Homosexuality and Coming Out of the Closet


My topic takes a close look into the origin of "the Closet" and history of homosexuality. First I'll discuss the different, changing ideologies of homosexuality in pagan Greece and Rome, then move on to the Christian Middle Ages. The second part of my paper will be the changing psychological aspect of homosexuality as a mental disorder. The last part is the main discussion of my paper: coming out of the closet. I'll discuss how, when, and where the terms "outing" and "the closet" came about and how they evolved through time. I have also gathered various experiences and points of view of coming out from gay men and lesbians in a range of situations. For example, coming out in the workplace. Not only will I share what its like for the individual coming out of the closet, but also the effects on the rest of society.




I Changing Ideology of the Early History
Begining in the late seventh century, the Greeks encouraged the practice of pederasty: men in their early 20's would take a boy around 12 years of age as their lover until he was ready to marry by the age of 30. The boy would then take a lover of his own. The Greeks reason for this practice was to "curb over-population and refine the initiation and instruction of the young." (Outing, 33). Any boy who did not attract a lover by 12 years, and any man who didn't marry by 30 were considered a failure. Although Plato never took on a boy lover himself, "Plato averred that what distinguished Greeks from barbarians was nude gymnastics, philosophy, and pederasty." (Outing, 33). For the Greeks, paiderasteia was a fundamental institution of male society and attribute of gods and heroes.
The Romans did not outlaw this practice, but they did not institutionalize it either. They much more centered around family and patriarchal mos maiorum (ancestral customs). However, the Romans tolerated male prostitution and homosexual activity between master and slaves. The Greeks and Romans may have had different views about pederasty, but they did have several forms of homosexuality that were outlawed. Any practice involving force, intimidation, or selling the body of a youth was not allowed. Even oral-genital relations was so frowned upon that those who had a reputation for indulgance were socially ostracized. The pagan view of non-reproductive eroticism, whether the preferrence was between male or female made no difference, and was considered as a matter of taste.
When Christianity emerged in the late 13th century, the Christian moral theology condemned "sodomia ratione sexus" as a "crime against nature". This moral code limited sexual expression to heterosexual marriage for the purpose of procreation; a necessary evil. Homosexuality was seen as unnecessary, unjustifiable, and death-worthy. "Mosiac Law prescribed death for lying with another male... it stipulated that "their blood is upon them, "which meant that the perpetrators were to die unavenged: executing them entailed no guilt or pollution." (Duberman, 542). This crucial shift from toleration to intoleration underlies the conflict that remains unresolved to this day.

II The Changing Psychological Aspect of Homosexuality as a Mental Disorder
The status of homosexuals has long been debated by psychologists, particularly during the early 1970's. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) members were split when deciding the overall mental health of gay men and lesbians. Many psychoanalysts were adament that homosexuals were mentally ill and required treatment. They believed "only psychoanalysts could save the homosexual from himself...from a life of loneliness, depression, and ultimately suicide." (A Queer World, 360). Obviously they were against the removal of homosexuality from the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Mannual as a mental disorder. By doing so, one of the many repercussions would be the discrediting of psychiatrists. "Many memebers of [the AP], in particular psychoanalytically ortiented psychiatrics, had built their reputations on "curing" homosexuals, and an affirmative action by the board would have been a slap in their professional tales. It would also have an economic effect on the psychoanalsts, since many gay men would no long feel justified in going to them for treatment. (A Queer Would, 361). Thankfully, a majority of the APA were sympathetic to the discrimination against homosexuals and officially decided on December 15th, 1973 to remove homosexuality as a mental disorder from the DSM II. Instead, they decided on a comprimise: only
those who sought treatment because they felt that their homosexuality was diminishing their quality of life would be considered as mentally ill. This distinction allowed for the beginning change toward tolerance of homosexual people.

III Coming Out of the Closet

The origins of the definitions for "the closet" and "outing" have an interesting way of changing through time. Today almost everyone is aware of their modern meanings. Old habits die hard, and of course there are going to be groups of people whom will never accept the concept of homosexuality. Especially the conseravative and old-fashion parents, or friends. This makes homosexuals to come out of the closet a delicate and challenging situation. This is why homosexuals have to live in a secretive and hidden from the people they love. Fortunately, society is becoming more accepting towards homosexuals, especially when people like actors, muscisians, writers, and even characters in movies and books. You even notice in television shows that gay couples are percieved in a respectable way. You see that some of the characters even have trouble coming out of the closet, like homosexuals in real life. Eventually, the characters are accepted and earn respect and some of their loved ones either accept it or completely refuse the idea and stay in the state of denial. This is why homosexuals find it extremely hard to come out to their loved ones. Sometimes to people to you just meet, but once you get to know them, you can catch on to see if they care or not. Coming out of the closet is a huge event for a homosexual. It's not something that someone can convince you to do it. They have to do it when they're ready to do it themselves, otherwise it can end up in a very painful event.