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Is Homosexuality a Choice?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Ask this question, and you will probably receive one of two responses:

Yes. People choose to be gay. They are making an immoral choice, which government should discourage.

Or

No. Sexual preference is biologically determined. Government should protect gay people from discrimination because homosexuality is an unalterable aspect of their identity.

These two answers have something in common: With both of them, the science conveniently supports the moral decision.

“Being gay is bad. How wonderful it is that nobody has to be gay!”

“Homosexual behavior should be allowed to take place. Isn’t it fantastic that, by an amazing coincidence, there is no way to stop it?”

What if neither answer is right?

Perhaps sexual preference can be changed – and people have the right to engage in gay sex and have homosexual relationships if they choose to do so. (The fourth option, that gay people have no choice but to be gay, but should be punished for it anyway, is morally unthinkable.)

What does science tell us about sexual preference?

Genes

We know, from many twin and adoption studies, that sexual preference has a genetic component.

A gay man is more likely than a straight man to have a (biological) gay brother; lesbians are more likely than straight women to have gay sisters.

In 1993, a study published in the journal Science showed that families with two homosexual brothers were very likely to have certain genetic markers on a region of the X chromosome known as Xq28. This led to media headlines about the possibility of the existence of a “gay gene” and discussions about the ethics of aborting a “gay” fetus.

There have also been headlines about an “alcoholism gene”, which makes people become alcoholics, and a “warrior gene”, which makes people unusually aggressive.

Genes can’t control behavior completely, though. Genes regulate the production of amino acids, which combine to form proteins. The existence or absence of a protein can have an effect on things like alcohol tolerance or mood.

Affecting something is not the same as having complete control over it.

Environment, like genetics, plays an important role in how our behavior develops.

Alcoholism runs in families not only because there is a genetic component to alcoholism, but also because children learn how to cope with stress by watching how their parents and their older siblings behave in stressful situations.

If you come from a culture where alcohol consumption is forbidden, it will be difficult for you to become an alcoholic, no matter how your body metabolizes alcohol.

There are factors besides a “warrior gene” that contribute to aggression. Children learn to behave aggressively when they witness aggression being rewarded.

If you grew up in a family or as part of a culture where aggression was not well accepted, you would be less likely to be aggressive. You would learn, from an early age, how to control your aggressive tendencies.

Your environment affects your sexual and romantic relationships.

Throughout history, marriages have been influenced by family relations and by economic needs.

People adhere to cultural constraints of monogamy despite being attracted to people other than their spouses.

Your culture affects your views on homosexuality.

In some societies, homosexuality is accepted, in others, it is frowned upon but tolerated, in yet others, it is a serious criminal offense, possibly punishable by death.

Male homosexual behavior was expected in ancient Athens. Today, ritual male homosexuality plays an important role in some cultures in New Guinea.

Your upbringing can influence what you find desirable and what you find repulsive. Most Americans would be probably be nauseated if they learned that, when they thought they had been eating beef, they were, in fact, eating dog, even though there is nothing inherently unhealthy about dog meat.

What you have learned about homosexuality as you were growing up will affect whether you consider engaging in homosexual acts to be desirable or disgusting.

Some people might argue that if you are “genetically gay” but the thought of homosexuality nauseates you, then you just haven’t accepted the fact that you really are gay. That argument is based on the assumption that sexual preference is purely biological; therefore, it has no place in a discussion about the possible causes of homosexuality.

The Brain

The structure of the brain might influence sexual preference.

In 1991, a study published in the journal Science seemed to show that the hypothalamus, which controls the release of sex hormones from the pituitary gland, in gay men differs from the hypothalamus in straight men. The third interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus (INAH3) was found to be more than twice as large in heterosexual men as in homosexual men

This study was criticized because it used brain tissue obtained at autopsies, and all of the homosexual subjects in the study were believed to have died of AIDS.

A later study, which was performed in 2001, showed that HIV status has no significant effect on the INAH3. This study, which also used brain tissue from autopsies, did not reveal any significant difference between the size of the INAH3 in gay men and straight men. It did, however, show that in gay men, neurons in the INAH3 are packed more closely together than in straight men.

PET and MRI studies performed in 2008 have shown that the two halves of the brain are more symmetrical in homosexual men and heterosexual women than in heterosexual men and homosexual women. These studies have also revealed that connections in the amygdalas of gay men resemble those of straight women; in gay women, connections in the amygdala resemble those of straight men. The amygdala has many receptors for sex hormones and is associated with the processing of emotions.

Some studies have shown that the corpus callosum – the main connection between the two halves of the brain- has a different structure in gay men than in straight men. However, other studies have found no difference.

Gay women and gay men are more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous than straight women and straight men, according to a number of different studies. Some researchers have suggested that this difference in handedness – preference for one hand over the other can be observed in fetuses – is related to differences in the corpus callosum.

A 1992 study showed that the anterior commissure, a smaller connection between the brain’s two hemispheres, is larger in homosexual men than in straight men. However, according to a study that was performed ten years later, the size of the anterior commissure is not affected by sexual orientation.

We know from studying rats that exposure to sex hormones in the womb during a critical period in brain development affects future sexual orientation. By manipulating hormone levels during this time, scientists can make rats engage in homosexual behavior later on.

So your brain was influencing your sexual preference even before you were born.

This can explain why many gay people feel that they have always been gay.

Brain development does not stop at birth, though.

A large amount of brain development takes place during childhood, when you are learning many new things – including how your family and the adults around you believe you should feel about things and what they believe is acceptable behavior.

The education you receive as a child strongly affects how your brain will develop as you grow. For example, children who are given musical training experience changes to areas of the brain associated with hearing and motor control.

With the right experiences, your brain can change even after you have reached adulthood.

Both London taxi drivers and professional piano tuners show increases in gray matter in areas of the brain associated with the skills needed for their professions. The size of the increase in gray matter correlates with the numbers of years of experience.

In one experiment, elderly subjects showed increases in gray matter in certain parts of their brains after they were taught to juggle.

With proper rehabilitation, people who have suffered brain damage from strokes can develop new neural connections and regain some of their old skills.

It’s important to point out that the regions of the brain that have been shown to change because of training and experience are not the parts of the brain that have been associated with sexual preference.

However, women do experience changes to the structure of the hypothalamus – which is thought to be associated with sexual orientation – throughout the menstrual cycle.

So far, attempts to “cure” homosexuality by operating on the brain – homosexuals were once given lobotomies – have never worked.

(Attempts to eliminate homosexuality via hormone therapy haven’t been effective either. While changes in hormone levels in the womb during a very specific time can have an effect on future sexual preference, hormone levels have no effect on sexual preference afterwards. Gay men and straight men have the same levels of sex hormones; sex hormone levels are the same in gay women and straight women.)

Today, however, we know much more about the brain than we did when homosexuality was considered a disease that required treatment, and the amount of knowledge that we have about the brain is increasing.

Perhaps one day we will be able to adjust sexual preference via surgery – focusing on the particular regions of the brain that are associated with sexual preference – or via neural implants or training.

If Sexual Preference Can Be Changed

Even if gay people can never stop being attracted to members of the same sex, they can learn not to act on their desires.

People already learn to stop smoking, to give up certain foods, and not cheat on their husbands or wives.

If we define being gay as engaging in homosexual behavior (the concept of “gay” as an identity is a Western cultural concept – people who have sex with both men and women may call themselves gay, straight or bisexual, depending on the rules of their culture or subculture), then people stop being gay as soon as they stop engaging in this behavior.

Should they stop?

If they could, should they change their brains (or have their brains changed) in order to make themselves straight?

I believe that people have the right to engage in any behavior that they choose, as long as their actions do not harm others, and I believe that gay sex and gay relationships do not cause harm to anyone. Therefore, people who are gay by choice have the right to remain that way

(Of course, there are abusive and unhealthy gay relationships that should not be tolerated, just as there are unhealthy heterosexual relationships that should not be tolerated.)

If sexual preference can be altered, then people who support gay rights can’t rely on the argument that gay people should be protected from discrimination because gay people have no choice but to be gay – an argument that seems like an apology for homosexuality, as if homosexuality is a disease for which there is no cure.

There is an element of homophobia in that argument– the implication that gay people would become straight, if only they could. Supporting gay marriage becomes equivalent to supporting the construction of wheelchair ramps. The “gays can’t help being that way” approach is reminiscent of the old view of homosexuality as a psychiatric illness.

In a blog post for Slate, J. Bryan Lowder comments on Cynthia Nixon’s claim that her lesbianism is a choice. Lowder agrees with Nixon that blaming biology “cedes a great deal of control to bigoted people.”

You don’t have to defend a controversial action by arguing that you have no control over your behavior. In fact, when we you do so, you reinforce the belief that your behavior is undesirable.

Nobody has to prove that biology forces them to vote for a particular political party, practice a certain religion or follow a particular diet.

Just as gay people who are happy as they are should not be forced to change their sexual orientation, gay people who want to be straight should have the right to change if they can – and the correct word is “change” – not “cure”.

In his blog post, Lowder states, “Many critics will argue that appealing to biology is the only way to protect against the attacks of the religious right.”

It might make these critics unhappy to hear this, but that’s not how science works.

Science doesn’t change in order to support political opinions.

Scientific beliefs change as we gain new information, and sometimes science tells us things that we would rather not hear.

Get used to it.

References:

Bailey, J.M. & Pillard, R.C. (1991). A genetic study of male sexual orientation. Archives of General Psychiatry, 48(12): 1089–1096.

Balthazart, J. (2012). Brain development and sexual orientation. Colloquium Series on the Developing Brain, Morgan & Claypool Publishers.

Baroncini, M. et al. (2010). Sex steroid hormones-related structural plasticity in the human hypothalamus, NeuroImage, 50(2): 428-43.

Boyke, J., Driemeyer, J., Gaser, C., Büchel, C. & May, A. (2008). Training induced brain structure changes in the elderly. Journal of Neuroscience, 28(28): 7031-7035.

Burri, A., Cherkas, L., Spector, T. & Rahman, Q. (2011). Genetic and environmental influences on female sexual orientation, childhood gender typicality and adult gender identity, PLOS ONE 6(7): e21982.

Hamer, D.H., Hu, S., Magnuson, V.L., Hu, N. & Pattatucci, A.M. (1993). A linkage between DNA markers on the X chromosome and male sexual orientation. Science, 261(5119): 321-327.

Hyde, K.L. et al. (2009). The effects of musical training on structural brain development: a longitudinal study. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1169: 182-186.

Johannson, B.B. (2011). Current trends in stroke rehabilitation: A review with focus on brain plasticity. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, 123(3): 147-159.

LeVay, S. (1991). A difference in hypothalamic structure between heterosexual and homosexual men. Science, 253(5023): 1034-1037.

Maguire, E.A. et al. (2000). Navigational-related structural change in the hippocampi of taxi drivers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 97(8): 4398–4403.

Prinz, J. (2012). Beyond human nature: how culture and experience shape our lives New York: Penguin Group USA.

Teki, S. et al. (2012). Navigating the auditory scene: an expert role for the hippocampus. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(35): 12251-12257.

Whitam, F.L., Diamond, M. & Martin J. (1993). Homosexual orientation in twins: A report on 61 pairs and three triplet sets. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 22(3): 187-206.

Photo credits: Vancouver Gay Pride Parade 2008 by ecodallaluna on Wikimedia Commons; DNA by ynse on Wikimedia Commons; Brain fMRI by NASA.

Marcia Malory About the Author: Marcia Malory is a writer who mostly writes about science. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Brooklyn College with a BA in Political Science, and her writing often focuses on how science affects society. She has worked in various industries on both sides of the Atlantic and now lives in York, England. You can find out more about her by visiting her website Follow on Twitter @ScienceFindOut.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.






Comments 29 Comments

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  1. 1. MutantBuzzard 4:12 pm 10/19/2012

    If there was a “cure” for homosexuality, in the form of a pill or a shot would you take it?

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  2. 2. GreenMind 5:27 pm 10/19/2012

    As I understand it, studies in the past few years have shown that it is the environment of the womb that determines sexual orientation in male homosexuals. We have known since the 90′s that orientation is very strongly correlated with male birth order. The first boy that a woman bears has something like a 1% chance of being gay. The next has a higher chance, rising up into the 40% range for woman who has multiple boys. This makes it obvious that there is no “gay gene” for male homosexuals but it is equally obvious that orientation is determined biologically, by the mother.

    If you want to look for the genetics of male homosexuality, look at the mother’s genes, not the genes of the gay son.

    (I don’t know whether there is any similar findings for female homosexuals, but I understand there are more different causes, including trauma.)

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  3. 3. CliffClark 6:02 pm 10/19/2012

    There was a Scientific American Mind article a while back that summarized recent research indicating that homosexuality was a spectrum, with some people choosing it and others biologically predetermined to be homosexual in orientation. As with almost any question, the amswer is very complicated and nuanced. My old saying is, “If you think something is simple, you just haven’t thought long and hard enough about it.” Do we have the (moral) right to discriminate, attack, bully, beat to death, stigmatize, or otherwise make gay people’s lives a living Hell? Well, do we have that right for anyone, regardless of sexual orientation? If you say yes, you place yourself in your own spectrum among your most hated enemies – those of different religions, “terrorists”, Assad,the religious right, liberals, Republicans, Democrats – whomever you can think of. Just live and let live, and forget about all the dominance crap.

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  4. 4. julianpenrod 7:56 pm 10/19/2012

    There is a critical fine point.
    What if any genetic component of homosexuality was not sexual in nature?
    What if, if there is a genetic predisposition, it is not toward having sex with your own gender?
    What if the predisposition was toward shying away from those who are different from you? What if the predisposition was toward being unwilling to put yourself to understanding and tolerating differences as deep as those between sexes have always been represented as being? In other words, a form of xenophobia, an inability to accommodate the presence and nearness of someone whose characteristics were not matches to yours?
    Would there be much of a question about controlling that manifestation?
    And note the characteristic New World Order technique of misarguing the situation. Invoking the idea of having government stop or even punish homosexuality, equating distaste for homosexuality with wishing to mistreat gays. Those who condemn homosexuality do not condone abuse, they do not want government to endorse and enfranchise it.

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  5. 5. billfalls 8:10 pm 10/19/2012

    It took the author many words to get to her real point, but it is a valid one I strongly endorse: we don’t need to prove whether homosexual sex results from nature, nurture, or personal choice. We and our governments simply need to get out of the way of personal activity between consenting adults that does no harm to others. That’s the moral response and needs no science to prop it up.

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  6. 6. Laird Wilcox 12:30 am 10/20/2012

    Is it possible to accept the position that there is no “either/or” answer to this question?

    The most likely answer is that sexual orientation exists on a continuum, with some people in an ambiguous zone which, depending upon circumstances could nudge them in one direction or another and perhaps back again. Others may be much more strongly predisposed. The strong majority of people are obviously heterosexual.

    The argument has become largely political, however. If it’s genetic disposition that is fixed and strong then it becomes like race – an immutable characteristic. If not, it’s like any other choice. “Immutableism,” to coin a phrase, is also more strongly tribal, like a division between “us” and “them.” Its attraction is that it generates a kind of in-group normality and a justification for special legal protections that wouldn’t exist if it were merely a choice. In our society it has led to the formation of another sacralized victim group whose interests receive special consideration and sensitivity. It’s also possible to go to jail if you make them angry.

    There is a point of view in which all human behaviors are genetically predisposed – some more so than others. It seems obvious, however, that even extreme forms of predisposition can often be overcome if it’s important enough – as in bonafide health issues — although the question of whether or not it is necessary or desirable in other areas is another issue altogether.

    If sexual attraction (and repulsion) is strongly genetic than it would be unfair to let political advantages accrue to attraction but not to repulsion. Homophobia may also have a strong genetic component and the argument that one can’t help who they are should apply to homophobes as well as homosexuals.

    Expression of values, opinions or beliefs in behalf or in opposition to the entire spectrum of feelings on this subject should receive equal protection. The selective application of “human rights” considerations is not human rights at all, but the position that some humans should have more rights than others. When this happens the underlying principles fall away and it simply become another contest for political power.

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  7. 7. esslar 9:27 am 10/20/2012

    There is a rather thoughtless and carefree use of the word “preference” when used to talk about human sexual orientation. When you are speaking of two people falling in love with each other, that is not a “preference.” If someone falls deeply in love with another person, that is not a choice. One may choose not to act on that, but the feelings of love and physical attraction are not themselves a matter of choice. There are people who fall in love, if they do, with only someone of the same gender; others fall in love with someone of a different gender. The key here is love, and that is never a matter of preference or choice–we have no control over that.

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  8. 8. ironjustice 11:41 am 10/20/2012

    “Do we have the (moral) right to discriminate, attack, bully, beat to death, stigmatize, or otherwise make gay people’s lives a living Hell?”

    The argument being , religion caused that all to happen.
    The alternate argument being , they ARE tetched and DO deserve to be ‘shunned’ , DUE TO the fact they are for the most part significantly mentally unstable and carry out some of the most absurd acts anyone can imagine , at a MUCH higher rate than those who are heterosexual.
    THAT was observed , first hand , by our ancestors and they carried out what they showed , worked , evidence based which was crushing their head with a rock.

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  9. 9. cminca 1:30 pm 10/20/2012

    “Even if gay people can never stop being attracted to members of the same sex, they can learn not to act on their desires. People already learn to stop smoking, to give up certain foods, and not cheat on their husbands or wives.”

    The author equates being gay with destrustructive behaviors–in which the person is harming themselves or others. The author’s bias is clear.

    “You don’t have to defend a controversial action by arguing that you have no control over your behavior. In fact, when we you do so, you reinforce the belief that your behavior is undesirable. ”

    The author’s bias is clear. That homosexual sex is somehow an “undesireable behavior” that has to be “controled” or “defended.”

    In January 2012 Cynthia Nixon gave the following quote to The Advocate “”While I don’t often use the word, the technically precise term for my orientation is bisexual,” she said. “I believe bisexuality is not a choice, it is a fact. What I have ‘chosen’ is to be in a gay relationship.”

    The author’s ommission of this undermine’s her position of homosexuality as choice.

    The truth is that being gay is, like being left handed, an inherent trait with no inherent moral position.

    Like handedness, there are severely right handed people, severely left handed people, ambidextrous people, and people on every point on the scale.

    There are severely opposite sex attracted people, severely same sex attracted people, and bisexual people. And people on every point on the scale.

    The author’s anti-gay bias is clear and the submittal should have been regected.

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  10. 10. shlomosh 4:55 pm 10/20/2012

    Why doesn’t the author write: Even if straight people can never stop being attracted to members of the opposite sex, they can learn not to act on their desires?

    Or: Just as straight people who are happy as they are should not be forced to change their sexual orientation, straight people who want to be gay should have the right to change if they can – and the correct word is “change” – not “cure”?

    There is an underlying assumption throughout this article that being straight is “normal” and being gay is somehow different from “normal”.

    Invoking the name of science can’t hide this biased assumption.

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  11. 11. Daniel35 6:14 pm 10/20/2012

    The universe was designed so that everything in the past effects everything in the future, though in most cases, the speed of light must be considered. Every gene in our bodies, as well as every outside condition in our “world”, decides our every thought and action. What we call “bad” or “good” is a comparison between the effects we feel and what others feel. I am “free” to do whatever I want, within the constraints of my universal programming.

    In the interest of “universal love”, and not adding to overpopulation, I “choose” to be bi and poly.

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  12. 12. rubart 10:54 pm 10/20/2012

    Homosexuaity wasn’t a choice for me. But here’s why I’d never change being gay, even if I could:

    Because it’s shown me what self-righteous jerks majorities can be, simply because they have a mass of other jerks in their corner.

    I’ve learned so much about life from being gay–things I’d probably never have learned if I’d “fitted in.” I’ve also developed my own individual self (not just the gay part) without the least fear of “what other people will think of me.”

    Ironically, it’s given me much bigger balls than a lot of straight guys have–guys who are up for any kind of fight, yet would shrink in terror from the prospect of being an outsider.

    Being gay has also shown me that so many people who speak about “what God wants” are about as far from a God of Love as I am from Pluto.

    The blessings of being gay are many, in terms not of sexual desire but of real inner growth. Not every gay goes that route, just as not every straight doesn’t go that route.

    But I can assure you, those straights who think gay is something that needs to be changed haven’t the faintest idea what inner growth means–not just in gays, but in themselves.

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  13. 13. khsharpe 1:10 am 10/21/2012

    “If sexual preference can be altered, then people who support gay rights can’t rely on the argument that gay people should be protected from discrimination because gay people have no choice but to be gay – an argument that seems like an apology for homosexuality, as if homosexuality is a disease for which there is no cure.

    There is an element of homophobia in that argument– the implication that gay people would become straight, if only they could. Supporting gay marriage becomes equivalent to supporting the construction of wheelchair ramps. The “gays can’t help being that way” approach is reminiscent of the old view of homosexuality as a psychiatric illness”

    what a fatuous comment. Remarkably fatuous. I am unrepentantly heterosexual, couldn’t imagine being anything else – doubt i could be anything else. Ever. Could it be assumed i refer to heterosexuality as psychiatric disorder?

    i’m also a supporter of gay rights and gay marriage. Actually, i’ve had a mind change – i find your comments not only fatuous but a tad too smugly irresponsibly by half. Does it not strike you as possible anti-gay groups and people might seize on this pseudo-scientific observation as truth (probably god given at that)?

    seriously scientific america, do you really think a simple disclaimer that it doesn’t necessarily reflect your views can absolve you from responsibility for publishing such garbage?

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  14. 14. suzfr123456 2:15 am 10/21/2012

    This article lost all credibility in the first line with the use of the term “sexual preference”. This is a term used primarily by the far right anti gay folks because it implies choice. Most people correctly call it “sexual orientation”. She says some would say “sexual preference is biologically determined”. No, Ms Mallory, no one would say that because anyone who believes that it is biological would not use the term “sexual preference”.

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  15. 15. Marcia Malory 10:27 am 10/21/2012

    Hi, I am the author of this article. Not sure how I can be accused of homophobia when I clearly state that I support gay rights and imply (I hope) that people should be proud of their sexuality. It’s true that this article could have been titled “Is heterosexuality a choice?”

    Regarding the use of preference vs. orientation; both imply the possibility of conscious choice – I can orient (in the literal sense) myself in one direction and then reorient myself in another. On the other hand, you can call right-handednes or left-handedness a preference, I think. No one would object to someone saying, “I prefer to write with my left hand.” That is biologically based. (And yes, I know that people can be trained to write with the non-dominant hand. Left-handed children used to be routinely taught to write with their right hands. Afterwards, were they right-handed, left-handed or ambidextrous?) I think I made a pretty strong argument that there is a large biological basis for homosexuality, anyway, I just pointed out the influence of environment as well. If you like, reread the article and in your mind substitute the word “orientation” for “preference”. The arguments are the same.

    I hope you noticed that I pointed out that past attempts to alter sexual orientation have never worked, and that the areas of the brain that have proven to be “plastic” in terms of training are not the areas of the brain associated with sexual orientation.

    And yes, I know about the birth order studies as well as about evolutionary explanations for varieties of sexual orientation. The article was long enough, I think. There is some good additional reading in the References.

    Sorry, I haven’t had time to read all the comments.

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  16. 16. biochem_mel 8:21 am 10/22/2012

    I have read your article, several times. Whatever your original intentions may have been, your article comes across as distinctly homophobic, which is rather unfortunate. Your use of certain terms detracts from any scientific merit your original idea may have had. There is an obvious human factor to this subject and one that you have not considered carefully enough. In addition, biological systems are highly complex and rarely as black and white as you try to portray. I sincerely hope that you pay attention to and embrace the feedback provided in the comments section and use this a learning experience. If in doubt, question the extent to which your article has raised awareness or had a positive contribution to our body of knowledge in this area. If still in doubt, substitute your use of the word ‘homosexual’ for ‘heterosexual’ and apply to your own reality.

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  17. 17. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 10:21 am 10/22/2012

    Several important points:
    1. This article, whether intentionally or not, came across as advocating psychologically harmful “pray-the-gay-away” treatments and as emtremely homophobic. I reccomend that it be greatly revised or deleted immediately.

    2. Mutantbuzzard, I am tired of seeing you trolling this site with your filthy right-wing reactionary views and Extinctionist pronouncements. If I find you posting again, I will report you.

    3. julianpenrod, check your meds. You are clearly suffering from advanced paranoid schizophrenia, and need psychoactive drugs to control it despite your apparent distrust of anything trustworthy. I reccomend that you be deleted immediately.

    4. iron”justice”, you are clearly a fundamentalist homophobe and troll. You also appear to be mentally disturbed, based on your repeated pronouncements elsewhere that blood transfusions kill people. Please go troll on Pharygula and get sent to his dungeon o’ trolls.

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  18. 18. jgrosay 5:18 pm 10/22/2012

    I-In a gay pride parade a group sung: “I’m a queer, because I feel like it”. II-Being gay or straight is not good or bad, just your sexual behavior has some implicit unsafeness, risks or dangers that differ from one behavior to another. III-It’s nobody business tolerating or not tolerating anything (Do you tolerate intolerance?), just some actions get the consideration of offenses, and thus are prosecuted by the law enforcement bodies, for this, the wise approach is taking care of what happens in your town, state or country, interventions abroad usually don’t go any further than killing politicians, engaging in wars, or seizing rival companies, other things are almost always out of the reach of people overseas, as sex between adults is not an offense in most places, the subject “intolerance” is totally out of scope regarding this. IV-Experience changes minds in a way that involves changes in the brain’s cells, the more repeated an action is, the stronger the drive to keep on doing it is. Do you want to change your sexual preferences: it seems it’s possible, there are transexuals, and a body looks harder to modify than a mind. V-Yes, biology does influence your political choices, probably the brain chemistry of conservatives is different from the one of liberals, but you know by thermodynamics that chicken were first than eggs, in this field there are many uncertainties. VI-Homosexuality is interesting mainly for those who practice it, the rest of mankind have almost no knowledge of it, and don’t get any notorious benefit for looking at this subject. Let them transmaribolleras alone!

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  19. 19. ironjustice 12:02 pm 10/23/2012

    Two syndromes , Klinefelter’s and Kallmann’s , manifest hypogonadism and people with those syndromes manifest all those who belong to the LBGTQ community. The people with those syndromes , therefore , can arguably NOT have a ‘choice’. Their sexual abnormalities can be scientifically traced back to their hypogonadism. The argument being this self same hypogonadism , hormone misadventure , ALSO manifests itself in people WITHOUT the genetic mutations of Klinefelter or Kallmann’s. If genetic mutation causes hormone misadventure , hypogonadism , and THAT causes the LBGTQ community then one CAN argue , hypogonadism by ITSELF causes the LBGTQ community , therefore not a choice , because it is medically induced. IE: hypogonadism.

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  20. 20. Bird/tree/dinosaur/etc. geek 1:06 pm 10/23/2012

    @ironjustice: Your grasp of medical knowledge is appaling. Hypogonadism and chromosomal abnormalities rarely, if ever, cause non”standard” sexual orientation. Do some research before proclaiming yourself an expert.

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  21. 21. rolyoh 2:24 pm 10/24/2012

    The author says, “You don’t have to defend a controversial action by arguing that you have no control over your behavior. In fact, when we you do so, you reinforce the belief that your behavior is undesirable.”

    Straw man. Homosexual behavior is not controversial. It’s a naturally, though less-commonly occurring variant of sexuality.

    What IS controversial is the REACTION of others to it, based on ignorance, misinformation, superstitions irrational phobias, and hatred of that which is different.

    Link to this
  22. 22. ABlack 12:29 pm 12/13/2012

    does it really matter if it’s a choice or not. people should be with who they love/desire no matter what their sex.

    Logged in via Twitter.com/buysteroidsuk

    Link to this
  23. 23. Fargok 12:51 pm 04/14/2013

    While I understand the main point of this article (that the “I was born this way” argument is not as good as we think), there is something that I think is not very well conceived: That something is not biological doesn’t mean that it’s a choice. For instance: there is no gene in my ADN that makes me a Spanish native speaker. If I am a Spanish native speaker is because I was born in a determined environment. So it’s not biological, but still, I didn’t choose to be a Spanish native speaker. The author compares deciding to change from homosexuality to deciding to quit smoking, but taking on smoking (or on drinking) is not the same as taking on homosexuality. Even if homosexuality was not 100% biological and even if homosexuality could be changed, it’s still not a choice. Because a choice is always a conscious choice, and I haven’t met any homosexual or bisexual person, including myself, that can say “Yes, I remember when, how and why I decided to be like this”. If there is to be someday the actual and scientifically proven option to change, I think that people willing to do so would have the right to do it, but as I have the right to dye my hair red and nobody should criticize me for that, it doesn’t change the fact that my hair color, as my sexual preference, was not a decision.

    Link to this
  24. 24. the_mac 1:23 am 04/26/2013

    I agree that choice implies a conscious decision. However, there is only no choice when there is only one option. Choice can take the form of NOT choosing one of the other known options and this doesn’t always mean a specific when, how and why is involved – e.g. Fargok didn’t decide to be a native Spanish speaker, but those that raised him did (100% nurture). They didn’t sit down one day, discuss the pros and cons and then record the decision in their diaries, but they could have decided his first language would be Norwegian or English in the form of American sign language. Since I know nothing of their circumstances I can only assume that doing otherwise was highly unlikely, but they did have a choice.

    Many people living outside their native country are taught their parent’s language while children and then the choice is made later to only teach and speak the language of the dominant culture that they are in. Typically, after a few years most can no longer speak that first language and only understand the basic gist if anything. Some youths also make that choice for themselves, the more they socialise with speakers of other languages. Again most can’t point to a day they made this choice, but their pattern of behavior shows that a decision was consciously made.

    The author, also makes this correlation between choice and behaviour –

    “If we define being gay as engaging in homosexual behavior (the concept of “gay” as an identity is a Western cultural concept)… then people stop[/start] being gay as soon as they stop[/start] engaging in this behavior.”

    I’m still getting my mind around that, since being gay is usually defined as having feelings of same-sex attraction whether or not that person acts on it (this is how a gay adult, looking back, could think of their 6 yr old self as being gay), but I take the author’s point that the best benchmark may often be what we do as in the language examples above.

    The “I was born this way” argument posits that even if a gay person is aware of other options/choices for them there is no real choice because their genetics leaves only one. This article makes a reasoned, evidence based argument to the contrary, that the way we feel and behave, particularly in regards to sexual preference/orientation isn’t driven solely by biology and our genetic predispositions no matter how strong they may be, and if not solely genetic then nurture and choice must be involved.

    So while a person may not be able to remember when they first began feeling a certain way I assume that there is a clear and definite when, how and why for a person’s conscious decision to engage in homosexual behaviour for the first time. This choice and act, according to the logic of this article is the time when a person chooses to be gay. They confirm that choice with subsequent acts.

    Whether or not a person could (or should) choose to stop engaging in homosexual behavior (i.e. stop being gay) is not the main thrust of this article. but is instead, that the “I was born this way” argument is a half-truth at best and also possibly misses the point that moral choices between consenting adults that don’t hurt anyone else don’t need to be backed up by science.

    She ends with the statement “Scientific beliefs change as we gain new information, and sometimes science tells us things that we would rather not hear. Get used to it.”

    But another way to say that might be “if you’re queer and you’re here, then own it. Science isn’t always going to align with your political and moral beliefs [cough] evolution [/cough]. So just live and love your choice.”

    Link to this
  25. 25. Shneevels 3:35 pm 06/7/2013

    Thanks so much for clearing this issue up. It’s good to know that God doesn’t know what the frik He’s talking about, and that you are wiser than Him. I feel much safer from His judgment now.

    Link to this
  26. 26. Radovan Skriba 7:08 am 11/20/2013

    Well my point of view is that sexuality is a private matter and put your sexual orientation above everything is not normal, just because you sleeping with partner who is a same sex shouldn’t give you anything in human society. You can making love with whoever you like,just keep it for yourself inside your relationship otherwise it is merely attention seeking. In Japan they would like to wipe out the sex columns from their passports because it causing discriminations, some job are made for mans and some jobs for women’s but to delete sexes the society would be equal in all matters and I would like to see what would be the reaction of attention seeking sexually very orientated homosexuals if suddenly it would be just a human society. You know all these studies are maybe right maybe wrong but been over two decades working in night clubs one thing is certain from my observations and it is. Gays and lesbians are mostly not very pretty people[appearance] but they are communicative and polite but they most of the time are aiming too high they want to attract the most beautiful girl or boy[before they slip into their homosexual cocoon] and pretty people are made for pretty people and coming out from that they ending their night leaving alone because they rather going home alone than picking up a not pretty[face,body] person, this goes on for quite a time until they don’t find a similar broken frustrated soul[same sex]and they become sexually close but mainly it is more less only soul mate based and they will find way how to please each other on sexual bases, but that is neglect able. My observation is based on 19 years and hundreds of gay couple observed, trust me it is only a frustration and failure to accept yourself in the mirror. They are pushing themselves onto very tricky sexual ground it is a bit like acting you need an approval of other people to be happy and bear in mind that promiscuity between gay population is quite high, the logical outcome is that these people have need for be accepted again and again by somebody else, they cannot accept themselves in their own life. I’m not taking sides like I have said these are my observation and be honest I have knocked over more than 400 females thorough my sexual build up but few years ago I have stopped because it is sad to be just used or using somebody without real purpose or meaning. I wish everybody the best but sometimes it is good to look at yourself from distance and be honest with yourself. Sex a sexuality are private[very private]matters and whoever talk about them publically is way off normal sexual life. It is same like money You got money or don’t. You got good sexual life or not, talking doesn’t make it better. All the best.

    Link to this
  27. 27. Warrior4Just 10:40 pm 03/13/2014

    There are so many scientific fallacies in the interpretations of the findings mentioned in this blog, that i can’t believe it’s called science…
    The problem with reaching an answer isn’t the complexity…but rather the political correctness. Homosexuality is largely what homosexuals don’t want to hear, it’s a product of early child endocrination/brainwashig, early make believe, rape, a trend, rebellion/dissidence, confromity- meaning it’s largely environmental.
    The answers always seem to be steered away from considering non-biological factors….which astounds me as a scientist myself.

    Next time if they gonna say there is region in the brain that dertermines sexual preference, they have to prove it first…not indulge in a circular reasoning by saying, we assume hypothalamus is responsible for sexual preference, and because there is differences in brain scans in this region between homos and heteros, therefore, said region in the brain is responsible and hence it is of biological cause (immutable).

    Not only the problem exists in determining the exact region for sexual orientation, but the following needs to be determined, first that previous region is the single factor for the cause of sexual preference expression. second, that statistically all gay men/women have the same brain scans, and all heterosexuals men/women have the same brain scans. Third, the experiment have to be repeated with high percentage of representation of the original premise. Fifth, that said region isn’t immutable- meaning that the mere mindset of a certain sexual tendency, doesn’t alter the neurons and the activation in part of the brain according to the corresponding observed scans, as Dr. Jeff Scwartz and Dr Gladding have demonstrated in their neuroplasticity observations in parts of the brain responsible for emotions and reward system

    Until then, the research is flawed.

    Another flaw, if two identical twins didn’t share the same sexual orientation 100% of the time, it is not genetic. Having a percentage gay isn’t evidence of gay genetic cause anymore than that gay person is likely to be straight, because his brother is straight.

    The fact that they were tribes in many parts of the world with no record of homosexuality is enough precursor to start thinking that the so called scientists in this field are looking in the wrong direction….perhaps they should start looking at learned/reinforced behavior. And surely the odd one isn’t heterosexuality

    Link to this
  28. 28. MadCase2686 2:45 am 04/23/2014

    After reading this article I am almost ashamed of myself. I have been defending homosexuals by saying they can not help it. That they would choose a different life if possible, but now I see that it is not just about being born this way, it is also about choosing to be this way. As mentioned in the article, a person can be born abnormally aggressive and be raised in a household where aggressiveness is celebrated or simply ignored but that does not mean that the person has no choice over how aggressive they are towards others. This person has the choice to fight their aggressive urges or tendencies. Homosexuals are possibly born with it but they choose to their path and I am going to be behind their choice every step of the way.

    Link to this
  29. 29. adenIB 12:31 pm 10/30/2014

    So interesting with all these studies that you fail to look at the obvious. You get a penis and a vagina, where do they go. It doesn’t even have to be scientific. So outside of this means its a choice that you like more than the other depending whether you are a boy or a girl.

    Link to this

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