The dialogue addresses some of the basic questions and attitudes that we can encounter in relation to homosexuality and homosexuals. The individual dialogues are springboards for teachers and pupils into a discussion of the individual aspects of homosexuality in the class.
Homosexuality: Sexual orientation towards people of the same sex. This is lifelong and unchanging, and not something which is caused or chosen by the person in question, i.e. a fortuitous state which is characterised by the fact that the person is sexually attracted and excited by a person of the same sex. In the interests of precision, we have to distinguish between a homosexual disposition (which manifests in the conscious or unconscious experience of the emotional life of the person in question) and homosexual coital and non-coital relationships. A person who “lives” homosexually does not have to be homosexually oriented. In the case of such conduct, we speak of false homosexuality or of pseudo-homosexuality, which manifests itself in the form of artificial conduct in individuals who, at a given moment, do not have the opportunity to satisfy their sexual needs with a partner appropriate to their disposition. It is a frequent phenomenon in single-sex social groups (prisoners, public schools for boys, monasteries, etc.). Such relations take place without any greater emotional engagement and show that “real” homosexuality in itself usually contains a strong emotional engagement and is an integral characteristic of the person who, through their otherness, fulfils their existence.
Bisexuality: Sexual orientation towards persons of both the same and the opposite sex. Views on bisexuality are far from unanimous. According to some theories, bisexuality does not exist and is more a stylisation of homosexuals who are able to establish a relationship with a person of the opposite sex (which they sometimes do) and do not want to be identified with their homosexual state and thus labelled homosexual. Other theories point to the variability of human sexuality and claim that most people are bisexual to some extent, but that most people incline to heterosexuality and a minority of people to homosexuality. Only a small number are “completely” and “purely” hetero- or homosexual. Innumerable people are located in the notional “centre”, i.e. they have an erotic inclination towards both men and women.
Gay: A homosexual man (from the English: lively, bright, happy, exuberant...).
Lesbian A homosexual woman (after the island of Lesbos, where the poet Sappho lived and wrote, whose poetry lauded the beauty of women).
Coming out: The process by which a gay man or a lesbian becomes aware of their different emotional makeup. The individual is confronted with their otherness, discovers it, deals with it, accepts it, and incorporates it into their life.
The following terms are not integrally linked with homosexuality and are frequently confused with it:
Transvestitism: A defect in gender identity (more frequently found in men) which manifests itself either by cross-dressing linked with erotic excitement or with social appearances as a person of the opposite gender. The important thing is that transvesticism does not involve a desire for a permanent change of gender.
Transsexuality: A disorder in which the individual completely rejects their own physical gender. They identify with the opposite gender, and moreover, long to change this state of affairs. A transsexual may be a man or a woman. If someone is suffering from this disorder, they should visit a sexologist as soon as possible.
Jožo asks a question regarding the origin of homosexuality. Is homosexuality something that can be learned, can someone decide to be homosexual, or is it something which I have and cannot change? Specialists agree that nobody selects their different orientation. It is not a question of the freedom “to be or not to be” a homosexual. Homosexuality cannot be learned. However, an unresolved question remains as to what extent prenatal influences (i.e. biological, pre-birth, genetic, etc.) and postnatal influences (during the course of the first few months and year of life) play a role in the formation of a homosexual identity. The scientific community argues over this point, with one camp saying that homosexuality cannot be changed by the influence of the environment, and the other saying that homosexuality is the result of specific (incorrect) influences of the environment, especially the family environment. As the psychologist Slavomil Hubálek, who studied homosexuality under the communists, says, the truth is “somewhere in the middle.” None of the theories applies absolutely, but conditionally. Just as a lock and key are necessary to open a door, so the homosexual orientation is created, the lock of an innate disposition is necessary, along with a key comprising the specific exterior influences from early childhood. The innate influences themselves, including those from early childhood, are not enough to “create” homosexuality. This issue is extremely complicated, but research is continuing and increasing our knowledge of the formation of the phenomenon of homosexuality.
In the dialogue, our teenagers have moved on and are now examining the issue of coming out. Coming out is integrally linked with a kind of “crisis” in which I realise that not everything is the same in my life as it is in those of my friends. A girl or boy begins to realise that they are in love with a person of the same sex, which “isn’t normal,” or “isn’t the done thing.” These days, when homosexuality is accepted, coming out is not so traumatic. Most homosexuals go through the experience without serious problems, since the acceptance of otherness is linked with acceptance of the individual as they are. However, even today problems can occur if the person involved is a member of an anti-homosexual group (e.g. a church or sect). And sometimes parents can be disapproving.
This touches upon a frequent phenomenon: that a gay boy or lesbian girl can be in a relationship with a person of the opposite sex when young. Tim’s brother went out with a girl, but it just didn’t feel right right. What does that mean, “it just didn’t feel right”? It is the case that most homosexuals are capable of a coital relationship with a person of the opposite sex. However, during this kind of encounter, the act of sex is itself degrading, since the homosexual partner in the relationship is only satisfying their physical needs. A relationship with a homosexual is usually and logically enough begun by the heterosexual partner, who gives everything to the relationship, while the homosexual is often dragged along by circumstances: they decide for the relationship because that’s the done thing and, perhaps, they do not want to hurt the girl or the boy involved and like them as a friend. Which, of course, is just the problem! Or an unbalanced relationship: the heterosexual establishes a relationship based on feelings, love, amorousness, passion, or eroticism, as the Greeks would say, while the homosexual does not desire that which their partner desires. Either the relationship represents the continuation of a preceding friendship or they expect to satisfy only their physical needs from it. They themselves feel that “it just doesn’t feel right,” that, as Ali says, “the sex just didn’t work out.” To the homosexual, it is clear that the simple manipulation of the sex organs between two people, even though there is a discharge of surplus energy, is not fulfilling. They are aware that a relationship must be based on something much more beautiful and deeper and that they can only receive something more beautiful and deeper from a suitable partner: a partner of the same sex.
How does one answer the question of the difficulty of finding a homosexual partner? Given the incidence of homosexually-oriented persons in the population (surveys offer various figures, but at least 2% of the population are thus inclined), looking for a partner for a gay man or a lesbian is more difficult. However, these days there exist many lonely hearts’ clubs and various associations or organisations where one can meet other gay people. Another issue is the stability of homosexual couples. Just as heterosexuals, homosexuals too are capable of establishing and maintaining long-term, lifelong and wonderful relationships. Experience bears this out. Specialist literature says that relationships between men are less stable, because of “a man’s natural tendency to be promiscuous,” while relationships between two women are more stable – as opposed to most heterosexual relationships.
Around the campfire, the problem arises of whether it is possible to “recognise a homosexual” by some sign or other. The answer is yes and no. Some gay men are naturally more effeminate. There is nothing bad about this: the idea that a man should be “manly” and the attendant expectations are relics of the past. Effeminate men (feminine gestures, behaviour, voice. etc.) are usually gay, but not always. On the contrary, other gay men often meet expectations of “tough guys” – they are neglectful of how they look, they have beards – and nobody would ever guess that they were gay.
Is homosexuality an illness? Homosexuality as such is not an illness, and was eradicated from the list of illnesses in the seventies of the last century. On this list, it was also written that an individual who rejects their otherness is ill, and so should be treated at specialist centres, with the aim of getting them to accept themselves, to identify with who they are, and thus establish relationships which would be fulfilling.
It is certainly possible to investigate what homosexuality is, what significance it has, whether homosexuality is a deviation or a variant from the norm. In modern society, there are many different answers to these questions. However, the topic can remain open for a future philosophy of homosexuality, which can be practically supplemented during discussions in schools and society at large.
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SOS: Gay helpline – tel. 222 514 040 every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.