Despite of the existing federal laws that prohibit discrimination among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, they still suffer extensive forms of prejudice in many points of their lives especially in their struggle for basic civil rights to marry and raise a family. Throughout the world, there are still many cases of execution, imprisonment, torture and violence associated with sexual orientation or gender identity. In many countries, violence and abuse committed without legal sanction were not properly addressed by the government. This massive abuse and violence constitutes violations on human rights. The Amnesty International supports the human rights of LGBT people and demands investigation on all human rights violation reports and prosecution to those held liable. It also resists civil marriage laws discrimination relating to sexual orientation and gender identity based on the principle that sexual orientation is a fundamental characteristic of ourselves and should not be the subject of discrimination, violence and abuse. Individuals who are engaged in same-sex relationships have mostly spent years of being together and all they wanted was to make a public commitment. When two people are in love, is it wrong to marry legally? Our contribution as individuals of the society is to promote laws and policies to protect and defend the dignity of lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people so they can fully enjoy their rights as members of the society.
Keywords: sexual orientation, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender
Sexual Orientation refers to a pattern of emotional, romantic or sexual attraction feelings of a person towards another. The notion of sexual orientation not only includes feelings but also a sense of identity, behavior and relationships. People express their attractions and behaviors through simple holding hands, kissing and intimate lovemaking to satisfy their need for love, attachment and intimacy. Sexual orientation which is also referred to as sexual preference has several types which have been described in various cultures throughout the world. Heterosexual people who are sometimes called “straight” have physical, emotional and romantic sexual attraction to the opposite sex. Straight males are attracted to straight females and vice-versa. Homosexual people refer to gay and lesbian who have physical, emotional and romantic sexual attraction to people of the same sex. Bisexual are people who have physical, emotional and romantic sexual attraction to both men and women. In addition, Asexual are those people who feel emotionally close to other people although they don’t have any attraction or have no interest in sex at all. Some individuals are transgender where biological sex and gender identity does not match. Each of us has a gender identity that allows us to express our deepest feelings either masculine, feminine, both or neither. Some people have no choice or have fixed sexual orientation throughout their lives, some develops over a lifetime and some changes at various points in their lives. Sexual orientation is a normal part of an individual’s identity which involves inborn and hormonal factors, psychology and environmental factors. It is vital to understand these factors to be able to determine one self and how you relate to other people.
Social Implications of Sexual Orientation
Throughout the 20th century, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have suffered intense discrimination and violence due to their sexual orientation. Although public opinion has recently expressed their contradiction over sexual orientation discrimination, conflict and resistance is still common among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the society. Anti-gay prejudice comes in varied forms where a high rate of harassment and violence were focused towards them. The HIV/AIDS outbreak further stigmatize the LGBT people in the presumption that gays are the main carriers of the disease. The social impact of prejudice and discrimination is reflected through generalization of these types of individuals who are subject to verbal harassment and abuse leaving them limited access to employment and job opportunities, parenting and relationship recognition. There were issues about the well-being of children raised by lesbian or gay parents. Concerns on sexual identity, personal development and social relationships of these children were being questioned. However, research and studies reveal that development of sexual and gender identities and behavior are normal and similar to those children raised by heterosexual parents and that they enjoy the same social relationships with peers and adults. Back in the 1990’s, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement raised issues on exclusion and illegal dismissals of gays and lesbians in the military. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy prohibits lesbian, gay and bisexual from divulging their sexual orientation while serving in the military and to dishonor and discharge those who are found guilty of engaging in sexual conduct. They were regarded as security threat to the high morale standards, good order and discipline in the United States armed forces. When the policy was lifted on September, 2011, lesbians, gays and bisexuals celebrated because they can now openly serve in the military with dignity and respect and without concealing their true identity. In their struggle to acquire marriage rights and benefits, the Advocacy groups debated on same-sex and gay marriage. The Family Research Council (FRC) supports the state and federal constitutional amendment to stop the redefinition of marriage in the belief that two men or two women in marriage establish a revolutionary change and distortion of the marriage institution. Although public support for legalizing same-sex marriage has increased recently, only nine states have legalized same-sex marriage through court rulings, legislative action and popular votes while some states prohibit same-sex marriage by bill and constitutions. President Obama has expressed his opposition on the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage due to his belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Although in his personal opinion, he is still not in favor of gay marriage. The stigma is also characterized by other factors such as race, ethnicity and religion. Its influence on religion varies between different religions and sects. Resistance to same-sex marriage and LGBT rights is often connected with conservative religious views. Some religious doctrines have negative views on lesbians, gays and bisexuals in which they discourage and forbid same-sex sexual practices, defy their social acceptance and execute people engaging in same-sex sexual acts. In conservative Islamic nations, the Sharia Law imposes death penalty on male homosexuality which is a human rights violation. However, in some Muslim countries, transgender individuals are accepted and even allow surgery on sex gender change. Some unorthodox religious designations have positive views on LGBT in which they accept and give their blessings on same-sex marriage. The Roman Catholic Church embrace same-sex attraction but their teachings condemned same-sex relationships or marriage and sexual activities.
On a personal level, some lesbian, gay and bisexual people have the difficulty in coping up with the social stigma and would prefer to deny their sexual orientation which can have a serious negative effect on the person’s health and well-being. This sweeping discrimination and violence are the main sources of stress for them which are likely to have an influence on their mental health. In their search for social support in implementing therapeutic efforts to make changes on the complex issues of sexual orientation, the American Psychological Association (APA) created a policy known as Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation which supports psychological knowledge and ethical responsibilities concerning sexual orientation. This policy resists on the mentally ill image of lesbians, gays and bisexuals in relation to their sexual preference practices. The policy also urged some psychologists to stop the prejudice and to acknowledge cultural differences of sexual orientation and individual’s rights. There is no scientific support that lesbians, gay and bisexual people are mentally disturbed thus any individual or organization that intimidates or discriminates them is liable for ethical violations.
Our Role as Individuals
Lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people should be open and have the freedom to express their sexual orientation. To counter prejudice and discrimination, they can ask for support from the same groups of individuals as well as heterosexual people. Being visible to straight people and establishing personal relationships with them can make a lot of difference in their views. Heterosexual individuals are the best people who can help them in their fight for civil rights and equality by recommending non-discriminatory policies concerning sexual orientation. We, as individuals should review our beliefs and opinions on the prejudice and generalization of anti-gay attitude to be able to understand them. Interaction and personal contact with lesbian, gay and bisexual people is an effective way of accepting and recognizing them as individuals of the society. Heterosexual or straight people can work with these groups by supporting and participating in the social movements of LGBT in their workplace, healthcare and religious organizations. One example of a straight ally organization is the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) which supports in their fight for civil rights and gender equality.
Gay-rights activists are optimistic on the ongoing debate over same-sex marriage. Whatever is the outcome of the U.S. Constitution ruling, whether same-sex marriage will be legalized throughout the United States or not, LGBT people and their allies will continue to fight for their victory in the coming years.
About LGBT Human Rights, (2013). Amnesty International USA
Retrieved from http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/lgbt- rights/about-lgbt-human-rights
Overview of Same-sex Marriage in the United States, (December 7, 2012). The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Retrieved from
Robinson, B., The Impacts of Religion on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Community, (September 12, 2012). Religious Tolerance. Retrieved from http://www.religioustolerance.org/homosexu3.htm
Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality, (2013). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from
Webley, K., Brief History of Gays in the Military, (February 2, 2010). Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1960257,00.html