Are the Issues of Gays and Lesbians Today Different From the Seniors of Yesterday? Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4510 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality

Homosexuality Survey

This report on a proposed research project is meant to address the attitudes and perceptions in the gay community among older people in that community compared to younger people in that community, believing that there will be significant differences in what is deemed important by the two groups. An interview method will be used, and the responses then compared.

The Problem and Its Components

The gay and lesbian community has long faced a number of issues peculiar to that community. The status of that community has changed over the last generation or so, becoming more open, more militant, and more visible. Certain problems persist, however, and take up the attention of members of the community. The question raised is whether the issues of paramount importance are different for the current generation than were of import to senior gays and lesbians when they were the same age. If the issues have changed, it could mean that progress has also been made in combating some of the issues given importance in the past, or it could mean that newer problems have developed that have supplanted the older issues.

Problem Background

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Homosexuality is certainly nothing new, and homosexual communities have developed for centuries in urban centers. However, most of these communities have remained aloof from the rest of society and often seek to be hidden from view out of fear of persecution. In the U.S., that was the general approach through much of the history of the country, though certain urban centers were less threatening than others, notably in New York and San Francisco. The greater militancy of the 1960s emerged as the counter culture pressed for an expansion of rights for minorities, gays, political dissidents, and others. The Civil Rights Movement also pressured for increased rights for blacks and other racial minorities, and the fervor spread to the gay community and meant that more and more gay people sought

Literature Review

TOPIC: Term Paper on Are the Issues of Gays and Lesbians Today Different From the Seniors of Yesterday? Assignment

Analysis shows that homosexuality has been condemned since ancient times, as Leiser (1986) shows, starting with the rules against homosexuality in Hebrew tradition. Condemnation of homosexuality is not universal, though, and in some social groups studied by anthropologists, homosexual conduct is in fact expected. In our own society, though, homosexual conduct has long been condemned and has been addressed in law, religion, and social traditions.

Homosexuality is often described as deviant behavior, and the formation of a separate gay community has been a challenge to this idea. The concept of the spoiled identity was developed by Erving Goffman. Goffman (1963) was primarily concerned with how the individual manages his or her "belonging" to the social group, or conversely, how he or she is excluded from the social group. Essentially the spoiled identity is that identity which, for one or more reasons, results in the stigmatization of the individual by the group and the individual's subsequent exclusion or marginalization. There are a number of characteristics that can lead to a spoiled identity and stigmatization, including physical deformity, mental disability, homosexuality, mental illness, and obesity. The society develops a set of social norms and structures to which the individual is expected to conform; this may be an ideal type, but is postulated as normative. The individual who cannot, or will not, conform to those norms communicates to the group that he or she is not interested in belonging or is not qualified to belong. Appearance and behavior signifies group status, and obesity is a disobedience to one of the standards of appearance that is considered normative.

Gay and lesbian identity is not a unitary thing but is mediated by race, gender, economic status history, and other conditions of life (Vaid, 1995, p. 287). This means that those in the gay and lesbian movement have other issues they also need to address in developing a more accepting society, and already the movement is mixed with other political challenges:

Organizing around identity has led us into parallel movements that, in turn, reinforce the particular identity we organize from. Because of identity-based organizing, therefore, we have three separate movements: the civil rights movement, the women's movement, and the gay movement (Vaid, 1995, p. 294).

There has been a further splintering into various ethnic movements and into the larger multicultural movement which presses for the acceptance of people showing many differences from the larger society. Clearly the gay movement has had a role in this development and continues to have a stake in its outcome.

Large segments of society have developed a certain image of the role filled by the gay person, and the reality is not the same as the image. Miller (1989) knows this before he sets out on his journey because he is gay himself. What he finds is that the gay community itself is in the process of changing, a process involving being more open, more militant, more demanding, and at the same time more conservative in terms of conventional living and family arrangements. Gays in America constitute a subculture that is itself divided into smaller units, and the "flaunting" gay lifestyle that frightens so many people when parades and rallies are held is only a small part of the whole. Gays are part of the larger culture in terms of being in nearly ever community and of having jobs like everyone else. They are different at first only because of their sexual orientation, but they are marginalized in American society by laws that outlaw their behavior, discrimination directed against them, and fear engendered in their communities by gay-bashing incidents and a general antagonism.

Miller (1989) delves into the different communities as an observer who has an interest in that community himself. He is not an entirely objective observer, and those he cites for his information are also part of the community. Therefore, his work is limited in scope and application because it is not fully objective as a cultural analysis. As a job of reporting, however, of gathering and presenting facts and issues, it is very well done and can serve as a source for more scientific studies.

Those who favor retaining legislation against homosexual behavior offer a number of reasons for opposing such conduct to the point where they want it criminalized. Some of the reasons offered have a foundation in fact, and others do not. Among the claims made are the following:

1) Homosexuals tend to molest children.

2) When homosexuals do seduce young people, they often initiate those youngsters irreversibly into their way of life and may indeed seek to do so as a matter of policy.

3) Homosexuality is a promiscuous way of life which encourages the spread of disease and which leads to loneliness, misery, and unhappiness for those entangled in it.

4) Homosexuals are afflicted by serious psychological problems, such as feelings of guilt, insecurity, and fear of disgrace and ruin.

5) Homosexuals are unreliable and are poor risks and so should not be given sensitive jobs.

6) Homosexual activity is offensive.

7) Homosexual activity is unnatural.

8) Homosexual activity is dangerous, and if it increased substantially in terms of the numbers of people involved, the future of the human race would be imperilled (Leiser, 1986, p. 37-38).

Many of these "reasons" have force only because homosexuality is proscribed, making this a chicken-or-egg type argument -- if homosexuality were not illegal, these reasons for making it illegal would not exist. Among these is the claim that homosexuals fear disgrace and ruin -- if we did not marginalize homosexual conduct, there would be no reason for the disgrace and ruin. If homosexual conduct were not illegal, there would be no chance for the blackmail of those in sensitive positions. Other reasons offered involve assumptions about homosexuals that may not be based on fact, such as the idea that homosexuals tend to be child molesters.

Arguments against laws proscribing homosexual activity include those offered by a Roman Catholic Advisory Committee formed to study the problems of homosexuality and prostitution in relation to the existing laws in England, which found that such laws:

1) are ineffectual;

2) are inequitable in their incidence;

3) involve severities disproportionate to the offense committed; and 4) give scope for blackmail and other forms of corruption (Leiser, 1986, p. 64).

Certainly, whether such laws are passed and enforced would be a concern to gay people at any time, though they would be more likely to rank this high in a time when such legislation is more likely than they would in times when it ism not likely at all. What sort of laws and restrictions would be considered oppressive, though, might differ among different groups and in the same group over time.

One of the major changes for the younger generation over the generation from the 1960s and 1970s is the spread of AIDS. In many cases, AIDS serves as an impetus and rationale for controlling marginal groups and dangerous behaviors and provides society with the opportunity to expand and rationalize control over a broad range of psychological phenomena and interpersonal behaviors.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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