Exploring the Social Imagination

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Homosexuality ~ Just Born that Way or Socialized?



From the perspective of social imagination, homosexuality is socialized- can a person not be born homosexual; an interpretation of same sex preference based on the works of Symbolic Interactionist - Herber Blumer.

Sociologists today, would likely agree that gender is socially created. This is possible through social interaction, expectations of gender roles. Herbert Blumer, Symbolic Interactionism said "Humans act towards things (including other individuals) on the basis of the meanings they have for them."
This is key to understanding social reality, not just gender and gender roles.  If the idea of 'woman/female' gender is socially created as is the idea of 'man/male', it follows that homosexuality is socially created just as gender is socially created. 

In the social reality, nothing exists that is not socially created. No one is born a homosexual, as no one is born a man or woman which is the general consensus among liberal academia. One might argue that gender is in part socially created along with given at birth definite physical equipment. In this short paper, the discussion is about the socialization of homosexuality supported by the work of Herbert Blumer who advocated that all social actors are they themselves interpreters of social reality; in fact, he went as far as to say that sociologists could provide their interpretation conducting qualitative studies as social scientists trained in social theory and yet having themselves received social information over the years through participation/observation which they have been able to interpret according to their experiences and education through social interaction was valid in arriving at an objective view of social reality. 

Other American sociologists and social psychologists... not just Herbert Blumer, like Charles H. Cooley and George H. Mead (a group which I include myself being a social interactionist), have written in many related ways that social reality is socially created with meaning being the catalyst. They and Herbert Blumer considered meaning to be necessary in the understanding 'social' orientation; sex is residual.
His first premise is that human being acts toward things on the basis of the meanings that the things have for them. The second premise is that the meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, the social interaction that one has with ones immediate caregivers, family and peers. The third premise is that these meanings are handed in by those persons listed, and modified through an interpretative process used by the person on the receiving end used in dealing with the things and persons that he/she encounters in social interaction in a given place (Blumer 1969, pg 2: in Symbolic Interactionism- retrieved from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Herbert_Blumer.aspx).
Accordingly, Blumer emphasizes that individual and collective actions of any scale or complexity reflect the meanings that people assign to things, as these meanings emerge in and are transformed within the context of human group life; this applies to both the message sender (informer) and receiver. Blumer synthesized the pragmatist philosophy of George Herbert Mead (18631931) with Charles Horton Cooleys (18641929) notion of sympathetic introspection, particularly as it informs contemporary ethnography, to develop a sociologically focused approach to the study of human lived experience... (http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Herbert_Blumer.aspx).

For some Blumer appeared in opposition to behaviorist, structuralist, and positivist views that have dominated the social sciences; however, for me, Blumer was only able to champion being an interpretivist (like myself) when examining social life because he was already a keen behaviorist and structuralist and positivist.
Blumer contended that theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of human behavior must recognize human beings as thinking, acting, and interacting entities and must, therefore, employ concepts that authentically represent the humanly known, socially created, and experienced world (http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Herbert_Blumer.aspx).
How then would Blumer’s work help to understand homosexual behavior. The homosexual or person with homosexual behavioral tendencies being interpreted here standing on the shoulders of Blumer an interpretivist sociologist/social psychologist arises out of social relationships just as does gender identity. We can look at Blumer’s first and second premise to start and follow that more strictly using his third premise.  In that case, let us just look at this behavior through the third premise. 
The third premise is that these meanings are handed in by those persons listed, and modified through an interpretative process used by the person on the receiving end used in dealing with the things and persons that he/she encounters in social interaction in a given place http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Herbert_Blumer.aspx.)
 
Given Blumer’s third premise, whereby meaning is essential for social interaction to be experienced I would add to that meanings come out of social interaction, the exchange of information and its internalization causes social outcomes, residues and fixtures which we adhere especially when they appear to be normal or are taught to be normal. In meaning, we too find expectations... we acquire information through meaningful exchange, we retain that which is most meaningful to us as interpreted as normal and useful in social interaction. We come to expect that such meaningful information will continue to be useful, or a given as it is experienced over and over. If we did not expect anything from anyone as in expecting information to be exchanged, we would not interact. We cannot have meaning without expectations and visa versa. In fact, meaning is so important to us and is the desire to share and even control  meaning.  We want to 'own' meaning in the sense that it belongs to us and we expect that to continue; our 'choice' for sexuality is also about owning meaning.
 
Let us take that into consideration and Blumer's third premise toward an understanding of the socialization of homosexuality. In the very early stages of the socialization process; in fact, the first encounter that a person (as an infant) has with immediate caregivers is the most critical in the socialization process. It is certainly most critical on the mother’s part as she is the one who carries the child and gives birth. The infant, as studies show, is already in communication with the mother before birth, receiving information about the social world that it is about to enter. Therefore, the mother is handing in information. Since, at this stage the infant is not yet able to interpret, not yet fully interactional with social reality, only with the mother, then that information gets deeply embedded as a default mode program. 
Therefore, if we think about and interpret social reality as exchanged information with meaning and its transference, we can through the eyes of Blumer better understand how gender is socially created as well as homosexual behavior. It is thus and cannot be present before birth, so a child is not born homosexual. This statement is made basing the work of Blumer and on the social psychological message that mother sends as meaningful information to the child, information that contains the idea of two parents- regardless of sexual preference, in a two parent relationship, it has been observed that one partner takes on the feminine character while the other- masculine. Even in the situation of lesbian couples that are pregnant, the mother (the one mutually selected to carry is imparting this information naturally - two parents with one as 'mother and the other as father') this reasonable interpretation applies to heterosexual couples as well. So, now the question, why homosexuality from either homosexual or heterosexual parents? Homosexuality appears due to the dysfunctional expectations of persons engaged in social relationship; in this case, between parents.
What does that mean? Again, meaning is to be expected and it is transferred. So, what does this mean ... the above paragraph? It means this. Even in our post modern society/culture, people still come together, those who seek marriage (we see in the US the debates and civil rights movements for gay/lesbian marriage) and children with certain expectations (both homosexual and heterosexual) about their spouse and their yet to be born children. Each parent naturally hopes to have a child like them, the same sex, looks, talents; a clone so to speak. This gives the parent a sense of security and immortality; an idea which stems from the work of social psychologist Alfred Schutz; especially, in his work regarding the fundamental anxiety or fear of death. 
A parent wishes for a same sex child following the above reasoning. If the same sex child is not produced, then the parent will likely socialize the child to be like him or her and here is where homosexuality begins but it is embedded in this way. We can argue that most parents, regardless of the sex of the child will naturally socialize the child to be like him or her in regard to world view and even to encourage the same talents. We can recognize that even primitive cultures engage in this kind of socialization of their children.
This information has not yet actually told us about homosexuality. Let us remind ourselves that mother is the first to impart social knowledge ‘information’ before birth and she imparts the knowledge that there are two people who caused this child to be (even if she imagines some other kind of entity, including one that is not seen as in imagined). Until we have a physical ability to reproduce without a partner, we will not and cannot impart any other information than it takes two. 
Given that the infant has this two parent info, the child begins his/her life carrying that information and using it as the first basis of his/her interpretation which Blumer talked about. Again, we can and should ask why homosexuality? Let us remind ourselves again of Blumer’s third premise. 
The third premise is that these meanings are handed in by those persons listed, and modified through an interpretative process used by the person on the receiving end used in dealing with the things and persons that he/she encounters in social interaction in a given place.
 
If the handing in of information by immediate caregivers namely mother as the first in order, is subject to corruption of role as in corrupted information which contains gaps in meaning of role and corrupted in terms of loss of secure information (father/mother as a partner exhibiting and or transferring information that they are not capable of fulfilling their role and or to put it loosely 'not in it for the long haul )and or that that once thought secure information is now known to be unstable and non-reproducible, then the child will be socialized with that information and recognize this loss or lack of secure information; thus, likely inclined to  mimic either parent’s sexuality which is thought to be a means to redeem insecure information.
There are other social dynamics that come into play as well. It could be that the information given by the mother initially was slightly corrupt or perhaps not. What then? As mentioned, in social relationships, expectations are important for healthy social relationships. We have to be able to expect that when we call the fireman, he or she will show up to put out the fire. Hence, in a family situation where roles have been positioned with one parenting doing this and the other that, those roles and positions come to be expected so that the family remains functional and stable. 
Since we are talking namely about homosexuality, then we will move forward discussing this social phenomenon by looking at birth order in context of expectations by parents. We can interpret the phenomenon of homosexuality when expectations in the parents mind are not met. In my observations, one can observe this interesting pattern develop due to expectations with the appearance of homosexuality in a child. In the case of seemingly stable parents of the opposite sex or even the same sex, the same process applies; we can notice the first child is the ‘love’ child. In this instance, parents expect only child. Because of that, the parent’s first child has special status simply because it is the first and regardless of sex, they embrace it.  They love it for being the first born. Even if mother wanted a girl and got a boy or father wanted a boy and got a girl. This applies also to homosexual couples; one will hope for a boy and the other a girl. The instance of both hoping for the same is so low that there is no need to consider that instance. 
Now, when the second child is expected to be born, there is often the hope that it will be of the opposite sex, opposite sex to the first born. Let us look at father or the partner who wanted a boy; a child that expresses the person’s inner nature – masculine.  If that second child is again the sex of the mother ‘female’ or the sex that the first born was, disappointment can be projected. Especially in the case of the male which tends to be the dominate character in social relationships, this includes females that feel more masculine, they will impose that character more than a feminine character.  
We can imagine that more often than not males ‘father’s, especially want a son and even more so if the first born was not a male child. Mothers want a daughter and especially if the first child was a boy. As one can witness and interpret, expectations such as these that can develop in the second child a tendency to homosexual behavior.A father would like to have a son, and gets a second daughter. In this case, he is likely to socialize the second daughter as a male causing her to associate herself sexually as a male which produces the masculine lesbian. In the case of a second son, the mother will likely socialize a ‘male’ as she is likely to be outnumbered by the strong male line appearing.  However, if  the mother/female has deliverer all males up to the last baby which also is male, she will likely socialize that boy as female as expectations for a daughter appear lost. Hence, the last boy regardless of the number of brothers will be more feminine and likely a feminized homosexual male.  The other instance of daughter socialization happens when a son/male is born between girls; his life as is his father's is dominated by the female gendered person.
There is also the instance when there is a grave lack of parental expectations whatsoever between spouses; leaving the mother (selected mother parent) to feel abandoned, alone and thus the only information provider. In that case, even in a two parent situation, if the mother feels somehow alone and or her situation in jeopardy, she will likely socialize a daughter no matter what the birth order and even in the case of first born, to be a male.In the case of when the male is not happy with his wife, the male ‘father’ will socialize the girl into the woman he lacks and needs. How does this produce homosexual female? In this case, it arises out of sexually abuse of the female child which can lead the daughter toward masculine lesbianism having been sexually abused by the father as she tries to overcome or redeem the father. 
When it comes to single parents, women as single mothers are more likely to do both - socialize feminine and masculine gender roles depending on the lack of meaning and expectation (which is understood as corruption of information); and thus, filling in the need for non corrupt information the child will be socialized accordingly. However, males as single parents (imagining heterosexual or homosexual as allowed by Blumer and even Cooley) are likely to socialize their daughter into the woman that their mother was and a male child into the male that their father was; which is interesting, because this appears as the normal pattern for the male as the father and especially the father in a two parent relationship. 

Given the suggested difference between males and females as single parents, it may suggests that women ‘females’ who are able to socialize both happens because gendered females are more sensitive to corrupt social information; and especially corrupt information in the situation when they feel alone in their situation. Altogether, we have to be mindful that the female carries the baby, she is the vulnerable condition and expects to be cared for as such expectation has meaning for her and the child and for the child's sexuality.
It was hoped that this interpretative view, through the eyes of Blumer would shed some interesting light on understanding the idea of gender and homosexual socialization. From the point of view of the Christian and the sociologist, meanings and expectations function together toward role fulfillment which matter greatly regarding family stability- whether same sex parents or not. Read the Bible, family roles and their expectations have already been written down, we have already been instructed. See 1 Cor 7


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