Aren’t People Born Gay?

Over a decade ago I began to seriously investigate what “makes” a person gay.  Because there were people that I loved and with whom I was in community, I wanted a deeper understanding of where they were coming from.  I thought that there were two options- genetics or choice. At the time, from the pro-gay marriage camp I heard the declaration that it was all biology.  From the Christian world I heard “it’s clearly a choice that they’re making.”  The former was reinforced by the “gay gene” that was discovered in the late 90s and then debunked.  The latter because of the premise that God wouldn’t make someone gay and then call it a sin.  So clearly it was a choice.  The objection to the latter point has been echoed through conversations with friends and in much of the literature that I’ve read: “Why would I ever choose to be attracted to another woman?  These feeling are unwanted.”

As I write, I recognize that some bristle at the very question of “what causes same-sex attraction?”  Some may respond “Nothing ‘caused’ this.  It’s who I am!”  And yet, the gay friends that have honored me by sharing their story with me have all gone through a period where they asked themselves this very question, whether or not they feel they have found an answer.

There are some people who get into gay or lesbian relationships because they feel it is safer than an opposite-sex relationship and some people who just decide to give it a try (I know both).  However the majority of people who are in same-sex relationships are there because they have what they describe as an irresistible attraction to the same sex, and I believe them.

If you find anyone who says they “know” what causes same-sex attraction, they don’t.  Maybe they have an idea about why they are, maybe they feel they are born that way, but unbiased research does not point to any indisputable conclusion.  What is clear is that many people who are gay have some similarities in their life story– very few of which are “chosen” by them.  Several factors that seem to surface within studies and throughout the personal testimony of many gays follow:

  • Possible prenatal factors such as hormone levels, maternal stress, temperamental factors, the predominance of older brothers, etc… (There are so many theories/studies on biological factors for same-sex attraction, it’s hard to keep up.  Seriously, one cannot read enough.)
  • Early sexual experience (much of the time perpetrated by someone older, aka- child sexual abuse).  While experts debate on the ways sexual trauma is manifest within children, there is little dispute that sexual abuse is formative.
  • Rejection by one’s same-gender peers often for not fitting traditional gender stereotypes.
  • Distance/absence/rejection by one’s same-sex parent or other influential adult.  (This seems to be more the case for gay men than lesbians.)
  • The decision to act on same-sex feelings.  (When a sexual thought is acted upon, for either gay or straight, the sexual experience reinforces itself within the same area of the brain affected by cocaine and adrenaline– making it highly addictive.  Homosexual activity strengthens homosexual cravings.)

A typical story may go something like this: a boy is born more “sensitive” than his brothers.  He has a tender heart, loves to please and may avoid conflict.  As a result, he may be excluded by his same-sex peers (which is exceptionally painful for anyone.)  Perhaps he has a father or other significant male figure in his life who says “why do you like to play with dolls?  Only girls like dolls,” or who makes him feel like he doesn’t belong.  Maybe because of the isolation or because he is less likely to fight back he is taken advantage of by an older cousin, or other man.  (I once heard a group of gay men say that within their community, the average age of first sexual experience was SEVEN.)  This boy continues to be rejected by his male peers in high school. (I remember watching a friend, who later identified as gay, be mercilessly teased and sometimes tormented by other guys in high school.  His solace was with us, the girls- perhaps further reinforcing that he was something “other.”)  And then, as many researchers posit, this boy’s legitimate, unmet, emotional hunger for male companionship and acceptance becomes sexualized when puberty hits and he chooses to act on his proclivities. Looking back, the boy may say “I always knew I was gay.”

While there is NO formula for being gay (some people experience all of the above factors and are straight, some experience few of the above factors and are gay) the aforementioned scenario is not uncommon.  I have heard echoes of this sequence from several gay men personally and read similar stories/blogs.  That gay teens are ostracized and bullied is all over the news these days.  Their struggle is real.  Is there a possibility that the rejection of their gender– typified by their exclusion from their same-gendered peers– actually contributes to their same-sex attraction?  Excruciating and possible.

Honestly, at the heart of any non-simplistic discussion about homosexuality is the issue of gender.  What does it mean to be a man or a woman?  What is the value/significance of gender?  What results from a strong gender-identity?  These are hot topics in 2012 and involve limitless opinions and conclusions.  Some in the emerging left would say that gender isn’t fixed, that we are not determined by gender but rather we “perform” gender.  Some conclude that there really isn’t much difference between men and women.  Others say that there is a sexual and gender spectrum and that you can fall into different places on that spectrum at different times in your life.

I say that like race and age, gender is a sacred mark of who we are and foundational to self-esteem.  Being comfortable and confident in your race, age, and gender are important pieces in celebrating our individuality.  Beyond genitalia and sexual “orientation,” there are male/female differences in brain function, ocular differences, and social expression, among others.  These distinctions aren’t indicative of value.  Being secure in your masculinity or femininity, whether or not you fit into the traditional gender stereotypes, is an important emotional piece of both childhood and adulthood.  I’m enjoying reading Secure Daughters, Confident Sons by Glenn T. Stanton.  It goes beyond the typical distinctions (boys like sports and rockets, girls like sewing and dancing) to the core of our dissimilar emotional and developmental needs which are wondrous and beautiful. Both mothers and fathers play a significant, distinct, and unique role in the development of a child’s self-esteem and gender identity.  (More about this in “You’re only against gay marriage because of your religion- Part 2 Parent Gender is Relevant”) But when those legitimate God-given needs are not met, there can be personal fallout manifest in various ways.

Here’s my personal conclusion: people are not “born gay.”  I think that biology may play a role, but not necessarily a definitive role. I think social and emotional brokenness (hurt, rejection, trauma) contributes strongly to same-sex attraction.  I think that experiences and choice play a part in “orientation.”  I say “orientation” because it’s unlikely that someone’s sexuality is fixed from a young age, but rather becomes inflexible after being repeatedly reinforced (known as “neuro-pathways”) by choice and experience.  You can disagree with me, but these deductions fit the individual stories of many who identify as gay and are supported by what little we know scientifically about homosexuality.

If homosexuality is cultivated by layers of social and emotional brokenness, it should drive us to lovingly listen listen listen to our gay friends and family.  It should cause us to reel in those youth who are struggling with broken relationships at home or at school.  It should motivate us as grown women to make every effort to seek out and embrace the “tom-boy” girl and for older men to affirm the little boy who can’t stand football but who loves to sing.  It should prompt us to teach our children to include and stand up for others in their school, especially if they’re getting picked on.  It should also lead us to do an honest self-inventory and seek forgiveness if we have possibly contributed to a gay person’s (or ANY person’s) brokenness.

If my theory is right, this kind of genuine love in action can have a life-long healing impact.  If I’m wrong, this kind of genuine love in action can have a life-long healing impact.

Also see “Aren’t People Born Gay- Part 2


22 thoughts on “Aren’t People Born Gay?

  1. Thank you for sharing your insight. Though my close-up observations are much more limited than yours, everything i have seen supports what you have said here.

    I would add also, specifically for women who enter a lesbian way of life, that this appears, in certain cases, to be a direct response to rejection or abuse in a heterosexual relationship. At least in my observation. Especially if coupled with the lack of a healthy father daughter relationship in the formative years, i have witnessed more than one heterosexual woman enter a committed lesbian relationship following abuse or rejection from a man, apparently (i don’t know this for sure) finding safety with the familiar.

    I very much appreciate your conclusion. Genuine love. In every situation is the answer.

    • Thank you for your comments, Beth!!! Somehow I missed this comment… for a couple months. But I LOVE “seeing” your voice on here. Please keep the feedback coming!

  2. I love your blog, and especially its name!

    In regards to the above post, Id like to emphasise the “correlation does not imply causation” idea. I agree that both
    1. Rejection by one’s same-gender peers often for not fitting traditional gender stereotypes.
    2. Distance/absence/rejection by one’s same-sex parent or other influential adult.
    are frequent components in the life of a gay male. But Im not sure whether they contribute to influencing that person’s sexuality, or whether rather those experiences just arise from the essence of being gay.

    #2 could be an effect rather than a cause. One of the less intuitive aspects to understanding the distance between a parent and a child, is that it is not necessarily the parent who generates the distancing. If a child appears persistently disinterested in one parent, it’s understandable that the parent may back off a little, thinking that it’s best to not unduly annoy or intrude upon the child and instead decide that if distance leads to happiness for the child, then distance is a good thing.

    And if there is in fact a causal relationship between #1 and being gay, how do we know which has a causal effect on which, IE does the child not conform to gender stereotypes and then suffer rejection from same-gender peers and turn gay, or is it the reverse where the child suffers rejection from same-gender peers and then subconsciously/consciously decides not to fully align with that gender.

    And finally, as you have already intimated, although ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ are both same-sex attractions, they are not the same thing. The nature of lesbianism has quite a number of differences to the nature of gay males, including degree of fluidity of sexual orientation (unlike lesbians, gay males tend to be not fluid at all in this regard).

  3. You say you have come the the conclusion that people are not “born gay”, but do you even have the option of coming to the conclusion that they are? I think not. To do so would invalidate so much of your world view. Among the gay folks you have had detailed conversations with, what percentage do you suspect would have also come the conclusion that they were not “born gay”?

    • Thank you again for great follow-up questions. First, I have come to the conclusion that people are not born gay because there is no evidence that they are. This from the American Psychological Association:

      There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

      To your second point, a biblical worldview recognizes that this world, including our physical bodies, is tainted. In the beginning, everything that was biological was good, perfect and beneficial. That is no longer the case. Through fallen human choices (such as fetal alcohol syndrome) or genetic anomaly (such as albinism or down syndrome) or genetic predispositions (obesity, depression, cancer) humans can be born with conditions that are outside of the realm of normal and/or beneficial. While I don’t believe that God “causes” any of these conditions, He does allow all manner of genetic and biological maladies in this life. (The question of “why” suffering exists is the subject for another blog post.) By no means is that which is natural, biological or genetic always beneficial.

      So while there is no evidence to suggest that biological factors contribute solely to the development of one’s “sexual orientation,” if a biological cause was discovered, it would by no means shatter my worldview. It would just be one more “natural” tendency that, for the Christian, would need to be governed by the principles of scripture and the authority of the Spirit of Christ living within.

      My very first blog post was “Christianity according to Jesus” where I highlighted several commands that Jesus gives for His followers most of which go against our human nature (turn the other cheek, bless those who persecute us, deny yourself, etc.) Throughout scripture, God issues directives that oppose our innate tendencies. The whole point of Ephesians chapter four is that we are to “put off” the old nature (things that come naturally) and “put on” the new nature that is created to be like God.

      In the post “If Jesus didn’t mention homosexuality, it’s not an essential part of His teaching” I discuss the negative tendencies that I struggle with- greed, exaggeration, and desiring my comfort over obedience to God. All of these characteristics could be considered “natural” and in my case I will argue that they are in-born. Certainly no one had to teach me these things. They are either encouraged or tempered by environment but not caused. (And in that post I didn’t mention the greatest and most all-encompassing of my struggles: “thinking of myself more highly than I ought,” otherwise known as pride.)

      If you are looking honestly at Christianity according to Christ and the New Testament, this faith teaches that we must die to ourselves if we are to follow Christ. It doesn’t matter if our behaviors, emotions, and tendencies are in-born or the product of environment or choice. Except for our race, age, and gender, we must be prepared to lay everything at the foot of the cross so that God can mold us more into the likeness of His Son.

      Regarding your final question, “Among the gay folks you have had detailed conversations with, what percentage do you suspect would have also come the conclusion that they were not “born gay”? Probably half of them feel that there is a biological component and three of them feel that it is an irresistible biological orientation, though one of the three is choosing to live a celibate life. (A more detailed answer to this question can be found in the post “The reality of Sexual Orientation.”) Now admittedly I probably come into contact with, and am drawn to testimonies/books/blogs, of those who have left the homosexual lifestyle or who are questioning their sexual identity.

      A Christian worldview is grounded in reality. Therefore fact, reason and empiricism is not a threat. In this subject, as in so many others, the challenge is cutting through the popular spin and looking honestly at what really is. Regarding the “causes” of same-sex attraction, we have more questions than answers.

      • You have presented a well reasoned argument for your position in both humility and love. I appreciate that.

        I have struggled with homosexuality from a Biblical perspective for years. I have vacillated from left of middle to right of middle to middle. I have met homosexuals that I believe chose that lifestyle and those that I believe were born with an affinity to be attracted to the same sex. Their first crushes were males (I have not known as many lesbians, personally.)

        It is very confusing and it is such a divisive issue. I have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t much matter what I believe. I always come back to Jesus and trying to live by His example. I know that Jesus would have welcomed homosexuals to hear His message. I can picture the homosexual in place of the prostitute that was saved from stoning by Jesus.

        If homosexuals are born that way, the same as if they were born without arms, without a heart valve, or with red hair, then I must accept that I just cannot know everything that God was trying to teach us in the Bible. I take comfort that one day I will know the answer; though perhaps in heaven I will not care.

        If homosexuals choose their lifestyle and God finds this lifestyle a perversion, then I must again accept that I just cannot know everything about God’s plan as I know we all struggle with sin even after we accept Christ as our Savior. The difference is that most of us do not have a whole army of people judging us and condemning us for the sins that we have not conquered this side of the grave.

        As I see it, Christians have made a choice to focus on homosexuality and abortion as the last two bastions of defense against looking like secular society. At least I think a lot of Christian fundamentalists see it that way. Unfortunately, by acting upon this belief (fear), they have turned away from what truly sets Christians apart from secular society; reflecting the love and grace of Jesus.

        If homosexuals are, in fact, born without the ability to be attracted to the opposite sex, we must have empathy. I know that if I am not attracted to someone, it almost causes me physical pain to imagine being with that person on an intimate level. What a painful life to live, even if it is the one God chose.

        Thanks again for providing a safe place to exchange ideas on such a difficult topic.

  4. Thank you so much for your comments. The issue IS complex and multi-faceted. It touches on so many areas of life, public and private. It is unfair to try and tie it all up in a slogan or bumper sticker. People are complex, the Word of God is vast, and we all bring our own filters to the table. I appreciate your contribution to the conversation!

    Other posts that may be of interest to you:

  5. Reblogged this on An Ex-Heartbreaker's Diary and commented:
    I’ve always believed that homosexuality is something you were born with. But after reading this post, I began to question that idea and I wondered how I came up with it. Anyway, her post may be a little long but it’s worth the read.

  6. If you are going to ask the question then you need to look a little harder for the answers. Your assessment above draws on dated resources and ignores all of the recent biological science on canalisation and epigenetics. If you haven’t understood this then you haven’t begun to grasp the modern understanding of how all sexuality is formed, gay and str8. The most recent article that got a lot of press a couple of months ago was this one.

    But the article itself builds on the research of many others whose papers are referenced in the article.

    Happy reading.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. Most who care about this issue place emphasis on certain possible factors depending on their own story, personal experience and those they know who are gay. But if I am out of step with “the modern understanding of how all sexuality is formed”, then so it the American Psychiatric Association:

      There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

      It is not unusual for a study to “discover” something new that they claim is responsible for the development of one’s sexual orientation. But there is no agreement within research that points to an undeniable cause. And honestly, for Christians, I don’t think that the “cause” make any difference about how we are to love those who are gay. And whether or not being gay is biological doesn’t change the reality of scripture that those who experience same-sex attraction are precious and valuable AND that God opposes homosexual practice.

      • Yes, a 2008 statement made by the APA is certainly likely to be out of step with recent biological research. Certainly it is not conclusive but all of the evidence has been pointing in one direction for some time now. The only ones who continue to point to non biological factors are the Christian lobby groups who need someone other than God to blame for the *homosexual perversion*. You said that it is your personal opinion that people are not born gay. The research indicates otherwise. So, why have you said that? I think its because the idea of a cause does in fact effect your assessment of homosexuality as a Christian. If God made them gay and then calls that wrong… then God is terribly unfair at best and a monster at worst.

      • The only other thing to add that is of significance is that the American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, American Councelling Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, American Psychological Association, American School Counsellors Association, National Association of Social Workers, have all stated that there is no pathology with homosexuality. In other words, there is nothing medically or psychologically wrong. There is nothing to fix.

        I acknowledge that this doesn’t necessarily have bearing on whether something is considered a *Sin* but it does effect how you view what should happen to the person. You have descried their sexuality as a *brokeness* and *in need of healing*. Depending on what you mean by that, you could be on dangerous ground and are speaking in a way that these organisations warn against, speaking in a way that would be psychologically damaging to any gay person who reads your blog.

        I know that your blog is all about compassion and love so Im sure you wouldn’t want this to happen.

  7. Christians who experience same-sex attraction come to different conclusions about how they want to move forward in their life with Christ. For most that means dying to an attraction that will never change. Some do seek counseling/therapy with mixed results. I do know people who have had seasons of same-sex attraction which are now over. I know others who wrestle with it on an off-and-on basis. The directive I have given for Christians throughout this blog is to be faithful to their gay friends and family and thereby show them the love of Christ.

    Those that I know who are gay have experienced sexual brokenness and some feel that their same-sex attraction is the product of a broken world. “Healing” doesn’t necessarily mean “becoming straight.” It means reaching a place where woundedness doesn’t drive decision-making and where one has peace with God.

  8. Pingback: Homosexuality in Romans 1 | TOTALTRUTH.NET

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  11. I agree with and appreciate so much your article and blog, and wanted to comment especially on the specific phrase you used about “acting on” sexual thoughts as reinforcing beliefs. One’s first sexual or pre-sexual experiences are very strong and become burned into the mind. This is why the political activist gay community has such a great desire to promote in the schools that it’s “okay to be gay” even at the elementary level, because normally kids at that age would not even be thinking about those things, so if they can make those “thoughts” a part of their consciousness at an early age, down the road, they will have a more difficult time differentiating when they made active decisios. When “homosexuality” becomes part of the conversation, then it becomes an option. It is just the same as the FACT that children of families of divorce are more likely to divorce. Family members of those who commit suicide are far more likely to consider suicide as an option and commit suicide. Growing up with a dialogue about homosexuality as an option, having gay relatives, can be a helpful influence to indoctrination, and there is a strong effort today to indoctrinate.

    The second part of your “acting on” sexual thoughts is by viewing homosexual pornography. There are so many opportunities for children to stumble onto gay pornography and to become hooked on viewing gay pornography and like any man who develops a particular viewing fetish, it is burned into their brains and they can begin to believe a lie about themselves. It can change by different thoughts, but it can become hard to believe about oneself. There is no difference between men addicted to forms of straight porn and men addicted to forms of gay porn. There are other factors that add to their stylized choices. Sex is a hugely strong urge and a world that provides so much opportunity to privately feed those urges is a dangerous place for the soul. A young person doesn’t realize that urge would be there regardless, so if factors have made them susceptible to homosexuality, then they don’t have the understanding to be able to differentiate, and then the fact that sin is deceitful…it is easy to become defensive especially when we don’t understand why.

    Finally, I would say that there is a dishonesty with the leaders of the gay agenda and many of the most verbally antagonistic homosexuals. They are everywhere and on every Christian blog trying to spew hatred and accusations of “hypocrisy” at any and all believers. They are campagning and we cannot act emotionally in response and so again kudos to thechristianbigot.

    To the person who is ensnared but has a heart to hear. God sees your heart. He knows your every thought. Over time, the voice of right and wrong within you can be silenced if you lie to yourself long enough. But if you are absolutely honest, you can find a gradual or sudden turninng point where you made a conscience decision to follow those sexual urges. No matter how they got there, you made a choice, nobody else. God gave you the strength the turn away. He never allows anybody to be tempted more than they have the ability to say no, you just did not seek God’s assistance in finding your way out.

    Maybe you didn’t get to this place on your own, maybe something was done to you (possibly in early childhood before you can even remember), maybe a combination of factors. It doesn’t matter how you got there, you have to realize, regardless of those things, you ALWAYS have a choice. I hear words like “we have a RIGHT to happiness” in these discussions. I can assure you that legitimizing gay marriage in our society will not solve the problems that are inherent in a same sex relationship. It will not solve the deep need for acceptance in your soul. It will only serve to bolster your resolve to cling to a lifestyle that is sinful and will send your soul in chains to a place of outer darkness that was reserved for the enemy and his angels. I implore you to reconsider your path.

    I have had a struggle with sex all my life and had I had factors where I would have considered experimenting with homosexuality, I’m sure I’d have had that fight. I can tell you that at any age, the mind is always a large part of the problem. What you believe determines your actions. Do you think you are the only ones with fears? How about fear of getting old, fear of being alone, fear of getting too old to enjoy sex, fear of not being able to have normal sex, not being able to get excited with your wife because of mental thoughts about all kinds of craziness besides homosexual sex. So, you’re not the only ones who have these struggles. But it takes some honesty to be in an open dialogue so you can realize that you can be free.

    REMEMBER. That is a Biblical word. God always tells us to remember the truth. There is a truth. Do not believe the lies that you have begun to cling to in order to rationalize your sinful lifestyle. The truth is what will set you free. When you finally realize that all the years of conditioning have brought you to a place where you have rationalized a particular belief set, BUT finally, you take the time to remember the tipping point, the turning point, the decision that you made to enslave yourself in this lifestyle, then you will realize that you CAN BE FREE!

    May you come to know the grace and peace of Jesus Christ and the freedom He offers you! I am praying foryour freedom.

    • Hi Sean. Thanks for your comments. I agree with so much of what you’ve said. But as I read your notes, what comes to my mind is that as we stand against our own demons, we stand with more courage and steadfastness if we have true friends at our side. God does give us a way out amidst any temptation, but often we need faithful voices helping us to identify that way of escape and then to walk with us on the path that leads to freedom. May we be people with whom our friends can share their greatest temptations and weaknesses and then filled with the Spirit so as to walk with them upon each step of biblical action. May we ourselves be transparent about our struggles with one or two members of the Body of Christ so that we can be a part of restoring a lost brother or sister. Thank you again for your comments, Sean.

      • That is so true! There are so many believers today who I believe love the Lord but are stay at home Christians. They have had a bad experience at some point in their life at a local church, and they will spend hours watching Christian television broadcasts or be in touch with online communities of believers, but they don’t want to get involved with a local church. We need each other, and we need to pray to find believers that can be a support system. We are arms and legs and parts of one whole body of our Lord Jesus Christ. If part of the body isn’t functioning, then we all suffer. We need each other.

        I also agree that we need accountability partners. That has been a failure in not teaching men who enter the ministry in Bible college to develop close relationships where we can feel free to confess our sins to each other before they become a huge problem in our life. So many have fallen into sin that way, and the same with church members. There has been a very large group of evangelical churches where people are so busy they didn’t learn how to rely on a daily walk with Christ and emphasis was not put on prayer in churches and they didn’t learn how to develop close enough friendships where they would hold each other accountable because their pastors never learned how themselves.

        As we find our families in more dire need, as we find ourselves without work for months on end looking for employment, I believe God can use desperate times to teach us what we never learned. I am praying more than ever for believers in this country, for my extended family and those whose lives I touch and for our brothers and sisters in Christ overseas. How can we enjoy our lavish lifestyles while they are being martyred for Jesus Christ? I am so thankful for God blessing to me, but I am determined to share what he has given to me and when our lifestyles match what we speak, and we find new ways to minister to those here and abroad instead of living what a life of ease, maybe gender challenged folk might find what we say to be believable and a life worth pursuing.

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