Category Archives: Sexual Orientation

Sexual Diversity in Africa

Although two-thirds of countries in the world no longer outlaw lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) relationships, same-sex relationships are still illegal in 76 countries. In the recent past, new laws have been passed in Russia, India, Nigeria, Burundi, Cameroon and Uganda and are being contemplated in other countries to further prohibit same-sex relationships or the so-called ‘promotion of homosexuality’. There is evidence that such new laws precipitate negative consequences not just for LGBTI persons and communities, but also for societies as a whole, including the rapid reversal of key public health gains, particularly in terms of HIV and AIDS and other sexual health programmes, increases in levels of social violence, some evidence of reduced economic growth, and the diversion of attention from sexual and other violence against women and children.

Partly because those arguing in favour of criminalising sexual and gender diversity have made explicit appeals to science, this report examines the extent to which science supports any of the arguments that proponents of these new laws make. Drawing on recent scientific evidence and, where possible, on systematic reviews, the report seeks to provide an up-to-date overview of the state of the current biological, socio-psychological, and public health evidence and assess how this supports, or contests, the key arguments made in favour of new laws. This report considers the following questions:

  1. What is the evidence that biological factors contribute to sexual and gender diversity? To what degree is the wide diversity of human sexualities explained by biological factors?
  2. Do environmental factors such as upbringing and socialisation explain the diversity of human sexuality?
  3. Is there any evidence for same-sex orientation being ‘acquired’ through contact with others, i.e. through ‘social contagion’?
  4. What evidence is there that any form of therapy or ‘treatment’ can change sexual orientation?
  5. What evidence is there that same-sex orientations pose a threat of harm to individuals, communities, or vulnerable populations such as children?
  6. What are the public health consequences of criminalising same-sex sexual orientations and attempting to regulate the behaviour/relationships related to some sexualities?
  7. What are the most critical unanswered scientific research questions regarding the diversity of human sexualities and sexual orientations in Africa?

Global bodies, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) declassified homosexuality as an illness or disorder in 1990 and there is now a wide global consensus among scientists that homosexuality is a normal and natural variation of human sexuality without any inherently detrimental health consequences. In this context governments have a duty to consider scientific perspectives and draw on the most current scientific knowledge when creating policy and enacting laws. In terms of sexual orientation, significant and even path-breaking research in a variety of fields has taken place in the recent past. Much of this research is not widely known to policymakers yet, nor is it in the public domain. This report aims to bring the most recent replicated and respected global research to the attention of policymakers.

Examining the biological factors, including genetic, neurohormonal and other factors, the report concludes that contemporary science does not support thinking about sexuality in a simple binary opposition of hetero/homosexual and normal/abnormal. Rather, it favours thinking in terms of a range of human variation, very little of which can justifiably be termed abnormal. As variation in sexual identities and orientations has always been part of a normal society, there can be no justification for attempts to ‘eliminate’ LGBTI from society. Efforts should rather be focused on countering the belief systems that create hostile and even violent environments for those who are made to feel alienated within societies that privilege male power across political, social and family domains. The panel concludes that there is substantial biological evidence for the diversity of human sexualities and for sexual orientations in particular. Studies have found significant linkage between male sexual orientation and regions of the X chromosome, though the exact manner in which gene expression impacts on sexual orientation remain to be determined. Familial patterns with regard to same-sex orientation, particularly in men suggest a strong likelihood of biological elements. In addition, although limited in number, some pedigree studies, tracing thousands of female relatives of heterosexual and homosexual men, found convincing evidence that female relatives of homosexual men have increased fecundity, i.e., on average, they bear more children compared to female relatives of heterosexual men. This may provide a key to the major evolutionary paradox of presumed reduced fecundity because of the relatively high prevalence of same-sex attracted men in every society. Although less well studied, there is also considerable evidence for a biological component for same-sex orientation in women and for bisexuality. Socio-behavioural research demonstrates unequivocally that both heterosexual and homosexual men feel that they have/had no choice in terms of their sexual attraction. The majority of women who experience same-sex attraction also express a lack of a sense of choice in their sexual orientation, although there is evidence for much greater fluidity in sexual orientation among women of all sexual orientations. The study explores – and finds lacking – evidence to support the contention that the way parents bring up their children, or the relationships formed between children and parents, impact on sexual orientation. While family environment may shape other elements of sexuality and the way sexuality is expressed, and while construction of gender and sexual identities have strong social and cultural components, there is little evidence that orientation is directly correlated to family upbringing. This report explores but could find no evidence that sexual orientation can be acquired through contact with LGBTI persons. Instead, the panel found substantial evidence that tolerance of same-sex orientation not only benefited LGBTI persons but impacted positively on public health, civil society and long-term economic growth in societies across the spectrum of economic development. ‘Peer pressure’, although a powerful influencer of young people’s behaviour, has not been shown to influence same-sex activity or the development of same-sex sexual or bisexual orientations.

The panel explores a wide variety of sources and studies and could find no evidence linking LGB sexual orientation or transgender people with the ‘recruitment’ of young people through childhood sexual abuse. Given the high prevalence of childhood sexual abuse in Africa, the protection of all children should be paramount. As there is no evidence that adult sexual orientation is correlated with abuse in childhood, this false connection should no longer be used to justify the marginalisation of LGBTI persons.

This study finds abundant and robust evidence that more repressive environments increase minority stress and impact negatively on LGBTI health. There is overwhelming evidence that this has a direct impact on the general population’s health, particularly in terms of HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and other sexually transmitted infections (STI) reduction efforts. There are no known positive impacts on public health because criminalisation cannot stop people from feeling same-sex attractions and expressing same-sex orientations. Such legislation also cannot stop same-sex or bisexually-orientated people from having relationships, sexual and otherwise, with the wider population in any society.

The study explores and could find no evidence that same-sex orientation can be changed through ‘conversion’ or ‘reparative’ therapy. It highlights that 50 years of research have not found same-sex attraction to be inherently pathological or a malady of any kind. Studies have also not been able to show any particular social harm of consensual relationships between adults, nor any negative impact on broader communities. Given the documented dangers of such therapy and its direct conflict with medical ethics, these interventions are contra-indicated. Further, recognising the ineffectiveness of conversion therapy, we recommend the wide dissemination of this information especially to health professionals across Africa and beyond.

The study suggests that African health professionals and their associations should adopt affirmative stances towards LGBTI individuals. Psychosocial interventions and support particularly for adolescents are recommended to facilitate the adjustment of same-sex orientated persons to the stress, stigma, shame and discrimination they may face and to affi rm their choices and orientations. This report concludes that almost all of the recent scientific research regarding human sexualities needs to be much more widely disseminated and discussed in public, and should indeed be drawn upon by policymakers when contemplating new legislation.

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Sexual Diversity in Africa (Academy of Science of South Africa)

UK CHRISTIAN Counsellors Ban Conversion "Therapy"

When UK courts refused to permit a Christian counsellor to describe her work to convert gays as “therapy”, there were howls of protest from some quarters. But we know that both here and in the USA, even some of the most ardent practitioners and groups involved in so – called conversion therapy have come to accept that it’s a misnomer. It does not work, genuine “ex – gays” simply do not exist – and mental health professionals have found that such attempts can be profoundly damaging.

California and New Jersey have banned the practice, Maryland is preparing to do the same. The British parliament also may be doing something similar, so it is no surprise, but certainly welcome. that the leading British group of Christian counsellors have agreed to ban the practice themselves, without waiting for government to act.

Christian counsellors ban therapy aimed at ‘converting’ gay patients

Britain’s leading body for Christian therapists has instructed its members to stop trying to turn gay patients straight using so-called “conversion therapy”. The Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC) said the practice should be stopped “in the interests of public safety”, but the move has prompted a furious response from proponents of talking “cures” for homosexuality who have promised to fight for what they see as the right to therapy of anyone distressed by “unwanted same sex attraction”. The controversial practice seeks to unearth childhood traumas, which are considered by conversion therapists to have caused homosexuality. Sexual abuse, bullying and having an overbearing mother or distant father are among the supposed triggers. Research by the US clinical psychologists Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder has shown such treatment routinely led to worsened mental health, self-harm, thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts. The decision by the ACC to speak out against the practice follows similar statements in the last two years by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the UK Council for Psychotherapy and the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Department of Health.

– continue reading at  The Guardian.

Predictably, some Christians are again outraged, claiming that this is discriminating against their Christian faith (ignoring the fact that it was imposed by the most respected body of professional Christian counsellors). It is not remotely discriminating against Christianity, but against misleading advertising. If they want to convert their clients to thinking and behaving in a way which that conforms with their religious beliefs, they remain free to do so, but should call it what it is – religious counselling, not therapy.

Response to Benedict: Dutch Gay Catholics De-Baptize Themselves

Thousands of Dutch Catholics are researching how they can leave the church in protest at its opposition to gay marriage, according to the creator of a website aimed at helping them find the information.

Tom Roes, whose website allows people to download the documents needed to leave the church, said traffic on ontdopen.nl (i.e. “de-baptise.nl”) had soared from about 10 visits a day to more than 10,000 after Pope Benedict’s latest denunciation of gay marriage this month.
“Of course it’s not possible to be ‘de-baptized’ because a baptism is an event, but this way people can unsubscribe or de-register themselves as Catholics,” Roes told Reuters.

He said he did not know how many visitors to the site actually go ahead and leave the church.

– more at Huffington Post
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Jesus was gay, says NZ church billboard

St Matthew-in-the-City church says Jesus Christ’s sexuality is not know for sure but he would have backed gay marriage

Infant Jesus, gay

Jesus was gay according to a Christmas billboard at a New Zealand Anglican church.

The Christmas billboard at St Matthew-in-the-City in Auckland is frequently controversial – previously it has joked about Joseph’s sexual prowess and shown the Virgin Mary with a pregnancy test.

This year it depicts Jesus in his manger with a rainbow halo and the words: ‘It’s Christmas. Time for Jesus to come out.’

St Matthew’s Reverend Clay Nelson said: ‘Some scholars have tried to make the case that he might have been gay. But it is all conjecture. Maybe gay, maybe not. Does it matter?’

While his colleague at the church, Reverend Glynn Cardy implied Jesus would have backed same-sex marriage, which is currently being debated in New Zealand.

He said: ‘There is almost nothing in the record of his teachings about sexuality while there is plenty about the perils of being rich. Certainly he always supported the marginalized in society.’

And he wanted to raise the question of sexuality among the faithful.

‘Would it make a difference if he was gay? Would that change the picture for you? Would it mean what we revere about him changes?’

Last year’s Virgin Mary pregnancy test billboard spread around the world, reaching 21 million people on Facebook. But it was condemned as ‘blasphemous’ by some Catholics and vandalized.

via  Gay Star News.

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Queer Eye for the Mormon Bishop Guy

Last year, as a sitting Mormon bishop, I came out publicly as an ally to my LGBT sisters and brothers in and outside the church.

In the aftermath of my talk in Salt Lake City apologizing to the LGBT community and LGBT Mormons for the pain that they have gone through and recognizing that all too often that pain has been inflicted in the “house of their friends,” their families, their religious institutions, and their communities, people have asked how I made my journey from an adversary to fence sitter and finally to becoming an ally and advocate.

One of the turning points was when I first began developing personal relationships and friendships with LGBT individuals. For me this came about first in a surprising way. I began watching a television show called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. As is sometimes typical for Mormons on a variety of issues, I was late.  I didn’t see it until a year or two ago, when it went into syndication.

What seemed to be a unique twist on the typical makeover show became for me my first significant introduction to the LGBT community. I had never had contact that I knew of or built a friendship with an LGBT person outside of work. The show spoke to me from the start. It had a catchy synth intro that reminded me of the dance grooves we used to club to in the late ’80s when I was at Brigham Young University, where I met my wife for the first time.

For me it was much more than watching five gay men help get straight guys’ act together in grooming, home decor, fashion, culture, and cuisine. It began to create a bond for me to these men. They had a certain synergy that kept me wanting to watch more. I liked them as people.  I saw them as individuals expressing their God-given talents and trying to make people’s lives and the world a little bit better. As Carson Kressley, the show’s fashion guru, would often say, it’s not a makeover show, it’s a “make better” show.

-full commentary at Advocate.com

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Father Bernard Lynch, Gay Catholic Priest, Reveals He's Married To A Man, Non-Celibate

In a new book, Father Bernard Lynch, a gay Catholic priest who has incurred the wrath of the Vatican for his views supporting LGBT Catholics, not only says he is non-celibate; he reveals that he has been married to a man for the past 14 years, and has officiated over the weddings of many gay and lesbian Catholic couples.

The Vatican, he says, is trying to “get rid” of him, while he has been operating a counseling program for closeted gay priests in London since 1992.

Lynch, who has been a Catholic priest for 40 years, left for London from New York in the early 90s, after he was completely cleared of charges related to child abuse allegations made by a man who recanted his story and whom court testimony showed to be a pathological liar. The scandal had Father Lynch at the center of a media firestorm. He believes to this day that right-wing Catholic groups and now-deceased Cardinal O’Connor of New York, angry at his advocacy on behalf of LGBT people and people with AIDS, were behind his trumped up indictment. He had previously gained awards for his AIDS advocacy from politicians and AIDS activists, while local church officials and the Vatican became concerned about his advocacy.

via Huffington Post.

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Pauli Murray: Episcopal church votes on queer saint / activist for gender and racial equality.

Human rights champion Pauli Murray, an unofficial queer saint, will be voted on this week by the Episcopal Church at its general convention in Indianapolis.

Murray (1910-1985) has been nominated for inclusion in the Episcopal Church’s book of saints, “Holy Women, Holy Men.” If approved, she will be honored every July 1 on the church calendar.

She is a renowned civil rights pioneer, feminist, author, lawyer and the first black woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. Her queer orientation is less well known.

Murray was attracted to women and her longest relationships were with women, so she is justifiably considered a lesbian. But she also described herself as a man trapped in a woman’s body and took hormone treatments in her 20s and 30s, so she might even be called a transgender today.

via Jesus in Love Blog

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On Being a Catholic Lesbian at Georgetown University

Catholic college campuses are among the most gay-friendly church institutions in the United States.  Young people are increasingly more and more supportive of LGBT issues, and campuses reflect that spirit of inclusion.

Meghan Ferguson

Meghan Ferguson, a student at Jesuit-run Georgetown University, Washington, DC, has praise for her school in terms of their record on LGBT issues.  In a recent article on NextGenJournal.com, Ferguson delineates the many surprises she has had coming to the campus as a Catholic lesbian woman, and she concludes:

“Being out at Georgetown is nothing like I had expected, and I have been very fortunate to have such a positive experience, because I know it isn’t always the case for everyone.  There have been ups and downs, and Lord knows I’ll gripe about something or other, but all in all, I owe a great deal to this community for creating a space that has challenged me to look closely at myself, my priorities, and grow into the person I want to be.”

She notes that the school has helped her to integrate her identities as a Catholic and a lesbian woman:

“My experience of being out at Georgetown is predominantly colored by two identities: namely, that I am Catholic, and that I am a woman.  ’What?’ I hear you cry ‘you’re Catholic?!’ It’s shocking, I know. I spent most of high school as a closet Catholic around all of my gay friends, lest I hear more exclamations like that. . . .

“I suppose I had expected a similar situation at Georgetown, keeping those two spheres of my identity separate, so it was a surprise to say the least when I found a whole community of us. For the first time, I was able to be out as a Catholic lesbian and not only be accepted by both communities, but be a part of my own community.

“I have had some of the most profound conversations with friends about what it means to be queer and Catholic, the unique struggles we face, our doubts, how we reconcile those two identities and also the joys we have experienced.  These conversations, and this community, are something I think is very unique to Georgetown, and it has helped me grow in my faith in a way I never thought possible; I dare even say it has made me a better lesbian, because I have learned to grapple with and embrace the intersection of my faith and sexuality.”

Georgetown University is perhaps one of the best examples of a gay-friendly Catholic college.  They have an LGBT Resource Center on campus, which last year received a $1 million gift from former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

New Ways Ministry maintains list of gay-friendly Catholic campuses,, which continues to grow, as more and more schools respond to the needs of their students, faculty and staff.   The schools on the list all have some policy, program, or organization on campus which is supportive of LGBT people.  If you would like to consult the list, click here.

– –Francis DeBernardo,  at  New Ways Ministry/ Bondings 2.0.

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(Australian) Gay Christians hope for church acceptance

LIKE four in ten same-sex couples, James Nevein, 49, and David Witte, 50, identify themselves as Christians.

They are part of a statistic that strikes at the heart of the debate around same-sex marriage, and one that many hope will validate them in the eyes of the church.

At the 2011 census, Christianity was the number one religion among gay and lesbian couples – with 40 per cent of couples practising the faith compared to 60 per cent of opposite-sex couples.

 Forty-eight per cent declared no religion, compared to 20 per cent of opposite-sex couples. Buddhism was the second most common among same-sex couples, at 4 per cent compared to 2.6 per cent of opposite-sex couples.

The census data was released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics yesterday as part of a report into the lives of people living in gay and lesbian relationships.

Mr Nevein, who is on the board of Freedom2b, a support group for gay people from Christian backgrounds, said it was evidence that he and members of the same-sex Christian community were not in a minority. ”In every church, from the Pentecostal to the Quakers, there are gay and lesbian people there,” he said. ”Churches are going to have to consider this issue.”

He said churches needed to acknowledge their existence in order to prevent same-sex couples from feeling alienated.

”Why would you identify with an organisation that, for most of the last 2000 years has hated you, either openly or silently, unless you had a very deep sense of belonging?

”The church has a lot to answer for, but there is also a lot of hope.”

Read more at The Age

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