Concerns and Issues for Homosexuals
Although most medical professionals recognize homosexuality as a normal variant in human sexuality and agree that it is not a physical or mental disorder, homosexuals are at increased risk for several medical conditions, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
HIV/AIDS is a serious health concern in homosexuals, especially for men who have sex with men. The following factors increase the risk for HIV infection:
- Having numerous sexual partners
- Having a sexually transmitted disease or infection
- Having a sexual partner with HIV
- Not practicing safer sex
- Using intravenous drugs
- Having a sexual partner who uses intravenous drugs
- Sharing intravenous needles
Homosexuals also have a higher risk for anxiety, depression, chronic stress, and sleep disorders, as well as certain types of cancer. Gay men who are younger than 30 years of age are at increased risk for serious psychiatric disorders (e.g., depression, general anxiety disorder), including suicidal behavior.
Although much has been learned about homosexuality in recent years, it remains a complex, controversial subject that often is misunderstood. Homosexuals continue to be the target of prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance within many religions, cultures, and societies.
Persecution that is directed toward people because of their sexual orientation is called homophobia. This persecution ranges from social stigma and alienation to hate crimes.
Several organizations are working to improve legal rights for homosexuals. Current issues include health insurance benefits for homosexual partners and children of gay unions, anti-discrimination laws, and legalizing civil unions and same-sex marriage.
Same-sex relationships are as varied and diverse as heterosexual relationships and homosexual couples have many of the same concerns as heterosexual couples. Like heterosexual relationships, same-sex relationships can be deeply committed and lifelong, or casual and short-term. Homosexual relationships may be formalized through religious or secular ceremonies.
As of November 2008, Massachusetts and Connecticut are the only U.S. states where gay marriage is legal. Rhode Island is the only state to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Civil unions (contracts that are recognized by the government and provide spousal rights and federal benefits to same-sex couples) are recognized in Vermont, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. Other states that provide some level of spousal rights to same-sex couples include California, Oregon, Maine, Hawaii, Washington, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
Many people who are homosexual have the same desire to be parents as people who are heterosexual. Adoption, in vitro fertilization (artificial insemination), and surrogacy are options for homosexuals who wish to have children. Recent studies have shown that homosexuals (as couples or individuals) are as capable as heterosexuals of providing happy, healthy, home environments for themselves and for their children.