The PRO and CON statements below give a five minute introduction to the debate on the origins of sexual orientation. (Read more information about our one star to five star Theoretical Expertise System.)
PRO: "Although all people in all societies with rare exceptions are socialized to be heterosexual, the predictable, universal appearance of homosexual persons, despite socialization into heterosexual patterns of behavior suggest not only that homosexual orientation is biologically based but that sexual orientation itself is also biologically derived."
-- Frederick Whitam, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University
"A Cross-Cultural Perspective on Homosexuality,
Transvestism and Trans-Sexualism," a chapter in
Variant Sexuality: Research and Theory
CON: "What is clear, however, is that the scientific attempts to demonstrate that homosexual attraction is biologically determined have failed. The major researchers now prominent in the scientific arena-themselves gay activists-have in fact arrived at such conclusions.
There is no support in the scientific research for the conclusion that homosexuality is biologically determined."
-- A. Dean Byrd, PhD
Clinical Professor of Medicine,
University of Utah School of Medicine
"The Innate-Immutable Argument Finds No
Basis in Science," Salt Lake City Tribune
May 27, 2001
PRO: "For years, psychology and psychiatry have bandied around theories that homosexuality is caused by parental personality types - the dominant female, the weak male - or by the absence of same-gender role models. Those theories are no longer accepted within psychiatry and psychology."
CON: "Those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies identify themselves as homosexual persons and are usually unwilling to examine their emotional conflicts that caused this tendency. Strong physical attraction is present to other men's bodies and to the masculinity of others due to profound weakness in male confidence...
The most common origins of these emotional weaknesses in men arise from a lack of closeness and affirmation in the father relationship and with male peers. These emotional conflicts result in weaknesses in male confidence, sadness, loneliness, anger and often a poor body image. In addition, those from divorced family backgrounds have major trust weaknesses."
PRO: "Our best guess is that multiple genes, potentially interacting with environmental influences, explain differences in sexual orientation.
Our study helps to establish that genes play an important role in determining whether a man is gay or heterosexual."
-- Brian Mustanski, PhD
University of Illinois at Chicago
Press release for his article
"A Genomewide Scan of Male Sexual Orientation,"
CON: "There is not any evidence that shows that homosexuality is 'genetic', and none of the research itself claims there is. Only the press and, sadly, certain researchers do - when speaking in sound bites to the public.
Homosexuality may run in families but you get viruses from your parents, too, and some bad habits. Not everything that is familial is innate or genetic."
-- Jeffrey Satinover, MD
Founder and Former Director, Sterling Institute for
Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
"The Gay Gene?," Campus Crusade for
Christ International website
PRO: "While there are different theories about how the sexual orientation develops, experts in the human sexuality field do not believe that premature sexual experiences play a significant role in late adolescent or adult sexual orientation."
CON: "[M]en who sexually molest boys all too often lead their victims into homosexuality and pedophilia. The evidence indicates that a high percentage of homosexuals and pedophiles were themselves sexually abused as children."
-- Timothy Dailey, PhD
Senior Research Fellow, Family Research Council
"Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse,"
PRO: "People discover rather than choose their sexual interests. The process of discovery typically begins before the onset of puberty and is associated with an increase in the secretion of sex hormones from the adrenal glands. However, the determination of the direction of sexual interest, in the sense of preferences for the same or opposite sex, are earlier. These preferences, although not manifest until much later in development, appear to be caused by the neural organizational effects of intrauterine hormonal events."
-- Vernon L. Quinsey, PhD
Head, Department of Psychology,
"Etiology of Anomalous Sexual Preference in Men,"
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
CON: "Studies of men and women who experienced prenatal defects in hormone metabolism have not found a concurrent increase in homosexual behavior.
Overall, the data do not support a causal connection between hormones and human sexual orientation."
-- Amy Banks, MD
Director of Advanced Training,
Jean Baker Miller Institute, Wellesley College
Nanette Gartrell, MD
Principal Investigator, The National
Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study
"Hormones and Sexual Orientation:
A Questionable Link," Journal of Homosexuality
PRO: "On every continent, animals of the same sex seek each other out and have probably been doing so for millions of years. They court each other, using intricate and beautiful mating dances that are the result of eons of evolution. Males caress and kiss each other, showing tenderness and affection toward one another rather than just hostility and aggression. Females form long-lasting pair-bonds - or maybe just meet briefly for sex, rolling in passionate embraces or mounting one another. Animals of the same sex build nests and homes together, and many homosexual pairs raise young without members of the opposite sex...Amid this incredible variety of different patterns, one thing is certain: the animal kingdom is most definitely not just heterosexual."
-- Bruce Bagemihl, PhD
Biologist and author
Biological Exuberance, Animal
Homosexuality and Natural Diversity
CON: "The animal kingdom is no place for man to seek a blueprint for human morality...The fact that man has a body and sensitive life in common with animals does not mean he is strictly an animal. Nor does it mean that he is a half-animal. Man's rationality pervades the wholeness of his nature so that his sensations, instincts and impulses are not purely animal but have that seal of rationality which characterizes them as human."
CON: "My primary question is: why isn't homosexuality considered a disorder on the basis of its medical consequences alone?...
Homosexuality involves a life-threatening behavior with an addictive component which has serious health implications...
Very simply, it seems, an objective person just looking at homosexuality's lifestyle consequences would have to classify it as some kind of pathology."
-- Kathleen Melonakos
Founder, Delaware Family Foundation
"Why Isn't Homosexuality Considered a Disorder
on the Basis of Its Medical Consequences?"
published on the website of the National Association for
the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH)
PRO: "A growing body of empirical literature suggests that the brains of gay males are less masculinized than those of heterosexual males, reflected in visual-spatial task performance - a measure of cerebral masculinazation and one in which heterosexual males usually surpass females.
Several studies report that the cognitive performance of gay males is more typical of heterosexual females than heterosexual males.
Furthermore, the brain waves of gay males while performing verbal and spatial tasks are more similar to heterosexual females than males or significantly different from both."
-- Kenneth Cohen, PhD
Lecturer in Human Development, Cornell University
"Relationships Among Childhood Sex-Atypical
Behavior, Spatial Ability, Handedness, and
Sexual Orientation in Men," Archives of Sexual Behavior
CON: "Scientists have barely been able to distinguish between the microstructure of male and female brains in adults, let alone between male homosexual and female brains. Attempts to prove such a similarity have been unconvincing.
Male and female brains appear identical at birth, and the only consistently replicable difference, from about age two or three, is their size. Most of the development of the human brain takes place after birth in response to stimuli, learning, and experience. The brain changes so much in response to learning and repeated human behaviors that this could probably account for any differences between homosexual and heterosexual brains which might be ultimately discovered."
-- Neil Whitehead, PhD
Author, My Genes Made Me Do It!
"Homosexuality and Science: A Scientific
Look at Homosexuality," published on his website
Jan. 26, 2006
PRO: "It is highly doubtful that the so-called 'conversion therapies' and 'reparative therapies' are actually able to change a person's sexual orientation. Claims about their success are based on scattered anecdotal reports, not on rigorous scientific studies that have been subjected to review by other scientists."
-- Gregory M. Herek, PhD
Professor of Psychology,
University of California at Davis
"The APA Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic
Responses to Sexual Orientation,"
posted to his website
Jan. 12, 2005
CON: "Among the 31 studies we reviewed, we found a total of 45 persons who experienced a full sexual orientation shift. Some studies also provided evidence that some homosexual persons are able to 'acquire' heterosexual behaviour (86 persons). By this we mean that they gained the ability to interact sexually in satisfying ways with someone of the opposite sex. And we found evidence for partial shifts in sexual orientation (287 persons). In a partial shift, an exclusively homosexual person acquires heterosexual attractions and desires, but with some degree of homosexuality remaining...
Our research has shown the statement 'homosexuals can't change' to be a generalization. Various sources provide evidence for a partial or full shift in sexual orientation. Such evidence does not mean that every homosexual person should change. It does not mean that everyone can change. It does not mean that change is easy. It does mean that, at least for some people, change of sexual orientation is possible."
-- New Directions Ministries
"Homosexuality and the Possibility of Change, An Ongoing Research Project,"
on its website
Jan. 12, 2005
PRO: "Where the Bible mentions homosexual behavior at all, it clearly condemns it. I freely grant that. The issue is precisely whether that Biblical judgment is correct. The Bible sanctioned slavery as well, and nowhere attacked it as unjust. Are we prepared to argue today that slavery is biblically justified?"
-- Walter Wink
Professor of Biblical Interpretation at
Auburn Theological Seminary
Homosexuality and Christian Faith:
Questions of Conscience for the Churches
CON: "Homosexuality may not have been mentioned by Jesus - many other sexual variations were not, either. But He could not have spelled out the standard for sexual expression more clearly: male to female, joined as God intended them to be. He cannot be assumed to have approved of anything less."
-- Joe Dallas
Founder and Program Director of
Genesis Counseling "Responding To Pro-Gay Theology,"
on the website LeadershipU