Top scientists get to the bottom of gay male sex role preferences

It’s my impression that many straight people believe that there are two types of gay men in this world: those who like to give, and those who like to receive. No, I’m not referring to the relative generosity or gift-giving habits of homosexuals. Not exactly, anyway. Rather, the distinction concerns gay men’s sexual role preferences when it comes to the act of anal intercourse. But like most aspects of human sexuality , it’s not quite that simple.

I’m very much aware that some readers may think that this type of article does not belong on this website. But the great thing about good science is that it’s amoral, objective and doesn’t cater to the court of public opinion. Data don’t cringe; people do. Whether we’re talking about a penisubiquity of homosexual behavior alone makes it fascinating. What’s more, the study of self-labels in gay men has considerable applied value, such as its possible predictive capacity in tracking risky sexual behaviors and safe sex practices.

People who derive more pleasure (or perhaps suffer less anxiety or discomfort) from acting as the insertive partner are referred to colloquially as “tops,” whereas those who have a clear preference for serving as the receptive partner are commonly known as “bottoms.” There are plenty of other descriptive slang terms for this gay male dichotomy as well, some repeatable (“pitchers vs. catchers,” “active vs. passive,” “dominant vs. submissive”) and others not—well, not for Scientific American , anyway.

In fact, survey studies have found that many gay men actually self-identify as “versatile,” which means that they have no strong preference for either the insertive or the receptive role. For a small minority, the distinction doesn’t even apply, since some gay men lack any interest in anal sex and instead prefer different sexual activities. Still other men refuse to self-label as tops, bottoms, versatiles or even “gay” at all, despite their having frequent anal sex with gay men. These are the so-called “Men Who Have Sex With Men” (or MSM) who are often in heterosexual relations as well.

Several years ago, a team of scientists led by Trevor Hart at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta studied a group of of 205 gay male participants. Among the group’s major findings—reported in a 2003 issue of The Journal of Sex Research —were these:

(1) Self-labels are meaningfully correlated with actual sexual behaviors. That is to say, based on self-reports of their recent sexual histories, those who identify as tops are indeed more likely to act as the insertive partner, bottoms are more likely be the receptive partner, and versatiles occupy an intermediate status in sex behavior.

(2) Compared to bottoms, tops are more frequently engaged in (or at least they acknowledge being attracted to) other insertive sexual behaviors. For example, tops also tend to be the more frequent insertive partner during oral intercourse. In fact, this finding of the generalizability of top/bottom self-labels to other types of sexual practices was also uncovered in a correlational study by David MoskowitzSexual and Relationship Therapy, these scientists reported that tops were more likely to be the insertive partner in everything from sex-toy play to verbal abuse to urination play.

(3) Tops were more likely than both bottoms and versatiles to reject a gay self-identity and to have had sex with a woman in the past three months. They also manifested higher internalized homophobia—essentially the degree of self-loathing linked to their homosexual desires.

(4) Versatiles seem to enjoy better psychological health. Hart and his coauthors speculate that this may be due to their greater sexual sensation seeking, lower erotophobia (fear of sex), and greater comfort with a variety of roles and activities.

One of Hart and his colleagues’ primary aims with this correlational study was to determine if self-labels in gay men might shed light on the epidemic spread of the AIDS virus. In fact, self-labels failed to correlate with unprotected intercourse and thus couldn’t be used as a reliable predictor of condom use. Yet the authors make an excellent—potentially lifesaving—point: 

Beyond these important health implications of the top/bottom/versatile self-labels are a variety of other personality, social and physical correlates. For example, in the article by Moskowitz, Reiger and Roloff, the authors note that prospective gay male couples might want to weigh this issue of sex role preferences seriously before committing to anything longterm. From a sexual point of view, there are obvious logistical problems of two tops or two bottoms being in a monogamous relationship. But since these sexual role preferences tend to reflect other behavioral traits (such as tops being more aggressive and assertive than bottoms), “such relationships also might be more likely to encounter conflict quicker than relationships between complementary self-labels.”

Another intriguing study was reported in a 2003 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior by anthropologist Mathew McIntyre. McIntyre had 44 gay male members of Harvard University’s gay and lesbian alumni group mail him clear photocopies of their right hand along with a completed questionnaire on their occupations, sexual roles, and other measures of interest. This procedure allowed him to investigate possible correlations between such variables with the well-known “2D:4D effect.“ This effect refers to the finding that the greater* the difference in length between the second and fourth digits of the human hand—particularly the right hand—the greater the presence of prenatal androgens during fetal development leading to subsequent “masculinizing” characteristics. Somewhat curiously, McIntyre discovered a small but statistically significant negative correlation between 2D:4D and sexual self-label. That is to say, at least in this small sample of gay Harvard alumni, those with the more masculinized 2D:4D profile were in fact more likely to report being on the receiving end of anal intercourse and to demonstrate more “feminine” attitudes in general.

Many questions about gay self-labels and their relation to development, social behavior, genes and neurological substrates remain to be answered—indeed, they remain to be asked. Further complexity is suggested by the fact that many gay men go one step further and use secondary self-labels, such as “service top” and “power bottom” (a pairing in which the top is actually submissive to the bottom). For the right scientist, there’s a life’s work just waiting to be had.

*Editors‘ note (9/17/09): The article originally stated in error that the shorter the difference in length between the second and fourth digits of the human hand—particularly the right hand—the greater the presence of prenatal androgens during fetal development.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Are there any homosexual animals?

Lots of animals engage in homosexual behaviour, but whether they are truly homosexual is another matter entirely

During the winter mating season, competition is fierce for access to female Japanese macaques. But it’s not for the reason you might think. Males don’t just have to compete with other males for access to females: they have to compete with females too.

That’s because in some populations, homosexual behaviour among females is not only common, it’s the norm. One female will mount another, then stimulate her genitals by rubbing them against the other female. Some hold onto each other with their limbs using a „double foot clasp mount“, while others sit on top of their mates in a sort of jockey-style position, says Paul Vasey of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, who has been studying these macaques for over 20 years.

To our eyes these encounters look startlingly intimate. The females stare into each other’s eyes while mating, which macaques hardly ever do outside of sexual contexts. The pairings can even last a whole week, mounting hundreds of times. When they’re not mating, the females stay close together to sleep and groom, and defend each other from possible rivals.

That many humans are homosexual is well known but we also know the behaviour is extremely common across the animal kingdom, from insects to mammals. So what’s really going on? Can these animals actually be called homosexual?

Animals have been observed engaging in same-sex matings for decades. But for most of that time, the documented cases were largely seen as anomalies or curiosities.

The turning point was Bruce Bagemihl’s 1999 book Biological Exuberance, which outlined so many examples, from so many different species, that the topic moved to centre stage. Since then, scientists have studied these behaviours systematically.

On the face of it, homosexual behaviour by animals looks like a really bad idea

Despite Bagemihl’s roster of examples, homosexual behaviour still seems to be a rarity. We have probably missed some examples, as in many species males and females look pretty much alike. But while hundreds of species have been documented doing it on isolated occasions, only a handful have made it a habitual part of their lives, says Vasey.

To many, that isn’t surprising. On the face of it, homosexual behaviour by animals looks like a really bad idea. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection implies that genes have to get themselves passed on to the next generation, or they will die out. Any genes that make an animal more likely to engage in same-sex matings would be less likely to get passed on than genes pushing for heterosexual pairings, so homosexuality ought to quickly die out.

But that evidently isn’t what’s happening. For some animals, homosexual behaviour isn’t an occasional event – which we might put down to simple mistakes – but a regular thing.

Take the macaques. When Vasey first observed the females mounting each other, he was „blown away“ by how often they did it.

„So many females of the group are engaging in this behaviour and there are males sitting around twiddling their thumbs,“ he says. „There’s got to be a reason for this. There is no way the behaviour can be evolutionarily irrelevant.“

Vasey’s team has found that females use a greater variety of positions and movements than males do. In a 2006 study, they proposed that the females were simply seeking sexual pleasure, and were using different movements to maximise the genital sensations. „She can do so in a homosexual context just as easily as in a heterosexual context, so the behaviour spills over,“ says Vasey.

But for all the homosexual pairings the females indulge in, Vasey is clear that they are not truly homosexual. A female may engage in female-female mounting, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t interested in males. Females often mount males, apparently to encourage them to mate more. Once they had evolved this behaviour, it was easy for them to apply it to other females as well.

In some cases, there is a fairly straightforward evolutionary reason why animals engage in homosexual behaviour.

Take male fruit flies. In their first 30 minutes of life, they will try to copulate with any other fly, male or female. After a while, they learn to recognise the smell of virgin females, and focus on them.

The males are using homosexual behaviour as a roundabout way to fertilise more females

This trial-and-error approach may look rather inefficient, but actually it is a good strategy, says David Featherstone of the University of Illinois at Chicago, US. In the wild, flies in different habitats may have slightly different pheromone blends. „A male could be passing up an opportunity to have viable offspring if they are hardwired to only go for a certain smell,“ says Featherstone.

Male flour beetles use a distinctly sneaky trick. They often mount each other, and go so far as depositing sperm. If the male carrying this sperm mates with a female later, the sperm might get transferred – so the male who produced it has fertilised a female without having to court her.

In both cases, the males are using homosexual behaviour as a roundabout way to fertilise more females. So it’s clear how these behaviours could be favoured by evolution. But it’s also clear that fruit flies and flour beetles are a long way from strictly homosexual.

Other animals really do seem to be lifelong homosexuals. One such species is the Laysan albatross, which nests in Hawaii, US.

Among these huge birds, pairs are usually „married“ for life. It takes two parents working together to rear a chick successfully, and doing so repeatedly means that the parents can hone their skills together. But in one population on the island of Oahu, 31% of the pairings are made up of two unrelated females. What’s more, they rear chicks, fathered by males that are already in a committed pair but which sneak matings with one or both of the females. Like male-female pairs, these female-female pairs can only rear one chick in a season.

Same-sex coupling is a response to a shortage of males

The female-female pairs are not as good at rearing chicks as female-male pairs, but are better than females that go it alone. So it makes sense for a female to pair up with another female, says Marlene Zuk of the University of Minnesota in Saint Paul, US. If she did not, she might manage to mate but would struggle to incubate her egg and find food. And once a female forms a pair-bond, the species‘ tendency towards monogamy means it becomes life-long.

There is even a subtle advantage for the females. The system means that they can get their eggs fertilised by the fittest male of the group, and pass his desirable traits on to her offspring, even if he is already paired with another female.

But once again, the female albatrosses are not inherently homosexual. The Oahu population has a surplus of females as a result of immigration, so some females cannot find males to pair with. Studies of other birds suggest that same-sex coupling is a response to a shortage of males, and is much rarer if the sex ratio is equal. In other words, the female Laysan albatrosses probably wouldn’t choose to pair with other females if there were enough males to go round.

So perhaps we’ve been looking in the wrong place for examples of homosexual animals. Given that human beings are known to be homosexual, maybe we should look at our closest relatives, the apes.

Bonobos are often described as our „over-sexed“ relatives. They engage in an enormous amount of sex, so much so that it’s often referred to as a „bonobo handshake“, and that includes homosexual behaviour among both males and females.

Like the macaques, they seem to enjoy it, according to Frans de WaalScientific American in 1995, he described pairs of female bonobos rubbing their genitals together, and „emitting grins and squeals that probably reflect orgasmic experiences“.

But bonobo sex also plays a deeper role: it cements social bonds. Junior bonobos may use sex to bond with more dominant group members, allowing them to climb the social ladder. Males that have had a fight sometimes perform genital-to-genital touching, known as „penis fencing“, as a way of reducing tension. More rarely, they also kiss, perform fellatio and massage each other’s genitals. Even the young comfort each other with hugs and sex.

Bonobos show that „sexual behaviour“ can be about more than reproduction, says Zuk, and that includes homosexual behaviour. „There’s a whole range of behaviours that fit in well with how evolution happens that now include homosexual behaviour.“ In fact, female bonobos still have sex when they are outside their reproductive period and can’t get pregnant.

Just like humans can use sex to gain all sorts of advantages, so can animals. For instance, among bottlenose dolphins, both females and males display homosexual behaviour. This helps members of the group form strong social bonds. But ultimately, all concerned will go on to have offspring with the opposite sex.

All these species might be best described as „bisexual“. Like the Japanese macaques and the fruit flies, they switch easily between same-sex and opposite-sex behaviours. They don’t show a consistent sexual orientation.

Only two species have been observed showing a same-sex preference for life, even when partners of the opposite sex are available. One is, of course, humans. The other is domestic sheep.

In flocks of sheep, up to 8% of the males prefer other males even when fertile females are around. In 1994, neuroscientists found that these males had slightly different brains to the rest. A part of their brain called the hypothalamus, which is known to control the release of sex hormones, was smaller in the homosexual males than in the heterosexual males.

That is in line with a much-discussed study by the neuroscientist Simon LeVay. In 1991, he described a similar difference in brain structure between gay and straight men.

How could this preference for other males be passed on to offspring?

This seems quite different from all the other cases of homosexual behaviour, because it is hard to see how it could possibly benefit the males. How could this preference for other males be passed on to offspring, if the males do not reproduce?

The short answer is that it probably doesn’t benefit the homosexual males themselves, but it might benefit their relatives, who may well carry the same genes and could pass them on. For that to happen, the genes that make some males homosexual would have to have another, useful effect in other sheep.

LeVay suggests that the same gene that promotes homosexual behaviour in male sheep could also make females more fertile, or increase their desire to mate. The female siblings of homosexual sheep could even produce more offspring than average. „If these genes are having such a beneficial effect in females, they outweigh the effect in males and then the gene is going to persist,“ says LeVay.

While male sheep do show lifelong homosexual preferences, this has only been seen in domesticated sheep. It’s not clear whether the same thing happens in wild sheep, and if LeVay’s explanation is right it probably doesn’t. Domestic sheep have been carefully bred by farmers to produce females that reproduce as often as possible, which might have given rise to the homosexual males.

So LeVay and Vasey still say that humans are the only documented case of „true“ homosexuality in wild animals. „It is not the case that you have lesbian bonobos or gay male bonobos,“ says Vasey. „What’s been described is that many animals are happy to engage in sex with partners of either sex.“

Homosexual behaviour doesn’t challenge Darwin’s ideas

The funny thing is, biologists should have predicted this. When Darwin was developing his theory of natural selection, one of the things that inspired him was the realisation that animals tend to have far more offspring than they seem to need. In theory a pair of animals need only have two offspring to replace themselves, but in practice they have as many as they possibly can – because so many of their young will die before they manage to reproduce.

It seems obvious that this built-in need to keep reproducing would manifest itself in a powerful sex drive, one that might well spill over into mating while females are infertile, or same-sex matings. Victorian scientists saw animals having more offspring than seemed necessary: today we see animals having more sex than seems necessary.

„Homosexual behaviour doesn’t challenge Darwin’s ideas,“ says Zuk. Instead there are many ways it can evolve and be beneficial.

We may never find a wild animal that is strictly homosexual in the way some humans are. But we can expect to find many more animals that don’t conform to traditional categories of sexual orientation. They are using sex to satisfy all sorts of needs, from simple pleasure to social advancement, and that means being flexible.

Are there any homosexual animals?

Victoria bans gay conversion practices after 12-hour debate

Liberal MPs Bev McArthur and Bernie Finn broke party ranks and voted against the government’s legislation

Gay conversion practices have been banned in Victoria following a lengthy debate in parliament overnight, during which two Liberal MPs broke with party ranks to vote against the bill.

The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill passed the legislative council on Thursday night 29 votes to nine following a 12-hour debate.

Liberal MPs Bev McArthur and Bernie Finn broke party ranks and voted against the government’s legislation, along with crossbench MPs Jeff Bourman, Catherine Cumming, Clifford Hayes, Stuart Grimley, David Limbrick, Tania Maxwell and Tim Quilty.

The bill will outlaw practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Those found to have engaged in conversion practices that result in serious injury will face penalties of up to 10 years’ jail or up to $10,000 in fines.

In supporting the bill, Animal Justice party MP Andy Meddick described himself as the proud father of two “perfect” transgender children.

“They do not need fixing,” he said. “Nor do any other children or adults who do not fit an often religiously held belief that sexuality and gender are binary only.”

Labor’s Harriet Shing, the first openly lesbian member of Victorian parliament, acknowledged conversion therapy victims and survivor groups who have advocated for the ban for many years.

“[Their experiences] have had the effect, directly or indirectly, of breaking them or of trying to break them,” she said.

Shing called out the “cognitive dissonance” and “doublespeak” of MPs who were opposing the bill despite supporting a ban on conversion practices.

“It is not acceptable that in a debate like this victims and survivors and our communities – my communities – are denied the opportunity to have our equality, our pain and hurt and trauma, on a footing which is of the utmost importance,” she said.

The Coalition did not oppose the bill but moved a number of amendments that failed, including one to pause its progress for further consultation.

Advocates including the Brave Network, the LGBTQIA+ committee of the Uniting Church in Australia, and Rainbow Catholics, have described the bill as the “world’s most significant achievement in legislation curtailing the diabolical influence of the conversion movement”.

The bill goes further than one passed in Queensland last year in that it prohibits harmful practices not only in healthcare settings but also in religious settings.

This includes “carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer-based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism”.

Faith groups have claimed the bill attacks religious freedom, while some medical professionals have raised concerns it could compromise the practice of psychiatry and psychotherapy.

“This bill does not outlaw prayer,” attorney general Jaclyn Symes said. “It does not prevent health professionals from doing their job. It does not stop parents from talking to their kids about their views about sexuality or gender.

Symes, who replaced Jill Hennessy in the role in December, said she was proud to be carrying on her predecessor’s work.

“I can’t wait to go home and tell my kids what I did today,” she said.

The legislation will now go to the Victorian governor for royal assent. It will not come into effect for 12 months.

Victoria bans gay conversion practices after 12-hour debate

10 animal species that show how being gay is natural

Same-sex pairing is not just normal in the animal kingdom – it’s even common. Studies suggest that about 1,500 animal species are known to practice same-sex coupling – from insects, to fish, birds and mammals.

10 animal species that show how being gay is natural

Presbyterian church head says Victorian ban on gay conversion practices should be ignored

Rev Peter Barnes says pastors will not be directed to obey ban on prayer practices, deliverance or exorcism

The head of the Presbyterian church in Australia says its pastors will not be directed to obey the Victorian government’s new law banning gay conversion practices, calling the bill “a declaration of war on scripture”.

In an interview with Guardian Australia on Thursday, the moderator general of the Presbyterian church in Australia, Rev Peter Barnes, called the bill – which passed Victoria’s parliament earlier this month – “authoritarian” and said the church would ignore it on the basis that church leaders “don’t get our instructions from parliament house”.

“Civil authorities have a God-given right to govern, I’m not questioning that, but its authority is not open-ended,” he said.

“If the government passes legislation I don’t think is wise, that’s one thing. You’re not going to please all people all the time. If I think they should lower taxes but they raise them, I still pay my taxes.

“But there are limits, and this legislation puts itself very obviously against scripture. It was a declaration of war against scripture.”

The bill, which passed the parliament in February, outlaws practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Penalties for those found to have engaged in conversion practices resulting in serious injury face penalties of up to 10 years jail or up to $10,000 in fines.

The bill also empowers the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to investigate reports of suspected conversion practices.

Advocacy groups including the Brave Network, the LGBTQIA+ committee of the Uniting church in Australia and Rainbow Catholics lauded the bill as the “world’s most significant achievement in legislation curtailing the diabolical influence of the conversion movement”. During a marathon debate on the bill in parliament, Labor’s Harriet Shing – the first openly lesbian member of Victorian parliament – said the bill helped to “recognise the pain and the trauma and the hurt of victims and survivors”.

The bill goes further than one passed in Queensland last year in that it prohibits harmful practices not only in healthcare settings but also in religious settings.

This includes “carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer-based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism”.

A number of religious groups opposed the bill when the Victorian government put the proposal out for consultation in October last year, or pushed to have it cover only conversion practices deemed to be carried out without consent.

That report quoted survivors of conversion practices who spoke about the lasting impact it had on their lives and mental health, including one anonymous submission which discussed feeling “shame to such a degree that my mental, physical and spiritual health all suffered” and experiencing “suicidal ideation” after attending a prayer therapy group which sought to fix the person’s “sexual deviance”.

Barnes published a statement on the church’s website earlier this month entitled “Where to from here?” after the bill passed. In it, he wrote that the church was “obliged before God to preach all that He has revealed to us, whether law or gospel, and to do so in a spirit of love and truth”.

“There is nothing unique in such legislation. When King Darius exceeded his God-given authority, Daniel did ‘as he had done previously’,” he wrote.

Asked by the Guardian on Thursday whether that meant he was advocating in favour of ignoring the legislation he said: “I’m saying that and a lot of people feel the same way.

“The official policy of the church is to preach the whole counsel of God – I was just saying that’s what we signed up for.”

During the debate around the bill, religious groups distanced themselves from older practices including electro-shock treatment or aversion therapy, and Barnes said he had “never heard of that happening”. But he said if someone “comes to me and asks me to pray for them or help them” he would not “turn them away”.

Presbyterian church head says Victorian ban on gay conversion practices should be ignored

A Survivor Of Gay Conversion Therapy Shares His Chilling Story

With two months between us and a Trump administration, it’s time we consider Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s relationship with the many different issues affecting LGBTQ people ― including conversion therapy. 

Conversion therapy is not only promoted in the Republican party’s 2016 platform, the most anti-LGBTQ platform in the party’s history, but something Vice President-elect Mike Pence has actively supported one of the most anti-LGBTQ state elected officials in the country.

So, what exactly is conversion therapy? Why is it so bad?

Conversion therapy is a set of practices that intend to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity to fit heterosexual or cisgender standards and expectations ― and it is usually religiously motivated.

Therapy practices can include methods such as talk therapy, electroshock therapy, treating LGBTQ identity as an addiction issue like drugs or alcohol, and more. While certain therapies, like talk therapy, are also legitimate forms of care for people who experience mental health problems, being gay is, of course, not a mental health disorder.

TC, a 19-year-old gay man who spoke to The Huffington Post anonymously for this article in order to protect his safety, is a survivor of conversion therapy practices.

TC was subjected to conversion therapy in 2012 when he was 15 years old after his parents discovered he was gay. The conversion therapy practices took place in the basement of a church after school hours, and were explained to TC and his parents as having two separate components. He told The Huffington Post:

The first step ― which usually lasted six months ― [is] where they “deconstruct us as a person.” Their tactics still haunt me. Aversion therapy, shock therapy, harassment and occasional physical abuse. Their goal was to get us to hate ourselves for being LGBTQ (most of us were gay, but the entire spectrum was represented), and they knew what they were doing…. The second step of the program, they “rebuilt us in their image.” They removed us of everything that made us a unique person, and instead made us a walking, talking, robot for Jesus. They retaught us everything we knew. How to eat, talk, walk, dress, believe, even breathe. We were no longer people at the end of the program.

TC said that the conversion therapy sessions would take place every weekday, with shock therapy treatments lasting approximately an hour, and aversion therapy lasting three.

According to Dr. Jack Drescher, a leading specialist and critic of conversion therapy practices, there is not just one set of practices understood to be used in conversion therapy. “People have tried all kinds of things because none them really work,” he told The Huffington Post.

Drescher also said that the majority of research surrounding conversion therapy has taken place on adults who’ve undergone the process, and there is very little research surrounding LGBTQ youth who have been through conversation therapy practices. “But of course you have anecdotal stories,” he said. “Some children have reported running away from home, there have been cases in the news of young people of when their family found out about them or they came out and the family insisted they go to conversion therapy, some of these kids have killed themselves. These are anecdotal reports, but they are troubling reports, of course.”

TC said multiple minors involved in his program ultimately took their own lives.

“They were able to turn us against ourselves,” he said. “This is what drew so many people to suicide. We all shared a sense of loathing towards who we were and who we loved. It wasn’t just your regular ‘I hate myself.’ It was a disgust with the person you were and you wanted to do anything you could to change… Watching people disappear just became a fact of life after a while. You got used to it.”

While data around queer youth suicide and conversion therapy is lacking, research does show that suicide is an epidemic within the LGBTQ community, with rates of suicide four times greater for queer youth and nearly half of trans people having considered suicide at some point in their lives. 

Reflecting on the history of conversion therapy practices, Drescher said there was a time when people didn’t believe that there was any harm in trying to change their sexuality. In fact, until the 1990s when many conversion therapists began openly marketing their services, most professional organizations did not comment on the practice.

Today, there are no mainstream psychiatric organizations that accept conversion therapies as a reputable practice. “The people who offer these kind of treatments often are not licensed,” Drescher explained. “They’re not bound by any state regulatory bodies for the kind of work they do.”

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is one such organization that adamantly advocates against conversion therapy.

“Conversion therapy causes serious harms,” NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter told The Huffington Post. “In the short-term, queer youth who go through conversion therapy are being cheated of the opportunity to gain self-confidence and self-esteem, to get support from family members and other adults, and to have normal adolescent developmental experiences around friendship, dating, and other social experiences. In the long-term, the negative health consequences of being subjected to conversion therapy are extremely serious and can include substance abuse, dropping out of school, HIV infection, depression, and suicide attempts.”

Additionally, experts do not believe a person can actually be “converted” or “cured” of gayness or queerness. Dr. Robert Spitzer, one of the most prominent people who advocated for gay cures, actually apologized for his actions and the damage they inflicted in 2012.

Currently, only five states and the District of Columbia have laws protecting LGBTQ youth from being forced into conversion therapy practices. There is a movement to ban it at the federal level, and President Obama has previously spoken out about the dangers of the practice.

TC escaped conversion therapy by feigning complete rehabilitation after returning to his hometown from a previously planned religious mission trip. Today, he attends a religious university and still identifies as gay privately, a secret from his family who thinks the conversion therapy “worked.”

“I want people to know that conversion therapy is literal torture,” TC continued. “[But] the experience also lit a fire underneath me to prove everyone wrong. I am gay, but I am not worthless. Life will continue no matter what, and the quality of my future depends on the work I put in now, and to prove them all wrong, I need to work my ass off.”

When asked if he had a message for pro-conversion therapy Vice President-elect Mike Pence, TC simply said: “I am a human. Treat me like one.” 

Gay Affirmative Practice: A Model for Social Work Practice with Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth

Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, pages403–421(2007)Cite this article

Gay conversion practices to be outlawed by the Victorian Government

The Victorian Government is consulting gay conversion ‚therapy‘ survivors as it prepares legislation to outlaw the practice.

Conversion ‚therapy‘ is based on false ideology that a person’s gender or sexual identity can be changed or suppressed through practices ranging from psychiatric treatments such as electro-convulsion therapy to counselling therapies and spiritual intervention.

However, survivors do not use the term therapy, as what they have endured is not therapeutic.

They say the term misrepresents the most common, informal conversion practice of structured conversations with religious leaders.

Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the Government had so far consulted with hundreds of members of the public as well as key stakeholders including survivors, as well as LGBTIQ advocacy and religious organisations to determine the best way to implement the ban.

„We’re banning so-called conversion ‚therapy‘ and making sure the laws we put in place end this harmful, cruel, and bigoted practice once and for all,“ Ms Hennessy said.

From the age of 15, Patrick McIvor was told he was ’sexually broken‘ and as an adult he tried everything he could to be heterosexual.

But the 33-year-old, who now identifies as gay, believes he was living a lie first pushed on him by a pastor at his former church.

„He said things to me like ‚I know your father and he was absent around key development points in your life. When you were becoming a teenager he was busy with work‘,“ Mr McIvor said.

„It was very loving and supportive in the way it was presented. When we met, it was something that I really wanted to take on board … so that I could do the right thing.“

Same-Sex Marriage Around the World

A growing number of governments around the world are considering whether to grant legal recognition to same-sex marriages. So far, 30 countries and territories have enacted national laws allowing gays and lesbians to marry, mostly in Europe and the Americas. In Mexico, some jurisdictions allow same-sex couples to wed, while others do not.

Below is a list of countries that have legalized the practice, with the most recent countries to do so shown first.

Homosexuality

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Homosexuality, sexual interest in and attraction to members of one’s own sex. The term gay is frequently used as a synonym for homosexual; female homosexuality is often referred to as lesbianism.

At different times and in different cultures, homosexual behaviour has been variously approved of, tolerated, punished, and banned. Homosexuality was not uncommon in Rome, and the relationships between adult and adolescent males in particular have become a chief focus of Western classicists in recent years. Judeo-Christian as well as Muslim cultures have generally perceived homosexual behaviour as sinful. Many Christian leaders, however, have gone to great lengths to make clear that it is the acts and not the individuals or even their “inclination” or “orientation” that their faiths proscribe. Others—from factions within mainstream Protestantism to organizations of Reform rabbis—have advocated, on theological as well as social grounds, the full acceptance of homosexuals and their relationships. The topic has threatened to cause outright schisms in some denominations.

Fetishes you should know.

Two years ago this month, I was sitting on the sofa in my Sir’s living room. It was my birthday. We were getting ready to go to the gym. But first, he said, I should open my presents. Two packages were in front of me on the coffee table.

[RELATED: „30 Kinky Terms Every Gay Man Needs to Know“]

Our relationship had started more than a year earlier with intense monthly BDSM play sessions. After we stopped playing sexually, we continued to go to the gym together and push each other to live healthier. We still go to the gym together, and today I consider him one of my closest friends. He knows what I like — sexually and otherwise — more than most people in my life, so his presents are always top-notch.

Inside the first package was a bottle of twelve-year Glenlivet, one of my favorite single malt whiskies. The second: a Nasty Pig jockstrap. But it was not just any Nasty Pig jock. I sniffed. That distinctly musky, delicious aroma, which can only be found in the playrooms of gay circuit parties and in gyms across the country, lingered in the stitching. “I wore it for a few days,” he said. “You’re welcome.”

You may be asking: What is a fetish, and how is it different from a kink? I clarified these two terms in my list of 30 kinky terms every gay man should know. But I’ll reiterate their distinction here. Kinks are “unconventional” sexual interests, like bondage or paddling. That’s it. Fetishes — also called paraphilias — are objects, materials, features, or articles of clothing, like used jockstraps, that people respond to sexually, and that enhance or facilitate sexual arousal. To clarify: fetish objects are not sexual on their own, like whips or dildos. Fetish objects become sexualized when someone responds to them sexually.

You’ve probably heard of a few obscure fetishes, like high-heeled shoes and rubber duckies. Fetishes are rapidly moving out of their kinky niche and into pop culture. Stay on top of (or under) the trend with this list of 36 fetishes — some well known, others less so — that you need to know about. 

1. Leather

Leather is one of the most commonly fetishized materials, and certainly one of the oldest. Tom of Finland’s 1970s drawings of biker boys, clad in impossibly form-fitting leather, solidified leather as a staple of gay culture. Today, the leather community is global, united by national and international leather competitions that celebrate this fetish at gatherings like the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, International Mr. Leather in Chicago, and Folsom Berlin.

What does a leather event look like? It looks like throngs of men in leather harnesses, jock straps, jackets, boots, gloves, aprons, fully-body uniforms, and other garb. Since many leather fetishists are into many other fetishes and kinks, the leather community is generally considered synonymous with the kink community as a whole. 

7. Uniforms

People who live in the United States are taught from a young age that uniforms should be viewed with respect, especially police uniforms, military uniforms, and firefighter uniforms. These socio-politics of respect naturally morphed into male strippers dressed as firefighters and cops — evidence that uniforms are heavily fetishized by straight and LGBT people alike. 

17. Amputees

No list of fetishes would be complete without amputees. My ex-boyfriend, in fact, thought guys with amputations, prosthetic legs, and other missing limbs were extremely sexy, and every morning I made sure all my limbs were still intact.

Alex Minksy has more or less made a career from this fetish. The ex-military amputee is a common muse for L.A. photographer Michael Stokes. For the sake of clarity, I should stress that the fetishization of amputees is not the same thing as the kink practice of actually removing limbs for the sake of sexual gratification, which is considered an extreme body-modification kink that is by and large not endorsed by the international kink community. Simply put: you can think amputees are sexy, but don’t go cutting off someone’s leg, or your own. That’s not OK. 

Photo source: Broadway Bares, photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

20. Enemas

Also called klismaphilia, enema fetishes are commonly explored in amateur gay and straight porn. As useful tools for cleaning out the anal cavity, enemas and douches are used by bottom guys and anyone looking to enjoy mess-free anal sex, so naturally they have become part of sex itself. Aside from their usefulness, enemas are generally considered a healthy occasional practice, and have become a sexualized object all on their own. 

28. Beard/Facial Hair Fetish

You know by now that shaving tools and buzzed haircuts have fetishes attached to them. Beards and body hair should be less surprising, especially these days. Beards are so sexually charged and erotically idealized among today’s scruffier populations of gay men that one might forget the fact that beards are still, technically, fetish objects. 

33. Feces

I promised my scat fetishist friend in Dallas that he would be represented on this list. Coprophilia is sexual stimulation from feces, and while the general population’s response to it is bound to be pretty strong, this fetish is more common than you might suspect, particularly among gay pig players, fisting enthusiasts, and kinky leather men. Despite its popularity within a more niche section of the gay male population, it is generally considered an unhygienic fetish to explore, since handling and consuming human fecal matter carries with it certain health risks. In my limited experience, it is also one of the more heavily stigmatized fetishes, even within the kink community. 

34. Sports Gear

Remember those adolescent longings for the high school quarterback? Perhaps you enjoyed varsity baseball for more reasons than you let on. The fetishes surrounding sports gear and sport environments are so common that locker room porn has become its own popular genre. Prominent gay clothing brands like Nasty Pig and Cellblock 13 draw their design inspiration from tried-and-true sports wear, and standard gay circuit attire will always feature a pair of football pants with the front lacing beckoningly open. 

36. Age

Also called chronophilia (and sometimes ageism), the fetishization of age is a hotly debated topic in gay culture. The term swings both ways: this fetish applies when someone older fetishizes the specific age of someone younger, and when someone younger fetishizes the specific age of someone older. The fetish doesn’t require a significant age difference — just the fact that someone’s age itself is a turn-on.

Conceptually, this fetish opens up debate surrounding the fetishization of other characteristics like skin color and body type. Some argue that fetishizing certain physical characteristics like age and weight is no different than feet and hand fetishes, which we generally do not frown upon. Others say that age fetishes, like skin color and body type fetishes, are not fetishes at all, and that the reduction of a person’s features into points of desire (and, by extension, rejection) is dehumanizing and smacks of racism and body-shaming.

Debate rages. Age fetish deserves inclusion on this list for the sheer purpose that it shows how fetishes can cross from the playfully erotic into more culturally profound and impactful subjects. The whole concept of fetish reveals that anything in the world, from pool floats to ice cream, can become sexual objects if someone responds to them that way, and as such they unleash our sexual desires from the narrow confines that our culture tends to place them in.

This being said, fetish exploration is not a free-for-all. There is a trepidatious line between fetishizing balloons and fetishizing blood. That vague line exists throughout the world of kink, which is why the motto “safe, sane, and consensual” should be strictly adhered to as you explore the things that turn you on — which, I must stress, are worth exploring. Your birthdays just got a lot more interesting. 

Photo by Charles Thomas Rogers from the portfolio, Men Over Fifty.

[RELATED: „30 Kinky Terms Every Gay Man Needs to Know“]

Key points:

Conversion ‚therapy‘ is based on false ideology that a person’s gender or sexual identity can be changed or suppressed through practices ranging from psychiatric treatments such as electro-convulsion therapy to counselling therapies and spiritual intervention.

However, survivors do not use the term therapy, as what they have endured is not therapeutic.

They say the term misrepresents the most common, informal conversion practice of structured conversations with religious leaders.

Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the Government had so far consulted with hundreds of members of the public as well as key stakeholders including survivors, as well as LGBTIQ advocacy and religious organisations to determine the best way to implement the ban.

„We’re banning so-called conversion ‚therapy‘ and making sure the laws we put in place end this harmful, cruel, and bigoted practice once and for all,“ Ms Hennessy said.

From the age of 15, Patrick McIvor was told he was ’sexually broken‘ and as an adult he tried everything he could to be heterosexual.

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But the 33-year-old, who now identifies as gay, believes he was living a lie first pushed on him by a pastor at his former church.

„He said things to me like ‚I know your father and he was absent around key development points in your life. When you were becoming a teenager he was busy with work‘,“ Mr McIvor said.

„It was very loving and supportive in the way it was presented. When we met, it was something that I really wanted to take on board … so that I could do the right thing.“

No one ‚villain‘

On the advice of this pastor, Mr McIvor contacted an international organisation who ran a gay conversion program, which in turn referred him to a local counsellor in eastern Victoria.

„In our first session, he pulled out a biscuit tin and inside it was photos of other men who had done the program before me. A lot of them were wedding photos … and I felt incredibly hopeful,“ Mr McIvor said.

„We had this really warm, supportive friendship … and we stayed in contact afterwards.

„That’s hard for me to reconcile because I’d love to be able to point to someone, anyone in all this and just [call them] a straight up villain. But there is none.

„No-one involved in this process set out to hurt me.“

It is these formal and informal practices that survivors want outlawed in Victoria.

After a year of fortnightly meetings with a counsellor, Mr McIvor went on to marry his wife on the premise of suppressing his sexuality.

He eventually left organised religion, came out again as gay, and amicably separated from his wife.

‚Lost a lot more than my job‘

Ashe Powell said he had to leave his role as a youth pastor when he came out as gay at a Gippsland church.

He said he was given the option of undergoing conversion ‚therapy‘ or leaving the church. The church disputes, saying he left on his own accord.

„I lost a lot more than my job. I lost my financial stability. I lost most of my community at the time and I lost a fair bit of my relationship with my family. But that has since been regained,“ Mr Powell said.

„That started, I would say, a two or three-year full-scale breakdown for me.

„I actually went into substance abuse and I really suffered at the hand of that. I was never able to hold down a job after that.“

Like Mr McIvor, Mr Powell was told by members of his church community his sexuality was a result of bad life experiences.

„I lost my dad a couple of years before I had this job. It was a fairly traumatic thing for me and it was suggested by quite a few people that was the reason for my sexuality or gender identity,“ Mr Powell said.

Homosexuals Die Young

Smokers and drug addicts don’t live as long as non-smokers or non-addicts, so we consider smoking and narcotics abuse harmful. The typical lifespan of homosexuals suggests that their activities are more destructive than smoking and about as dangerous as drugs.

In a pioneering study 5, 6,737 obituaries from 18 U.S. homosexual journals during and after the height of the AIDS epidemic (13 years total) were compared to a large sample of obituaries from regular newspapers. The obituaries from the regular newspapers were similar to U.S. averages for longevity: the median age of death of married, never-divorced men was 75 and 80% of them died old (age 65 or older). For unmarried or divorced men, the median age of death was 57 and 32% of them died old. Married, never-divorced women averaged 79 at death; 85% died old. Unmarried and divorced women averaged age 71 and 60% of them died old.

The median age of death for homosexuals, however, was virtually the same nationwide — and, overall, about 2% survived to old age. If AIDS was the listed cause of death, the median age was 39. For the 829 gays who were listed as dying of something other than AIDS, the median age of death was 42 and 9% died old. The 163 lesbians had a median age of death of 44 and 20% died old.

Even when AIDS was apparently not involved, homosexuals frequently met an early demise. Three percent of gays died violently. They were 116 times more apt to be murdered (compared to national murder rates), much more apt to commit suicide, and had high traffic-accident death-rates. Heart attacks, cancer, and liver failure were exceptionally common. 18% of lesbians died of murder, suicide, or accidents — a rate 456 times higher than that of white females aged 25-44. Age distributions of samples of homosexuals in the scientific literature from 1858 to 1997 suggest a similarly shortened lifespan.

Follow-up studies of homosexual longevity have confirmed these general results. Comparison of gay obituaries who died of AIDS to official U.S. HIV/AIDS Surveillance data demonstrated very close agreement between the estimated median ages of death, as well as the 25th and 75th percentiles of the age-at-death distribution. 6 Another study looked at multiple lines of evidence — including more recent U.S. obituaries and patterns of homosexual partnerships in Scandinavia — again finding that homosexual behavior was associated with a shortening of life of probably two decades.7

What Homosexuals Do

Several major surveys on homosexual behavior are summarized in Table 1. Two things stand out 1) homosexuals behave similarly world-over, and 2) as Harvard Medical Professor, Dr. William Haseltine, noted in 1993, 8 the “changes in sexual behavior that have been reported to have occurred in some groups have proved, for the most part, to be transient. For example, bath houses and sex clubs in many cities have either reopened or were never closed.”

Oral Sex: Homosexuals fellate almost all of their sexual contacts (and ingest semen from about half of these 18). Semen contains many of the germs carried in the blood, so gays who practice oral sex incur medical risks akin to consuming raw human blood. Since the penis frequently has tiny lesions (and often will have been in unsanitary places such as a rectum), individuals so involved may become infected with hepatitis A or gonorrhea (and even HIV and hepatitis B). Since many contacts occur between strangers (70% of gays estimated that they had had sex only once with over half of their partners19), and gays average somewhere between 1020 and 11021 different partners/year, the potential for infection is considerable.

Rectal Sex: Surveys indicate that about 90% of gays have engaged in rectal intercourse, and about two-thirds do it regularly. 22 In a 6-month long study of daily sexual diaries,23 gays averaged 110 sex partners and 68 rectal encounters a year.

Rectal sex is dangerous. During rectal intercourse, the rectum becomes a mixing bowl for

Sperm, which is immunocompromising 24, readily penetrate the rectal lining (which is only one cell thick), and tearing or bruising of the anal wall is very common during anal/penile sex. Because of this, these substances gain almost direct access to the blood stream. Unlike heterosexual intercourse — in which sperm cannot penetrate the multilayered vagina and no feces are present — rectal intercourse is probably the most sexually efficient way to spread hepatitis B, HIV, syphilis, and a host of other blood-borne diseases.

Tearing or ripping of the anal wall is especially likely during “fisting,” where the hand and possibly arm is inserted into the rectum. It is also common when “toys” are employed (homosexual lingo for objects which are inserted into the rectum — bottles, carrots, even gerbils 25). The risk of contamination and/or having to wear a colostomy bag from such “sport” is very real. Fisting was apparently so rare in Kinsey’s time that he didn’t think to ask about it. By 1977, a third of gays admitted to doing it.26 The rectum was not designed to accommodate the fist, and those who do so can find themselves consigned to ‘leakage’ for life. Anal cancer is 24 times27 and hepatitis C 10 times28 more prevalent in gays.

Fecal Sex: About 80% of gays (see Table) admit to licking and/or inserting their tongues into the anus of partners and thus ingesting medically significant amounts of feces. Those who eat or wallow in it are probably at even greater risk. In the diary study, 29 70% of the gays had engaged in this activity — half regularly over 6 months. Result? —the “annual incidence of hepatitis A in… homosexual men was 22 percent, whereas no heterosexual men acquired hepatitis A.” In 1992, it was noted that the proportion of London gays engaging in oral/anal sex had not declined since 1984.30

While the body has defenses against fecal germs, exposure to the fecal discharge of dozens of strangers each year is extremely unhealthy. Ingestion of human waste is the major route of contracting hepatitis A and the enteric parasites collectively known as the Gay Bowel Syndrome. Consumption of feces has also been implicated in the transmission of typhoid fever, 31 herpes, and cancer.32 About 10% of gays have eaten or played with [e.g., enemas, wallowing in feces].

In the late 1970s, the San Francisco Department of Public Health saw “75,000 patients per year, of whom 70 to 80 per cent are homosexual men…. An average of 10 per cent of all patients and asymptomatic contacts reported [to the Department]… because of positive fecal samples or cultures for amoeba, giardia, and shigella infections were employed as food handlers in public establishments; almost 5 per cent of those with hepatitis A were similarly employed.” 33

In 1976, a rare airborne scarlet fever broke out among gays and just missed sweeping through San Francisco. 34 A 1982 Swedish study “suggested that some transmission [of hepatitis A] from the homosexual group to the general population may have occurred.”35 The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that 29% of the hepatitis A cases in Denver, 66% in New York, 50% in San Francisco, 56% in Toronto, 42% in Montreal, and 26% in Melbourne in the first six months of 1991 were among gays.36

Urine Sex: About 10% of Kinsey’s gays reported having engaged in “golden showers” [drinking or being splashed with urine]. In the largest survey of gays ever conducted, 37 23% admitted to urine-sex. In a large random survey of gays,38 29% reported urine-sex. In a San Francisco study of 655 gays,39 only 24% claimed to have been monogamous in the past year. Of these monogamous gays, 5% drank urine, 7% practiced “fisting,” 33% ingested feces via anal/oral contact, 53% swallowed semen, and 59% received semen in their rectum during the previous month.

Other Gay Sex Practices

Sadomasochism: As Table 1 indicates, a large minority of gays engage in torture for sexual fun (15% of lesbians engaged in “piercing, cutting or whipping to the point of bleeding” with their lovers 40).

Sex with Minors: 25% of white gays 41 admitted to sex with boys 16 or younger as adults. In a 10-state study,42 33% of the 181 male, and 22% of the 18 female teachers caught molesting students did so homosexually even though less than 3% of men and 2% of women are bisexual or homosexual.43

Depending on the study, the percent of gays reporting sex in public restrooms ranged from 14% 44 to 41%45 to 66%.46 The percent reporting sex in gay baths varies from 9%47 to 60%48 and 67%.49 Furthermore, 45%,50 64%,51 and 90%52 said that they used illegal drugs.

Fear of AIDS may have reduced the volume of gay sex partners, but the numbers are prodigious by any standard. In Spain, 53 gays averaged 42 per year in 1989; in an eight year longitudinal study in Amsterdam, the figure was 25 per year in 1994.54 Lesbians do not have as many partners, but neither is their sex life confined to other women. Of 498 San Francisco lesbians in a U.S. Centers for Disease Control study in 1993, 81% reported sex with men and 10% sex with gays in the last 3 years. Another 4% reported intravenous drug use.55

Medical Consequences of Homosexual Sex

Death and disease accompany promiscuous and unsanitary sexual activity. Between 70% 56 and 78%57 of gays report having had a sexually transmitted disease. The proportion with intestinal parasites (worms, flukes, amoeba) has ranged from 25%58 to 39%.59 As of 2012, 55% of U.S. AIDS cases had occurred in gays and 30,000 U.S. gays were contracting HIV every year.60

The Seattle sexual diary study 61 found that, averaged on a yearly basis, gays:

No wonder 10% came down with hepatitis B and 7% contracted hepatitis A during the 6-month study.

The Biological Swapmeet

The typical sexual practices of homosexuals are a medical horror story — imagine exchanging saliva, feces, semen and/or blood with dozens of different men each year. Imagine drinking urine, ingesting feces and experiencing rectal trauma on a regular basis. Often these encounters occur while the participants are drunk, high, and/or in an orgy setting. Further, many of them occur in extremely unsanitary places (bathrooms, dirty peep shows), or, because homosexuals travel so frequently, in other parts of the world.

Every year, a quarter or more of homosexuals visit another country. 69 Fresh American germs get taken to Europe, Africa, and Asia. And fresh pathogens from these continents come here. Foreign homosexuals regularly visit the U.S. and participate in this biological swapmeet.

Unfortunately, the danger of these exchanges does not merely affect homosexuals. Travelers carried so many tropical diseases to New York City that it had to institute a tropical disease center, and gays carried HIV from New York City to the rest of the world. 70 Most of the 12,642 Americans who got AIDS from contaminated blood as of 1992 received it from homosexuals and most of the women in California who got AIDS through heterosexual activity got it from men who engaged in homosexuality.71

There is a pattern here that we ignore at our peril. Homosexual practices create a third-world level of sanitation and chronic disease unknown to most Westerners. With the rise of new contagious diseases, homosexuality not only raises our medical costs, it increases the hazards of giving and getting medical care, receiving blood, and eating out.

Necking giraffes

Among giraffes, there’s more same-sex than opposite-sex activity. In fact, studies say gay sex accounts for more than 90 percent of all observed sexual activity in giraffes. And they don’t just get straight to business. Male giraffes know how to flirt, first necking with each other – that is, gently rubbing their necks along the other’s body. This foreplay can last for up to an hour.

Lions‘ allegiance

Homosexuality is common among lions as well. Two to four males often form what is known as a coalition, where they work together to court female lions. They depend on each other to fend off other coalitions. To ensure loyalty, male lions strengthen their bonds by having sex with each other. Many researchers refer to this behavior as your classical „bromance“ rather than homosexual pairing.

A fifth of all swan couples are gay

Like many birds, swans are monogamous and stick with one partner for years. Many of them choose a same-sex partner. In fact, around 20 percent of swan couples are homosexuals – and they often start families together. Sometimes, one swan in a male couple will mate with a female, and then drive her away once she’s laid a clutch of eggs. In other cases, they adopt abandoned eggs.

Keep close, walrus

Male walruses only reach sexual maturity at the age of 4. Until then, they are almost exclusively gay. Once they’ve reached maturity, most males are bisexual and mate with females during breeding season – while having sex with other males the rest of the year. It’s not just gay sex though – the males also embrace each other and sleep close to one another in water.

Necking giraffes

Among giraffes, there’s more same-sex than opposite-sex activity. In fact, studies say gay sex accounts for more than 90 percent of all observed sexual activity in giraffes. And they don’t just get straight to business. Male giraffes know how to flirt, first necking with each other – that is, gently rubbing their necks along the other’s body. This foreplay can last for up to an hour.

Lions‘ allegiance

Homosexuality is common among lions as well. Two to four males often form what is known as a coalition, where they work together to court female lions. They depend on each other to fend off other coalitions. To ensure loyalty, male lions strengthen their bonds by having sex with each other. Many researchers refer to this behavior as your classical „bromance“ rather than homosexual pairing.

A fifth of all swan couples are gay

Like many birds, swans are monogamous and stick with one partner for years. Many of them choose a same-sex partner. In fact, around 20 percent of swan couples are homosexuals – and they often start families together. Sometimes, one swan in a male couple will mate with a female, and then drive her away once she’s laid a clutch of eggs. In other cases, they adopt abandoned eggs.

Keep close, walrus

Male walruses only reach sexual maturity at the age of 4. Until then, they are almost exclusively gay. Once they’ve reached maturity, most males are bisexual and mate with females during breeding season – while having sex with other males the rest of the year. It’s not just gay sex though – the males also embrace each other and sleep close to one another in water.

Abstract

Gay affirmative practice has recently been introduced into the social work literature as a culturally sensitive model for working with gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) adults, however, this model has rarely been applied to practice with GLB youth. In this article, the authors review the literature to present the main tenets of gay affirmative practice, outline the challenges that GLB youth face, and delineate the environmental and individual strengths that can be enhanced to promote well-being. The authors then apply the gay affirmative practice model to GLB youth, offering concrete information about the specific knowledge, attitudes, and skills that social workers should acquire to better serve the unique, yet diverse, needs of GLB youth.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

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Countries that allow same-sex marriage in some jurisdictions

In 2015, the Mexican Supreme Court issued a ruling making it much easier for gay and lesbian couples to wed. The decision gave same-sex couples the right to seek a court injunction against state laws banning gay marriage; although it did not technically legalize same-sex unions nationwide, it was a major step in that direction. Mexico’s Supreme Court also issued a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in 2010, saying that same-sex marriages performed in Mexico City were valid and that they must be accepted throughout the country (Mexico City had legalized gay marriage in December 2009). Since 2011, the southern Mexican state of Quintana Roo also has allowed gay marriages. In 2014, the congress of the northern state of Coahuila approved same-sex marriage, and in 2015, neighboring Chihuahua followed suit.

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Modern developments

Attitudes toward homosexuality are generally in flux, partially as a result of increased political activism (see gay rights movement) and efforts by homosexuals to be seen not as aberrant personalities but as differing from “normal” individuals only in their sexual orientation. The conflicting views of homosexuality—as a variant but normal human sexual behaviour on one hand, and as psychologically deviant behaviour on the other—remain present in most societies in the 21st century, but they have been largely resolved (in the professional sense) in most developed countries. The American Psychiatric Association, for example, declassified “ego-syntonic homosexuality” (the condition of a person content with his or her homosexuality) as a mental illness in 1973. Nonetheless, some religious groups continue to emphasize reparative therapy in the attempt to “cure” homosexuality through prayer, counseling, and behaviour modification. Their claims of success, however, are controversial. Wherever opinion can be freely expressed, debates about homosexuality will likely continue.

Selected theories of homosexuality

Psychologists in the 19th and 20th centuries, most of whom classified homosexuality as a form of mental illness, developed a variety of theories on its origin. The 19th-century psychologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing, whose Psychopathia Sexualis (1886) included masturbation, sado-masochism, and “lust-murder” in its list of sexual perversions, saw it as originating in heredity. His contemporary Sigmund Freud characterized it as a result of conflicts of psychosexual development, including identification with the parent of the opposite sex. Others have looked at social influences and physiological events in fetal development as possible origins. It is likely that many instances of homosexuality result from a combination of inborn or constitutional factors and environmental or social influences.

By the 21st century, many societies had been discussing sexuality and sexual practices with increased candour. Together with a growing acceptance of homosexuality as a common expression of human sexuality, long-standing beliefs about homosexuals had begun to lose credence. The stereotypes of male homosexuals as weak and effeminate and lesbians as masculine and aggressive, which were widespread in the West as recently as the 1950s and early ’60s, have largely been discarded.

In the 20th-century United Statessex research was established among the social and behavioral sciences in an effort to investigate actual sexual practice. (See sexology.) Researchers such as Alfred Kinsey reported that homosexual activity was a frequent pattern in adolescence, among both males and females. The Kinsey report of 1948, for example, found that 30 percent of adult American males among Kinsey’s subjects had engaged in some homosexual activity and that 10 percent reported that their sexual practice had been exclusively homosexual for a period of at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55. About half as many women in the study reported predominantly homosexual activity. Kinsey’s research methods and conclusions have been much criticized, however, and further studies have produced somewhat different and varying results. A range of more recent surveys, concerning predominantly homosexual behaviour as well as same-gender sexual contact in adulthood, have yielded results that are both higher and lower than those identified by Kinsey. Instead of categorizing people in absolute terms as either homosexual or heterosexual, Kinsey observed a spectrum of sexual activity, of which exclusive orientations of either type make up the extremes. Most people can be identified at a point on either side of the midpoint of the spectrum, with bisexuals (those who respond sexually to persons of either sex) situated in the middle. Situational homosexual activity tends to occur in environments such as prisons, where there are no opportunities for heterosexual contact.

Contemporary issues

As mentioned above, different societies respond differently to homosexuality. In most of Africa, Latin America, both the subject and the behaviour are considered taboo, with some slight exception made in urban areas. In Western countries, attitudes were somewhat more liberal. Although the topic of homosexuality was little discussed in the public forum during the early part of the 20th century, it became a political issue in many Western countries during the late 20th century. This was particularly true in the United States, where the gay rights movement is often seen as a late offshoot of various civil rights movements of the 1960s. After the 1969 Stonewall riots, in which New York City policemen raided a gay bar and met with sustained resistance, many homosexuals were emboldened to identify themselves as gay men or lesbians to friends, to relatives, and even to the public at large. In much of North America and western Europe, the heterosexual population became aware of gay and lesbian communities for the first time. Many gay men and lesbians began to demand equal treatment in employment practices, housing, and public policy. In response to their activism, many jurisdictions enacted laws banning discrimination against homosexuals, and an increasing number of employers in America and European countries agreed to offer “domestic partner” benefits similar to the health care, life insurance and, in some cases, pension benefits available to heterosexual married couples. Although conditions for gay people had generally improved in most of Europe and North America at the turn of the 21st century, elsewhere in the world violence against gay people continued. In Namibia, for example, police officers were instructed to “eliminate” homosexuals. Gay students at Jamaica’s Northern Caribbean University were beaten, and an anti-gay group in Brazil by the name of Acorda Coracao (“Wake Up, Dear”) was blamed for murdering several gay people. In Ecuador a gay rights group called Quitogay received so much threatening e-mail that it was given support by Amnesty International.

Even in parts of the world where physical violence is absent, intolerance of homosexuality often persists. There are, however, some signs of change. In one such instance, Albania repealed its sodomy statutes in 1995, and gay couples in Amsterdam in 2001 were legally married under the same laws that govern heterosexual marriage (rather than under laws that allowed them to “register” or form “domestic” partnerships). In the late 20th century gay men and lesbians proudly revealed their sexual orientation in increasing numbers. Still others, notably those in the public eye, had their sexual orientation revealed in the media and against their will by activists either for or against gay rights—a controversial practice known as “outing.”

One of the issues that loomed largest for gay men in the last two decades of the 20th century and beyond was AIDS. Elsewhere in the world AIDS was transmitted principally by heterosexual sex, but in the United States and in some European centres it was particularly prevalent in urban gay communities. As a result homosexuals were at the forefront of advocacy for research into the disease and support for its victims through groups such as Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City. Novelist and playwright Larry Kramer, who believed a more aggressive presence was needed, founded the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), which began promoting political action, including outing, through local chapters in such cities as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Paris. The disease also took a heavy toll on the arts communities in these centres, and virtually none of the artistic output of gay men in the late 20th century was untouched by the topic and the sense of great loss.

Lesbians, especially those uninvolved with intravenous drugs and the sex trade, were probably the demographic group least affected by AIDS. However, most shared with gay men the desire to have a secure place in the world community at large, unchallenged by the fear of violence, the struggle for equal treatment under the law, the attempt to silence, and any other form of civil behaviour that imposes second-class citizenship.

LGBTQI+ community support services

ABCQueer has compiled this list of national and state-based support services relevant to LGBTQI+ people, their families and friends.

„I finally got freedom to actually pursue intimate relationships with men … but it’s so much more complicated than I expected,“ Mr McIvor said.

„The simple act of holding my partner’s hand, or, you know, kissing him in public, or even just sitting and talking with him.

„It’s nice, but it’s also very triggering because of all the ways in which I internalised teaching about what it all symbolised.

„Every part of my identity and sexuality was dissected and given some meaning that just was very speculative and just not scientific.“