Gay, nurture or nature?


I don’t necessarily believe that all people who are gay were born gay.

Humanity is a spectrum and sexuality falls on that spectrum. You’ll hear people say (myself included) that sexuality is fluid. I very much believe that. We know that there is no gay gene. But there are epi-marks that act as switches on the genes to affect them. This happens in the womb. It’s one of the reasons why homosexuality hasn’t been weeded out by evolution. If it was purely genetic it could potentially be weeded out. But it’s not.

That said, we have to consider nature itself. Human beings have a strange way of classifying things. For some reason we tend to believe that when it comes to humans, nature is purely a physical thing with some mental side effects due to physical abnormalities in the brain. We rarely consider how humans think as also being natural. In fact we don’t like to think this way because it tends to undermine our concept of free will. We tend to hold this firm belief that we have absolute free will. Undercutting this belief is dangerous for us. If people don’t have free will then they really aren’t responsible for their actions right? That pretty much voids everything. Suddenly the murderer and rapist know not what they do. Suddenly the guy (or girl) who works hard to “make it” really didn’t do it out of self drive but instead because they had no other choice. All of our heros and villians are reduced to characters in a book playing out a predetermined storyline.

Then of course there is the fact that we feel we have fee will. Afterall we think about things and we act on some things and not on others. We change our minds about things. So we actively make choices. We must have free will right?

I’ve had discussions in the past with some enlightened folks about free will and our general conclusion was that free will really does not exist. Only the illusion of free will exists. I’m not entirely convinced of that. I think there is a bit of both going on here. I can’t explain how that works. It seems there would be a contradiction but I’m sure there is an explaination somewhere down the rabbit hole. Quantum physics seems like a contradiction of newtonian physics and yet it all seems to work.

So what does this have to do with homosexuality? The idea is simple, you have very little control over the world around you. Little control over who you are. You did not ask to be born. You had no control over who raised you, the color of your skin, your genetics, the country you were born into or the first language you spoke. What influenced you is also beyond your control. Why do certain songs resonate with you more than others? Why are you attracted to that person and not the other? Who are you really, do you even know? You think you know. You try to explain to yourself and others who you are. You grasp onto certain things that seem to be the most consistent. But you weren’t always who you are today and there is a good chance that who you are twenty years from now is not the same as today.

Human beings are fluid. We may have characteristics about ourselves that never seem to change, some of them don’t. But did you ever really have control over what those characteristics were to begin with? Why did you chose A instead of B. Maybe you reasoned it out and came to the conclusion that A was the better choice based on a number of factors. But even when you reasoned it out there were a number of other factors that came into play that you were completely unaware of. Influences and knowledge you gained throughout life that may have shaped you and been completely out of your control. For example, you may have chosen to read this article, but you can’t chose your first impression of it or the thoughts that might randomly pop in your head as you think it through.

Sexuality is just one of so many things in the spectrum of life. It doesn’t need to be a purely physical trait in order for it to be natrual. Blue may be your favorite color, but physically the human eye has more green receptors in it. By purely physical standards, everyone’s favorite color should be green. But it’s not. Other factors come into play. You could argue that someone’s favorite color is a choice. Favorite colors aren’t determined by genetics. But if they are more attracted to blue that is not simply a choice . They really are more attracted to blue. It may very well be that they are more attracted to blue for a number of reasons unknown to them. Various influences throughout their life. Maybe positive reinforcement of that color. Maybe it was the color of their favortire cartoon character as a child or the color of a car they thought was really cool when they were young. Who knows?

So we can’t dismiss homosexuality as purely a choice. People make the mistake of coming to that conclusion when they see people who have acted straight their whole lives suddenly “turn” gay in their twenties or thirties or forties. Maybe they were always gay and just didn’t want to come out about it due to fear. Maybe they didn’t fully understand it themselves until now. Maybe they really did turn gay as they got older due to hormonal changes or various other unknown influences. It would be hard to call that gay. That’s more bisexual.  I think more people naturally fall on the bisexual side than strictly gay or straight. Even some people who call themselves gay or straight are really more bisexual or fluid if they were to examine themselves completely. They develop different attractions over time and perhaps even change their bias. Who knows why? Maybe part of it is choice, part society and part influences unknown. Does it really matter? All orientations are perfectly natural. Even switching it up over time is perfectly natural. But then, techincally speaking, all things are natural. Unless something is supernatural than it is part of the natural world.

I think that saying it’s a gay gene today or saying that people are born gay is really more of a social marketing piece. The latter is not entirely inaccurate, but doesn’t really go into detail. We use this marketing piece because it’s easy to use. In a fight for equal rights we can say that someone is born gay and it’s out of their control. People take that with weight. It’s easier than having to explain everything I said above. Especially when you face religious fanactics who are convinced that gay people are consciously making a choice to be gay. Well, the truth is, yeah a lot of them are. At least to the degree that they are choosing to live the gay lifestyle. But they aren’t choosing to be attracted to who they are attracted to.

There is no way to control or prevent this through culture or law without people suffering. Our goal as a would should be to reduce suffering and enhance freedom for everyone.

What we really should be saying is, who cares? What does it really matter if someone is gay and choses to live openly that way? If it makes them happy, let them be happy. It doesn’t matter what combination of things lead them to be that way.


3 thoughts on “Gay, nurture or nature?

  1. Ultimately, there may be so many factors influencing one’s sexuality that we may never know all of them. The binary gay/straight classifications are probably over-simplifications of a much richer spectrum of sexuality. And I have no doubt that there are cultural and societal factors that influence the extent to which you recognise and respond to sexual urges that do not fit in with the general expectations of your surrounding society.

  2. I don’t feel like I’ve chosen my sexual proclivities. What turns me on turns me on. Luckily for me, what turns me on mostly falls within the realm of what is considered normal heterosexual behavior. I don’t feel that I can choose to be turned on watching two guys get it on. It just doesn’t do it for me. Having said that I do believe we have free will and some alcoholics can avoid drink and some priests can avoid sex. Those aren’t easy choices for those people.
    Our past society has created an environment where when considering all factors of life, many gays have chosen to keep their desires hidden and have pretended to be “normal.” This has not been a healthy approach in my opinion and I’m glad to see our society becoming more accepting of gays. Transparency, acceptance, self understanding. It’s time for new “norms” in our society.

  3. Right about rushmore’s example on alcoholics and priests. Human beings at times can will themselves to do actions contrary that would get them into trouble. But child molesters and sex offenders often lie about how they are willfully trying to avoid the actions that got them into trouble in the first place.

    The summary:”What we really should be saying is, who cares? What does it really matter if someone is gay and choses to live openly that way? If it makes them happy, let them be happy. It doesn’t matter what combination of things lead them to be that way.” Basically we can legislate laws that prevent bigomy, child molesting, rape and domestic violence but we can’t really legislate to ban those who are gay or transgendered.

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