Homosexuality, sexual interest in and attraction to members of one’s own sex. The term gay is frequently used as a synonym for homosexual; female homosexuality is often referred to as lesbianism. At different times and in different cultures, homosexual behavior has been variously approved of, tolerated, punished, and banned. Homosexuality was not uncommon in ancient Greece and Rome, and the relationships between adult and adolescent males in particular have become a chief focus of Western classicists in recent years.
Judeo-Christian as well as Muslim cultures have generally perceived homosexual behavior as sinful. Many Jewish and Christian leaders, however, have gone to great lengths to make clear that it is the acts and not the individuals or even their “inclination” or “orientation” that their faiths proscribe. Others—from factions within mainstream Protestantism to organizations of Reform rabbis—have advocated, on theological as well as social grounds, the full acceptance of homosexuals and their relationships. The topic has threatened to cause outright schisms in some denominations.