Last updated on: 8/31/2017 | Author:

Is Sexual Orientation Determined at Birth?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

Nsikan Akpan, PhD, Science Editor at National Geographic, in an Aug. 29, 2019 article, “There Is No ‘Gay Gene.’ There Is No ‘Straight Gene.’ Sexuality Is Just Complex, Study Confirms,” available at, stated:

“There is no single gene responsible for a person being gay or a lesbian…

In its stead, the report finds that human DNA cannot predict who is gay or heterosexual. Sexuality cannot be pinned down by biology, psychology or life experiences, this study and others show, because human sexual attraction is decided by all these factors…

The study shows that genes play a small and limited role in determining sexuality. Genetic heritability — all of the information stored in our genes and passed between generations — can only explain 8 to 25 percent of why people have same-sex relations, based on the study’s results…

Moreover, the researchers found that sexuality is polygenic — meaning hundreds or even thousands of genes make tiny contributions to the trait. That pattern is similar to other heritable (but complex) characteristics like height or a proclivity toward trying new things. (Things like red/green colorblindness, freckles and dimples can be traced back to single genes). But polygenic traits can be strongly influenced by the environment, meaning there’s no clear winner in this ‘nature versus nurture’ debate.

It is worth keeping in mind that this study only covers some types of sexuality — gay, lesbian and cis-straight — but doesn’t offer many insights into gender identity. In other words, the team only looked at the ‘LGB’ within the acronym LGBTQIA+.”

Aug. 29, 2019

Simon LeVay, PhD, Neuroscientist, in his 2017 book, Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation, stated:

“Taken together, the multitude of research studies published since 1991 have greatly strengthened the idea that biological factors play a significant role in the development of sexual orientation, in both men and women. More than that, they tend to bolster a particular kind of biological theory. This is the idea that the origins of sexual orientation are to be sought in the interactions between sex hormones and the developing brain. These interactions are what predispose our developing minds toward some degree of ‘masculinity’ or ‘femininity.’ In other words, this theory places sexual orientation within the larger framework of gender, but gender as seen from a very biological perspective.

The idea that the interaction between sex hormones and the fetal brain might be an important factor in the development of sexual orientation is not new. In fact, [German sex researcher, Magnus] Hirschfeld suggested as much in the early 20th century. But now there is evidence…

[A] brief review of non-biological theories of sexual orientation… include traditional Freudian theories that focus on parent-child relationships, as well a behaviorist ideas that see a person’s sexual orientation as the end product of a learning process… [and] the idea, espoused by some Christian conservatives as well as by a few gay activists, that a person’s sexual orientation is the result of a conscious and voluntary choice. I’ll conclude that such theories fail to adequately explain the diversity in people’s sexual orientation.”


The American Psychological Association stated, in its article titled “Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality,” published on its website (accessed Aug. 30, 2017):

“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.”

Aug. 30, 2017

PRO (yes)


James Martin, Jesuit Priest and the Consultor for the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication, in a July 10, 2017 National Catholic Register interview, “Father James Martin Explains His Vision Regarding ‘LGBT’ Catholics,” available at, when asked “Are you suggesting by this that God made ‘LGBT’ people the way they are?,” stated:

“Yes. Science and psychology shows that, and most people are finally coming to see that this — for mysterious reasons — is the way they are made. That’s something that’s held by almost every reputable psychologist and biologist. And the ‘LGBT’ people I speak to have always felt that way. Part of it is accepting oneself and accepting this is the way God made you.”

July 10, 2017


The American Psychiatric Association (APA) in a Mar. 8, 2016 letter to the Indonesian Psychiatric Association, authored on behalf of the APA by Renee Binder, MD, APA President, and Saul Levin, MD, MPA, APA CEO and Medical Director, available at, stated:

“[T]he latest and best scientific evidence shows that sexual orientation and expressions of gender identity occur naturally, and pose no threat to societies in which they are accepted as normal variants of human sexuality… There is strong evidence that genes play a role in the determination of sexuality… There is other evidence that, during fetal development, exposure to certain hormones also plays a role… In addition, genetic and hormonal factors generally interact with environmental factors that have yet to be determined, though neither faulty parenting nor exposure to gay individuals causes homosexuality. The preponderance of opinion within the scientific community is that there is a strong biological component to sexual orientation and that genetic, hormonal and environmental factors interact to influence a person’s orientation. There is no scientific evidence that either homosexuality or heterosexuality is a freewill choice.”

Mar. 8, 2016


James O’Keefe, MD, Board Certified Cardiologist and Director of both the Charles & Barbara Duboc Cardio Health & Wellness Center and the Preventive Cardiology service at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, in an Oct. 12, 2016 TedX talk, “Homosexuality: It’s about Survival – Not Sex | James O’Keefe | TEDxTallaght,” available at, stated:

“You probably have gay genes in your DNA. But unless they were turned on in your mother’s womb, they remained coiled up and silent… So what conditions in the uterus turn on those gay genes? So for a male, your chances of homosexuality increase in proportion to the number of previous baby boys who inhabited your mother’s uterus. So for every older biological brother you have, your chances of being born gay go up 33%. Long before we invented the pill, nature devised homosexuality as a prescription for birth control. After four straight heterosexual males, nature says: ‘enough already!’, and the mom’s immune system switches on the epigenetic switch so a gay male is born into the family. This one will be not be overburdening the clan with yet more mouths to feed in the next generation. Sometimes more isn’t better. And he’s not going to be killing his brother in a fight over who gets the girl…

Another gene, this one on the X chromosome, is called a male loving gene. Because when it shows up in a female, she tends to mate early and have a lot of kids. But when the male loving gene shows up in a male, it predisposes to homosexuality. So this is another gene that balances a family destined to have a large brood of kids and grandkids with an occasional gay son whose natural tendency to promote togetherness could improve the chances of survival for the whole family…

I have no doubt that female homosexuality is also a natural variation that is advantageous for the family and the community.”

Oct. 12, 2016


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.”



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

CON (no)


Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) stated in its article titled “Frequently Asked Questions: About Homosexuality,” published on its website (accessed Aug. 31, 2017):

“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.”

Aug. 31, 2017


Lawrence S. Mayer, MB, PhD, a scholar in residence in the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Paul R. McHugh, MD, a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, state in the Fall 2016 special report, “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Science,” published in The New Atlantis:

“While some people are under the impression that sexual orientation is an innate, fixed, and biological trait of human beings — that, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual, we are ‘born that way’ — there is insufficient scientific evidence to support that claim. In fact, the concept of sexual orientation itself is highly ambiguous; it can refer to a set of behaviors, to feelings of attraction, or to a sense of identity.

Epidemiological studies show a rather modest association between genetic factors and sexual attractions or behaviors, but do not provide significant evidence pointing to particular genes. There is also evidence for other hypothesized biological causes of homosexual behaviors, attractions, or identity — such as the influence of hormones on prenatal development — but that evidence, too, is limited. Studies of the brains of homosexuals and heterosexuals have found some differences, but have not demonstrated that these differences are inborn rather than the result of environmental factors that influenced both psychological and neurobiological traits.

One environmental factor that appears to be correlated with non-heterosexuality is childhood sexual abuse victimization, which may also contribute to the higher rates of poor mental health outcomes among non-heterosexual subpopulations, compared to the general population. Overall, the evidence suggests some measure of fluidity in patterns of sexual attraction and behavior — contrary to the ‘born that way’ notion that oversimplifies the vast complexity of human sexuality.”

Fall 2016


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


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


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


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 Aug. 31, 2017):

“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.”

Aug. 31, 2017


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


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


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.'”



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.”



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.”



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


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.”