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Basic information on sexual orientation


About sexual orientation and behavior.
What causes sexual orientation:
Nature, nurture, a choice,
an addiction?
Can it be "cured?"

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About sexual orientation and sexual behavior:

star Most of the public agree that three sexual orientations exist. They are defined by a person's feelings of attraction to:

  1. Only persons of the opposite sex. They have a heterosexual orientation and include about 90% of all adults; or

  2. Only persons of the same sex. They include about 5% of adults who have a homosexual orientation; or

  3. Persons of both genders. They also include about 5% of adults who have a bisexual orientation. Most are not attracted to persons of both sex equally. This group, alone, can be said to have a "sexual preference."

Some regard asexuality -- lack of sexual attraction to other persons -- to be a fourth sexual orientation. But others believe that this idea is similar to not collecting stamps being a hobby.

star There are four main opinions about the cause of a person's sexual orientation:

  1. Many religious and social conservatives regard sexual orientation to be a choice that people make, perhaps in their teen years. Many feel that the cause cannot be genetic, because persons with a homosexual orientation tend to have fewer children. If homosexual orientation were purely caused by genetics, then they believe that the number of gays and lesbians would be reduced each generation and eventually die out. Yet homosexual orientation has existed for millennia.

  2. Most religious liberals and professional mental health organizations believe that a person's sexual orientation is determined before birth by genes in a person's DNA or by epigentics. The latter is a layer covering a persons DNA that turn individual genes on or off.

    Researchers have not been notably successful at identifying a "gay gene." However, an epigenetic test has been developed that analyzes a man's saliva and predicts with an accuracy of 83% whether they have a homosexual orientation. Researchers have also determined that the female relatives of homosexuals tend to have more children. This would tend to preserve homosexuality ocurring from generation to generation and prevent it from dying out.

  3. Others say that homosexual and bisexualorientation is caused by poor parenting, or sexual victimization as a child.

star There are two main opinions about the morality of sexual behavior, assuming that precautions are in place to prevent STI infection being transmitted, and to prevent unwanted pregnancy:

  1. There is only one normal, natural, and moral sexual behavior. It involves sexual activity between one woman and one man who are married to each other. All other behaviors are immoral.

  2. All sexual behavior that is mutually agreeable between two adults or older teens is moral.

star Beliefs about sexual orientation and behavior profoundly affect what a person believes about:

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Accuracy of public opinion polls:

Unfortunately, public opinion polls are notoriously inaccurate on some topics. People being polled by a stranger over the telephone often don't tell the truth. Two examples are:
  • When polling agencies ask adults in the U.S. whether they have attended a religious service in the past week, they generally obtain an affirmative answer from about 40% of the subjects. But when church attendance is directly measured by counting people entering churches, temples, mosques, etc. the actual value is about 20%. Many people believe that attending a church is a "good thing" and thus do not answer the question truthfully.

  • When polling agecies ask adults in the U.S. whether they are an Atheist, results range from 3% to 11%. Many people, including many Atheists themselves, believe that to be an Atheist is not "socially acceptable." However, a research group designed a public opinion poll that made an accurate estimate of the percentage of atheists without requiring the subject to admit directly that they were an Atheist. They found that about 26% of U.S. adults are actually Atheists.


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More about sexual orientation: Is it chosen or genetic; fixed or changeable?:

Many religious and social conservatives believe that sexual orientation is chosen and can be changed with some effort. In contrast, many religious and social progressives, and those in the LGBT community, feel that a person is born with a sexual orientation because of something related to their genetic structure and is fixed. Further, their sexual orientation can be detected by child psychologists in pre-school children. Ned Flaherty posted a comment on the web site stating that:

"Sexual orientation has been proven to have at least 21 biological links, which can be observed in: twins, birth order, finger length ratio, fingerprint ridge density, Caucasian limb/hand-to-height ratio, hair pattern, handedness, hearing, vocal pitch, eye blinks, verbal fluency, spatial memory, amygdala activity, hypothalamus nucleus size, penis size, auditory/inner-ear function, suprachiasmatic nucleus size, stress, sweat, brain size symmetry, and X chromosome Xq28. Some of these links differ by race, thus further proving a biological basis." 1

Stanford University researchers Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang, released a report in early 2018 documenting an Artificial Intelligence study in which over 30,000 portraits were uploaded from a dating web site and analyzed by computers in an attempt to identify which of the men and women had a homosexual orientation. Their computer programs correctly identified men who were gay 81% of the time and lesbian women 71%.

An article in stated:

"The study proclaimed that biologically speaking, a gay man’s facial structure proved to be more effeminate and a lesbian’s more masculine. ... The Stanford researcher said:

'Gay faces tended to be gender atypical. Gay men had narrower jaws and longer noses. Lesbians had a larger jaw'." 7

This supports the:

"Prenatal Hormone theory of sexual Orientation. According to theory, one’s sexuality is determined before they are born, based on hormonal exposure in the womb.

Basically, characterististics like the faintness of beard and mustache in gay males is linked to the under exposure of male hormones like testosterone which could cause a feminizing effect, meaning less hair." 7

The article created a "media uproar" among LGBT groups who worried about the safety aspects of gays and lesbians who are keeping their sexual orientation secret becoming known in anti-gay communities. The chief digital officer at Glaad -- a main pro-LGBT group -- said that:

"... at a time where minority groups are being targeted, these reckless findings could serve as weapon to harm both heterosexuals who are inaccurately outed, as well as gay and lesbian people who are in situations where coming out is dangerous." 7

Gay marriage (a.k.a. same-sex marriage) -- and equal rights for the LGBT community generally -- have been among the most bitter and active religious conflicts in the U.S. Much of the conflict has been influenced by beliefs about the cause or causes of sexual orientation, and whether it can be changed later in life. With the passage of time, public support of gay marriage has risen steadly, from 28% in 1996, to about 50% in 2011. After the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in mid-2015, acceptance of such marriages has increased more rapidly. The Gallup Poll found it had reached about 63% in 2017 8 and 67% in 2018. 9 Only 31% of adults are opposed. Only 2% had no opinion -- an unusually small percentage for such polls. This includes 83% of Democrats, 71% of Independents and 44% of Republicans. 9More polling details.

As of 2018-OCT, Wikipedia reports that:

  • A majority of adults opposes gay marriage in only one state: Alabama.

  • Support for gay marriage has reached 80% in two states: Massachusetts and Vermont and in two urban areas: Boston, MA and Seattle, WA.

Exodus International was the leading evangelical Christian group to promote the conversion of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to transition to heterosexualy through reparative therapy. After 35 years of activity, they finally understood that that their efforts had little or no success; their clients were unable to change their sexual orientation. Exodus did have some success at convincing clients to remain sexually inactive. They closed their office and apologized for the harm that they had done to their clients in the past. More details about Exodus International.

Determining the precise cause(s) of sexual orientation might go a long way to inspire dialogue and eventually to resolve the remaining conflicts.

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Topics covered in this section:

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Related essay:

bullet Divergent beliefs: Is homosexuality permanent? is it a choice that can be changed, or a fixed orientation?


  1. Ned Flaherty, comment posted after the article "Gay Marriage: If Being Gay is a Choice, So What?" by Alasdair Denvil, PolicyMic, 2013-MAY-14, at:
  2. "Why is my child Gay?" Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) at:
  3. "How PFOX can help," Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays, at: 
  4. Athenadorus, "Homosexuality: Its Genetic Basis & Evolutionary Benefit," at:
  5. Matt Ridley, "Nature via nurture: Genes, experience, and what makes us human," HarperCollins, (2003). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store  This book discusses the effects of genes and the environment on human behavior and traits. It touches on homosexuality in a few locations.
  6. "Sylvia," "The biological basis of homosexuality," 1997-DEC, at:
  7. "Science Proves that You Actually Can Tell Someone Is Gay Just By Looking At Them," Cozzoo, 2018-APR-07, at: blogs/news/science-proves-that-you-actually-can-tell-someone-is-gay-just-by-looking-at-them
  8. Nolan McCaskill, "Poll: 64 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage," 2017-MAY-15, at:
  9. Aamer Madhani, "Poll: Approval of same-sex marriage in U.S. reaches new high," USA Today, 2018-MAY-23, at:

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Copyright 1997 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2018-APR-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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