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Opinions of Sunday, 26 June 2011

Columnist: Karikari, Isaac

Homosexuality: Biological Claims Unfounded.

Isaac Karikari (

Drawing Parallels with Slavery and Racial Inequality
Gays and lesbians tend to frame the rejection of their demands for equality and rights in similar terms as the pathologizing of the slaves’ quest for freedom in the 19th century. (3, 4) Some people look at the issue in the same sense as racial inequality. In regard to this they make the claim that homosexuality, like a person’s race, is biological/genetic. I know people who like this ‘biological/genetic argument’ because though they harbour guilt and uneasiness, that argument appears to absolve them (at least in their opinion) of any personal responsibility for being a homosexual (they did not choose to become one, they were born with it).

There are counter arguments to this. Writing in the mid 50s, Edmund Bergler, a psychoanalyst, in his book Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life? noted that there was no scientific basis for the claim that homosexuality is biological. He mentioned the skewed and untested reports of Alfred Kinsey, who claimed there was biological and genetic support for homosexuality. Kinsey’s reports helped perpetuate the idea that homosexuality was biological. (5) Homosexuality has for a long time been considered “the most outrageous of all crimes of the flesh, a precursor to plague, famine, pestilence, and earthquakes.” (6)
Until 1973 the American Psychological Association considered homosexuality to be a psychological disorder and duly classified it as such in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), a manual of psychiatric and behavioral disorders. This, however, changed not because some research was conducted but due to some intense activism including the storming and disruption of an American Psychological Association (APA) conference by gay activists in San Francisco, in the early 70s. The conference was about the making of a new edition of the DSM, and the activists demanded that the categorization of homosexuality as a disorder be changed. It is also believed that a group of homosexual psychologists known as the GAY P.A played a significant role in the declassification of homosexuality as an illness. (7)

Biological Explanations Uncertain

Despite the change by the APA, and a statement (at a later time) that "there is considerable recent evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person's sexuality"; the APA now maintains that “there is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation.” It further notes that despite the vast research conducted to check for cultural, social and biological causes there is no conclusive evidence regarding what actually causes homosexuality.(8, 9)

Dr. Charles Socarides, a psychologist and a proponent in the declassification of homosexuality as a disorder, and a former gay rights advocate wrote in his book, Homosexuality: A freedom too far (1995), that the biological explanations for homosexuality are based on pseudoscience. That is the use of invalid scientific methods. He states that homosexuality is not by birth, and indicates that there is a lot of misinformation on the subject. He hints at the political nature of the issue noting that the concepts of diversity and democracy are being used as the basis to push forward the notion that homosexuality is biological. Dr. Socarides’ assertions in the mid 90s only confirm what Dr. Bergler noted in the 50s. (10) Some scholars have indicated that it is more accurate to frame it in the context of a bio-psycho-social issue. That is to say the cause(s) of homosexuality could be biological, psychological and/social. (11) For those with a religious and spiritual view point spiritual attributions can also be made.
It is important to note that homosexual attraction, homosexual identity and homosexual orientation are not the same. An attraction to a person of the same sex and an inclination or desire for sexual intercourse do not necessarily make one a homosexual and should not be mistaken as meaning one is a homosexual. Rather it is when a person acts on those attractions and inclinations that the person can be said to be taking on the identity of a homosexual. (12, 13) In essence there is an element of choice in becoming a homosexual.
Ghana’s Gay Pride
Media reports indicate that there are thousands of homosexuals in Ghana. As to how true this is one cannot really say but history reveals that the inflation of statistics has often been used by homosexuals in making their claims. A noted example is in the case of Alfred Kinsey, who, in the late 40s and early 50s, claimed one third of the American population had had a homosexual experience (14). The impression that homosexuality was so pervasive certainly affected public opinion and discourse on the matter and it still does, even today.
Social Activism, Politics and Economics

As a homogenous group do homosexuals have the power to determine who gets into public office and who gets out of public office? Are there ‘powerful’ lesbians and gays who have enough money and clout to influence public policies by their association not only with politicians but people in other sectors of society – notably the entertainment industry, and even religious institutions?
The answer is yes. One should also not rule out the influence of donor countries. Donor countries can make the granting of gay rights, a ‘recent’ feature of human rights, a condition for giving aid.

What is happening in Ghana now mirrors what has happened in other places. Gays and lesbians have often used the biological argument as the basis of their claim for acceptance and legitimacy. Very plausible arguments are often made.
Conversely, one must note that what has often resulted in governments conceding to the requests of gays and lesbians has not been due to the empirical nature of research conducted and irrefutable scientific evidence, and not even the plausibility of arguments alone. Rather, it appears to be the interplay of rhetoric, politics and economics. It is to a great extent an issue of who wields the power and the authority, and who has the money to influence. I am yet to hear, but would not surprised if people begin to use “Freedom and Justice” as a catchphrase for gay and lesbian activism. I am of the view that a time will come when lesbian and gay activity will find endorsement in the legal and ethical codes of Ghana. Legitimacy, however, does not necessarily mean social acceptance neither does it translate into social acceptance. Furthermore, not everything that a society’s legal codes and statutes hold as legitimate truthfully represents what is right and good.

N.B: References available on request.