home
billy jack
homophobia
a gay gene?
the bible
cultural context
discussion
who's gay? what's straight?assault on gay america

WHO'S GAY? WHAT'S STRAIGHT? Viewing homosexuality and heterosexuality in the context of culture and history

Who's Gay?
What percentage of the population is gay?

In 1948, pioneer sex researcher Alfred Kinsey published a book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, which reported a number of findings that surprised the nation, and became the focus of controversy for decades. Homosexual behavior was not restricted to people who identified themselves as homosexuals, Kinsey found. And when you added this group to the group who reported exclusively homosexual experiences, Kinsey concluded that 10% of the population was homosexual. What's more, Kinsey conceived heterosexuality and homosexuality as opposite ends of continuum of sexual orientations; then, to the surprise, dismay, or outrage of many, he added five different hybrid sexualities in between these two poles to form his seven-point sexuality scale. Since Kinsey's time, dozens of other researchers have conducted their own studies and developed their own sexuality scales, for the most part revising downward Kinsey's initial numbers.

· Beyond Kinsey: Studies from Around the World

Defining and Measuring Sexual Orientation:  A Review

"At present it is clear that researchers are confused as to what they are studying when they assess sexual orientation," Randall Sell writes. Over the last 130 years, a half dozen or more terms have been used to describe sexual orientation-- from the now obscure classifactions (Dionings, Urnings, and Uranodionings), to the currently used terminology of homo, hetero, and bisexual. Terms are one thing, Sell makes clear, but how we actually measure sexual orientation is another. And the psychological and behavioral scales on which we measure sexual orientation are seriously flawed.
Homosexuality as a sickness

In the past several decades, a new positive gay "identity" has emerged and grown in America. But this could not happen until a negative, pathological definition was torn down. Through much of this century, the medical and scientific community defined homosexuality as sickness, deviance, sex perversion, a form of criminality, and worse. A landmark event in the redefinition of homosexuality came in 1974, when the American Psychological Association officially repudiated the pathological definition of homosexuality. Though psychodynamic explanations of homosexuality no longer prevail, many maintain emphatic belief in them.

· A Psychiatry Professor Resists the APA Redefinition of Homosexuality



What's Straight?
The Masculine Ideal in America

Michael Kimmel has written and lectured widely about ideals masculinity--the "six basic rules of manhood"--in American culture. Motivated in part by his own frustration with narrow definitions of masculinity, Kimmel does more than raise awareness of "homophobia." He makes a strong case that negative views of homosexuals hem all of us into gender categories that limit our emotional worlds and diminish the possibilities in all relationships, not just those involving homosexuals.
Homo/Hetero: Where did these terms come from?

In 1869, the term "homosexual" appeared in print for the first time in two anonymous pamphlets written in German. But Jonathan Ned Katz attempts to discover how the terms came into use in the United States. "Between the 1890s and the 1960s the terms heterosexual and homosexual moved into American popular culture," Katz writes. The change ran deeper than mere addition of words to the dictionary. Around the quasi-scientific terms "heterosexual" and "homosexual," Katz argues, we constructed two opposing cultural types--"a sexual solid citizen and a perverted unstable alien, a sensual insider and a lascivious outlaw, a hetero center and a homo margin, a hetero majority and a homo minority."

· Document: "Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government" (1950)



home · billy jack ·  homophobia's roots ·  a gay gene? ·  the bible's words ·  cultural context
discussion ·  quiz ·  viewer's guide
press ·  tapes & transcripts ·  synopsis ·  FRONTLINE

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

RECENT STORIES

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS