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Last updated on: 4/20/2015 8:42:24 AM PST

Is Sexual Orientation Determined at Birth?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The American Psychiatric Association stated, in an article titled "LGBT-Sexual Orientation" published on its website (accessed Mar. 12, 2015):
"No one knows what causes heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality. Homosexuality was once thought to be the result of troubled family dynamics or faulty psychological development. Those assumptions are now understood to have been based on misinformation and prejudice. Currently there is a renewed interest in searching for biological etiologies for homosexuality. However, to date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality. Similarly, no specific psychosocial or family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified, including histories of childhood sexual abuse. Sexual abuse does not appear to be more prevalent in children who grow up to identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, than in children who identify as heterosexual."

Mar. 12, 2015 - American Psychiatric Association 

The American Psychological Association stated, in its article titled "Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality," published on its website (accessed Mar. 12, 2015):
"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation."

Mar. 12, 2015 - American Psychological Association 

Cynthia Nixon, Sex and the City co-star, was quoted in a Jan. 19, 2012 New York Times Magazine article titled "Life After 'Sex,'" written by Alex Witchel:
"[F]or me, it [homosexuality] is a choice. I understand that for many people it's not, but for me it's a choice, and you don't get to define my gayness for me. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it's a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn't matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not…

Why can't it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate? It seems we're just ceding this point to bigots who are demanding it, and I don't think that they should define the terms of the debate. I also feel like people think I was walking around in a cloud and didn't realize I was gay, which I find really offensive. I find it offensive to me, but I also find it offensive to all the men I've been out with."

Jan. 19, 2012 - Cynthia Nixon 

Samantha Allen, Daily Beast columnist, stated in her Nov. 20, 2014 article titled "The Problematic Hunt for a 'Gay Gene,'" published on the Daily Beast website:
"After 40 years of discourse defending homosexuality by asserting that it's an inborn trait, that particular line of argumentation is starting to wear thin. There's a new 'gay gene' study making the rounds this week and while some members of the press are celebrating the study as objective and necessary evidence that homosexuality is not a 'choice,' most gay, lesbian, and bisexual people I know could not care less… If it's hard to get excited about these studies, it's because, at this point, biological explanations for homosexuality are like iPhones—a new one comes out every year… At its best, the idea that sexual orientation has a genetic influence functions as a sharp rhetorical strategy in a homophobic world that demands proof that homosexuality is not 'a choice' in order to recognize its validity… It doesn't matter whether or not you were 'born this way,' what matters is being accepted the way you are, however you got there."

Nov. 20, 2014 - Samantha Allen 

Dean Burnett, PhD, Course Tutor at the Cardiff University Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, stated in his Jan. 8, 2015 article for the Guardian titled "Why Would People 'Choose' to Be Gay?":
"While saying that sexuality is set in stone from birth is also not quite right, the main emphasis of those using the choice argument is that homosexuals have weighed up their options and consciously decided 'I am going to be gay from now on'. Assuming this is true (which it clearly isn't), WHY would they do this?

If we're being generous, we could say the choice claim assumes that people have no sexual orientation up to the point where they choose one. And some people choose homosexuality. Presumably this is some time during adolescence when sexual maturity really kicks in, and you know what teenagers are like. Is choosing homosexuality just another example of a desire to not conform, like shaving your head or wearing outlandish clothes?

The trouble with this claim is that teenage rebellion is largely temporary; hair grows back, outfits can be changed. But those who 'choose' homosexuality really seem to stick with it. So maybe it's a 'lifestyle' thing, as many claim? This suggests that those who are about to choose their sexual orientation look at the consequences of homosexuality and think it's a better option. They see the oppression, the suicide rates, the discrimination and harassment, the inequality, the increased risk of mental health issues, or abandonment from your family; they see all this and think 'I gotta get me some of that'? This seems, to put it mildly, unlikely."

Jan. 8, 2015 - Dean Burnett, PhD 

Is Sexual Orientation Determined at Birth?

PRO (yes) CON (no)
Noah Michelson, MFA, Executive Editor of the Gay Voices blog at the Huffington Post, stated in his Jan. 31, 2014 Huffington Post article titled "Why This Man's Claim That People 'Choose' to Be Gay Isn't Just Total Bullsh*t -- It's Dangerous":
"[W]hat we do with our attractions and how we perform them is a choice. I chose to come out of the closet. I choose to have sex with men. I choose to rarely go to gay bars. And so on and so forth. But I didn't choose to be gay.

In fact, I tried my damnedest to not be gay. There is really no way for me to explain how badly it sucked to grow up queer in small-town Wisconsin in the '80s. If I could have chosen to be straight, I would have. And I did try. I spent my study hall periods in ninth grade writing letters to God asking him to make me straight. I spent my nights lying awake, trying with every ounce of my being to convince Jesus to materialize at the foot of my twin bed and take my sick queer desires into his sacred pink heart, where they'd be vanquished and I could finally date a cheerleader and be just like every other guy in my school. When, after I'd been trying for months, it didn't happen, I spent the rest of my freshmen year considering the different ways I could kill myself...

Though I agree that it should not matter how we are oriented, whether from birth or from choice, and that our access to equal rights and our freedom from punishment should not be contingent on us being 'born this way,' I do believe we are innately oriented."

Jan. 31, 2014 - Noah Michelson, MFA 

Simon LeVay, PhD, neurologist and Co-Founder of the Institute of Gay and Lesbian Education, was quoted in the Nov. 17, 2014 New Scientist article titled "Largest Study of Gay Brothers Homes in on 'Gay Genes,'" written by Andy Coghlan:
"This study [a 2014 study of gay brothers by Alan Sanders] knocks another nail into the coffin of the 'chosen lifestyle' theory of homosexuality. Yes, we have a choice in life, to be ourselves or to conform to someone else's idea of normality, but being straight, bisexual or gay, or none of these, is a central part of who we are, thanks in part to the DNA we were born with. Much hard work now lies ahead to identify the specific genes involved and how they work, as well as to find equivalent genes in women."

Nov. 17, 2014 - Simon LeVay, PhD 

James C. Hormel, JD, former United States Ambassador to Luxembourg, stated in his Nov. 16, 2011 article for CNN titled "Being Gay Is Not a Choice":
"One of the main reasons discrimination persists is that many people in America... advance and reinforce the myth that being gay is a choice. For them, it is as if we silly LGBT people would be perfectly happy and healthy if we would just make a different set of decisions about our lives. As a young boy growing up in Austin, Minnesota, teachers forced pens into my right hand in the futile hope of correcting my left-handedness. If they had known I was gay, they might have tried to fix that, too. They would have failed. I spent the first 35 years of my life trying very hard not to be gay, to the extent that I married my college sweetheart and created a beautiful family of five children with her. Hard as I tried to make that life work, I could not escape my attraction to men. Choice had nothing to do with it...

Until the time that people accept that all of us are born into our sexual orientation and identity, LGBT citizens will still endure discrimination and selective application of the Constitution's protections."

Nov. 16, 2011 - James C. Hormel, JD 

Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit civil rights organization, wrote the following information in a Nov. 2003 article "Guide to Coming Out," published on its website
"Did you choose your sex when you were born? Sexuality and gender identity are not choices any more than being left-handed or having brown eyes or being heterosexual are choices. They are a part of who you are. The choice is in deciding how to live your life."

Nov. 2003 - Human Rights Campaign 

Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States, stated during an audiotaped conversation with his Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman and national-security adviser Henry Kissinger on Apr. 28, 1971, available online in the July 10, 2014 Vanity Fair article titled "Audio: Nixon's Secret White House Tapes":
"Let me say something before we get off the gay thing. I don't want my views misunderstood. I am the most tolerant person on that of anybody in this shop. They have a problem. They're born that way. You know that. That's all. I think they are. Anyway, my point is, though, when I say they're born that way, the tendency is there. [But] my point is that Boy Scout leaders, YMCA leaders, and others bring them in that direction, and teachers. And if you look over the history of societies, you will find, of course, that some of the highly intelligent people... Oscar Wilde, Aristotle, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, were all homosexuals. Nero, of course, was, in a public way, in with a boy in Rome."

Apr. 28, 1971 - Richard Nixon, LLB 

Harold M. Schulweis, ThD, Rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom Temple, wrote the following information on his Temple's website in Mar. 2004:
"Scholars agree that the authors of the Bible and Talmud took their position on the issue of homosexuality on the assumption that homosexual behavior was an act of freedom of choice, that the homosexual acted either to defy God, or to oppose the law, or as a holy prostitute using his or her body, to serve a pagan cult. The assumption of the ancients about the motivation of the homosexual was based on factual error... we are dealing with mounting evidence that there are genetic factors which play a large role, perhaps a determining role, in this behavior."

Mar. 2004 - Harold M. Schulweis, ThD 

Kenneth S. Kendler, MD, Director of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, wrote the following information in his article "Sexual Orientation in a US National Sample of Twin and Nontwin Sibling Pairs," published in the Nov. 2000 issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry:
"In accord with findings from prior twin studies, resemblance for sexual orientation was greater in monozygotic twins than in dizygotic twins or nontwin sibling pairs. These results suggest that genetic factors may provide an important influence on sexual orientation."

Nov. 2000 - Kenneth S. Kendler, MD 

Richard Pillard, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine, wrote the following information in his article "The Genetic Theory of Sexual Orientation," published in the Winter 1997 issue of Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review:
"A problem for those of us who favor a genetic basis for sexual orientation is why, from an evolutionary point of view, gay attractions should exist at all. My suggestion is that both orientations [heterosexual and homosexual] are genetically programmed, that both appeared during the evolutionary history of our species and therefore may exist at least in rudimentary form in our close primate relatives."

Winter 1997 - Richard Pillard, MD 

Anthony Bogaert, PhD, Associate Professor at Brock University, wrote the following information in a May 17, 2006 article titled "Biological Versus Nonbiological Older Brothers and Men's Sexual Orientation," published by PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America):
"I demonstrate that the number of biological older brothers, including those not reared with the participant (but not the number of nonbiological older brothers), increases the probability of homosexuality in men. These results provide evidence that a prenatal mechanism(s), and not social and/or rearing factors, affects men's sexual orientation development."

May 17, 2006 - Anthony Bogaert, PhD 

Kenneth M. Cohen, PhD, Lecturer in Human Development at Cornell University, wrote the following information in his book Archives of Sexual Behavior, published in 2002:
"Recent scans of the human genome reveal that some gay males share a genetic marker for homosexuality on the X chromosome. One avenue through which genes regulate homoeroticism is by instructing the brain to develop in a sex-atypical manner."

2002 - Kenneth M. Cohen, PhD 

Vernon L. Quinsey, PhD, Former Head of the Department of Psychology at Queen's University, wrote the following statements in the article titled "Etiology of Anomalous Sexual Preference in Men," published in the June 2003 issue of Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences:
"The determinants of sexual interest, in the sense of preferences for the same or opposite sex... appear to be caused by the neural organizational effects of the intrauterine hormonal events."

June 2003 - Vernon L. Quinsey, PhD 

Qazi Rahman, PhD, lecturer in psychobiology at the University of East London, was quoted as having said the following during a Mar. 25, 2003 interview with Irish Examiner:
"Because we know that performance on these cognitive tests depends on the integrity of specific brain regions, the differences implicate robust differences between the brains of homosexual and heterosexual men and women and suggest that hormonal factors early in development (probably during the 1st trimester of pregnancy) produce these differences."

Mar. 25, 2003 - Qazi Rahman, PhD 

Edward O. Wilson, PhD, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biology at Harvard University, wrote the following information in his book On Human Nature, published in 1978:
"Homosexuality is normal in a biological sense, that it is a distinctive beneficial behavior that evolved as an important element in human social organization. Homosexuals may be the genetic carriers of some of mankind's rare altruistic impulses."

1978 - Edward O. Wilson, PhD 

Erik Holland, author of The Nature of Homosexuality, wrote the following opinion in a Feb. 28, 2005 email to, clarifying a change in his position on the etiology of homosexuality:
"'[H]omosexuality is partly innate and partly socially acquired, i.e., various social circumstances make people predisposed toward homosexuality. [2004]'

The passage above describes my attitude before I started working on the book... I ended up reevaluating my stance on homosexuality after some enquiry. My new stance is what you will find summarized on the back cover of my book, i.e., homosexuals are born that way."

Feb. 28, 2005 - Erik Holland 

Magnus Hirschfeld, MD, 19th century physician and Founder of the Institute for Sexual Sciences, wrote the following information in his book Sappho and Socrates, published in 1896:
"In the embryonic state, people are bisexual, but in the course of their natural development, most lose their desire for members of the same sex. These people are the heterosexuals, who love members of the opposite sex. Another category consists of those individuals whose sexual organs develop normally but in whom the desire for same-sex individuals in the feeling center fails to recede. The results are men who love men and women who love women."

1896 - Magnus Hirschfeld, MD 

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) stated in its article titled "Frequently Asked Questions: About Homosexuality," published on its website (accessed Mar. 12, 2015):
"Many ex-gays will tell you that at one point in their life they thought they were 'born gay.' The reality is that no scientific evidence has established a genetic cause for homosexuality or found a 'gay gene.' There is no DNA or medical test to determine if a person is homosexual. Sexual orientation is a matter of self-affirmation and public declaration. 'Gay' is a self-chosen identity."

Mar. 12, 2015 - Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) 

Michael Brown, PhD, host of the syndicated talk radio program The Line of Fire, stated in his Sep. 8, 2014 article for Charisma News titled "No One Is Born Gay":
"If there were reputable scientific evidence that some people were born homosexual, I would have no problem accepting this. After all, my theology tells me that as human beings, we are all created in God's image and yet we are a fallen race, and so all of us carry aspects of that fallen nature to the core of our being, and that could theoretically include homosexuality. But the fact is that there is simply no reputable scientific evidence that anyone is born gay...

Why then do we constantly hear about people being born gay? First, it has worked wonders for gay activism; second, many gays and lesbians believe it to be true, since as far back as they can remember, they felt that they were different. But political expediency and personal feelings do not change the facts, and those facts remain the same: There is no clear scientific evidence that anyone is born gay."

Sep. 8, 2014 - Michael Brown, PhD 

Camille Paglia, PhD, University Professor of Humanities & Media Studies at the University of the Arts, stated in her 1994 book titled Vamps and Tramps: New Essays:
"[I]n nature, procreation is the single, relentless rule. That is the norm. Our sexual bodies were designed for reproduction. Penis fits vagina: no fancy linguistic game-playing can change that biologic fact... No one is 'born gay.' The idea is ridiculous... Thus homosexuality, in my view, is an adaptation, not an inborn trait."

1994 - Camille Paglia, PhD 

David Benkof, MA, political commentator, stated in his Mar. 19, 2014 op-ed for the Daily Caller titled "Nobody Is 'Born That Way,' Gay Historians Say,":
"Few scholars with advanced degrees in anthropology or history who concentrate on homosexuality believe gays have existed in any cultures before or outside ours, much less in all cultures…

While biology certainly plays a role in sexual behavior, no 'gay gene' has been found, and whatever natural-science data exists for inborn sexual orientations is preliminary and disputed. So to date, the totality of the scholarly research on homosexuality indicates gayness is much more socio-cultural than biological…

[S]exual orientations are specific to our culture, and thus not basic human nature. In tech-speak, that means being gay is in the software of some people's lives, but it's in nobody's hardware."

Mar. 19, 2014 - David Benkof, MA 

Ben Carson, MD, Professor Emeritus of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University, stated during a Mar. 4, 2015 interview conducted by host of New Day Chris Cuomo on CNN:
"CHRIS CUOMO: You think they [people] have control over their sexuality?

BEN CARSON: Absolutely.

CHRIS CUOMO: You think being gay is a choice?

BEN CARSON: Absolutely... Because a lot of people who go into prison, go into prison straight, and when they come out, they're gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question."

Mar. 4, 2015 - Ben Carson, MD 

Citizens for Community Values, a non-governmental organization, stated in its article titled "Where Do We Stand?," published on its website (accessed Mar. 12, 2015):
"It should be noted here also that homosexuality is not genetic. This false claim has been repeated so often and so loudly that a disturbing majority of the public has accepted it as truth. Absolutely no research supports this claim. To the contrary, thousands of people have overcome this desire, have withdrawn from homosexual behavior and have gone on to enjoy fulfilling heterosexual relationships."

Mar. 12, 2015 - Citizens for Community Values 

The NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) Institute stated in its position statement titled "On the Causes of Homosexuality," published on its website (accessed Mar. 12, 2015):
"The Alliance and the NARTH Institute agree with the American Psychological Association that 'biological, psychological and social factors' shape sexual identity at an early age for most people, but the difference is one of emphasis. We place more emphasis on the psychological (family, peer and social) influences, while the American Psychological Association emphasizes biological influences--and has shown no interest in (indeed, a hostility toward) investigating those same psychological and social influences. There is no such thing as a 'gay gene' and there is no evidence to support the idea that homosexuality is simply genetic. However, biological influences may indeed influence some people toward homosexuality; recent studies point to prenatal-hormonal influences, especially in men, that result in a low-masculinized brain; also, there may be genetic factors in some people -- both of which would affect gender identity, and therefore sexual orientation. But none of these factors mean that homosexuality is a part of human design, or that it is inevitable in such people, or that it is unchangeable. Numerous examples exist of people who have successfully modified their sexual behavior, identity, and arousal or fantasies."

Mar. 12, 2015 - National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) 

A. Dean Byrd, PhD, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine, wrote the following statement in his May 27, 2001 article titled "The Innate-Immutable Argument Finds No Basis in Science," available on the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) website:
"There is no support in the scientific research for the conclusion that homosexuality is biologically determined."

May 27, 2001 - A. Dean Byrd, PhD 

Timothy J. Dailey, PhD, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Marriage and Family Studies of the Family Research Council, was quoted as having said the following in a June 26, 2006 article titled "Prenatal Effect Hinted for Some Gay Men," published by the AP Science Writer:
"We [Family Research Council] don't believe that there's any biological basis for homosexuality. We feel the causes are complex but are deeply rooted in early childhood development. If it is indeed genetically based it is difficult to see how it could have survived in the gene pool over a period of time."

June 26, 2006 - Timothy J. Dailey, PhD 

Peter Sprigg, MDiv, Vice President for Policy at the Family Research Council, wrote the following statements in his book Outrage: How Gay Activists and Liberal Judges Are Trashing Democracy to Redefine Marriage, published in 2004:
"I must be quite blunt here. The notion that people are 'born gay' is nothing less than The Big Lie of the entire homosexual movement. Science has not proven that there is a 'gay gene' or that people are 'born gay.'"

2004 - Peter Sprigg, MDiv 

John R. Diggs, Jr., MD, practicing internist at Wing Medical Center wrote the following statement in his article "The Health Risks of Gay Sex," published online in 2002 by the Corporate Resource Council:
"Research designed to prove that gays and lesbians are 'born that way' has come up empty--there is no scientific evidence that being gay or lesbian is genetically determined."

2002 - John R. Diggs, Jr., MD 

Richard C. Friedman, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry in the Weill Medical College at Cornell University, wrote the following statement in his book Sexual Orientation and Pschoanalysis, published in 2002:
"At clinical conferences one often hears discussants commenting that 'homosexuality is genetic' and, therefore, that homosexual orientation is fixed and unmodifiable. Neither assertion is true. These ideas were sometimes put forth in the 1980s in a debate that has long since ended...

Homosexual orientation results from interaction of many factors, including genetic influences in varying degrees across individuals... The assertion that homosexuality is genetic is so reductionistic that it must be dismissed out of hand as a general principle of psychology.

Sexual orientation of any type - homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual - is best conceptualized as part of the psychology of men or the psychology of women."

2002 - Richard C. Friedman, MD 

Stony Olsen, JD, Research Assistant at the University of Utah School of Medicine, wrote the following information in his article titled "Homosexuality: Innate and Immutable?," published in the Spring 2002 issue of Regent University Law Review:
"Although the popular perception of homosexuality has been that, at least in men, homosexuality is caused by biological factors, the most current and best scientific evidence appears to show that at most homosexuality is only influenced by biology in a predisposing way. The research efforts which have attempted to determine a biological cause for homosexual attraction have failed."

2002 - Stony Olsen, JD 

The Traditional Values Coalition, a religious lobbying organization, wrote the following information in its article "Born Gay," published on its website (accessed Apr. 29, 2010):
"[T]he most credible research to date on homosexuality - and research conducted years ago - demonstrate that no one is 'born gay.' The homosexual is suffering from a developmental problem, which frequently starts out in childhood as gender confusion, family dysfunction, or molestation... There is hope for homosexuals through developing a relationship with Jesus Christ, through both religious and secular counseling programs, and through support groups that provide accountability for those struggling with same-sex attractions and self-destructive behaviors."

Apr. 29, 2010 - Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) 

Neil E. Whitehead, PhD, scientific research consultant, wrote the following information in his book My Genes Made Me Do It!, published in 1999:
"The stages of psycho-social development toward adult heterosexuality are clearly demarcated, known and understood by developmental psychologists, and are so obviously learned that heterosexuality is clearly not genetically mandated. Surveys of adult homosexuals show conspicuous deficits in several of these developmental stages - showing that homosexuality is cultural and environmental rather than genetic."

1999 - Neil E. Whitehead, PhD 

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