The argument concerning basis of sexual orientation seems very similar to the argument behind “Nature vs. Nurture;” there are people that pick a side, but the real answer is somewhere in the middle. In a presentation on her research into the origins of sexual orientation, Dora B. Goldstein, a professor of molecular pharmacology at Stanford, studied the influence of both environment and genetics in sexual orientation, a relationship that “all kinds of behavioral studies indicate.” She focused on a traceable genetic influence, through familial lines, particularly maternal genes, and even a specific region of the X chromosome (also passed on to men through the mother) that has been linked to homosexuality in men (Goldstein, 1995). A problem with this research is while there has been discussion since the 1990’s regarding the discovery of a “gay gene,” researchers have yet to pinpoint a specific gene.
Another article , exploring the history of the biological basis of sexual orientation, cited the work of psychologist Franz J. Kallman who performed the first twin studies focusing on sexual orientation. Kallman studied both monozygotic and dizygotic male twins; in the dizygotic twins, ” 60% showed no evidence of homosexuality, while 11.5% exhibited a homosexual orientation meriting a 5 or 6 rating on the Kinsey scale” (Murphy, 2011). In the monozygotic studies, however, the twins showed the same sexuality 100% of the time. This led Kallman to conclude there was definite “gene controlled disarrangement in the balance between male and female . . . tendencies.”(Murphy, 2011). A problem with Kallman’s research that makes it difficult to accept his evidence is that, for one, he only used male twins so his data is not representative and we don’t know how random his sample is considering he had to find specifically male sets of twins for a study on sexual orientation.
There used to be an idea, and some people still believe it today, that sexual orientation is a choice. This idea led to “reparative therapies,” meant to curb homosexual men and women’s “tendencies” (Jenkins, 2010). In his research into historical ideas on the basis of sexual orientation, William J. Jenkins discusses the possibility of a non-biological basis for sexuality which he claims can be seen in the fact that homosexuality men and women often report having earlier heterosexual or bi-sexual relationships. This also rings true to Alfred Kinsey’s idea of the fluidity of sexuality and the concept that sexuality is on a spectrum, not just one classification (Kinsey, 1948). The problem with the idea of inconsistent sexual relationship history is that sexual orientation has been and is still a taboo subject for many people, so self-reporting may lead to inaccurate responses, or people may have had early heterosexual relatoinships to hide their true orientation.
I, like most modern day researchers, tend to see sexuality as somewhere in the middle, although I am leaning more toward a genetic basis with some influence from the environment and what is learned from society. Society’s view of sexual orientation is very important because is teaches kids when they are just starting to make these discoveries about themselves, whether what they are feeling is right, natural, acceptable, or normal. The issue I see with both arguments is this; if sexual orientation is seen as a “choice,” then people will use that as an argument against gay marriage, claiming a gay person could just choose to be straight if they want to get married. If orientation is seen as genetic, people against the idea may see it as a “medical condition” that is treatable, leading us back to the medical dark ages of mandated hormonal therapy and conversion therapies. The most important thing for people to find out about homosexuality is that no matter someone’s orientation, whether it is a choice or not, they are human beings who deserved to be treated as equals and given equal access to civil rights.
Goldstein, D. (1995). Biological basis of sexual orientation. Stanford University News Service.
Jenkins, W. J. (2010). Can Anyone Tell Me Why I’m Gay? What Research Suggests Regarding The Origins of Sexual Orientation. North American Journal Of Psychology, 12(2), 279-295.
Kinsey, Alfred C. et al. (1948/1998). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders; Bloomington: Indiana U. Press. [pp. 636-659.]
Murphy, T. F. (2011). A Brief History of the ‘Gay Gene.’. Genewatch, 24(6), 11-12.