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Are Homosexuals Born, or Made?

Jason Collins’ coming-out party raises interesting scientific questions.

by
Rand Simberg

Bio

May 3, 2013 - 12:26 am

I agree that there is little heroic about coming out as gay in today’s society, but I did find this aspect of the Jason Collins story fascinating:

He’s my twin, eight minutes older. We live only a few miles apart on the west side of L.A. But while most of our conversations are quick and light, this one was different.

…This announcement will be surprising to some people. I already anticipate the questions: “Are you the gay twin or the straight one?” This is uncharted territory, and no one can predict how it will play out. It’s a big deal — but it’s also not a big deal. When the media crush is over, Jason will have the strength to deal with whatever challenges come from being openly gay.

One of the more contentious intersections of science and society is the question of whether homosexuals are born, or made. Both gay people and those who think them sinners have a political stake in the answer, and one of the most compelling arguments in favor of gay marriage has been that if you don’t have a “choice” to be attracted to the opposite sex, then it’s unfair to not be allowed the benefits of matrimony. Those who condemn homosexual behavior, whether out of simple disgust or for religious reasons, have to believe that gay people, indeed, do have a choice, and are simply being willfully immoral.

Now it happens that I personally believe that gays are born that way, because I am absolutely certain that I was born straight. No one ever taught me to be repelled by the thought of having sexual relations with another man, or schooled me in the obvious appeal of the female form in all its aspects, but that’s how I roll and always have ever since I’ve had any sexual awareness whatsoever. I can imagine no form of therapy (at least not involving hormonal treatments or other chemical interventions) that would somehow persuade me to change my heterosexual ways, and I would imagine that homosexuals feel just as constrained by their innate nature.

For those who, like me, accept that gay people are born, not made, there have been a number of theories over the years how it occurs. Some think it’s genetic, while others think that it may have something to do with the prenatal environment. But here we have two people who share the same genetic code, and shared the same womb at the same time, one (now) reportedly gay and the other reportedly straight, which would seem to be a problem for both theories. Interestingly (and I only learned this while researching this piece) this is not a new problem. It turns out, at least if this study is to be believed, that if one identical twin is homosexual, it’s a flip of the coin that the other one will be, whereas it’s about one in five for fraternal twins (that is, same womb, but different DNA). This would seem to be at least some evidence for the genetic theory, but certainly not dispositive.

One recent theory to explain this is based not on genetics per se but on epigenetics, in which heritable phenotypical changes can occur without an actual alteration of the gene sequence. Unfortunately for the theory, though:

…so far the theory “is not supported by any data.”

Indeed, Andrea Ciani, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Padova, thinks that a variety of factors, including genes and epigenetics, influence sexual orientation. “It’s a little bit vain to think we’ll find the answer to homosexuality as a whole.”

Which is just as well, because I really didn’t want to get into those particular biological weeds. And to the degree that it’s genetic, it’s unlikely that it’s a single gene, because it doesn’t seem to be a very evolutionarily useful one. It’s more likely some complex of genes, each of which is useful on its own, but when combined, results in the person being gay.

Anyway, I have a more parsimonious explanation. Whether from gene or womb, most people (like me) are born straight, a few are born who wouldn’t do it with the opposite sex on a bet, and some (perhaps a lot) are born in between and really do have a choice. That is, they are bisexual. My guess would be that it’s a skewed distribution toward heterosexuality, with a long thin tail of homosexuals, but a big bulge on the heterosexual side of the scale of folks who can go either way. That is, they are to one degree or another bisexual.

My theory would explain why some of the most vociferous opponents of homosexuality often (more often than one might have guessed) turn out to be attracted to the same sex — they have a choice, and they feel morally superior to those upon whom they project their own bisexual orientation, and thus assume that people who don’t uphold their own standards of morality are merely weak-willed. These would also be the people who really could be counseled to go straight for religious reasons — they really had been influenced by their postbirth environment, and were capable of going the other way.

So this might explain the twin conundrum as well. The twins who are both homosexual either were born homosexual or were born bi and both chose homosexuality. The ones where only one twin had that trait (as with the Collins brothers) were born bi, and made different choices. I know that if I were heterosexual with an identical twin, I would find it mind blowing to be told he was gay, because then I would be wondering why I wasn’t. But in Jason’s brother’s case, maybe he’s thinking: “Well, I decided to do the marriage-to-a-woman-and-have-kids thing, but I can see his point of view.”

In any event, the mystery continues.

Rand Simberg is a recovering aerospace engineer and a consultant in space commercialization, space tourism and Internet security. He offers occasionally biting commentary about infinity and beyond at his weblog, Transterrestrial Musings.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
A homophobe, literally, is someone who is unreasonably afraid of homosexuals. It is a word that was made up by 1984 type control-the-language-and-you-control-the-people far left radicals who hate truth and freedom. It is, of course, used as an ad hominem where a valid argument does not exist.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I had a close gay friend in the '70s who told me that he was seduced by a camp councilor as a young boy and this experience was responsible for his becoming gay. We lost touch and in the intervening years the Gay Pride political movement had taken firm hold among most gays and lesbians. When my friend and I resumed our friendship after many years I mentioned in passing his experience with the camp councilor and he denied it had ever happened or that he had ever said such a thing. You see, to admit that childhood sexual abuse may have been responsible for his sexual orientation had become a danger to the "born that way" narrative and the political power gays were seeking.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There is no gay gene.
If it was genetic, then both twins would be homosexuals 100% of time, but studies have shown the opposite - it is nurture/environment.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (185)
All Comments   (185)
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Are homosexuals born or made? Who cares ... born or made they are still responsible for their behavior.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My observations are:

1. There are people who make or made a choice.
2. There are people who have a deeply ingrained homosexual attraction and always have. Perhaps it's genetic, perhaps not.

It complicates any discussion.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I believe that the bible when it says;Lord God allowed men&women to give into their own lusts,thats what did happen.
We aren't at all born this way.
God himself has never ever lied to his followers.
Only 1 man ever died&came back to live&hundreds witnessed this evernt.Liz
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Genetic COMPONENT.

Things need not be 100% Genetic or not. You can have the genes for any condition and not get it.
There is a genetic component for cleft lip, for example- and considering it is obvious at birth, and generally corrected immediately thereafter with surgery, I sincerely doubt that the non-genetic components include contact with other cleft lip sufferers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Do the anti-homosexual people who tell gays (primarily gay men) to just, "Shut up and get married and fight it," think so lowly of women that they would deny a loving woman an intimate life? Are they subconsciously saying that after a certain age the sex won't matter anyway? Are they speaking from experience, meaning they get bored of their wives right away and thus also have to "fake it" for different reasons?

And what does this tell us about what heterosexual women think of themselves? How many women would want a tentative heterosexual husband with a former gay past after he completes the "therapies" that are described here? And how would they explain the "lost years" to the children, or everything else should the marriage collapse? Divorce is brutalizing: Why do such a horrible thing to children? Would we be so careless towards children as to put their mental health at risk? I guess some women aren't the "real parent" after all.

And only a woman with low self-worth would dedicate years to a futile conversion that she knows will end in pain. Also, is a woman determined to convert a gay the equivalent of a man obsessed with conquering a virgin woman? In this case, both demonstrate evidence of a monstrous ego, with the woman actually evidencing a masculine determination rather than a low self-worth.

Ultimately, if passing on gay DNA were the issue, then I also don't understand encouraging homosexuals to "shut up, get married, fake it, and start a family." Doesn't remaining gay actually prevent the chance of gay DNA from being passed down?

I guess my attitude is hopelessly old-fashioned in its outlook.

Thumbs Up to: tolerance, gay gentrification improving real estate values, gay characters in sitcoms and movies, awareness of violent gay bashing, no job discrimination, and Don't Ask, Don't Tell in most arenas. If the anti-gay crowd doesn't like this, tough.

Thumbs Down to: gay "marriage" and gay adoption, special legal protections and hate crime laws, gay clergy, openly gay military service, public funding of sex addictions and sex changes. And gays who don't know how to shut the F - - - up. If gays don't like this, get over it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I would like to hear one, just one, argument in defense of homosexuality that does not equally apply to adult incest.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Homosexual sex between consenting adults cannot result in the conception of a child, so it's does not have the potential to harm any innocent third party.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Those who condemn homosexual behavior, whether out of simple disgust or for religious reasons, have to believe that gay people, indeed, do have a choice, and are simply being willfully immoral."

No it does not. This is a straw man argument. We are all born with challenges to moral behavior, some more than others. There is nothing that forces one to practice certain lifestyles or sexual practices.

Similary, whether or not homosexuality is "curable", there are certainly therapies - and not all are "reparative therapy" - that help one to deal with it, like any other issue. Are they perfect? I suggest you put away the DSM and open a PDR, and see the limitations of, say, OCD treatment. Does this mean people with OCD shoud not try to get help with it?

Laws such as a California law preventing religious teenagers with homosexual tendencies from getting help in living a normal married life (to the extent possible) are nothing other than religious persecution of the absolute worst kind.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"There is nothing that forces one to practice certain lifestyles or sexual practices."

Actually, this is true. This argument should apply to everyone, including gays.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Jason Collins "follow-up" article in next week's Sports Illustrated will reveal he's also ambidextrous!

Another "bravery" phone call from the president is anticipated!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

But what do nature or nurture have to do with the stupid folly of gay "marriage"? Nothing. It's a separate argument.

I always find it interesting that the gay topic unfailingly tends to drift toward male behavior. As usual, women are an afterthought. In this case, straight women.

How appalling that heterosexuals (both male and female) should repeatedly suggest that gay men fight their desires and just get married. What a damned rotten thing to do to a nice woman. Is this what men think is best for women? Is this what women think is best for themselves?

I find it odd that so many have rushed to the defense of Jason Collins' girlfriend as a victim (she is), but why simultaneously encourage these men to fake it and "just get a girlfriend."

I guess, in then end, it's still a man's world after all.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mike you make a really good point. Marriage is hard enough when two people are sexually attracted to each other! And if you throw in this same group's religious aversion to divorce, you are literally encouraging the marriages of people who will be surely be miserable.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, in my case, my religion (Judaism) makes a big difference between male and female homosexual acts. While both are prohibited to us, the former is much more serious.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Does this guy have a real job? Does he make a living by rambling commentary on a website, going and getting NOWHERE?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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