STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Society is determined by its norms and values that are expected to be followed by every individual in that society. The dynamism of the current society has led to the emergence of new values and norms (Dennis 2015). Some of the values are widely accepted while others are unaccepted because they are in contrary to what the society advocates for. The contemporary society cannot be compared with many decades ago when the societal values and norms were still regarded important. Homosexuality is one of the new norms that the contemporary society has accommodated although with many objections from different people including religious and policymakers (Dennis 2015). While some people argue that homosexuality is a deviant behavior because it is damaging, proponents claim that there is nothing deviance in getting attracted to the people of the same sex. America is one of the societies that homosexuality has greatly affected and policymakers continue to argue as to whether it should be legalized or not. Meanwhile, when people are still divided on the acceptability and viewpoint of homosexuality, the norm continues to spread in the learning and other social institutions. The increase in support for the same-sex marriage in America can be interpreted differently. However, the common interpretation that everyone can obtain from such incidence is that the American society is increasingly changing their social imagination regarding homosexuality (Clinard and Robert 2015). This paper will examine the sociological perspective of homosexuality. This paper demonstrates that perceiving homosexuals as deviance does more harm than good, and that attempts to criminalize homosexuality is nothing but curtailment of the civil rights.
Homosexuals have consistently received negative views from the general public who think that their sexual orientation is a self-inflicted problem (Mclntosh 1981). Most of the people have always blamed the sexual orientation problem on the victims. Homosexuality has become a media story that conveys sociological messages. The main message that is clearly depicted from these stories includes the accusations and imputations of the wrongdoings that the victims have done (Hart-Brinson 2016). From the sociological perspective, deviant behavior is that action that violates or goes in contrary to the acceptable social norms. The social norms can also include the formally enacted policies or rules such as criminal laws. Sociology provides the platform in which people are able to identify and study how the norms are created, how they change with time, and how they can probably be enforced (Akers 1985). Norms, however, are defined as the rules and expectations that a certain society follows and conventionally guide them. Therefore, deviance as defined above is the absence of conformity to the norms followed in a particular society. In terms of behavior, deviance can be defined as a thought, feeling or action that a particular social group judge to violate their principle values and code of conduct.
For many years homosexuality has been prohibited in the United States and other Western countries (West 1988). However, the dynamism of the society has compelled such societies to accept the homosexuals and other people with sexual orientation problem like the transsexuals and bisexuals. A significant change that marked the new beginning in the way the homosexuals were perceived is the 2012 presidential pronouncement on the same-sex marriage. Former President Obama in May 2012 announced his support of same-sex marriage which has since translated to almost all the states in the United States (Dennis 2015). Other countries that have also accepted same-sex marriage include Canada, Argentina, New Zealand, and Mexico (Dennis 2015: 175). The perception regarding the deviance of homosexuality has changed and people no longer look at it from that perspective. Various sociological theories have been used to explain homosexuality in terms of behavior deviance. For instance, the structural strain theory developed by an American sociologist, Robert Merton explains that deviance is caused by the gap between cultural goals and the means to achieve these goals (Akers 1985). Proponents of this theory argue that the two main components of society ate the social structure and culture. The role of culture is to establish the goals and the social structure provides the means to achieve the goals. However, when the means and the goals are not in balance, deviance is most likely to occur. However, as Dennis contends that the society has changed and it will continue to change (2015). Therefore, people must also accept the changes that occur in the society as they are part of that particular society. The complex nature of the contemporary societies has made it difficult for people accept the changes that come with it.
Homosexuality has been criticized from religious to political institutions who are all arguing that it is a deviant behavior that starts at childbirth (West 1988). The issue of homosexuality still remains a controversial issue among many societies because they believe that such relationships are damaging the societal values and norms. West argues that there has been a confusion that surrounds the concept of sexual orientation (1988). As a result, people are unable to eradicate the misleading ideas that aim at dividing the society into two groups, homosexuals, and heterosexuals. As the structural strain theorists explain, deviance cannot be witnessed in a well-balanced and integrated society. Deviance from a sociological perspective refers to the negative quality as interpreted by the person who condemns it (Goode 2015). Therefore, this does not mean that homosexuals are criminals as having always been perceived. Criminalizing homosexuality is infringing and curtailment of the civil rights that should not be entertained in any society that wants development. Considering homosexuality as deviant behavior can only be applicable in a society where there is one community. However, with the interaction that has been promoted by globalization in todays world, it is impossible to control the behavior of people because of the socialization among people from different cultural backgrounds. America, for instance, is composed of more than 300 million people from different ethnic and cultural diversity. Controlling behaviors and feelings of people in such demographic can be impossible and unrealistic.
Protagonists of homosexuality have argued that causal explanations of sexual orientation that tend to deny the homosexuals the opportunity to make their own choices are an infringement of their rights and attempt to violate their privacy (Dennis 2015). The protagonists have criticized the labeling theory that has been used to promote understanding of homosexuality in terms of deviant and criminal behavior. The labeling theory explains that no act is intrinsically criminal. Proponents of this theory argue that definitions of criminality are designed and established by the people power through the formulation of laws and policies (Akers 1985). Therefore, proponents of labeling theory do not recognize deviance in terms of set characteristics of individuals or a group but as a process of interaction between deviants and non-deviants. Goode, Erich explains that sociology of deviance is a clear demonstration of political processes at work. The author states that the interpretation of a behavior as deviant depends on the person interpreting it, but does not apply to the whole group or society. Therefore, the laws that were enacted to prohibit same-sex marriage did not reflect the societal norms and values but the interpretation of individual people who disliked the same-sex marriage or relationships. The deviance perception of homosexuality was mainly advocated for by the religious persons from the Evangelical Christianity who believed that homosexuality is wrong, sinful, and deviant. Although sociology does not agree or disagree with the judgment but takes note on the argument; thus, the different sociological theories used to explain deviance.
Critics of homosexuality have argued that politics plays a major role in the establishment of societal norms (Mclntosh 1981). The politicians or policymakers have the responsibility to designate what is bad or good and mobilize the political and economic resources to help in enforcing the designation. This may be right to some extent, but not entirely correct or factual as one may think. If that is the case, then how can one explain the poverty and wealth? The question that emerges is that, do the rich deserve to rich or the poor deserve the poverty? Again, if that is the case, then how can one explain the things that no one is held accountable for such as the financial crisis, racism, discrimination, and global warming? Since homosexuality has been identified and categorized as a mental problem, then can the above-highlighted problems be categorized as mentally disordered problems and how can they be treated? The answer to these questions is that these are only perceptions of certain individuals who dislike the behavior. Perceiving homosexuality as a deviant behavior is regarding it as unacceptable, unwanted, and undesirable characteristics. However, this is not the case especially based on the events that have happened in the past recent years. Apart from President Obamas support of the same-sex marriages, various events followed later that showed that society has changed and so should the people in it. For instance, 2014 over 50 countries around the globe participated in the parades and festivals that honored the gay pride (Dennis 2015). Other millions of people who were only spectators also took part in the festival in solidarity with the gay people. Among the countries that participated include Croatia, Mauritius, Nepal, Peru, Cape Verde, and Turkey (Dennis 2015). The learning institutions have also changed their perceptions towards this so called deviant behavior (homosexuality). Today, hundreds of colleges across the globe are offering courses in sexual orientation (LGBT) history and culture. Harvard University is one the learning institutions that have taken a step to ensure that the homosexuals are also welcomed in the society. Harvard University is one of the Universities that have endowed a chair of LGBT studies (Dennis 2015). All these evidence show that homosexuality is achieving equality in the society in various social arenas. It is still a controversial issue because of some people or group especially the religious are unable to accept the truth of the matter that society is changing and so are people. In fact, over 2,000 religious groups in America have come out in public to welcome the LGBT members in their congregation despite the denominational policies. These pieces of evidence are all indications that society has changed and homosexuality should not be perceived as a deviant behavior but as part of the societal norms.
Deviance involves normative violations and has nothing to do with the willful or intentional behavior (Goode 2015). The author further states that deviance may not be even manifested in behavior at all. People who are not morally stigmatized should not be involved in the conceptualization of deviance. What this statement basically means is that people who possess conditions or characteristics that are not their fault should not be vilified for it. It is clearly wrong to blame or stigmatize someone for a condition that he could not control (Hart-Brinson 2016). One cannot compare homosexuality with other deviant behaviors such drug abuse or molestations. Sociologists who emphasize on deviance tend to look at the characteristics that make the be...
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