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Biology 103
2003 Second Paper
On Serendip

Do You Choose to be Homosexual?

Alice Goldsberry

Is it possible for one to choose his or her sexual orientation? Is one's sexual orientation something that can be changed, or is it a fixed attraction? These are a few questions, among many others that have been raised by researchers and religious organizations, as well as everyday people. Particularly, over the last decade there have been various debates over whether sexual orientation is based on genetic factors or whether it is a choice.

Most researchers find that homosexuality, like many others psychological conditions, is due to a combination of social, biological, or psychological factors (1). Psychiatrist Jeffrey Satinover believes influences including a postnatal environment have an impact on one's sexual orientation. Examples within this postnatal environment include cultural behavior as well as the behavior of one's parents and siblings (1). This is just one specification that one's sexual orientation is determined at a young age, and is a lifestyle that is not chosen. A statement issued by the American Psychological Association can support this observation. A spokesperson for the organization states that "...However, many scientists share the view that sexual orientation is shaped for most people at an early age through complex interactions of biological, psychological, and social factors" (1).

Richard Green, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles, conducted a study that compared effeminate and "masculine" boys (3). In this study, Green found that children who grow up to become homosexual often engage in "gender inappropriate play" in their early childhood. "Feminine" boys generally played four times as much with dolls and about a third as much with trucks than a "normal" or "masculine" boy (3). At the end of his study, Green concluded that 75% of emasculate boys grew up to be gay adults. He also found similar results among adult lesbians (3). Based on this study, one can further conclude that homosexuality is not a taught behavior, nor is it a copied behavior from other children in a family.

According to a study done by Simon LeVay, a former Associate Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and current Adjunct Professor of biology at the University of California, sexual orientation is based substantially on biological makeup. LeVay found that the brains of a group of gay men differed from those of straight men (2). Specifically, the nucleus of the hypothalamus, which triggers male-typical sex behavior, revealed a small, but significant difference in the clusters of neutrons of homosexual men as opposed to heterosexual men. It was also found that the nucleus looked more like that of a woman's, which amounts to approximately half the size of a heterosexual male (4). In addition, LeVay discovered that the corpus callosum, which is an arched bridge of nervous tissue that connects the two cerebral hemispheres of the brain, allowing communication between the left and right sides, is significantly larger in gay men than that of straight men (2). Three years after LeVay's observations, molecular biologist Dean Hamer, of the National Institute of Health in Washington D.C., found evidence that a specific gene carried on the maternal line had an influence on sexual orientation in men. These observations, in additions to many others, strongly suggest that sexual orientation is deeply rooted in biology, and is not simply a matter of choice.

When questioning topics surrounding sexual orientation, there is generally a conservative view, which includes conservative Christian organizations, and the liberal view, which is comprised mostly of religious liberals, gays, lesbians, mental health professionals, and human sexuality researchers (3). Conservative organizations believe that homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle, or something that one does. They believe that this choice is caused by poor parenting, and possible demonic possession. Conservatives also think that one's sexual orientation is determined in his or her teenage years, and that homosexuality is an addiction similar to drugs and alcohol (3). In the opposite spectrum, the views of most liberals coincide with the findings of many scientists and researchers. Liberals believe that homosexuality is not a chosen lifestyle, but is something that one is. They feel that it is genetically predetermined, in addition to some unknown environmental factor in early childhood. Furthermore, liberal thinkers believe that one's sexual orientation is determined in pre-school, and is fixed and therefore unchangeable (3).

Based on research and observations over the last decade or so, it can be concluded that sexual orientation is determined more so through genetic make-up than any other suggested factors. One's sexual orientation cannot just change over night or within a couple of years. In many aspects, it is much like those who sing and dance. To elaborate, when hearing the biographies of many of today's stars, it is said that a vast majority of them started singing or dancing between the ages two and five. The same concept holds true for one's sexual orientation; it is developed early in one's childhood.


1)Is Sexual Orientation Fixed at Birth?

2)Is Being Gay Natural and Do We Have a Choice?

3)Homosexuality: Chosen Lifestyle or Fixed Orientation?

4)Homosexuality: Genetics & the Bible

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