In 1901, Havelock Ellis argued that homosexuality was inborn and therefore not immoral. This view was equally promoted by the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. By claiming homosexuality is inborn, proponents argue that it cannot be classified as an illness; it’s not a vice and it’s not something to be ashamed of or even practiced secretly. This and other similar psychoanalytic theories of homosexuality were soon shot down when great flaws were observed in the study approach. For instance, it was detected that the theories were not subjected to rigorous empirical tests (Herek, 2009).
It’s over a century now and this same argument is being put forward again, but this time more vociferously. Leveraging changing social norms, a politically stronger homosexual community and, most importantly, an amazingly strong media backing, the biological argument that homosexuals are born that way has found its way into the public domain yet again.
According to Dean Byrd, a clinical professor at the psychiatric department as well as the department of family and preventive medicine, University of Utah, “The initial ‘evidence’ used to support a biological model of homosexuality came from Simon Levay, Dean Hamer, and the research team of J. Micheal Bailey and Richard C. Pillard. Of the four researchers, three are self-identified homosexuals.”
Considering the homosexual orientation of these researchers, the outcome of their study isn’t really surprising. Explaining further, Professor Byrd pointed out the often ignored fact that Levay’s research had a number of limitations, including an insignificant amount of information about the sexual histories of the research subjects. Nonetheless, his unconvincing study was sufficient proof for homosexual activists and major media outlets to drive home their argument that homosexuality is indeed biologically induced.
“Opposing views were, for the most part, silenced. Any junior-level scientist could quite quickly see that this claim was far from accurate, but most dared not speak out for fear of being ostracized or even labelled homophobic.” (Byrd, 2010).
Interestingly, Levay eventually recanted when he apparently contradicted the media’s interpretation of his findings.
“I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn’t show that gay men are ‘born that way,’ the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain.”
“Since I looked at adult brains, we don’t know if the differences I found were there at birth or if they appeared later.” (Nimmons, 1994).
Surprisingly, while the mainstream media provided substantial coverage for Levay’s research, a similar gesture was not replicated when recent research showed that the media’s interpretation of Levay’s research was flawed (Leonard, 2005). The other major evidences given in support of the biological argument are not markedly different, a litany of half-truths, often times misinterpreted by the mainstream media.
Is there Really a Gay Gene?
Of all the studies generally put forward as evidence of a biological basis for homosexuality, Dean Hamer’s genetic study arguably enjoys the most mention. In this study, Hamer and his team asserted that a stretch of DNA located at the tip of the X chromosome is responsible for male homosexuality. If successful and widely accepted, the research would provide conclusive and irrefutable evidence for the claim that homosexuality in men is actually caused by a “gay gene”.
This would imply homosexual orientation in gays is a natural, normal and involuntary feeling triggered by certain genes in the body. In its desperation to provide undeniable proof for the ‘homosexuals are born that way’ argument, the media in its characteristic fashion latched onto this ‘new discovery’ and gave it unprecedented publicity. It was victory at last for the numerous gay rights movements, or so it seemed.
Just like similar studies in the past, this new finding too crumbled like a pack of cards under rigorous scientific tests and scrutiny. The first person to pick holes in this widely acclaimed new discovery was no less a personality than Yale University’s renowned scientist, Dr. Neil Risch, the very man who invented the method used by Hamer and his team in their genetic study.
“Hamer et al suggest that their results are consistent with X-linkage because maternal uncles have a higher rate of homosexual orientation than paternal uncles … however, neither of these differences is statistically significant,” Dr. Risch wrote (Risch, 1993).
In an attempt to validate his claims, Risch and his colleagues replicated Hamer’s study and their findings were revealing to say the least. According to these researchers, “it is unclear why our results are so discrepant from Hamer’s original study. Because our study was larger than that of Hamer et al, we certainly had adequate power to detect a genetic effect as large as was reported in that study. Nonetheless, our data do not support the presence of a gene of large effect influencing sexual orientation at position Xq28.” (Rice et al, 1999).
Rattled by sustained criticisms of his study, Hamer was apparently humbled and left with no choice but to acknowledge the limitations of his findings.
“The pedigree study failed to produce what we originally hoped to find: simple Mendelian inheritance. In fact, we never found a single family in which homosexuality was distributed in the obvious sort of pattern that Mendel observed in his pea plants,” he admitted.
Since homosexuality is not a result of some special genes in the body as often erroneously reported in the media, the million dollar question is: what causes homosexuality? Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, co-founder of US-based National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) proffers an explanation.
“Homosexuality is most likely caused by a combination of developmental, social and (in some cases) biological factors,” he told OnIslam.net. “Developmentally, we most often see a failure to identify with the same-sex parent, and emotional isolation from same-sex peers.”
Explaining further, he mentions that the biological factors would be those that make a person grow up to feel less gender-identified. Known for the great influence it exerts on virtually all spheres of human behavior, the environment is yet another factor that plays a key role in shaping an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes the influence of family and peer relationships, as well as the media.
Yet another important fact, though rarely mentioned, is an individual’s choice in developing a sexual preference. In the words of Camille Paglia, a lesbian activist, “there is an element of choice in all behavior, sexual or otherwise,” and people can choose how they respond to unwanted homosexual attractions.
Researchers and medical experts might be divided on the actual causes of homosexuality; they might even have divergent views on its classification as a mental illness or otherwise. But what is scientifically clear is that the hyped idea of a single master gene that makes people homosexual is farfetched.
According to a child trends report, research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. There is thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents (Byrd, 2008).
Another cause for concern is the harm caused to homosexuals themselves.
“Anal sex is very damaging to the body and, I believe, to the psyche as well; it introduces more pathogens, because it misuses a bodily organ. Encouraging homosexual behavior will increase bisexual experimentation and distort our culture’s understanding of healthy gender roles,” he explained, adding that clients repeatedly complain that a gay lifestyle is unsatisfying and maladaptive for them.
Extensive medical evidence supports greater rates of medical disease among homosexuals. For instance, homosexual behavior has been identified as the major means through which the AIDS epidemic is transmitted in the United States. Furthermore, the rate of anal cancer infection is 10 times higher than that of heterosexual males (Byrd, 2008). Similarly, lesbians have higher rates of Hepatitis B & C, bacterial vagirosis, heavy cigarette smoking, intravenous drug use and alcohol abuse.
Considering the huge threats posed by same-sex marriage, it is expedient to nip this dangerously growing trend in the bud. If left unattended, the negative effects of same-sex marriage will not be limited to the participants alone, but the society at large will equally bear the brunt.
It is encouraging to note that people with homosexual orientation can actually be helped to change such orientation to a heterosexual one. Nicolosi offered the following advice.
“I believe our bodies tell us who we are, and that we were designed for heterosexuality, not for homosexuality, which distorts our true nature. The client can be helped to see how he or she really is connected to his or her biological gender, and we can help him break down the ‘mysterious’ image of the unavailable same-sex person that cause him to romanticize his own sex. People can reduce their unwanted attractions significantly, and develop their opposite-sex attractions to a degree varying from person to person, through therapy.”
Herek, Gregory. M. Facts about Homosexuality and mental health. (2009). http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_mental_health.html
Byrd, D.A. Homosexuality: innate and Immutable? What Science Can and Cannot Say. (2010). Liberty University Law Review. Volume 4, Number 3
David Nimmons. Sex and the Brain, 15 Discover 64, 66 .(1994).
Sax, L. Why Gender Matters 208. (2005)
Neil Risch, Elizabeth Squires-Wheeler & Bronya J.B. Keats. Male sexual orientation and genetic evidence. (1993). 262 SCIENCE 2063, 2064
George Rice, Carol Anderson, Neil Risch & George Ebers, Male Homosexuality: Absence of Linkage to Microsatellite Markers at XQ28. (1999). 284 SCIENCE 665,667
Byrd, Dean. A. Conjugal Marriage Fosters healthy human and Societal Development. (2008). what’s the Harm? University Press of America.