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The Causes of Sexual Orientation

Nature, Nurture or None of the Above


Friends embracing
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What makes someone gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight?

The simple answer is: We just don't know the causes of sexual orientation. However, there are a few theories floating around.


There are some people who argue that sexual orientation is part of our natural biological make-up, formed by factors that are in place long before we are born. Scientists have been searching for a gay gene and exploring the role that hormones might play in determining sexual orientation.


A second camp claims that sexual orientation develops as a result of a person's environment. The famous psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, believed that gay men were the product of overbearing mothers and weak fathers. Some people think that gay parents will raise gay kids. Others believe that letting children engage in non-traditional gender activities (for example boys playing with dolls) will make them gay.

A Combination

There is growing evidence that sexual orientation is too complex to simply be the product of a single factor like a gene. And all you need to do to refute the idea that parenting style determines sexual orientation is to point out that the majority of GLB people have straight parents!

Ramone Johnson, the About Guide to gay life, has an interesting suggestion. In his article, Nature vs. Nurture, he says, "Imagine a person that is born gay, but their same gender feelings are either perpetuated or (not perpetuated) by their environment. If this were indeed the case, homosexuality would only be an issue of if or when one comes out of the closet."

What it Comes Down to

The bottom line is, whatever the cause, you can't "turn" someone gay and you can't change your sexual orientation. We are who we are, and hopefully, that is something we will be able to feel comfortable with and appreciate.

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