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A brief, explanation of why some
people have a homosexual orientation:

lesbian couple1

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Defining some terms:

First, we need to define some terms. Most human sexuality researchers agree that a person's sexuality is defined by their sexual orientation, not their sexual behavior.

We believe that the following estimates are reasonably accurate:

  • About 90% of adults have a heterosexual orientation: they are sexually attracted only to members of the opposite sex.

  • About 5% of adults are have a homosexual orientation: they are sexually attracted only to members of the same sex.

  • About 5% of adults have a bisexual orientation: they are sexually attracted to members of both sexes, but not usually to the same degree. They are the only group who may accurately be described as having a "sexual preference."

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Beliefs about the causes of homosexuality:

Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis. He believed that children raised by a dominating mother and emotionally distant father often became homosexuals later in life. However, after considerable research, most human sexuality researchers now believe that he was wrong. Instead, they now believe that homosexual orientation is a trait, like left-handedness. That is, a homosexual is born, not made. A person's sexual orientation is largely or completely determined before birth.

Researchers determined in the mid 20th century that homosexuality had some type of genetic cause. One really good indication is that while about 5% of male adults are gay, if one male identical twin happens to be gay, then his twin has a much higher probability than 5% of also being gay. Identical twins, of course, have identical DNA.

Researchers searched for decades to find "the homosexual gene" or genes in people's DNA, without much success. Finally, in the early 21st century, they found the answer in epigenetics.

Epigenetics involves the study of a layer of chemicals on the DNA, not in the DNA. It remains unchanged from the embryonic stage before birth, through fetalhood, birth, childhood, and throughout adulthood.

This finding solved a long-term mystery: why did identical twins -- twins with the same DNA structure -- sometimes have different sexual orientations develop as adults.

Researchers have recently developed an epigenetic test involving the analysis of saliva samples from a group of male identical twin adults of opposing sexual orientations. They were able to detect which twins had a homosexual orientation with an accuracy of 83%.

Further research will almost certainly increase the accuracy of this test in the future.

This finding cleared up a number of questions. Some are:

  • Why a homosexual orientation is discovered -- typically during one's teens -- and is not chosen.

  • Why a homosexual orientation is fixed during life and not changeable through therapy and counseling.

  • Why identical twins, sharing identical DNA, often discover that they have different sexual orientations.

  • Why homosexuals can often be detected in childhood by comparing the lengths of their fingers and other tests, even though their sexual orientation is often not obvious until they are in their teens.

However, many religious, political, and social conservatives sincerely hold very different beliefs that they have often derived from a literal interpretation of some Bible passages:

  • that homosexuality is defined not by one's orientation but by ones behavior.

  • that same-gender sexual behavior is hated by God and will prevent a person from attaining heaven.

  • that homosexuality is influenced by a person's upbringing, or often caused by sexual abuse at an early age.

  • that it is chosen later in life, and

  • that it can be reversed in adulthood through counseling, reparative therapy, and/or prayer.

Some argue that if the cause of homosexuals were purely genetic or epigenetic, then the percentage of male homosexuals would become successively lower with each generation. It would eventually disappear. That is because homosexuals tend to have fewer children than heterosexuals. This mystery was cleared up when it was found that close female relatives of homosexuals tend to have more children. This compensates for homosexuals themselves having fewer children and causes homosexuality to survive.

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Scary possibilities in the future:

It may be possible to develop a test in the future that will determine the eventual sexual orientation of an embryo or fetus before birth. That could conceivably present pregnant women with the option of choosing to have an abortion rather than give birth to a newborn who will eventually be homosexual. Since religious conservatives are often very strongly opposed to abortion, and also strongly opposed to homosexuality in their children, this would place many in an intolerable situation of having to choose between two alternatives that they would find unacceptable.

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Originally written: 2017-JAN-05
Most recently updated on: 2017-APR-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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