Can a person be born gay?
Question: "Can a person be born gay?"
Answer: In 1996, The Advocate, a gay and lesbian magazine, asked readers what they believed the potential impact would be to the advancement of gay and lesbian rights if a scientific discovery proves a biological basis for homosexuality. About 61 percent of the magazine’s readers asserted that such scientific research would advance the cause of gays and lesbians and lead to more positive attitudes toward homosexuality. For example, if one can be born gay, much as one can be born with brown eyes, then a fair society could not possibly condemn him as being unnatural or immoral. To that end, gay activists and the liberal media have actively encouraged the idea that homosexuality is inherited and unchangeable, and researchers have diligently sought scientific evidence to back up that claim. Unfortunately for the pro-homosexuality movement, the research on this subject has failed to establish any scientific evidence that shows a purely genetic basis for homosexuality.
The controversy began with the work of Simon LeVay, M.D. In 1991, LeVay tested the brains of 41 cadavers and noted differences between homosexual versus heterosexual males. The hypothalamus, an area believed to regulate sexual activity, was smaller in homosexual males than in heterosexuals. Dr. LeVay believed the differences proved a biological basis for homosexuality, but he failed to consider a variety of reasons, other than genetic, that the brains were different. First, all 19 of the homosexual cadavers had died of AIDS, a disease known to affect the neurological system. It could be that the disease had shrunk the hypothalamus. Second, scientists who study brain biochemistry know that the way a person thinks affects the way his brain functions; specifically, it affects the neurochemicals released in the brain and the way certain pathways grow and change. Could the structural brain differences have started with the difference in thoughts between homosexuals and heterosexuals, rather than with genetics? Third, there is no proof linking hypothalamus size with homosexuality, either as a cause or effect.
In 1993, Dr. Dean Hamer, a pro-gay activist, made the astounding claim in his research that there may be a gene for homosexuality. His team of researchers began a series of gene linkage studies, in which families with several homosexuals underwent genetic analysis to determine if any chromosomal variants could be found in the family and if the variant correlated with those individuals who displayed the homosexuality. Although Hamer's study sample was very small, he found a significant linkage between gays and a marker on the maternal X chromosome, Xq28. Additional studies with larger sample sizes produced conflicting results in the linkage to Xq28. It is important to note that Hamer’s experiments have never been validated; in fact, other groups of researchers have discredited Hamer’s work as non-replicable or even fraudulent.
Even if there were some genetic commonalities among homosexuals, associated characteristics do not prove a causal link. To illustrate, a genetic study among professional athletes would probably show that a significant percentage of these stars share certain genetic sequences. One might erroneously conclude that the genetic sequences for increased speed, agility and strength prove that engaging in professional sports is a heritable trait. However, no genetic sequence can account for human choice and the effects of environment. People who have the genetic traits of an athlete may naturally gravitate toward professional sports or be encouraged to play. Although athletes share some common traits, being a professional athlete itself is not heritable. The culture in which an individual matures and the choices he makes decide his career path.
There are many researchers who cite environmental factors as major contributors to homosexual feelings. They strongly believe that negative early childhood experiences in an unloving or non-supportive home environment are a critical part of this process. Common elements seem to include an emotionally withdrawn or physically absent father and an overbearing, fawning or over-protective mother. In many cases, there are reports of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Disruption of gender identification may contribute to the development toward homosexuality. This process begins between ages two and four. During this phase, children move from their primary connection with the mother to seek out deeper attachments with the parent of the same gender. For males, the relationship between a boy and his father is the primary means of developing a secure gender identity. As a father and son share time together, the father expresses his value and interest in the son and gives to the son a sense of masculinity. The boy begins to develop a sense of his own gender by understanding himself in relation to his father. Conversely, a mother who is distant, abusive, or physically absent or a mother who is viewed by her daughter as being weak (such as when the mother is abused by males) may disrupt her daughter’s identification with being feminine.
Peer attachments with same-sex friends also play a role in developing gender identity. Eventually, after years of interaction and bonding with same-sex peers, children enter puberty and begin to pay attention to the opposite sex. When this natural process is disrupted, it feels natural for a child to love and crave the attention of those of the same sex. When children with certain temperaments initially perceive rejection of the same-sex parent, they detach and bond with the other parent. They begin to adopt the patterns and attributes of the opposite sex. However, there is always a longing for a connection with the same-sex parent, love and affirmation from the same gender. These children believe that they were born that way, having craved love and attachment with the same-sex parents for as long as they can remember. Homosexual behavior thus begins as an emotional craving, not a sexual craving. It reflects a legitimate need for non-sexual love, an emotional need that ultimately becomes sexualized with the onset of puberty.
Most researchers have concluded that sexual orientation is a complex, multifactorial issue in which biological, social and psychological factors combine to play a role in the ultimate sexual orientation of an individual. According to Julie Harren, Ph.D., the formula for this interplay between factors might be represented by these equations:
--Genes + Brain Wiring + Prenatal Hormonal Environment = Temperament.
--Parents + Peers + Experiences = Environment.
--Temperament + Environment = Homosexual Orientation.
What’s missing from these equations are the existence of a soul, the choice of the individual, and the temptation of the devil (see James 1:14).
Although it may be easier, psychologically, for a homosexual to believe that homosexuality is inborn, the accumulated scientific evidence suggests otherwise. Homosexuals may have a genetic predisposition, but human choice is still a factor. A predisposition is not a constraint. Ultimately, sexual orientation is determined outside of the womb. For those who are unhappy living a homosexual lifestyle, this truth offers hope for change. Clinical experience has shown that, with help, some homosexuals can change learned responses and defense mechanisms to early painful experiences.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, the sin of homosexuality is listed right next to theft. Just as there is no genetic excuse for stealing, there is no genetic excuse for homosexuality. Environment, culture, and choice make one a thief, and the same factors make one a homosexual.
Christ died for homosexuals. God loves persons of all sexual orientations, just as He loves all sinners. The Bible says, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ "is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). The gospel of Christ "is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). In Christ alone we find the definitive source for healing, restoration, forgiveness, and comfort. He is the way by which we can all experience the affirming, unconditional love, value, and acceptance of our Father in heaven.
Recommended Resources: 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality by Mike Haley and Logos Bible Software.
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Questions about Apologetics and Worldview
Can a person be born gay?