Social stigma of choosing to be gay

  1. Social stigma of "choosing to be gay"

    People choose to smoke, regardless of the social stigma about smoking, so why do people use the social stigma argument against people choosing to be gay? Note that I don't really believe people choose myself. I don't think social stigma though is the best argument against it being a choice though.
  2. jcsd
  3. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,471
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    The comparison, sexual orientation and smoking, is not very apt.

    People usually choose to smoke because of social pressure when they are kids - often coupled with a desire to rebel or be seen to rebel, or maybe their whole family smokes. Then they get addicted. The effects of the social stigma do not kick in until adulthood and it's not that much of a stigma when you get down to it - i.e. in NZ only 20% of the pop are non-smokers. Smokers have no trouble finding a large accepting peer group.

    By comparison, sexual orientation stigmatizing starts before adolescence. If you are gay, you are likely the only member of your family who is and very few in your peer group in school would be either. This creates a strong negative pressure - so strong that many teenagers pretend to the socially acceptable orientation just to avoid it.

    You are right - it's not a definitive argument. It is a contributing factor. That's what social science is like.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2013
  4. To put a better point on it: people usually choose to smoke at first to escape social stigma, to prove they are cool, or properly rebellious for their age group.

    Later, they continue to smoke, despite the social stigma, simply because they're addicted.

    Here in the U.S. it is now a huge stigma to be a smoker.
  5. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    People don't choose their sexuality. The fact that it is often presented as such is due to a tactic used by certain homophobic groups to present it as a moral option. Stigmatisation of non-heteronormative people is a huge topic, nature versus nurture arguments are but one component.
  6. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,471
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    I got the smoking the wrong way around - in NZ, about 20% smoke. About the same percentage as the USA.
    I still maintain that smokers have no trouble finding accepting peer-groups and so can mitigate the stigma of smoking.

    How big-a stigma is "huge"? Compared with homosexuality?
    Do smokers get beat up regularly for eg.? Do they get heckled when they smoke in public? Do they get rejected by their peers, their church? Do they get called "sinners" and told they are going to hell?

    CDC - Fact Sheet - Adult Cigarette Smoking in the United States - Smoking & Tobacco Use
    Cigarette smoking - Social Report 2010

    examples and effects of lgbt social stigma in the US

    smoking-related stigma in the US (for comparison)
    Smoking and the emergence of a stigmatized socia... [Soc Sci Med. 2008] - PubMed - NCBI
    The Rest of the Story: Tobacco News Analysis and Commentary: Social Stigma Created by Anti-Smoker Policies Found to Negatively Impact Health Care for Smokers
  7. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    You can add to that list of comparisons:

    Are smokers discriminated against by law? Or even persecuted?
    Are smokers often stereotyped across a variety of media?
    Are terms for smokers synonymous with profanity and insults e.g fag?
  8. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,471
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    Smokers are discriminated against by law - but smoking has never been a criminal offence.
    "Persecution"? I have not found a credible reference. They tend to hysteria, like this reducto ad Hitlerum.

    Smokers are often stereotypes across media - used to be favorable, I'm not sure how to characterize it now. What I could find, i.e. (which seems pretty representative)
    ... basically says "it depends on who's watching". But the research is done by anti-smoking folk.

    Profanity and insults? Well, "fag" means "cigarette" here, but that use is not pejorative.
    "Smokin'" is usually a term if appreciation isn't it?

    Anyway - the references in the prev post handle all those and more.
  9. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,471
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    Back on topic - better evidence indicating a lack of choice in sexual preference seems to have been coming from neurobiology. i.e.

    Goldstein J. (2011) Homo Or Hetero? The Neurobiological Dimension Of Sexual Orientation Address to the 21st Meeting of the European Neurological Society.

    A 2007 lit review of neurobiological factors in human sexual behavior makes rather weird reading:
    Neurological control of human sexual behaviour: insights from lesion studies

    tldr: human sexuality and sexual behavior is complicated.
    People have less choice in orientation than in, say, smoking, but their does not seem to be any particular thing that determines "gayness". Hence the "falling in love" analogy.
  10. This makes more sense to me. My impression has been that smoking has become stigmatized pretty much all over the world. Regardless, I assumed you know your own country better than I do when I responded.
    I'm not disputing this. But I also cannot think of any minority group for which this isn't true. Smokers aren't unique for this, if that's what you are implying.

    No, compared with a fictional New Zealand where 80% of people smoke. I only meant to convey to you that you'd be surprised if you came here from that fictional New Zealand you presented to me, and experienced how smokers are treated here.

    That fiction, incidentally, used to be the reality here when I was a kid. Most people smoked back then, and there was pretty much nowhere you couldn't smoke, except church. People smoked in grocery stores, movie theaters, at work, everywhere. Nowadays, even pot smokers, non-smoking alcoholics, and non-smoking gay people look down their noses at cigarette smokers. The stigma against smoking is "huge" compared to what it used to be. I thought I should mention it to you since it probably wouldn't be apparent to someone who dwelled in a country of 80% smokers.

    The anti-smoking stigma was given a boost in the 1990's by the popular TV series, The X-Files. The main villain, the source of all evil in the protagonist's world, was "The Cigarette Smoking Man":

    Regardless, my original point was in support of what you said, that the stigma against smoking was not the same as the stigma against gay people, and that the OP, therefore, was reasoning from a flawed premise.
  11. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,471
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    After posting - it struck me that the figure was quite surprising so I checked.
    I checked further - and the percentage of the population who smoked has been about the same since the 60's in NZ. What's changed is the quantity smoked.

    There are countries where smoking is not such a stigma ... it becomes obvious when a ship comes in to Auckland: we sometimes get a flood of people smoking while they walk up the street <shudder>.

    Looking up US stats - I found this thing:
    between 1949-1978 percentage smokers in the US never went higher than 45%.
    Anyway - we are in agreement of course :)

    Historically, non-homosexuals did have trouble finding accepting peers - with many finding even their own families rejecting them. Most minorities can find each other these days - some are more marginalized than others.

    Anyway - we are in agreement of course :)
  12. You have any idea where they're from?

    That has this caveat:

    I am sure when I was in college (early 1970's) I read something that put the current figure up in the 60 percentile.

    You're not checking over your posts, methinks.
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  14. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,471
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    I meant "Historically, non-heterosexuals did have trouble finding accepting peers", Since I didn't want to exclude bi, trans, etc. Human sexual expression is complicated.

    Nice catch though. I can get distracted.
    I probably should have used "non-heteronormative people" or something but there are limits.

    The influx of smokers tended to come from Asian or East-European countries - that I could identify: purely subjective you understand.

    I used to have the impression of far more smokers than there actually were - though I have often been frustrated by the quality of US govt supplied information too. Smoking certainly used to be ubiquitous. Remember what going to restaurants was like?
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2013
  15. From my experience people do not choose to be straight or otherwise. It is how their brains are wired. In other words; born that way. I do not find it to be a stigma in my eyes but I am not society. I rarely notice race unless somebody brings it up (I am white and my lady is black). I have friends I love in all the categories and divisions of humanity and know that those who do not suffer a more mundane existence than I. Remember one true thing: People are going to talk about you all of your life and you can do nothing about that. You are the only person who can make you happy.
  16. Chronos

    Chronos 10,348
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    I believe everyone experiences homosexual urges, including those of murder, thievery, rape, and just about any other known and frowned upon behavior. That's probably the basis for moral imperatives. Most people refrain from engaging in such behavior. Social ostracization and possible legal prosecution is a strong demotivating factor. Not all such behaviors are immediately detrimental to society. Some are insidious, call them gateway behaviors, and have a cumulative, deleterious effect on society. I have nothing against homosexuality. I've had a number of friends who dabbled in alternative life styles. But, frankly, I think its for the better to keep it discrete. If I were out in public with a gay friend who chose to make a spectacle of him/her life style choice, I would be very disappointed and embarrassed. I think most people feel that way.
  17. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,483
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    Well yes, but I'd be embarrassed if a heterosexual friend were flaunting their sexuality around too.
  18. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,471
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    I'm sure you don't mean to link homosexuality with murder and rape there - probably you mean that most people experience homosexual urges sometime, however fleeting, just like they feel any urge - such as urges to charity, maternal/paternal urges, or to protect the weak.

    Just like homosexuals may have felt attraction to the opposite sex or bisexuals may have felt a preference between a man and a woman in some social group.

    Surely "homosexuality" is a sexual orientation, rather than a lifestyle.

    ... well then, you'd better stay home and leave the TV off since heterosexuality gets flaunted, pretty much, everywhere.

    Sure - some people choose a flamboyant and showy life and it can be embarrassing to be around them sometimes. But that is the same regardless of sexuality. I suspect that's what you mean.

    However - this is a science forum isn't it?
    Should we be airing personal beliefs without backing them with some sort of science?
    So where is the science?

    Turns out to be tricky to find in a casual google ... but there are some starting points:
    ... each has their own references and citations.
    It's not too difficult - so perhaps it can be a challenge for anyone wanting to take a position to back it up???
  19. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,483
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    Yes, I was pointing out that it has nothing to do with sexuality.

    There's lots of subjectivity and opinion in science (there's journals named for it, even). What's annoying (and against forum policy) is when opinion gets passed as fact.
  20. Ryan_m_b

    Staff: Mentor

    Agreed Pyth. Please stick to the original topic people, drifting into personal opinions (ex specially presented as fact) will result in a lock.
  21. Simon Bridge

    Simon Bridge 15,471
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    Thought so :)

    It can be quite embarrassing to be around active religious evangelists, or anti-gay activists, when they get "set off" - it can be helpful to think of similies along these lines - our friends can embarrass us in all kinds of ways.

    Mind you, I'd be hard pressed to come up with a peer-reviewed citation in support ;)

    Too true ... there are plenty of other forums for unsupported opinion.
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