Homosexuality is a sexual orientation. A homosexual person is romantically or sexually attracted to people of their own gender. Men who are romantically or sexually attracted to other men are called gay. Women who are romantically or sexually attracted to other women can be called gay as well, but are usually called lesbians. People who are romantically or sexually attracted to men and women are called bisexual.
Other titles for homosexuality
Homosexuality is the term used for people that feel romantically or sexually attracted to their own sex, but other definitions also exist. When one views homosexuality as the term for people that feel romantically or sexually attracted to their own sex, more people are gay than when one might view homosexuality as only a term for people who do have sexual relationships with their own sex. Usually, the term is used to view all the people who are romantically or sexually attracted to their own sex, as well as those with such attractions who have not had a sexual relationship with their own sex yet. Nonetheless, the most visible form of homosexuality is the actual relationship. Most 'evidence' of homosexuality in ancient cultures comes from drawings of the men in an intimate relationship or sex, because it's the most obvious.
The word homosexual comes from the Ancient Greek word homo, meaning "same", and the Latin word for "gender". Homosexuals usually say "gay" instead of "homosexual." Some people also use the term homophile (from Greek όμος ("homos", meaning the same) and φιλεῖν ("philein"; meaning to love). This term emphasizes romantic interest in the same sex, rather than sexual attraction.
There are many different words to describe homosexual people. Some of these are used to insult homosexual people. However, homosexuals sometimes use these words to describe themselves because the word "homosexual" can sound too clinical. This is done to make the words less hurtful. Some words to describe homosexual men are gay and queer. Words to describe homosexual women are lesbian and dyke. Lesbian is used most often. Dyke is used less often and is sometimes used to describe lesbians who are more masculine (act or dress more like men). However, "queer" and "dyke" are sometimes used against gay people as insults, so they can sometimes be offensive.
When homosexual people keep their sexual orientation a secret, they are said to be "in the closet". "Out" or "out of the closet" is a slang term that means a homosexual person is open about their sexual orientation. This means they do not hide the fact that they are homosexual. Some gay and lesbian people stay in the closet because of fear of what would happen or because they live in a place that is not safe for homosexuals.
Sometimes people who are 'out' also say they are 'proud'. "Out" means they are not hiding their sexual orientation. "Proud" means that they are pleased about it. "Proud" or "Pride" has a special meaning to homosexuals. It means they are celebrating and being happy that they are homosexual. It is not 'pride' meaning that they have done something to be proud of, but 'pride' meaning the opposite of shame. Many cities have "Pride Parades". These used to be protest marches. Today, they are celebrations of homosexuality. They usually occur in June, in memory of the 'Stonewall Riots' that happened in New York City in 1969. These riots happened because police harassed and arrested people for being homosexual. 'Stonewall' or the 'Stonewall Riots' are sometimes called the start of the homosexual rights movement.
The causes of homosexuality and bisexuality are controversial (people do not agree on them). Some people see homosexuality and bisexuality as a choice that a person makes. Some believe that homosexuality is not a choice. The causes of homosexuality are not all understood, but genetics and the effects of prenatal hormones (when a baby is growing in his or her mother) and environment are sometimes thought to be causes. Some people believe relationships with parents during childhood can have an effect.
Some doctors believe homosexuality is a mental illness. There are some groups who try to cure homosexuality. Some of these groups are religious and some are not. This is sometimes called "conversion therapy," especially by those who believe it is a harmful practice. In therapies like this, homosexual individuals have tried to change themselves to heterosexual, and some have said they were changed. However, some people believe such a change isn't possible. Conversion therapy, also called "reparative therapy" by proponents of the therapy, aims to change sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.
Gay people can have lifelong relationships. In most countries, they cannot legally marry their partners. However, they still have relationships in analogous way to heterosexual people. They often call each other 'partners' or 'life-partners' instead of 'spouse', 'husband', or 'wife.' Instead of having a marriage ceremony, they may have a 'commitment ceremony.'
But to them, the important part about marriage is not just the name. Married people get many benefits from being married. Depending on the country, these benefits can include paying less taxes, getting their spouse's insurance, inheriting property, social security benefits, having or adopting children together, emigrating to a spouse's country, being able to make choices for a sick spouse, or even being allowed to visit a sick spouse who is in a hospital.
Today there are numerous countries that allow homosexual people to marry, including: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Uruguay, the United States and Wales. The Netherlands was first in 2001. It is also legal in six Native American tribes.
Instead of marriage, some countries or states offer homosexuals civil unions or domestic partnerships. This gives them some of the protections and benefits of marriage, but not all. Civil unions and domestic partnerships are sometimes seen by homosexuals as being 'second class' (not as good as 'first class'). They do offer some benefits for gay and lesbian couples, but they also suggest that these couples are not as valid as heterosexual couples.
Many religions teach that homosexual sex is a sin. Such religions traditionally include Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Usually, it is only the act of sexual intercourse that is considered sinful and not natural. Not all believe the attraction, is sinful, just the actions in response to the desire.
However, some denominations (different parts) of these religions and some eastern religions now accept homosexuality. There are several other religions that are accepting of homosexuality, particularly new religions. There are also some religions which are indifferent to homosexuality, such as Zoroastrianism and Jainism.
In many countries, homosexuals are discriminated against. A homosexual person can be fired from a job because they are gay. Homosexuals can be denied renting a home or being able to eat in a restaurant because of their sexual preference.
In some countries, homosexuals can experience violence. For example, Islamic law is used in some places to kill homosexuals or place them in jail. Some groups believe over 4,000 homosexuals have been killed in Iran since 1979 because of their sexual orientation. In 2005, after fourteen months of prison and torture, two teenage boys were hanged in Iran for homosexuality.
In most of the world, homosexuals do not have the same rights that heterosexuals have.
There are national and international groups or organizations about homosexuals. These organizations are often political.
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