What’s wrong with me?
Coming to terms with same sex attraction
Gay rights activists might be irritated by an article discussing why some people are gay and many scientists argue that such research should not even occur. However, fear and hatred of homosexuals persist where freedom to discuss such issues as ‘why are some people gay?’ is a question one should never ask. It is perhaps the reason why many still say today that talking about homosexuality is polluting young minds and promoting ‘the vice’.
From a lot of the reading I have done, it seems to me that most homosexuals are initially appalled to find that unlike most of their friends, they are not at all attracted to girls. I have borrowed the title of my article ‘What’s wrong with me?’ from an article published in the journal ‘Nursing children and young people’ published in 2011 by Brian Richardson, who is a program leader in child health nursing at Middlesex university, UK.
The paper was aimed at nurses working with young people, to help them answer this question that was often asked by boys trying to make sense of their situation.
Theories abound as to whether it is ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ that leads one to be a attracted to people of the same sex.
The nurture proponents have theories as to why some boys grow to be homosexuals. Some suggest that homosexuality is a result of a father-son relationship gone wrong. Early theories were that a boy failed to separate from the mother, did not identify with his father and so became homosexual. Others propose that a weak or distant father and a dominant mother led to homosexuality due to the lack of a strong male model.
Current ‘treatments’ are based on the theory that lack of sufficient love from a father causes a boy to sexualize same-sex emotional needs. As far as bearers of this theory are concerned, all men are heterosexual, and homosexual feelings when controlled can give way to heterosexuality. I will post an article in a few days about how these so called treatments have been administered in the past and the current thoughts on them.
Some have laid it squarely on nature: that one is born homosexual and there is nothing they can do about it.
Some studies show significant differences in the brains of those attracted to same-sex individuals compared to those attracted to the opposite sex and therefore insist that same-sex attraction is something one is born with. These changes in brain structure occur in fetal development and are likely to be hormonal.
Richard Blanchard from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada has published several papers that claim that in men, sexual orientation correlates with number of older brothers and each additional brother increases the likelihood of being homosexual. There is a paper free on line that discusses this…..
This is known as the ‘fraternal birth order effect’ and is said to be due to the mother acquiring ‘anti-male’ antibodies with each successive male pregnancy. These antibodies pass to the developing foetus, modifying brain development and feminising the unborn child.
Some claim that there is a genetic aspect to this and researchers have shown that same-sex attraction is passed on from the maternal line, something carried on the X-chromosome which we all acquire from our mothers. So having homosexual relatives from your mother’s line increases the chance of same-sex attraction. Researchers are not in agreement with this despite findings involving twins separated at birth.
The presence of homosexual relatives from the maternal line and many older brothers explains about 20 percent of homosexuality. The remaining 80 percent of the causes of homosexuality are unknown. This contributes to the discussion that individual experience is the most powerful predictor of human sexual behaviour and self-identity. Even the higher incidence of homosexuality in the maternal line may be as a result of culture not genetics – perhaps the mother’s family is the cause of the child’s behaviour and attitude.
There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons why an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles.
Word on the street
Word on the street is no different. The ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ dichotomy exists but is explained differently. On the Coast of Kenya, homosexuals give two reasons for homosexuality: the first is that a person is born with ‘feelings’ for the same sex and there is nothing you can do about it. The second is that a boy who is repeatedly raped gets to a point where they adjust to their place in life. Homosexuals who were not abused as children abhor this claim and feel that it dismisses the fight for their rights. However, this is not to say that all boys who are sexually abused will end up homosexual, only that repeated abuse might, in some cases, lead to conditioning.
Child sexual abuse and homosexuality
I tread carefully here because I am aware that this is a delicate issue. For this reason, I stick to scientific publications and quote from them. A paper published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour journal in 2011, reports that there is some truth in this claim.
Men with histories of child sexual abuse were over 6 times more likely to be in same-sex relationships than men who were never sexually abused as children. Several scientific publications have shown that a history of early sexual abuse among Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) is about 2 to 4 times higher than that of men in the general population. However, most scientific publications are quick to state that although there are high levels of a history of childhood sexual abuse among MSM, there is no causal relationship, emphasising that it is not necessarily the early sexual abuse that led to the sexual orientation.
A paper published in the journal Pediatrics in 2012 by Dr Andrea Roberts offers an alternative explanation that perhaps child sexual abuse does not lead to sexual orientation but the reverse; that perhaps, sexual predators target boys who are already showing signs of gender non-conformity.
That is to say that boys who feel and behave more feminine are easy targets for sexual predators. Feminate boys are likely raised by parents who do not accept their behaviour, they are more likely to be teased by their age-mates and siblings and may feel ostracised. Sexual predators pry on children who are easy targets who may not be able to express themselves. Feminate boys fit this high-risk group which is likely to explain why the rate of child sexual abuse in homosexuals is as high as that among girls.
The issue of a history of child sexual abuse among MSM is especially important when planning HIV prevention strategies. In Africa, MSM have a HIV rate that is 4 to 5 times higher than that of other men in the same population. Childhood sexual abuse reported among MSM has been found to be associated with increased HIV risk-taking behaviour. MSM who suffered childhood sexual abuse have been reported in several scientific publications to have increased number of male partners and were more likely to have unprotected sex.
HIV prevention programs targeting MSM may therefore need to incorporate programs to address the mental health concerns of individuals with a history of childhood sexual abuse as the standard programs may not be effective among this group.
Back to the title of my article ‘what is wrong with me?’ Many young boys become aware that they are different from others at about 11-12 years of age. In a country like Kenya, with its high levels of homophobia, such a young boy rarely has anyone to turn to. Such boys suffer from low self-esteem, bullying and are often depressed. It is important to state that homosexuality is not a mental illness nor a moral depravity. The answer to the question ‘what is wrong with me?’ is: ‘there is nothing wrong with you’.