Academic journal article Childhood Education

What Heterosexual Teachers Need to Know about Homosexuality

Academic journal article Childhood Education

What Heterosexual Teachers Need to Know about Homosexuality

Article excerpt

The classroom must be a place where all children are treated with dignity and respect. One way teachers can develop this environment is by working to eliminate homophobia from their classrooms. Estimates indicate that approximately 10 percent of the children in our classes will grow up to be gay or lesbian adults (Corbett, 1993). Therefore, it is important for teachers to know the facts rather than the myths about homosexuality.

Is Homosexuality Learned

or Innate? A number of studies suggest a possible genetic basis for homosexual behavior. It is very difficult, however, to conclusively establish genetic origins for any human behavior, and the study of homosexuality presents some unique problems (McGuire, 1995). Determining who does and does not exhibit these traits is a major issue of concern in homosexuality studies. When classifying someone as gay, researchers must decide whether to rely on the frequency of homosexual behavior, the age at which it began or the presence of homoerotic fantasies. The problem is made more difficult because many people are reluctant to admit their sexual orientation (Billings & Beckwith, 1993).

Research on the biological basis of homosexuality has focused on four areas: structural measurements of the brain, genetic patterns, familial trends and anatomical similarities. In a brain study, LeVay and Hamer (1994) reported that a structure within the human brain points to a biological component for male homosexuality. LeVay examined a portion of the brain's hypothalamus in autopsy specimens from 19 homosexual and 16 heterosexual men, and 6 women of unknown sexual orientation. The investigators found that the region studied was twice as large in heterosexual men as in women and two or three times larger in heterosexual men than it was in gay men.

Byne (1994), however, argues that LeVay's sample is problematic because all the men died of AIDS-related illnesses and the brain differences may have actually been associated with hormonal abnormalities associated with AIDS. In addition, Byne argues, these studies are difficult to perform and hard to replicate.

Other research findings suggest that a region of the X sexual chromosome may play a role in determining male sexual orientation (Hamer, Hu, Magnuson, Hu & Pattatucci, 1993; Hu, Pattatucci & Hamer, 1995; LeVay & Hamer, 1994). Investigators reported that 33 out of 40 pairs of homosexual brothers shared the same q28 markers on their X chromosomes. Byne (1994) criticized this study, noting that it only covered a narrow sample of homosexual men without looking at their heterosexual brothers. Cherny presented a study, however, that not only replicated these findings in a new sample of 33 pairs of homosexuals, but further found that the Xq28 marker was not shared by their heterosexual brothers (Holden, 1995). Turner (1995) surmises that the maternal influence so often related to homosexuality may lie in the mother being a genetic carrier, and offers the hypothesis that homosexuality is caused by a gene at Xq28.

Twin and family studies are based on the principle that genetically influenced traits run in families. Bailey and Bell (1993) examined data from a large cohort of homosexual and heterosexual males, including identical and fraternal twins, non-twin siblings and adopted siblings. Their results indicated that 52 percent of identical twins were both gay, compared with 24 percent of the fraternal twins. Since identical twins share 100 percent of their genes and fraternal twins around 50 percent, these results suggest a biologic component to homosexuality. Bailey and Bell further found, however, that in non-twin brothers (who also share around 50 percent of their genes), only 9 percent were both gay. In addition, of adoptive brothers (who do not share any genes), 11 percent were both homosexual. Bailey and Bell believe that this is a much higher rate of homosexuality than the 1 to 5 percent rate of the population usually reported, suggesting that something in the environment plays a role in sexual preference. …

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