The Gay Lifestyle
What is the gay lifestyle?
Just as there is no such thing as a single heterosexual lifestyle, there is no such thing as a single gay lifestyle. Anti-gay activists have promoted the idea that the lives of homosexuals revolve around sex and the pursuit of sexual encounters, and that the only identity homosexuals have is with being gay. To anti-gay organizations this is the only gay lifestyle that exists, and they do their best to promote this misconception.
In reality, the lives of gays and lesbians are as varied as the lives of heterosexuals (Garnets & Kimmel, 1993). Some choose to live in long term committed relationships, others choose to remain single. Some couples choose to raise children, others do not. Hobbies, occupations and activities are just as varied as within the heterosexual population.
See also: Notable Gay, Lesbian, & Bisexual People
How many gay people are there?
For decades the incidence of homosexuality in the general population has been estimated to be approximately ten percent. Organizations opposed to gay rights have consistently claimed the number to be much lower. Despite the controversy, ten percent still remains the most widely accepted estimate.
In an attempt to diminish the legitimacy of civil rights protection for gays and lesbians, anti-gay organizations and homophobic politicians were quick to misuse information gathered from the Battelle Institute Study, claiming that only one percent of the population is homosexual. The Battelle Study, however, was not intended to determine the sexual orientation of those surveyed, but rather the sexual practices of those surveyed - two entirely different concepts.
The Batelle Study surveyed males in their 20's and 30's asking questions about sexual activity over the last ten years, and whether or not they considered themselves to be exclusively homosexual. Several problems are apparent:
- Women (and therefore lesbians) were excluded from the survey.
- Participants were males in their 20's and 30's. Many gay men (and lesbians) in their 20's are still unsure about their sexual orientation - even if they have had homosexual experiences, they may be reluctant to label themselves as homosexual.
- It's not uncommon for gay men (and lesbians) who have not fully accepted their sexual orientation to engage in heterosexual behavior as a means to deny their same-sex feelings. This in itself may have prevented participants from labeling themselves as exclusively homosexual, even though their desires may have been predominately for members of the same-sex.
- The survey did not provide for anonymity (social security number, place of employment, and references were required). Gays who are not out at work, with friends or with family would have been less likely to answer questions honestly.
- Most gay men (and lesbians) are in the closet, and would probably not participate in a survey such as this.
Until the stigma associated with homosexuality is removed from society, and gays and lesbians are allowed the freedom to be honest about their lives, the controversy is likely to continue. It is however, safe to say that almost everyone has contact with at least one gay or lesbian person on a regular basis whether they are aware of it or not.
For all practical purposes, the number of gays and lesbians is immaterial. As stated, most eloquently, by Anna Quindlen in the New York Times (April 28, 1993), "Those who want to prove that homosexuality is a 'deviant lifestyle' are anxious to show that the demands are disproportionate to the number of demanders, as though the right to be treated fairly depended on a head count..."
Aren't gay people obsessed with sex?
Contrary to popular belief, gay men and lesbians are no more inclined to be consumed with sexual thoughts or feelings than their heterosexual counterparts (Bell, Weinberg, 1978), nor are they attracted to everyone of the same sex they meet.
The lives of homosexuals, like the lives of heterosexuals are about much more than sex, but it's easy to see why people believe these common misconceptions. Many people do not even realize that they know someone who is gay. Consequently, their only knowledge of homosexuality comes from the media or out-spoken anti-gay organizations, neither of which is likely to show the average gay person or couple. The media is in the business of selling news, and radical behavior of any kind sells. Anti-gay organizations are in the business of making gay people appear as hedonistic as possible. They will obviously focus their attention on the most radical behavior that can be found within the gay community.
Aren't homosexuals promiscuous?
Promiscuity has nothing to do with one's sexual orientation, but rather one's values and beliefs. Just as in the heterosexual community, some gay people are promiscuous, some are not. In a 1992 study, 55.5% of gay men and 71.2% of lesbians reported to be in steady relationships (Overlooked Opinions, 1993).
Are homosexuals miserable, lonely people?
Members of anti-gay organizations like to offer proof that the gay lifestyle is bad by stating that most gay people are miserable and lonely. First of all, the majority of homosexuals are not terribly unhappy or lonely, but these organizations may have a point. Being gay in our society is not easy. The social stigma, rejection by family, friends, and church, the discrimination and the sense of social isolation can all be emotionally devastating. What these anti-gay organizations fail to admit is that they are a large part of the problem. By spreading malicious lies, which demonize gays and lesbians, they spread their homophobic attitudes through out society, making the world a sometimes intolerant place for homosexuals.
Are lesbians radical feminist man-haters?
While the overwhelming majority of lesbians are feminists, most feminists do not hate men. They simply support the belief that women deserve the same rights to make personal decisions and the same opportunities for social and professional growth that men currently enjoy.
Why do gay people flaunt their sexuality? Why don't they just keep it private?
The majority of gay people don't flaunt their sexuality. As a matter of fact, many go to great lengths to hide their sexual orientation. There is a double standard in our society. What some consider to be flaunting by homosexuals is usually regarded as everyday behavior for heterosexuals. A heterosexual couple walking hand in hand is perceived as normal. Very few would consider their behavior to be inappropriate, if they even noticed it at all. On the other hand, a lesbian or gay couple exhibiting the same behavior would almost certainly be noticed, and most likely be accused of flaunting their sexuality or promoting their lifestyle. They may be harassed or worse yet, physically attacked.
Heterosexuals are free to talk about their spouses or dates. They can wear their wedding rings, display pictures of their loved ones on their desks, kiss good-bye at the airport, include their significant other in company parties and so on. A gay person who chooses to do the same may be seen as a trouble maker, or a radical homosexual out to prove a point.
The truth is most gay people are not out to make a statement. They simply want to be able to incorporate the many aspects of their lives the way heterosexuals are permitted to do. What the majority of people mean when they say that gay people should keep their lives private, is that gay people should keep their lives secret. Imagine for a moment, having to hide the very existence of the most important person in your life.
What gay people do in bed is disgusting and perverted!
First of all, what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom is nobody's business but their own. Secondly, gay people don't do anything in bed that heterosexuals don't do themselves. Intimate behavior between many gay couples could be perceived as mild when compared to what some heterosexual couples do.