The Origins of Orientation
I suppose it’s generally been taken differently, coming from a politically and theologically conservative traditionalist like me, but it looks like the thinking about the origins of homosexuality are moving toward what I’ve long contended to be the case (here presented by research psychologist Jesse Bering, who is, himself, gay):
Another caveat is that researchers in this area readily concede that there are probably multiple—and no doubt very complicated—developmental routes to adult homosexuality. Heritable, biological factors interact with environmental experiences to produce phenotypic outcomes, and this is no less true for sexual orientation than it is for any other within-population variable. Since the prospective and retrospective data discussed in the foregoing studies often reveal very early emerging traits in prehomosexuals, however, those children who show pronounced sex-atypical behaviors may have “more” of a genetic loading to their homosexuality, whereas gay adults who were sex-typical as children might trace their homosexuality more directly to particular childhood experiences. For example, in a rather stunning case of what I’ll call “say-it-isn’t-so science”—science that produces data that rebel against popular, politically correct, or emotionally appealing sentiments—controversial new findings published earlier this year in the Archives of Sexual Behavior hint intriguingly that men—but not women—who were sexually abused as children are significantly more likely than non-abused males to have had homosexual relationships as adults. Whatever the causal route, however, none of this implies, whatsoever, that sexual orientation is a choice. In fact it implies quite the opposite, since prepubertal erotic experiences can later consolidate into irreversible sexual orientations and preferences, as I discussed in a previous piece on the childhood origins of fetishes and paraphilias.
It is fashionable these days to say that one is “born gay,” of course, but if we think about it a bit more critically, it’s a bit odd, and probably nonsensical, to refer to a newborn infant, swaddled in blankets and still suckling on its mother’s teats, as being homosexual. I appreciate the anti-discriminatory motives, but if we insist on using such politically correct parlance without consideration of more complex, postnatal developmental factors, are we really prepared to label newborns as being LGBT?
There is no “gay gene,” although there are probably collections of heritable traits that make predisposition and socialization toward homosexuality so likely as to be indistinguishable from a biological certainty. But there are also a range of routes toward the same adult sexual preferences, spanning from what I’ve just described all the way to young (and not-so-young) adults who do, in fact, choose the lifestyle and identity group.
If it weren’t for the current emphasis on identity politics, though, it’d all be a moot point. Discrimination against homosexuals is socially evaporating, and if we thought of public policy on its merits, rather than as a political football or battle ax, the question of whether the emotions and ways of life are “natural” would barely be relevant.