Do you become gay or are you born that way?
The nature vs. nurture debate when it comes to sexuality might be unanswerable… but we’ve given it our best shot!
Are you born gay, or is it something that develops over time? Whenever I think about this question, Lady Gaga’s “Born this way” immediately pops into my head. This song has become somewhat of an anthem among the gay community, and rightfully so. She makes some excellent points.
But the truth is, I have mixed feelings about this topic, because I can say with almost 100% confidence that I was not born gay. In fact, for the majority of my life, I identified as straight and never questioned otherwise. Only when I reached my mid-teens did I start to experience “inklings” that I might be attracted to women, and even then I didn’t consider myself bisexual. Fast forward ten years – I’m married to a woman, and I still don’t believe that I’m genetically altered just because I identify as gay. I’m the same human I was when I was born, but my desires have shifted.
Faith, on the other hand, claims she was gay from the moment she was conceived. She had crushes on actresses and female teachers her entire childhood, and was repulsed by the mere thought of touching a penis.
Now, let’s look at the science. Independent studies with twins have revealed that genetic factors may account for approximately 25–30% of the differences between people in sexual orientation. Another study found that gay men have different brain structures than their heterosexual counterparts. But neither of these studies concretely prove that a “gay gene” exists.
Personally, I think even attempting to explain something as complex as human sexuality through science is foolish. Different studies will yield different results, and at the end of the day, the lines will remain blurred. We need to stop chasing evidence that doesn’t exist, and start accepting that there’s nothing wrong with a little ambiguity!
Is being gay a choice?
I also think it’s important to note that although I don’t feel like I was born gay, I also don’t think it’s something I chose. This is a significant clarification that has been the basis for a lot of hate toward our community. Gay, lesbian, bi, queer and trans folk are often chastised for their “choice” to be the way they are, and I think I speak for all of us when I say that this assumption is both unfair and utterly misguided. At the end of the day, I can’t say with certainty when someone’s sexuality emerges, but I can state without a doubt that it’s never a choice – it’s just who we are.
In a paper published by Psychological Science in the Public Interest, researchers wrote that “the commonly phrased question of whether sexual orientation is “a choice” is a poor one for advancing either scientific understanding or policy. A more meaningful formulation is whether sexual orientation is socially influenced.” The article goes into great depth, attempting to define sexual orientation and arrive at an accurate way to measure it. They conclude that there are two main “causes of homosexuality”:
1. so-far-unspecified reasons of nature rather than social nurture
2. homosexuality is to some extent socially contagious and can spread either through sexual recruitment or through the relaxation of moral and legal prohibitions of homosexual behavior
The authors go on to state that scientific evidence supports the first view much more strongly than it does the second. But yet again, nothing is a “fact” when it comes to sexuality – it’s all just a bunch of speculation with a few conflicting studies thrown into the mix.
Just like all of our blogs, this is all food for thought! Do you think you were born gay, or did your preference develop over time? Has anyone ever punished you for “choosing” to be who you are?