuality will be more so.” Psychological literature on homosexuality clearly reveals
breakdowns in learning processes critical to the development of
heterosexuality. Rather than bonding
and identifying with same-sex parents, imitating and role-modeling, numerous
studies of homosexuals show early breaches, negative relationships, and
resistance to identification and modeling.
One comprehensive study of homosexuality found 84 per cent of homosexual
men said their fathers were indifferent and uninvolved compared with 10 per
cent of heterosexual men, and that only 10 per cent of homosexual men
identified with their fathers in childhood, compared with two-thirds of
heterosexual men. M. T. Sagir and E.
Robins found only 23 per cent of lesbians reported positive relationships with
their mothers and identification with them, compared with 85 per cent of
a review of literature, van den Aardweg says poor relationships with peer
groups are even more common in the backgrounds of male homosexuals than poor
relationships with fathers.[xxx] Bell et al. comment that children with
reduced same-sex parent identification are more likely to develop “gender
non-conformity” (“sissiness” in boys and “tomboyism” in girls; the sense of
feeling “different” from their peers).[xxxi] Nicolosi remarks that “the masculine
qualities conveyed in healthy father-son relationships are confidence and
independence, assertiveness and a sense of personal power.” Without these attributes, he will not fit
well into childhood male peer groups.
Male homosexual clients characteristically say they were weak,
unmasculine, unacceptable. That’s when
the name-calling starts – “sissy,” “girl.”
Saghir and Robins found that 67 per cent of homosexuals were called
sissy or effeminate by others, (compared with three per cent of heterosexual
men), and that 79 per cent of these men in childhood and early adolescence had
no male friends, played mostly with girls, and rarely or never played sports.[xxxii] A similar pattern is seen in
lesbianism. Young girls resistant to
mother identification and modeling do not fit well into female peer groups. Saghir and Robins’ found 70 per cent of
homosexual women were “tomboys” as children, compared with 16 per cent of
heterosexual women. Sixty three per
cent wished they were boys or men, compared with seven per cent of heterosexual
women. The attitude
persists into adulthood:
One of the two
findings that differentiated lesbian women from heterosexual women was the
feeling in lesbian women that they were less feminin and more masculine. ‘They express disinterest in feminine
accessories and fashion, prefer ‘sporty’ and tailored clothes, and shun make-up
and hairdos. They see their social and
domestic roles as being incompatible with those of other women. They behave more competitively and are
oriented toward career and accomplishments with little interest in raising
children or in domestic pursuits.’[xxxiii]
major studies have highlighted more childhood and adolescent homosexual
activity in pre-homosexuals and adolescents.
Van Wyk and Geist, looking at a sample of 7669 white male and female
Americans, say both lesbians and homosexuals were more likely to have had
intense pre-pubertal sexual contact with boys or men. They draw a link between sexual abuse and later lesbianism, but
they also say that most lesbians learned to masturbate by being masturbated by a
female. Young girls retreating from
distressing male sexual contact experienced release in female sexual
contact. According to Whitehead, male
homosexuals were more likely than heterosexual men to have been masturbated by
other men or boys, they comment, and “once arousal to the particular type of
stimulus occurs, it tends quite rapidly to form a pattern.”[xxxiv]
support groups report that between 50 per cent and 60 per cent of homosexual
men coming for help have been abused sexually.
Finkelhor found young men sexually abused by older males were about four
times more likely to engage in homosexual activity as adults. Nichols reported male sexual abuse of
lesbians is twice as high as in heterosexual women. Gundlach and Reiss report a similar figure. Ex-gay groups report high levels of male
sexual abuse (up to 85 per cent) in female homosexuals who come for help. Peter and Cantrell found more than two
thirds of lesbians reported being forced into sexual experiences with males
after the age of twelve, compared with only 28 per cent of heterosexuals.[xxxv]
groups suggest that poor father and peer group relations lead boys to seek
companionship. Adolescent sexual
intimacy with another man leads to later association of sex with male interest,
affection and acceptance:
One former homosexual,
Michael Saia, says homosexual men are not looking for sex when they have their
first sexual encounter. He says they
are looking for acceptance, understanding, companionship, strength, security,
and a sense of completeness. Sex
becomes the way to get it. ‘I was starved of affection,’ said Bob. ‘I didn’t like the sex at first, I just
wanted someone to really love me. I
told myself, OK, if this is what I have to do to get the touch, I’ll do
it. Then it got to where I liked
it. So…’ [xxxvi]
Moberly, sees sexual abuse as a secondary contributor to homosexuality. She posits the main cause as early
“defensive detachment” from the parent of the same-sex that interferes
critically with the identification process that produces a sense of gender in
children.[xxxvii] Says Whitehead, difficulties in attachment
and identification lead to feelings of alienation in same-sex peer groups and
from then on homosexual development follows a fairly predictable course:
A deep need for same-sex affection, affirmation, acceptance, and a sense of gender identity; masturbation and/or fantasy around a certain admired same-sex figure; a sexual encounter; the beginning of habitual responses; self-identification as homosexual; ‘coming out;’ finding partners; the homosexual lifestyle; civil rights. Most people with homo-emotional needs and homosexual responses, however, do not ‘come out’ to friends and family or live a visibly homosexual or activist lifestyle. In one of the largest studies of a homosexual population, Bell, et al., said homosexuality could not be traced back to ‘a single psychological or social root.’ However, they gave the highest values to a constellation of factors: negative relationship with the parent of the same-sex, ‘childhood gender non-conformity,’ and adolescent homosexual arousal and activity.[xxxviii]
Copyright © 2008 StandForGod.Org
[i] A. Karlen, Sexuality and Homosexuality: A New View (New York: Norton, 1971), p. 573.
[ii] Ibid., pp.572 and 573.
[iii] I. Beiber et al., Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study (New York: Basic Books, 1962), p.303.
[iv] C. Socarides, "Homosexuality is not just an alternative life style," in Male and Female: Christian Approaches to Sexuality, R.T. Barnhouse, U.T. Holmes, eds., (New York: Seabury Press, 1976), p.145.
[v] E. Moberly, Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic (Greenwood, South Carolina: Attic Press, 1983), p.2.
[vi] S. Wegscheider, Another Chance: Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family (Palo Alto, California: Science and Behavior Books, 1981), p.127.
[vii] Ibid., pp.129 and 130.
[viii] Ibid., p.130.
[ix] Ibid., p.136.
[x] E. Moberly, Psychogenesis: The Early Development of Gender Identity (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul Ltd, 1983), p.78.
[xi] H. Montgomery Hyde, The Trial of Oscar Wilde (New York: Dover Publications, 1973), p.166.
[xiii] Ibid., p.69.
[xiv] Ibid., p.75.
[xv] Ibid., p.70.
[xvi] Anne Clark Armor, Mrs Oscar Wilde: A Woman of Some Importance (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1983), p.229.
[xvii] E. Moberly, Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic, op. cit., p.5.
[xviii] E.D. Wilson, Counseling and Homosexuality (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1988), op. cit., p. 59.
[xix] E. Moberly, Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic, op. cit., p.42.
[xx] Neil and Briar Whitehead, My Genes Made Me Do it! (Lafayette, Louisianna: Huntington House, 1999), p.43.
[xxi] Ibid., p.44.
[xxii] Ibid., p.97, cited in Vines G., “Genes in black and white,” New Scientist, July 1995, pp.34-37.
[xxiii] Ibid., p.98.
[xxiv] Ibid., pp.98 and 99.
[xxv] Ibid., p.52.
[xxvi] Ibid., p.56.
[xxvii] Ibid., p.58.
[xxviii] Ibid., p.59.
[xxix] Ibid., p.66, cited in Saghir, M.T., Robins, E., Male and Female Homosexuality, A Comprehensive Investigation (Baltimore, Maryland: Williams and Wilkins, 1973).
[xxx] Ibid., cited in Nicolosi, J., Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality (Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, 1991).
[xxxi] Ibid., cited in Bell, A.P., Weinberg, M.S., Hammersmith, S.K., Sexual Preference: Its Development In Men and Women (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1981).
[xxxii] Ibid., p.67, cited in Saghir, M.T., Robins, E., Male and Female Homosexuality, A Comprehensive Investigation.
[xxxiv] Whitehead, p.8.
[xxxv] Ibid., p.68.
[xxxvi] Ibid., p.69. Cited in Saia,M., Counseling the Homosexual (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House, 1988).
[xxxvii] Ibid., p.69, cited in Moberly, E.R., Homosexuality, A New Christian Ethic (Cambridge: James Clarke & Company, 1983).
[xxxviii] Ibid., p.70.