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Homosexuality & other sexual orientations

Speculations into causes:

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People hold various conflicting beliefs about the cause or causes of sexual orientation, including:

  1. No opinion: Some people do not take a stand. They point to many of the scientific studies which are inconclusive. For example, one experiment showed that male homosexuals have a different brain structure than heterosexuals. But this raises the question whether the difference in structure causes a homosexual orientation, or whether the opposite is true: the different structure develops as a result of homosexual behavior.

  2. Disease: Some people speculate that homosexuality as a disease. But this seems doubtful, because:

    "Homosexuality exists without external impetus; it exists without the introduction of foreign chemicals and without the infliction of external actions by others." 1

  3. Moral weakness: Some people speculate that homosexual behavior is caused by a moral weakness, like lying or stealing. But that belief also has been criticized, because homosexuality "...exists in animal species in which these actions -- these "sins"-- cannot occur." 1

  4. Poor parenting: Many religious conservatives believe that the roots of homosexual behavior are found in childhood, if the child is unable to form a loving relationship with the parent of the same gender. A son, for example, would take this incompleteness into adulthood, where he would continue to seek love from another adult of the same gender. The result is a sexually active relationship. Conservatives often believe that the cure is reparative therapy, in which the client develops a loving but non-sexual relationship with a person of the same gender. This completes the person's longing, and converts them to heterosexuality. Although this belief system is very widely accepted by conservative Christians, no meaningful articles about the effectiveness of reparative therapy have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Anecdotal evidence from conservative Christian therapists indicates that this therapeutic technique is generally successful. Evidence from other therapists indicates that it invariably fails; they note that it often leaves the client in a depressed mood, and is sometimes responsible for suicidal ideation and even completed suicide.

    Some conservative Christians researchers have conducted studies which appear to indicate a high rate of parental dysfunction among some gays and lesbians. But other studies done by investigators who are not conservative Christians find no correlation between the incidence of homosexuality and parenting styles. This effect is found quite often in the social sciences; study results frequently tend to match the researchers pre-conceived beliefs more than they match reality. The researchers may or many not be aware of their own biases.
  5. If lack of a relationship with one's father causes male homosexuality, one would expect that the generation of American boys born in the early 1940's -- or born more recently into military families -- would have a much higher incidence of homosexuality than other generations, because so many fathers were away at war. One would also expect to find a much larger percentage of male gays among men who had been raised without a father present in a single parent family. We have been unable to find studies of either phenomenon mentioned in the literature.

  6. Education/indoctrination: Some conservative Christians believe that people become homosexual because it is taught to them as children. 2 This motivates religious conservatives to oppose education classes which discuss sexual orientation, and to campaign against gays and lesbians having the right to marry or adopt children. However, it is doubtful that the childhood environment can convince a person to become gay or lesbian. If it could, then one would expect a much greater incidence of homosexuality among individuals who were brought up by gay parents, in comparison to those raised in heterosexual homes. No such difference is observed.

  7. A person's choice at or after puberty: Other conservative Christians believe that people make a conscious choice to become gay or lesbian at or after puberty. 2 However, this conflicts with the findings of child psychologists can accurately identify which pre-school children will grow up to be homosexual. Also, it has been argued that nobody in their right mind would choose to become gay or lesbian and subject themselves to immense amounts of homophobia, discrimination, physical abuse, hate crimes, and emotional-spiritual abuse.

  8. Demon possession: Still other conservative Christians believe that some homosexuals "are possessed by one or more demons," either before or after birth. 2 This is a theological belief among many religious conservatives who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. There are many passages in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) which describe demon possession as a cause of epilepsy, schizophrenia, psychotic behavior, etc. It is a small leap to include homosexuality among this list of disorders. However, mental health professionals have rejected the possibility of indwelling demonic beings for many generations. Belief in spirit possession among human sexuality researchers is almost extinct.

    Author J.F. Gogan writes about demons:
    "Where illicit sex is already practiced, they flock to that site as observers and catalysts. Where it is not happening, they attempt to infest those vulnerable to evil supernatural powers with lust. You became homosexual ... when one or more of Satan's demons detected your susceptibility to demonic influence. This susceptibility could have been brought on by any one, or a combination of causes. Perhaps you were drawn into homosexual activity by a same-sex friend who was also troubled by a demon. Or perhaps a demon convinced you were a man in a woman's body or vice versa." 3
  9. Genes plus environmental trigger: A common belief among human sexuality researchers is that homosexual orientation is caused by an embryo's pre-existent genetic makeup which is established at conception. This may be triggered early in childhood by an unknown factor in the environment, and lead to the person discovering their sexual orientation after puberty..

  10. Bacteria or virus: Biologist Paul Ewald and Physicist Gregory Cochran theorize that homosexuality orientation may be caused by a bacteria or virus. Their reasoning is indirect. Any genetic trait that reduces a person's chance of procreating is said to have a "fitness cost." A trait that has a fitness cost of 1% lowers the probability of having children by 1%. The cost would cause the trait to essentially disappear within 100 generations. Homosexuality has a "fitness cost that is much higher than 1%."  A 1981 study in San Francisco showed that gays and lesbians have only 20% of the number of children as do heterosexuals; i.e. the fitness cost factor among that sample of homosexuals is 80%. This number was probably much lower in the past, as gays and lesbians were often forced into marriages in order to escape detection. But it would only have to be 0.001% to wipe out the trait in the lifetime of the human race. 4

    Since homosexuality has not disappeared and yet appears to have a high fitness cost, the researchers speculate that the trait is at least partly determined by some outside agent, like an infection.

    There is a good chance that this theory will not pan out. Infections tend to peak in a few geographical areas and/or during a few years duration. Yet there are no obvious concentrations of gays and lesbians who spent their childhood in the same area or who are of nearly the same age. A second possible criticism of the theory might be that homosexuality may have a sufficient advantage to society to overcome its fitness cost.

  11. Hormones: One theory promoted by Dr. Gunter Doerner of Germany and other scientists is that sexual orientation can be determined by exposure to specific hormones before birth. A persons genetic gender is determined at conception. But it is only about the 6th week of pregnancy that the fetus start to develop either female ovaries or male testicles. The theory is that hormones produced by the developing testes might be produced off schedule and cause the brain's neural networks to develop in such a way that the child will exhibit homosexual indicators in early childhood, and that he will mature as a gay male. Lab experiments on rats and monkeys have proven that this sequence happens in other species. 5 Needless to say, it is ethically impossible to perform the same experiments on humans.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. J.M. Bailey, R. C. Pillard, "A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation", Archives of General Psychiatry, 48 (1991): 1089-96.
  2. Robert T. Lee, "Against Homosexuality," The Society for the Practical Establishment and Perpetuation of the Ten Commandments," 1998-JUN-20, at: http://www.tencommandments.org/homosexual.html
  3. J.G. Cogan, "Special message for gays and lesbians," at: http://www.gelservices.com/
  4. Caleb Crain, "Did a germ make you gay," Out magazine, 1999-AUG, Pages 46 to 49.
  5. Dean Hamer & Peter Copeland "The Science of Desire: The Search for the Gay Gene & the Biology of Behavior", Simon & Schuster (1994).

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Copyright © 1997 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-JAN-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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