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Basic information on sexual orientation


What causes sexual orientation:
Nature, nurture, both, or neither?
Are people born gay? Do they choose to be gay?
Do they just try it out and become addicted?

A proposed long-range study to
the cause of sexual orientation.

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Causes of sexual orientation:

There are two main belief systems about the nature of human sexuality:

  • That there is only one normal, natural, and moral sexual behavior. It involves sexual activity between a man and woman -- perhaps restricted to couples who are married to each other.

  • That there are three normal, natural, and morally neutral sexual orientations. These are not defined according to one's behavior. Rather, they are primarily defined by feelings of attraction to:
    • Only persons of the opposite sex. They have a heterosexual orientation and include about 90% of all adults;

    • Only persons of the same sex. They include about 5% of adults and have a homosexual orientation;

    • Persons of both genders. They include about 5% of adults and have a bisexual orientation. Most are not attracted to persons of both sex equally; they, alone, have a sexual preference.

Some regard asexuality -- lack of sexual attraction to other people -- as a fourth sexual orientation.

Finally, although any of the three or four sexual orientations may be considered morally neutral, people overwhelmingly regard any sexual behavior as immoral if it is not mutually agreeable, not consensual, not safe, free of the possibility of unwanted pregnancy, etc.

There is little or no agreement about the cause(s) of sexual orientation, whether it is chosen, pre-determined by the genes in the person's DNA, caused by poor parenting, caused by sexual victimization as a child, etc. Also, there is also no agreement on the morality of various forms of sexual behavior.

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

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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 that 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

Gay marriage -- and equal rights for the LGBT community generally -- are among the most bitter and active religious conflicts in the U.S. today. Much of the conflict is influenced by beliefs about the cause or causes of sexual orientation. To determine the cause(s) of sexual orientation might go a long way to inspire dialogue and eventually to resolve the 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:

Site navigation: Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Basic data > here

Copyright © 1997 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2017-AUG-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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