Science in Christian Perspective






From: JASA 16 (December 1964): 112-114.

In this timely article are examined several of the more prominent theories which attempt to explain the etiology of homosexuality. It underscores the, inadequacy of the somatogenic theories, i.e., those finding causes primarily in physiological or genetic factors, as well as those theories purporting to find some single cause for the condition. It prefers those psychogenic theories which ascribe the origin of homosexuality to the failure to accomplish certain critical learnings during the several phases of development. On this basis it is maintained that homosexuality should be seen as a symptom and not a cause, in particular a symptom which arises from a considerable narcissistic framework.

There are few topics which, when up for discussion, create more heat and scorn and less light than that of homosexuality (sexual inversion). The naivete, unconcern and rejection of the general public is astounding, and little does it realize that there are thousands of men and women in society who spend much time and energy in combating or fulfilling such deviant sexual behavior-energy which would be of great value if used in socially constructive channels. However, it is not our direct purpose to attempt a reform of the inadequacies of society by exhortation, but, rather, to make explicit the origins of this sexual orientation. It must be kept in mind that the vast number of

* James W. Hawkins was graduated from Hope College, Holl land, Michigan summa cum laude in June 1964. Article sent by contributing editor Lars Granberg.

statements are theories of causation and do not represent studies of proof1.. In any case a general pattern can be discerned and most theories fall under either a somatogenic or psychogenic classification. Those in the latter group are further subdivided into theories which blame society, those which base the cause on one particular experience or stage of life, and those which look for the genesis in a series of developmental crises.

The first school of theory with which we shall deal is that of the somatogenic bias. One group says that sexual inversion is genetically determined and studies of siblings and fraternal twins are cited as evidence. Similarity of some homosexuals to feminine body types is given as further proof and an intersexual type has been hypothesized. However, none of these theories take into account the great diversity of body types and temperaments among the sexually inverted. Nor do they adequately meet the criticism that perhaps similar home environments among siblings could lead to the same deviation.

Another branch of the somatogenic theory is that which regards endocrinological factors as decisive that is, there is an androgen-estrogen imbalance. Some studies seem to support this but counter research has shown that endocrine injection treatment rarely helps the condition nor does castration change one into an homosexual. The idea that this deviation is a disease caused by excessive masturbation, somatic disease in the parents, a female soul in a male body, or a female brain with male sex organs is also discredited and thus we must look beyond the somatogenic hypothesis.

And so we turn to the psychogenic alternative as an explanation and the following statement by Edrita Fried seems an adequate introduction:

Homosexuality is a human rather than primarily sexual disorder. It is the outgrowth of failings in human relationships. A childlike self-image is responsible as much as are physiological and specifically sexual desires that have remained arrested or apRear in imbalance. If attention is directed primarily to the emotional and mental problems of the homosexual and the homosexuality is regarded as a symptom that will disappear after the personality has been put on a sounder basis, it is possible to achieve a good percentage of cures. 2

This distinction that the homosexuality is a symptom and not a cause, giving rise to the idea that deeper
neurotic problems exist, is an important one and is held by most theorists who subscribe to the psychogenic view.

This stream of thought states that homosexuality is acquired and we may well ask, "Acquired from whom?" The first answer which we found was: "society at large." Primary in this group is Robert Lindner who states that homosexuality is "a pattern of sex orientation adopted by certain individuals as their solution to the conflict between the urgency of the sexual instincts and their repressive efforts brought to bear upon sexual expression by the reigning sex morality."3 To him, homosexuality represents a rebellion, a refusal or inability to conform to a fundamentally "antibiological" sex morality. Others feel that men are driven to seek male company because of the threat which the aggressive American female represents.4 Puritanical morals, unrealistic ideals of manliness (which cause a fear of failure and hence a flight from achieving maleness), faulty sex education as well as seduction experiences may be blamed. The real criticism of this thesis is: why aren't the majority of men "converted" to homosexuality? On the validity of this question we must turn elsewhere.

Again: "from whom is a homosexual orientation acquired?" Our answer now: "from parents, especially
mama." In this context we shall first take a look at the Freudian model.  From psychoanalytic research,
Freud theorized that the mechanism involved was as follows: during childhood the boy has a short but
intense fixation to women, usually his mother. If she is particularly over-involved in the child's life, he
may identify with her. At first he may take himself as the love object, but soon the child looks for a man
who resembles himself whom he may love as his mother loved him. This compulsive longing for men
and ceaseless flight from women is the mechanism repeated throughout the invert's entire life. After puberty other factors such as social isolation, lack of one parent or frustration of the heterosexual aim may further the deviation. In any case, the Oedipal period is not resolved and the boy sees himself as a substitute for the mother or the father is converted into a female as the object of the boy's sexuality.5 Where father remains a male, we may postulate a somewhat passive but dominating mother and an aggressive and demanding father, In the other case, father may be passive and retiring, while mother is aggressive and demanding. From this brief summary of Freudian thought we can see that this is thought of as basically a problem of faulty identification with parents of both sexes.6

Many other theorists substantially agree with Freud that identification with the mother due to an over possessive love may be the nuclear process. They have shown that an aggressive, overprotective, seductive mother coupled with the lack of a father creates optimum conditions for inversion; however, it must be remembered that this is not a necessary result.6 Morse states that alienation from the mother because of her failure in some area vital to the child accompanied by an extremely strong association with the father may be a causative factor in that the son develops such a strong attachment that he transfers his developing sex impulse and attachment to other men like his father.7 In all the cases above we see that inversion is a "product of distorted emotions associated with a parent."8

Other parental attitudes may also lead to a sexually deviant object choice. If the parents were disappointed in the sex of the child or are disappointed in their own sex roles as well as experiencing poor martial relations, proper conditions for inversion may be created. Parents who tie strong moral and ethical ideas to the sex drive, instill the idea that heterosexual contacts are dirty or painful, and create fear of the loss of parental affection as punishment for infantile sexuality or masturbation may lead to inhibitions and a renunciation of the appropriate sex role. Parental ridicule of a child's sex role or injection of the idea that maleness equals badness puts great negative loading on the heterosexual role. Great overemphasis on manliness in which a man is to be completely dominant, aggressive and never gives in or shows emotion (the homosexual is considered more manly because he doesn't give into a woman9) in addition to extraordinary weighting on the acquiring of success may cause further inhibitions in the sexual realm and generate a lack of confidence and drop in self esteem. Failure is equated with femaleness and Ovesey has postulated this equation: "I am a failure = I am castrated = I am not a man ~ I am a woman = I am a homosexual."10

Closely associated with the child-parental relationship and yet somewhat more of a developmental problem is that of the narcissism mechanism. Edrita Fried spends a great deal of time explaining this particular phenomenon and describes homosexuals as "victims of their own narcissistic confinement. "11 She cites the two stages of narcissistic development. The first stage directly follows birth in which time the child is in relative isolation and has all his wants cared for. If not outgrown, the person wants his environment to "reiterate but not to react" to him and he can relate best to another person or group that is as nearly like him as possible, a "re-edition" of himself.12 In the second stage of narcissistic leaning the child achieves awareness of others but tries hard to make himself lovable. In a real sense he is bound to or dependent upon the approval of others and tries to get love from others like him because he considers himself as basically lovable and can love only those like him.13 Dr. Fried emphasizes the unrealistic self sense -feelings of being a child-along with the unrealistic body image of inverts. The person cannot tolerate dissimilarities in other people as they don't have the capacity to perceive and enjoy in others that which is different from themselves. When disharmonies do occur, he reacts violently and anxiety is the result. The invert may put on a show of bravado and an external facade of arrogance and ingratiating manners in order to get along with members of the opposite sex but basically there is much anxiety and tension present. Homosexuality is seen as a problem solving technique-to overcome the tension and anxiety created by normal sexual encounters, to cope with the lack of emotional and mental strength.

Other theories of H. Cleckley as well as of M. Boss center on the phenomenon of love and are much less precise as are our final set of theories which do not explicitly blame one factor for the cause of inversion but look to a cluster of factors which through different stages in development create an appropriate environment out of which a deviant form of sexual behavior may arise. Sullivan emphasizes the factor of social interaction. In the preadolescent period or time of intimacy, he has found that inverts usually had been in the "out group"; due to high intelligence, disasters of maturity timing (too early or too late-perhaps due to endocrine factors) this youngster participated very little in activities with his peers and the greatly needed intimacy of this chum age was not realized. When he does need a chum, the youth may then form a relationship with a person who is much younger or with an adolescent person and this can lead to serious personality risk. In the adolescent period the occasional youth may turn inward to his reverie due to some inability to socialize with others (fear, physical unattractiveness, geographical isolation) and may never outgrow or change the preadolescent direction of the need for intimacy-maturation of lust dynamism but no change in object. Through reverie processes, excessive masturbation, pseudohetero-sexual practices he handles his genital drive.14

Erik Erikson's theory agrees in many respects with Sullivan in that he too has growth divided into several stages or critical learnings in the development of the mature self. When a person fails to acquire this key attitude, progress is slowed or halted, the life space is narrowed, and seeds of behavior disorder begin to germinate-including deviant sexual behavior. The child moves through the stage of trust versus mistrust to that of autonomy versus dependence. If autonomy is denied, the child may turn inward in order to manipulate his environment and seeds for isolation are planted. The third stage (initiative versus guilt) has its dangers due to the fact that a sense of guilt may be associated with finding out what kind of a person he is-impulses and identifications. If unsuccessful in the fourth stage (industry versus inferiority), the ego suffers, he may abandon hope of achievement *in certain areas and is lead into isolation and inability to identify with others-especially the fierce normal identification with members of the same sex which begins the role determination. During the fifth stage (identity versus role diffusion) physical and genital maturity is reached and role diffusion, especially strong doubts as to one's sexual identity and a differentiation made between sex and the rest of the personality, is ground for important deviations in behavior patterns. If the need for intimacy with the members of the same sex is postponed until the time when strong sex needs are especially prevalent, identification of the love sense and sex feelings can be made synonymous and homosexuality can result. In the sixth stage when intimacy and isolation are even more acute, there is a great call for ego and body mastery in order to face fear of ego loss in situations which call for self abandon (close friendships, orgasm, etc.). Where there is not sufficient strength to meet these, especially in heterosexual channels, one may remain continually with "the boys" and develop strong homosexual inclinations.15 In both Sullivan and Erikson all these factors and stages contribute to final deviant sexual behavior. A good deal of latitude is allowed and we must remember that each person should be treated as an individual and seldom is one factor alone to blame for his particular problem. This is what these last theories have to offer us-a more realistic approach in light of the basic individuality of each person.

We much prefer the latter, more dynamic view of the etiology of sexual inversion but much research needs to be done in order to know where truth really resides. The problem is a pressing one due to the number of people bothered by this particular pathology and society can ill afford to allow them to tie up so much of their time and talent in coping with such a life pattern. The need for a climate in which research on homosexuality can be carried out and in which young people dare seek help while still young and thus better their chances for recovery is, indeed, urgent.


1. Duvall, EX. and S.M. ed., Sex Ways in Fact and Faith, (New York, 1961), p. 168.

2. Fried, Edrita, On Love and Sexuality, (New York, 1960), p. 99.

3. Lindner, Robert, Must You Conform, (New York, 1961), p .40. 

4. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, (London, 1962), pp. 144-147.

5. Chang, J. and Block, J., "A Study of Identification in Male Homosexuals," Journal of Consulting Psychology, 24: 307.

6. Bychowskl, G., "The Ego and the Introjects," The Psycho. analytic Quarterly, 25:23, 1956.

7. Morse, Benjamin, The Homosexual, (Derby, Conn., 1962), p. 13.

8. Thorpe, Louis P, Child Psychology and Development, (New York, 1962), p. 308.

9. Morse, op. cit, p. 2D.

10. Ovesey, Lionel, "The Homosexual Conflict", Psychiatry, 17:246.

11. Fried, op. cit., p. 100. 12. Ibid., p. 72. 13. Ibid., p. 74. 14. Sullivan, H. S, The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry, (New York, 1953), pp. 254-270.

15. Erikson, E. H., Childhood and Society, (New York, 1950), pp. 217-=9.


* Books of Special Interest

Ausubel, D. P. Theory and Problems of Adolescent Develop. ment. New York: Grune and Stratton, 1954.

*Berg, Charles and Allen, Clifford. The Problem of Homosexuality, New York: Citadel Press, 1958.

Bergler, Edmund. Homosexuality, Disease or Way of Life. New York: Collier Books, 1962.

Bernard, H. W. Adolescent Development in American Culture. Yonkers-on-Hudson, New York: World Book Co., 1957.

*Bieber, Irving. Homosexuality. New York: Basic Books, 1962.

*Boss, M. Meaning and Content of Sexual Perversions. Liese L. Abell, trans. New York: Grune and Stratton, 1959.

Bychowski, G. "The Ego and the Introjects." The Psychoanalytic Quarterly. 25:22-283 1956.

Chang, J. and Bloch, J. "A Study of Identification in Male Homosexuals." Journal of Consulting Psychology. 24:307410, 1960.

Cleckley, Hervey M. The Caricature of Love. New York: The Ronald Press Co-3 1957.

Cory, D. W. Homosexuality: A Cross Cultural Approach. New York: Jullen Press, 1956.

Duvall, E.M. and SM. ed. Sex Ways in Fact and Faith. Evelyn Hooker, "Homosexuality; a Summary of Studies." New York: Association Press, 1961.

Cutts, N.E. and Moseley, N. The Only Child. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1954.

Ellis, Albert. Sex Without Guilt. New York: Heilman Book Co., 1959.

*Ellis, Havelock. Studies in the Psychology of Sex. Vol. 1, Part 4. New York: Random House, 1942.

Erikson, Erik H. Childhood and Society. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1950.

*The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. VII, "Three Essays on Sexuality." James Strachey, Trans. London: Hogarth Press, 1962.

*Fried, Edrita. On Love and Sexuality. New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1960.

Fried, Edrita. "Some Connections Between Sexuality and Ego Organization." The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 29:391-401, 1959.

Gide, Andre. Corydon. New York: Noonday Press, 1962.

Glover, B. H. "Observations on the Genetic Determination of Homosexuality." Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 113:383, May 1951.

Harsch, C.M. and SchrickeI, H.G. Personality. New York: The Ronald Press, 1950.

Kalb, L.C. and Johnson, A.M. "Etiology and Therapy of Overt Homosexuals." The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 24: 506-515, 1955.

*Kluckhohn, E. and Murray, H. A. ed. Personality in Nature, Society and Culture. E. H. Erikson. "Growth Crises of the Healthy Personality." New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953.

Lang, Theo. "Studies on the Genetic Determination of Homosexuality." Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 92: No. 1, July 1940.

Levy, D.M. Maternal Overprotection. New York: Columbia University Press, 1943.

Lindner, Robert. Must You Conform? New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1961.

Marynia, F. Farnham. The Adolescent. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1951.

Mead, Margaret. Mate and Female. New York: The New Arnerican Library, 1962.

Morse, Benjamin. The Homosexual. Derby, Conn.: Monarch Books, Inc., 1962.

Ovesey, Lionel. "The Homosexual Conflict." Psychiatry. 17: 243-250, 1954.

Silverberg, W. V. Childhood Experiences and Personal Destiny. New York: Springer Publishing Co., 1952.

*Stern, Jess. The Sixth Man. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1961.

*Sullivan, Henry S. The interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1953.

*Suttle, Ian D. The Origins of Love and Hate. New York: The Julian Press, IML

Thompson, Clara. 'Changing Concepts of Homosexuality in Psychoanalysis & Psychiatry. 10: 183-189, 1947.

Thorpe, Louis P. Child Psychology and Development. New York: Ronald Press, 196L

Walker, Kenneth. The Physiology of Sex. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1961.

*West, D. J. The Other Man. New York: William Marrow and Co., 1955.

Westwood, Gordon. A Minority. London: Longmans, 1960.

*The Wolfenden Report. New York: Stein and Day Publishers, 1963.