People hold various conflicting beliefs about the cause or causes of sexual orientation,
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.
Disease: Some people speculate that
homosexuality as a disease. But this seems
"Homosexuality exists without external impetus; it
exists without the introduction of foreign chemicals and without the
infliction of external actions by others." 1
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
"sins"-- cannot occur." 1
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Author J.F. Gogan writes about demons:
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
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..
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
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.
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.
Needless to say, it is ethically impossible to perform the same experiments on humans.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
J.M. Bailey, R. C. Pillard, "A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation",
Archives of General Psychiatry, 48 (1991): 1089-96.