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A brief explanation of why people
have different sexual orientations:

lesbian couple1

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Defining some terms:

Most human sexuality researchers agree that a person's sexuality is better described by their sexual orientation, than their sexual behavior. Persons of all orientations generally find it impossible to change their orientation. However, they can often choose to be either sexually active or celibate.

We believe that the following estimates are reasonably accurate:

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

  • About 5% of adults are have a homosexual orientation: i.e. 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." Woody Allen (1935-) once said: "Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night."

Public opinion surveys are often inaccurate. They generally indicate that the percentage of those with a homosexual or bisexual orientation is smaller than the above values. A main cause of this discrepancy is that persons with minority orientations are often reluctant to reveal their sexual orientation to strangers conducting surveys over the phone.

The term "homosexual" is becoming a "snarl" word. Preferable terms are: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning). Sometimes additional letters are added to the acronym.

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Contrasting beliefs about the causes and nature of homosexual orientation and same-sex behavior:

We have scanned reports on this topic and find that essentially all express one of two incompatible teachings:

  • star Beliefs by most medical and mental health researchers, the LGBTQ community, religious liberals, and secularists:

    Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis. He wrote in his "Letter to an American Mother" that being gay is not a sickness. He said that people are what they are. There is no changing one's orientation -- or need to. 2 He believed that children raised by a dominating mother and an emotionally distant father more often became homosexuals later in life. However, after considerable research, most human sexuality researchers now believe that he was wrong on that point. They now believe that homosexual orientation is a trait, like left-handedness. That is, a person's sexual orientation is largely or completely determined before birth. This is often express by the expression: "a homosexual is born, not made."

    Researchers determined in the mid 20th century that homosexuality had a cause somehow related to a person's genes. One really good indication of this is that while about 5% of male adults are gay, if one male identical twin is gay, then his identical twin -- who has identical genes in his DNA -- has a much higher probability of also being gay, even if raised separately.

    Researchers searched for decades to find the lone "homosexual gene" or group of homosexual genes in people's DNA, without much success. Finally, in the early 21st century, they found the answer -- not in genetics, but in epigenetics. Epigenetics involves the study of a layer of chemicals covering the DNA, not within the DNA's genes. It remains unchanged from conception, through the embryonic and fetal stages of pregnancy, childbirth, childhood, and adulthood.

    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 extract data from their test subjects' epigenetic layer, and predict which twins have a homosexual orientation, with an accuracy of 83%.

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

    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 reparative therapy and counseling.

    • Why identical twins, who share 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.

  • star Beliefs still held by some conservative religious groups:

Many religious, political, and social conservatives sincerely hold very different beliefs, generally 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 after death.

  • That homosexuality is influenced -- or caused -- by the parenting style within a person's family of origin, and/or by sexual abuse at an early age.

  • That a homosexual orientation is chosen later in life, and

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

The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints -- the main Mormon denomination -- published a "Mormon handbook on Homosexuality" in 1981. 3 The First Presidency of the denomination said:

"... homosexuality is a sin in the same degree as adultery and fornication. Powerful forces are seeking to establish this sinful practice as an acceptable way of life. Homosexuality in men and women runs counter to divine objectives and the intended destiny of mankind. The Lord has declared, 'For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" ... Some claim homosexuality is incurable, therefore they seek to be considered a legitimate minority group protected by law. We should not be deceived by these false rationalizations. We must never lose our perspective amidst the world s clamor to justify and normalize immorality. According to the Lord's revealed word, the only acceptable sexual relationship occurs within the family between a husband and a wife."

Some religious conservatives argue that if the cause(s) of homosexuality 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. Yet, homosexuality has existed throughout recorded history. 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 results in homosexuality surviving from generation to generation.

Still, many religiously conservative news sources refuse to accept epigenetics as the cause of homosexual orientation. For example, LIfe Site News published an article "Are People Born Transgender" during 2018-MAR -- more than five years after the epigenetics discovery. It discusses the cause(s) of homosexual orientation and transgender identity. On homosexual orientation, they said:

    "It's also important that we remember the many sensational headlines that proclaimed that a gay gene (or the like) had been discovered. Every few years, a new "discovery" would be made about "proving" that people are born gay, only to be replaced by the latest "discovery," none of which proved definitive." 4

They correctly point out that a gay gene has never been found, but ignore the epigenetics findings.

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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 if they wanted to avoid giving birth to a newborn with a homosexual or bisexual orientation. Since religious conservatives are often very strongly opposed to abortion, and also strongly opposed to homosexuality in their children, this would place many potential parents in an intolerable situation of having to choose between two alternatives, both of which they would find unacceptable. Giving the newborn up for adoption may be the only real option for them.

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References used:

  1. Image © and downloaded from Dreamstime Stock Photos
  2. Michael Ruse, review of the book "Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation, by Simon LeVay, The Globe and Mail, 2017-MAR-26, at: The book can be purchased at: in Kindle, Hardcover and Paperback formats.
  3. "Full text of "Mormon handbook on Homosexuality 1981,", at:
  4. "Are people born transgender?" Life Site News, 2018-MAR-21, at:

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Originally written: 2017-JAN-05
Most recently updated on: 2019-JUN-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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