Nature vs. Nurture? The Basis of Sexual Orientation

748 words | 3 page(s)

Homosexuality has existed since the beginning of civilization, but besides that fact, little else has been known with certainty about being gay. The presence of same-sex desire across species, history, and cultures is thought to be evidence of its normality (Hammack.) Whether or not sex between men or women is acceptable, at what age a person realizes that s(he) is gay, and whether a person is born gay, are all issues that have been debated in virtually all cultures and societies. This paper will discuss biological and psychosocial theories behind sexual orientation, as well as drawing a conclusion about which theory or combinations thereof appear to be most credible.

A. The Biological Perspective: many studies of twins and adopted siblings have indicated that sexual orientation does have a genetic component. For example, families with two homosexual brothers were found to have certain genetic markers, which suggested the possibility of the existence of a “gay gene” (Malory.) In addition, a gay man has a greater chance than a straight one of having a gay brother, and the same is true of lesbians having gay sisters. In addition, the structure of the brain is believed to have an influence on sexual orientation. A study that was published in 1991 indicated that the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls the release of sex hormones from the pituitary gland, differed in gay men when compared to the hypothalamus in straight men (Malory.) In addition, part of the hypothalamus that was studied was found to be two times as large as the same part of the brain in homosexual men. Finally, PET scans and MRI scans that were studied in 2008 indicated that the two halves of the brain are more symmetrical in homosexual men and heterosexual women, and in heterosexual men and homosexual women. These research studies provide indications that there are biological factors determining a person’s sexual orientation to at least some extent.

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B. The Psychological Perspective: Sexual orientation refers to a pattern of physical, emotional, sexual, and romantic attraction to others, which may or may not be acted upon (Oswalt.) There are several psychosocial theories regarding the basis of sexual orientation, involving experiences with one’s parents, individual personality traits, and life experiences, including positive or negative sexual contact with opposite sex partners. Freudian theory postulates that a person’s sexuality is largely dependent on his or her relationship with the same-sex parent, i.e. if boys have a negative or nonexistent relationship with their fathers and become overly attached to their mothers, they may become homosexuals and, conversely, homosexuality is the result when girls do not have adequate relationships with their mothers and are overly attached to their fathers.

C. Opinion: My belief is that a person’s sexual orientation is based on a combination of genetics and environmental factors. It is impossible to ignore the research that has shown that being gay tends to run in families, and that if someone is gay, there is a greater likelihood that he or she will have a sibling that is homosexual, as well. However, it seems clear that genetics are not the only factor because in many families there is a gay person, but perhaps no one else in the family is homosexual. In addition, if a child feels attracted to people of the same sex, and he or she lives in an environment where the parents encourage that child to express himself freely, that might create an environment where the child feels free to form relationships with whomever s(he)
loves. If s(he) knows that there will be an accepting and loving environment, regardless of sexual orientation, it is possible that the combination of genetics and a loving environment would give a person permission to follow his or her desires when it comes to choosing partners. I believe that it is impossible to say with certainty that the cause of someone’s sexual preference is based on only genetics or only psychosocial factors. A physical predisposition, consisting of certain hormones and genes makes homosexuality a possibility for some people, and then depending on life events, s(he) may or may not feel free to act on those sexual attractions.

  • Hammack, Philip. “The Life Course Development of Human Sexual Orientation: an Integrative Paradigm.” Human Development (2005): 267-290. Print.
  • Malory, Marcia. “Homosexuality a Choice: Are Gay People “Born This Way”?” 25 October 2012. The Huffington Post. Web. 14 February 2014.
  • Oswalt, Angela. “The Development of Sexual Orientation.” 2014. Seven Counties.org. Web. 14 February 2014.

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