The most widely accepted psychoanalytic hypothesis guiding research about parental influences on male homosexuality has been that of a triangular system characterized by a close-binding (domineering-seductive) mother and a hostile or distant father. Within this triangular system, however, the mother relationship was generally considered to be the root cause. The importance of the mother was challenged in 1965 by Eva Bene, who, in a study of nonpatient heterosexuals and homosexuals using the Bene-Anthony Family Relations test, found that more than three times as many items showed significant differences in relation to the father than to the mother. According to Bene, "Far fewer homosexual than married men thought that their fathers had been cheerful, helpful, reliable, kind or understanding, while far more felt that their fathers had no time for them, had not loved them, and had made them feel unhappy. . . . Regarding the mother, the greatest difference between the two groups was that considerably more homosexual than married men thought that their mothers used to nag." Many other researchers using nonpatient samples have also attested to the greater importance of the father relationship for men.
Although the Bell, Weinberg, and Hammersmith study found that a larger percentage of homosexuals than heterosexuals are close to their mothers, this variable was the least important of those that were of enough significance to be entered into the path
model. Moreover, they found no evidence whatsoever for the "seductive mother" hypothesis, and only a small fraction of respondents said their mothers had acted like girlfriends or lovers with them. But their preliminary findings show that in a number of ways prehomosexual boys have less solidary relationships with their fathers than preheterosexual boys do. Rather than trying to isolate the various aspects of this negativity, the authors used a general measure—negative relationship with father—in the path analysis. These differences with respect to fathers contribute considerably more to the overall path analysis than do the differences with respect to mothers. Thus, the authors support the findings of Bene and others about the greater importance of the fathers. This negative relationship with father is somewhat positively correlated with homosexual arousal in childhood, childhood gender nonconformity, and feeling sexually different in childhood and is negatively correlated with identification with the father.
Because homosexual subjects reported having worse relationships with their fathers when they were boys than heterosexual subjects did, the authors are unable to establish what is cause and what is effect. The data are as amenable to the interpretation that poor father relationships dispose to homosexuality as to the view that the child's being different or feeling different in the first place makes it difficult for him to maintain a good relationship with his father (p. 190). For my purposes this is not as critical a question as it may seem. The influence is likely to go both ways. The key point for now is that the father-son relationship is more associated with sexual preference than is the mother-son relationship. The data are certainly consonant with the hypothesis that fathers are more concerned about their boys being "properly masculine" than mothers are and therefore respond more negatively to a son's gender nonconformity.
There is some evidence in Joseph Harry's work to support the possibility that gay males share more basic gender characteristics with straight males than with females. Many of Harry's male subjects who rejected "masculinity" were nevertheless aggressive and competitive (nonrelational?) in acting out their version of femaleness, which involved being glamorous and seductive. He called this response "actorization." Another group of gay males, more akin to transsexuals, were nurturant and domestic. Both groups had
rather stereotyped views of what women were like. It seems to me that there was still something very male and nonrelational about the femaleness of these gay males—perhaps especially among those who were actorized. The quasi-transsexuals, by contrast, had come nearer to adopting a maternal mother identification. Even with transsexuals, however, the maternal identification is not complete. Stoller notes that when one gets to know transsexuals outside of research questionnaires and evaluation interviews, one does not find mothering impulses in the femaleness of these transsexuals or the capacity to remain in extended relationships with males. These observations suggest that the more basic aspect of gender difference is women's mothering and greater relational capacities.