Sexuality: A Natural State of Being by Rebecca Rathfelder

The main basis for the argument against gay-marriage and homosexual relationships in general is the misconception that the current state of marriage, an endeavor of love between one man and one woman, is what marriage has always been for millennia across the world. However, this assumption flies in the face of historical fact, which holds that marriage was a contractual relationship between families, requiring little to no consent from the parties involved. Furthermore, polygamy has, historically, been more common than monogamy. Homosexual relationships, as in sexual intimacy between individuals of the same sex, have also been prominent features of some cultures historically, most notably the Greeks. Both of these examples of relationship types were acceptable, in some form or another, in many cultures in the pre-Christian world, as evidenced by the numerous concubines possessed by Jewish Kings. Homosexuality was accepted even in the Christian dominated Western World until the fourteenth century, when the Catholic Church made the monarchs and princes of Europe capitulate to their demands to make homosexuality, what they termed “sodomy,” a criminal offense. The prejudice and bias against homosexuality that many still face in modern society sprung from this movement. Recently, however, several scientific studies have gone a long way to demystify sexuality as a whole and homosexuality in particular. They point towards hormonal and genetic origins for homosexuality. Given the historical facts and the scientific data, there should be more tolerance for the various types of marriage relationships.

Though proponents of heterosexual monogamy may claim that marriage between one man and one woman is a tradition that is a pillar of civilization, it is a relatively recent interpretation of marriage. The prejudice against homosexual relationships began with the theologians of Roman Catholic Church. They started studying and developing laws about what constituted morally appropriate sexual behavior several centuries after the death of Christ. The prejudice is therefore most common among Western cultures where the influence of Christianity is most prevalent. Outside of the influence of Western Society, there still exist remnants of small pockets of cultures that practiced forms of marriage relationships that would seem anathema to those of modern western cultures. Tibet, for example, practiced various forms of polygamy including both fraternal polyandry (several brothers share one wife) and sororal polygyny (two or more women share one husband) as a form of control over inheritance. This practice allowed the families to keep the family property intact in a region where arable land was at a premium. The family itself did not place emphasis on the biological parentage of the children. Instead, the children had 3 or more adults working as a group to care them. And, nearby, in what is called the Lake Lugu region, the matriarchal Moso practiced a form of “walking marriage.” The predominant feature of this kind of marriage was that the women had permanent households and the men were temporary residents who left with the herds while the children stayed with and were raised solely by the mother. Both regions followed these practices for possibly millennia and sustained themselves adequately without any sign of societal degradation. It was not until the 1960’s that these practices were phased out under the influence of the Chinese government.

The ancient Greek civilization is one of the most prominent examples of a culture that openly permitted and in the case of men actively encouraged sexual relationships between two individuals of the same sex. However, the Greek language had no word to categorize human sexuality. This is mainly because sexual intimacy between two men or two women was seen as simply a facet of human sexuality as a whole. And although homosexual relationships were actively encouraged between men, they were also expected to marry a woman and have children.

Native American tribes, however, saw human sexuality differently and, consequently, had words in their languages to categorize sexuality for which there is no English equivalent. It was noted by explorers in the eighteenth century that the tribes had natural places in their societies for both homosexual and transgender tribesmen and women. This practice is referred to as the Berdache phenomenon. In this way, a berdache could adopt the cultural role of the opposite gender, including dress and mannerisms. This could also include or exclude depending on the individuals’ preference the sexual orientation of the opposite gender as well. Tribes revered the berdaches, and saw them as having a special connection with the gods and spirits. This led to many male berdaches becoming the shaman, or spiritual leader of the tribe. Instead of something to be ashamed of, the natural sexuality of the tribesmen and women was accepted and the right to be who they were was fiercely protected.

In the past few decades, there have been numerous studies done by researches aimed to discover a physiological basis for homosexuality. This includes case studies, discussed by Author Francis Mondimore, that have documented over decades that compared monozygotic twins, dizygotic twins, and adopted siblings to determine a possible genetic basis; animal experimentation to determine the effect of differing hormone levels during critical periods of brain development; and case studies of individuals with rare syndromes that exposed them to abnormal hormone levels during critical development periods and the effect it had on their sexuality. All of these studies have done much to illuminate the subject, providing evidence that supports the claim that homosexuality is not necessarily a conscious choice, but more a state of being. In the cumulative studies researchers have discovered that while irregular hormone levels during development may have an affect on sexual orientation in adulthood, there are also genetic factors, such as the Xq28 marker. However, for all the hormonal and genetic influence, biology does not predicate homosexuality, as evidenced by the twin study. Though the 50% concordance of homosexuality does indicate statistical significance, it also indicates that there is another factor that accounts for the other 50%. Mondimore theorizes that “variations in the hormonal control center of the brain development result, in some individuals, in [a] ‘loosening’ of the link between reproductive behavior and emotional attachment,” so that they are more open to attachment to those of the same sex. In these cases, subtle psychological and developmental cues in childhood led to determination of sexual orientation, and not a conscious choice.

The various types of marriage relationships have found acceptance of one form or another in many civilizations, tailored to the unique cultural circumstances of each society. That is, until the propagation of intolerance on the part of the Catholic Church. For six hundred years, the prejudice instigated by the Catholic Church has biased the population against a minority, against itself, over what it considers a perversion that is detrimental to society. However, science reveals that homosexuality is most likely a natural development of hormonal and genetic variations in conjunction with childhood developmental cues. And, contrary to the Church’s belief, historical fact tells that homosexuality has been a facet of many stable societies for millennia, not the detrimental element that the church purports it to be. Currently, the subject of the legality or illegality of gay-marriage is a primary debate in many countries, including the United States. Though the Western World has made many strides in the past decades, the debate highlights a persistent lack of tolerance among citizens that still needs to be overcome. Furthermore, for the government to force every citizen to legally accede to what is primarily a religious prejudice would be to violate one of the tenants upon which the government has been built upon: freedom of religion.

References

Anton, Mike. “Marriage: The State of the Union.” Los Angeles Times. 31 Mar. 2004, E.1.

         ProQuest Library. Web. 18 Jan. 2014.

Childs, Geoff. “Polyandry and Population Growth in a Historical Tibetan Society.” History of

         the Family 8 (2003): 423-444. Science Direct. Web. 1 Feb. 2014

Mondimore, Francis Mark. A Natural History of Homosexuality. Baltimore: The Johns

Hopkins University Press, 1996. Print.

Namu, Yang Erche, and Christine Mathieu. Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of

           the World. New York: Little, Brown, and Co., 2003. Print.

 

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