Until recently relationships between gays and lesbian, and also Internet relationships had had little attention from researchers, hence the term ‘understudied relationships’.
Gay and Lesbian relationships – no one really knows what makes a person homosexual, though Garnets and Kimmel (1991) say there are likely to be multiple components. Unlike ethnic minorities, homosexuals are often surrounded by negative stereotypes from friends and family whilst they are growing up. As well as being asked, when they ‘come out’, what makes them that way inclined, which is something that isn’t typically asked of a heterosexual person.
In 1973 homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or DSM (which cited homosexuality as a mental disease), though it is still illegal in many countries in the world at present and is still part of the International Classification of Diseases. Although often only in certain, prescribed situation, there are some cultures where homosexuality is encouraged and in Greco-Roman society it was quite normal practice to have a homosexual relationship. However, even in the 21st century and the ‘progressive’ West things are not easy for gay men and lesbians. Many people in the public eye (such as entertainers and politicians) have had their careers pretty much ruined after being ‘outed’.
Gay people experience pressures that can affect their relationships, which include such things as the psychological effects of growing up in a (heterosexual) society that characterises homosexuality and lesbianism as unacceptable. Also the unequal age of consent for gay men and the way few happy and successful gay relationships are presented by the media. Gay characters tend to be secondary to the plot (unless it is a ‘gay drama’) and gay relationships are often presented as superficial, unstable or problematic can cause relationship problems.
To establish a reliable figure of the number of gay or lesbian people is almost impossible (estimates from North America range from 4%-17%).Evidence suggests that for many people sexuality classification is not permanent and is always shifting, where one orientation may be embraced after a lengthy adult experience of another (Sequential bisexuality – Money, 1988).
There is often an assumption that homosexual culture is unitary. This, however, is incorrect, as homosexuals can be any class, culture, race, etc.
For obvious reasons many homosexuals prefer to spend social time in the company of other gay people, but this isn’t such an easy option for those who have children. The world of schools and child-orientated situations needs to be arranged. As well as this they must protect their principles and living arrangements, protecting privacy, but also being sensitive to the children’s needs.
Electronic friendships and computer-mediated communication (CMC) – CMC can be email, chat rooms, notice boards etc as well as more sophisticated computer programs (MUD’s, MOO’s and MUSHs) where they can assign themselves a character where they can join in or listen to discussions.
They can contrast to face-to-face relationships (corporeal, meaning bodily, physical or material), obviously there is nothing corporeal about a CMC relationship. Though they may have the opportunity for a corporeal relationship, many people prefer CMC, perhaps feeling that they can say what they want without having to worry about embarrassment. CMC can offer support, as well as friendship, and simply because people have not met face-to-face does not mean their relationship is not real.
In a 1994 survey out of the top ten AOL chat rooms 3 were gay, 1 lesbian and 1 ‘swingers and groups’ with the other 5 being heterosexual. Though it has only really developed over the last 10-15 years, it seems that it is here to stay.