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How Do People Become Gay?

by Inge Anderson  

Back to Perspectives | Inklings | Main FAQ

We are frequently asked, "How do you believe someone becomes homosexual?" The question implies that all are born heterosexual and some "become" homosexual somewhere along the way. I believe that implication to be inaccurate.

It is apparent that  homosexuality does not have one particular "cause." It is not purely genetic, for instance, because the very twin studies (See Studies of Causes of Homosexual Orientation) that some interpreted as "proving" a purely genetic origin of homosexuality actually "disproved" it, because only 52% of identical twins of homosexual persons were also homosexual. If homosexuality were dependent on a particular "gay gene," both twins should have possess that gene, and thus there should have been a 100% correspondence.

However, the study (and others like it) did find a highly significant link between biology and homosexuality, as the incidence of homosexuality in the general population is much lower than 52%. Personal experience corroborates this link because among my homosexual acquaintances I know of several families in which a number of relatives are also homosexual. In one case, for instance (see Gay Sons), a father who believed that he had "become" homosexual because he had been allowed to play like a girl and had grown up without strong bonding with his father tried to make very sure that his son did not grow up gay. So he spent a lot of time with him and made sure that he only played "boy" games with "boy" toys. In spite of all this effort, the son also turned out to be gay. I am also aware of families in which several cousins are gay.

From my wider studies, I conclude that a person finds him/herself with a homosexual orientation as a result of the interplay of several factors, including heredity, prenatal influence, and environmental factors such as childhood trauma or being brought up and conditioned as a member of the opposite sex. The latter is the background of a significant number of lesbians, for instance.

Many conservative Adventists and gay theologians appear to agree that a genetic origin of homosexuality has moral significance. These conservative Adventists claim that homosexuality has no basis in genetics and is therefore a morally culpable choice. Gay theologians argue that homosexuality is genetic and is therefore morally correct. I disagree with the basic reasoning. Hereditary tendencies may be toward morally positive or negative behavior. The fact that I inherited a strong streak of selfishness and a bad temper does not sanctify these traits, for instance. While we are not responsible for our heredity,  we are responsible with what we do with our heredity. And the Bible teaches that to whom much has been given, of that one, much will be required. So God requires no more of one than the other -- a daily submission to His will. (Luke 9:23)

As Adventists, we should understand very clearly that some tendencies to evil may, indeed, be inherited. In Ministry of Healing, p. 175, Ellen White says this:

Those who put their trust in Christ are not to be enslaved by any hereditary or cultivated habit or tendency. Instead of being held in bondage to the lower nature, they are to rule every appetite and passion. God has not left us to battle with evil in our own finite strength. Whatever may be our inherited or cultivated tendencies to wrong, we can overcome through the power that He is ready to impart. [Emphasis mine]

Notice that this is both a promise and a recognition that some tendencies to evil are inherited. Thus Adventists should be the first to recognize that someone may be "born homosexual."

The prenatal influence theory is controversial. However, some studies with rats support it, and a large survey of homosexual men also pointed in that direction. It seems that a hormonal wash of androgen is needed between the 16th and 24th weeks of pregnancy in order to masculinize the fetal brain from its "default" female structure. (Female brains have more connections between the left brain and the right brain, for instance.)  When this does not occur in sufficient quantities -- as when the mother undergoes significant trauma during this time -- a male baby may be born with an essentially female brain. This doesn't necessarily cause a homosexual orientation; it may just make a man a much more understanding husband and father. However, the resultant feeling of being "different" from other males can also contribute to a homosexual orientation. After every war, there appears to be an unusually high rate of homosexually oriented persons born, and this may explain why. (Also see Can hormones affect sexual orientation?)

Other prenatal influences, such as the attitude of the mother during pregnancy, have not been scientifically explored, but anecdotal evidence suggests a connection. Ellen White indicated that prenatal influence plays a significant part in the development of the child:

Upon fathers as well as mothers rests a responsibility for the child's earlier as well as its later training, and for both parents the demand for careful and thorough preparation is most urgent. Before taking upon themselves the possibilities of fatherhood and motherhood, men and women should become acquainted with the laws of physical development--with physiology and hygiene, with the bearing of prenatal influences, with the laws of heredity, sanitation, dress, exercise, and the treatment of disease; they should also understand the laws of mental development and moral training. [emphasis mine] ~ Education, p. 276

The effect of prenatal influences is by many parents looked upon as a matter of little moment; but heaven does not so regard it. The message sent by an angel of God, and twice given in the most solemn manner, shows it to be deserving of our most careful thought. ~ Ministry of Healing, p. 372

While there seems to be strong evidence to point to a biological link to a homosexual orientation, it is also very likely that, for some people, a homosexual orientation develops as a result of psycho-sociological factors. In other words, for some, homosexual orientation may be altogether environmentally caused. I believe this to be especially true of lesbianism, as there is little, if any, evidence to point to genetic origins. However, many lesbians have a history of being abused.

The bottom line is that environmentally caused homosexuality is not experienced any differently than genetically caused homosexuality. In either case, persons find themselves with an overwhelming desire to be intimate with members of the same sex when the whole world says that the normal attraction is to the opposite sex. Despite the testimony of some in today's generation who say they experience no feeling that this is "wrong," I believe that most, if not all, homosexual persons do experience this feeling. Thus, they do not choose to be attracted to the same sex any more than the rest of us have chosen to be attracted to the opposite sex.

Several of my gay friends have acknowledges that they know men who have chosen to engage in homosexual sex exclusively -- and thus appeared to "become" homosexual. But this is not the case for the majority. In fact, quite a few homosexuals are somewhat judgmental of those they call "bisexual" -- people who can relate sexually to either gender and enjoy it.

Some heterosexual men choose to engage in homosexual encounters and then go back to their wives and the enjoyment of a heterosexual lifestyle. The young man who serviced their needs in some public washroom simply shakes his head in wonder that such a thing is possible, for he cannot conceive of such a choice. Engaging in homosexual sex does not make a person gay or homosexual

In summary, homosexuality is not "caused" by a choice, except very rarely.  Thus it is best not to suspect any person of having chosen his homosexual orientation.

For a balanced overview of the subject see "What Determines Sexual Orientation?" (off-site link on the Canadian Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance site)

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Last modified 03 Jun 2010 02:24 PM