No One is Born Gay (or Straight): Here Are 5 Reasons Why

This post has been elaborated here.

1.  Just because an argument is politically strategic, does not make it true:  A couple of years ago, the Human Rights Campaign, arguably the country’s most powerful lesbian and gay organization, responded to politician Herman Cain’s assertion that being gay is a choice.  They asked their members to “Tell Herman Cain to get with the times! Being gay is not a choice!”  They reasoned that Cain’s remarks were “dangerous.”  Why?  “Because implying that homosexuality is a choice gives unwarranted credence to roundly disproven practices such as ‘conversion’ or ‘reparative’ therapy. The risks associated with attempts to consciously change one’s sexual orientation include depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.”

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Cynthia Nixon (right) and wife Christine Marinoni (left)

The problem with such statements is that they infuse biological accounts with an obligatory and nearly coercive force, suggesting that anyone who describes homosexual desire as a choice or social construction is playing into the hands of the enemy.  In 2012, the extent to which gay biology had become a moral and political imperative came into full view when actress Cynthia Nixon, after commenting to a New York Times Magazine reporter that she “chose” to pursue a lesbian relationship after many years as a content heterosexual, was met with outrage by lesbian and gay activists.  As one horrified gay male writer proclaimed, “[Nixon] just fell into a right-wing trap, willingly. …Every religious right hatemonger is now going to quote this woman every single time they want to deny us our civil rights.”  Under considerable pressure from lesbian and gay advocacy groups, Nixon recanted her statement a few weeks later, stating instead that she must have been born with bisexual potential.

Yes, it’s true that straight people are more tolerant when they believe that lesbian and gay people have no choice in the matter.  If homosexual desire is hardwired, then we cannot change it; we must live with this condition, and it would be unfair to judge us for that which we cannot change.  By implication, if we could choose, of course we would choose to be heterosexual.  Any sane person would choose heterosexuality (not so. see here). And when homophobic people come to the opposite conclusion—that homosexual desire is something we can choose—then they want to help us make the right choice, the heterosexual choice.  And they are willing to offer this help in the form of violent shock therapy and other “conversion” techniques.  In light of all this, I can absolutely understand why it feels much safer to believe that we are born this way, and then to circulate this idea like our lives depend on it (because, for some people, this truly is a matter of life and death).  Indeed, most progressive straight people and most gay and bi people–including Lady Gaga herself–hold the conviction that our sexual orientation is innate.  They have taken their lead from the mainstream gay and lesbian movement, which has powerfully advocated for this view.

But the fact that the “born this way” hypothesis has resulted in greater political returns for gay and lesbian people doesn’t have anything to do with whether it is true.  Maybe, as gay people, we want to get together and pretend it is true because it is politically strategic.  That would be interesting.  But still, it wouldn’t make the idea true.

Unknown2. The science is wrong (Part 1): People like to cite “the overwhelming scientific evidence” that sexual orientation is biological in nature.  But show me a study that claims to have proven this, and I will show you a flawed research design.  Let’s take one example:  In 2000, a team of researchers at UC Berkeley conducted a study in which they found that lesbians were more likely than heterosexual women to have a “masculine” hand structure.  Presumably, most men have a longer ring finger than index finger, whereas most women have the opposite (or they have index and ring fingers of the same length).  Lesbians, according to this study, are more likely than straight women to have what we might call “male-pattern hands.”  The researchers concluded that this finding supports their theory that lesbianism might be caused by a “fetal androgyn wash” in the womb—that is, when female fetuses are exposed to greater levels of a masculinizing hormone, it shows up later in the form of female masculinity:  male-pattern hands and… attraction to women.  But this study makes the same error that countless others have made: it does not properly distinguish between gender (whether one is masculine or feminine) and sexual orientation (heterosexuality or homosexuality).  Simply put, the fact that a woman is “masculine” (itself a social construction) or has been introduced to greater levels of a male hormone need not have anything to do with whether she is attracted to women.  We would only assume this if we had already accepted the heteronormative premise that masculine people (or men) are naturally attracted to femaleness and that normal (i.e., feminine) women are naturally attracted to men.  Herein lies the bias.   Many “masculine” women who are heterosexual (have you been to the rural South?) would like us to know that their gender does not line up with their sexual desire in any predictable way.  And many very feminine lesbians would like us to know this too.  The bottom line is that ideas about sexual desire are so bound up with misconceptions about gender and with the presumption that heterosexuality is nature’s default, that science has yet to approach this subject in an objective way.  For a comprehensive examination of the flaws in the most widely cited research on sexual orientation, see Rebecca Jordan-Young’s brilliant book Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences (Harvard University Press, 2011).

3.  The science is wrong (Part II): An even greater problem with the science of sexual orientation is that it seeks to find the genetic causes of gayness, as if we all agree about what gayness is.  To say that “being gay” is genetic is to engage in science that hinges on a very historically recent and specifically European-American understanding of what being gay means.  In Ancient Greece, sex between elite men and adolescent boys was a common and normative cultural practice. According to historians Michel Foucault and Jonathan Ned Katz, these relationships were considered the most praise-worthy, substantive and Godly forms of love (whereas sex between a man and a woman was, for all intents and purposes, sex between a man and his slave).  If men having frequent and sincere sex with one another is what we mean by “gay,” then do we really believe that something so fundamentally different was happening in the Ancient Athenian gene pool?  Did some evolutionary occurrence enable Plato’s ancestors to get rid of all of those heterosexual genes?  And what about native cultures in which all boys engage in homosexual rites of passage?  Do we imagine that we could identify some genetic evidence of propensity to ingest sperm as part of a cultural initiation into manhood?  What about all of the cultures around the globe in which male homosexual sex does not signal gayness except for under certain specific circumstances (e.g., you are only gay if you are the receptive sexual partner, or if you are feminine)?  And while I am on this subject, what about the fact the United States is precisely one of those cultures?  When young college women lick each other’s boobs at frat parties, or when young college men stick their fingers in each other’s butts while being hazed by their frat brothers, we don’t call this gay—we call this “girls gone wild” or “hazing.”  My point here is that a lot of people engage in homosexual behavior, but somehow we talk about the genetic origins of homosexuality as if we are clear about who is gay and who is not, and as if it’s also clear that “gay genes” are possessed only by people who are culturally and politically gay (you know, the people who are seriously gay).  This is a bit arbitrary, don’t you think?

Just 150 years ago, scientists went searching for the physiological evidence that women were hysterical.  Hysteria, by Victorian medical definition, meant that a woman’s uterus had become dislodged from its proper location and was floating around her body causing all sorts of trouble—like feminism, and other matters of grave concern.  And guess what, they found the evidence, and they published books and articles to prove it.  They also looked for and found the evidence that all people of African and Asian ancestry were intellectually and morally inferior to people of European Ancestry.  Many books were published dedicated to establishing these obviously absurd and violent beliefs as legitimate and indisputable scientific facts.  Similarly, the science of sexual orientation has a long and disturbing history.  In the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was believed that homosexuals had beady eyes, particularly angular facial structures, and “bad blood.”  Today, we apparently have gender variant fingers and gay brains.

Is it possible that people who identify themselves as “gay” in the United States (again, keep in mind that “gay” is a culturally and historically specific concept), share some common physiology?  Perhaps.  But even if this is so, do we really know why?  Indeed, we may find (as Simon LeVay did) that men who identify as gay share a certain trait—a larger VIP SCN nucleus of the hypothalamus, for instance.  But how do we know that this “enlargement” is a symptom or cause of their homosexuality, and not, say, a symptom or cause of their general propensity for bravery, creativity, or rebellion?  In a homophobic culture, you need some bravery (and other awesome traits) to be queer.  Perhaps these personality traits are what are actually being observed under the microscope.

And, of course, there is the time-eternal question: why aren’t scientists looking for the genetic causes of heterosexuality?  Or masturbation?  Or interest in oral sex?  The reason is that none of these sex acts currently violate social norms, at least not strongly enough to be perceived as sexual aberrations.  But this was not always true.  In the 19th century, scientists were interested in the biological origins of the “masturbation perversion.”  They were interested because they believed it was pathological, and because they wanted to know whether it could be repaired.

At the end of the day, what we can count on is that the science of sexual orientation will produce data that simply mirror the most crass and sexist gender binarisms circulating in the popular imagination.  This research will report that women are innately more sexually fluid than men, capable of being turned-on by almost anything and everything (hmmm…. other than in Lisa Diamond’s research, where have I seen that idea before?  Ah yes, heterosexual pornography.)   It will report that men are sexually rigid, their desires impermeable.  It will tell us that straight men simply cannot be aroused by men and that gay men are virtually hardwired to be repulsed by the thought of sex with women.  Regardless of what else we might say about the soundness of these studies, what is evident to me is that they have been used to authorize many a straight man’s homophobia, and many a gay man’s misogyny.

4.  Just because you have had homosexual or heterosexual feelings for as long as you can remember, does not mean you were born a homosexual or heterosexual.   There are many things I have felt or done for as long as I can remember.  I have always liked to argue.  I have always loved drawing feet and shoes.  I have always craved cheddar cheese.  I have always felt a strong connection with happy, trashy pop music.  These have been aspects of myself for as long as I can remember, and each represents a very strong impulse in me.  But was I born with a desire to eat cheddar cheese or make drawings of feet?  Are these desires that can be identified somewhere in my body, like on one of my genes?  It would be hard to make these claims, because I could have been born and raised in China, let’s say, where cheddar cheese is basically non-existent and would not have been part of my life.  And while I may have been born with some general artistic potential, surely our genetic material is not so specific as to determine that I would love to draw platform shoes.  The point here is that what we desire in childhood is far more complex and multifaceted than the biological sciences can account for, and this goes for our sexual desires as well.  Some basic raw material is in place (like a general potential for creativity), but the details—well, those are ours to discover.

5.  Secretly, you already know that people’s sexual desires are shaped by their social and cultural context.  Lots of adults worry that if we allow little boys to wear princess dresses and paint their nails with polish, they might later be more inclined to be gay.  Even some liberal parents (including gay and lesbian parents) worry that if they introduce their child to “too much” in the way of queer material, this could be a way of “pushing” homosexuality on them.  Similarly, many people worry that if young women are introduced to feminism in college, and if they become too angry or independent, they may just decide to be lesbians.  But if we all really believed that sexual orientation was congenital—or present at birth—then no one would ever worry that social influences could have an effect on our sexual orientation.  But I think that in reality, we all know that sexual desire is deeply subject to social, cultural, and historical forces.  We know that if the world today were a different place, a place where homosexuality was culturally normative (like, say, Ancient Greece), we would see far more people embracing their homosexual desires.  And if this were the case, it would have nothing to do with genetics.

The concept of “sexual orientation” is itself less than 150 years old, and almost equally recent is the notion that people should partner based on romantic attraction.  Most of what feels so natural and unchangeable about our desires—including the bodies and personalities we are attracted to—is conditioned by our respective cultures.  The majority of straight American men, for instance, will tell you that they have a strong, visceral aversion to women with bushy armpit hair.  But this aversion, no matter how deep it may now run in men’s psyches and no matter how nonnegotiable it may feel, is hardly genetic.  Up until the last century, the entire world’s female population had armpit hair, and somehow, heterosexual sex survived.

People like to use the failure of “gay conversion” therapies as evidence that homosexuality is innate.  First of all, these conversions do not always fail; if you make someone feel disgusted enough by their desires, you can change their desires.  Call it a tragedy of repression, or call it a religious awakening—regardless, the point is that we can and do change.  For instance, in high school and early in college, my sexual desires were deeply bound up with sexism.  I wanted to be a hot girl, and I wanted powerful men to desire me.  I was as authentically heterosexual as any woman I knew.  But later, several years into my exploration of feminist politics, what I once found desirable (heterosexuality and sexism) became utterly unappealing.  I became critical of homophobia and sexism in ways that allowed these forces far less power to determine the shape of my desires.  If this had not happened, no doubt I’d be married to a man.  And if he wasn’t a complete asshole, I’d probably be happy enough.  But instead, I was drawn to queerness for various political and emotional reasons, and from my vantage point today, I believe it to be one of the best desires I ever cultivated. [Does this mean that your daughter may decide to be a lesbian if she takes some women's studies courses? Yes. Whatcha gonna do now?!]

Perhaps most importantly, the fact that we might cultivate or “choose” something doesn’t mean that it is a trivial, temporary, or less a vital part of who we are.  For instance, is religion a choice?  Certainly it is if we define “choice” as anything that isn’t an immutable part of our physiology.  But many religious people would feel profoundly misunderstood and offended if I suggested that their religious beliefs were a phase, an experiment, or a less significant part of who they are then, say, their hair color.  Choices are complex. Choices run deep.  And yes, choices are both constrained and fluid–just like our bodies.

Post script: Ultimately, the terms set forward in the public debate about this subject–biology versus “choice”–are quite limited, mainly because “choice” is not the most useful term for describing all of the possibilities that sit apart from biology.  Several social, cultural, and structural factors can shape our embodied desires and erotic possibilities.  The fact that these factors are not physiological in origin does not mean that they aren’t coercive or subjectifying, resulting in a real or perceived condition of fixity or “no choice.”  We know that social factors also become embodied over time.  And yet, I remain somewhat committed to the concept of “choice”–or something like it–to describe the possibility of a critical and reflexive relationship to our sexual desires. Personally, the idea that I don’t have control over who or what I desire is a big turn-off to me, so I am constantly pushing back on what feel like the limits of my own desires. For instance, I went through a period of pushing myself to date femmes because I had some good reasons for being suspicious about why I had ruled them out from my dating pool. When it felt like I could never be nonmonogamous, I made it a goal to at least try. Then when I realized I only really felt attracted to alcoholic rebels, I nipped that in the bud too. Just when I thought I’d never think hairy men were hot, I allowed myself to face my attraction to Javier Bardem.  When my tastes and proclivities start to feel like they are solidifying, I get suspicious and disappointed. So, in the interests of full disclosure, I am writing from the perspective of someone who finds sexual fixity pretty uninteresting, and who believes that there are really good feminist and queer reasons to take regular, critical inventory of the parts of our sexuality that we believe we cannot or will not change.

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420 Responses to No One is Born Gay (or Straight): Here Are 5 Reasons Why

  1. Yvonne Zylan says:

    *How* do I love this? Let me count the ways…

    Seriously, this is the best thing I’ve read about LGB/queer politics and identity in perhaps…I’m gonna go with “forever”. Thank you.

    • I SECOND THAT E MOTION! Great stuff. Am recommending it to my partner for the psych students s/He teaches.

    • Fuck Faggots says:

      The weird thing is that I am naturally born with an inate desire to hate homosexual and lesbian people. It’s true!! My parents are not religious or any thing it’s just ever since I was young and I very first learned that there were people in world that didn’t even use their own genitalia correctly it made me extremely angry inside! I’ve always fealt this way and it not inspired by religion or anything I’ve just fealt like this but only about people who behave this way, it’s one of the only things that ever makes me feel like this except maybe someone punching in the face, but I have always naturally been born with these feelings of anger and pure hatred towards homosexual and lesbian people! I find very offensive that people attack me and call me a bigot even though these feelings that I have are natural feelings that I fealt completely naturally without any persuasion from any other person since my youth 3-4 years of age. I have finally decided to come out of the closet about these honest and truthful feelings that I’ve had since my youth. I honestly think people with these sexual preferences should all be placed in mental institutions until they either die or realize how to correctly use their reproductive organs. These are my honest feelings and anyone who attacks these feelings that I naturally feel is clearly a bigot!!! I was born this way and for anyone to mock these natural feelings that I was born with is attacking the natural person that I am!

      • ejaneward says:

        you were definitely born this way — no doubt about it. poor babe… well, don’t you worry. there are reparative therapies that you can try, and while you may not be able to change your natural feelings, you can always change your behavior!

      • Frank says:

        I can’t help but feel the utmost sympathy for homosexuals. I experience a deep admiration for people with homosexual desires for the struggle they have to experience every day, as I experience mine. I love them and do love them on a personal basis, and wish peace for any of them suffering, not tomorrow, but today. It has to end now. Unfortunately, as a heterosexual, I do hate the act of homosexuality. That, heterosexuals are definitely born with. It will always remain repulsive and vile in the heterosexuals mind. I tolerate it because I do not believe it’s a choice, but I will never accept it as valid and correct. I don’t want to see it, and I don’t think it should be portrayed as good or exposed to children in any medium. I don’t believe I’m being bigoted. I love people with this affliction to tears, and these are just the facts of natural order. I’m not sure what we can do about it, and human laws and mass conditioning today may never be able to remedy millions of years of evolution of the mind. All I have is hope, that things will get better with time and understanding of each other.

      • Anon says:

        It’s speller ‘felt.’ Gay people may piss you off, but I can’t stand improper grammar/spelling.

      • Ray Mahloji says:

        I am a closet gay and I am afraid of what my wife would do If I told her.

      • 1580 says:

        Frank, I agree enterly with you. Nature program human beins too much. But why? I’m studying this, including the Dawinist theory of evolution. Today I found someone saying: “Homosexuality is not normal. On the contrary, it is a challenge to the norm”

      • DOBIEOWNER says:

        You are laughable! Let me explain something to you. Number 1. You are IGNORANT!! 2. You are a LIAR! Why do I say those things?? Becuase, NO ONE and I mean NO ONE is born with the innate sense to HATE anyone. PERIOD!! HATE is LEARNED just like PREJUDICE and RACISM. Get some education and then come back and talk like you have a brain.

      • jason singodjojo says:

        you can still choose to understand homo\s and lez’s that they really are born that way (don’t hate them,just let them be themselves,accept and ignore them,it”s their life,they don’t get mad at you for using your dick or vagina the “right” way) ..i know a person who was born that way and she TRIED to change but she couldn’t..i know another person who suppresses his emotions and he said it was hard and i don’t know if he is living his love life happy with his wife…i know another person who is bisexual (born that way) he told me he liked boys and girls since he could remember and tries to suppress his feelings for boys so that he can fully be a hetero he told me it helps a little but it doesn’t totally remove it..God said to love one another..the bible doesn’t really say that homosexuality or bisex. is a sin..only that it is an abomination but the old testament is..you know..it’s scjkhenf..yeah..and even if homosexuality was a choice..WHO THE HELL WOULD CHOOSE THAT?..not me in any case i want kids(from my sperm) :D

      • jason singodjojo says:

        but if you choose not to i’ll accept,understand, and will let you live your life your way.
        .

      • rcathleenim says:

        So do you also hate all nuns/monks/priests or anyone else who has chosen to remain celibate? Are they also neglecting to use their genitalia ‘correctly’ – ie. not for the procreation of children? I’m interested in how one might define a notion of the ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ use of human organs…

      • MikeSmith says:

        You are probably gay and can’t accept it – even if you wrote this as a joke. Anybody who would take the time to write that has some issues with his sexuality.

        Whoever is in charge of this blog should probably delete this sad person’s post, because it is embarrassing for the writer.

      • Melissa says:

        @MikeSmith And what if this person is gay? Aren’t you trying to defend homosexual people with your comment? Yet at the same time you’re using this person’s sexual orientation as a mock.

        I think I understand what you mean Fuck Faggots, in the sense that you probably are trying to say that if most people think homosexuality is something you’re born with, then why can’t we also believe gay-haters are born that way too?
        Some phobias are indeed innate and it seems nowadays homophobia is no longer a term that describes fear of gay people but also hate towards them (it all started out of ignorance about the true meaning of the word, i’m sure, but now it’s officially used for both instances), so “hatred” can be something we are born with too. I mean, we like some stuff and we don’t like some others (i.e. foods, colors…), and that is an innate behaviour.

      • Ashley parker says:

        You honestly sound like such a fucking idiot I can’t believe u just said u were fucking born hatting gay people. Did u run and hate your mom when she hugged her mother or sister or ur dad when he hugged his brother ur so stupid I just can’t believe this that’s like saying you were born hatting blonde hair or you were born hatting children with special needs I’m so done like i can’t fucking even please tell tour doctor or a psychiatrist some shit like that and take a picture of the face they make and send it to me smfh ur an idiot a real idiot you weren’t born hatting a damn thing

      • leah says:

        You were not born to think that? You are born into this world not knowing a thing. While growing up. You absorb all and everything you hear, see and more. You develop your own thinking. Does this make you a bad person? No. It makes you human. Just like every other jimmy, joe joe and abbie running around. Sorry, as much as you may think this comment I leave is “attacking” you. It’s not.

      • Robyn says:

        I hope you don’t masturbate because then you are using your genitalia “wrong”. oh and I also hope you don’t have sex for pleasure and use a sort of birth control, because that is also doing it “wrong”. Your ideas aren’t natural just a conclusion you came to at a young age. A very illogical and unintelligent conclusion.

      • TheKnowerseeker says:

        Ha ha ha! I love the irony!

      • Donnerschalg says:

        Well that us because you were born ignorant and continued being ignorant.

      • R. Edward Travani says:

        FF, we already knew that much of anti-gay animus was predisposition, just like sexist and racist tendencies. That doesn’t excuse you from being judged a bigot. I have racist and sexist tendencies, like most men, and I consciously suppress them because I know these characteristics to be toxic and harmful in my life and in the community around me. That’s where moral judgement applies. Your predisposition to hate gays is quite natural, but also immoral. Our society has evaluated homosexuality as a characteristic and according to modern measure. We discovered that homosexuality, while certainly different and lending itself nicely to scapegoating and insult, carries no inherent harm in and of itself. Suppressing homosexuality has, on the other hand, proven to be highly immoral, not to mention wasteful. Now we’re proceeding with the mundane job of integrating homosexuals and families headed by homosexual couples into our greater culture. It’s a good thing. Your desire to return our society to an anti-gay stance is toxic, harmful, and selfish. That’s a bad thing. Got it now?

      • TheKnowerseeker says:

        Homosexuality is a *disease* — a mental disease — with psychological and/or physiological causes. It leads to STDs, cancer (from oral and anal), and internal injuries (from anal). It also prevents or destroys romantic relationships between men and women, thus eliminating healthy, traditional marriages between committed husbands and fathers to committed wives and mothers, which is the foundation to any strong society. There are no significant negative aspects to race or sex, probably because these two things are not *diseases*: Race is simply a form of diversity (sometimes with advantages, such as how black people are less likely to burn under the sun because of their high concentrations of melanin), while sex (gender) is necessary to procreation (and as scientists are now finding, there are natural brain differences in gender, making women naturally geared for motherhood and men for fatherhood). That will always be the difference no matter how many people wish it was not.

      • John barker says:

        You keep yourself bound by judgment and anger toward an identifiable group of people and reduce them in your bigotry to a sex act that obviously is disgusting to you. Do you define yourself by where you put your dick? You blame gay people for making you angry just because they exist. Gay people do not directly violate your boundaries, other than they exist and you hate them and blame them for your anger. Read something about the psychology of projection and the shadow. You are really projecting your own unresolved sexual shame and disgust on to gay people instead of integrating your own shit. But your condemnation and disregard toward them indeed violates their boundaries to live in love and peace. Your sentiment leads to violence toward gay people just for existing. That’s the difference.

      • HarryL. says:

        First of all your name says a lot about you. “Fuck Faggots”? You did a great job showing your immaturity and ignorance with that name. How can you possibly try to ask for sympathy from others. ” I was born this way and for anyone to mock these natural feelings that I was born with is attacking the natural person that I am!” You are a hypocrite! You are unjustly attacking homosexual people for no significant reason. These homosexuals you are attacking may have been the way they are since they were children. Everything you say is unbelievable. “My parents are not religious or any thing it’s just ever since I was young and I very first learned that there were people in world that didn’t even use their own genitalia correctly it made me extremely angry inside!” Who are you to say how someone can use their private parts. A homosexual person may see the way they use their private parts as being correct, and the way a heterosexual uses their private parts as being incorrect. If you are going to express your opinions, then do it in a kind manner. If you don’t want to e judged then don’t judge others. You are wrong to attack homosexuals the way you did in your comment. Nothing can justify what you said, and don’t try to ask for peoples’ sympathy until you change yourself and see that what you are saying is hurtful. You know what might help you; put yourself into a homosexuals shoes and think about how it would feel to be verbally attacked by people for no good reason. Say everything you just said about homosexuals to yourself and see how you feel. If you really truly feel that homosexuals should be sent to mental hospitals, then keep your comments to your self. Do you have any consideration for others? Keep your nasty opinions to yourself! Why do you want to hurt others for no good reason? You can’t say you were born this way to justify anything, because you are capable of seeing your flaws. Whether or not you decide to fix them is up to you. But please do not share your opinions with others if they are going to be so hurtful and judgmental. You are wrong and you better realize it.

    • kat says:

      I agree! I knew it!

  2. Tracy Ore says:

    Fantastic. Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

  3. ejaneward says:

    thanks, friends. i wrote this a long time back and posted on Feminist Pigs but I thought I’d give it another go-around. i’m in this debate with people so often–it was helpful to get all of my thoughts out in the form of list. :)

    • Krista says:

      I can only speak for myself and my own experiences, but I’ve felt this way about my sexual orientation, probably since birth and I’ve felt pressured from both the straight and gay community to define my sexuality and identity a certain way. Thank you for posting.

    • Robyn says:

      Just stumbled upon this and thank you so much! This is almost exactly how i feel. I often WISH I was more attracted to women because i feel i would be a happier that way. And maybe one day i will meet a woman who i desire more than any male body. Until then i refuse to define my sexuality, why should I? Thanks again.

    • Mary Hocks says:

      Well done! It’s certainly timely and you have a lot to say – maybe a book or a TED talk is in order?

      • Mary Hocks says:

        And as a writer and teacher, I think just looking of some of the critiques of your examples in the various social media venues it has been hitting (you are using certainly stereotypes, etc., etc.) would make it an even better book/talk. I applaud you in doing so.

      • Brett Huebner says:

        Probably revealing my ignorance here, Mary Hocks, but what is a TED talk?

    • Hi Jane, thank you for this. It is a really fascinating topic and I think you treat it fairly. Even though I identify as lesbian, which means I do, in fact, choose to identify with a fairly rigid orientation label (which is a whole ‘nother topic of conversation), I have observed enough to know that any sort of hard-and-fast rules regarding gender, sexuality and sexual orientation are probably quite inadequate – and often delusional. I particularly like what you have to say about people conflating gender and sexuality and about the creation of the construct of sexual orientation.
      I think you really get at the essence of what I have pondered for quite some time which is that in order to discuss the root of attraction and orientation, we must first come to an understanding of what “attraction” or “sexual orientation” or “romantic orientation” mean. And there is no consensus about the definition of those terms or about the term “gay” or “homosexual.” Ultimately, I suppose I think the root of people’s orientations, attractions, attachments and desires are different for different people and play out differently in folks’ lives.
      Different relationships fill different needs for different people. (Sorry to use the word “different” so much). Not every heterosexual marriage is the same. How can all relationships follow the same pattern when the people who comprise those relationships all vary so drastically? I do not believe that “proving” the origin of homosexuality (whatever that means!) is the most important issue surrounding LGBTQ rights. As you said, even a theory that is widely accepted by the scientific community is very likely to change or be reversed in the not-too-distant future. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to to track down my womb, it seems to have wondered off again . . . . .

  4. meagan says:

    YES! this perspective is SO lacking public from lgbtq dialogues.

  5. meagan says:

    uh, *from public

  6. By resorting solely to “nots,” this article undermines its own premise. All the “reasons” that are offered, can just as easily be used to argue that sexual orientation is “not” determined after birth. The assertion that conversion “therapy” does “not” always fail (just 99.99 percent of the time; the successes reflecting persons who were bisexual to begin with) is especially weak.

    • So basically, you agree that neither sides of the spectrum are right or correct, and therefore the correct idea to side along with lies at the center of the two:

      “What determines sexual orientation is unknown.”

    • Matthew says:

      I think the author’s point about the conversion therapy isn’t (or she didn’t mean it to be) that it sometimes works, but that there’s actually no way to measure whether or not it worked because there’s no fool-proof way to identify sexual orientation. Maybe a person who has gone through the reparative therapy still has some “homosexual” feelings or urges from time to time, but how is that any different than a “heterosexual” person (say, a man married to a woman and has children with the woman) with the same thoughts and urges? The author says:

      “…a lot of people engage in homosexual behavior, but somehow we talk about the genetic origins of homosexuality as if we are clear about who is gay and who is not, and as if it’s also clear that “gay genes” are possessed only by people who are culturally and politically gay (you know, the people who are seriously gay).”

      I know more than a handful of “heterosexual” people who have experimented with “homosexuality.” What, pray, makes them “straight?” The fact that they ultimately chose, yes CHOSE, to be monogamous with a member of the opposite sex after having tasted both sides of the cake? Are they actually “gay” because they had the urges to begin with and just spend the rest of their lives kidding themselves? There is no way to normalize data about this kind of a situation in order to apply it to anyone other than the person on whom the data was collected.

      • Ahmet says:

        Precisely. Actually author falls to the mistake he criticizes some researches about: when there is no “reliable way to measure”, there is no absolute measure. Nevertheless, some points are quite important to take heed.

        I find being gay to “liking the color green”. Of course, you didn’t born with it (might have some physiological precursors of it maybe, who knows) and there might be various reasons why it is so; yet it is a fact now you cannot change (perhaps you can change but simply don’t want to) and now you shouldn’t be judged by the others – say, who like color red – about it. Logical, right?

        The situation is not that “simple” though, because – I think – the topic is highly more than political.

      • Michael says:

        I thinkyour argument is a logical fallacy in which you’re confusing homosexual behavior with homosexual orientation. Certainly people can choose to engage in any sorts of behavior for any sorts of reasons.

        But oddly enough I agree with the point you are ultimately trying to make, and I like your point about the ‘normalization of data’. To be able to interpret data we must have a reference point to compare it to. But I guess I don’t see a problem in only being able to apply collected to only the individual it was collected on, it seems we have too many people that want to fit others in boxes. When will we grapple with the idea that maybe people are a lot more unique, or at least complicated, than we give them credit for, and then acknowledge that there’s nothing wrong with that?

    • Tommy Lanster says:

      I agree. I am gay and have a high-pitched girly voice. I wish I was straight and had a manly voice so that I wouldn’t have to face scrutiny every day. I have tried to learn methods to talk deeper and a way to make me excited to see womens’ breasts. Nothing works. I pretend to be straight even though I know that I’m not fooling anyone.

      I don’t come from a screwed up family and have had a very normal childhood. My dad used to do father/son activities with me all the time like: fishing, camping, playing sports, building things. My mom always gave her full self to making me feel safe and loved. I have two sisters (one older and one younger) and while we would sometimes fight with each other like normal siblings we’ve always had a close relationship.

      I don’t have any gay relatives, I don’t have any gay friends and I’m not exposed to any gay individuals on a daily basis. So then please explain to me why I am gay. I don’t want to be gay. I want to choose to be straight but nothing changes my true feelings. If I wasn’t born gay then how do you explain my circumstance?

      • You don’t necessarily need a “messed up childhood” to become gay. If it’s something with your childhood it could be as trivial as an authoritative male figure in your life that affected you in such a way that caused you to have these desires.It could possibly even be your close relationship with your sisters that affected you greatly. The culture of the world wherever you are, especially the US, can have a profound effect on your sexual orientation. Is it possible that in some way you were predisposed to being gay biologically? Well yes. But in the very way that genetics work, if there is no gay people in your family, then how did you just randomly end up that way? Did it just pop up while you were in the womb? You are a literal creation of your mother and father combined. If there’s no signs of homosexuality on either side, why would you end up “born” that way?
        I want you to know though, I wholeheartedly believe it is not a choice. Like you said if it was a choice then you would be straight.
        And it’s quite possible I am flat out wrong and being born gay is how it is. But there is no way to know, like the author was trying to say. I understand it’s difficult for you to understand how you weren’t born that way, and I personally think there is a biological component and a psychological component to homosexuality.
        And honestly, don’t try to change yourself. If you are gay, then screw anyone who judges you or thinks less of you. It’s simply a sexual orientation, if a person isn’t worried about having sex with you, why should it matter to them? You being homosexual literally has zero to do with them. I realize this might be how you feel, I’m just letting you know that I bet you’re a pretty awesome person, regardless of your sexual orientation. Personally, I’m straight, but I’ll still treat you like any other guy I know. Simply because, regardless if a guy is gay or straight, I don’t want to have sex with him; therefore I will not look down or think more of someone because of what they are attracted/what they do in the bedroom.
        Just kind of wanted to put my thoughts out there and kind of voice my opinion, but also tell you there are many, many straight people who support you being who you really are.

      • Koofteh says:

        I am painfully and incredibly shy… I wasn’t born with the shyness gene, I was just really bullied in school. I wish I could stop being so shy and have friends and a normal life. Since I want to be the opposite of what I am I must have been born shy right?

        i can’t change it so I must have been born shy… no, nobody is born shy. Just because you can’t change something about yourself doesn’t mean it was nature over nurture. I could have been really social, but factors and experiences in my life determined it differently,

        I don’t hate myself for being so shy, I cannot help it. But I wasn’t born this way

      • Wondering says:

        @Seth Throneburg, your comment is one of the most intelligent ones I’ve ever read in my life. It’s sad that people think they have a right to say whether someone’s lifestyle is good or bad when that person has nothing to do with the situation. I am straight but I don’t give a care whether someone is gay or not as long as lesbians understand that I am not interested in women. I also do not believe sexual orientation was a choice. When I was 13 I tried to be asexual because I hated most of my peers at the time. It only lasted two years before I met the right guy. Now I’ve been happily engaged for nearly 3 years. I don’t know why I like men and dislike women, I just feel as if I do. I didn’t want to like either sex anymore but that attempt failed (for the better however).

      • DGregory says:

        Seth Throneburg, Sir I applaud you and your thoughts. If ever we we’re to meet I as a gay man would love to have been your friend. It is refreshing and often times rewarding for a human being of your nature to put into writing out in the public domain a statement of this nature. Thank you.

      • MIKE says:

        You MUST stop wishing you were straight when you are not ! It is like being black and wishing you were white. You must be very young and are lucky to be alive today in a world where gay rights have evolved so effectively. Gay people are OUT now, visible everywhere ! Gay people are good role models and visible in every endeavor, in high places like politics, government, the media, etc. Marriage Equality is a reality in over two thirds of U.S. states and growing as we speak. No one knows what causes heterosexuality either…so why obsess about it ? They are not “normal”, just more common ! Do you realize how many people throughout history were gay and all the things they contributed to our world ? Celebrate the positive things in your life;a wonderful and supportive family, two good sisters and a bright future for you ! Homosexuality is a natural part of human sexuality-just like heterosexuality. You are not “abnormal” or less than whole in any way. That is what the LGBT movement is all about ! The Stonewall Rebellion erupted in June 1969. That was 45 years ago ! The result today is that our young people accept gay and lesbian people as human beings. People like a left-handed person, someone with a very high IQ, with very curly hair, a man extra tall or a woman extra short. These are minorities within the human race that had no control over their characteristics as people. Do not let the vile religious nuts and rabid anti-gay, homophobic bigots discourage you either. Be who you are…..naturally. You seem to live in a small isolated town and do not have other gay people around you for support and comfort. Go to a big city like New York or San Francisco on a trip and visit the gay neighborhoods to see the history, culture, people and how they live their lives openly with pride in themselves and their identities as openly and successful gay people.We are consenting adults and tax paying citizens-never forget that, my friend.

      • Antome says:

        Seth, couldn’t it be possible that some people are born gay or straight, with a very strong orientation, while some (more than it appears, for obvious reason) have some more or less centered bisexual component and basically they can choose. Depending on their personality the may or may not choose to experiment their “gay” component, due to comformism (because sadly, gay people, especially if they appear deliberately choosing to be so, take so much shit) but also because some of them might have a much less stronger homo orientation, or sometimes simply because of wanting a family and to much less trouble in the way in matter of having children etc, than they would with their same sex.
        Very centered bi people might wisely choose to experience deeply both, without (as many gay people accuse bis of) betraying their partner for one of the other sex, only because they “miss” the other end of the spectrum.

        However the point of the article is controversial because if ambience influences one’s orientation so much, people, even liberal or libertarian people, might enact very preventive strategies to assess gender roles, not having boys and girls mix together (still as if gender identity and orientation were the same thing, as wisely stated by the writer), ban little boys experimenting makeup and nail polish, etc.
        But while gender identity and orientation are very different, they can be interwhelmed, not meaning that a girl being more traditionally masculine, and viceversa for a male can turn them to the opposite stereotipical gender identity and the sex at which it is applied (in short, a “feminine” man enjoying make up and nail polish or other women things turning gay). Such a change in orientation I think would never happen in whoever is very “hardcoded” hetero or homo.

        So that means if the subject is potentially “bi”, the ambience might orient
        1)his-her conscious choice?
        2)his-her unchoosable component of the orientation (or unconscious choice)?
        3)how much such unchoosable component is “centered” or leaning toward either side of the spectrum during his/her life?

        The good news anyway is that it’s anyway demonstrated that such cultural factor are much more aleatory and uncontrollable, different with all kind of people. Not as obvious as how much the family is traditional and harbours traditional values and discipline, would argue a strawman conservative and how much defying gender norms would supposedly make people lean toward gayness and alleged “confusion”. Nothing this controllable.
        My only doubt is how the protagonist of Cryo Generation Breeanna is, if I remember, a lesbian, and the coincidence of her being brought up by a gay women couple, one of them getting pregnant from an external donor in a cryogenic provette.
        But I happen to think animals don’t need to get taught which orientation is the “right” one.
        Could this depend on some very “homonormative” gay couples (at least apparently) which might form into their child a bad opinion of the opposite sex, and growing up with such opinion if one is bi, it’s possible one might orient oneself toward one’s same sex. Which is as stupid as heteronormativity, imho, but obviously stupid ideas are not reserved to straight people :).
        But either this or it’s simply a curious coincidence. Because I think an eventual curiousity toward our same sex can’t cancel the attraction to the opposite sex and vice versa.

      • R. Edward Travani says:

        Tommy, the question that’s really under debate here is whether or not you can be blamed for your homosexuality. Virtually none of us wanted to be gay when we first became aware of our feelings. We’re stuck with it. In perspective, Mother Nature plays far dirtier tricks on human beings than mere homosexuality (and its closely associated gender-nonconformity). Any knucklehead trying to make the point that you weren’t “born that way” or that you “made a choice” wants you back in the closet (or under it).

      • Antome says:

        Edward travani:
        Here it is, even if it were a choice it would be a very personal choice, also not “contagious”, this point has to be stressed much. Some people believe that you are subordinated to sort of social obligation to be straight to not be a “dry leaf” of the community.
        I see your point, anyway, we don’t want people to view homosexuality as something that can be apprended by emulation due to our frequentation like smoking, as this can open the door to “prevention” attempts by some bigot parent and isolation of gay friends, so the idea of it being “environmental but not really controllable” is a dangerous midground.
        My stance is that only part of it is a choice, a perfectly controllable one, wanting to experiment, some people, who are actually bisexual might want to embrace their gay side, without losing the capability of being attracted by their opposite sex.
        I know also from such people a final choice is expected from both the gay and the straight community because they might want to finally embrace the “natural” way of going with the opposite sex, and some gay people might feel like a last resort or a diversive.
        But imho they have to distinguish and not apply this to real 50% bisexual people.
        The part regarding the very orientation and comfort zone, instead, seems to be if not innate, an intricate complexity of factors that can’t be pathed down to frequentation and family education.
        But I don’t think it can come from messed up childhood.

  7. Jane, would you be jealous if I told you I have met and even been hugged by Javier Bardem!
    I relate strongly to both your attraction for him, which I share, and with what you say in this article. I particularly like the part about hairy armpits.

    • ejaneward says:

      oh my god, this is more reason that i need a hug from *you,* because you are great, and because your body has touched Javier’s!

      • Someday, some way hon! I’m bound to be back in California one of these days and y’all have an open invitation to Sweden. I suspect it would be helpful if we could hustle up some gigs to help pay our way! Seriously though, this essay is VERY useful and important. You might want to look at the conversation about it on Facebook.

  8. Chris says:

    Is there not a middle ground here? I am a woman who had my first crush on a girl when I was six – I find it hard to believe that part of me was not somewhat predisposed to be more (much more!!) attracted to women, whether it be chemical or biological or whatever. I do however choose not to live a lie – that is certainly a choice.

    • Agreed. Nurture or nature? If it’s there, it’s there, it’s there; who cares why.

    • Kai says:

      I’m bisexual and had by first crush on another girl when I was five (then on a boy at six). But I don’t think that necessarily indicates a biological predisposition. I don’t think prepubescent kids experience sexual attraction/sexual orientation (they are sexual beings, but not in the same way as teens/adults- it’s more about exploration and things feeling good than attraction, fantasy or raging hormones). Romantic crushes before the start of puberty seem like a strong indication of the social construction of sexuality to me (even though I believe post-pubescent sexuality is a complex interplay of social construction and biological factors). If someone was born a with a certain sexual orientation, I wouldn’t expect them to start noticing until their sexual attraction to other people kicked in.

      • jacobaziza says:

        As I said in my last reply, above, I was raised far outside of the norm in terms of the social construction of sexuality (i.e. raised in the LGBT community), however I had both romantic crushes as well as explicit sexual fantasies, on (exclusively female) classmates, friends, teachers, non-immediate family members, babysitters, etc from at least age 5 (which is the earliest I can clearly remember), but possibly earlier.
        I grew up thinking being gay was totally normal, but I never had a crush on or felt attracted to a male – even when I believed that sexual orientation was a purely social construct!

        I think the only reason that at very young ages sexuality is “more about exploration and things feeling good” is because a majority of parents keep the details of sex a secret from them as long as possible, so they don’t know how to interpret their feelings, not because they are somehow fundamentally different.

    • Dorothy says:

      Your comment brought up some memories of mine as a kid. I’ve been surfing the net for articles like this and I find this to be extremely insightful and fair for both sides. I remember when I was 6, I really liked a girl, whether it was romantic or not, I am unsure, but I was so fascinated by her, I wanted to be next to her and was jealous a boy was close to her! (I was a lame 6 year old *sigh). The years after, I started to be attracted to other girls, but once again, I’m unsure if they were romantic or platonic feelings (I WAS A KID). Sometime after, I started liking boys, but I remember very well that when I was 17, I fell for a girl. HARD. It wasn’t just sexual, it was more than that. (Take note that in HS, I DID date guys, I liked boys). Years following, I started to hang with this girl who was/is a lesbian (we weren’t dating, we were/still are CLOSE FRIENDS), and I was always intrigued by her sexuality. I remember always wanting to be with a woman, but not forgetting men too. As a matter of fact, up until a year ago, I was completely turned off by the sight of men in porn, and turned on by women. Here’s the thing though, now, I am not into women sexually at all. I am very into men. VERY. I am dating a guy and I love him. I can never imagine myself with a woman. All those thoughts of women turns me off…completely. There was just a time within the past 2 years when I told myself II am straight, and eventually it stuck. Thinking back, the times I was attracted to women were me deciding to do so – consciously and subconsciously, The same time I fell for that one girl so hard, was the following months after having my lesbian friend stay at my place for 2 months, and it was her carefree, strong, feminist approach to life that intrigued me. It was also around the same time I started to surround myself with my homosexual and lesbian friends (Whom i’m still close to, but don’t see as often due to distance). I’ve befriended many gays and lesbians, many of whom I love so dearly, and I’ve had more than one tell me something that lead to them deciding on what they want. My lesbian friend labelled herself bisexual in HS until she started dating a girl, then a guy, then a girl, then a guy, it was then she told me she decided she’s def a lesbian because she was “sick of men” cheating on her. Additionally, her father cheated on her mum too. She said that lead to her decision. My closest gay friend, whom is a self proclaimed gay with a boyfriend and a ton of ex boyfriends, admitted that he has been attracted to girls, he was attracted to me and brought me out on a date, but after finding out I had a guy I liked at the time, became my bff instead. This friend of mine was molested as a child and links that to him being gay, I told him that it’s ridiculous but he insists that it’s one of the factors, I still disagree. What I’m saying is that sexuality may be more fluid than we all think. I’m not saying it’s a choice, nor am I saying it’s natural, I’m just saying I’m extremely unsure, but I’m leaning more towards ‘choice’. Don’t hate me. I am really just looking for answers, not fights :)

      • David Schwartz says:

        Thank you. This is the kind of detail that helps enrich one of the meanings of choice: an unconscious process that is different for each person. Heterosexuals make these choices, too, but usually with far less articulation and self-knowledge. Our culture requires little of them in that department. They take themselves for granted.

      • Out of all of the comments, I like the honesty in your testimony the best. Ibcan feel it. At the end of the day we are the sum total of our thought. Everything manifest itself in the mental realm and I do agree that sexual orientation is a choice and NOT a genetic or biological factor. I actually have not ever met a soul that is not heterosexual that does not have some sort of story (whether conscious or not) that has led to their orientation of choice.

      • Mike says:

        I have to disagree with your “take” regarding your friend that is gay that was molested as a child. I was molested as a child by 1. A grown woman (baby sitter) and 2. Her 2 teenage sons. The molestation by the sons left a more vivid mark on my psyche due to the fact of the penetration, both oral and anal as well as the fact that it happened on a constant basis. I was only 6 years old at the time. But, I think that “first” sexual experience, no matter if it was molestation or not, played a significant part in forming my “attraction” to the same sex. That was my first “sexual” experience. Prior to that I knew nothing of sex whatsoever and do not have any recollection of having any sexual attraction to either male or female. From that time forward I was always attracted STRICTLY to men and never to women. Perhaps at the time, since I did not know any better, I thought that was how it was supposed to be and that lead me to be attracted to men. Who knows? But, I think it’s kind of heartless on your part and assuming to just tell your friend that you disagree and that he’s wrong. We all feel what we feel. Were you in his shoes you may have a different view on the issue he’s had to deal with his entire life. We all want to be “right” for some reason when none of us know who’s right and who’s wrong. You need to check yourself before you tell someone that their thought process and opinions are “ridiculous”. Especially someone that you call a “friend”. Friends don’t do that to each other. I’m sure you’re a nice person and I don’t hate you by any means. Just think about the things you say and how they might affect others negatively.

      • Blaise says:

        I agree with Mike. I think one of the most difficult analyses to make involves putting yourself in someone else’s position and making a fair judgment. Experiences define us to such a huge extent in terms of how we think that it’s extremely difficult to accurately criticize (perhaps even impossible) someone else’s life without bias.

        I think the problem is that if something makes sense to us, we automatically assume it is right. Logically, if it weren’t right, then it wouldn’t have made sense in the first place. In this way, our unique thought patterns create self-consistent confirmations of how the world works; when actually, it is just how the world works for us, but certainly not for everyone else. Cultural socialization streamlines our thought patterns to account for a good portion of judgment overlap (for example, eating people is unanimously a “bad idea” in Western countries, even though it is accepted in other cultures), but there are very many situations upon which our society is not collectively decided — such as the cause of being gay or not, or in your case, whether molestation as a child inspired homosexuality in your friend — and in these situations it’s best to avoid judging others, or if you must speak it out loud, do so with a heaping of reservations out of respect for the very large possibility that you don’t fully understand the situation.

        Lump onto this the problem that far greater minds than yours, indeed the brightest minds in the history of humanity, struggled their entire lives to uncover only a fraction of a fraction of how nature really works, as well as the fact that your degree is probably in something completely unrelated to the topic (ie. you are speaking from your gut with an untempered opinion, ignorant of the work done by thousands of people who have dedicated their careers to tackling these problems), and you realize that you really have no credibility to pass judgment on almost any topic.

        If you *must* judge someone, then the modest (and more accurate) thing to do is be reserved in how you dish it out: Recognize that your ability to judge is hindered not only by severe intellectual and educational deficiencies, but also a deficiency of perspective through not having shared exactly the other person’s life experiences. I think had you used this filter, you would have been more cautious about making a huge leap in your judgment to tell your friend that he is ridiculous for believing his homosexuality were caused by molestation as a child. Trying to coerce him into your own way of thinking is just as likely to do more harm than good.

        I found the article itself really interesting. The comparison of our groping for causes of homosexuality, or latching onto false positives, to the science of the 1800s that attempted to justify racial prejudices using physical differences really hammered the point home for me. I will be more careful in the future of blindly accepting the argument currently backed by the lgbt community. However, I do believe that if we are to continue making progress for equality, the simple and understood argument proposed by the lgbt community is just much easier to accept, even if it were wrong. The means may or may not justify the ends, but when it comes to practically achieving results, we simply don’t live in a perfect world where we are entitled to reaching our goals through the most ideal means. In other words, we can’t always get the cake and eat it, too! But this is just my opinion, for the sake of the discussion here. Keep up the good work, please :)

      • Mike says:

        @Blaise Thank you for saying, so eloquently, what I could not!! You hit the nail on the head!

      • Antome says:

        Blaise, the thing is, some are born straight or gay, some have a bisexual component and can choose, they mostly choose to be “straight” while some embrace it completely. Mike, being molested might make one enjoy anal sex (conditional, because in many cases i think this would definitely put someone off it, associating it to such experience), but not making you like males instead of women.
        p.s. no means justify ends. homophobic people are going to cite this article against the official “born this way” stance, it’s better to fight for freedom and the truth.

  9. christopher walling says:

    yes, the “conversion therapy” does “not” always fail argument is most
    particularly weak.

  10. I believe sexual orientation is not divided neatly between heterosexuality and homosexuality but into infinite shades in between therefore some people feel its sexual orientation a lot stronger than others. I haven’t yet seen any correlation between body structure and sexuality. It is impossible to choose who you will fall for, sexually or emotionally, that just happens, what you can choose sometimes is if you want to pursue it. This is rather straightforward and easy tu understand when we talk about individuals, it becomes a whole lot of a mess when it has to be argued as a population strategy.

  11. Ma-Long says:

    Reblogged this on The Blinding Light and commented:
    I’ve been saying this for ages. LGBT groups shoot themselves in the foot and lose legitimacy when they argue the contrary.

  12. Christopher Carrington says:

    Hi,

    While I share your assertion that there is no necessary political or moral conclusions one can infer from a biological account of the origins of sexual orientation(s), I do find your review of the scientific literature on this topic cursory, selective and mostly mean-spirited. Your analysis leaves little room for reasonable and progressive people to disagree with one another. It’s unfortunate that you are so harsh toward those of us who have concluded after decades of reading, researching, and thinking about sexual orientation(s) that there are plausible and worthy scientific explanations for the origins and place of diverse sexual orientations in evolution, in biology, in genetics and in human populations. When you assert that: “Regardless of what else we might say about the soundness of these studies, what is evident to me is that they have been used to authorize many a straight man’s homophobia, and many a gay man’s misogyny, ” you do a disservice to contemporary scientists who are not nearly as “homophobic” and “misogynist” as you have them be. It is possible, and increasingly common, for scientists to resist both heterosexism and misogyny when it emerges in scientific understandings of gender and sexuality. Why not engage with those kinds of scientists and see what contemporary neuroscience, genetics and evolutionary biologists/psychologists/ecologists can teach us about gender and sexual orientation(s)? I once thought about these matters in ways quite similar to you, but my engagement with feminist-inspired scientists, people like Sandra Hrdy, Marlene Zuk, Joan Roughgarden, and Helen Fisher transformed my thinking and enabled me to see that evolutionary and biological accounts of sexual identities and orientations could indeed fit with liberation politics and that my understandings of biology and genetics and neurology were simply out-of-date and disconnected from the contemporary debates within these scientific efforts.

    • ejaneward says:

      Hi Chris,
      I didn’t intend to come across as “mean,” so I’m sorry you read the post that way. I feel angry about how the hegemony of biological accounts have elided all other ways of thinking about sexuality, but I don’t feel mean about it. I, too, am a fan of some of the work in feminist science studies that explores the dynamic relationship between culture and embodiment (like Fausto-Sterling’s work), but I have yet to meet a study that makes causal, bio-evolutionary claims that I don’t find troubling. Have you read Rebecca Jordan Young’s book? It’s such a great overview of the problems with the science of sexual orientation. In any case, aside from the condescending subtext (“I, too, once thought like you but then I dug deeper, became smarter”), I appreciate the spirit of your comment.

      • David Schwartz says:

        Excellent reply. When the political consequences of badly done, and thus misleading science are seen clearly, they can make many of us angry, frustrated and impatient, given the privileging given to apparent science. That is not mean; it is human. The work of Jordan-Young is excellent. Also consider a broader analysis of the mistaken uses of genetics by Lewontin, (Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA (1991) ISBN 0-06-097519-9, for one example of his work.

    • LKR says:

      Love this! Book recommendations please!

    • leah says:

      Chris, I may have found your answer that you search for. You typed in your paragraph. “Transformed my thinking”. See how easy it is to be persuaded? Nobody truly knows anything. Why? We are born knowing nothing. Out-of-date and disconnected? I’m sorry to put it out this way but aren’t we all? Even when it comes down to the most inspiring feminist scientists. They haven’t the slightest clue besides “guesses”. If you thought ejaneward was mean. Hun, I must be the spawn of Satan. Perhaps, we should work on thinking whether than feeling when debating.

  13. Iden says:

    Your blogging is excellent and I completely agree that “sexual orientation” and preferences are socially, culturally, and historically shaped rather than some specific gene or set of genes or nonsense like that. But what isn’t nonsense is science in finding truth. If there was scientific evidence that came from as non-biased a source as possible, with excellent design, and lots of data then it wouldn’t be logical of us to deny it and throw away the evidence just because it doesn’t fit our model of sexuality that we are comfortable with. Data does not fit models, models must fit the data. Also there is a lot of research done on Masturbation and oral sex a quick search on any of those terms in google scholar will show you some excellent studies in sociology, psychology, and neuroscience in these realms. People make the fallacy of saying that because something is “natural” it is inherently good, moral, or preferred. From your writing I see that you don’t think this way. Of course if it was proven that certain sexual orientations were natural or highly correlated and later shown to be caused by certain genes then that would be the truth or rather our best approximation of it. For example you seem to be irked by the fact that not a lot of research goes into heterosexuality but this too is a bit of a fallacy. The vast majority of research on heterosexuality in humans and other animals has simply been termed “reproductive science.” Evolutionary science is by and large (for sexually reproducing animals) heterosexual science. That’s not to say that other species don’t engage in what we might term homosexual or bisexual relations and that they are not important in the mating rituals of other species. But this is a fact that is hard to miss, sexual reproduction happens in sexually reproducing species by heterosexual encounters, the mixing of genetic material from different biological genders; though this should have no bearing at all on the social or cultural acceptance of homosexuality or transgenderism. Science isn’t this static fact though. The science isn’t “wrong” it’s always a work in progress. Science is our best way of being less “wrong.” Sociology, anthropology, and so on fall into the category of science and the science of choice, decisions and so forth does exist. There may come a day when we have good models for how and why people make certain decisions. You aren’t transcending science or anything by saying that “choice” is the ultimate factor for certain things. As a neuroscientist I’d say there probably isn’t anything like “free will” or “choice.” There is nothing inherently special about human choices or social and cultural constructs. Something is causing them to happen and it certainly isn’t magical spirits or souls (as far as we know) and it’s probably just brain chemistry. I guess this is the anti-thesis of what you are trying to say. Nothing is a choice. Though maybe that’s wrong, but that’s what the evidence points to for now.

    • Human says:

      Have you ever wonder that Obama is supporting gays than anything else ?
      in USA people get die by insane men and you’ve heard a lot from these days.
      In religious way, in bible, it says that god is against homosexuals. you don’t believe god, no problem.
      In nature way, females & males are rising the humanity by giving life to their children, and we’ve seen this system in hole other creature. So after all, not just you’re abusing and insulting on nature in fact you’re destroying the evolution of humanity!

      • david says:

        You might want to consider a blog that is not so remote from your world view.

      • Sweetnuts00 says:

        …..Obviously English is not your first language.

        You have posted an “opinion” that is so abstract and off the wall in this forum that you are now being looked upon with glares and questions marks.

        Get back in your cave and please don’t have any children, please, for the sake of your own “evolution of humanity” do not have ay children.

        It’s so hard for me not to go full blown troll mode right now lol

  14. patrickwrighton says:

    I don’t deny that for some sexual orientation is a choice. But equally, I won’t accept social contructionists telling me that it was something I chose. This isn’t reflective of my opinion in a nature v nurture debate- my sexual orientation is probably a mixture of biology envionment- for me, the developmnt.of.my sexual orientation involved no element of choice. There is nothing worse than academics or queer theorists telling queer people how their sexuality developed or using queer people in an essentialist v social constructionist brawl.

  15. ejaneward says:

    thanks, everyone, for your comments. this thread is reminding me of one of my favorite lines in Gayle Rubin’s 1984 essay “Thinking Sex”:
    “The notion of a single ideal sexuality characterizes most systems of thought about sex. For religion, the ideal is procreative marriage. For psychology, it’s mature heterosexuality. Although its content varies, the format of a single sexual standard is continually reconstituted within other rhetorical frameworks, including feminism and socialism. It is just as objectionable to insist that everyone should be lesbian, nonmonogamous, or kinky, as to believe that everyone should be heterosexual, married, or vanilla – though the latter set of opinions are backed by considerably more coercive power than the former.”

    Similarly, I agree that it’s oppressive to impose on everyone a single narrative about sexual desire and its origins. And, I also see that there is already one narrative–the bio-evolutionary narrative–that has been widely accepted as true at the exclusion of all other accounts, and as such, it is “backed by considerably more coercive power” than all others. So, for that reason, I have summarized here a counter-narrative, one that gives some of us some room to breathe outside of the stifling echo chamber of “born this way.”

    • Jim says:

      Yeah, I don’t deny that some may have made a choice, but I also didn’t “choose” anything. And I also disagree that there is a a dominant narrative. The people with power in the world are the ones who say homosexuality is a choice — if anything, that is the dominant narrative.

      • Antome says:

        Which people with power?
        Because usually Obama and those supporting such rights buy that it’s innate, it’s the homophobic strawman conservative that says it’s a choice and a commendable one which has to be repaired because against some orwellian population strategy (somethinng along the line of that if you are not monogamouse, purely straight, etc, you can’t procreate and the “natural order” falls apart along with traditional values).

  16. Pam I says:

    If you speak out against the party line, it pisses people off. eg
    http://pamisherwood.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/born-fabulous-lesbian-by-choice/ posted just last week as I’ve never had a Hate response before. Thanks for writing this. Why is there no majority saying, we’re all born human with a potential for many things, the rest is a mix of circumstance and choice.

    • I don’t know of anyone in authority on the gay-tolerant side who is pushing a “party line” or a “stifling echo chamber.” As a rule, they’ve been saying all along that there is a continuum of orientation and similarly a continuum of factors in orientation, and that what people do with their attractions is a matter of personal choice. If an individual wishes to be celibate, fine for them.

      What they object to, are rhetorical dances around the fact that no peer-reviewed scientific study has found that conversion therapy works; that some studies have documented harm by ex-gay therapists; that some ex-gay therapists have been disbarred and jailed for molesting clients or practicing “touch therapy” and other unethical practices; that many families have been destroyed by the dual false teachings that parents cause homosexuality and that anyone can change; and that the ex-gay movement has lobbied to deny anyone a choice, by making homosexuality illegal, defending antigay violence in schools, and demanding prison sentences or the death penalty for gay people.

      • Pam I says:

        Did you read those Facebook comments?

      • Kai says:

        You must not be paying much attention because most of the gay community, most mainstream gay orgs and reps are monosexist, biological essentialists, and if you don’t agree with them you’re not welcome (or worse). The HRC had a panel rating politicians on their support for LGbt people a few years back. One of the questions was “Do you think sexual orientation is a choice?” A prospective governor, I believe, said he didn’t know because he wasn’t a scientist, but that it didn’t matter whether it was a choice. That gay people deserve the same rights as everyone else either way. This answer did not go over well and he got a bad score.

  17. They object most of all to attempts by the ex-gay movement to create fraudulent studies such as that conducted by Mark Regnerus, in which the study’s vocabulary, guidelines, and volunteer pool are pre-designed to achieve a predetermined outcome — and then reframed for the public using an incongruent and misleading vocabulary.

  18. Samir Taha says:

    Interesting stuff, though I’m not at all sure about the accuracy with which the author represents homosexuality in ancient Greece, and in native cultures. Also the title was a put-off for me. How can anyone rule that everyone is born or not born gay or straight. It’s a statement that seems just as dogmatic as that which it’s trying to criticize. Speaking from personal experience, it’s never been a choice for me, but I would not make such a confident statement on behalf of everyone in either direction. Also, I’m not inclined to either subordinate biology to social theory or vice versa.

  19. Gormless says:

    A very thoughtful and thought-provoking piece. Thank you. …

    …from an aged straight guy who resents that whole “straight/bent” vocabulary. It’s offensive.

  20. The Ambivalent "Heteroflexible" says:

    Wow. I feel like this article describes almost all of my ideas about sexuality that I have never had the guts to say. I grew up in the city by the bay (known by most Americans as the gay capital of the world), was raised by a single mother, attended an all girls middle school and in high school worked for a non-profit organization that focused on empowering adolescent girls and was unsurprisingly staffed in part by lesbians. They introduced me to Ani Difranco and Lauryn Hill. Throughout middle school and high school, I never assumed that I was heterosexual but I didn’t identify as homosexual either. I was just sort of apathetic about sexuality. In college, I started having my first relationships with men but by the time I had graduated I found that I had managed to take a lot of women’s studies classes and that many of my friends were queer. Most of my queer friends saw me as straight even when I occasionally “experimented” with them. I certainly don’t feel that I am generally more attracted to women than men– but sometimes I am. And I can’t help but think that the environment I grew up in generally showed homosexual relationships as healthier than the heterosexual relationships that I saw and that this has had some impact on who I have become. I am by no means a man-hater–and I have some very close straight male friends–and yet, I see the attractiveness of homosexual relationships. (I’ve also seen plenty of drama from both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, of course). I’ve also noticed, that while few people talk about, a number of my gay male friends have occasionally been attracted to women, a straight male friend once voiced his attraction to another man, and a number of both my “straight” and “queer” female friends have expressed some ambiguity about their sexuality. Through the wonders of social media, I also now know that of my small group of girl friends in middle school–two are in relationships with women and one identifies as a man. All of these experiences I have had make it pretty hard for me to believe that sexuality is completely biological, but I admit to not wanting to voice that opinion around my queer friends who feel that they have always identified that way. I do, however, think that our world could use some more homosexuality/ sexual ambiguity—and this is another opinion that I’m generally careful to avoid voicing—but the fact is, queer couples are generally more likely to put a lot more thought into having kids and not have them accidentally. As a (luckily now quite happy) accident myself with a number of close friends who were accidents too, I can speak first hand of the value of planning. So while I have been arguing against the theory of biologically determined sexuality thus far, I’m going to end this with the following (perhaps somewhat extreme) idea to contemplate: We all know that the human race’s current population growth is unsustainable— so if homosexuality did become more prevalent wouldn’t that actually make sense in terms of evolution for the sake of sustaining the human race? (Assuming that evolution hasn’t yet figured out how to account for IVF). And if you believe in God and not evolution (or in both), wouldn’t it be logical for whatever powers there are up above/ around us to try take control of rampant heterosexuality? Sounds like a logical choice to me.

    • Antome says:

      It is possible that you are bi and you have sort of chosen, based on your ideas of heterosexual relationship, which anyway are not all identical, although the rampant explanation of it in term of evolutionary psychology seems to depict them as a matter of power, like women going with alpha men and such bullshit (not in absolute, but they should be careful about making a model out of it), luckily it’s not always the case.
      Samir Taha, above there describe his as not being a choice. So things might be different depending on people

  21. Dinae says:

    Yes but are you a Sagittarius? Kidding- I appreciate this post and have had thoughts in similar veins. I wonder if you’ve read any feminist critiques of the common textbook explanation of how conception occurs, thinking of the purity of “reproductive science” wherein the sperm harpoons the egg after the little guys have raced their way to the finish line. Several studies indicate that the egg has a significant role to play in “choosing” which sperm gets in in the moment of conception, but after these studies we still find the harpoon in our textbooks. It’s hard to talk about that egg “choosing” without implying choice as well, as it is a bit tricky to divorce language entirely from impetus and desire. I’d like to move toward a society where this “born this way” shtick with its strategic essentialism is passe because whatever, and then maybe we can scientifically evaluate sexuality without bringing all our baggage to the microscope.
    Pardon this rather crass note in passing but I do think it’s of interest in the course of conversations about biology and heterosexuality to note the myriad displays of alternate forms of sex displayed by other species. I don’t know if you’ve ever looked into the incredibly wide array of alternative sexual positions presented in the animal kingdom apart from humans but blowhole penetration and male giraffe on male giraffe action come to mind. I mention this thinking of the term “reproductive science” and just mining perhaps a bit too much from the tone of previous comments. I don’t mean to derail a relatively articulate thread but would assert that heteronormativity is pretty clearly a human construct, and many animals appear to reproduce out of dumb luck when gauged by their rate of male/female penetration given the wide range of other behaviors they engage in.

    • SY says:

      I think you bring up a really good point here re: looking at animal behavior as a proof of the complexity of biology and how ANY form of normativity (or dichotomous & highly striated constructs of sexuality or any form of behavior) does grave injustice to this complexity, and thus to our understanding of the universe around us. This theme is one that is echoed throughout this article and reminds us that human constructs are helpful until they aren’t… and then it is time to reassess. Hooray for the scientific method? :)

  22. straybullett says:

    Excellent post. I have long been suspicious of the born this way argument, but have always felt the better part of valor was to not disagree or risk getting into some shrill argument with someone who needs this stance to justify themselves (to who I have no idea).

    I surprised at how many people here have glommed onto the the brief comment regarding conversion “therapy”. I didn’t think the point of your post really had anything to do with conversion therapy. Maybe my reading comprehension failed me.

    Finally, your pointing out that no one is trying to figure out why people are heterosexual (short of falling back on species imperatives) is probably the most telling aspect of how science is doing a poor job of trying to prove a point. That shouldn’t have to be made, in reality.

  23. Matthew says:

    The FIRST thing we learned in my genetics class at college is that, in any debate of nature vs. nurture, it’s ALWAYS BOTH. Of course we’re not “born gay” because we’re not born sexual beings at all. Our sexuality is something that develops in us as we mature and develop. That’s not to say that our genes don’t predetermine the “tools” our body has to work with while we grow physically and mentally into the person we will become, but to think about sexuality as a single gene (the gay gene) is simple and incorrect.

    The way we view sexuality and sexual orientation today is seriously flawed. We try to make people’s sexuality fit into boxes, but It is as unique a thing about a person as his or her face or hair or feet or the freckle pattern on his or her cheeks, and it’s not black or white. It’s for this reason that people say that “homosexuals” are ‘born this way.’ To some extent, we are all born every way we are, but our environment is always playing its role. “Gay” to me may feel different than “gay” to another “gay” person. True, we both engage in behaviors that most people consider to be “gay,” (i.e. having sex with members of the same sex) but I hold that my sexuality could be as different from another “gay” man’s as it is from a “straight” man’s or even a woman’s for that matter.

    And that’s not even to mention how gender identity complicates things…

  24. Chuckles McTruck says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for this. For years I have been questioning the victim role nature of “born this way” and whether it is mostly a political mechanism. It’s nice to know someone else sees what I see.

  25. SY says:

    Coming from a psychological/biobehavioral standpoint, it seems to be a general consensus (unless I’ve had really poor professors and read really backwards literature) that many if not all phenotypes (aspects of individual identity, development, and behavior), while they may find their source in DNA, are ultimately influenced by the environment as well. Biologists and scientists in general seem to have come to the complex understanding that both nature and nurture play a part in determining behavioral and individual outcomes, also known as “gene expression”. It comes as no surprise to me, and seems to jive along with current psychological/scientific thought, that sexual orientation is not purely biological. I can understand how this is controversial, however, as I feel that much of the discourse surrounding sexual identity has been co-opted by the field of sociology. We must remember that the goal of sociology is often to approach identity with compassion and contextual understanding – placing individuals in the larger social context, attempting to give meaning to the individual’s identity without insinuating that that identity is something that should be changed in order to fit in with society. However, just because we can say that sexual orientation *shouldn’t* be something that we can just switch on and off (which, by the way, is NOT what the “environmental argument” entails), doesn’t mean that sexual orientation is, in fact, purely biological. For example, for someone “suffering from mental illness” (as I am), there are biological predispositions but there are also environmental factors such as stress in childhood, triggering traumas, etc., that can cause the biological predisposition to be more sensitive to be expressed. I draw the parallel between “mental illness” and sexual identity because I believe that my “mental illness” is a source of identity for me. Having depressive and possibly bipolar tendencies absolutely influences my worldview and how I identify myself, and not in a negative way. There are some very beautiful, complex outcomes to having what we term “depressive” and “bipolar” symptoms. However, would this fact of it being a source of an identity change the scientific reality that my “mental illness” phenotype or gene expression is likely a result of both genes (nature) and environmental factors (nurture) and their complex interaction? No. And I think this parallel is a useful one.

    • SY says:

      Sorry – wanted to clarify – the reason I am talking about Nature and Nurture / Genes and Environment is because from what I’ve learned, “Environment” is an aspect of an individual’s “self” that they have *some* control over, control that they can exercise through making choices that influence what they surround themselves with. We generally can’t really go into our DNA and alter it. That being said, we don’t control much of our environment – that’s why we become totally anal (no pun intended) about what we DO have control over!!

    • Kai says:

      The discourse surrounding sexual orientation has not be “co-opted” by the field of sociology. Sociology gets almost no space in social discourses, especially this one. If it did, we would be talking, as a society, about the social construction of sexuality, the way it has changed over time, it would be common knowledge that the world is not split into tight little boxes of gay and straight. As a student of sociology, I try to tell people all the time that human sexuality is most likely a complex interaction between biology and social forces. What the discourse has actually been dominated by is politics (including identity politics), on both sides of this topic.

    • Greg Birkett says:

      apologies btw, that was not directed towards anyone except the person who wrote the article.. the reply missed

  26. Eci says:

    While I might not agree with everything you’ve written here, it really did make me think and you presented a lot of good points. I have to thank you for this very well written article. It’s wonderful to see someone actually using proper arguments and including both sides of the case, which is sadly lacking in internet culture today. So Thank You! for taking the time to write this!

  27. Pingback: queer | Annotary

  28. David Schwartz says:

    Excellent piece of scholarly politics. One amendment: LeVay’s report of a difference between gay and straight hypothalamus’s (sp?) could not be replicated when a competent neuroanatomist (William Byne,MD,PH.D.) attempted to do so. It is a spurious finding, the invalidation of which has not been adequately reported.

    • 1. The critiques of LeVay’s study were thoroughly reported. The only people whom I still observe citing that study as an expression of accepted fact, in my experience, are antigay activists who seek to make mainstream researchers look stupid or sloppy by citing LeVay as a mainstream thought-leader.

      2. The absolutist title of this page speaks to the integrity of the article: It allows no acknowledgment of those whose orientation is partly, substantially, or wholly biological or prenatal.

      It’s surprising to see an intelligent writer so readily adopting the past rhetorical tricks of Exodus International — an ex-gay supergroup which now admits that conversion therapy does not work.

  29. Stefan Alexander says:

    Oh dear, Well let me just come out with it…. To me this article is postmodern, pseudo-intellectual, and anti-scientific to boot..
    here’s why…

    “Just because an argument is politically strategic, does not make it true.”
    That’s right, that doesn’t make it true. Proven peer reviewed evidence only makes something true. Scientific peer reviewed research is the only system we have in this world to find absolute truth. Because quite often something that is claimed to be ‘true’, is easily influenced by what we want, what is socially acceptable or what is convenient. The writer says something interesting in the postscript but she shouldn’t have done so, because it clearly permeates this entire article.. “Personally, the idea that I don’t have control over who or what I desire is a big turn-off to me”
    And here we have it, this article only exists because it reinforces the authors desires and wants. She wants to have personal control. Mind over matter so to speak. But does she really? What is the truth, and what are we talking about?

    The example of Cynthia Nixons statement doesn’t make it any clearer either. She “chose to pursue a lesbian relationship”, Now choice, and I wikiquote here; “consists of the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one or more of them.” But that choice doesn’t say anything about her homosexual feelings and desires and how long she’s had them. It is also perfectly possible for people to pursue a relationship that is contrary to their sexuality. Because we know people have done so and still do. So Cynthia Nixons statements can only been seen as just that, a statement. And it shouldn’t have gotten the attention that it did.

    Now the author seems interested in finding out the truth regardless of whether it is popular or brings “political returns”. That is commendable, however her next step is to immediately shoot herself in the foot by starting to try and discredit the only system we have to find truth…science.

    “The science is wrong” the author states (in two parts), and as an example give us research on the digit ratio and it’s connection to sexual orientation. Sounds weird I know, but scientists think that both the digit ratio and sexual orientation are affected by the same thing, androgen in the womb. And the results seem to support the hypothesis. But then why is the science wrong?.

    “But this study makes the same error that countless others have made: it does not properly distinguish between gender (whether one is masculine or feminine) and sexual orientation (heterosexuality or homosexuality). Simply put, the fact that a woman is “masculine” (itself a social construction) or has been introduced to greater levels of a male hormone need not have anything to do with whether she is attracted to women”

    And that would be correct, but that is not what this research says. It says and I quote the BBC page to which this article links “What the study showed was that lesbian women also tended to have the more “masculine” arrangement – that is, they had shorter index fingers.” Notice this doesn’t say anything about whether the woman herself could be considered masculine. It doesn’t even say that she has a masculine looking hand. It doesn’t make any connection to masculinity and femininity in the person. It says the digit ratio length more resembles the male length. That is it! So the reason the author concludes the research is wrong, isn’t because the data is wrong, but because she doesn’t understand the way they use the word masculine.

    The labels gay, straight masculine and feminine itself seem offensive to the writer. Because she doesn’t believe in labels because of their inherent constrictive properties, and the, shall we say negative aftertaste they leave in her mouth. From a social and gender perspective I wholeheartedly agree. But when talking about these concepts in cold scientific terms they mean just that.

    But let’s say for the sake of discussion say that she’s right that this particular research is found out to having totally misinterpreted the data (that’s why these things are peer reviewed and cross examined) But even if one scientific study can come under critique. Doesn’t mean they all are faulty. The problem is we do not know why people have attractions to the same sex. Could be genetic, could be hormones within the womb. That’s why we do research. The fact that we don’t know the exact answer yet, doesn’t mean the answer isn’t out there.

    But she continues;
    “An even greater problem with the science of sexual orientation is that it seeks to find the genetic causes of gayness, as if we all agree about what gayness is.”

    The problem here is that when it comes to science it doesn’t matter whether we al agree on the definition of gayness. This is a comment about popular semantics and personal attitudes and feelings and not science. When science talks about homosexuality it talk about attraction to the opposite sex. And not homosexual behavior, or the shifting cultural attitudes to it.
    If sexual identity is a result of genes than we must be able to find it and prove it. If not it is something else. That’s why we do this research..

    “And, of course, there is the time-eternal question: why aren’t scientists looking for the genetic causes of heterosexuality?”

    That is an easy answer… Scientist are! Scientists are researching what determines our sexuality, and that naturally includes heterosexuality. But that is not what the author is saying. She is asking “why isn’t heterosexuality picked and prodded and dissected as homosexuality is?” Well that’s also a rather easy answer. Why? Because we don’t understand it yet. Because at a first glance it shouldn’t be. Everyone can see that homosexuality seems inherently counterproductive to the survival of the species. Since homosexuals don’t tend to procreate, it should have gotten evolved out of our species by natural selection ages ago. But it didn’t! That means homosexuality has a role in the continued survival of our species. And we are trying to understand it.

    “Just 150 years ago, scientists went searching for the physiological evidence that women were hysterical. Hysteria, by Victorian medical definition, meant that a woman’s uteruses had become dislodged from its proper location and was floating around her body causing all sorts of trouble—like feminism and other matters of grave concern. And guess what, they found the evidence, and they published books and articles to prove it. They also looked for and found the evidence that all people of African and Asian ancestry were intellectually and morally inferior to people of European Ancestry.”

    This is just pandering to the anti scientific community, and clearly reveals that the writer does not understand what science is or does. Who do you think disproved all those previous held claims, and changed these previously held beliefs?…That’s right science! These ideas developed because people didn’t have all the information to them and made their conclusions. It is further science that provided them with more information, which forced them to alter their previous held beliefs.

    Science isn’t perfect. But science is constantly improving and getting better by each new discovery and by reviewing it’s past long cherished assumptions and not taking them for granted That is it’s greatest power, and not it’s weakness like the author seems to think. All throughout this article I sense disdain for science in general. Like the author is personally offended by the notion that her orientation could even be the subject of scientific research. Imagine it might even be scientifically explained! We already know she is more comfortable with the idea of individuality and that she has an intellectual choice in the matter and doesn’t want to know that we all are slaves to our genes so to speak. Whether it comes to which partner we choose or the kind of food we like.
    Unfortunately for her, science doesn’t deal with what is comfortable; it deals with what is true.

    “Just because you have had homosexual or heterosexual feelings for as long as you can remember, does not mean you were born a homosexual or heterosexual.”

    What is the writer trying to say here? That one only becomes a homosexual after you yourself become aware these feeling are homosexual feelings. It is like saying a baby doesn’t have a nose before it realizes it is a nose. It is actually quite common to hear mothers proclaim “Oh I knew since you were a toddler” long before the child had any concept.

    “But was I born with a desire to eat cheddar cheese or make drawings of feet? Are these desires that can be identified somewhere in my body, like on one of my genes? It would be hard to make these claims, because I could have been born and raised in China, let’s say, where cheddar cheese is basically non-existent and would not have been part of my life.”

    Thi,s I’m sorry to say is completely ridiculous
    Yes she is right, there isn’t a specific cheddar chees gene. This once again shows that the author doesn’t grasp the basics of genes and genetics. It is already well understood that genes affect our taste. But don’t take my word for it, take the Smithsonian’s. http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/food/2010/05/the-genetics-of-taste/

    Yes it is true that a person can change their taste for things during their lifetime. Maybe even their sexual one, I’ve heard people proclaim it, especially among the ex-gay groups. Although just saying so doesn’t count as any evidence whatsoever. But it is ludicrous to assume I could suddenly decide to like spinach. You like it or you don’t.. I could force myself to eat spinach, but that still wouldn’t mean I’d like it. It is true that my tastes have changed over time, but they never came about because I thought about it.

    “The point here is that what we desire in childhood is far more complex and multifaceted than the biological sciences can account for, and this goes for our sexual desires as well.”

    That’s just saying; “because I can’t explain it nobody else can.” If things are too complex for you or me to explain that doesn’t mean that people who have actually spent their life studying and researching these subjects (those pesky biological scientists,) don’t have a sound explanation for it.

    “Secretly, you already know that people’s sexual desires are shaped by their social and cultural context.

    Do we? Again, what we think we know, or think we don’t know doesn’t matter. What the evidence says matters.
    Show me the evidence please that a boy that is forced to wear dresses will turn out gay. (I might add most boys throughout history wore dresses during most of their childhood) But not only doesn’t this make any sense, the author contradicts herself, because here she is reinforcing the notion that femininity and masculinity have bearing on sexuality. Something she herself strongly disagreed with when she criticized the finger ratio research.

    “We know that if the world today were a different place, a place where homosexuality was culturally normative (like, say, Ancient Greece), we would see far more people embracing their homosexual desires. And if this were the case, it would have nothing to do with genetics.”

    I agree, if we live in a world where homosexuality was more accepted, more people would embrace their homosexual or bi-sexuality. But it says nothing about the presence of these desires in the first place, and therefor nothing about their genetics. Please remember that we know there are gay people in completely homophobic societies. (And we know the ones we know of are the tip of the iceberg.) All throughout this article the writer tries to compare homosexuality to other things we choose in life.
    As if that proves something. But to compare homosexuality to something a fickle as the fashionable popularity of the ‘hygienic’ shaven armpit, is ridiculous.

    The writer also talks about some of the successes of conversion therapy. Now she obviously believes these people on their word. But I don’t.
    Again where is the data? Because all the research I know of actually show a very different conclusion. I personality think these success stories are kidding themselves and they usually admit it after they eventually relapse. The writer is happy to point out these successes, but fails to acknowledge the vast amount of failures and psychologically damaged people they leave in their wake

    Whether the writer likes it or not, the people who have actually studied these subjects and do the research, and the people who then peer review them would disagree with her. Oh but I forget, they are wrong! Even though the author hasn’t posted one thing that is backed up by any research. But this is all personal assumption and it matters….

    The truth is that we don’t know yet conclusively what causes homosexual attraction. But we do know a lot about what it isn’t. We know it isn’t a mental disease, and we know it isn’t subject to choice. Scientific fact does not bend down to people’s opinion or personal thoughts on the matter. To say that sexuality it is a choice is not only ignorant of a tremendous amount of research, more importantly it is insulting to the vast amount of people who struggle with their homosexuality on a daily basis and for whom it causes tremendous suffering.

    • Neil M U Phelps says:

      Thank you for that large piece of common-sense!

    • Hana says:

      I know I am late to the party, but I saw a link to this article today, and as I was reading I kept wondering if the person who wrote this had any idea what science is and how it functions. So thank you for this comment which covered all the issues I had (and there were many, many of them) better then I ever could in my non-native English.

    • Blaise says:

      Just saw this. Awesome post. Too bad I feel like most people won’t take the time to read this and understand its words.

  30. Sasha Glass says:

    You lost me at “have you ever been to the rural south?” This phrase typified the polemical undertone of your piece. I also take issue the attempted syllogism equating a lack of a genetic predilection for consuming cheese and the complex biological underpinnings of the sexual being. I agree there are certainly social mores that are involved, but I find this blog post to be poorly researched and on the wrong side of prevailing scientific thought about neurological and psychological underpinnings of all behavior, and not the complexities of human sexual behavior.

  31. Stefan: Setting aside your condescension (“Oh, dear”, “That’s right science!”, etc.) I appreciate your defense of science. That’s an interesting claim, though: “science used to be wrong and influenced by culture, but now it’s right.” I agree with you that science is a reliably self-correcting system, but it is a process toward truth, not the establishment of absolute truth. Proven, peer-reviewed evidence clearly *doesn’t* make something True, because there is often later proven, peer-reviewed evidence that is truer.

    Why is the author’s personal motivation (“the idea that I don’t have control… is a big turn-off for me”) less legitimate than your clear need to defend Science! against all comers? Look at the length of your response. Look at your need to refute every. single. point. There’s more going on here than just pointing out some shortcomings in an argument.

    Finally, the fact that you continually refer to the author as “she” means that you don’t care if the author reads your response. You’re clearly not talking to her–you’re talking to the rest of us, and trying to hijack her argument. Bad form, dude.

  32. Back on topic, as someone who came up in queer studies in the 90s when “performativity” was king, I’ve found the gravitation toward the biological explanation interesting. I remember early discussions about strategic essentialism and whether it was a good idea. This article is a refreshing reminder of those times, and a useful corrective to a tendency of the community to solidify around a single explanation that necessarily leaves out some pieces of the puzzle. It’s particularly troubling around trans issues: a class of people who both were and weren’t “born this way.” How does biological essentialism explain that? I’ve not seen a convincing explanation.

    • Kai says:

      Bio essentialists usually ignore nonbinary trans people (and often bi and gay trans people- the majority of trans people), and say that trans people are “trapped in the wrong body”, having been born with a brain that has been over-exposed to hormones of the “opposite” sex during gestation. This is the same argument that a lot of essentialists use to explain homosexuality, so there is an assumption that trans people are just really, really gay and a conflation of sex-identity (mental body map), gender (socially constructed roles, expressions and identity assigned to sex) and sexual orientation. So being gay/bi and/or trans is looked at as a form of mental intersex.

  33. eyelean5280 says:

    I respond badly when people argue with statements like, “secretly you know…” There is no knowledge I keep secret, if I publicly disagree, it’s because I’ve given credence to other sources that I deem credible. I’m not lying for political gain or any other reason.

    I chafe when people claim to be able to show flaws in *all* the scientific research they disagree with in a given field. This isn’t even possible for real experts directly involved in that field.

    I rebel when people attempt to discredit ideas by pointing out their recentness. By that line of thinking, we should go back to believing in the Garden of Eden and the helio-centric universe.

    Finally, I disdain arguments that cite only the studies that support their argument, completely ignoring all other studies. There are plenty of studies that strongly indicate possible in-utero influences pertaining to sexual orientation outcomes (for example, last-born boys are significantly more likely to be gay than first-borns, which correlates with a very different hormonal environment in the womb). Pretending they do not exist fools no one.

    • straybullett says:

      You, like all of the other responders clinging to your science, keep asking where is the science that proves homosexuality ISN’T a choiceless result of natural forces at work. In the interest of rhetorical purity, and also in the interest of science, show US the proof of your science that homosexuality is genetic, in utero, or whatever term you want to use to qualify your “born this way” argument.

      As someone in science, even I know “strongly suggests” doesn’t prove a thing. And let me know when one of your studies have been submitted to jury of it’s peers (geneticists, neurological science, etc.), because to date, none of them have been critically reviewed. If anything, they have shrouded in mystery. Telling someone, these are the results of my study, oddly, doesn’t make it so. Results have been paraded around, brought out with much bally-ho, yet with no in-depth study of the how those results were found (or created), except perhaps by those with a vested interest in the results being true. When one of these studies are submitted to, and approved for publication (which STILL doesn’t mean the science isn’t flawed) in Lancet, NEJMS or Nature, then perhaps I’ll start paying attention “born this way argument”

      The “btw” argument has an inherent flaw in it, in that it attempts to justify itself itself in the face of a societal present day moral imperative. Being gay shouldn’t have to justify itself. Who you have sex with should not fundamentally change your rights. And by claiming “gosh folks, we can’t help it, we’re born this way, now give us our rights the same way you would any other flawed human” you’re accepting the “moral imperative”. Instead of demanding, screw that, who I sleep with is no business of yours, nor should it have anything to do with my rights.

  34. wrww says:

    There is so much logical fallacy in this article, it makes me want to scream. It would be fine if she simply said “sexuality may be fluid” or some similar thing, but instead she makes this huge assertion that people (presumably all of them) are not born gay or straight. She seems to be claiming that she knows for certain that sexual orientation arises after birth and gives all of these unconvincing reasons, none of which come close to addressing the universality of her claim.
    She asserts that “THE science is wrong” and then cites some faulty studies. This author does not talk about recent studies indicating epigentic origins of sexual orientation, maybe because she is not really qualified to judge them? It may be fair to say “It’s not yet proven that people have a sexual orientation before birth”, her bold claim that “the science is wrong”, is way out of line, and I’m not convinced she even knows what the current state of the science really is.
    Also, it is well known that “Ex-gay” conversion therapy does not work and she offers no good reason to take her word that it does in contrast to the entire APA. She appears to allege that there are cases that have “worked” based only on a hypothesis that it should work, but cites none that have. Entertaining her hypothesis, you really may be able to change some peoples’ behavior and in some cases cause them to basically “turn off” their sexual desires using negative conditioning, but you will not take a person intensely sexually attracted to males only and make them attracted to females only. There is no demonstrated success rate for that at all. In any case, I’ll take the opinions of basically all of the APA over this person’s opinion on that any day.
    Her whole idea that “gayness” being is ill defined, therefore we can’t talk about biological origins anyway” is also off base. Gayness may be a modern cultural construct, but same-sex sexual attraction is not ill defined. People may have been more willing to explore homosexual activities in other cultures, in other times, but that does not mean that people did not have a sexual orientation and it certainly does not mean there are not people born homosexual.
    She goes on to cite her own personal fluid sexuality as proof that sexuality is fluid, which suggest to me what’s informing her opinion about the subject (not science). For most people it’s not something they can change and we know this. People have been trying to force people to change sexual orientation forever to no avail. If sexual orientation were as fluid as she proposes, we would not have people suffering through oppression because they can’t change who they are. Note the kid who got stoned to death in Somalia last week.

    • murli says:

      You hit the nail on the head with that comment. Saved me a lot of effort to address a lot of these issues.

      Regarding your last point about how the idea that sexual orientation is a choice is used as an excuse to oppress others – the argument “sexual orientation is a choice, therefore it is wrong” is a red herring to begin with and I think we should attack it with science when it comes to settling only the scientific side of the issue, but when it comes to the personal freedom aspect, the response should be more along the lines of, “Assuming it were a choice – SO WHAT? People should be allowed to live their life however they want as long as they’re not hurting anyone else. Period. End of story.” I’m also guilty of having responded to that argument in the past with, “It’s not a choice! Studies show yadda yadda yadda…” but that’s so besides the point. Even if every single gay person chose to be gay… so what!

      It’s super easy to get sucked into responding to fallacious arguments, though. There are usually several layers of wrong that you feel the need to address before getting to the underlying problem, which for me boils down to people getting in other people’s business when it doesn’t concern them in any way whatsoever.

    • Neil M U Phelps says:

      Sheer common-sense again. What a relief!

  35. ejaneward says:

    One way we can complicate this debate is to pay attention to its gendered dynamics. Vera Whisman’s 1995 book, QUEER BY CHOICE (http://www.amazon.com/Queer-By-Choice-Lesbians-Politics/dp/0415910145/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363888906&sr=8-1&keywords=queer+by+choice) points to the possibility that gay men–who have set the national gay rights agenda–are more likely to argue for biological determinism than are lesbians and other queer women and men aligned with queer (as opposed to gay) politics. While some may argue that this difference is bio-evolutionary (as Lisa Diamond does), I think we’d do well to consider that because men and women experience homophobia and gender regulation differently (and have for many centuries), there are cultural and structural reasons that legitimizing biological rhetorics would be more readily taken up by men. I hope to write another post soon that will elaborate this. From the back cover of Whisman’s book: “The author finds that when public opinion privileges those whose sexual preference is determined, and silences those who choose it, an exclusionary male-dominated gay politics can result. As a response, we are asked to consider the possibility of chosen homosexuality as one way of making gay and lesbian political organizing more radical, democratic, and egalitarian.”

    Here’s another great resource: a 2012 article from SEXUALITIES on “biological determinism as discursive queer hegemony”:

    http://www.academia.edu/2351646/Whats_Wrong_With_Be_com_ing_Queer_Biological_Determinism_as_Discursive_Queer_Hegemony

    • johnbare411 says:

      It would be helpful to remember that the majority of LGBT women identify as bisexual, and hence might experience more fluidity in their choice of sexual mates than the average LGBT male, who identifies as homosexual. It might also be helpful to note that no one should assume that the origins of lesbianism are the same as the origins of gay homosexuality. These facts, taken together or separately, coud explain the disparity in views.

      • Pam I says:

        Could it also be that we live in a patriarchy when maleness and masculinity is valued over femaleness and femininity? For males to give up (some of) that privilege needs a bigger leap and they may seek ‘excuses’ more readily than women who could welcome some extra power? Very nearly all the lesbians I know acknowledge choice as part of their coming-out stories. And that’s positive choice, for those who can’t imagine why anyone would want to join a group perceived, from the outside, as oppressed.

      • Kai says:

        It would also be helpful to note that people who identify as gay (or strictly homosexual) are more likely to be white men, while people who identify as bi (non-monosexual) are more likely to be women, ethnic minorities and trans people. There is obviously an issue of intersectional privilege going on here. White men have more incentive to engage in monosexism and biological essentialist discourses that enable them to hang on to more privilege than women and minorities who already have little privilege. I know plenty of gay-identified men who are attracted to and sometimes sleep with women on the down low (including some of the most vocal monosexist, essentials too). Also plenty of straight-identified people, including men, have had and enjoyed or would like to have (desire) to have same-sex sex (abt 30%). Until recently, it was thought that men were more likely to be bi and/or sexually fluid and that it almost never occurred in women. I’m willing to bet both ideas (women are fluid/men are not verses women are fluid/men are not) are particularly weak socially constructions.

    • Why thank you for the shout-out to my Sexualities article, Jane! I really appreciate this piece. More people need to be talking about this! And the Cynthia Nixon angle on this is so important – my article had already gone through the final copyediting when Ms. Nixon first talked about how she came to date women! I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this and other topics.

      Best,

      Shannon Weber

  36. jacobaziza says:

    I think there are some accurate and important points here.
    Starting with the title of the very first section: “Just because an argument is politically strategic, does not make it true”
    While the innateness of homosexuality is a great example of it, it certainly isn’t the only case where people convince themselves something is true as a result of trying to convince other people.
    Moreover, the overall point of the piece – that no one should have to justify their right to have (consensual) sex with whomever they want – it absolutely spot on.
    Whether there is a biological or genetic component should be totally irrelevant to the argument – freedom can be reasonably denied if and only if the exercise of that freedom in some way negatively affects other people.
    A person’s (consensual) bedroom activities do not pass that test.

    However, there are also a few flaws of reasoning here, ones that remind me a little of the same flaws of reasoning the author is trying to point out, and, in the same spirit of questioning truth even if it is politically inconvenient, I’d like to point them out.

    “… the presumption that heterosexuality is nature’s default…”
    and
    “why aren’t scientists looking for the genetic causes of heterosexuality?”

    This is a pretty big one. The article is trying to look at this issue objectively, scientifically, rationally.
    It shouldn’t be hard to see the error in that sentence, if we are really honest with ourselves.
    Growing up in a world after the invention of cheap, effective, birth control, its easy enough for us to take for granted that the “purpose” of sex is some combination of physical pleasure and emotional bonding.
    But of course, that is reversing cause and effect.
    Sex is how we reproduce. That predates love by about 3 billion years. Sex feels good because that is natures way of enticing us to do it. It is associated with love because human infants are particularly vulnerable and have better chances of survival with two parents.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that sex should be for reproduction. There is no moral element to it. In fact, I am a huge fan of non-reproductive sex, both personally, and as a general philosophy. I am merely pointing out that the whole reason sex even exists is to continue the specie.

    That automatically means that heterosexuality IS nature’s default. That is not really debatable. To argue otherwise is doing exactly the same thing that the author is arguing against: ignoring reality because it doesn’t match up with what we WANT to be true.

    Beyond the (fairly obvious) logical argument for heterosexuality being “nature’s default”, you can find further evidence by looking beyond the human specie, where there is no real “culture” to influence individual decisions. There have been a few interesting investigation into homosexuality in non-human species. But what is perhaps most notable of all is that there are almost zero examples of any specie where a significant portion of the population is exclusively homosexual. All of the animals that engage is homosexual sex on occasion also have reproductive (i.e. hetero) sex regularly (every mating season, or however their specie does it).

    http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2013/03/gay-animals-social-sex-and.html

    “The science is wrong, part 1″
    I agree that any assumption that masculinity in females or femininity in males automatically implies homosexuality. However, most of the studies I have seen investigating possible biological sources or correlations with “gender” related traits do not make that mistake. For example, the studies I’ve seen regarding ring finger to index finger length ratio spoke only of its implications to femininity or masculinity, and did not even attempt to draw any conclusions about homo vs heterosexuality.
    Because one particular study does conflate the two does not condemn science, nor even gender science. Any one researcher is just a human, and they are subject to error and bias and misunderstanding. Science is the culmination of many different people working in different fields in different cultures, sharing ideas, running experiments, and getting closer to the truth. A more accurate criticism than “wrong” would be “the science is not fully in yet”

    “The science is wrong part 2″

    The characterization of homosexuality in ancient Greece is… inaccurate, at best.
    A few key points:
    -“The most common form of same-sex relationships between males in Greece was “paiderastia” meaning “boy love” [the boys being as young as 12, up until they grew a beard, no older than 17]”
    -“Penetrative sex, however, was seen as demeaning for the passive partner, and outside the socially accepted norm”
    -“Given the importance in Greek society of cultivating the masculinity of the adult male and the perceived feminizing effect of being the passive partner, relations between adult men of comparable social status were considered highly problematic, and usually associated with social stigma. This stigma, however, was reserved for only the passive partner in the relationship”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_ancient_Greece

    So, yes, men of power and means did sometimes have non-penetrative sexual contact with male children, which in our modern society would be considered a form of homosexuality.
    That is a far cry from “In Ancient Greece, sex between men was normative and widespread”

    This may just be a misunderstanding, but, again, it looks like an example of trying to fit the “facts” to what we WANT to be true, instead of actively seeking to understand what really is true.

    “the science of sexual orientation will produce data that simply mirror the most crass and sexist gender binarisms circulating in the popular imagination. This research will report that women are innately more sexually fluid than men, capable of being turned-on by almost anything and everything (hmmm…. other than in Lisa Diamond’s research, where have I seen that idea before? Ah yes, heterosexual pornography.) It will report that men are sexually rigid, their desires impermeable. It will tell us that straight men simply cannot be aroused by men and that gay men are virtually hardwired to be repulsed by the thought of sex with women. ”

    This seems to be commentary on the results of studies that have attempted to measure individuals genital response to various stimuli, in an attempt to circumvent the culture influence present in subjects self-reporting what they find stimulating. Researchers have used a few different methods to test for physical arousal, measuring blood flow to the genital region, erections, and/or lubrication. They then showed their volunteers various different types of erotica, and noted how their physical reaction lined up with their self-reported sexuality (or not). The results were that most men responded physically to images of naked women, some responded to images of naked men, and very few if any responded to both – even those men who self-reported as bi. In contrast, most women responded physically to both, regardless of how they self-identified. (In one version I’ve seen, women were also more likely to respond to what our culture would consider perversions, child erotica and bestiality, however only some men responded to child erotica to the exclusion of adult).
    None of it suggested that anyone would be repulsed by anyone.

    As to the comment on porn – um… huh? What porn have you been watching that gives the implication that women are turned on by everything? I’ve never seen it, but it certainly sounds like fun to watch. Speaking of which, the idea that porn drives (at least male) desires is demonstrably false. For some reason (which I can’t even hypothesize) every mainstream hetero porn producer in the history of video, in every culture in the world, wants men to want to see the male actor pull out at the last second so the viewer can watch the “money shot”.

    http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2012/06/femdom-vs-feminism-power-doesnt-come.html

    And, all over the world, the most poplular search term for pornography is “creampie” – the industry term for the “fetish” of having the male actor ejaculate inside the female actor.

    http://www.pornmd.com/sex-search

    No matter how much the industry pushes money shots on the world, the world still wants to see real sex. Which should be the least bit surprising, going back to my first point that the whole reason we even have a desire for sex is because its our species way of reproducing.

    I find it more than a little ironic that in the paragraph I quoted just above, the author is criticizing both research and porn for promoting the idea that for women sexuality is fluid and flexible, and then at the end goes on to say how her sexuality is fluid and flexible, and she thinks everyone else’ should be as well.
    Her anecdote completely confirms the hypothesis she disagrees with.
    Allow me to fill in the other half.
    I was raised by a politically active, openly gay/bi mother, in the San Fransisco Bay Area. I grew up immersed in queer culture, from marching in the annual parade to summer camps where all of the counselors and all of the parents were gay.
    I grew up pretty much taking it for granted that all people would naturally be bi, if it weren’t for society telling us we shouldn’t be (despite the fact that I personally had crushes on females exclusively my entire life). I kept right on believing that, right up until the time I had the opportunity to put that theory to the test with a friend who had a major crush on me, and discovered that, no, actually, sexual activity with a man really doesn’t do anything for me. Actually, no, that’s not true. I didn’t totally give up there. I still thought maybe there is some socialization going on, and made a point of watching gay porn, and when that didn’t work, trying to build up to it with bi porn, and consistently, nothing kills an erection faster, and eventually I had to admit to myself that I am just a 1 on the Kinsey scale, and my sociopolitical ideas about sexuality were just wrong.

    “Regardless of what else we might say about the soundness of these studies, what is evident to me is that they have been used to authorize many a straight man’s homophobia”
    Non-sense. I can fully accept that some people have a shoe fetish, and other’s are turned on by obesity, or that some people like dark chocolate or coffee which I find gross, and have no fear of them, no desire to curtail their rights, no problem being friends with them.
    Sexuality may be innate, but moralizing sexuality is a purely human social construct.

    “I think that in reality, we all know that sexual desire is deeply subject to social, cultural, and historical forces.”
    There are a whole lot of things that we “all know” which are completely and totally wrong. Including prenty of our most deeply held beliefs. If anyone ever wants to spend some time challenging their own biases and learning more about their own mind and that of humanity, may I recommend http://www.youarenotsosmart.com/about/

    “The concept of “sexual orientation” is itself less than 150 years old, and almost equally recent is the notion that people should partner based on romantic attraction. ”
    Very true – marriage was traditionally a practical arrangement, barely more romantic than a business contract. But that doesn’t really speak to attraction one way or another.

    “The majority of straight American men, for instance, will tell you that they have a strong, visceral aversion to women with bushy armpit hair. ”
    What source do you have for “the majority”? It may be culturally expected, but just like in porn preference, real men don’t always like what they are “supposed to”.
    Here’s an informal internet pole on the question: http://www.sodahead.com/living/armpit-hair-on-women-whats-your-opinion/question-2778739/?link=ibaf&q=&esrc=s
    66% of male respondents are not grossed out by it, and 41% actively prefer it.
    Here are 11 more, with more detailed responses, (almost all of whom either prefer or don’t mind female body hair) http://www.thegloss.com/2011/03/21/sex-and-dating/men-tell-us-what-they-think-of-female-body-hair/
    Find a study that supports the claim that most American men have a strong, visceral aversion to women with bushy armpit hair and I’ll read it and perhaps change my opinion – but perhaps not, because our bodies evolved to survive naked on the savannah, now we wear clothes, and this has affected the way our body hair traps and concentrates our smell, including both pheromones and plain old stink bacteria. This might reasonably be expected to affect the feeling of sexiness we associate with bodyhair, even if we aren’t consciously aware of why (and this is not limited to men smelling women: http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/2042-men-shaved-armpits-smell-women-hair.html )

    I like the concept of what this article was going for.
    I’m glad it was written.
    But I’m afraid it is just as biased as the ideas it is attempting to discredit, and for the same reasons.
    Remove the predetermined conclusion, look at the same questions with a fully open mind, and we will all be more likely to discover the truth waiting underneath. I don’t think we have enough information to say what that is yet, but giving up ALL of what we personally would prefer to be true is going to be the first step, no matter what.

    • ejaneward says:

      thanks for your comment. i haven’t had a chance to read it through entirely, but since you raise at the beginning a question that other commenters have raised, i thought i’d post a quick response. You mention that “heterosexual sex is how we reproduce… that automatically means it is nature’s default.” in the essay, i am presuming a distinction between heterosexual sex acts and heterosexual identity. when i state that science presumes heterosexuality to be nature’s default, what i mean is that science presumes that men and women are naturally attracted to each other (which is not necessary for reproduction) and primarily oriented toward heterosexual sex except when there has been a physiological aberration like excess or deficient hormones that produces a rare homosexual outcome. But hetero sex acts don’t need to be exclusive or normative or linked to personage (“the heterosexual”) in order to occur and to produce offspring. They COULD be like anal sex or oral sex or masturbation–something that people do or don’t do, without any identitarian consequences. Perhaps you really like to masturbate, but you don’t need to come out to your family about it, or attend masturbator pride parades, or go to maturbator-only bars. Because, at least at this moment in history, we don’t assume that masturbation constitutes a personage.

      But we DO believe this about the gender/sex/genitals of people you have sex with. We believe this reveals a lot about a person, including what happened to them in the womb. We need heterosexual acts to reproduce, but that doesn’t at all explain why most people would take on heterosexual sex acts as exclusive, romantic, or a feature of their identity. The transformation from heterosexual sex acts to heterosexual personage is a modern development, one linked to economic and cultural developments in the 17th-20th centuries, and one well documented by historians like Michel Foucault and Jonathan Katz. I especially recommend Katz’ book, The Invention of Heterosexuality, for more on this.

      • jacobaziza says:

        I understand the distinction you are making. It wasn’t clear (to me at least) in the original, but I see how it fits. I acknowledge and agree with you. It brings up additional related questions of language – how do we concisely distinguish between sexuality as a collection of behaviors, sexuality as an inner attraction, and sexuality as an identity, in order to have discussions like this without the misunderstanding I made here?

        I don’t have an answer to that question, but discussions like this help move in that direction

      • straybullett says:

        Yeah, I’d like the world to conform to whatever idea I come up with, but the darn world keeps frustrating me with reality. A lot of things COULD be this or COULD be that. But extemporaneous hypothesizing really adds nothing to the discussion. And the idea that Katz puts forth is a highly debated, and actually rejected by the majority of ancient history antropologists and sociologists, as a well written theory based on a poorly established foundation.

  37. JBinSFO says:

    No one knows – for sure – whether we were literally born with our sexual orientation, and no one knows for sure to what extent, if anything, genetics or epigenetics plays a role in a tendency to either be gay at birth or become gay if certain environmental cues are present. But, having a background in genetics including human genetics, I think the evidence is pretty overwhelming that there is at least SOME contribution to at least a tendency to become gay, straight, or bi.

    But we will NEVER know these things, if people who clearly misunderstand modern human genetics are allowed to shut down the conversation in the way this author does. For example, just because a trait is only recognized by scientists in modern times doesn’t mean it wasn’t present in ancient times. Another example, is that just because a phenotype doesn’t always include all aspects of the trait (in this case, finger length ratios), doesn’t mean that the two are unrelated. This well known phenomenon is known as “incomplete penetrance”, is evident even in some of the most genetically simple traits. Genetically complex traits, such as multi-locus traits and epigenetic phenomena, only complicate the picture further.

    And to say that scientists aren’t studying the genesis of heterosexuality is to ignore the vast majority of genetical and endocrinological research regarding sex and sexuality. Just because the author claims there is no research on heterosexuality doesn’t make it so. It is simply that most of those studies take heterosexuality to be normative.

    The science of sexuality is hampered by an inability to precisely determine who has which traits. Societal pressures to conform, and perhaps other sociological phenomena,have limited our ability to determine the actual biological contribution to ones sexual orientation, and the ability of subsequent influences to modify it. This is a huge hindrance, which likely will mean that good animal models will have to be developed first, then applied to the human situation.

  38. One thing also occurs regarding the notion of “choice”. And, not just the “choice” to be gay. For example, in sociology we look at a variety of different life outcomes, for example, lifetime educational achievement. Obviously, among many other significant predictors, are gender, race, and also social geographic factors : urbanicity, where an individual grew up, region they grew up in. These are factors that an individual has no “choice” over.

    Similarly, in some of my research, I have found that urbanicity at age 16 does impact (increase) the reporting of same-sex sexual behavior. This is just common sense : If you live in an urban area, you are more likely to be able to find potential sexual partners (no doubt we can theorize some other additional reasons for the increased likelihood of same-sex sexual behavior associated with urbanicity) . *But*, where someone lives at the age of 16 is hardly their “choice”. And, *when* someone grew up (birth cohort), their age, and the time period an individual lives in (other influences upon both same-sex and opposite-sex sexual behavior), are also not “choices”.

    So, when it comes to the concept of “choice”, as a sociologist, I take an extreme, but I believe, scientifically correct position: There is no such thing as “choice” or “free will”. Human beings are not much different from billiard balls: If we have enough underlying data, we can predict the outcome. Billiard balls don’t make any “choices” about going into the various pockets.

    And, the fact that human beings are simply giant meat machines, this obviously creates problems: Theoretically speaking, no one is responsible for their behavior….it is all part of the same Markovian process. But, as Jane says, “Just because an argument is politically strategic, does not make it true”. So, in addition to being “gay” or “straight” not being a choice, I would also argue, human beings have no real choices, period.

    • I must say I find that idea rather disturbing- whether that’s a scientifically accurate response or not. Also, influence does not always affect outcome; a person can follow societal pressures or resist them. I would call that choice.

  39. pooua says:

    I found this to be an interesting and well-thought-out article, and I agree with its arguments. However, I disagree with the statements made about ancient Greece. My understanding is the prior to about 300 years ago, no one had the concept of people *being* homosexual; homosexuality was something that someone *did*, not what someone *is*. In ancient Greece, homosexual relations were considered appropriate only in limited circumstances, particularly that free adult men must play the dominant role, and boys and slaves the submissive role. It was cultural taboo in ancient Greece for 2 adult free men to engage in homosexual intercourse, much as it is taboo in our culture for middle-aged men to have sexual intercourse with pre-teen children.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s my understanding that much of the homosexual ‘normative’ behavior in ancient Greece was in fact what we would now identify as rape. This goes on in many cultures as a show of power and has a kind of acceptance as being something other than homosexuality. it’s unclear if homosexuality defined as an attraction to one’s own gender where the balance of power is equal, was as common in ancient Greece as is often cited.

  40. J-beau says:

    You make some nice points, and it’s great to hear a different perspective. I think the thing that is missing in this biology versus choice dichotomy is psychology. You acknowledge it in your post-script. Some psychological forces can be pretty firmly fixed, regardless of whether they stem from nature or nurture.

  41. Gideon Querido van Frank says:

    Great article, love, love, love it!

  42. Yannick says:

    The problem with this blog is that you’ve written this completely with your own experiences in mind. I, on the other hand, have been attracted to guys since I was 4, which happens to be as long as I can remember for me. My parents didn’t encourage it, but didn’t stop me either. They let me be who I wanted to be, as long as I wouldn’t self-sabotage socially, mentally or physically.

    The fact that you THINK in Ancient Greek more guys would REVEAL themselves to be gay is because it was more accepted. You realize about the closet cases in this society?

    And while highly developed, humans are still animals. I have as much choice to like someone as my cat does when she is in heat.

    • Pam I says:

      I’m curious to know how a four-year-old would identify feelings as sexual. I know tiny children have sexual sensations, I can recall mine, but directing them at a fixed particular person or group of people is stretching my memory of being a tiny person beyond limits.

    • straybullett says:

      So Yannick, you are now equating human behavior and sexuality to a cat in heat. Hmmmm…..I’m pretty certain that is the worst argument I’ve ever heard gor homosexualityNOT being a choice.

      Terrible. Just terrible.

    • Neil M U Phelps says:

      Both accurate and succinct!

  43. ejaneward says:

    Several commenters have taken issue with my statement that “homosexuality in Ancient Greece was normative and widespread.” I am happy to address this, especially because I share these commenters’ understanding of how homosexuality was organized in Ancient Greece—as a sex practice that carried no stigma for the culture’s most powerful (and penetrative) men. What is interesting to me about this thread is that it seems many commenters extrapolate from this sexual system—a system that celebrated sex between powerful, adult men and disempowered young boys—that homosexuality was somehow not normative or widespread. As I stated in a response above, I am making a distinction here between homosexual sex practices (homosexuality) and gay identity. There was no gay identity in Ancient Greece. Instead, there is considerable evidence that elite Athenian men believed homosexual sex to be of the highest order, a “heavenly love” that transcended the “earthy love” a man might feel for women (see Sedgwick’s 1985 book Between Men and Katz’s 2007 book, The Invention of Heterosexuality). As Eve Sedgwick describes at length, male homosexuality is now associated with feminization and a loss of male power; but in the Athenian system, homosexuality and patriarchy shared a harmonious relationship. Today, most of us probably disapprove of the form that homosexual sex took in Ancient Greece, but as Foucault, Sedgwick, and Katz have demonstrated, these sex practices were revered in the Athenian context. And, they were revered by men of the highest standing in Athenian society, no less. Indeed, there were norms that regulated the social organization of homosexuality, and homosexual sex (indeed ALL master/slave sex) took exploitative forms, but this has little bearing on whether homosexual sex practices were “normative or widespread.”

    I raise Ancient Greece in the context of thinking about brain organization science as it relates to homosexual desire. If we believe homosexual desire is the outcome of a culturally-neutral genetic predisposition or some other physiological process that occurs in utero, we should expect that this explanatory theory will be able to account for homosexual desire as it occurs across time and place. Were men in Ancient Greece also “born this way”? If only elite, free men could engage in homosexual sex without suffering stigma, did these men happen, by great coincidence, to be born into their elite standing AND born with the capacity for homosexual desire? The point here is that homosexual sex often plays a significant role in cultural rights and rituals and in the social and economic organization of various societies. Across time and place, people are compelled by their social and cultural context to engage in different sexual systems, to desire (or not) various sex practices, and to feel these desires as natural expressions of their selfhood. That this is the case raises many questions about the likelihood that homosexual desire is physiologically hardwired.

    • jacobaziza says:

      As you pointed out earlier, its important to distinguish between sexuality as a set of behaviors, an identity, and an feeling of attraction.

      In cultures in which homosexuality is not fully accepted, men who feel sexually attracted exclusively to men frequently maintain sexual relationships with women, because that is what is expected of them.

      There is nothing in the accounts of ancient Greece that should make us feel confident in claiming that every single male who took on a young slave/apprentice was actually attracted to the boy.
      Moreover, we don’t even know that every person who had the opportunity actually took it. Just because we know it was acceptable does not mean it was widespread.
      If the number of men who actually took advantage of the practice was 3-15%, then that would be enough to be historically notable, yet it wouldn’t indicate any higher degree of homosexuality than we see today.

      Assuming that it was common for elite males to take advantage of this opportunity, it could just as easily be an indication of a much larger degree of inborn pedophilia than we admit in our culture. Pre-adolescent boys are not interchangeable with adult men. Many, if not most, true pedophiles are not attracted to adults, (of either gender). Most gay men are not attracted to pre-adolescent boys (or at least, they don’t admit to it if they are).

      There was such a thing as homosexuality in ancient Greece – as in, men who desired MUTUAL sexual contact with other adult men – and it was looked down on just as much as in other cultures. Male homosexuality was just as much associated with feminization and a loss of male power then as now (probably more) – for the receiving partner. It was acceptable for the one doing the penetrating only because the other man had taken on the role of a female, thereby making it “not really gay” for him.
      As a heterosexual man, I don’t really get the appeal, but I hear that this line of thinking is not uncommon in modern prison culture.
      One portion of it may have to do with actually getting ones rocks off, but it also seems to be about power and domination. Part of the appeal is precisely because it DOES emasculate the receiving partner.

      Does any of this indicate that all of the men in ancient Greece got erections from looking at hot naked men from puberty or earlier? I really don’t think so. Because someone is CAPABLE of preforming a homosexual act does not make them gay (I can attest to this from personal experience. See also the many straight male porn actors who are “gay for pay”)

      I don’t think an act is what defines homosexuality, at least in the sense that the scientific studies you are attempting to refute uses it. They (and all lot of people) are referring to sexual attraction, an internal feeling. Yes, anyone can choose to engage in genital contact with anyone and anything: obese people, quadriplegics, the elderly, infants, animals, or, like Frank Zappa in “Stick it Out”, talking household appliances.
      But, as demonstrated by porn actors, prostitutes, women with low self-esteem and men trying to prove something to their buddies, people engage in sex acts for plenty of reasons other than genuine sexual attraction.

      I don’t see any reason to interpret what we know about ancient Greece as indicating that all elite males actually had any homosexual attraction to adult men.

      • straybullett says:

        You completely have missed the point. Homosexual attraction is a modern day construct. Sexual attraction is a human construct. By even using the word homosexual you’ve shown the article went right over your head.

      • jacobaziza says:

        “Sexual attraction is a human construct.”
        What are you talking about? The article makes sense, and it could be accurate, or it could be wrong, but neither it, nor anyone here, nor anyone anywhere, is making the claim that sexual attraction is a human construct. What would that even mean?
        Do you honestly think that if not for human culture, no one would ever want to have sex with other people? If sexual attraction is a “human” construct, why does every single animal have sex with other individuals of it’s species? We’re not even getting into whether one is attracted to a male or female (or if one is more attracted to young or old, short or tall, fat or muscular, or to a different specie all together.
        Given that 99% of all humans know from their own personal experience that they feel sexual attraction to some people and not to others, you are pretty much destroying all of your credibility by making such a ridiculous statement.
        Maybe you personally just fake desire because its socially expected of you, but you should know that the rest of us aren’t doing that.

      • Jacob, I think you an the other commenter may be talking past one another.

        You say here, “nor anyone anywhere, is making the claim that sexual attraction is a human construct. What would that even mean?”

        One thing I would point out is that the “strong version” of the social construction of sexuality does hold that there is no such thing as sexual attraction in the absence of social construction. For example, Gagnon and Simon (1972) in Sexual Conduct argue “the very experience of sexual excitement that seems to originate from hidden internal sources is in fact a learned process and it is only our insistence on the myth of naturalness that hides these components from us.” In some sense, I think Gagnon and Simon were doing something similar to what Jane was talking about, they were making an academically strategic argument (in order to wrest away sexuality studies from the natural sciences), but, ultimately, their claim is not true.

        I tend to believe a purely social constructionist approach is ludicrous. Nevertheless, some people do still make that argument. 40 years after Sexual Conduct, I think most theorists of sexuality recognize that expressions of sexuality (and their interpretation) are impacted by the complex interaction of genetics and the environment.

      • jacobaziza says:

        Criticism acknowledged; I stand corrected
        I suppose, given the range of non-nonsensical ideas taken seriously by many people all over the world, I shouldn’t be surprised.
        One really has to wonder, though, how these people explain to themselves the fact that proto-humans somehow managed to reproduce before the advent of language or society any other form of culture, or how solitary species have sex at all, or why there are no cultures in which no one ever experiences any form of sexual arousal, or how people born blind and deaf or infants experience sexual arousal, or… or… well, in short, I mean, come on, seriously?

  44. Lewis Gannett says:

    The silly thing about ejaneward’s argument is that “born gay” doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with “choice.” Let’s say that all kinds of postnatal factors contribute to becoming gay. Do people have control over those factors? Can people choose which factors will make them straight or gay? In other words, the question of choice isn’t confined to genetics. I get the feeling that this author is an avid reader of Reason Magazine. She wants to say that sexuality is a matter of choice. How icky-libertarian can you get? Let’s be crude: how many men choose what makes their dicks hard?

    • straybullett says:

      Lots of men do. Others still need some stimulation before they’ll get hard, no matter who is doing the stimulation. Your point, besides being crude, is also pointless.

      • Lewis Gannett says:

        Straybullet: Why don’t you consider the topic? Which is choice.

      • keithmears says:

        @straybullet” You have the makings of a fine cheerleader, but your (by now predictable) knee jerk reactions to even obviously well formed criticism is reducing your credibility as a contributor to this debate. This article was obviously crafted to support a personal belief at some expense to science. That is apparent by the very title, and I don’t think the author was trying to hide it – rather attempting to stir up some discussion about accepting the party line. It seems to have been effective, and resulted in much thought provoking discussion. But the constant drone of reactionary comment does nothing but make an interesting discussion into a partisan drone, and would seem to stomp the whole idea of “discussion”. You are not the only one choosing this tactic, and it is occurring on both sides of the author’s premise, but you are the most enthusiastic, and are therefore degrading the level of discourse by the greatest degree. Is the author’s premise, then, as sacrosanct as the rote she has tried to question herself? Is the idea to replace one thoughtless faith based ‘belief’ with another? Or is it possible that there is something to be understood by hearing well stated and honest debate on both sides? If not, why are comments even enabled?

      • straybullett says:

        Mr. Mears, if stating that plenty of men have the ability to choose what makes “their dick hard” as Mr. Gannett so wonderfully put it, strikes you as kneejerk reactionary, so be it. If you and Mr. Gannett think his attempt to outrage and point out a lack of choice at the same time is well put, I disagree and fail to see where his statement truly addresses any of the arguments made in the post.

        And Mr. Gannett continues to make weirdly personal experiences the definition of gay. See his post after yours. I don’t know many men who would claim they knew they were gay when they came in their shorts at age twelve. This statement sounds remarkably personal.

    • Neil M U Phelps says:

      Brilliant and well-said!

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  46. Lewis Gannett says:

    1. “Just because an argument is politically strategic, does not make it true.” Duh! It also doesn’t make it untrue. 2. & 3.: The science is wrong. Of course the “science” is wrong, or at the least, unproven. We have no proven scientific explanations about the origins of sexuality. Why is saying that “the science is wrong” a serious statement? It’s not a serious statement. In the context of this debate, it’s a foolish statement. 4. Just because you’ve had lifelong feelings of hetero- or homosexuality, doesn’t mean you were “born that way.” What punctilio! OK, the seven-year-olds who–these days, famously–proclaim themselves gay, obviously do so because some kind of enviro factor got to them. They weren’t born that way. Something happened to them after birth. OK. That’s a theory. Prove it. 5. We all know that parents worry about their kids getting queered via shady friends or men in raincoats down the street, and that this is what makes them gay, and ruins them for life. This is really fascinating. There is an element of truth according to some experts. It’s not necessarily scary. But it IS pretty damn sensational in terms of folk fear. Sex researchers–Alfred Kinsey and C. A. Tripp–have found that sexually fulfilling same-sex experiences in early adolescence can influence sexual orientation in adulthood. How incendiary is that? Very. To conservative parents it means, “Drop your faggot friends.” Well yeah. How much effect does that have, though? As with everything: it all depends. In my opinion and personal experience, by age five most males know their sexual destiny even if they can’t describe it. By age twelve, if gay, they’re coming in their shorts thinking of other boys. Is that a choice?

    • Antome says:

      If even becoming gay depends on post birth environmental factor, such factors are not as easy as strawman conservative claim, nothing like having gay parents or gay friends, that’s the point. Such factors are very complex as complex and various are the paths of sexual attraction. Having a traditional family with defined sex roles doesn’t prevent it. Such environmental factors are shuffled and uncontrollable. At most it can influence potentially bisex people in embracing their homo sides, instead of choosing not to be aroused by the same sex.

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  51. Princess says:

    This is why I identify as a “Sexual Surfer”. I surf the ocean of sexuality. I have some favourite locations but generally I don’t stay in one place too long.

    Thank you for writing this article. It’s one of the best I have read :)

    • Lewis Gannett says:

      It’s been a sort of a truism for some time that women are more easily bisexual than men. I think this is probably the case. If it is, it’s significant. It would seem to suggest that women in general do have a degree of choice about sexual preference. More than men do, that is. Which isn’t to say of course that plenty of men don’t go both ways. The basic issue though: what causes–or inspires–sexual attraction? And then, is what causes it “a choice”? Is bisexuality a choice? Do people make conscious, deliberative decisions about who attracts them? I don’t think so, but more to the point, there is no evidence whatsoever in the scholarly lit. (of which I’m aware) that people make choices about who turns them on. It could be that some people do. I’d love to see the evidence! Sure, people might choose to have sex with people to whom they’re not in the least attracted. But isn’t that the story of human civilization? Of course it is, and it’s not at all what we’re talking about. To argue against “born that way,” and further argue that we can decide, isn’t just an anti-essentialist sleight of hand in the realm of theory. It’s a real-world cave to such things a reparative therapy, using psychological techniques to try to make gay people straight. What we know about THAT particular can of worms does not engender confidence that sexuality is a choice. OK, let’s face it, this issue inevitably becomes dreadfully philosophical: free will. I believe in free will. I also believe that sexuality is something not yet explained. How do we explain personality? Is personality a choice? What would Sigmund Freud say about the idea that personality is a choice? I’m no great fan of Sigmund’s, but I’d guess he’d say, Only for people who don’t want to be who they really are.

  52. danny says:

    After reading this article I found myself thinking more about sexuality in general. Many points were raised about sexual orientation but i find it interesting that so many other unexplainable and phenomenal aspects about sexuality go unquestioned. Let’s remove sexual orientation from the discussion for a moment and grapple why people are sexually attracted to what they are? Why are large breasts attractive, why is bondage attractive to some people, why are others prone to fetishes, why do some people enjoy certain positions, or prefer body hair, or role playing, why do some people like their nipples caressed and others don’t? Are we predisposed to these sort of sexual preferences or do social factors play more of a role? Does age play a role, as people evolve with their bodies and hormones? I think its interesting to look at the discussion from this viewpoint because it shows how complex sexuality really is and maybe there really isn’t a clear answer for our sexual natures. It is one of those things in nature that is hard to pin down and varies from person to person. I do believe there are some consistencies of course but I find it dangerous to pose a clear answer to something as complex and changing as sexuality.

  53. Davey Wolfe says:

    A friend of mine read this and got very upset, as though it were an attack on gays and those that feel they were born gay, even suggesting that the article legitimized the ex-gay therapy. I read the article in full this round as well as some comments and I do not see where it explicitly validates ex-gay therapy. On the topic of whether gay is wrong or not, she is being objective in her analysis and saying just because xyz therapy does not work for 99% of people does not mean that xyz is not changeable under other circumstances. xyz can be changeable, but therapy itself may not be how that’s done, nor is she suggesting that it should be done. It may have to be a certain set of circumstances (as I imagine we have all heard examples of but may not have experienced ourselves). I think for someone to say that peoples’ sexuality never changes one way or another is a discredit to the incredible power that the human brain has. We may be designed (born) to have the capacity for heterosexual or homosexuality, and it may be as the result of our experiences as infants or adults, or hormonal responses to our environment, or whatever. That doesn’t mean it’s unnatural or wrong and nowhere did I read that she had a bias on the subject other than people should consider these reasons why people are/may not be not born gay or STR8 (she says straight – it’s not an attack on gays). Her reasons do not indicate that being gay was wrong nor do I see where she directly minimalizes other peoples’ experiences, even by using the word ‘choice’ which she contends is not an accurate description (I would say something like choosing to follow your sexual instincts, whether they be from birth or as the result of environment, is a natural and legitimate aspect ,if not a rite, of humanity). Encouraging people to think more about the possibilities and explaining the dynamics that many are not aware of is ultimately a good thing. She may have been able to do a better job at qualifying her message knowing that certain people will feel offended at the suggestion that “it’s very possible homosexuality is not directly linked to one or more factors at birth”. But I’d say philosophically it would also be fair to say that our society is struggling now with the acceptance of homosexuality, that it’s not ready to think outside the box that we have built for ourselves. Until homosexuality is accepted as a fully equal and legitimate aspect of human existence, until society accepts that we are truly aspects of our lineage, our environment, and our own choices throughout life, then we’re not ready to dive deep into an anthropological perspective on this topic. But it is also not unethical to suggest that a deeply held believe by a society or a group within society (i.e. the notion of being gay from birth) is being upheld by the leaders of that society (because due to the current mainstream social climate, it is necessary to convey this notion in the matter it is presented) as the result of a potentially flawed premise. How many times throughout all of mankind has it been proved that that very phenomenon has happened in human history? It would be dangerous to believe that everything we think or know now may eventually never be proven incorrect. If we are to evolve society intellectually then we should encourage unbiased questioning and as open minded and accepting thinking as possible. Taking it personally and holding onto our beliefs at the expense of our intellectual integrity not only sets us up for a major bout of cognitive dissonance, it also traps us into a potential dangerous mindset. One day our survival species could depend on how we think collectively as a society, just as today our own personal ways of thinking can mean our success or failure during our own lifetimes. So I wouldn’t interpret what she said personally. If you tried to relate your own experiences, come to some sort of compromise or draw a relationship between the two, then you’re welcome to disbelieve the information presented. But speaking on my own behalf, I think my explanation of innate/natural vs birth is a reasonable theory that satisfies a compromise between both schools of thought and until it is proven scientifically that gay humans are born homosexual, then peoples’ experiences are just conjecture. You should believe what you feel is right at the time but you should also have the courage to never stop seeking the truth and question everything, even yourself, even that which we believe defines us, and especially even if that which means one day everything you believed that made you feel safe, comfortable or that which “legitimizes your existence” somehow turns out to be wrong. I hope we evolve someday to a society that is accepting of gays that also knows why people are gay and celebrates that phenomenon no matter what the reason. But I am concerned we’ll never get there if we continually push an unproven idea on society because if our leaders do that then we’ll always be accused of having an agenda, and the only gay agenda that I can be proud of is fighting for equality while also seeking the truth. If we truly take pride in who we are then the one does not have to come at the expense of the other.

    • Lewis Gannett says:

      Dear Davey Wolfe, Let’s keep in mind that ejaneward is making a categorical assertion: No one is born gay or straight. Well, that might be true. But the point is–as I’ve argued–we don’t know! We simply don’t know what makes someone homo. Ejaneward might well be a thoroughly brilliant and laudable person and I bet she is. But her argument is so weak. I’m afraid that you are wrong about a key component of it, that sexual preference is, or can be a choice. This really does open the door to reparative therapy, which has been thoroughly discredited (leaders sighted in gay bars, taking young gay men to Europe, etc., it’s so sick). I go back to my little parable about personality. Is personality a choice?

      • Davey Wolfe says:

        In the Post Script she expands more on this concept of “choice” which doesn’t make a hard-lined argument for saying that it is explicitly a choice as described by common anti-gay rhetoric. You can interpret this a few ways. You can make a “choice” to act on your natural sexual desires (regardless of their cause or mutability) is the first one that comes to mind. Actively making a “choice” is potentially plausible for those who are sitting on the fence – and then at that point the choice of experiences they choose after that point will potentially influence their sexuality. If the mechanism that causes homosexuality is based on your environment, then your subconscious could potentially fire off a survival trigger which would result in you making a “choice” as to whether or not you will pursue that instinct (ex: prisons, how that type of environment influences sexuality). This is very theoretical but some potential are that an aspect of sexuality “choice” could be akin to how a certain species of frog changes sex based on their environment; since humans are much more biologically complicated beings, a similar process could naturally happen based on your environment whether that be due to hormonal and psychological influences in your environment, hormonal and psychological influences during your childhood, one in which like the prison example and many similar examples that one could imagine involves a survival mechanism that leads one to be subconsciously drawn to a sexuality polar to our norm which could result in a temporary or permanent change in the long term, it could be a phenomenon based on population and there are too many people on the Earth or our immediate environment so we feel compelled during the early years in which we form our sexual identity to gravitate towards homosexuality. For all of these examples, they are potential choices based on our instincts, and we fight our instincts all the time and instincts are not necessarily wrong or right. What makes them wrong or right is based on what we believe will benefit our individual selves the most. So the argument then becomes “it’s not a question as to whether not all people are capable of both heterosexuality and homosexuality, it’s a question as to what choices that we make internally and within our environment that determine the final outcome”. And for most self-identified gay people today, that phenomenon is not something we feel that we chose because it felt instinctual to us, but that does not necessarily mean that it isn’t ultimately a choice. If there wasn’t so much importance placed on naming / branding / wearing one’s “sexual identity”, which as far as we know did not really exist in centuries past, then maybe we wouldn’t be so offended by this idea of choice.

        Anyways, I’m not really making an argument for the idea of choice on my behalf nor do I think that the author is ultimately making that argument. It sounds like to me she is committing to that idea for now on a theoretical basis until she can better articulate whatever that nuance or psycho/social mechanism is she’s remaking on, perhaps based on an experience or notion she has felt internally or has felt in others.

        And if you want to mention personality then I would say that who we are and who we identify as whether that be sexual or otherwise certainly is based on a collection of choices that we make. When we emerge from the womb (or test tube for all you clones! j/k :o…) our personality is not determined automatically. While it is very plausible that genetics and biological factors affect personality (many clear examples of this in humans as well as other mammals) we have the potential to be one of a hundred different personalities AND during that lifetime, our personalities can change as we mature and gain exposure to new ideas and influences. Furthermore, our psychological states and thus personalities are affected by the food we eat, the chemicals that are used (prescriptions, food additives, environmental chemicals, etc). The weather and our physical environment affects us – our activity levels, the types of activities we enjoy, the opportunities we have. And those external factors and many more affect us based on the choices that we make. Furthermore, when it comes to personality there is a question of the personality you view me as, who I think I am, and who I really am – the last being not only mutable but possibly also something that is truly not knowable by oneself based on the infinitive of different present and past realities one could experience that are as the result of the choices they didn’t make. So based on this I could speculate that if personality is not predefined and if personality is not fixed throughout a single period of time nor all of time for an individual, and those states of personality are ultimately dictated in part by choices we make both internally and externally in addition to the influence and reciprocal influence of our environment, then why could sexuality have no relationship with the idea of choice?

        I think the risks of associating the concepts of choice and sexual identity together in the modern day is why many of us reject those theories altogether. But from a broad perspective thinking outside our present time and musing on the complexities of the human psyche, I think it is very possible to consider this notion without abandoning one’s experiences that have lead them up to feeling as though they had no choice in their sexuality. For me personally, I don’t feel that I had a conscious choice in determining my sexuality but I am also a believer that we do make choices unconsciously, many of which are not always known to us as to why and which we can only explain as instinct. But I think the main point of this write up overall as referenced in the beginning is that there is a lot of political focus on sexuality being a result of strictly biological processes or mechanisms. Until we have hard scientific evidence, I think that if you look at this from a broader perspective and consider the many possibilities of how human sexuality is developed, it is not necessary to feel that one theory is mutually exclusive to all the others. Whatever the cause of the phenomenon, I think most gay people and their proponents agree that it is a natural process and not one that we necessarily actively have influence on. But from an academic perspective as someone who craves knowledge and learning, it does make me sad that we are not in an enlightened enough time where this broader discourse can take place safely in public, even within the gay community.

        You could also argue that I am seeing what I want to see when reading the OP, as could you be which is perfectly okay in the end. I would say then that although not articulated or qualified exactly as I see it, I do see the reason in her arguments so I personally do not feel they lack basis but perhaps instead are raw ideas that need additional consideration and refining…and unfortunately, politicizing if they are to be considered further in the larger population.

  54. Homosexuality, like an idea of a creator or God (which is not the same thing as religion), has existed since humans have, universally. The only other universal things humans share are their emotions. The idea that sexuality relies solely on social or contextual environment also leaves a lot to be desired. As is true with any potential in our nature, it is the mixture of the environment, the biology, and the perceptions of a person that create their personality and shape their desires.

    Perhaps any person is capable of loving another, when given the opportunity to openly know and care for them.

    Perhaps the soul is eternal and sexless. Perhaps if we believe we have an eternal soul, we live more lives than this one. Everything that exists in nature is in the process of becoming something else. Everything is recycled. It seems a likely hypothesis this happens with spirits, too. Perhaps we have been men, and women, and ultimately this too plays into the lives we lead. Perhaps this is why sexual orientation truly doesn’t exist or matter.

  55. Nat says:

    Thanks for a provocative article. Seems to me “gay” and “straight” and “bi” and all the other variants of gender and sexual identity are themselves made up of a variety of factors: what turns you on and what are comfortable being in intimate relationship with (these two may not be the same: one’s taste in porn may not reflect one’s actual sexual life); the importance of a stable single identity around sexual orientation (i.e. are you cool having more than one life, or a passionate fling with a man and then marriage with a woman); the importance of marriage/long-term relationship to your sexual identity; non-gendered aspects of your sexual turn-on (i.e. redheads turn you on, period). And probably dozens of other factors I just don’t know enough to say.

    Sexual orientation then, is maybe like “religion”: it’s an idea grounded in basic human needs and behavior, but grouped and bound together in a single whole by culture.

    • Lewis Gannett says:

      Nat, I like your style, and it prompts a couple of observations about the great Alfred C. Kinsey and his famous but underappreciated scale, 0 to 6, with 0 representing exclusively heterosexual behavior and 6 representing exclusively homosexual behavior, the intervening numbers representing gradations in between. Two things about the Kinsey scale are really important. First, an individual’s place on the scale can vary over time. Second, it’s a measure of behavior–not of identity. Kinsey didn’t care about self-conceptions. He cared about what people actually DID, sexually speaking. It’s exasperating that this isn’t common knowledge, because the scale so efficiently and elegantly gets rid of theoretical debris. For example, the controversy over “Born that way.” Obviously, people aren’t “born gay,” since “gay” is–no argument here about this–a modern social construct. But! Might people be born with a propensity for thinking that members of their own gender are hot? We don’t definitively know, but it seems quite possible given the seven-year-olds who these days are proclaiming themselves gay (an amazing development that even 20 years ago could not have been foreseen, to my knowledge). The whole “pink boy” thing. Are pink boys socially constructed? Or born that way? Maybe it doesn’t really matter. Maybe the only thing that matters is what they do with their lives, wherever perched on the K scale.

  56. writerwoman says:

    I have always quietly wondered, why does it matter if sexual orientation is biologically determined or not? I say that we fall in love with the person, not the gender. We are attracted to someone for reasons that are not always scientific or logical. Maybe it’s a bit of all of the above: biology, social factors, environmental, etc. . .Does it truly matter other than for political reasons? Love is love. For me, I just want us, as a society, to move past the arguing and get to a place of true equality for all. Thank you for posting this piece : )

  57. John Corvino says:

    I’ve done a short video on this very point: http://youtu.be/qRYYfyDkhTs

    • Lewis Gannett says:

      A nice video, very thoughtful. I have to say, though, that I for one would like to know if I was born gay. It doesn’t have anything to do with justification, gay politics, any of that. I’m simply curious. Why not be curious about something so fundamental?

    • ejaneward says:

      it’s great to have a video summarizing these ideas. the more voices on this subject, the better. thanks for posting!

  58. Derek says:

    No is born liking sweet things? Some probably are, some people probably don’t have a predisposition.

  59. Ryan says:

    So, it took me a while (had to sleep on it) to really figure out what it is about this article that bothers me, and I think I’ve nailed it: The author proceeded with their attack in the wrong way.

    “People are born with x sexual orientation” (where x is gay, straight, bisexual, etc) seem to me to be a scientific claim- that is, it is a empirically testable and falsifiable hypothesis. Yet the author proceeds to attack this claim by using arguments against a person claiming the “born this way” hypothesis due to the politically charged nature of the debate, and, to boot, claims a problem semantically with the phase to begin with.

    In other words, there’s really very little of an attack on the scientific part WITH OTHER SCIENCE; or, to put it another way, the author is not attacking the science on its own terms, but rather is pointing out other reasons not to subscribe to the “born this way” hypothesis (“hands” study notwithstanding). A single attempted refutation toward one study and a recommendation toward a book on (ostensibly) more methodological problems of studies which support the “born this way” hypothesis does not a good argument make, in my opinion – at least from a scientific standpoint.

    Now, understand that I am not saying that the other points are without merit- in fact, I completely agree with the author that people should not use the “born this way” hypothesis as a sort of immunity defense for their sexual orientation, because let’s face it- there should be nothing to DEFEND here. The attacks against one’s sexual orientation aren’t valid in the first place.

    Personally, I think sexual orientation is far more complex than a simplistic “nature vs nurture” approach and involves factors from both genetic heredity and environment.

    If the author means to say “it’s not EXCLUSIVELY nature”, then by all means- attack that notion all day long! But if one wants to prove that the only reason scientific research is being done into the (hypothetical) hereditary nature of non-heterosexual attraction in the first place is due to some sort of social prejudice, that’s a different animal altogether- and if the author WERE able to prove this assertion (which seems speculative to me without more solid evidence than “it wasn’t always this way”), it still wouldn’t disprove the “born this way” hypothesis.

    So, I applaud the attempt to discredit the use of “born this way” as a sort of crutch by some people to fend off (invalid) attacks on their sexual orientation, and I think the author’s heart is in the right place, but I suggest going about it in a different way.

    Take a look at Dr. John Corvino’s video here for what seems to be, in my view, a better approach to take regarding the whole thing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRYYfyDkhTs&list=PLsolewfmUXE9fkKyw1PQN9UWe4K16zF2c&index=8

    Thanks for your time!

    • Glamourgene says:

      Well said and I agree with your reasoning. For me I was born in 1956 one of a family of four sisters ( me being the only boy ) as far as I can look back I had an attraction to men only – my point here is because I was in a predominantly female household is that the reason I became gay ? A coincidence ? Was I born this way ? Or more I just prefer men. May I say I have never had intercourse with a female perhaps I should have done I don’t know.

    • R. Edward Travani says:

      I enjoyed reading your reply and I disagree only on one point. When you say “there should be nothing to DEFEND here” (regarding sexual orientation) I must remind you that’s completely irrelevant. People seek to make their live as they see fit, often heedless to the consequences to others. If a powerful and unchecked individual is repulsed by the presence of gay folk then he’s likely to attack, regardless of what tolerance he SHOULD demonstrate. Many individuals, men in particular, are repulsed by the presence of gay folk. They will attack and we must defend. It behooves us to give our opposition as little advantage as possible and so challenging the “born this way” position is misguided at best.

  60. Ettienne says:

    While you make sound points in some of your statements, I am loathe to agree with the general direction of this article. Whether or not we are born this way is irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. I personally don’t believe it is a conscious choice. I do agree with your statement referring to cultural and psychological influence to a degree; however, I reason that it is sub-conscious and an ingrained part of our psych. The conversion therapies were brutal, regardless of their near non-existent success rates. Bringing up that topic in the perspective you provided is tasteless. In conclusion, your views are just as biased as any other person’s.

  61. fucking whore I’m born this way and everybody is born the way he is stupid cunts

    • ejaneward says:

      oh anthony, i don’t think Mama Monster would approve of your misogyny.
      the very first article i ever published was a chapter in a book on gay masculinities called “queer sexism: rethinking gay men and masculinity.” that was back in 1999, around the time of my first encounter with the depths of gay male misogyny, which was and still is only thinly veiled by the rhetoric of LGBT unity. it’s vital to be reminded of it and to have examples of its contemporary manifestation. i think i speak for many women (and queers more generally) when i say that teaching boys and men to stop imagining women as whores and cunts has more urgency than any of the questions i raised in this post. what i know for sure is that you were not born a sexist asshole, which is great news. there’s hope for you yet.

      • Lewis Gannett says:

        “Not born a sexist asshole” is apt, and in the context, very funny. But wait a second. I recall recent reports in nonacademic press about linkage of personality traits to brain characteristics that in theory might be inheritable. So maybe, Anthony was born a sexist asshole. Of course, we can’t definitively know. This is what I don’t get. How likely is it that people are born mental blank slates? We’re not born blank slates in terms of disease risk, longevity, susceptibility to baldness, etc. Why should it be assumed that we’re born blank slates in terms of personality, or more to the point, sexual preference? The blank-slate idea seems naive. Even if we can’t prove it.

      • jacobaziza says:

        Well said.
        You speak for many straight males as well.

      • Nat says:

        Lewis: THAT is a really interesting question. It seems to me that we may be born with in born biases, but that those biases can be overridden, reinforced and otherwise seriously shaped by after-birth experience. It’s the “blank” part of blank slates that’s the problem, the idea that what we are at birth is the “real” us. The real me is who I am with all my experiences and predelictions and traits, which I have developed since conception. That includes stuff I was born with, and stuff I learned in childhood, AND all the stuff I’ve picked up since them (Freud be damned). The cult of authenticity is grounded in a wish to sort out the often conflicting threads of desire and just be one thing, but we’re NOT just one thing, and that drives us nuts.

      • If you want an eye-opening glimpse into the world of gay male misogyny, check out the homepage of Homosexuals Intransigent! (http://mrgaypride.tripod.com), a group that was founded in 1969. They argue that not only do lesbians and gay men have nothing in common, their interests are in fact diametrically opposed. HI! is against any cooperation (or really, any contact whatsoever) between gay men and lesbians. As strange as this may seem to Americans, it is apparently still the norm in some parts of the world, as I discovered when I studied abroad in Germany, where women are not allowed in gay bars.

  62. choice says:

    As if anyone that wasn’t molested choose to be gay..

  63. Rich Sackett says:

    People like what they like. It’s no more complicated than that. Thank goodness, because my typing’s rubbish.

  64. SoMuchTrue says:

    what is up with all the lesbians out there today? i will never understand why there are so much more of these type of women that exist now. i thought the world had enough trouble, and now they are adding to it.

  65. Pingback: Born Gay--Or Not

  66. Lewis Gannett says:

    Nat, Thank you for your comment on May 23. I agree with you. We’re born with predispositions, angles, potentials, and so on, and then those traits interact with experiences in the world. All sorts of outcomes are possible, in other words. One could be born with genetic or androgen or whatnot predisposition to gay and end up a lusty hetero Lothario, depending. Sure. But I suspect that that’s rare. My hunch, which is all it can be, is that natural selection has created the potential for same-sex attraction and behavior because it conveys a survival benefit. How else to explain homosexuality throughout the animal world? Does anything in evolution happen by accident? Maybe. But not, probably, on so broad a scale. So, here’s a question. Do same-sex Penguin lovers embrace each other because it’s a choice?

    • Nat says:

      I think you give genetic predisposition to anything too much credit. Some of us follow our predispositions, some of us fight or redirect. And then those battles fold back on themselves, over and over, across our lives. And this isn’t just about gay and straight, male and female, and all the variants in the garden of hybrid sexualities. It’s about everything: am I an angry person or a peacable person? A conservative or a liberal? an artist or a business person? A parent or a child? Our answers to so many of these questions change over our lives, or they don’t because we have set patterns in place that keep us from drifiting (am I a drifter or do I stay in one place—there’s another).

      My point is, one one hand these words are made up of pieces (likes men/women; thinks of self as man/woman; cares what other people think/doesn’t; wants to conform to a norm/rebels, etc etc). On the other hand, those pieces are often neither inborn nor within our conscious control, however much psychotherapy and meditation we undertake. So we’re stuck dealing with someone else driving a truck whose gears and levers we can only begin to understand. We hang on and get as comfortable as we can…

      • Lewis Gannett says:

        News item, yesterday. An eight-year-old boy met his idol, Darren Criss, whom the kid had considered his “boyfriend” since the age of six. Maybe this boy will experience a patchwork of sexualities as he gets older. Somehow, though, I bet he’s gay for life (which, yes, is a patchwork unto itself). What kind of enviro matrix can science identify that might have “made” him gay between birth and age six? Nothing, insofar as I know. Nothing whatsoever. There’s no science there, except discredited psychoanalytic claptrap. How might he have been “born” gay? Same story: no science. But we nonetheless confront an example (among many) of a child who knows he’s gay at a very young age. I’m not persuaded that “someone else” is driving his truck. I don’t think that metaphor is apt. More likely, this child is simply being himself. Does he have a choice? Maybe that’s the wrong question.

  67. Chad says:

    I’ve just gotta say… if homosexuality or heterosexuality were genetic… then is attraction to blonds, the obese, the elderly, multiple partners, or animals count as well? Could that be genetic? So could one divorce their wife for a blond simply because they were born attracted to blonds but married a brunet? I agree with the author… it’s choice. So own it. I make choices everyday some. I enjoy metal-detecting but I get embarrassed sometimes because people look down on it and tend to mock me for it… but it was my choice because I enjoy it. I’d hate to think that homosexuals are like, “why me! why did i have to be born gay! I wish i were normal” I am pretty sure they are enjoying themselves… just saying.

    • Lee says:

      Comparing hair color and gender makes no sense. I am a male and the idea of having sex with a female repulses me – probably straight guys feel the same way about having sex with another male. Hair color – not as big of a deal.
      Some people probably are gentically prone to obesity – others just eat alot (for various reasons).

  68. buttmaster says:

    Thank you. I have felt this way for a long time. I would add that in general America is a nation obsessed with the concepts (“rights”?) of “freedom” and “choice”. Social justice is an important area of study because it gets at the heart of what our lives in this culture are literally all about, namely mystified oppression. So, as the little ritual abuses become increasingly sublimated, we find in the discourse an emerging relationship between “choice” and the “essential nature” of the subject, and/or our right to pass judgement. So much rests on this notion of “choice”, and yet it is not really unpacked. I would argue that choices are much more complicated than we acknowledge in everyday speech, and also that “freedom” is a bizarre end to seek in life.

    Note: I usually avoid blogs because they tend to digress into verbal abuse; we must live with a lot of pent up anger that seems to justify itself when the words are separated from a face? I made an exception this time because you are the first person to share my view. Thank you. I think good writing justifies our thoughts. Derrida said “reading is writing.” Perhaps it is a narcissistic act.

  69. mellekat says:

    From studying this in university there is a strong correlation between genetics and sexuality however it is not an absolute 100 percent correlation. Look at twin studies. It is determined that sexuality is based on genes and environment.

  70. Common sense says:

    If being homosexual is all based on society and environment then why does it occur in the following species?
    African Buffalo
    African Elephant
    Agile Wallaby
    Amazon River Dolphin(Boto)
    American Bison
    Antelope
    Asian Elephant
    Asiatic Lion
    Asiatic Mouflon
    Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
    Australian Sea Lion
    Barasingha
    Barbary Sheep
    Beluga
    Bharal
    Bighorn Sheep
    Black Bear
    Blackbuck
    Black-footed Rock Wallaby
    Black-tailed Deer
    Bonnet Macaque
    Bonobo
    Bottlenose Dolphin
    Bowhead Whale
    Brazilian Guinea Pig
    Bridled Dolphin
    Brown Bear
    Brown Capuchin
    Brown Long-eared Bat
    Brown Rat
    Buffalo
    Caribou
    Cat (domestic)
    Cattle (domestic)
    Cheetah
    Collared Peccary
    Commerson’s Dolphin
    Common Brushtail Possum
    Common Chimpanzee
    Common Dolphin
    Common Marmoset
    Common Pipistrelle
    Common Raccoon
    Common Tree Shrew
    Cotton-top Tamarin
    Crab-eating Macaque
    Crested Black Macaque
    Dall’s Sheep
    Daubenton’s Bat
    Dog (domestic)
    Donkey
    Doria’s Tree Kangaroo
    Dugong
    Dwarf Cavy
    Dwarf Mongoose
    Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
    Eastern Grey Kangaroo
    Elk
    Euro (a subspecies of wallaroo)
    European Bison
    Fallow Deer
    False Killer Whale
    Fat-tailed Dunnart
    Fin Whale
    Fox
    Gazelle
    Gelada Baboon
    Giraffe
    Goat (Domestic)
    Golden Monkey
    Gorilla
    Grant’s Gazelle
    Grey-headed Flying Fox
    Grey Seal
    Grey squirrel
    Grey Whale
    Grey Wolf
    Grizzly Bear
    Guinea Pig (Domestic)
    Hamadryas Baboon
    Hamster (Domestic)
    Hanuman Langur
    Harbor Porpoise
    Harbor Seal
    Himalayan Tahr
    Hoary Marmot
    Horse (domestic)
    Indian Fruit Bat
    Indian Muntjac
    Indian Rhinoceros
    Japanese Macaque
    Javelina
    Kangaroo Rat
    Killer Whale
    Koala
    Kob
    Larga Seal
    Least Chipmunk
    Lechwe
    Lesser Bushbaby
    Lion
    Lion-tailed Macaque
    Lion Tamarin
    Little Brown Bat
    Livingstone’s Fruit Bat
    Long-eared Hedgehog
    Long-footed Tree Shrew
    Macaque
    Markhor
    Marten
    Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo
    Moco
    Mohol Galago
    Moor Macaque
    Moose
    Mountain Goat
    Mountain Tree Shrew
    Mountain Zebra
    Mouse (domestic)
    Moustached Tamarin
    Mule Deer
    Musk-ox
    Natterer’s Bat
    New Zealand Sea Lion
    Nilgiri Langur
    Noctule
    North American Porcupine
    Northern Elephant Seal
    Northern Fur Seal
    Northern Quoll
    Olympic Marmot
    Orangutan
    Pacific Striped Dolphin
    Patas Monkey
    Pere David’s Deer
    Pig (Domestic)
    Pig-tailed Macaque
    Plains Zebra
    Polar Bear
    Pretty-faced Wallaby
    Proboscis Monkey
    Pronghorn
    Przewalski’s Horse
    Puku
    Quokka
    Rabbit
    Raccoon Dog
    Red Deer
    Red Fox
    Red Kangaroo
    Red-necked Wallaby
    Red Squirrel
    Reeves’s Muntjac
    Reindeer
    Rhesus Macaque
    Right Whale
    Rock Cavy
    Rodrigues Fruit Bat
    Roe Deer
    Rufous Bettong
    Rufous-naped Tamarin
    Rufous Rat Kangaroo
    Saddle-back Tamarin
    Savanna Baboon
    Sea Otter
    Serotine Bat
    Sheep (Domestic)
    Siamang
    Sika Deer
    Slender Tree Shrew
    Sooty Mangabey
    Sperm Whale
    Spinifex Hopping Mouse
    Spinner Dolphin
    Spotted Hyena
    Spotted Seal
    Squirrel Monkey
    Striped Dolphin
    Stuart’s Marsupial Mouse
    Stumptail Macaque
    Swamp Deer
    Swamp Wallaby
    Takhi
    Talapoin
    Tammar Wallaby
    Tasmanian Devil
    Tasmanian Rat Kangaroo
    Thinhorn Sheep
    Thomson’s Gazelle
    Tiger
    Tonkean Macaque
    Tucuxi
    Urial
    Vampire BatAfrican Buffalo
    Verreaux’s Sifaka
    Vervet
    Vicuna
    Walrus
    Wapiti
    Warthog
    Waterbuck
    Water Buffalo
    Weeper Capuchin
    Western Grey Kangaroo
    West Indian Manatee
    Whiptail Wallaby
    White-faced Capuchin
    White-fronted Capuchin
    White-handed Gibbon
    White-lipped Peccary
    White-tailed Deer
    Wild Cavy
    Wild Goat
    Wisent
    Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby
    Yellow-toothed Cavy
    And that’s just the mammals( not including humans of course) so I think now you might have broader and better perspective of how things really are.

    • Lewis Gannett says:

      Very nice indeed. Thank you!

    • ejaneward says:

      Could you elaborate on how the existence of homosexual contact among animals means that sexuality is not subject to social, cultural, and social-psychological influences? Animal relations are also social. I won’t bore you with examples of how animal sexual behavior is responsive to changes and opportunities in their environment, but like humans, animals appear to have some reproductive impulses but also a good amount of polymorphous perversity that can be triggered by circumstance and opportunity.

      • jacobaziza says:

        lol – I object to the use of the term “perversity” here. Even though I find it amusing.
        That concept is purely human religious moralizing and has no relation to the real world.

        Sex is like chocolate cake. We all developed a taste for food in order to ensure we eat, and therefor we live. But we can take that system of reward and subvert it for pleasure with no nutritional value. Sex may have evolved for reproduction, but in order to get us to do it, evolution (or god, or whatever) made it feel good, and that’s still true whether it is reproductive or not. So why wouldn’t an animal find whatever way to trigger that pleasure?
        The real question is why aren’t all humans bi? Is it purely social pressure? I used to think so, but I doubt it now. I can’t explain it, but it isn’t true for me, and I believe the studies that suggest it isn’t true for most men.

    • jacobaziza says:

      I don’t know about every single specie you listed, but in every case I do know of, the animals in question are not exclusively homosexual, they are bi. It isn’t that some individuals have sex with the same gender and others reproduce, its that its normal for all of the members of one or both genders to have sexual contact with their own at some times, while also mating reproductively at other times. Even Milo the penguin married a female penguin after his relationship with Roy ended.
      That is a different situation than humans (primarily males) who are attracted exclusively to their own sex.

      I don’t have any idea what this implies, but saying there are “gay” animals too is overly simplistic.
      I have actually written about this exact topic several years ago, linked in my name on this comment

      • Lewis Gannett says:

        Dear Jacobaziza: You are a moron. A lot of male gays have sex with women.

      • jacobaziza says:

        Lewis:
        #1 there is no need for name calling. I didn’t do that to you
        #2 I didn’t say “a lot” of supposedly gay animals also have reproductive sex. I said ALL of them do. They are all bi.
        #3 Animals don’t have social pressure in the same way humans do. How many of those human male gays have sex with women because they are expected to?
        How many have sex with women even though they are not attracted to them?
        #4 Even if the majority of gay men were actually attracted to women (which is false, but it is what you are implying, so lets go with it), that still would not make me a moron.

        Just because an argument is politically strategic, does not make it true.

      • Lewis Gannett says:

        Dear Jacobaziza, Quite right, no need to name call. I apologize. I misread your sentence, “That is a different situation than humans (primarily males) who are attracted exclusively to their own sex.” It wasn’t clear to me that you were talking about a subset of males who have sex with males. Actually, I’m still a bit unclear about what you mean, but I think I get the gist. Back to the question of political expediency. This really puzzles me. The question of “born that way” need not be conflated with politics, and to imply that it necessarily drags in politics, is odd. It’s a completely legitimate issue quite apart from social-policy implications. The main empirical aspect concerns (admittedly anecdotal) reports of boys proclaiming themselves gay at very young ages. How do these kids know they’re gay? If some sort of enviro influence contributes to that kind of self-awareness, what is it? Insofar as I know there is no literature on the topic: not one peer-reviewed publication. Zip! (Again, insofar as I know.) Speculation about enviro gay-genesis is therefore theoretical: totally, absolutely theoretical. Can the same be said about “born that way”? Apart from in-utero androgen findings, which seem murky, I don’t know of potentially promising leads from biology. But, again, we have a rapidly growing number of examples of boys who strongly identify as gay many years before puberty. This is not a “political,” or, it seems, a social-constructivist fact. It’s a great deal more tangible and interesting than notions of early childhood gay social construction for which there is not one iota of actual evidence. We don’t know why young boys can know and embody a “different” sexual destiny. Is it because they watch Glee? Oh sure, Glee is recruiting toddlers into homosexuality. Why does that seem unlikely?

    • jacobaziza says:

      I don’t know about every single specie you listed, but in every case I do know of, the animals in question are not exclusively homosexual, they are bi. It isn’t that some individuals have sex with the same gender and others reproduce, its that its normal for all of the members of one or both genders to have sexual contact with their own at some times, while also mating reproductively at other times. Even Milo the penguin married a female penguin after his relationship with Roy ended.
      That is a different situation than humans (primarily males) who are attracted exclusively to their own sex.

      I don’t have any idea what this implies, but saying there are “gay” animals too is overly simplistic.
      I have actually written about this exact topic several years ago, linked in my name on this comment

      • ami says:

        Well, you should learn much, since different species express different patterns of “exclusivety”. In some, occassional homosexual behavior is very common (for example in mice attraction to females is kinda “default” for both males and females), in others, it almost doesn’t happen (and in such cases, when some member of the species express homosexual behavior, it’s exclusive).

    • Mike Arienti says:

      Those are not good comparisons, as this article was not about those species.

      • Pam I. says:

        @ Lewis, re that six-year-old boy: I find it totally understandable that a boy could want to reject what he sees of the world of the Masculine. It must be horrible to look at that world, and see it looming. But linking that rejection of masculine behaviours, doesn’t make the child gay. Small children refusing to conform to gender norms are to be encouraged, surely – but we should be wary of saying that their desires are fixed just because they chuck out all that murky bathwater.

    • tnt666 says:

      Pooey! None of those animals establish homosexual lifelong relationships! They have all have occasional same sex sex, that is not the same thing we’re discussing here. We humans experience sexual intercourse from different vantage points.
      -Some of us have sex because we’re attracted (lust) to each other
      -some for marital duty, with absolutely no pleasure (a majority of married females)
      -some for emotional love (couples past the lust phase and not yet in the long phase)
      -some sex is not positive at all hets having same sex sex with other hets in jails.
      -some sex is simply mindless, such a drunken orgie, where anythings goes, attraction or not

      In the animal kingdom, same sex sex if for the last two reasons, they are certainly do not have IDs, or “identify” as gay.

    • Bev Jo says:

      And the primate-level intelligent genera of Rattus. Rats, who will die for those they love.
      Yes, some of us have been saying for decades, who we love is all a choice.

      Great list!

    • Mary Lauer says:

      That has nothing to do with homosexuality. It has to do with the reproductive desires of the animals. The fact is, they are all hardwired for sex; not necessarily heterosexual or homosexual. If it feels good, the animals are going to do it. Simple. Did you ever get humped by a dog? That dog is not a “homo/hetero-sapien” animal. It hump because it was made to hump.

  71. Cherie Braden says:

    It’s a very good point you make, and an unsavory consequence of strategically embracing the “born gay” hypothesis for political purposes is that it hypostatizes gender dichotomy as biological fact, effectively setting back the social equality movement in the long term.

    • Lee says:

      Cherie,

      How about embracing the “born gay” hypothesis because its true?

      • Mike Arienti says:

        This article disproves it. You clearly haven’t read it.

      • Lewis Gannett says:

        Cherie: “How about embracing the “born gay” hypothesis because its true?”
        Mike’s reply to Cherie: “This article disproves it. You clearly haven’t read it.”

        Uh, Mike. The article doesn’t disprove “born gay.” You have clearly misread it. The article also doesn’t prove that people become gay after birth because of environmental influences. In fact, it doesn’t prove anything at all, as I suspect Jane Ward would tell you. There is no solid scientific evidence for either position. But these aren’t the actual questions underlying the debate here. At issue is whether one has a “choice” about one’s sexuality. Ward suggests (doesn’t prove) that humans can choose to be straight, gay, in between. I’ve disputed that idea, but a very sensible commenter, above, whose name eludes me, but whom you can easily find should you so wish, has made the obvious and decisive point. Sure, one can choose sexual behavior. But can one choose sexual feelings? I put it somewhat differently. Do people choose their personalities? I’d say, No. But maybe some people do choose sexuality, personality. If so, nobody can prove it. Again, the bottom line: nobody’s “proved” anything about the origin of sexual orientation.

  72. ak says:

    Sexuality is fluid. You cannot say it’s a choice for those who are on one side or the other. I did not choose to be straight, and my best guy friend did not choose to be gay, but I know a lot of gays who did choose because they felt attraction to both men and women. Because of the nature of sexuality, sometimes there is a choice to be made, but many times there is not. I have never been sexually attracted to women, but have definitely felt that desire to be “done with men” and give being with a woman a chance, but I can’t. It’s not who I am sexually attracted to. So, I agree and disagree. Because of the nature of human sexuality, some people can choose, others cannot. There is no normal, there is no this or that.

  73. Aaron says:

    This article is horrendously illogical. It deeply saddens me that people buy this. 1) Learn about the scientific method. 2) Learn basic logic The conclusion that the title draws might be the most absurd part about it.

  74. Eric Hyde says:

    Wow… I don’t know what to say. This article has seriously begun to shape my thinking on the subject in a profound way. I have always had a problem with the idea that sexuality is a born-in trait. Thanks for posting this incredibly well-thought piece. I’m going to have to reread it a few times to get it all coordinated in my mind.

  75. Maki P says:

    I think that choosing your actions is completely different from choosing your feelings

  76. Dan W says:

    Thank you for finally saying the thing that every liberal is afraid to say due to judgement from their gay friends. I tried to explain this to one of my friends (a republican even!) and he told me I was wrong and it was terrible to say such things… I will however admit that I have a gay mormon friend, and if he believed that he wasn’t born gay, he’d been signing up for straight camp… It’s sad really.

    • Lee says:

      Dan,

      Gay people are born gay. It is an outright lie to say otherwise. There is a mountain of scientific evidence as well as antedocal evidence. However, male sexuality does seem to differ from female sexuality in that male sexuality tends to be more defined in terms of being clearly homosexual or heterosexual (physically anyway).
      Sexual orientation is not a religious or political issue – it is a scientific issue.

      • walter says:

        Science lies all the time.but ok, Since there are mountains of evidence that suggest your born gay. Give me 5 sources of studies where they prove it, and make sure these are credible sources. Il wait

  77. cah't tell you says:

    … Homosexual Rape.

    Decades later, I am still straight in every aspect of my life. But I do not deny my past as I once did. I make the choice to be happy in my life and do not seek change. I don’t feel that I am more confortable in the closet. I don’t live in the closet. I live in the real world. I am happy with my choice.

  78. Mike Arienti says:

    Nobody is “born gay” because knowledge of sex/gender is learned. I am guessing most of us here have had “the talk” with someone or seen or experienced something that taught us about sexuality. Those who have not, well…shame on your parents.

    • Lee says:

      Mike,
      You are worng. Sex and gender are not learned. They are natural traits – and some people are born gay which is part of nature. Not sure what is motivating your lies – I call them lies because I doubt that you actually believe what you are wrting. Maybe you have a political agenda?
      Its funny about nature – it tends to transcend politics. Oh – left handed people are born left handed also.

    • Lee says:

      Mike,
      The article does not disprove that gay people are born gay. I have read hundreds of articles that prove that people are born with their sexual orientation. You are not a scientist or biologist. You are not qualified to speak with authority on the subject – but that does not seem to stop you. A hard right political agenda does not make you an expert on the underpinnings of sexual orientaiton. You add nothing to the discussion.

  79. Aryan says:

    Interesting article .. but heres my 69 cents… The root cause of sexual orientation is ones actual sex (gender) and sexual desire, and as far as science and life has informed us on this subject, its only natural to think that sex and sexual desire IS fundamentally biological; its instinctual and based on hormones… also i think sex (gender) and sexual orientation is a very colorful spectrum… not simply (straight) male and (gay) female…. though we may be easily deceived on the surface with typical appearances….

  80. Jessie says:

    What a bullsh*t post. I can’t believe I wasted my time reading this crap.

  81. Pingback: No One is Born Gay (or Straight): Here Are 5 Reasons Why | sermonform2function

  82. David says:

    No one is born gay or straight?yes of course i have long known that social factors causes the main the attraction betweeen male and female.the first cause of attraction between male and female is anxiety this explains the reason why after knowing the opposite sex for a period of time the attraction deminish and then we say we dont love the person again aka falling out of love.this only happend because the spikes were cause by hormones that were cause by anxiety and fear of the opposite sex mixed with different genetic factors,it explains why people say their heart beats faster when they are inlove (i.e lust)the fact is that after some times this feelings will disappear after some times and the couple we be more like friends later .another example is people are not generally attracted to their sisters and brothers they grew up with whereas if such siblings didnt grow up together they could have fell in love.attraction is not about physical attraction there are people who will say they are in love the opposite sex because of their characters,behaviour e.t.c. The fact is that if a child grows up to the a certain age(between age 3 and 6) without been able to establish a social connection like,friendships either in school or at home with is own gender pairs because of bullying or some diffrence they felt, they will definitely be homosexual in the later age.

  83. David says:

    No one is born gay or straight?yes of course i have long known that social factors causes the main the attraction betweeen male and female.the first cause of attraction between male and female is anxiety this explains the reason why after knowing the opposite sex for a period of time the attraction deminish and then we say we dont love the person again aka falling out of love.this only happend because the spikes were cause by hormones that were cause by anxiety and fear of the opposite sex mixed with different genetic factors,it explains why people say their heart beats faster when they are inlove (i.e lust)the fact is that after some times this feelings will disappear after some times and the couple we be more like friends later .

  84. Kost says:

    Monkee see, monkee do

  85. Jess says:

    I don’t think it is a choice. I’m a signore in high school. I grew up with a straight sister and single straight mother all my child hood friends are straight only one friend that I must in grade 7 is bisexual and i HATE myself for being lesbian. I tried killing myself. I hate it. If I could change I would. Honestly, I would give abutanything to

  86. ami says:

    “But this study makes the same error that countless others have made: it does not properly distinguish between gender (whether one is masculine or feminine) and sexual orientation (heterosexuality or homosexuality). Simply put, the fact that a woman is “masculine” (itself a social construction) or has been introduced to greater levels of a male hormone need not have anything to do with whether she is attracted to women.”

    Apart from research which shows substantial difference between gay and straight brains (namely, homosexuals of one gender in terms of brain wiring are mirror image of heterosexuals of opposite gender), there are also experiments on animals. Animals actually have sexual orientation too, and experiments show that when you androgenize female fetuses of rhesus monkeys in second half of pregnancy (when brain develops), they will express homosexual behavior.

    Seriously, there is not much discussion in scientific field about it anymore. In mammals, orientation depends on hormones, in most species, prenatal hormones (some are responsive to circulating hormones too, but it’s truth for some “lower” mammals, like some rodents, not humans), which “sets up” brain wiring during critical period of development (generally, second half of pregnancy – first half sets up phenotype sex).

    And BTW, you didn’t read much of Lisa Diamond apparently, because her studies (even though she presents it in very confusing way) don’t suggest women can turn. In fact her studies proved that orientation is fixed (for Diamond, sexuality and orientation are different things), but it’s sexual attraction alone, not romantic preferences (and since most women pay more attention to romantic feelings, that’s the reason they seem more “fluid”).
    A group of women in her studies that were always exclusively attracted to women were, as Diamond noted, “extremely solid”.

    Diamond also made another study “Sexual minority women’s sexual motivation around the time of ovulation”, which showed that those who think that “choice” has something to do with their orientation had significantly lower increase in motivation to have sex with women during their fertile days than those who thought they were born this way.

    Which shows that you guys who think we are not born gay are either simply bisexual, and think everyone is just like you so they just choose to be gay or straight, or your same sex feelings are of different category than ours, people who were born gay – not as overwhelming.

    Cynthia Nixon is good example of that. If you’ve read Diamond’s book you would know that (according to Nixon’s own words) she’s probably not even bisexual. She fell in love with a woman, but she perceives her as a man. That happens because love in terms of brain wiring is run by different circuits than lust (and unlike lust, it’s apparently gender blind), and for many women, it’s more important.

  87. Paper says:

    Of course it is easy to comfortably kick back in your chair and spout such western-centric and industrial-centric garbage under a pretense of “rad queerness” and in the chivalrous defense of political lesbianism as “proof” of “sexuality as a choice”.

    Now try going to a Sub-Saharan community and telling the child who is under death threat that he simply “chose” his sexuality and that he is a result of his “environment”.

  88. will ben says:

    i hate faggots
    how disgusting
    how illogical
    how insane
    how will you reproduce
    hate faggots
    nature hates faggots homos gays /
    they’re just inhuman
    go fuck yourself faggots!

    • Pam I says:

      Wrong blog, sonny.

    • Hanna says:

      I don’t want to reproduce at all. I don’t want to have a child, and I especially don’t want a child who turns out like you. There’s too many people on this planet. I think we can afford to cut back on making babies. You either aren’t homosexual or you are having a hard time coping with feelings but good for you. People have feelings. These thoughts that you’ve written down clearly voice your opinion but you should know better not to post them where it is going to offend people. Homosexuality isn’t insane, it’s the same as having feelings for the opposite sex. Homosexuality is actually very common in nature and is commonly seen among many species of animals, so there’s nothing unnatural about it. Humans are part of nature. Humans are a lot more social than most other species out there, it would only be reasonable that there would be homosexual people, because we humans come in contact with other humans for emotional support, social interaction, entertainment, empathy, and many others; not just for reproduction. Maybe that’s why homosexual people don’t mind that they can’t have babies with each other. And why on earth would it be inhuman? The definition of inhuman is lacking human qualities of compassion and mercy; cruel and barbaric. I know many gay/bi people and they are some of the most caring funny people I’ve ever met. I am a female, and I have a girlfriend that I am in love with more than anything in the world, even though we’ve only done anything sexual a couple times. In reply to the last part of your comment, I just might go fuck myself. You can go fuck yourself too, you probably already do it on a regular basis.

    • Seriously Speaking says:

      isn’t it sad that they are everywhere these days.

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  90. Liam says:

    I figured out I was bisexual when I started to see people in a sexual way, and lets be honest, it wasn’t when I was six. I think it started around 13 or 14 when the crushes started to get a little more.. crushy? Anyway. What I wanted to say was.. To me. Personally. Me. I’m a pharmacist, not a historian. Pharmacist. Personally. Me. Juuuust me. Kay? Get that in your heads? Alright. To -me-, I need to live in the here and now. I don’t care how I got here, or what series of events brought me to stand where I am standing right this moment. If you say I should, you’re under the assumption I like studying everything -you- do. So let’s just stop right there shall we? Pharmacist. Nothing more. Just a pharmacist. I like who I am now. People hate me, people love me. It’s how it ends up. And when I’m dead, well, there it is. I’ll be dead. I don’t know if there’s a God, an afterlife, Nirvana, a giant turtle caring the world. I have no flippin’ Idea, because I’m not dead. So when I die, I’ll come across that bridge and then, that’s where I’ll be. I’m not arguing -anything- here. Not one thing. I don’t even disagree with anything. Who am I to claim to know anything, I’m just one dude, you know? But I just wanted to share what this article made me think. That’s all. Don’t attack me, don’t flip out, don’t tell me God hates me, I know, I heard it like 9000 times already, just. Read and take from it. Or ignore it. Whatever you wanna do. I’m a Taoist, I’m just here for the cookies, yeah? But in the end, still, this was a good read. I appreciate the time you took to write it and think about all the contents of it. Obviously it was a lot of work, and -any- piece of art deserves it’s just admiration. :) So thank you for sharing this with the world, and ultimately, me.

  91. joe says:

    I knew that I was in to guys at age 7 , every time I walk by any males I would have to look at any hot or cute male and would get hard even when in school but never been with one till one pick me up after high school , I never could talk or look at females only guys , beleve me your born that way.

  92. nick s. says:

    I knew what I was attracted too every since puberty. I strongly believe that there are biological reasons for being ‘gay/straight.’ Ppl that say that it’s a ‘choice’ don’t know shit! Until you either live in those ppl’s shoes or experience this, who are you too voice your ‘novice opinions’ anyway? “Not a choice, it’s the way you are! Bisexuals, on the other hand, idk much about that but I suppose the ‘genetic factors still apply as far as Iam concerned. I guess they just want their cake & eat-it too.” You either are gay ir not!

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  94. Greg Birkett says:

    Here’s my big question on it all
    If you’re NOT gay, why are you trying to attempt to explain “what it’s like” or “the causes”
    And furthermore, why does it MATTER to you?

    Sure there’s something you’re NOT telling us?

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  96. Nina says:

    Why does anyone even care what is going on in some one else’s life. We are all creatures of god and just let everyone just be. As long as one does not force upon anyone their doctrine: either physically, emotionally or spiritually there own personal beliefs…who cares. It seems to me that religious zealots are the ones doing the exact opposite of Christ’s teachings. He was so loving and welcoming of all without judgment…how can you put these words of HATRED in his mouth. What are you so afraid of…he was not. I will pray for you.

  97. Hanna says:

    Alright, I don’t think it matters how people end up homosexual but it’s a real thing today in this world, and religion and politics just have to deal with it. You can’t make someone straight if they aren’t. I don’t think ANYONE can be completely one or the other though. Yes, homosexual people don’t reproduce in a same sex relationship, but maybe some of us don’t want to. I don’t think I’m the type to be a mom, and I think that the world can afford to have less people and lay off the baby making for a while. We have so so many mouths to feed that kids die of starvation (wether it’s in your country, or not). I am in a wonderful relationship with a girl, and it isn’t some lust that holds us together, we actually don’t engage in sexual activity as often as most people (and don’t have urges for anyone else for that matter, we do enjoy each other though), but it is the most caring and tender relationship that I have ever been in, and I love her more than anything. I wouldn’t want it any other way. As long as you’re happy, that’s how it should be.

  98. Moo says:

    Now let me tell you why this is bull shit first off being gay is not a choice when I was younger i didn’t realize it put I was attracted to guys you probably will think oh it’s just hormones in you but hormones don’t make you gay for years maybe a month but not years and yes I’m young 15 to be exact but yet I’m gay and i know it but fuck you if you think it’s a choice

  99. meh says:

    Leaving the particularities of sexual identity aside for a second, the greater question beneath much of this article and the responses to it is to what degree do we actually choose anything of our own free will apart from genetics and environmental factors? Whether it’s your love of cheese, your taste in clothes, your career path, your language, where you choose to live, or your predilection toward people with a lack of body hair, most (perhaps all) of your life as you know it is the result of things out of your control. Sure, we say things like, “She’s a real free spirit” when someone is living what looks like an unconventional or rebellious life, but we’re all bound by the same things: chemistry and environment. It may be hard for post-modern 21st century Westerners to come to grips with because we love freedom and individuality, but we make absolutely no choices free from the constraints of our particular genetic and social location. It’s all chemistry reacting with an environment in a complex and varied way that over history has produced billions of different results, no two exactly alike. It’s a really beautiful and marvelous thing. I applaud scientists for trying to figure out why we are the way we are. I applaud those who resist the idea that science can explain everything about who we are. At some point, my answer to all of these why questions is the same as what I tell my three year old after he’s asked me “Why?” 20 times in a row: “It just is the way it is. Now let’s finish supper and go play.” Some people are homosexual. Some people are heterosexual. Figuring out why is important, but not as important as just recognizing this as a fact and moving on with getting along with one another.

  100. lisa says:

    ummm if god created woman from man who was man fufilling his sexual cravings and desires for befor woman was created? animlas? othe rmen? becasue what we do have from birth is sexual instincts

    • lisa says:

      did gay slip on planet earth from another planet. if adaption exist here on earth for us it exist on other planets for other life. why do they make cars for the road but they dont make huber craft so we can travel to other planets. it is indeed possible. creation of any and every kind is possible.

  101. mjk says:

    What are the Author’s academic qualification’s, if I might ask? Studies of, and statistics pertaining to gay twins, both identical and non-identical, seem to strongly disprove the entire premise at the outset. Just because someone want’s to maybe think that maybe it’s possible people aren’t born with an innate sexual preference doesn’t make it so. The only thing I might agree with is that perhaps the incidence of bisexuality is under reported, due to the fact that our culture as a whole is somewhat more religious than in some other places. But to say that people are not born with an innate sexual orientation is profoundly wrong . All the scientific evidence really does indicate it. If someone thinks they cant be proud of who they are unless they have chosen to be that way, that would be like saying left handed people should feel like idiots because they have a higher rate of death by accident than right handed people, due to the fact that the majority of people in the world are obviously right-handed. The simple fact is sexuality really is innate , and also, by the way, that there are, and have been, real evolutionary advantages that have accrued to the species as a whole because of it (just like left-handedness). Perhaps that’s where the initial mistake was, (as regards the basic argument of the article). At one point the breeding population of Homo Sapiens has been estimated to be as low as 150 individuals capable of reproducing, due to ice age condition’s, and so it simply “paid” to have an extra male around, to replace any that became injured, and at other times, to a mathematically lesser extent (it was a 100% “might is right” world then, as opposed to maybe just 80% now, in advanced industrial countries) , it “paid” to have an extra female around, simply due to the fragility of life (homo sapiens offspring are born 6 months “too soon”, due to women’s hip’s not being able to accommodate a later child birth, due to the changes in environment in the African rift valley i.e. early pre-humans had to start walking to get their food, so physical changes slowed in relation to mental changes, because females hips couldn’t, on average, get any wider, without it hindering their ability to eat). Sister’s of gay males are on average more fertile than sister’s of straight males, and also as regards preferred sexual practices (that will vary by individual), prenatal hormones have obviously been shown to play an important role. To say or think that being gay, lesbian, or bisexual somehow minimizes, or has minimized this particular characteristic’s role in the survival of the species is seriously misguided. There are lies, damned lies, and then there are a whole body of studies that when taken as a whole, do not in fact lie, and indicate beyond any reasonable doubt, that sexuality is, in fact, an inborn trait. It might be best to not politicize that particular point , any more than it already has been by unreasonable people on the “other side”.

  102. XiDeMo says:

    Well, I think being gay or straight it s a resault of a very complex process involving phycological, social and genetics influences as many other conditions pathological or not. Just because scientist didn’t isolated a specific gen for homosexuality, doesn’t mean there is none. But certainly it’s not a choice for most of people, which doesn’t mean sexual orientation it’s a matter of ‘fate’ that nobody is able to change. Think about obessity. A few years ago

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  104. E says:

    The more homosexuals I come across,and the more they try to describe it, the more I realize that the vast majority of them I have come across are making excuses why they should further reinforce childish stubborness.
    My personal belief is that love transends gender. One common biological response, when excited, is to become arroused. Dogs dump chairs andowners legsandwhat not when they get excited. It’s a released.
    I’m not saying hetreosexual is the way, and I’m not saying homosexual is the way…
    What I am saying is that, the people that say they don’t have a choice are whiney little brats that often say things like “YOU THINK I WANT TO BE THIS WAY?! I WISH I WASN’T!”
    That’s a massive key that they are stuck in a victim mentality.
    Homosexuals that say they are homosexual by choice, and freely admit to sexual attraction to opposite sex, are the ones that have my respect.
    Because they aren’t the ones acting like the world owes them something, but rather, standing up, as a individual, and announcing to the world that “This is my choice, I am a omni-sexual. If I get bored with this one, I may date another of my sex, or of opposite sex, as long as I am happy with the person”
    It’s simple. Grow up. The world isn’t here to babysit you. You make a choice, own it. Don’t make excuses for it.
    Because, making excuses for it, would be you saying “This is wrong, I can’t help it!”
    I hear meth heads say that ALOT. You know what happens with them, right? What is the best answer, in our society, for people that can not control themselves emotionally?
    It’s not equality, not when the people that are emotional stable have to babysit you.
    No, when you make excuses about not being able to control your emotions, you should simple be locked up with the other psychos.

    To the people that don’t make excuses about their sexuality, hats off to you. You have my respect.
    To the kids that are huffing and puffing, and dragging homosexuality through the dirt, I only have this to say: Read the article again. And again. And get over yourself.

  105. Ahmet says:

    I am deeply offended by this article.
    How dare you talk on behalf of every gay/lesbian/bi person in the world?
    Yes, maybe people aren’t born gay or straight but we say such because your sexual feelings form at an age where you feel attraction. So in other words, we are born the way we are in regards to sexual orientation. Frankly, I don’t give two cents what your lifestyle has lead you to believe but my life and many millions of others shows that we had no control over our sexual orientation. I grew up in an Islamic, Middle-Eastern background. Do you truly bloody believe that I would have chose to be gay if I had that power. Either you were never attracted to men to begin with but use this misleading controversial nonsense as your excuse, or you were bi-sexual or you just choose to partake in a Lesbian relationship because it suits you better but that doesn’t mean everyone else follows. There are people like you everywhere, most of the time they pretend to act straight so the wider society won’t ostracise him/her. I couldn’t even complete reading the whole page because of how disturbed it made me feel. If you ever approached me and said you personally chose to be with a women because it felt fitting, I wouldn’t judge you. I’d be proud of you for ignoring stupid labels and acting in ways helping you to become happier. But don’t go fuelling the darn hypocrites opinions of our already suffering community because of personal dramas. I had my first crush in grade two for Pete’s sake. I didn’t even fully understand the concept of Gay and Straight at the age of seven. Again, I’m deeply offended. This is horrible and heartbreaking, especially from someone who identifies themselves as attracted to same-sex people. Next time, write based on what people like yourself experience and don’t generalise the entire LGBTQ group.

    • T says:

      Thank you for this. I come from a similar Arab background, and I struggle with depression everyday because of something I can’t control. I also believe in the separation of sexual orientation and romantic orientation. I’m sexually more attracted to men than women, but romantically more attracted to women than men. This is something I’ve tried to control and can’t. Now whether this attraction is due to biological causes- ‘born this way’- or environmental causes does not matter to me. What matters is that it is not a choice.

  106. The True Answer says:

    well we certainly have much more women that are Gay today, and even the straight ones have become Bi. Very Sad for many of us Good straight men that are looking to meet a Real Good One, and many of you women must have been Very Badly Abused by your parents or the men that you were with at one time.

    • Bi Girl says:

      It’s more like the abuse of men in general over the last few thousand years, actually, you’ve heard of the patriarchy right? If you’re looking for a true answer, try asking a girl, we’re getting much better at thinking for ourselves lately and we also have some interesting theories you might gain some insight from. I am sympathetic though, I see how that would be lonely, I think a lot of women really underestimate how fortunate we really are with our emotional awareness and communication. I can see how it would be hard to speak to us when we’re often ready to defend. But try to imagine what it would be like for us if women’s lib turned out to be some short lived trend and we just got sucked right back into slavery and domesticity and ownership, that would be messed up, so maybe you could help us make sure that doesn’t happen? We’d probably be more comfortable talking to men if we knew we didn’t have anything to worry about. I think most of us are just so busy with that right now, learning to be independent humans, helping protect and support other women in this new change. As an aggressive feminist, I really am sorry for those times we are harder on you than we need to be, its just kind of a whole new experiment for us to figure out how to use these new voices of ours. But on the whole, I think you’ll find a lot of women are still very empathetic and emotionally aware and many of us excel in conversation. Maybe if you just keep approaching us, keep talking and listening, be open minded and try to avoid asserting baseless assumptions? Hopefully with some practice and time and determination we’ll be able to work through this whole process together and this won’t have to happen to you guys anymore. Try the meaner, louder, scariest girls, they have a lot of interesting things to say. I know its hard to talk to loud, strong, intensely emotional people when you’re struggling with self esteem, but try mentioning your feelings and talk about your perspective, be prepared to be shot down, but many women will be interested in what you have to say as a person if you are interested in what they have to say as a person too. All the best, I really hope men and women’s relations see some incredible improvements soon.

  107. Jerry Reiter says:

    Give me a break. This article writer claims taking some courses in LGBT and feminism turned her from a heterosexual into a homosexual, and she claims that reparative therapy works for some people. The first statement is absurdly nonsensical, and the second is demonstrably false. Reparative therapy has zero certified “success stories” of change from homosexual to heterosexual. The idea that since the writer does not like the thought that sexual orientation is hard-wired, therefore it must not be is truly without any merit. The fact is that there may be some fluidity in female responses, but the science is pretty strong that male sexuality is hardwired (as usual women are not the subject of as many studies). Overall, this article offered baseless claims that will quickly be used against gay kids from conservative religious homes at a time when we are trying to have the “reparative” therapies banned.

    • Reparative therapy has zero success stories of cancelling out homosexual *desire*, because desire cannot be cancelled out. (I’d bet a fair amount that the author of this article still feels some desire toward men, for example.) It does, however, sometimes succeed in enabling the individual to stop the *behavior* – to stop having same-sex sex – ieither by supporting a life of celibacy, or by teaching the “patient” how to find sexual and romantic urges toward members of the opposite sex. Desire is stubborn and intransigent and nobody has ever figured out how to make it go away, but behavior, with willpower and support, can be molded.

      The question of whether it *should* be molded is a separate issue – I for one wish that no gay or bi kid or teen had ever been told there was anything wrong with their desires, so we’d have no need or wish for reparative therapy. (God, I hate even using that phrase, like gay people were broken and needed fixing.) But I also think that in a world of adults, people should be free to choose to change their behavior if they want to, and to seek out whatever help they need in making those changes.

  108. Larry says:

    I have never liked “its not a choice” as a political argument. Its just a plain bad argument. But gender preference and identity are largely (not entirely) shaped by pre-birth biology. It doesn’t mean its necessarily genetic even, other stuff happens during development other than genes.

    Gender preference and identity are not binary. There has been a political tendency to make it more binary than it really is. But don’t mistake there analog and somewhat fluid nature for an entire lack of inborn preference.

  109. Tim says:

    ‘Conversion’ therapy does not work. You can make someone ‘feel disgusted about their own desires’, but you cannot make them like the opposite of what you are ‘making’ them not like. You can condition a person to be disgusted or ashamed of sexual stimulation towards a sex but you cannot ‘convert’ them to be aroused by the opposite. There is no ‘conversion’.

    • ejaneward says:

      Many commenters have made this point, so I wanted to clarify why I disagree. Here’s an example of the power of the social to influence human desire: There is a great body of research on gender formation which reveals the power of social influence on people’s gender expressions and gendered desires. Children who have non-normative gender expressions (boys who desire the color pink, for example) are redirected toward other interests and desires by persistent criticism and bullying (from other children, parents, the media, and so forth). Over a period of years, the boy’s love of pink is perhaps repressed at first, but is later truly forgotten and replaced with blue (or whatever the gender appropriate signifier may be. this is just an example). I don’t think it is productive to say that the child’s later love of blue is “false.” To do so would be a failure to acknowledge the seductive power of blue as the normative choice. Blue is so thoroughly promoted, in such an appealing way, to boys, that the desire for it certainly feels genuine to the boys who experience it. This kind of redirection of desire is also the daily work of advertisers, who have figured out how to manufacture desire in human consumers–for products we did not previously like or know existed. Of course it is a GREAT INJUSTICE that reparative therapy even exists. And as a clinical practice, there seems to be little evidence that it “works.” My point, however, is that sexual desire is not somehow uniquely impervious to social pressure, and can change and transform in relation to a vast array of social pressures that make some sexual acts, sexual scripts, and sexual partners seems far more desirable than others.

      • Lewis Gannett says:

        E. Jane Ward wrote: “My point, however, is that sexual desire is not somehow uniquely impervious to social pressure, and can change and transform in relation to a vast array of social pressures that make some sexual acts, sexual scripts, and sexual partners seems far more desirable than others.” What does this have to do with sexual desire as “choice”?

    • I disagree, Tim. People who are forced away from their usual heterosexual preference by circumstance can be found in prison populations worldwide, and they often if not always find ways to be aroused by members of their own sex.

      It is also true that we recognize a potential partner’s gender by a number of signifiers – odor, shape, body hair, voice, social cues and many more – and that what turns us on about men, or women, might also be available in someone of another gender. (I watched the early days of courtship between a heterosexual woman friend whose primary attraction was to very butch, macho men. Then she met a butch dyke who was butch-ier than any man she’d ever dated. They celebrated their legal wedding a few months ago, after nearly twenty years as a couple.) So the gay man who’s turned on to dominant behavior and deep voices might find a woman who has those things, or the lesbian who’s drawn to high femmes might discover the drag queen of her dreams.

      I think complexities like these are part of what this author is trying to express. Gender doesn’t only come in pink pegs and blue pegs like a board game; now that our understanding of gender has become more complex and nuanced, a lot of our old assumptions about orientation simply don’t work anymore.

  110. Skelly says:

    So heterosexuality must be a choice too, and people are only heterosexual and disgusted by the thought of engaging same-sex relations because of society and pressure, and heterosexuals can magically become homosexual due to reparative therapy in the other direction.

  111. Nora Miriam says:

    Thanks for this. I wish I could find my place in the lgbt community. I would love to find a place where ideas like this are not considered threatening. As a very femme woman whose sexual attraction fluctuates between bisexual and lesbian, I have found it hard to be taken seriously in the lesbian dating world.

  112. Well the fact is “We don’t know enough” and the answer is close to “both”. The article makes some good points about our orientation to research, but the author also falls in the same trap that they are attempting to wean us from by staying in the “either/or” mode. Fact is The science of human behaviour is complex- and good science is necessary all the time to support our positions. The author stated the ridiculous research which are out there but failed to acknowledge lots of scientifically sound work like Långström, et al, Bailey & Pillard, Hersberger,etc which are really exciting and sincere scientific approaches to get to this beyond just the “politically strategic” agenda.
    We should also not forget that science is used many ways to support our own agenda- and “researcher bias” will necessitate that we choose data that supports our hypothesis and reject that which doesn’t. When I started studying psychology I was disappointed in my senior year to realise that a lot of it didn’t give me the definite answers i wanted- but at a doctoral level i started appreciating just this stance in science- that we are always finding out. The recent work by Bruce Lipton for example, is exciting in how it could speak to the “CAUSES” of homosexuality- now THAT’s the science I like – free of ANY agenda but truth!

  113. Restless Intellectual says:
  114. Alan says:

    This reminds me a lot of an essay I wrote for a module in my final year of psychology. It was based on levels of analysis, and we were asked to choose a topic and criticize a certain level of analysis. I decided to criticize and examine the assumptions that biological studies on homosexuality make, arguing that you cannot neglect the cultural and social influences that tend to guide these studies in the first place. Ended up getting the highest mark awarded. I’d be happy to send it to you if you have any interest at all.

    Nice article!

  115. tnt666 says:

    One mistake you forgot is “homosexuality is common in nature”. It does somewhat overlap with your conversion stuff and part-time desires and Greek same sex sex, but not necessarily homosexuality as a lifestyle… Yes, there are instances of same sex sex in nature, generally in circumstances of overpopulation or hypersexual moments, but nature does not have homosexual monogamy as a lifestyle choice.
    In fact, the crux of the problem here goes beyond sexual activity. The issue is that Homo sapiens is not a monogamous animal and that both sexes are prone to promiscuity. The only reason heterosexual monogamy seems “normal” is that is has been legislated through contractual marriages. Contractual marriages were invented by patriarchy in order to subdue females into full time breeding, and to ensure some degree of “that kid is mine” for the male, when in fact, in nature, most broods are of mixed paternity, even in species considered to be monogamous.
    Without contractual monogamy (which fails at 50% of first marriages and 75% of second marriages), which sex one chooses to sleep with is pretty bloody irrelevant.
    And all the issues around “gay rights” of marriage, death, last rites, inheritances, etc, are all settleable without the word gay. ALL individuals, sexual or not, married or not, should have the right to dictate by law who cares for them in hospital, and who their inheritance goes to. One should not need to be married (het or gay) to dictate such choices. Contractual monogamy for gays in fact is a step backwards for humanity not because it’s gay, but because it plays right into the hands of patriarchy by enforcing the lies of contractual monogamy.
    I am a part-time bi, I often prefer the male body, but I hate the results of male socialisation, as I hate the results of female socialisation. I prefer humans who are gender-neutral or gender-atheists, who are independent, strong, don’t follow fashion trends, and can cook AND do plumbing, who can be strong and gentle, who are just as likely to build their own home as to sit down and do a jigsaw puzzle.

  116. tnt666 says:

    Also, on “despising the other sex therefore ‘crushing’ in childhood on the same sex”, requires nothing more than a bad experience with the opposite sex during the formative years, first 3. So having a same-sex crush at age 5-6 is absolutely NOT an indicator of “born that way”. Our entire self is established by our first years. My lesbian sister realised in her early thirties that she didn’t “really hate men”, she just hated her dad, my step dad, after hearing me scream every night as he established his physical authority over me with whatever was at hand. Later in life she told me that she couldn’t sleep until I came to bed… much later (since I’m 5 years her elder). And that under different circumstances, she might not have been a lesbian.
    I hope we never find a gay gene, because you can bet that the day we find the gay gene, it will get screened during pregnancy, and gene therapy will be used to quell it.

  117. Will Welch says:

    There are some interesting things in here that should be discussed for sure. But I have to say the article as a whole is not incredibly convincing with respect to the thesis that “people aren’t born gay or straight”. The author seems to have concluded that there is no biological component to sexual orientation simply because she hasn’t seen anything she finds convincing and her own sexual orienation is fluid. Some of the reasons are very non-sequitur. For example, the fact that male homosexuality was more commonplace in less repressed societies does not say anything about biologically determined proclivities. As far as choice goes, the fact that there are homosexual people in societies where homosexual activity is punishable by death indicates that for some people (not the author), sexual orientation is really not a choice. With respect to this point, the end is very telling, where the author admits her bias:
    “When my tastes and proclivities start to feel like they are solidifying, I get suspicious and disappointed. So, in the interests of full disclosure, I am writing from the perspective of someone who finds sexual fixity pretty uninteresting, and who believes that there are really good feminist and queer reasons to take regular, critical inventory of the parts of our sexuality that we believe we cannot or will not change.”
    It seems to me that the author has started with a preconcieved notion based on her own experience and gone looking for evidence, or what she thinks might be evidence, for a notion that she has no way of proving. And this does not mean she is wrong, and it certainly does not mean that her ideas are meritless, just that what is presented does not adequately serve the very bold statement “people are not born gay or straight”.
    Interestingly enough, she later says the statment can’t even really make sense because she does not even believe we can even define “gay” and “straight” and that it is all socially constructed. IMHO, to assume that there is a common enough understanding of these definitions to write the entire rest of the article, and actually use one (mem having sex with men) and simultaneously say there is “no such thing as gay” is lillogical. It debases everything else in the article. Also, to say “no one is born gay or straight” because “sexual orientation is all socially constructed” is circular.
    The absence of scientific evidence does not prove a negative assertion. So that whole part is out. The rest is just one long assertion that sexual orientation (convoluded with gender) is all socially constructed, which is simply stating what your claiming to prove… I’m just finding th whole thing a bit circular and andecdotal.

  118. Matt says:

    “most mainstream gay orgs and reps are monosexist, biological essentialists”

    I am out male bisexual and I found this to be very true. Many gay men have left me out of the discussion entirely, including academic settings. Hypocritically gay academics will at once cite Foucault and then miss Foucault’s perspective altogether. And as far as politically bisexual people are a threat to the dominant queer political stratagy of “born this way”. The fact is I have exercised my choice over and over again – but have been left out of mainstream queer communities and legal protection. On the other hand when I meet bisexual men and women we have such similarities including similar facial features I have grown to believe that bisexual men and women have a similar genetic link. I don’t dismiss the “born this way” arguement completely. But really the fact is we are born very diverse. The real existential queer question would be this “if you were born this way, and they found a cure would you want to be cured.” when I ask this question to gay men they always say “No”.

    • R. Edward Travani says:

      Whoa matty!!!! Ask the question another way and you might get a different answer. Let me explain.

      Asking a mature gay individual if they want to be cured is like asking them if they want to commit suicide and be replaced to family and friends by an (ungay?) imposter. Homosexuality is woven into our personalities. Its essential. Gay folk aren’t themselves without it. A mature LGBT individual opting for a cure is self-destruction.

      Now, ask that same person if they would opt to treat their own child during gestation to guarantee heterosexuality (assuming a safe procedure and no dangerous side-effects). Under these circumstances they’d be choosing between two “maybe children”, knowing that one is more likely to be valued and successful. An existential judgement for oneself is not equivalent to one’s value for homosexuality as a human characteristic.

  119. Sarah says:

    If I am honest, I just don’t know what causes my sexual attraction, any more than my gender identity. I know that I have tried, over the years, to suppress both and have consequently suffered.

    I like this article because it opens up a space for reasonable people to ponder the nature of sexual attraction; I worry about the article because it may be used to bludgeon people like me into suppressing what we feel.

    Playful consideration of possibilities, without imposing preconditions, is important if we are to understand more about who we are and why. But with a scary number of people slavering at the prospect of converting, hurting or killing us, I’d rather play indoors.

  120. wvoody says:

    I’m not fond of this theory, and it has to do with my personal experience. As a child growing up, I was not familiar with the concept of homosexuality until 6th grade. I just assumed that straight was all there was, and naturally I attempted to act the part, as I saw those around me doing. I felt wrong doing so, but I thought everyone else did too. There was no potential outside influence at all that could have caused this. I felt isolated, although I tried my best to seem interested in the male species. As I became older and more aware of “the real world”, I realized that there was a good reason that I was feeling the way that I did.

    Another thing that bothers me, especially about this article, is the perpetuation of stereotypes. Believe it or not, there are plenty of homosexual people who do not fit the common idea of what it means to be gay or lesbian. Naturally there are numerous other sexualities but in the interests of efficiency I’ll focus on straight-up homosexuality. When you imply that people can be swayed to one orientation or another by their environments, it raises a whole host of questions. What is a “natural” orientation then? Are you implying that this would be bisexuality or pansexuality? Is it heterosexuality, for the sake of reproduction?

    I have heard this claim from people who consider themselves to be homosexual before. I don’t mean any offense to those who believe this is the case, but I do pose the question of whether you can really know that anyone besides yourself was swayed to his or her orientation by his or her surroundings. Speaking for another person is never a good idea, when every individual is different.

    The science is not necessarily what is important here. Plenty of “science” ends up disproven and thrown out sooner or later, and very little is actually reliable. Especially in the case of genetics, something we still don’t fully understand. What is far more important is perception. If you would like your sexuality to be perceived as a choice, then that’s your affair. Honestly, I am not convinced that I would choose homosexuality were the option presented, not because there is anything wrong with it but because it can be terribly inconvenient.

    It being 4:30 am at the moment, I am not presenting my point as well as I may have were it a more reasonable hour, yet I believe I have made myself clear enough. Take it as you will.

  121. Cricket says:

    Ok.. I am not well educated, as most of you apparently are. But I had to add my opinion. I was born and raised in a straight, religious family. I had crushes on boys and girls as a young child, but mostly my famle friends. At 14, I was VERY attracted to a girl, and we experimented for months. I “loved” her. I hated myself so badly for that because I was taught all my life how bad those feelings were.I feel my home life made my brain tell me I liked males. I became a slut, basically. Trying so hard to make myself believe I wanted a guy. I finally started dating a woman when I was 19 and got my heart broken, which left an opening for people to say” i told you so”. I tried, again, to make myself date men. Even had religious leaders praying and anointing me, and ceremonies.. all to “rid myself of the demons”. I decided at the age of 21 that I was tired of lying to myself and the world around me. So whether it is from birth, or whatever reasons people “blame” my being gay on, I feel humans, and other animals, are Born to find companionship and sexual relationships with each other, regardless of gender. I do feel some are more predisposed to be attracted to one gender more than, or instead of, another. And this is just my own story about the animal kingdom.. I really DID have gay cats. They only would engage in sexual activity with other males, and after a while, only each other. I found it odd, since cats are not typically prone to “life mates” They would avoid females in heat, and never was interested in them in the least. I do not have scientific evidence or any kind of degree, so I am sure my observations and opinions are not of any importance. But I wanted to make them known. Thank you for reading what most of you are likely feeling was a massive waste of time. Uneducated people do not usually get opinions, and when they express them, they are ignored or told how dumb their opinions and observations are.

  122. Denny Marcel says:

    What makes someone straight or gay or bisexual or whateversexual is NOT the people they RELATE with, but the people they FEEL SEXUAL ATTRACTION towards. They can surely choose to relate to people they don’t feel sexually attracted to, but then, it would be half a relationship, since sexual behaviour (for sexual people) is a healthy and desirable part of a healthy relationship.
    I am a gay man and I cannot feel any kind of sexual desire for women, as though I tried (a lot). More than that, I cannot LOVE a woman, as sex is an essencial part of a romantic relationship for sexual beings. I did have a girlfriend once, but it was a merely convenience relationship, I was never ‘totally’ into it. It was not fair for me, nor for her.
    Sexual desire can be reprimed? Sure. But any kind of repression has unhealthy consequences. Then, why do it?
    As for the greeks, I believe they were more into homosexual behaviour, not desire, as they saw women as lesser beings. We now know that women aren’t lesser beings; it’s not that they suddenly became equal, they’ve always been but never recognized as such. Greek men were probably mislead into homosexual behaviour by a mistaken view of the world, and I wonder how much they were really happy into that behavious, as much as most gay people nowadays when they are forced into straight behavious just for the sake of the culture.

    • Genderless Person says:

      (I’m sexually attracted to people depending on how I relate to them, just saying, I am sexual, very sexual, just not the same kind of sexual you’re describing). If you’re sexually attracted to some guys but not other guys, would it make you half gay? If someone has a sexuality that is geared toward different aspects of a person, and gender doesn’t play a strong part in it, can it still be sexual desire toward someone they relate with AND feel attracted to? Can that person be gay and/or not gay? You are gay, you do not love/feel attracted to women, but does that say a gay man can’t? Technically, we don’t know that you can’t even, there could be like…one female out there in 3 billion that COULD do it for you, but there’s no reason why you should go looking for her, to hell with that. You found what makes you happy, keep at it. Would enjoyable sex/love with her make your sexuality any less gay? Wrong? Says who? What do they know? It’s your sexuality. Does the popularity of an opinion make it more/less true?

  123. Buzz says:

    Glad I scrolled all the way down to the bottom to be reassured that I actually do exist. If you look at things from a perspective of widespread latent bisexuality, forced into a socially constructed monosexist binary you can have some very interesting thought experiments.
    Why is a guilt based religion so ‘anti gay’?
    Who is homophobia really targeting? (No, its not the K6’s or the K0’s they never had any doubt!)
    Why do so many people tell bisexuals “its just a phase”.
    Why are many homophobes so virulent? (Got some unresolved issues hey?)

    I think genetic, epigenetic and societal factors are probably all involved in making up the great diversity of human sexuality and sexual expression. We just don’t seem ready to ask the right questions yet.

    • tnt666 says:

      Yep, totally agree. Homosexuals and gays follow the same mold of monosexuality, monogamy, and contractual love. For this reason I think gays accessing marriage is a step backwards in achieving real sexual/loving/economic freedom in our society. Love should not be contractual, only reproduction should involve contracts. As neonates in the first years of development, we become set in our core values, depending on our relationships with the humans around us. To get over this is nearly impossible. I hate liver, I have tried and tried, I just can’t stand liver. I was not born that way, but it’s beyond my ability to change it. I love nearly all other foods however.
      Marriages only last because monogamy is enforced by law. Without restricting laws, our genealogies would like extremely different. The history of human evolution did not go through monogamy but through community rearing of offspring and general communal living. The idea of the nuclear family, two parents and some kids is an entirely modern social construct is contrary to all our biological makeup.

  124. Margie Sved says:

    What about “both and?” That some of us are truly born “gay” for some biological reason, and some of us are born “heterosexual,” but a lot of the rest are born with potential for one or the other or both depending on sociocultural/biologic/whatever things that happen after we are born?

  125. JR says:

    Before I share my opinion, I’d like to say that I really did enjoy this post. The argument you made was fairly sound, but some of it should have been worded differently and could have been more specific. For instance, instead of simply saying that “the science is wrong,” words like “inaccurate, biased, underdeveloped, etc.” would be more specific. The word “wrong” has way too many connotations attached to it, all of which are fairly general. Furthermore, with all due respect, unless you’ve got a strong scientific background how can you say that these studies are “right” or “wrong”? Maybe valid would be a more appropriate word as well.

    I digress. Throughout my childhood, derogatory statements regarding homosexuals, specifically homosexual men, were thrown around very lightly. It was disgusting, a sin, wrong, etc. My father even asked me once what “gay” stood for. He responded to my curiosity by saying that it was an acronym for: Got Aids Yet? I was eleven or twelve. A constant theme during all of this was the emphasis on homosexuality being a “choice.” I probably don’t need to ask this, but I’m going to anyway: do you know what that does to a kid who knows they are gay? It’s hell. I spent the first half of my life thinking something was fundamentally wrong with me that one, I did not ask for (I did NOT choose), and two, was something I could NOT change. I was in elementary school and was teased for being gay even before I actually knew what it meant. Yeah, I had schoolboy crushes on other boys, but I thought they were just crushes. I also wanted Aladdin to take me on a magic carpet ride. It wasn’t abnormal to me until it was pointed out so.

    What some people don’t understand is that sexuality is not only a human need, it is in fact, a part of a human being’s personality. A factor that shapes the person they are and will become. Regardless of sexuality’s fluidity and various shades of gray, it rests in the core of a person. To undermine my sexuality by simply saying “it was my choice” is not only completely ignorant, but it seriously pisses me off. I don’t choose who I’m attracted to. I do choose, however, who I date. For instance, I may be attracted to bad boys with tattoos, but I consciously choose to date men. The kind with jobs, security, and who can hold an intellectual conversation beyond what kind of super food they decided to eat after their six hour workout. You know, the kind of men that know what a book is. I had to come this conclusion after dating several “bad boys”, but I finally came to it. While some people “decide” later in life to be with someone of the same sex, others do not. I can’t say that I understand that, but I also don’t understand quantum physics or what it is about being the penetrator that makes some heterosexual men and dominant homosexuals feel so goddamn superior from the rest of the population.

    Anyway, your “concept of choice” is again too general and isn’t applicable to everyone. I agree, there are people who might not know or realize what or who they’re attracted to. However, there are those of us who have known, and have felt the societal repercussions of that knowledge. I’m speaking for myself here. In all honestly, it doesn’t matter to me if someone else chose to be gay, straight, or that they hot and bothered while watching a dolphin swim. Everyone is different. You can’t put a label on human beings and I think that’s the major issue here. People are trying to define and classify people in all racial/ethnic/cultural/sexual categories and you just can’t. Period.

    That’s my two cents, cheers everyone.

  126. Thank you! I especially love that you point out that most of the “born this way” studies conflate gay/lesbian with gender presentation. As someone who was butch and heterosexual for the first three-plus decades of my life (I’m now butch and bisexual), I’m keenly aware that they’re not the same thing – but that obvious fact seems to escape most researchers.

    I have a pretty good idea of the kind of heat you’re going to take for having written this piece, having experienced a bit of it myself. Hang in there.

    Janet W. Hardy

  127. Saint Ryan says:

    I think some of the main problems with this whole essay lie in a fundamental misunderstanding of the real issues at hand and the real problems some of these statements make for members of the queer community. Telling members of an entire community that, despite their individual experiences and their personal realities on this matter who they are is, indeed, a choice is incredibly damaging to a Queer-positive human rights conversation. Denying these peoples experiences to simplify an issue is problematic because it is actively engaging in the erasure of Queer experiences. Erasing the opposition is not a way to win a logical argument.

    In your first point, you mention Cynthia Nixon. The issue here is that her saying that she “chose to pursue a lesbian relationship” is not at all problematic: Just because someone has previously engaged in sexual/romantic relationships with members of the opposite sex does not mean that they are straight; that falls into a common trap of “straight until proven gay” wherein heterosexuality is viewed as a default and one must actively inform people of their queer-ness to be seen as queer. The problem with that ideology is that heterosexuality is NOT “normal,” it is common. Just like animals with albinism are outliers (they are uncommon) they are no less natural or legitimate. Nixon choosing to embrace a queer relationship after previously engaging in heterosexual relationships is not her “choosing” to be gay, it is her embracing her queer-ness. There was no change made internally, only in her outward behaviors. This can be directly linked to the “straight until proven gay” heteronormative thinking, as someone who may have bi- or pan-sexual (et al.) may actively choose, due to a range of reasons such as a queer-negative upbringing or living situation, to outwardly exhibit the heteronormative behaviors for their own safety. In addition the individual may have been uncomfortable with their own queer-ness as a result of upbringing, etc. and therefor not pursue queer relationships until they have come to terms with their own feelings (or, even, never choose to pursue those feelings.) The members of the queer community clearly misread her statements as “chose to be queer” instead of “chose to act on queer feelings.”

    Also, “But the fact that the “born this way” hypothesis has resulted in greater political returns for gay and lesbian people doesn’t have anything to do with whether it is true.” No, but the fact that large portions of the queer community are fairly sure that, for themselves, this IS true certainly does lend it some credit. Just because you, personally, do not agree does not negate the sentiment from large portions of the queer community, myself included, that we were, in fact, born this way.

    Just because your argument is strategic, doesn’t make it true. Isn’t that right?

    The problem with your second point seems to be that you are looking at individual studies as autonomous entities rather than looking for a scientific consensus, which, as far as I am aware on this particular subject seems to be largely inconclusive. That is not to say that it is “disproven” by its lack of proof, but instead to say that the science just isn’t there yet.
    That individual study you source, by the way, contains this remarkable bit right near the bottom. “”I think this is a possibility,” said Dr Richard Sharpe, of the human reproductive science unit at Edinburgh University. “But no-one has actually measured the levels of androgens in foetuses or the womb – you can imagine it is difficult to do – so this is all speculation. It may be informed speculation, but I think when we get on to a subject as touchy as sexual orientation we need to clearly define what is speculation and what is fact.”” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/695142.stm)

    I will definitely agree with your closing paragraph of point two, especially this bit “The bottom line is that ideas about sexual desire are so bound up with misconceptions about gender and with the presumption that heterosexuality is nature’s default, that science has yet to approach this subject in an objective way.” But that is the key point: Science has yet to approach this subject in an objective way. That does not mean that the science itself is wrong and that being gay is NOT inborn, it means that we can not show this with the degree of scientific inquiry so far afforded to the question. In other words: The science is not “wrong,” it is inconclusive.

    Cultural views on what is or is not queer has absolutely no reflection on the experiences and lives of actual queer people. You are looking in the wrong area altogether. Just because the culture views some behaviors as being “gay” and some behaviors as being “people going wild” does not change the real narrative of real queer people, which is what we are discussing here. This conversation is supposed to be about whether or not queer people are “born this way” or if it is a choice; not about how cultures view queer behaviors. This entire argument is a) mislabled as “wrong science” when it is really no science at all and b) incredibly arbitrary, don’t you think?

    The evidence for all of these patriarchal, imperialistic, bullshit sciences was not “found,” it was invented. They (being the white male scientists) had something to gain from specific results being found and this is, therefor, not legitimate science. This is oppression, which is very interesting as a historical event but is not entirely relevant to this discussion. Just because “scientists” invented “proof” that something patently untrue was true, once upon a time, does not mean that all “science” which disagrees with your point is the same sort of “proof.”

    You do not need any traits to be queer. What you just did is dictate to people how they must be in order to truly be queer and you are erasing a large number of real, live, queer people who may not be brave, or creative, or rebellious. You cannot generalize queer-ness and then use that to dictate what it means to be queer. You don’t need bravery to be queer in a homophobic culture. You could very well be queer regardless (for example, look at many historically queer men who, because of the times they lived in, engaged in heteronormative relationships and had families and wives, those men were no less queer, they were simply not free to act as themselves.) The only thing you need bravery for as a queer member of a homophobic culture is to come out and/or live openly as queer. Not doing so does not negate your queer-ness, nor does choosing to subvert your queer feelings in order to pursue a safer existence.

    The funny part of all this is your closing argument is one of the few legitimate parts of this entire third point and it completely negates all of your “the science is wrong” views. Admitting freely that the “science of sexual orientation” will simply “mirror the… sexist gender binarisms” essentially tells us why the “science is wrong.” Because it is not true science. It is no more legitimizing to your point than it is to mine.

    I have a feeling that points four and five are where this conversation might turn ugly. I want to begin by quoting out the title of point four a couple times, but adapting it for several other cases. “Just because you have had homosexual or heterosexual feelings for as long as you can remember, does not mean you were born a homosexual or heterosexual.”
    “Just because you have had gender dysphoria and expressed thoughts of truly being the opposite sex as long as you can remember, does not mean you were born a trans* individual.”
    “Just because your gender identity and physical sex line up with what is commonly expected does not mean that you are cisgendered.”
    “Just because you believe something to be a true, inalienable facet of yourself doesn’t make it true (because I say so.)”
    Do you see the issue in this argument? That you are literally telling someone that just because something may be absolutely true for them doesn’t mean it’s true just because it isn’t true for you? That you are trying to equate sexuality with food preferences or what you, specifically, enjoy drawing is really quite laughable. If I, like many other queer people, had feelings of otherness, of same-sex attraction, of not lining up with the expected reality of being “male” or “female” or what have you, since before I even had a concept of what those things were or what those things represented or what those things implied that certainly does negate the “social and cultural context” argument, doesn’t it? Many trans* individuals, for example, express their gender dysphoria among their first full sentences in life. Have their parents shown them trans* individuals? Has their society? Probably not. If their parents/society at large HAD introduced these concepts to them, could their brains truly accomplish the higher thinking and examination of themselves within this socio-environment in order to find themselves in agreeance with being trans*? Again, probably not. In your discussion of sexuality, you are focusing on straight-versus-gay when in fact you need to look at a much wider range of queer existences. You need to examine the reality of the situation before making such generalized, simplified arguments.

    Do not. Do not do not do not title your closing point of an argument “you already know that I’m right and you’re wrong.” How dare you completely negate my existence, my truth, and the truths of many other queer people by simply telling us that we are wrong and deep down we know it. Secretly, I already know that you have completely lost any amount of legitimacy long before this point but this really is the last straw. Secretly, I already know that you are deeply, deeplywrong.

    Whether or not “lots of adults worry…” about a certain situation is ultimately unrelated. You have completely misinterpreted this situation and here’s why: When people are raised in a society that tells them that being straight/cisgendered/heteronomative is the only legitimate, true way to be and everything else is a choice; when queer people are raised in a society and told that their existences, their truths are wrong and that they are abominations; when people are not given all the information; when people are told that same-sex attraction is the devils work, that what they are feeling is a defect that can be cured, etc. they are much less likely to embrace those innate feelings. When people are raised in a society that doesn’t force boys and girls into archaic boxes of behaviors, when people are raised to embrace differences and to trust in their feelings and to pursue their own happiness, when people are raised to know that straight is not the default, that being queer is NOT wrong; those people are much more likely to take their feelings seriously and to explore what makes them happy.

    Just because today’s youth are bullied into trying to fit society’s mold for them does not negate the fact that members of that youth are queer, nor that they have always been queer. Having a sex drive (or the lack of one) is a biological imperative. Being sexually attracted to someone is not a choice that you can make. It stands to reason that being sexually attracted to a certain set of physical characteristics is also not a choice you can make, and furthermore that being sexually attracted to one sex over another is, say it with me, not a choice you can make.

    I really, really, want to know why it is that your personal experiences are used as legitimate arguments as to why homosexual behavior is a choice, yet the overwhelming amount of queer experiences that stand in opposition to yours are no more legitimate than hysteria being caused by the uterus. I will absolutely not tell you that what happened to you was, instead, you educating yourself beyond the patriarchal, heteronormative trappings of modern-day society and thus feeling more free to experiment with things outside of those guidelines but what I will say is this: It’s a distinct possibility.

    I want to engage in a thought experiment for a second.
    If I am raised in a society that only ever has apples for fruit, and that’s… fine, you know? It’s okay. Apples are alright, whatever. Then I travel to a far off land and I eat a peach for the first time and it’s delicious, it’s just incredible and SO much better than apples. Does that mean my tastes have changed, or does it just show that once I had more information, I could make a more informed decision about what I preferred?

    The fact of the matter is: regardless of your personal experiences of switching from a heteronormative to a queer lifestyle, many people do not have that choice, many people do not make any sort of choice on the matter, and it is incredibly unfair for you to press your experiences on the entirety of the queer community as absolute truth. You do not get to decide that No One is Born Gay (or Straight) just because that doesn’t fit for you.

    • mits says:

      THANKYOU. You said all I was thinking and more.

      Just because the author of this ridiculous piece happens to have seemingly been born existing somewhere around the middle of the gay straight spectrum (and a spectrum it is, with an infinite number of shades of rainbow, one for every human on the planet really, thank you very much) and can therefore “choose” in some measure which way they feel like leaning today, does NOT in ANY WAY mean everyone feels so.

      I was born into an environment/society/family that made me believe as I was becoming sexually aware, that how I felt, and my fledgeling same-sex attractions, were wrong, and very unnatural. I tried hard to fit in with what society told me was “right”. Even going so far as to choose (yes, choose) to be in a hetero relationship for 13 years (7 years married)! I felt maybe I was just not such a sexual being, being virtually unable to get aroused etc. Having no-one around me that I could talk to, I only knew of things like “getting wet” and other ways the human body expresses arousal from reading and movies. I never experienced these things happening to my own body when having sex within any of my hetero relationships etc.
      Then, as I got older, I started to more clearly identify that I could indeed get aroused – by members of the same sex as myself. Information started to be more readily and easily accessible, in the form of the Internet – where I suddenly had access to read about topics like being gay, the occurrence of “gay” as being perfectly normal in nature in other animal species too, being able to watch gay porn, and most critically, find and **TALK** to other people who felt similarly to me.
      Later still, I had my first same-sex sexual experience. Much like the example of the Apples and Peaches, it was like a million lightbulbs switching on. Suddenly I understood that contrary to my own heretofor held belief, I was indeed a VERY sexual being, as my body responded to this experience in ways I had never even imagined it was capable of. Ways that had never ONCE expressed themselves in any of my hetero-sexual experiences. Ways that same-sex partners since have even commented on as being extremely strong expressions of physical arousal when comparing to other partners they have had.

      I am now coming up to the 3yr anniversary of a wonderfully loving, committed, and very, very sexually satisfying same-sex relationship. I want to marry my partner, and make a family with them. Never once did I experience the want to make babies within my hetero marriage, yet I look forward to raising a family and living a long and happy, fully satisfied life with my partner now.

      I know I was born this way. I know I am “gay”, that this is one word for describing the way I am, and that it is a on a very base, physiological level that I am gay. The author of this article may well have the luxury of choice to experience physical and emotional pleasure within both hetero and homosexual relationships as a result of their specific biology. But that DOES NOT in ANY way mean that their experience is the only experience, and to say that I was not born the way I am (really, really gay) is to simply deny my very existence.

      What right does the author have to deny my existence, my experience, just because it is not the same as her own? Tell me, ejaneward, what right do you have?

    • jesse says:

      can I have ur contacts. I have some questions. Thank you very much!

    • Halo says:

      I really, really appreciate this response. Thank you.

  128. Chelsea says:

    I’m just glad its being talked about openly. My impression from the articles and comments, it doesn’t help anyone to strongly lean to one side, nobody is saying gay is non-biological, or that all gay is, just that saying it isn’t a choice is not helping society. Saying we can choose AND we can be born with genetic pre-disposition…that they are both valid, that gives all people more freedome to learn, grow, etc. The old argument, the battle between the influence of ideology – conversion therapy, small town bigotry, violence, it isn’t gone, but we’ve all come so far in the last few years. By taking the next step, to EXPAND freedoms for people, it doesn’t put us in a worse place. When we fear being victimized by certain fundamental ideologies or conversion therapy, we are missing the point that that is still not our CHOICE, that is coercion and manipulation. If gay CAN BE a choice, that doesn’t suddenly make more Westboro right…they’re still obnoxious, and the harder they try, the harder they fail. To openly give society the comfort of dating anyone they like, we strengthen opportunity, not fear. If its outdated to say “a white person can only date a white person”, why should these social rules govern who we date? Hetero only dating hetero, lesbians only date lesbians, etc, etc? Thing is, the world is growing fast, in a lot of places, queer communities are already quickly adopting this fluidity as a more positive outreach, this is enabling people, not disabling them. You still decide who you date, you determine your attraction, you can still be your specific, self discovered gay, your own biologically driven sexuality is STILL VALID. And nobody is threatening that! (Well…Certain groups of people might be trying to, but they’re not getting stronger, just lonely, and when they finally do reach out for that long needed hug, hopefully they’ll be accepted with shiny happy rainbow arms…. even the assholes, or else we’ll never see the end to all this.). If anything, ADDING choice mentality to our current beliefs just provides the world with broader understanding, it helps community understand each other in new ways, it shuts down barriers, and it brings love closer together. If I hadn’t chosen to choose, I never would have been able to abandon my old attitudes, i’d be ‘straight’ and miserable and judgemental. But I think I chose my freedom. Let people have that freedom, don’t rule out the opportunity for people to connect and learn, how can we possibly gain from that?

  129. Many of the comments here seem to be making a very common error – they treat born-this-way and “choice” as either-or. Not so.

    As an example: I’m fat. Not enormously fat, but fat. There’s plenty of evidence (twin studies, diet studies et al) that I’m fat at least partly because of genetic predisposition. But that doesn’t mean that I *couldn’t* be thin if I wanted to; it would mean hard work, constant vigilance and a great deal of self-denial, but I could. On the other hand, perhaps you’re thin with minimal effort – you eat pretty much what you want and exercise when you feel like it, and still buckle your belt on the first hole. Am I “born” fat, or did I “choose” it?

    I don’t know why some people are more strongly inclined to have sex with those of their own gender and others are not; nobody does. Whatever the reasons, it is pretty clear that anybody can behave heterosexually if they want it badly enough. For some people it’s so easy that it doesn’t bear talking about, for others it’s nearly impossible. (The thornier question of whether people can stop feeling same-sex desire – my guess is that they can’t – is irrelevant. People feel all kind of desires; science doesn’t usually feel the need to opine about them unless they lead to problematic behavior.)

    In issues of sexual orientation, weight and many others, the choice between “born this way” and “choice” is a false duality. What is easy for one person is near-impossible for another.

    • tnt666 says:

      Not all fat people “can” be skinny, even with enormous effort. There have been a few interesting studies in recent years on rats demonstrating that rats lacking in a healthy intestinal flora remain skinnier (raised in a clean bubble), compared to rats living out in the open. Both groups were subjected to exact same food and exercise regimen. Having a healthy intestinal flora is excellent at keeping us healthy, it’s purpose to extract the most possible nutrition from a given amount of food. A less healthy intestinal flora achieves less than optimal nutrient uptake… making one skinnier. Of course skinnyness/fatness are multifactorial, but saying that any fat person “could” be skinny is detrimental to a fat person who just needs to live their life.
      In that sense, we need to simply accept that choices are not always conscious and are not always reversible.
      Nobody wants homosexuality to be genetic. If we were to put homosexuality into the hands of genetic engineers, one could predict the shit that would hit the fan.

      • You are missing my point, I think. I doubt that fat people stayed fat in concentration camps, for example: starvation will do that to a person. In that case, starvation was externally imposed. If a person whose genetics, number of fat cells, intestinal flora, etc., predispose them to be fat, wants to become skinny, they must simply starve themselves instead of having someone else do it for them. Similarly, if a person whose natural inclination is to same-sex relations wants to “be heterosexual,” they must simply deny themselves the thing they want – every day, for the rest of their life – and either live in celibacy, or settle for something they want less.

      • tnt666 says:

        @ethical… Ahem, we are not hopefully talking starvation here but real life options. Sure you can restrict food til you die, but that’s not a realistic or useful point to make in a discussion. You can’t use extremes to describe common occurrences, it’s like comparing oranges and apples.

      • Janet W. Hardy says:

        tnt666: I think we’re talking past each other here. If fat as a metaphor doesn’t work for you, pick something else that people struggle with – drugs, say, or gambling. I feel no urge toward gambling and very little toward drugs. Someone else might have an “addictive personality,” or a tendency toward thrill-seeking, and find avoiding drugs or gambling to be a life-consuming problem that requires constant awareness and self-control. And we don’t know why Joe will spend his entire life desperately wanting a drink or a pill, and James will be fine with the occasional glass of wine with a special dinner – whether that’s nature, nurture or both. But we do know that something that’s effortless for James is extraordinarily difficult for Joe. That’s the point I was trying to make, so let’s not argue about thinness (which I should have remembered is one of those topics that cannot be discussed rationally in this day and age).

  130. Lewis Gannett says:

    The question that emerges from this discussion isn’t whether or not people are “born” with sexual preferences, but whether or not sexual preferences are a choice. What a load of confusion the whole debate has been! If it could be proven that people are in fact “born” with sexual preferences, we’d have no debate: there would be no question of choice. But, of course, we do NOT have scientific proof that people are born with sexual preferences. It’s thus possible, in fact very likely, that influences after birth help to form sexuality. But does that mean there’s a CHOICE in the matter? Everything revolves around the seemingly simple question of “choice”! In the end, it’s not been helpful to load the debate with a bias in favor of the idea that, if you’re not born with it, you somehow choose it. Those who seek to advance this idea would do well to offer evidence. That has not happened here.

  131. Lewis Gannett says:

    Another way to put it: Do you choose your personality? Let’s suppose you can choose your personality. Is it wonderful that you can choose to change it? Can you become what you want to become? Can you “remake” yourself? Is it useful to think that you can diagnose your personality or an aspect of it as a disease and then proceed to cure yourself? The tired question: “Can people ever really change?” I’m inclined to think that when it comes to lust and love, you try to change yourself at your peril. In fact, I doubt very much that you can choose sexuality. I think sexuality chooses you.

  132. dcoetzee says:

    This is a powerfully compelling essay – to be sure it’s an argument of reasoning, analogy, and persuasion rather than science and data, but it speaks to a program of research worth pursuing: that we should abandon unjustified assumptions of innate sexuality and look carefully for evidence of how sexual identity may form over time in a person’s life. My favourite analogies were the ones involving armpit hair, the 19th-century “scientific” characterization of homosexuals, and of course religion.

    I think discussing sexuality in the same terms as religion is a great way to bring home the right points to the right people. Conversion therapy is no different from, say, a teen who has adopted Christianity and their Jewish parents sending them to a camp to try to convert them to Judaism, against their will. The harm of assaulting a person’s most deeply held convictions should be clear, and it doesn’t require an appeal to biology to justify. Conversely, if a Christian person learns about Judaism and eventually decides to convert to it, it would be absurd and insulting for the Christian Church to say “this is impossible – they were born a Christian, and they’re still a Christian, they’re just not showing it.” Just as a person may or may not reconsider their religion when faced with abusive experiences at church, a person may or may not reconsider their sexuality when faced with abusive relationships. We have to embrace the idea that something can be both mutable, while also being a powerful part of someone’s identity that cannot be altered by force.

  133. ravee rasmaya says:

    Well,fact of that I thought should be get more clearly informations detail and reasonable formed of the revolutions of humankind or ways from the ancients tribes!!

  134. Hkingaby says:

    As someone who’s struggled with these feelings and how to express them, reading this has brought me great joy. Thank you.

  135. Kat st. Kat says:

    Amazing. It is refreshing beyond words to see something I have always felt to be true expressed logically and publicly. I hope to one day live in a world where this is the common understanding of sexuality.

  136. Don Barrett says:

    For me, the real issue is not whether we are hard-wired to be gay (scholarly and personal evidence suggests, to me, that we aren’t), but is an issue that I saw as framing the initial post – the political need to assume that being gay is hard-wired. When I started in the gay movement in the early 70’s, most of my co-activist were fighting for the right to freely be other than strictly heterosexual, for personal and communal rights to live life without fear of retribution for being same-sex involved. That fight did not include an assumption that being gay was hard-wired.

    It is not surprising, however, that this focus on freedom of sexual and emotional expression lost ground. Fighting for a freedom of intimacy outside of social categories suggests a willingness to reject many of society’s categorizations, a revolutionary agenda that does not bring out large groups for action within the system. Peopling a protest for change within the system (not a revolution) requires including the larger group whose anger is based on a feeling of denied assimilation to the specific things that others in the system have (e.g., employment, housing).

    Since access to mainstream rights within the U.S. is based on civil rights discourse, and since civil rights discourse is based on immutable categories (e.g., race, age), gay political operatives had to lean towards the notion that being gay was immutable (inborn) in order to have the resources (sufficient voters and marchers) for moving the dominant political discourse.

    Unfortunately this tactic has resulted in a de-emphasis (a de-queering?) of understanding the complex dynamics of sexual expression, a distillation of ‘gay’ down to a fairly narrowly-defined subset from the broader group of same-sex active, and a consequent climate of ignoring the needs of the larger population that suffers the social and legal consequences that often come from having same-sex involvement in their lives.

    • R. Edward Travani says:

      Don, you said a mouthful. There was a reason that arguments in support of gay folk and gay rights were distilled down to an emphasis on sexual orientation alone. Much of the animus and contempt for homosexuals has nothing to do with sexuality itself but mere violation of assigned gender-roles. The emphasis on sexual orientation defanged our opposition’s references to “girly men” and the like, painting them as overstated stereotypes. This “de-queering”, I believe, was necessary.

  137. Bob Dentan says:

    The major argument here is that the assertion that gayness is hereditary is unproven. I’d agree. But that’s not the same as saying that it is false. By comparison, hardly anyone doubts that there is a hereditary element in alcoholism, but it’s not proven. Statistically, it’s hard to get the numbers you get otherwise but a lot of improbable things are true. For example, Ted Cruz has enough support to run for President. There’s a Scottish verdict between “guilty” and “not guilty” That’s “”unproven.”

    The slovenly definition of homosexuality will allow this condition to persist for a long time. For instance, why are women who like women more like men who like men than they are like men who like women? The lumping (male x male = female x female) dates back only to Havelock Ellis in 1890. But a more precise definition would necessarily include elements of no particular use politically, pro or con; or exclude politically vital ones.

    I’m not sure this is a particularly vital issue. Folks who believe the world was created about 6000 years ago, that global warming is mythical or that increasing population nowadays is a Good Thing are immune to science.

  138. ANASTASE S. says:

    In the article in the section elaborating on reason #5, it was stated, “But I think that in reality , we all know that sexual desire is deeply subject to social, cultural and historical forces”. It is a fact that our association (our family, our clique, our credo, our friends, our business,…) has the most profound effect on our perspective. In light of this fact subsequently, interpretations of this very statement shall carry countless degrees of intensity and subtlety, despite that, in contrast, a truth remains singular and immutable. A legitimate consideration are the immense conditioning and emotional attachment which pervade the entire society everywhere. These elements tend to bring out disharmonious and irrational effects which contradict clear comprehension. An atmosphere conducive to the progressive exchange of ideas can be seen to occur when those involved are essentially not alienated toward one another. This communion occurs whenever there is a deeper, unifying orientation to the world that extends above and beyond destructive and invisible barriers, such as those which are automatically an aspect of mundane association. The false-egos of those who take their above-mentioned families, friends, and credos for granted will deny they exist. Those who are writhing in the throes of angst and antagonism tend to be blind to some peaceful by-stander. Unfortunately, the writher can only relegate the by-stander to the position of someone who has no clue as to what’s going on, even though that might not be the case.
    In addition, the principle of association extends beyond just other larger or smaller groups of others. It also means our orientation with our body. The false orientation with the body is the root of ignorance. It is a fact that every 7 to 12 years every cell in the body (including nerve and brain cells) is completely replaced by new cells. Hence, the body is an ephemeral vehicle that is comprised of physical parts which are guided by an underlying non-physical continuum. Death is a belief. Those who understand this will be able to rest. Those who cannot will continue to experience Gay/Straight unrest.
    According to ancient Vedic texts, the most subtle element, the spiritual spark, transmigrates perpetually from one dying vehicle to another. IT itself never dies. It (the soul) is awarded a body in relation to its past deeds and consciousness, which is the blue-print of the body. During the interim of bodily life, the influence of the outward environment throughout life (which includes all the aforementioned associations), impacts the the body, and ultimately the consciousness of the living entity (soul). Subsequently, the body and mind continue to mutate in gross or subtle ways. In turn, these ever-new mental and physical changes are conditions, and thus they are always followed by respective actions. A key problem here is that the factor of reincarnation is constantly being disrespected and overlooked. And its being overlooked greatly serves the interests of certain unsavory individuals in this society.
    These orientations, subsequently, whatever they may be, and countless as they are, are in continuous flux. Be they “gay”, “straight”, “male”, “female”, “black”, “white”, “old”, “young”, “paramecium”, “politician”, “tree”, or whatever, they are temporary designations any way you slice it. A heterosexual orientation may develop due to the influence of association, and this may occur quickly or it may occur gradually over the course of a number of lives. This principle is constant regarding all mundane orientations. But, unless the consciousness is raised by higher knowledge above and beyond the body, it will certainly eventually dissolve into something else. The soul in the body of a Filipino woman may re-enter a human womb to commence direction of the DNA of the ovum of a Norwegian male.
    A person may choose to raise his or her consciousness to this higher factual knowledge which transcends the mundane and become free from afflictions, or one may be complacent and choose forgo any austerities, believing that reality can only be what you can experience right now with your senses, and devote his or her life to the pursuit of bodily pleasures. This point must be considered regarding the evaluation of the virtue of any kind of sex.

  139. George Wright says:

    Interesting, but you can ‘crave’ sex with someone of a certain gender even as a virgin. You cannot ‘crave’ cheddar cheese unless you have already eaten it.

    • But what does it mean, really, to be attracted to a particular gender? Is it the body type (and, if so, which parts?), the voice, the smell, the hair, the genitals? Any or all of those are available from all genders, although perhaps not all in the same person. If what gets you hot is broad shoulders and a deep voice, then there might be a broad-shouldered deep-voiced woman that would rock your world. If you really really need an organic, attached, built-in penis, then perhaps there’s a transwoman who wouldn’t mind if you pay hers a bit more attention than she’s accustomed to.

      Gender is so non-binary that it amazes me that people still manage to hang on by their fingernails to the concepts of “gay” and “straight.”

      • ANASTASE S. says:

        To “ethicalslutthebook”: What I said earlier about the consciousness dissolving into something else, I meant that the bodily orientation of the consciousness gradually changes into another bodily orientation. The physical body is inhabited by the conscious, immaterial being which means that this being believes that it is that body. The physical body that the soul is stuck in is continually going through changes, not all of which are desired by the inhabitant. We are not in 100% control of these bodies because we are NOT these bodies. Why the contradiction that we desire to live but are forced to die? This is because this material bodily world is not our true home, and life is meant ultimately to figure that out. Do not believe that there are no better places existing for us than where we must accept continuous angst and pains of all kinds which merely get worse and worse, ending in agony and death. The material body is a mental concoction, and by this principle, the extent of comprehension of its inhabitant is automatically limited and tailored by it. Hence, with it come a certain shape of likes and dislikes in accordance to the false-ego. So a particular kind of body will experience attraction to particular persons, places, and things and revulsion towards certain persons, places, and things. And it is all ultimately subjective in relation to the false-ego (concoction) of the individual. Sexual activity is enjoyable. Sure. By all means, have fun. But it acts to destroy the ability to actually see beyond the illusion of the body where there is limitlessly greater and better pleasure. So it is true that the concepts of ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ are but illusions, but if a person uses this as a foundation to plod on in the pursuit of sex with a material body, then he/she is still in the basic illusion if not deeper into it. Bodily orientation is so intoxicating that people cannot believe there could possibly be anything better, and that if there were, it is practically impossible to realize. Don’t meant to rain on the parade, but, the material body is the source of all miseries and death.

  140. ST93 says:

    It is always so discouraging to hear accounts of such bad science. Much of our current understanding of sexuality comes from breakthrough studies in psychology and anthropology–the idea that sexuality is fluid, that most people experience some degree of attraction to either/any sex, that gender is a purely cultural construction–all these concepts have been supported and in some cases pioneered by researchers. But it seems that for every such researcher, there is an equally vocal and determined pig working just as hard to justify the most medieval aspects of society.

  141. Andy says:

    My sister made a very similar argument years ago when my dad was concerned about my sexuality. It made me happy to hear it then, and it makes me happy to read it again!

  142. eyelean5280 says:

    Ever occur to you that one’s level of “sex fixity” itself may be innate? That some can be born more flexible than others?

    • eyelean5280 I think you hit the nail on the head here. I stated in an earlier comment that the OP was correct about one thing: science has not (YET) found the elusive “gay gene” or anything else that will show up on a lab test showing some biological reason why some people are LGBTQ; I am not sure such a gene will ever be found, but it does not matter. Sexual orientation is clearly innate on some level. I have never in my life been attracted to the opposite sex and I never will be. Some people can be attracted by either sex, and in that case they do have a measure of choice of partners, but even someone who is 100% Gay or 100% Straight still CHOOSES a partner.

      Sexually speaking, some people are more flexible than others and that trait in itself is clearly innate; none of the orientations I have mentioned are considered the slightest bit dysfunctional by the psychiatric/psychological community, so all their yammering about how *dangerous* and *sick* we are is nothing but a lot of meaningless noise.

      At any rate, even if sexual orientation WERE a choice (ridiculous scenario but just consider it for a moment), so what? Smoking is a choice, being promiscuous (whether single or married) is a choice, but do we routinely deny jobs, housing, and equal rights to smokers, people who sleep around, moderate social drinkers even if the company owner is him/herself a teetotaler? Nooooo we do not (at least not as a matter of course).

      At any rate I and the rest of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters are human beings with the right to expect to be treated with dignity; we are not things to be examined or an “issue” to be endlessly debated on the floor of the Senate or in the Supreme Court.

  143. Aaron says:

    Wish you would have cited your work, would have been nice to look into this and learn more about it.

  144. Gal says:

    I don’t even want to be gay, but I have no choice in the matter. I am not able to look at a women and feel any sort of sexual attraction, whether I want to or not. I don’t care why homesexuality happens, whether from genetics, epigenetics, hormones, childhood influences or upbringing (which I assure you I had a normal and happy one). The pressing issue is that me and others have no control over it, and we have to make do with what we’re given. And please don’t give me that well you can live a straight life anyway. That’s like telling one to change their personality, or telling a straight person to sleep with the same sex. Sure you can do it, but will it be enjoyable or feel right? Same thing applies to homosexuals.

    I don’t know what in my life, whether after or before birth caused me to be this way. I hadn’t even heard of the word gay until I was 12. I never wore dresses or did girly stuff, I watched power rangers, played sports and did generally boy like stuff. Even now my sexuality doesn’t define my personality or interests. All that happened is that when I reached 12 or 13, I started noticing other guys where as my others boys started noticing girls. And as hard as I tried to like girls during my teen years, nothing changed, I simply could and can not look at a women sexually, I get nothing. The worst part is, I want a straight life and have tried, but you simply can’t do that, not when you are hard wired in what ever way to find men sexually attractive. I think we need to take a step back and stop looking at it as “born this way” and start viewing it as CHOICE.

    I understand that it must be hard for straight people to imagine what it’s like to be gay. But all I want is to get on with my life and accept who I am as a person. You can’t change that, even I can’t change that.

  145. Hamin says:

    To the author of the article: Does this apply to transgender as well?

  146. Kinsey_Pi says:

    : There is a recurrent theme of cis-women’s sexual desires being more fluid than cis-men’s. I think this is itself a socio-culturally inflected phenomenon, and may have to do partly with the way homophobia is gendered and expressed in a Judeo-Christian cultural context, and further accentuated by gay-male-led rights movements grounded in claims of biological essentialism which forces most men with fluid sexuality to remain closeted and straight-identified.
    As a public health researcher working in rural India, I have encountered huge amounts of fluidity in sexual behaviour among men, and very little of it associated with sexual identities and politics. There was also an intriguing study (Verma and Collumbien AIDS. 2004 Sep 3;18(13):1845-7) that showed that men who had sex with both men and women had more women as partners than men who had sex with only women. So much for lower-fluidity of men’s desires (assuming behavior is one of the indicators of desire), in one population at least.

    • tnt666 says:

      Well that is really great for those males, they are getting laid so much. But unfortunately, all that “fluidity” is doing nothing for women’s safety in India. Some days I feel that the Indian males you speak of have such a hate-on for females that is so profoundly misogynistic and they see females, still to this day, as a womb to impregnate, to create little misogynist copies of themselves, and nothing else.
      The sexual politics of India are much about about males raping/killing/subjugating females.
      When I was a young female, most of my friends were gays, lesbians, and bis. As the years rolled on, I noticed how much misogyny was a dominant trait among my gay friends and eventually had to let that aspect of my life go, because it clashed so profoundly with my values. I find percentage-wise less misogyny in het males than gay males.
      It seems that in India, male same sex sex is very much about misogyny.

  147. Kinsey_Pi says:

    OK my other comment on fluidity of desire was a digression. The main points I wanted to make were the following:
    (i) the experiences of some people whose desires shifting over their lifetime do not invalidate the experiences of those who have feel their sexual orientation is fixed/immutable and goes back to their childhood or early adolescence (and vice versa).
    (ii) What if, for argument, sexual orientation is truly multi-factorial, with different people’s sexualities having differing proportions of genetic, pre-natal hormonal, environmental and interaction as determinants? Are some going to be considered more authentic than others?
    (iii) Why make equal rights contingent on “inabilty to change”? Are we saying that the only people who deserve rights are those who cannot change? By this logic should gender-fluid, sexuality-fluid, bisexual and pansexual people assimilate as heterosexual and gender-normative because they don’t “need” the rights accorded to the born-gay types?
    (iv) Why can’t our struggles be articulated as those for the freedom to have ones (consensual, adult) romantic/sexual/intimate relationships recognized regardless of the sex, gender and gender-expression of the individuals involved?

    • Ina says:

      (i) The people who feel their desires are immutable don’t have anything to lose if the mentality in this article is accepted because nobody is going to discriminate against them. Their lifestyles will be accepted. The article’s position has the potential to make everyone happy, whereas the other alternative leaves out many people whose sexuality is fluid or doesn’t fit neatly into a category.
      (ii) This is exactly what the article is saying. The author is not asking us to pick between nature of nurture. Everyone stands more to gain from the article’s view than the biological view. The author recognizes that “choice” is a complicated word with many determinants but that it’s a more encompassing word for the list of multiple factors you cite than is pure biology.
      (iii) “Inability to change” is only a source of protection once we adopt an ethics that views anything that’s not heterosexual negatively. If we stop viewing other kinds of lifestyles and identities as negative, “inability to change” will become irrelevant in the discussion of protections and rights.
      (iv) This veers a bit too closely to the “I don’t see color/race etc” arguments made by conservatives. In a world where everyone is accepted, sure you don’t need to pay special attention to different types of identities. However, on the way to gaining recognition and rights, you can’t erase the needs of different groups whose identities are not recognized.

  148. This is a very interesting and thought provoking essay. I appreciate the author sharing their thoughts.
    Whether sexual orientation is due to “choice”, “birth” or as yet unknown reasons, is largely irrelevant.
    What consenting adults do in their personal and sexual lives should not be a basis for discrimination. It’s the people who are obsessed with the sex lives of others who are the freaks.

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  152. BeatrizKarwai says:

    Well, I agree on your political views. But I disagree that homossexuality is a “choice”. I believe that all people have potential to feel atraction for everyone, but the level of it varies from one individual to another. And it’s probably multifactorial. And the fact that we cannot proove that somebody is homossexual, as it’s something very subjective, doesn’t mean that we should ignore evidence, just means that we should consider it more carefully. Another thing is thar the dicothomy between innate and choice is false. There are more possibilities.

  153. Reblogged this on duncan somerside and commented:
    Everything listed here is perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

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  155. Joshua Patrick wells says:

    I do not see the benefit of proving ond way or another? If it is possibly genetic then it can go 2 ways , “oh, the gays can’t help it , they had genetic mutations” / ” it’s a medical condition ” or even the “it’s not that I want to be gay ( victimization) , I was born this way ” Talk about falling into the “straight trap” abs speaking of the ” Straight trap ” why would any serious conversation , amongst gays , include the strategic implications of how anything we do, or say, or wear, or fuck will come off sounding or looking to the heterosexual population ? Who cares. Is this the 2nd sexual orientation ? Like the 2nd sex theory , are we only gay because we are straight ? Does our entire existence have to be constantly analyzed and compared to others ? I just graduated UC Berkeley with a medical sociology degree and after searching I could not find one single Gay , Lesbian , Queer club that did not end in “….straight alliance club” why do we feel the need to have to “align” with heterosexuals ? It’s not the African American White Alliance Club or the Socialist Capitalist Alliance Club. My life and soul is not a commodity to be Strategically used for political purposes. Stop doing this and start reading some Foucault and Fanon. Because until us gays stop trying to be “just like the straights” we are never going to be liberated. If I choose to suck cock , I have the right to do so. By even questioning this we , ourselves, are making insinuations that there’s something wrong with that.

  156. What a wonderful article. It’s so important to see the complex relationship between biology and psychology and environment. Another great treatment of sexual development and the erotic is Jack Morin’s book The Erotic Mind. I agree that “choice” is a poor word. We are conditioned by so many things. I appreciate your attention to psychological conditioning and development when it comes to sexual attraction. I fear this is an area that people often have a resistance to exploring both in public dialogue as well as their own personal journey. Our attractions and preferences don’t just spring up out of thin air. The question is what do we do with this? How do you feel most fulfilled? Where do we wish to make changes? How can we be more and more authentically ourselves? What — deep, deep down — feels best and resonates most with who we want to be? These are hard questions that relying on biology only serves to avoid. But in the difficulty lies the whole point of our lives — to do the hard work necessary to grow, and evolve into our best self. I wish everyone courage and clarity on their own path.

  157. zirrusv says:

    so incredibly well written!! arguing over nature vs. nurture is a waste of time…. of course it is both. everything is not just both, it’s everything… everything influences everything, and everything is complex. thank you for your thoughtfulness and candor. oh, and i have both a longer ring finger, and an equal one. which makes perfect sense to me.

  158. Jay Moeller says:

    Two simple questions refutes this entire article: 1) When did you choose to be straight? Oh, you didn’t? Ok. 2) Why would someone choose to be gay? Can the author answer that? Of course not. Because there is no answer to that question. Being gay has no advantage or perk. Although thankfully, attitudes towards homosexuals are changing, when I was growing up, being gay was a nightmare. Imagine being in high school as a closeted gay student, with everyone around you at best, not accepting of what you are, or at worst, utterly disgusted and full of of hate for what you are. Why would ANYONE choose that? Why would I say to myself at say, age 14, “Well, I think girls are attractive, but I’m now going to make a conscious decision to be straight.” Neither I, nor anyone else would do that. Hence, EVERYONE is born gay. Sorry if that offends the religious, or the conservative, but it’s a fact. Slowly, the world is accepting that, piece by piece.

    • Jay Moeller says:

      Crap. In my comment, of course I meant “Why would I say to myself at age 14, ‘I’m now going to make a conscious decision to be gay?'”.

    • ejaneward says:

      but i CAN answer that! being gay has been hugely advantageous to me. i love queer culture and queer sensibilities, and i find straight culture quite distasteful. i also find most men distasteful, unless they are feminists. i wasn’t born feeling that way; i discovered how distasteful heterosexuality was by interacting with it. it’s kind of like living most of your childhood in the United States and then traveling to France and discovering you like it much better there. this wouldn’t mean you were *born* a francophile, of course. it just means that you were introduced to something you like better. in fact, perhaps there are beings on another planet we have yet to encounter, with genders and bodies currently unknown to us. it’s possible that upon discovering them, any number of us could find ourselves attracted. that, too, would not be congenital.

    • Ethir says:

      Ever though of environment effect ? Ever though of trauma ? Which can be cure by therapies. Try an learn something about genetic.

  159. Halo says:

    The reality is that for many of us, being gay is most definitely not a choice, but that does not necessarily mean that it is biological either – this is a false dichotomy. The author may know this, and I mean no offence, but to say that the problem with implying homosexuality is a choice is that it somehow infuses “biological accounts with an obligatory and nearly coercive force” (huh?) is in my opinion a very unconvincing reason to not bash Herman Cain’s statements on homosexuality (the guy’s a lunatic, why would a sane progressive person ever defend his statements anyway?!). It also does not logically follow that saying it is a choice implies that “if we could choose, of course we would choose to be heterosexual.” I feel like I should not bother to explain this too much, but for example every time I say “I was born this way” I am not simultaneously thinking in the back of my head “I wish I was not born with this terrible affliction” or “if I tell them it was not a choice maybe they will hate me less (blah, blah, fill in the blanks).” In fact, the phrase “born this way” and Lady Gaga’s song are all about loving yourself for who you are and being happy and proud, not the opposite.

    I agree it is true the scientific studies supposedly proving sexuality as biological have all been flawed, for the various reasons pointed out, but it seems to me that pointing that out does not therefore support the argument that sexuality is made of choices or is strictly non-biological….it says to me that the “science of sexual orientation” is full of some pretty bad science and often based on flawed assumptions (in other words, not very good examples of scientists!). I think we should try not to lose our heads over this one and throw science out completely. Just think of the example of “they” (scientists) who tried to prove the intellectual inferiority of certain races, by the way it should also be pointed out that eugenics is widely discredited as a pseudo-science and a nowadays unpopular social philosophy, as are many of the studies cited on sexuality. Don’t give up on science, please (I’ll say no more, but I recommend reading come Carl Sagan).

    It irritates me to suggest that my “homosexual feelings” are comparable to someone liking to draw feet. Give me a break, please. This is so trivializing. My sexuality is inseparable from my feelings toward the person I love with all my heart and soul and to whom I have devoted my entire life to loving and caring for, not at all on the same level of importance as one of my particular quirks or hobbies.

    Furthermore, the assertion of homosexual conversion therapies sometimes working is downright offensive and dangerous. It has been proven again and again that these therapies are harmful and do not work ever, period. A personal story of “cultivating” homosexual desires does not prove the efficacy of homosexual conversion therapies.

    Yes, it does trivialize something to call it a choice, depending on how you say it and in what context. Being gay is not the same as drawing feet and neither is it the same as choosing not to eat meat because you love animals. And no, religion is not comparable to being gay, but that is likely just my opinion and it probably depends on who and how you ask. This comparison in the article is flawed, on the one hand religion as choice is described as implying religion is a phase, an experiment, or a less significant part of who someone is, but then choices are also described as complex and deep. Maybe the religious person would not be as offended if you asked “how did you arrive at your deep and complex choice to be a Christian?” Versus: “how long have you experimented with this not very significant phase of your life being a Christian?” See my point?

    I was “born this way” (gay), not literally (and I do not think that phrase is generally meant to be taken literally), but I am this way and that is just the way it is, I could not change, even if I wanted to, which I don’t. It bothers me to be told I had a choice in being gay, even if on some level I agree. I agree because when I have fallen in love I chose not to run away from it just to try to fit in with the norms of a hetero-dominant world. However, I also could not simply choose to walk away and live an easier and less controversial life as a straight person. I believe that when people say (myself included) “I was born this way” it is a self-affirming proclamation of loving yourself for who you are, and I seriously doubt that for most people the concomitant thought is “because sexuality is biological.” Anyway, thanks for the article.

    • Ethir says:

      I don’t really care if you love yourself or not, however false information and bending the result of scientific research are not allow. There is no proof that people born Homosexual. We don’t assume that something exist if we don’t have any proof that it is exist. You guy created the phrase “We are born this way”, on purpose or not, had screw up society more than you know Why don’t you say ” I love being myself ” ?. Now the paedophilia also says They are born this way, what right for government to prevent paedophilia if they accept you ? The children do not know sex ? So as long as children understand sexual act and consent then paedophilia is allow ? Then a Father want to marry his daughter, what right to stop ? Because they could give birth to a child with recessive genetic make up ? So as long as they don’t have children it is ok for them to marry ? We don’t really care that you fall in love or do anything. However legalize same sex marriage just because “it’s not a sin to love” “they are born this way” will create a step stone for others more depraved problem to arise.

      Treating homosexual behaviour is not like treating compulsive behaviour or schizophrenia, that can be force to. You have to want to change. It’s like no one can force a gangster to stop doing bad if 1: he does not want to stop, 2: peoples keep saying it’s for him to be a gangster. You can throw him in a prison for life but he is still doing bad things in a prison.

  160. Ethir says:

    Finally I found s.o understand scientific research. You don’t know how happy I am to read this. How many idiots keep citing research papers which they did not bought them to read but just read the Title. While I ,in fact, had bought and read this article. They had never had any proof about sexual orientation were genetic link. I think I understand the phase ” Keep telling the lie over and over it will eventually become the truth “.

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  162. Ina says:

    This is the most enlightening article on the issue I’ve ever read. At first, I was expecting to get angry when I saw the title, but after reading the article over a few times, I realized I have simply gotten swayed by political strategy and haven’t been exposed to enough alternatives. I’ve spent my life trying to figure out whether I’m this or that and it’s caused a lot of needless pain. This is the best thing I’ve read that helps me make sense of my experiences.

  163. Nicole says:

    Bullshit

  164. Cheyenna says:

    THANK YOU!!! I do hate that saying that LGBT people aren’t born that way has become taboo. Being politically correct has gotten in the way of real science. I wish it wasn’t considered wrong to say the truth.
    Yes, people shouldn’t have to be defined by their orientation either. People are NOT their orientation.

  165. happy says:

    I am queer. But I chose heterosexuality. Why? I am not that brave. I wanted to survive as a child, a teen, and a young adult. Believe me when I say that I tested the risk. The proof was brutal each and every time. I was and am so happy to have found my life partner. I have a good life with all of the trappings. I have learned how to keep love (the verb) in action. Decades later I find my path in life to be very brave as I live my life for others. Unselfishly? No.
    Am I straight? No.
    But, I am heteronormatively expressing myself in a life I chose. Surely, this is not the kind of choice you are referencing because I honestly believe that once I finalized that promise it was and is for life but it is not a choice I should have had to make. I should have been able (allowed?) to be my authentic self. I must add that the LGBT community did not embrace me either as it also had demands on how I presented myself in order to be accepted, trusted, and embraced. I didn’t meet the expectations. I suffered the demonstration of what was required of me. Heterosexuality was much more accessible to me. The “choice” was clear.

    I live without violence and because of that I have peace.

    I am loved.

  166. Irene says:

    I used to think that sexual orientation was 100% programmed by biology, but I’ve been thinking better recently. People who insist that homosexuality is genetical clearly have no knowledge of other cultures and times, where homosexual behaviour was a part of any man’s life (less common of any woman). They seem to ignore as well even their own culture, because it’s clear in statistics that younger generations experiment more with same-sex than their grandparents, just not to talk about the rates of gay sex in prison.
    Still, I think that there must be a biological factor which is the cause of homosexuality/bisexuality in a very small percentage of population; that 1 or 2% that identify as gay or bi no matter the culture or country. Some of those scientific experiments have reached conclusions that are hard to ignore, specially in the case of lesbian and bisexual women. However, even if this is true, it would account for a ridiculous number of people, not for the majority.

  167. Knightt says:

    So, I am a 30 something white male. I am bi as is my half Native American wife. We have debated the subject for years. Our outlook is that everyone is bisexual just more homosexual or heterosexual. Before you jump down my throat, it is possible to be 99% one or the other and not ever find an example of the exception or you my have a mental block and be unable to admit an attraction. We humans have an amazing gift for self-denial, especially when some sort of emotional issue is involved. How do I explain? Let’s go with another issue completely. A child is raised in a loving and supportive home and as an adult, treats those around them with respect. Another child grows in much the same way but as a adult, abuses their spouse and children. A child grows up in a abusive home with very little confidence and grows to treat their spouse and children the same while a sibling breaks the pattern and is a respectful and supportive parent and spouse.

    • Knightt says:

      Sorry for the break, my phone is not very good for these posts. But as I was saying, in a healthy home you are more likely to have a child grow into a healthy adult but it is not guaranteed. The factors are as much the child’s nature as it is the nurturing from the parents . I believe that what we find sexually appealing is similar. My make the point that their orientation is not a choice, because it is not the one they would have made consciously

      • Knightt says:

        And for a third try…
        The last sentence was supposed to start with the word “many”. Anyways, I have met many gay men that admit to having an attraction to a woman. Straight men that would “go”gay for Heath Ledger or Orlando Bloom. Straight women constantly spoke of Angelina Jolie the way many men did.

        Another point that has been made here is that we humans are mammals, and herd animals at that. Are there mammals that mate for life? Some of us human types try. How many animals have sex because they get pleasure from it? Look it up the answer would surprise you. Bisexuality is the natural norm for many reasons, we just muck things up in our need for various things. Like looking for Divinity or romance or the need to be more or less an animal and so on. In the end I just wanted to share what sounds right to us. Mabey it will trigger a train of thought that will lead to the truth.

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  169. Kristen says:

    I love your writing and your arguments. But your comment about “gay brains” reminded me of something. Look up the work of Dr. Sarah Certel with Drosophila (Flies). In her research, they genetically alter male flies to have female patterned brains, and females to have male brains. They do it to research genetic roots of violence, but one little tidbit: Males will engage in homosexual behavior much more frequently when one male has a “female brain.” This isn’t necessarily the path her research is going down, but it’s very interesting stuff, and very exciting. Just to point out that there may be some real scientific evidence out there, that isn’t biased since this isn’t even what they’re interested in.

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  172. marquese says:

    Most of this is incorrect. One you can not make your self Gay or a Lesbian. It has to be within you, or born that way. you know this is kinda dumb who cares is a person is born gay or not, let them be them selves. they know what they like and is not afraid to show it unlike most people who are afraid of what people would think of them. And for the Christians..If you really don’t like gay people shut the f*#k up and look the other way..Leave people alone, that’s is why other religions dont like you, you keep dipping in other people’s lives and time that curse the hell out of you, you want to stand there and look at them all big eyed. Blaaam right in your face :P

  173. Bartesam says:

    I’m sorry, but this was not a good article. First of all, it consists only of your own arguments. The parts about science pionts to examples that are pretty dumb, and they’re not scientific.
    And it’s easy to crush all of your claims. Have you ever chosen to like something? I mean, could you watch “Dude, where’s my car?” and choose to enjoy it? Could your spouse cheat on you, and you then choose to be happy about it? No, because you don’t choose what you feel. I don’t have a scientific study to support thet right now, but I know this from experience, and I’m sure you do as well.
    You seem to have picked your point from some

  174. I love this article. I’ve heard/read and discussed with friends quite a bit on the debate on “choice” or “genetics” and depending on who you speak to, regardless of how they identify their sexuality, you get a great many different opinions and points of view on this topic. Each and every individual goes through a unique and totally personal process of how they come to identify their sexuality. This means that no two people (even within the same hetero or gay/lesbian communities) completely agree on all aspects of either argument.

    The one question that I have always wanted to pose, is what if we are debating this topic from a false pretense? The dominant social pretense is that we are primarily born as heterosexual. Some subscribe to the idea that “some” people are born genetically different and therefore are gay/lesbian/bi. Some subscribe to the idea that we are all born heterosexual but some people “chose” to be gay/lesbian/bi. I subscribe to the idea that we are all born with neither a genetic preference for homosexuality nor a genetic preference for heterosexuality. We are neither straight nor gay. We simply are. We do not “chose” heterosexuality nor do we “chose” homosexuality. Our sexual preferences develop, evolve, and grow with us the same way our personalities and likes/dislikes evolve and grow with us. It is that age old debate on nature vs nurture. Nature does not 100% predispose us to certain things and Nurture does not 100% guide us to certain things. Nature & Nurture combine to help shape us into who we are, but neither concept is 100% responsible for the outcome.

    It’s like vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. A good number of us figure out early on in our lives that we love the taste of chocolate. We grow up preferring that to the other flavors. Some of us figure out that we prefer strawberry. Some have allergic reactions to vanilla and simply can’t stand it (I personally don’t like vanilla.. lol). Is any of this a genetic pre-disposition? Maybe, maybe not. Just as I hated banana peppers as a teenager, the other day, I tried one – and I liked it. Genetic pre-disposition or choice?

    My tastes and my preferences change and evolve. Sexuality follows the same premise. It will change and evolve with each of us as we change and evolve. There is no right, no wrong, only what is. We can call it a choice or a genetic pre-disposition, but in all actuality it is a living, breathing, evolving part of ourselves. We may find that we like chocolate today but in 5 years discover that we don’t eat it any where near as much as we used to and once we try vanilla, we decide “wow, this great, I’ve been missing out on this for the past 10 years”.

    When I was a kid, and my parents stuck tomatoes in front of me and said I had to eat them, I really wished that I liked them so as to make it easier to swallow them down (cuz my parents subscribed to the idea that eating vegetables was good for me and wouldn’t let me down from the table till I ate at least 3 bites of them – trust me, had it been a choice, I would have chosen to like them so as not to gag as they went down). Wishing that I liked them, did not make me like them. If it truly was a choice, I would have chosen to like them. Was my dislike of tomatoes as a child a genetic pre-disposition simply because I could not bring myself to “chose” to like them? Highly unlikely.

    It is my belief that outward appearances such as gender play only a base part in the sexual attraction process. There are far more complexities that go into sexual attraction than just the outward appearances. As a society, I think we focus too much on the outward appearances as these are the easy to identify things. The more difficult and complex aspects are all too often ignored. I guess my point is, its my belief that it is neither choice nor genetics. It is simply who we are and who we come to be.

    • ejaneward says:

      thanks for these great points.

    • Patty Kakes says:

      Amazing, I could not have said it better myself. People really dont get it they think we would actually choose to pick the toughest road to go down? smh, wow they never think about it, they just like to say its wrong.

  175. Nat says:

    This is amazing! Thank you so much for writing this!

  176. JustAnotherPerson says:

    I believe wholeheartedly that Homosexuality is a choice. The reason being: I had my first “crush” in the 1st grade. A girl, and this crush lasted until the 4th grade. around the 4th grade I began recognizing other females as “pretty” and being drawn to them. I resumed growing heterosexually. By the time I reached High school and my hormones were bouncing around like a bunch of children on sugar in a bouncy Castle, I began a furious routine of looking at porn and masturbating. I was uncontrollably horny all the time. I have NEVER been attracted to males.

    (Warning – Graphic details)

    HOWEVER. A particular guy friend of mine, and I, would go to his place after school to hang out. His Mom didn’t get home till later in the evenings, so we had time to….do what we WANTED to do, and that was rub our penises together, suck each other off, jerk off on each others stomachs. Sometimes we would make ramen noodles and each noodles off each others cocks. Once he shot his semen into my mouth and I realized I DID NOT LIKE THAT. That has never happened again. But this went on throughout high school. My Senior year I got a really gorgeous girlfriend and lost my virginity to her.
    I say all that to say this. I am in a Heterosexual monogamous marriage. I do not Find men attractive. The Impulse to do something sexual with a guy has always been trumped by the fact that I am not attracted. I would have no problem jerking off a nice hard cock, putting it in my mouth or doing other things….. But I am not attracted to men. If I found a man that was attractive, I might have relations of a homosexual nature. But what I am saying is, I am NOT “GAY”. I am attracted to women and love the thought of a woman body and having sex with women. This whole penis thing is a fetish, just like Golden showers, Brazilian fart sniffing, jerking off horses, scat play, lactating breasts, porn, orgies, and all others. We CHOOSE what to participate in. For some reason, This trend towards homosexuals needing to be recognized and accepted is lost on me…..That to me is Like Pedophiles wanting rights……or Scat play fetishers wanting to shit on each others chests in public restaurants. Homosexuality is a choice, and by such is incompatible with New Testament Christianity. I fight this perversion just as I fight masturbation, Alcohol consumption, cussing like a sailor, gluttony, slothfulness, being tempted to steal certain items while out shopping……its just another sin that we choose to accept or not………
    I stopped, and Im not confused or repressed or anything…………..

    • Patty Kakes says:

      Brilliant, you were never gay so you can not just compare your experience to someone of a gay lifestyle.

  177. JustAnotherPerson says:

    I understand im not politically strategic or as well versed as this amazing writer of this posts. I expect the harsh nature of my writing to be criticized. Thats fine. but I believe what I wrote to be truth and to be a guide to the knowledge that being GAY is simply us doing what we want to do, not what we HAVE to do.

    Further point of interest: A kid I grew up with, played like a boy, talked like a boy, for all purposes he was a masculine/ Heterosexual boy. He Came out of the closet after high school and guess what?!?! All the sudden he was limp wristed and has a lisp, his voice was soft and feminie with that classic gay lisp……. I guess it was a gene related latent lisp……… lol
    You guys are so full of shit……..lol

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  181. frank says:

    I’m sorry I can only say that nobody had to tell any of my friends to be straight. I know I was born this way. I can change the behavior but never the desire. i honestly will even go so far as to say I should’ve been born a girl. I’ve been feminine ever since I was little and always struggled at anything to do with masculinity. Yes I read the article but I think it’s a soul issue that has nothing to do with science. it’s either God’s cruel joke or some of us got the wrong body(tongue and cheek). That’s how I feel anyway. If I could choose to have the sexual desires that would accomidate this body I would. Christians would have me either be alone forever, miraculously find only women attractive, or spend the rest of eternity in hell. I wish God could let me in based on my good works outweighing my bad ones. That would’ve been so much easier. Why does he hate us so much more than any other sinner? Its not our fault and I’ve met far worse ppl than gays. Anyways It’s like a straight friend of mine says, why should I care what ppl do in their bedrooms with other consenting adults? Why can’t God be that enlightened?

  182. Paradoxed says:

    “In Ancient Greece, sex between men was normative and widespread; it was considered the most praise-worthy, substantive and Godly form of love.”

    Oh God. Please don’t tell me you interpreted the exaltation of Platonic male friendship in Ancient Greece as worship of buttbanditry.

    “Sex between a man and a woman was, for all intents and purposes, sex between a man and his slave.”

    The butchering of history continues. You do realize that any person, no matter their gender, was considered inferior if they were on the receiving end, so to speak? In Ancient Rome they even banned anyone EXCEPT slaves from taking it up the tailpipe.

  183. Jack says:

    There is no gay gene, buy there is no sraight gene either.

    I am gay myseld and I KNOW this wasn’t a choice. Nor was I was raised in a different way.

    Just because a gay person was molested as a child doesn’t mean that’s what caused it. People use bias WAY too much.

    But in the end, there’s nothing wrong with being gay. Gay people find love, straight people find love. Straight people get std’s, gay people get stds.

    Just eliminate your hate and be happy. :)

  184. TJ says:

    ♥♥♥♥♥ Excellent article. My thoughts? We are all born with the propensity to love. Whether that love be for a male or female is irrelevant. ♥♥♥♥♥

  185. This is a difficult post for me to respond to. Bare in mind, I have wrestled with the issues of queer theory, the nature of sexual orientation, radical feminism, cultural relativism as it pertains to FGM, etc for the past nine years now. The strangest thing is, I never questioned my leftism, my feminism, or my dedication to the more radical end of LGBT culture and politics until my sister enrolled in Feminist Theory and Queer Theory as an undergrad and shared the ideas and texts from her classes with me. In the past near decade I have read countless books by the likes Butler, Foucault, Halberstam, Puar, Rubin, Warner, et al. I have also gone through cycles of intense examination of both myself, and the world at large around me. If I disagree or question some of the core tenants of queer theory and radical feminism, I worry that I am not feminist enough, politically progressive enough, sexually radical enough, open minded enough, and intellectually inclined enough. Bare in mind, these ideological struggles also come to me after well over a decade of knowing how firmly I stand on issues such as abortion rights, LGBT rights, universal health care, environmentalism, and yes, a complete overhauling of the entire socioeconomic and political systems of a country like the United States to make it more egalitarian for women, people of color, the poor and the working classes, the disabled, and the LGBTQ. Nevertheless, while I want to believe I am a “good” Queer and a “good” feminist, and a “good” leftist, I am still not sure of myself. Personally, I, like many Queers and Sex Radicals, have no desire to move to a nondescript suburban home lined in a white picket fence, have children, own a golden retriever, drive a mini van or SUV, and work for a field like accounting or HR. Sometimes I even wonder if it would be best for society to abolish the institution of marriage altogether. However, until that day arrives, I feel that many issues that oftentimes connote the mainstreaming of LGBT folks, especially same sex marriage, are the most convenient methods for permitting same sex couples the benefits opposite sex couples so often take for granted; such as admittance into their spouses’ health insurance (which could easily be solved by creating the aforementioned universal health care programs I mentioned), hospital ER visits for one’s same sex spouse, and tax deductions for marriage (which would be abolished once the institution of marriage was also abrogated) . Ideally, all or at least most of society should comprehend gender as a social construct, and learn to not only condescendingly tolerate, but even embrace the vast differences found in sexual orientation. Nevertheless, unlike the Queers on the fringe I hesitate to label myself as (and I am not using Queer as an umbrella term for all LGBT individuals, but only for those who embrace ambiguous gender expressions, are involved in BDSM, Polyamory, or other so called “alternative” sexual practices, believe in our sexualities reflecting the fragmented, post-modernist age we are living in, and/or are involved in more militant forms of activism, etc), I feel that while gender is culturally constructed, and for SOME individuals, sexual orientation is a matter of choice (think those who embrace sexual politics as a form of activism), for many LGBT folks, they noticed prominent aspects of their sexual orientation at a very young age. If one knew from the time they were four or five that they were attracted to members of the same sex, members of various genders, and/or felt they were assigned the incorrect gender at birth, even before they knew such terminology, this may be related to several factors, but I hardly believe these incidents are entirely a product of cultural forces, or at least not of such cultural phenomena as the works of queer theorists. Also, what about those who are from very culturally, politically, and religiously conservative backgrounds, who are certain of their same sex attractions? I hardly believe that someone who faces such ostracism from their families and other members of their sometimes tightly knit communities would be acting solely on cultural conditions alone.
    I confidently consider myself Pansexual, since I strongly dislike how the term “Bisexual” simply reinforces the gender binary, and also because I am attracted to not only cis men and women, but also transgender folks, genderqueers, etc. For me personally, I first noticed I was attracted to girls as well as boys when I was twelve and puberty hit me, and I went through many drastic personality changes. By the time I was sixteen I had developed a crush on gender defying student at my high school, as well. For me, personally, I feel my sexual orientation has partially been influenced by biological factors as well as cultural factors, and is highly fluid and evolving. However, I do not believe that all individual are as necessarily permutable as myself, and yes, that includes those self described “Kinsey 6″ Gays and Lesbians I can think of. Now whether or not these “6s” are exclusively attracted to members sex as a result of biological or sociocultural factors is also a matter of debate, but I feel that while both gender and sexual orientation need not be stagnant for all individuals, no one should feel ideologically compelled to experiment if they are uncomfortable doing so.
    While I tend to dislike Essentialism the majority of time, and feel that assigning most individuals a set of unalterable traits is more harmful then helpful, since it reinforces more absolutist concepts of beliefs and personalities. However, when one is to comprehend matters of sexual orientation, and even gender expression, I am going to state that a combination of primarily cultural forces with some natural forces help to formulate us as the individuals that we are. Maybe I am taking a more politically moderate stance on this issue, which is unusual for me; and perhaps I may be seen as hopelessly square by some of you, but I believe that while we are primarily products of our upbringings, life experiences, educational backgrounds, exposure to various literature and ideologies, etc, we may also be somewhat, and again, I emphasize the word “somewhat,” influenced by biological factors to a lesser extent.

    • Grant says:

      There is nothing that needs to be done more for people of color, or women (those battles are over- except for those who want to use race, sex, and sexuality as tools to attain power)- when you have a black man president of the United States, blacks in high positions of power before him, women in high positions of power, Oprah who is the richest person in the United States, and a woman who may run for president in 2016, who’d get a ton of votes. Racism and sexism, hate no matter what kind it is- is the ugly side of humanity, that can not be gotten rid of with political correctness, or laws. You will find it all over the world.. More so in some countries like in the Middle East.

      You live your life trying to be the best human you can be, treating others fairly, not striving to take from others, or forcing others to give anything.. In other words don’t hit people, and don’t take their stuff. People get too wrapped up in race, and sex, and sexuality all of it is rubbish, and matters not, when you die. When I die nobody will stand around my funeral saying “Oh he was such a good black man”, they will say I was a good MAN. (they better say I was a good artist too dammit) They will remember how I made them feel, and my accomplishments.

      What all should fight for and protect, is making sure we live in truly free society.. Equality is also rubbish, a nice way of stripping all of their individuality, their diversity, their beauty, their freedom, and ultimately their lives… Its an old Communist term, equality. I am for equal rights, and equal justice, meaning no matter who you are, or where you come from, you are treated like everyone else- meaning. If I don’t pay my taxes I go to prison, if some rich politician doesn’t pay his taxes he goes to prison. No one should be treated special because they are black, gay, woman, rich or poor- be just and fair to all.

      As far as the topic goes.. It is true that not everyone who claims gay was born that way. There are a lot of people out there who love same-sex activity, and also the gay lifestyle. However yes there are people who are born gay. I have seen way too much evidence that supports some are born gay. Also as a Christian (yes I am a Christian and have absolutely no problem with gay people, and can’t stand Christians who do)- I understand that humanity is imperfect- in other words things happen. I will hear ignorant Christians say things like “god didn’t intend for men to be with men” To that I reply, of course not, but god also did not intend for man to feel pain, get sick, grow old, or die.

      God also does not sit up in the sky, molding someone’s personality, what they will be, how they will be born, or what they will look like. God created mankind, Adam and Eve, we are the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, not molded by god, and delivered lol

      Does this mean I believe gays are any kind of abomination? Not even a little bit, nor does god hate them

      • Ethir says:

        Actually, there is no evidence – real research evidence that had been approved by scientists community – about homosexual are born. I read all these reports. The most recently was this year Feb, and no report was found, just empty word. The study was base on homosexual male only to find homosexual gene which I consider weird, If you want to find homosexual gene, you suppose to compare homosexual DNA with heterosexual DNA to find the difference.

  186. Kelly Davis says:

    You are born straight. LIfe is about procreation. We procreation by merging men and women. Biologically there is no way that we could be born gay then. It has to be a learned behavior. Therefore, no inherit rights. Its not the same as being born male or female or born black or white, which is not learned behavior. Being straight in the default because procreation is the end game. Gays can go kick rocks trying to say otherwise.

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  189. Reblogged this on A Dog in the Library and commented:
    Insightful and clearly communicated. I have a fondness for “conversion stories” and I suppose this qualifies as a gay conversion story.

    The question on my mind is – how can we grant civil rights to a group of people whose population is not fixed, but fluid. Isn’t identifying as “gay” more of a political and social identifier, rather than anything having to do with innate characteristics or even sexual attraction?

    • AJ says:

      If you replace the word “gay” with the word “Christian” and “sexual attraction” with “philisophical thought processes” and you’ll have your answer.

  190. lostinpoetry says:

    There is no reason to hate other people. Everyone should respect choices of others because its there choice not yours to make. At the same time there are natural and personal factors which effect decision making. When I was young I visited an island in Florida where I witnessed homosexuality. I was bothered but mostly due to the circumstance of ignorance. We all have subjective thoughts relating to sexual deviant behavior patterns. The creativity inside of exploration drives sexual desire and patterns and ultimately carve what will be an individuals sexual nature.

  191. Grant says:

    It is very true that not all people who identify themselves as gay, were born that way. However there is absolutely no doubt that some people are in fact born gay. I actually did 12 and a half year research on this whole issue, because I was not only driven by curiosity, but also anger I had over the way my friend was treated by his family, friends, and his church when it was discovered he is homosexual.

    I learned a hell of a lot with all of the interviews I held, and I was able to easily place those born gay, and those who just enjoy sex with men in separate categories, as both of them had huge differences.

    • Ethir says:

      Care to prove your research ? Any one can stand up and state nonsense. Care to show your research to everyone ? Also please state your occupation ? Cause I read all these research and none proven that they were born homosexual and I would really doubt a 10 years old kid would get aroused by anyone.

      • HGSellis says:

        Trust me when I say this, almost nobody in these comments has the perspective needed to truly talk about this. Please tell me when you all chose not to be gay. Please tell me if you have ever had to choose your sexuality. If you choose to be gay then people who don’t must therefore have chosen not to. Why would I want to be the way I am? Discriminated against, hated, treated as someone who is evil or wrong for something I never even wanted. If I could have chosen I never would have wanted to be gay, but I didn’t have that luxury. You can’t control who you are attracted to. If you decided that you wanted to be gay for a while, you wouldn’t be able to force yourself to be sexually attracted to men just as I can’t choose to be attracted to women.
        I remember when I realized I was gay. I was depressed and angry at myself for ages before I started to just accept and live on. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I wasn’t born gay. The fact that I have to prove something that has nothing to do with anyone other than me and anyone I am dating to people I don’t even know is frankly absurd and ridiculous.

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  193. Matt says:

    Proving any sociological behavior is a always waste of time in the end, because as the author points out, it is driven by popular culture, political goals, etc…

    This is true for all human behavior.

    Let’s have a fun mad lib to illustrate:

    1. I was born _____
    2. Then because my parents _____ I changed to _____
    3. Then as an adult, I felt pressure to become _____
    4. But the court psychiatrist said I was born with ______ and everyone said it wasn’t my fault, and that was popular.
    5. Ultimately, I joined a group and focused on changing my _____
    6. My friends and the media think I’m ______

    Now fill in the blank with whatever non-mainstream issue comes to your mind. Whether you are a substance abuser, have a personality disorder, violent, road rager, serial killer, pedophile, or have non-mainstream sexual preferences, none of these are provable in terms of:
    Nature vs nurture, desire, beliefs, and change.

    Because at the end of the day, the “data” always supports the current culture/social power systems. Data that goes against current systems will ultimately be argued away.

    I cant understand why there is so much debate on the “science” of human interaction in general. Sure, there are sometimes patterns that can be seen, but that is no guarantee of absolutes, nor individual experience. Nor can researcher bias ever be eliminated from any research. Scientists like to think they are smart. They aren’t really.

    Funny enough I was reading on a large news site the other day that there’s some new study that proves that gays are such due to brain structure, and is lauded; then in an article I noticed in the sidebar, it cites another study where brain structures prove some other, unrelated non-popular idea, then is heavily criticized because such studies cant be trusted.

    On a personal note: Ultimately, the only thing that will benefit our society as a whole is empathy and caring, and less hate/fighting.

    BTW, you have one of the most valuable pieces on the subject I have read in recent years. It’s a shame that more people haven’t clued in on some of this.

    Signed-
    A sociologist

  194. David says:

    Once the biological connection is finally determined you will see how incorrect you are. While you wish to use your argument to affect the politics of homosexuality and it all sounds good to you and those who are politically like minded it does not change the fact that there is no choice. There are choices on how gays decide to act and react to their sexuality but the fundamentals are not a choice. Your comparison of sexuality to a predisposition to argue is ridiculous. It’s like comparing a desire to eat with choosing a style of shoe. All animals eat instinctively all animals are wired instinctively for sex and sexuality too. I notice that so many people who have responded are grateful to you and relieved that their incorrect assessment on the subject has now been validated however those of us who live our reality understand the truth and science will catch up to that reality as it does with all scientific facts we have discovered it the past.

  195. Kay says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this. I’m a straight woman but I don’t think I was born straight because I wasn’t born attracted to men-it developed as I grew up. To say that we’re genetically hardwired to our attractions is ridiculous. In the 1500s, the most “beautiful” women had black teeth that were falling out; if attractions were genetic then that would still be the case. I wasn’t alive in the 70s, but I hear the argument back then was “I made this choice and no one should judge me for it” but now it’s “I was born this way so it’s just like racism to think it’s wrong!” Seriously. I just wish we’d stop the propaganda to get everyone on a certain side and just be honest.

  196. Sherri Williams says:

    It is so sad that we have to question why people are the way they are. I say stop questioning other people and judging them. You should only question yourself as to why you need these answers:
    Are you afraid of being influenced by their actions? Are you curious and maybe want to try their lifestyle? Do you want to be like that person? Are you insecure about who you are that you have to question someone else’s actions? Does the way they do things influence you? Are you offended by how they are and what they do? Do you feel uncomfortable around that person? Will you feel uncomfortable if you are seen with this person? Will someone think you are like them if you are in their company?
    The questions are endless, this doesn’t only apply to the question; “Why are you gay?” This applies to all people in the world. We are so concerned about what other people do, we forget to worry about ourselves and get lost in the process. Stop questioning why other people are the way they are, and look to yourself and be who you are and let people be who they are. That is all I have to say about that!!!!!

  197. Chris says:

    I would like to know where you got your answers in 5. You have no PROOF either that it is or isn’t genetics. It’s just the ame with God/religion, or is there really a million dollars, whatever. It is born just as one respondercalling themself “common Sense”. That is the logic the proof. To hate is learned, to be can be learned but how would it be so from heteral parents to learn to be gay, really, use your brains & common sense too. Parents & friends teach thechildren or others to hate, it’s called bullying then developes into a hatred of said kinds. I want proof, REAL PROOF, NOT JUST WORDS

  198. Bossa22 says:

    Fantastic article. I never bought the ‘born this way’ statement, and appreciate seeing points 4 and 5 from another person’s perspective. Whenever I get into a ‘discussion’ with people on this very topic, those are two things I’ve found myself saying so much it could turn my head blue. Fantastic to know I’m not alone, keep it up.

  199. Dave says:

    being homosexual is quite normal, even though people say it is not. I mean come on they can’t help it. They’re just confused that’s all. Eventually homosexuality will go away with time

  200. MIKE says:

    There are still today many evil religious zealots and vile anti-gay bigots that will insist being gay is a “choice” and they must repent and be “heterosexualized” in order to be “saved” or be deemed good, decent people. This is trash talk and religiously fueled stupidity ! The “drunk-on-religion” fanatics and Bible toting Jesus obsessed freaks on this blog are totally clueless on matters of human sexuality. These dangerous zealots persist on insisting people are not born homosexual, so they can find a “horrible” cause for it and attempt to “cure” it ! This is for the mindless, brain-washed and just plain old wretched ! They will blame the parents, the environment or insist gays were abused as children. None of that is true.No one knows just exactly causes heterosexuality either for that matter ! Homosexuality is a natural part of human sexuality;just like heterosexuality ! It has existed since the dawn of humanity,….and will continue to do so ! Whether these hate-filled dregs like it or not ! It also exists in the animal kingdom and is prevalent in nearly all high order mammals like dolphins, giraffes, apes, etc. What does that tell you ? These animals are acting on instinct naturally, free of the stupidity of man-man religions or morality. Religious evil fanatics will then tell you it is a “choice.” What choice is that, to act on your own natural feelings and desires ? Do heterosexuals not also do this ? If they suggest gay people “hide” or suppress their same-sex desires and live of life of celibacy, totally devoid of any and all sexual satisfaction and expression to please them, this would be the most egregious and dehumanizing thing one human being could possibly ask of another ! However, this is precisely what they advocate. Do not buy this hogwash for one second in 2014 !

    • R. Edward Travani says:

      Mike, great observations. Just be aware that secular arguments exist in opposition to homosexuality including the ubiquitous “I don’t like it, don’t want it around me, and don’t care what I have to do to people to get rid of it”. For my own part, I dismiss so-called religious opposition as a smoke-screen for personal animus. Yet personal animus, when phrased in terms of large groups of like-minded individuals, can become a “cultural identity”, a powerful political force. You can’t assume that people care or want to care about one another. Dehumanizing, victimizing, exploiting, and abusing selected “patsies” is par for the human experience.

  201. VOX says:

    While we DON’T have any control/choice to be born male or female, it IS a matter of choice what we do with what we’re given.

  202. WIILDMAN says:

    Article is incorrect. ALL people are born gay, at some point most CHOOSE to “act” straight due to the social stigma. Persona; experience and the bible lead to this obvious conclusion. God says don’t do it, why would he specifically tell us NOT to do something if we weren’t already predisposed to do it. Denial is a river in Egypt.

  203. Custos says:

    Much, much good in this article, but not all. Conflation of various things make it difficult to be certain of meaning and intent, such as mixing notions from cultural and societal sources with biology and genes in the same idea while not really explaining how things intermix. Perhaps it comes from the author’s apparent inexperience with contemporary psychological perspectives, but the base argument here, that sexuality is not unilaterally based in biology, is the consensus view in psychology. We’re inherently compatibilist, meaning we look at the “vs.” part of the “nature vs. nurture” argument and laugh. It’s always going to be a bit of both, despite that there is value in understanding how much sway biology, society, or psychology have, which gives us what we call the biopsychosocial model.

    Anyway, there’s a key phrase the author didn’t expound upon that greatly hurt the quality of rebuttal to “science’s” view of things and puts the vast majority of the erroneous interpretations to rest – “are more likely than.” This means there is a correlation between two things, not causation. That homosexuals often display neurostructural elements or other morphological elements mirroring the opposite sex (not gender) means that not everyone has it, meaning it’s not a cause. But at grandiose most, it’s a relevant factor, despite that such doesn’t explain how it’s relevant. As the article slightly went into, is it an influencing factor or a result or sign of something else? The inconsistencies may also hint at a more complex picture telling us that sexuality develops via many differing routes and factors and the things observed so far are just potential elements within a larger requisite pool, which, again, is what psychology largely agrees on. However, that does not mean the pertinent factors are inexhaustible any more than it implies we currently know all of them. And unfortunately, the language to describe this isn’t widely accepted, because it’s easier to say “causes of” than “factors observed to be most relevant in the genesis of (insert thing).” As far as sexuality’s fluidity, there is an argument for biological influence stemming from evolutionary perspectives, which gets into gender/sex relations, but that does not dismiss the active role societal norms play.

    Nevertheless, it would’ve also been nice to see more talk about the bit about hazing and girls gone wild. In that, it exposes a cultural propensity to want to see things categorically rather than spectrally, which is why I always and will always describe anything sports relates to the tune of “gown men rolling around with each other while wearing various degrees of revealing clothing? Sooo totes nothing gay about that. Nope. Not at all,” just to see the expression of hypermasculine people’s faces melt and turn beat red. My point there is that, while people are free to see themselves as totally straight or gay, they’re still on a spectrum that contains both. We’re all a little straight. And it doesn’t make you a bad person.

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  205. Robyn says:

    I totally agree with this article. Human sexuality is not what most people think. I one day decided that why should I determine who I can love based on their genitals. that’s as silly as choosing who I love based on their looks, even though everyone else does it. I became more and more open to the idea of women and now I would totally date a woman. Though, I don’t even believe in dating and marriage. I just want all my relationships to be what they are no labels or ultimatums. Sex and love are to completely different things. I will place no limits myself, ones that are imposed on people by society, such as race, gender, age or even the number of people.

  206. Tannysha Yearby says:

    Point blank: Treat people how you want to be treated. Don’t judge. God is the only one who is qualified to judge. He literally knows people’s stories inside and out from beginning to end and he loves them. You don’t. This is a powerful perspective from a member of the homosexual community. I agree with many of the points. I feel like honestly has been replaced by agreed upon mantras. We need to be honest, do our best to love, support, and respect one another, and continuously seem to improve ourselves.

    • R. Edward Travani says:

      People judge one another. The status and respect one receives are based on these judgements. We are competitive creatures and our desire to be better than the next guy is core. Treating people without regard to status is simply not realistic.

      You want honesty? Fine. As two gay individuals, let’s face some facts together. Homosexuality is an unfortunate characteristic. It demonstrates few advantages yet significant disadvantages:

      – Personal disconnect from parents, family, and straight peers
      – (often but not universal) Infuriating gender-nonconformity
      – The “ick factor”
      – In the case of gay men, greater risk for illness and reduced offspring

      These are just a few primary consequences. We won’t even consider the secondary costs resulting from maladjustments to one’s homosexuality by self, family, and the community-at-large. My point is: the extra costs incurred by a homosexual individual, his family, and those who must deal with him are significant. This begs the question: who’s responsible?

      The public debate over homosexuality is not nor has ever been centered on the actual cause of the condition, but only who to hold accountable. If homosexuality is the result of biological hard-wiring then only fate is to blame. Homosexuals are therefore not responsible for the angst, disappointment, confusion, or animus we provoke. In fairness, we should be let to live our lives as we must, all other things being equal. In other words, if biological process determines homosexuality then it can be dismissed as a physical deformity and every straight person can say with reverence: “there but for the grace of God go I”.

      If homosexuality is proven to be a choice, however, then it takes on the immoral character of an ugly, vulgar, and indecent affectation. Repulsed individuals can righteously demand that homosexual expression be suppressed and that open practitioners be corrected and punished. Policies that codify suspicions about the mental health of homosexual individuals and which encourage “reparative” therapies, become merely appropriate.

      You’re missing why debates over homosexuality, homosexuals, and gay rights have such a binary character. For those who wish to suppress homosexual expression, of course homosexuality seems a choice. This position provides them with a straightforward moral argument to punish homosexual individuals personally and marginalize us publicly. Our allies, on the other hand, respond from either personal loyalties and with the righteous desire to protect the innocent from unjust persecution. As such, you can’t ask people not to judge on this issue! It’s all about judgement – start to finish.

  207. ting says:

    While the media’s headlines and reporting of studies that support homosexuality as a sexual orientation have given the impression that science is closing in on a “gay gene,” it’s important to note that each study suffers from significant problems and limitations. And what the researchers themselves have said about their own work is important. Specifically, you should know that their comments have never been fully reported in the press.

    Some examples:

    From the 1991 Hypothalamus (Brain) Study, Simon LeVay, who self-identifies as gay, said: “It’s important to stress what I didn’t find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn’t show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain.”

    And from the 1991 Twins Study, Richard Pillard – also a gay man – admits: “Although male and female homosexuality appear to be at least somewhat heritable, environment must also be of considerable importance in their origins.”

    And from the 1993 X Chromosome Study, Dean Hamer – also a gay man – said: “…environmental factors play a role. There is not a single master gene that makes people gay…I don’t think we will ever be able to predict who will be gay.”

    And from the 2005 Fruit Fly Study, Barry Dickson, the lead researcher, admitted that the understanding of how innate behaviors are genetically determined is “rudimentary at best.” He also admitted that the male-male courtship behaviors they observed probably involved “environmental and social stimuli” and that the female-female courtship behavior was abnormal – missing some key steps.

    And what about the 2005 male and 2006 female pheromone studies from Sweden that gay activists claimed were more evidence of a biological basis to homosexuality? (Pheromones are chemicals that can be smelled and are known to influence animal behavior. However, their role in humans is unknown.) Here, it is significant that Ivanka Savic, the lead researcher, said that the 2005 study had nothing to do with proving homosexuality to be biological. And regarding the 2006 study, she said “it is very important to make clear that the study has no implications for possible dynamics in sexual orientation.”

    More recently, Dr. Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, summed up the research on homosexuality saying that “sexual orientation is genetically influenced but not hardwired by DNA, and that whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations” (italics added).

    As a comparison, Collins indicates that the potential genetic component for homosexuality is much less than the genetic contribution that has been found for common personality traits such as general cognitive ability, extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness, aggression and traditionalism.

    Clearly, the case for a “gay gene” has not been made.

    So, do all gay people believe that sexual orientation is “fixed” and unchangeable?

    Not by a long shot. While it’s true that many homosexuals and their allies believe that people are “born gay” and cannot change, there exists a surprising – and not insignificant – minority of gays and lesbians who recognize that sexual orientation is, in fact, flexible. For example, Kate Kendell, director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, argued in the gay magazine Frontiers that sexual orientation is not fixed. And lesbian columnist and psychotherapist Jackie Black has said that sexuality is not static. Further, lesbian author Camille Paglia argues that homosexuality is not normal and that it is an adaptation, not an inborn trait.

    Most recently, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force spokesperson Roberta Sklar admitted in an ABC news story that today’s young lesbians and bisexuals have a “more flexible view” about sexuality and see it as “a fluid thing.”

    Thus, while no one knows for sure what causes a homosexual identity to develop, recent research confirms that permanent change is, indeed, possible. Pro-gay ally Dr. Robert Spitzer of Columbia University is now convinced that many homosexuals have successfully changed their sexual orientation. In 2001, he published results from a study of 200 gay men and lesbians who had sought “re-orientation” therapy. Spitzer found that most have been able to achieve fulfilling heterosexual relationships. While his research shows that such change often involves a long and difficult journey, it is nevertheless possible for highly motivated individuals.

    Even more recently in 2007, a landmark study was published by Drs. Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse which concluded that it is possible for homosexuals to change their physical attractions and that such efforts to bring about change do not appear to be psychologically harmful. Entitled Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, this groundbreaking research has been hailed by experts from both sides of the debate as being the most methodologically rigorous to date.

  208. Michel Smith says:

    The writer obviously has issues if they truely believe in the crap they are writing.

  209. cough says:

    Homosexuality is a form of ultra-violence. Some real American Beauty. They can mask it with talks of love but that’s all it is. Ultra-violence. I can be turned on by ultra-violence to, but here in America ultra-violence is against the law. Sodomy is sodomy is sodomy is sodomy. We might tolerate it but fuck if I am not going to separate myself from it. Some people just need a good ass kicking. I’m never going to have a wife though while everyone lives with their fucking rainbows. It’s totally fine because I could go to my nearest establishment and go get a hoe right away. Thanks to homosexuals I don’t know what to think about anything anymore. Maybe it’s my facial structure. You fucking buttfucking sodomites. I don’t know what to do. I had to grow up with this shit and didn’t know what to think. No one has ever before had to grow up with this tolerated in America. We’re the first generation to have to do this. I don’t know if these people are actually people if there is a genetic problem with them.

    • R. Edward Travani says:

      Your post suggests that you have raped repeatedly by male care-givers and are sexually ruined for it. If so then it sucks – big time – really big time. I won’t pity you. That would be another rape. I won’t tell you to get counseling – same reason. I’ll say that I hope you find a way to get past the confusion and be happy. Rapists deserve hell and I hope they get it. Some rapists are homosexual but not all homosexuals are rapists. Lame but true, and all I got.

      I’ll tell you what. I’m gay and I don’t “sodomize” other men. I love my husband. If anyone hurt him I’d do the “ultra-violence” as necessary and easy enough, but never to him – NEVER. Big difference between love, lust, and rape.

  210. CoCo says:

    If it is a choice and not a predisposition can you explain homosexuality in the animal kingdom? Also, while for you it may have been an influence of your environment how do you explain homosexuals who grow up in a homophobic environment yet still grow up to be gay? If it just a desire like a live for cheddar cheese why aren’t people able to simply repress these feelings? Just seems like a huge statement to make based solely on your own experiences.

  211. walter says:

    Ok. Time for my two cents. Homosexuality is not a choice like that. Its not that black and white. It is a sex preference. But so is bi, straight, asexual. For you to be determined homosexual, you have to first act against your gender role. Gender roles are taught, if by parents or society, your not born knowing blue is for boys and pink for girls. Everything is taught and experienced with little or no choices made in the process until you become a certain age where you have enough brain development to mature either further into your teaching blindly, choose to continue at will, or choose to go against. As far as genes, naturally it there is a gene it will die out, or be dormant, or already has. It makes no sense for there to be a gene that suggests you dont procreate. Im not homosexual. I actually think its just crazy, but can you blame a person who was taught or wound up homosexual due to what they had around them to draw their identity from. No. You cant. Do I think they deserve rights, no. Because at the end of the day how can you honor a sex preference that cant be passed on to replenish life. thats all im saying. You need a heterosexual vessels even to turn out homosexual later on in life. So we may as well just honor heterosexuality. Sorry for how you were taught, maby society needs to do a better job with gender role encouragement. If homosexuals could procreate then yes they deserve rights. But you cant. And without us heterosexuals you cant survive. Like a virus, cant duplicate on its own. It needs a cell to use as its vessel to corrupt more cells. And I wish they stop comparing it to being of African decent. Its not the same as being black. Your literally born black, no teaching or gender role or anything can change that. And you cant hide it. Its totally not the same. So stop it.

    • R. Edward Travani says:

      “Stop it”? You’re joking. A life in the closet or, alternatively, a life of public shame, angst, and dishonor is not worth living. Many of us weren’t thrilled when we discovered we were homosexual and are way past accepting blame for it. You’re correct that some of us have the masculinity and aggression to hide it. And lots don’t. They’re screwed and deserve better. And they’re going to work for better. And some of their parents and families are going to help them do better. That leaves you as an individual and we as a nation with a decision. We can let this nonsense fester and churn or we can settle the issue. If we’re going to settle the issue without cracking heads wholesale then we need an alternative to telling LGBTs to live as freaks. That means a cure and that means making a commitment and devoting the resources to figure out how individual homosexuality is established. You’re weeping in the wind otherwise.

    • Joseph Chastain says:

      So you don’t think that gay people should have rights because they can’t procreate? What about a straight couple where one or both of the couple can’t procreate? DO they have the right to get married? If you say no, then you are rejecting many straight marriages and calling them invalid. If you say yes you are a total hypocrite who’s lyign about your reason to be against gay rights.

    • Joseph Chastain says:

      And BTW there’s no evidence that gender roles have anything to do with sexual orientation. As a child my favorite color was pink, yet I’m still a straight male. THe gender roles we have now have not existed for very long. Men in earlier times wore dresses and didn’t become gay.
      I’ve known straight men who are VERY girly and gay men that are VERY Manly. ikt’s not about gender roles at all.

  212. MMCFE says:

    I notice that a lot of people are really zeroing in on the idea of a “Gay Gene”. I just want to point out that most serious researchers don;t think there is such a simple and discrete genetic basis, but that biology and genetics do have a potent effect on sexuality. Two models, for example, describe a biological origin of homosexuality without the need for a “homosexual type allele”. One, is misc. changes in the non-coding regulatory segments of the genome. These regions are relatively tolerant of changes, which allows for varying levels of gene expression between individuals. Altered expression levels of sex development hormones during embryonic development would have a profound effect on sexuality.

    Second, epigenetics have been implicated in homosexuality. This can likewise alter gene expression level.

    And to rebut the author of the article, I’d say that quite a fair amount of evidence does point to a biological basis for homosexuality. This includes twin studies, fertility studies of relatives of gay men, chromosomal studies, and epigenetic studies.

    The data don’t paint a clear picture, but if we step back we start to see a general shape.

  213. Me says:

    This is refreshingly interesting and honest written!

    I am a women who just met a man who seemed really in to me. While I did nothing he was extremly flirtous. But when I showed some sign of interest he looked like I was the nastiest thing in the world.

    Do I even have a sexual or romantik interest in this guy? I have no idea. As a heterosexual women raised to be wanting men to pursue and desire me I just mirrored that he seemed really in to me, and it “turned me on”.

    Perhaps he was just playing around.

    He is gay, regarding to all, but I was not the one that sexualized the relation to begin with. So I may not be blamed the way he seemed to blame me. Anyway, I like gay guys. They are awesome. As long as they dont hate me.

  214. Dude814 says:

    I enjoyed the way in which this argument was made. Something people don’t understand is that “environment” starts the moment the sperm and the egg meet. One thing not covered here though is the unlikeliness of nature to continue something that is not driven towards the goal of continuing the species. This is the very essence of what forms evolution. If there was a “gay gene” it would pretty quickly have died out in humanity. Today, in the US, we live in a world where sex and sexuality is everywhere and on all the time. Once upon a time, a child was born into this world and his mentors, the people that influenced his life, were his parents, siblings, and maybe a small group of community members. Today, there is media (television, movies), music, video games with Skinner Box like psychology, and sports icons to name a few. While the teachers change throughout the formative years, our peers in school do more to assign our role than even our parents do. Zimbardo proved in Stanford Prison Experiment, that 9 mentally “normal” college kids could turn into monsters in just 6 days. Go home, come back and pick up right were they left off. Likewise, 9, academically advanced, ivy league attending college kids were turned into subservient, trembling, emotional broken individuals in the same 6 days Our kids go to school for at least 12 years. All wanting to be accepted, or at least not tormented by their peers. Some starting even sooner these days. If a child does have some biological markers of the opposite sex, their peers, looking to gain social promotions will capitalize on those markers. Get told enough times at an early age that you are “gay”, even passively by friends who say, “it’s alright we still like you”, and the Zimbardo effect will take hold.

    Me, I like to broaden the entire topic. It isn’t just that nature has no use for homosexuality in humans, but unconditional sex in general. Sex strictly for the sake of pleasure, especially in humanity, has always been dissuaded by nature. This is because we are nurturing animals that require a lot of resources and time to bring a child into adulthood. Throughout the ages, prostitution, adultery, incest, pedophilia, rape, homosexuality, and multiple partners has been discouraged by nature. Think about STD’s and infections associated with sex. So if we combine these two notions. That A) children learn from the environment around them in a “monkey see monkey do” fashion and B) Nature made sex really pleasurable, but dangerous when engaged often and with many partners, then we can conclude that “sex strictly for pleasure sets a bad example and is a threat to humanity. When it comes to social policy, here is the thought experiment I always pose. IF we could cease to have “sex strictly for pleasure” in our society, what negative social behaviors would cease to exist? Teen/ single mother pregnancy, rape, adultery, sexual abuse, sex related hazing, incest, prostitution, AIDS, STD’s in general would all be directly effected by a society absence of “sex strictly for pleasure”.. What about indirect effect on poverty, education, social connections, violence, parenting, divorce, abortion, mental health, and nearly all other facits of western lifestyle? How would they be effected? How much long term “unhappiness” is in our culture as a result of pleasure only sexual pursuits? While we can’t stop humans from seeking sex for pleasure in a society, That doesn’t mean policies that condone it or make it easier, cause less social anxiety are good for the overall society.

    One last point. In the book, “paradox of choice” Barry Schwartz asserted and provided proof that while “some choice” is good, unlimited choice is bad. Growing up, in the past, a boy socially had the choice of Sue, Jane, or Betty. That was difficult enough. Now, he has Sue, Jane, Betty AND Tom, Dick, and Harry. If the promise of “happiness” is in our founding document, I would say it is up to our government to offer that “some choice but not unbounded choice” so we may be free to peruse happiness.

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  216. Joseph Chastain says:

    It has been PROVEN that there is a gay gene. That is not a matter of opinion. Everything you posted here has been debunked a long time ago.

    Let me ask you something: why would someone chose to be gay? Why would they chose a life where they will be seen as second class people and be rejected by people they love and be hated by much of the world?

    There isn’t ONE point in this article that hasn’t be debunked by science.

  217. Pingback: No One is Born Gay (or Straight): Here Are 5 Reasons Why | Supportive, Friendly Transgender, TG, TS Chat Room

  218. Jason says:

    this debate is HUGE, man

  219. Sneaky says:

    Jesus Christ. This is probably the worst thing I’ve ever read.

    “In 2000, a team of researchers at UC Berkeley conducted a study in which they found that lesbians were more likely than heterosexual women to have a “masculine” hand structure. Presumably, most men have a longer ring finger than index finger, whereas most women have the opposite (or they have index and ring fingers of the same length). Lesbians, according to this study, are more likely than straight women to have what we might call “male-pattern hands.” The researchers concluded that this finding supports their theory that lesbianism might be caused by a “fetal androgyn wash” in the womb—that is, when female fetuses are exposed to greater levels of a masculinizing hormone, it shows up later in the form of female masculinity: male-pattern hands and… attraction to women. But this study makes the same error that countless others have made: it does not properly distinguish between gender (whether one is masculine or feminine) and sexual orientation (heterosexuality or homosexuality). Simply put, the fact that a woman is “masculine” (itself a social construction) or has been introduced to greater levels of a male hormone need not have anything to do with whether she is attracted to women.”

    This in itself is flawed. The study shows that they are MORE LIKELY to have a masculine hand structure, ie it is only a factor and not a direct “cause” of being gay. There are gay women who have female hands and straight women who have male hands (and no, when you’re talking about sexual dimorphism, having male hands is not a social construct – men having penises is not a social definition, it’s a biological indicator of being biologically male).

    And as you put it, the study only showed a biological inclination towards being gay, not the deciding factor. Sexuality is not determined by one single thing – it’s far more complex than that.

    “An even greater problem with the science of sexual orientation is that it seeks to find the genetic causes of gayness, as if we all agree about what gayness is. To say that “being gay” is genetic is to engage in science that hinges on a very historically recent and specifically European-American understanding of what being gay means. In Ancient Greece, sex between elite men and adolescent boys was a common and normative cultural practice. According to historians Michel Foucault and Jonathan Ned Katz, these relationships were considered the most praise-worthy, substantive and Godly forms of love (whereas sex between a man and a woman was, for all intents and purposes, sex between a man and his slave).”

    The fact that being gay in Ancient Greece was socially accepted doesn’t mean people chose to be gay – it simply meant that having gay thoughts and feelings were rewarded and therefore highlighted in literature and culture. The assumption that “most people are straight” is ridiculous – it’s merely thought of as “right” and again, highlighted on. If one country tells its people that blond hair is satanic, there would be a lot of people dying their hair black. That doesn’t make them black-haired, it just means they’re hiding a part of their identity for their own protection, thus giving a skewed view that you’ve piggy-backed on to.

    “When young college women lick each other’s boobs at frat parties, or when young college men stick their fingers in each other’s butts while being hazed by their frat brothers, we don’t call this gay—we call this “girls gone wild” or “hazing.” My point here is that a lot of people engage in homosexual behavior, but somehow we talk about the genetic origins of homosexuality as if we are clear about who is gay and who is not, and as if it’s also clear that “gay genes” are possessed only by people who are culturally and politically gay (you know, the people who are seriously gay). This is a bit arbitrary, don’t you think?”

    The definition of sexuality is the persistent and dominant attraction towards one or more sexes. Two girls kissing doesn’t = gay, nor does a gay guy kissing a girl make him straight.

    “There are many things I have felt or done for as long as I can remember. I have always liked to argue. I have always loved drawing feet and shoes. I have always craved cheddar cheese. I have always felt a strong connection with happy, trashy pop music. These have been aspects of myself for as long as I can remember, and each represents a very strong impulse in me. But was I born with a desire to eat cheddar cheese or make drawings of feet? Are these desires that can be identified somewhere in my body, like on one of my genes? It would be hard to make these claims, because I could have been born and raised in China, let’s say, where cheddar cheese is basically non-existent and would not have been part of my life. And while I may have been born with some general artistic potential, surely our genetic material is not so specific as to determine that I would love to draw platform shoes.”

    Read up on identical twins. You’ll find that up to, and quite possibly more than, 50% of our personality is determined by genes – what clothes we buy, our taste in furniture, what sports we like, all of that and more. Cite a credible study that says genetics don’t determine our character and don’t just ASSUME that “well our genes probably don’t do that right?”

    “Just 150 years ago, scientists went searching for the physiological evidence that women were hysterical. Hysteria, by Victorian medical definition, meant that a woman’s uterus had become dislodged from its proper location and was floating around her body causing all sorts of trouble—like feminism, and other matters of grave concern. And guess what, they found the evidence, and they published books and articles to prove it. They also looked for and found the evidence that all people of African and Asian ancestry were intellectually and morally inferior to people of European Ancestry. Many books were published dedicated to establishing these obviously absurd and violent beliefs as legitimate and indisputable scientific facts. Similarly, the science of sexual orientation has a long and disturbing history. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was believed that homosexuals had beady eyes, particularly angular facial structures, and “bad blood.” Today, we apparently have gender variant fingers and gay brains.”

    So irrelevant, ridiculous studies passed off as fact discount the idea of homosexuality not being a choice? Just because some bigot says that women are inferior and is then proved wrong doesn’t make current research any less credible or true.

    “But how do we know that this “enlargement” is a symptom or cause of their homosexuality, and not, say, a symptom or cause of their general propensity for bravery, creativity, or rebellion? In a homophobic culture, you need some bravery (and other awesome traits) to be queer. ”

    You assume all gay men are brave? Are all women good mothers? They’re biologically designed for it, cultural prepared for it, right? Why wouldn’t they be?

    As I said, this article is horrid and doesn’t have a shred of scientific back-up – you only cite studies and then try to “disprove” them with your own opinion. That’s not supporting your topic, that’s simply blurting your opinion.

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