Last updated on: 7/24/2017 | Author:

Meg-John Barker, PhD Biography

Psychotherapist, Author, and Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the Open University
Not Clearly Pro or Con to the question "Is Sexual Orientation Determined at Birth?"

“The idea that we are ‘born gay’ and that it is in our genes is tempting because it contradicts the homophobic notion that people choose to be gay, or are socialised into it, and could (and should) therefore be otherwise. Gay rights activism has often been based on trying to prove that lesbian and gay people are just as legitimate as heterosexual people and therefore deserving of equal treatment. So you can see why the idea that being gay is genetic might be popular.

However there are some big problems with this approach…

We know that sexuality – like most aspects of human experience – is both fluid (changing over time) and biopsychosocial. That means that our sexualities are the result of an array of biological, psychological and social factors, all mixed together in a complex way. There aren’t single genes for even very simple things like height or eye colour, so it is very unlikely that there would be for sexuality. Also epigenetics shows us that genes interact with our environment: life experiences can determine whether genes are ‘switched off’ or ‘switched on’. It may well be that our genetic make-up tilts us in certain directions in all kinds of ways, but as soon as we are born, our biology interacts with the culture we’re born into – the social messages we receive, our experiences, and the ways we make sense of them – in all kinds of ways. This make it impossible to tease out what is ‘nature’ and what is ‘nurture’. It leaves each individual with a unique constellation that makes up their own particularly sexuality.”

“Born This Way? Thoughts on the Gay Gene for DIVA,”, Sep. 8, 2016

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Member, International Editorial Board, Psychology & Sexuality, May 2017-present
  • UK Council for Psychotherapy Accredited Psychotherapist
  • Co-founder, BiUK, 2009-present
  • Senior Lecturer, Psychology, Open University (Milton Keynes, UK), Nov. 2008-present
  • Member, Society for Existential Analysis, 2006-present
  • Co-founder and Co-Editor, Psychology & Sexuality, 2010-May 2017
  • Senior Lecturer, Middlesex University, Psychology, Jan. 2004-Sep. 2004
  • Senior Lecturer, Psychology, London South Bank University, 2004-2008
  • Lecturer, Department of English, Journalism and Cultural Studies, University of Worcester, Sep. 2002-Sep. 2004
  • Lecturer, Psychology, University of Gloucestershire, Sep. 1998-Sep. 2002
  • MA, Psychotherapy, University of Sheffield, 2010
  • PGCFHE (Postgraduate Certificate in Further and Higher Education), Teaching, University of Gloucestershire, 2000
  • PhD, Psychology, University of Nottingham, 1998
  • BS, Psychology, University of Nottingham, 1995
  • Twitter handle: @megjohnbarker