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Topic: Question - may be controversial

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Subject: Question - may be controversial
Date Posted: 12/10/2007 11:33 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
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I want to preface this question with all kinds of caveats and warnings and qualifications, but my experience is that someone will ignore me and ream me for saying all the things I try to say that I'm not saying.  So I'll just add one:

It's NOT a choice.

That said, I wonder if it is really true that people are born gay or straight or bi?  I wonder if it is instead like musical ability:  You can be born with the possibility of being a great musician, but if you aren't in the right environment, that possibility is never expressed.

I have heard that it's been determined that a child's sexuality is determined before they are 3 years old, and I believe that to be true.  But I don't know that it necessarily follows that it is all genetic.  I just think that something as complex as human sexuality has more to it than A, T, C, or G.

Please don't hate me for it.

Date Posted: 12/11/2007 7:37 AM ET
Member Since: 12/4/2007
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i knew my daughter was gay before she reached eleven years old i embraced it ....... if i did it another way  would that make her go straight no........... so instead of having a messed up depressed 16 year old  i have a happy 16 year old lesbian it was not a choice for her ...... and she has many aunts who are gay not on my side who she doesnt even so i believe some wher along the lines your born with it.

 

 

Date Posted: 12/11/2007 9:54 AM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2006
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That said, I wonder if it is really true that people are born gay or straight or bi?  I wonder if it is instead like musical ability:  You can be born with the possibility of being a great musician, but if you aren't in the right environment, that possibility is never expressed.

In my opinion, you either believe that it's a choice or not.  And this statement above sort of makes it seems like it's not.  I think people are absolutely born gay.  People who have grown up in VERY religious households are still gay, even if it's not accepted in their environment or by their family.  It's just who they are.  And what about siblings who grow up in the exact same environment?  I have friends that are twin males.  Eric is gay and Mark is very straight.  But they are twins.  So yeah, I think people really are born that way.  I don't think it's a Nurture thing.

Date Posted: 12/11/2007 12:25 PM ET
Member Since: 3/10/2006
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I have friends that are twin males.  Eric is gay and Mark is very straight.  But they are twins.  So yeah, I think people really are born that way. 

Jessie, is Eric the firstborn?  60 MInutes did an interesting story on the science of homosexuality a year or so ago.  A few scientists interviewed there believed it had to do with an excess of hormones passed onto the baby as it's exiting the birth canal.   They featured two twin men, and the older twin was gay while the younger was not.   The theory was that as the first down the canal, he got all those excess hormones.

Date Posted: 12/11/2007 12:59 PM ET
Member Since: 11/10/2006
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I don't believe it is a choice at all. I think that sometimes there can be a confusion between emotional attraction and sexual attraction. I know I have always been more emotionally attracted to females. And not being able to separate the two types of attractions I dated females, and even married. It took a while to come to the realization that emotional attraction did not necessarily equate to sexual attraction. I still have more of an abundance of female friends than male. I just no longer think I want to sleep with them.

Date Posted: 12/11/2007 2:27 PM ET
Member Since: 5/29/2007
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Kari asked:  That said, I wonder if it is really true that people are born gay or straight or bi?  I wonder if it is instead like musical ability:  You can be born with the possibility of being a great musician, but if you aren't in the right environment, that possibility is never expressed

I think we are all born with many abilities, and yes, you need to be in a nurturing environment to grow that ability.  And yes it helps to be in a nurturing environment while you're determining your sexual orientation.  But ability and orientation are, IMO, 2 different things.

Date Posted: 12/11/2007 3:56 PM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
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Ah, good ol "nature vs nurture."  No, I beleive we are born with it.  I think growing up in a home where it's accepted would make a child recognize it sooner perhaps, and be more open about it, but that's just behavior, not orientation.

I have a friends who grew up in loving families and very abusive familes.  Straight parents and gay parents.  One, two or more parents.  Hmm, I starting to sound like Dr Suess here - one fish blue fish!  Point is, gay people come from all different kind of environments, as do straight people, and most often have siblings with a different orientation.  So nurture has never made any sense to me.

Date Posted: 12/11/2007 8:46 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
Posts: 5,091
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Ugh, I knew it.  Let me repeat:

 

IT'S NOT A CHOICE.  IT'S NOT A CHOICE.  IT'S NOT A CHOICE.

Please, i didn't say it was a choice.  I didn't imply that it's a choice.  It's NOT a choice. 

My statement about musical ability didn't imply that it was a choice.  Exactly the opposite.  You can't decide to become a great musician. You don't choose as a teen whether that musical ability is manifested or not.  By the time you reach that age, you have either developed your musical ability or not, and it's too late to really develop the inherent talent that you may have had.

What I'm asking is, do you really think that it is all genetic/biological?  Or are there social aspects as well?  It's not really nature vs. nurture; it's more nature vs. nature and nurture.

Speaking of twins reminds me of cases that I've heard about of identical twins with different orientations.  If it was all genetic, that wouldn't happen.  So something else must be going on.  My question is, what is that something else?

Obviously, the 'something else' isn't an environment that encourages homosexuality, or it would have disappeared in America.  I don't know what it is, and I'm not implying that I do.  It's possible that it's the hormone issue that was mentioned earlier.  I heard about that as well, and I can see a Darwinistic argument in favor of that. 

Any way, just let me repeat:

It's NOT A CHOICE!!!!!



Last Edited on: 12/11/07 8:51 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/12/2007 12:00 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
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Suzanne wouldnt that mean we all get to be gay? I mean if there are exess hormones in the birthing canal wouldnt all single births get the extra hormones and only the second third forth (however many) in multiple births be the only people who dont get them therefofe the only people who are not gay? Or do those extra hormones only manifest in multiple births? Then only the first in sets of multiples would be gay. Plenty of only children are gay. So that really just doesnt make any sense to me.

And Kari you are assuming that the twins are identical they could be fraternal. No I dont think environment has anything to do with orientation. As stated if it did plenty of people who are in environments that wouldnt nurture the orientation wouldnt be gay now. Environment may play a part in how open and accepting of it a person is. What I mean is a gay child born into a very accepting family will be very open from a very early age where a child born into a very stern environment that isnt accepting will not be openly gay.

Also talent may in some form be inherent but you can chose to be a great musician or not. I for example sing well. Very well. Its not a conceited statement its a fact but I am in no way a great musician. I cant even sing in front of 10 people without passing out. So a talent may be something your born good at like some people are amazing at math from the age 4 but if you dont choose to practice and bolster that skill you will never be good at it. You might be born with a musical talent but choosing not to practice will lose it for you. A gay person cant just choose not to practice and not be gay anymore.



Last Edited on: 12/12/07 12:04 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/12/2007 12:04 AM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
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The example I was referring to involved identical twins, so the genes were the same. 

Date Posted: 12/12/2007 5:55 AM ET
Member Since: 12/4/2007
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the statement i was trying a get acrossed usually when there is someone gay in the family most likely there will be anoher family member who is also gay wether they came out or not I dont really know all the genetic facts but from what i see it runs in families.doesnt that make it biological? OR IN THE GENES?

Date Posted: 12/12/2007 7:04 AM ET
Member Since: 3/10/2006
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Suzanne wouldnt that mean we all get to be gay? I mean if there are exess hormones in the birthing canal wouldnt all single births get the extra hormones and only the second third forth (however many) in multiple births be the only people who dont get them therefofe the only people who are not gay?

I haven't done any research on this beyond that 60 Minutes piece, so I don't know.  But as someone who deals with some pretty radically fluctuating hormonal levels myself, it would make sense that different levels of hormones could come into play with one birth vs. another.  So from that theory, one sibling is born awash in those hormones, and two years later the other sibling is not.

Date Posted: 12/12/2007 9:35 AM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2006
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Yes, Denise, you are right.  A lot of times there is more than one gay person in an immediate family, which is really interesting.  I have a lesbian friend who has 2 sisters who are also both lesbians.

Kari - this is a hot button issue, and I appreciate you reinforcing that it's not a choice BUTBUTBUT when you talk about there being something else that could influence sexuality, that makes it seem like it's more than biological, which I don't think any of us believe that it is. 

Date Posted: 12/12/2007 9:38 AM ET
Member Since: 12/9/2007
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As a physician, I have met multitudes of people, both gay and straight.  The vast majority of gay people I have talked to knew from a very early age that they had an attraction to members of the same gender, even before it was a sexual thing.  I can count on one hand people who were completely straight and then had a sexual attraction to members of the same gender in their adult years.

So, as everyone has said (including deltatiger) it doesn't seem to be a choice.  But, if identical twins can be of two different sexual orientations, then it stands to reason that the sole factor for determining sexual orientation cannot be genetics.  The extra hormone theory is interesting, but it is conjecture at best, and a very weak hypothesis at that, or else many many more people would be gay.

So I guess there can be a genetic predisposition, maybe even a hardwiring, for sexual orientation.  But possibly something occured in utero or within the first few years of life that turned on or off "the gay gene."  Or maybe, with the identical twin situation, both truly were born gay.  But because of our ingrained culture-- baby boys get dressed in blue, girls in pink-- one twin was lead down the "straight" road and socially conditioned to be straight while the other was able to reject that somehow and be true to him or herself.  Of course everything I've written is a total guess and likely will remain so.  Basically we don't know.  We human beings are so incredibly complex that it would be impossible to boil down something as all-encompassing as sexual orientation or gender identity (which is a fascinating topic in itself) to some gene on the X chromosome.

By the way, I have always known I was gay.

Date Posted: 12/13/2007 3:19 AM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
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Basically we don't know.  We human beings are so incredibly complex that it would be impossible to boil down something as all-encompassing as sexual orientation or gender identity (which is a fascinating topic in itself) to some gene on the X chromosome.

By the way, I have always known I was gay.

Yes, exactly what I was trying to say, only said much more eloquently and persuasively.

I hope I didn't offend anyone, I certainly didn't mean to.  To me, it's much richer if it isn't just genetic.  I realize that if homosexuality is all genetic that could help in the rights area, but the whole topic of sexuality just seems so much more limited if it is based entirely on genes.  I think additional factors make it more interesting and vibrant, and don't lessen the value of sexual diversity in any way.



Last Edited on: 12/13/07 4:02 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/13/2007 7:21 AM ET
Member Since: 12/1/2005
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Kari - I for one wasn't offended.  While I don't believe it's a choice, I myself feel like such an anomoly(sp?) in the LGBT community.  I met & fell in love with my DP right before I turned 40.  Now, I get asked all the time if I had some inkling when I was younger if I was attracted to women and for the life of me I can't think of any thing or any time like that.  For over 20 years I dated & lived with men.  I wish sometimes that there had been a clue in my past, it definitely would make my internal struggle easier.  I find the labels - LGBTQ helpful, but often times restrictive.

I think that the younger generation coming up behind might actually be better at dealing with this then my generation.  I get the sense from what I've read & heard that sexuality is more fluid - they don't want to be confined to certain labels.  And I kind of like that myself.

Date Posted: 12/13/2007 10:04 AM ET
Member Since: 7/5/2006
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I subscribe to the "fluidity" of sexuality.... while it isn't a choice and it is in our DNA... I think of it like a rainbow (fitting huh?) and each person's sexuality is a different color some are at one end and fully hetero, and some are at the other end and fully homosexual, but there's a big chunk of us floating around the middle that are more fluid in our sexuality.... it's not a choice as to where you are in the rainbow biologically, BUT I do think that nurture does help in one's feeling comfortable in where they are on the rainbow.... and unfortunately there are many that have to love/live in denial of their true selfs because there are too many people out there that just don't get that it isn't a choice... no more a choice that one's hair or eyecolor (you can dye the hair and get colored contacts, but biologically you have brown hair and green eyes, and there's no denying that !)

hopefully I made sense... it makes sense in my head... summarizing: no choice... but to me nurture does influence how accepting some people are of their own biology...



Last Edited on: 12/13/07 10:05 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/13/2007 5:35 PM ET
Member Since: 1/27/2007
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Let me preface my comments by saying that in undergrad, I was a biological anthropology major who specialised in evolutionary psychology and sociobiology and then worked in that general area doing research for a few years before I went off to grad school and I've been in this discussion before.

All the evidence in the sociobiological debate shows that sexual orientation is approximately 50% influenced by genetics and approximately 50% influenced by environment.   To make this example easier to understand, lets use the Kinsey scale of 0 to 6.  So lets say your genetics are saying you could be anywhere from a Kinsey 0 to a 4, there is still a heck of a lot of flexibility there.  The environment (and environment can be interpreted incredibly broadly here as family is only one small part of it, there is also additional biological things, such as birth order,) might narrow you down to make you a 0 or a 3 or a 4, but it isn't going to make you a 5 or a 6.  So yes Kari you are absolutely correct there is a lot of genetics involved but the final determination is environmental.  You could have the potential to be a great genius in the right environment, but if that environment is lacking, you could only be average.  There is also evidence that in nonhuman primates as well as rodents that being in a highly stressing and overcrowded environment did increase homosexual behaviour in certain individuals even when they were in a mixed sex environment, which I suppose can make sense in an evolutionary POV.  

Individual will/individual choice does play a role, but its really only a minor one.  Like I could force myself to get it on with women, but that wouldn't change the fact I love men, I dream about men, etc, etc.  I would never be straight as my thoughts would still be about men (Kinsey's scale included dreams, thoughts, as well as actions.)

There have been so many identical twin studies about things like orientation, intelligence, etc  trying to prove one thing or another and its astounding how few people understand the science behind the results and somehow get "So its a choice" out of the lgbt discussions, when that isn't at all what the results are about.  And yes, there is an influence in birth order, but all the studies I've read stated that the youngest sons (and I think they only saw this tread in men) had a higher chance of becoming gay.  Why?  I don't know.  Might be due to that overcrowding thing I mentioned earlier, unfortunately it is going to be really hard to prove the overcrowding thing in humans because it would never pass IRB as it would be considered unethical.

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 12/14/2007 8:43 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
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Minh wrote: I can count on one hand people who were completely straight and then had a sexual attraction to members of the same gender in their adult years.

Hummm.  I think perhaps more likely most people simply don't act on those attractions.  I know of a handful of women I'm attracted to...but I simply don't act on those attractions, because I'm in a committed hetero relationship, and/or it's a fantasy (Nigella, anyone?).  I was never bi in practice, but I have always found women - certain women -  attractive, sexually.  Most of my friends feel the same way.

 

Date Posted: 12/14/2007 8:55 AM ET
Member Since: 5/29/2007
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Mel, your post is crazy interesting.  I read it twice, just to digest it.  I find the youngest son and overcrowding POV things very interesting. 

Date Posted: 12/14/2007 2:27 PM ET
Member Since: 7/14/2007
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I think that the genetic research is leaning towards there being a spectrum when it comes to sexual orientation, rather than a G/S switch.  If you take a scale of 1-10, someone at a 5 is very likely bi-sexual, whether or not they ever act on it.  I think it's the middle of the spectrum where environmental factors really come into play.

I've known people all over the spectrum.  I had one gay roommate who wanted to be hetero so badly that he got engaged to a woman.   When he threw up on her during thier first sexual encounter, he figured out that was a lost cause.   At the same time, our gay neighbor told us he'd been married, and had kids, but was now in a homosexual relationship.  His words were "I've been straight, and I've been gay.  Gay is better."  And for him it was, but he was probably closer to the middle of the spectrum than my roommate.

Date Posted: 12/14/2007 2:48 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
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When he threw up on her during thier first sexual encounter, he figured out that was a lost cause.

If anything could change a person's sexual orientation, i would think that would do it.

Date Posted: 12/14/2007 3:10 PM ET
Member Since: 7/14/2007
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Well, I doubt if it changed anything, but it certainly brought home to him that he was never-ever going to be straight!

When he was born, his mother gave him a name that's pretty gender neutral.  Her father told her he'd grow up to be gay if she named him that, so he really fought the notion of being gay for as long as he could.

Date Posted: 12/14/2007 3:49 PM ET
Member Since: 7/25/2005
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I find the comment about his name interesting.  When I was adopted my mother wanted to change my name to Lesley.  My father told her that was a guy's name. 

But when my youngest brother was born, they argued about naming him Robin for the longest time.  My mother considered that a girl's name.

Date Posted: 12/14/2007 5:07 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
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Well, I doubt if it changed anything, but it certainly brought home to him that he was never-ever going to be straight!

I meant hers, not his.  :)

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