Homosexuality: A Choice or a Trait?

Nature vs. Nurture?

A question is being debated by not only scientist, but religious leaders and the general public as well: Is homosexuality a choice that someone picks, or a trait that someone is born with?
Some people, like religious leaders view homosexuality as a choice, and go as far as calling it a personality disorder. Others protest that someone’s sexual orientation is a trait that someone is genetically born with, and insist that the reason for someone’s sexual preferences is due to a hormonal change in their genetic make up. Many, however, feel that it is both that determine the sexual stance of someone. Known to be the largest association of psychologists, The American Psychological Association (APA), feel that this question is more complex than some might think it to be.

“There are numerous theories about the origins of a person’s sexual orientation; most scientists today agree that sexual orientation is most likely the result of a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors. In most people, sexual orientation is shaped at an early age. There is also considerable recent evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person’s sexuality. In summary, it is important to recognize that there are probably many reasons for a person’s sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people.”

Some people refuse to believe that homosexuality is a trait. Gregory Cochran, a physicist who developed some new ideas in evolutionary medicine and genetic anthropology, suggests that genetics will not and can not explain a person’s sexual orientation because such ‘gay’ genes would have been exterminated from the population over time. Cochran suggested that homosexuality can be connected to disorders such as MS, heart disease, chicken pox, or any bacterial or viral conditions. When hearing this ‘Gay Germ Theory’ many people were outraged.

“I think it’s a very interesting idea. The idea that homosexuality resulted from overprotective mothers was also an interesting idea. But when it was tested, it turned out to be completely untrue. Whether Cochran’s theory is true or false is an experimental question and needs to be answered by observation and by experimentation, not by chitchat, says Dean H. Hamer, Chief of gene Structure and Regulation at the Laboratory of Biochemistry at the National Gene Structure Cancer Institute.”

When it comes to religion, many views on whether or not it should be condemned create controversy. One passage from the Old Testament states that:
‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination’ (Leviticus 18:22).
Upon reading this, one can obviously assume that the passage bluntly states homosexuality is an ‘abomination’. However, Michele Brand Medwin, Rabbi of Temple Sholom in Monticelle, New York begs to question whether or not the Old Testament really condemns homosexuality.

“These verses [Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13] were not meant to be used to foster hate against homosexuals or to condemn individual gay men and the loving relationships they form…The Canaanites used homosexual acts as part of their pagan rituals. Therefore the Israelites were prohibited from doing this, not because it was an act between two men but because it was symbolic of pagan ritual. In today’s world this prohibition now has no meaning. We are no longer threatened by Canaanite pagan religion and homosexuality today is not a pagan ritual. Homosexuality in Biblical terms is no longer an issue for us today.”

What is more interesting is that the majority of people might not notice that nearly all references refer to men performing intimate gestures with each other, not women. This leads people to further the question on whether or not homosexuality is a trait or a disorder. Either way, this topic will continue to have two sided opinions and will probably always be a questioned too complex to answer.

By: Roxanne Allen, IB12

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23 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jamie Rinder on September 24, 2010 at 4:23 PM

    What a revelation Rabbi Medwin´s comment is! I had never read about such an interpretation before.
    These Leviticus verses have been used to demomise homosexuals for far too long and it´s high time that more spiritual leaders spoke out for a commón-sense and contextualised approach to studying holy scripts.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Well on September 24, 2010 at 9:40 PM

    James, you can’t simply disassemble a verse like that. If so most of the tenants in major religions can be ignored. Should Muslims ignore the verses forbidding pork as food? Many experts agree the only reason its banned in the Qu’ran was to separate Islam from Christianity amongst the commoners.

    It doesn’t matter why these verses were put in the holy books. The only thing that matters to devout believers is that it IS written and in most cases as their deities own words.

    Now if you go around adhering to only the verses you agree with then you are nothing more than a sham and you’re actively defaming your chosen religion with your every act.

    Reply

    • Posted by Roxanne Allen on September 25, 2010 at 5:55 PM

      Well,
      It doesn’t matter why these verses were put in the holy books? If someone told you to wear a fish on top of your head because your particular religion said so, would you do such an absurd thing? No, you would question why. Keep in mind that the HOLY book, is written not by a deity, but by a common man. You should also keep in mind that when the old testament was written, it was meant to be translated with an older form of english (with different meanings), not the modern english we use in todays society. So when translating the Old Testament today, we are never sure if the translated form we have is correct. Im not sure if you read the quote from Rabbi Michele Brand Medwi, but his explanation on how it could be translated differently makes perfect sense.
      Who in particular says you cant disassemble a verse like the one above? If people didn’t question things, no one would ever find the right answers to questionable topics. Questioning verses in a religion does not mean you defy your chosen religion. You sir, are a perfect reason these leviticus verses have been used to demise someone for their sexual orientation and, in my own opinion, you become a disgrace to the religion you practice. Im not a religious person, yet Ive always been fond of studying different religions. In every single religion Ive come across, each and everyone has stated to respect everyone, and love everyone as you would love yourself. Yet, you sit here saying that God condemns homosexuals. Im sorry if this might offend you…but this reminds me when Hitler once said be a proud German, but kill the German Jews. Im not saying God had that in mine, but people like you who take religions and use them to preach who is right and holy and who is condemned to hell, ruin the very nature of the reason why a religion was created in the first place. Open your mind up, just because YOU translate religious statements one way DOES NOT mean that every other translation is wrong.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Jamie Rinder on September 25, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    To respond to the point that verses in holy books cannot be disassembled, as this might lead to tenants in major religions can be ignored…

    The book of Leviticus says that if men sleep together, they have committed an abomination and should be put to death.

    In the same book, we read that pork is unclean, that anyone who curses their parents should be put to death, that women who have sex whilst on their period will be banished from their community, that we may buy and sell foreign slaves, that we may not cut the hair from the sides of our heads, and, well well well – that the word ABONIMATION is also used to describe the eating of shellfish!

    I don’t presume to comment on the rights and wrongs of Muslims eating pork – or on anyone enjoying religious freedom; but as the archbishops tuck into their lobster suppers, as the slave trade was formally abolished and criminalised, and as I am free to have my hair cut however and whenever I like, it strikes me that the same approach should be taken on the issue of homosexuality.

    I think that texts written in Hebrew and Aramiac hundreds of years ago DO need to be disassembled – and I mean by that translated and put into context. Both gay sex and eating shellfish are called an ABOMINATION… Christians are allowed to eat lobster and prawns without any fuss – so why can’t the church stop demonising gays?

    Reply

  4. Posted by Jamie Rinder on September 25, 2010 at 8:58 PM

    oops – mistake in my first paragraph! should read: majot tenants BEING ignored! sorry

    Reply

  5. Posted by Majid Ahy on September 26, 2010 at 1:08 AM

    After growing up with one of my old best friends (who’s turned gay) I’ve realized he’s become much happier in life. I never understood why because girls are amazing, but I’d hate to give up Lobster and Prawns. So I understand that arguement.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Omid Shahnaz on September 26, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    It´s not a person´s sexual orientation that makes you who you are as a person. Heterosexuals, religious ones too, have made the most demonic and hideous acts and still do, as a matter of fact. And the funny part is they do so in the name of religion, Islam, Christianity and so on and so forth. The question whither homosexuality is a trait or a personal choice is as mentioned an interaction of very complex internal and external factors that shape an individual. However , who we are as persons are defined by our actions and behavior and not by our sexual orientation. That is a personal characteristic which should be respected if we are to call ourselves open-minded and civilized individuals.
    We have larger responsibilities towards the larger society where we live in and it starts from accepting and affirming the diversity of mankind, difference of life styles, political views, sexual orientation, cultural diversity and religious orientation too. At the same time, we should condemn any views that would in-prison the liberation of man kind and inhibit our development , individual, cultural or societal.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Katja Slonawski on September 29, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    I think we’re forgetting something: it’s not really correct to divide people into “hetrosexual” and “homosexual” as two groups. A third sexuality also exsists: bisexuality.
    I believe that in the very beginning, every person is bisexual in order to not get love and sexual pleasure in case the opposite sex wouldn’t be around. But most people are shaped into being hetrosexual since it fits our needs so far through history; you can get kids, and it looks more natural according to scientists since most animals are hetrosexual as well. Then there are exceptions with people simply not being affected by the social environment in that way, and they turn out gay or bi. When you have “decided” your sexuality (more or less concious) you stick to that, which is why you as straigh/gay could say: “I could never imagine being with a man/woman”. It has simply become an important part of your identity that you feel comfortable with.
    Note: this is only a theory of mine, not a fact.

    Reply

    • Posted by Daniel on September 29, 2010 at 6:37 PM

      I agree with you, I think that all of us are born bisexual but due to what society considers to be “normal” most of us decide to be hetrosexual. We don’t let ourselves be open to all the possibilites there are simply because of the consequences it may lead to. I think homo/bisexuality would be much more common if it hadn’t been something that’s classified as different. If you look at the Swedish soceity for example, you realize that more and more people are open with themselves and their sexuality and let themselves feel what they really feel. In other countries where homosexuality is something wrong and you can be killed for being it, the people in these countries don’t let themselves be open to these possibilites.
      I think all of us are born bisexual, but most of us subconciously become completely straight due to the norms of the society. What we have to keep in mind though is that we shouldn’t classify ourselves into categories, we are all human beings – that’s what matters.

      Reply

  8. I think homosexuality comes from both your genetics and your surroundings. And when people who think they are homosexual come out of the “closet” they usually become happier because they are true to themselves. So even if people are homosexual at biologic/genetic sense they don’t have to act like it. Thats when i think your surroundings come in play, if your people around you are open to homosexuality your are more likely to act on what you truly feel.

    Reply

  9. Posted by sebastian on September 29, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    I think it’s up to yourself if you’re gay or not. You have your free will and it has nothing with genetics to do because if it did, you wouldn’t exist because in that case one of your parents would be gay and you can have a baby with two men or two women. But the article was good, very informative.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Madelene on September 30, 2010 at 12:01 PM

    I don’t think that being gay is a choice. I have a lot of friends who’s gay and they say that if they could choose their sexuality, they would choose to be straight since a lot of people doesn’t accept homosexuals.
    Homosexuality has existed for many hundred years and there are presence of homosexuality in almost every corner in our world in different societies but still it isn’t as accepted as it should be. Some countries/states oppress homosexuals by for an example saying that it’s illegal for them to get married or adopt children and I think that this is a very big problem in today’s society.
    We have to respect eachother because we’re all human beings and even if we don’t agree to a certain life stayle we still have to accept that it exists. It doesn’t matter whether we’re gay or not because we’re all humans and that’s what really matters.

    Reply

  11. Posted by abdirahman muse on October 2, 2010 at 6:16 PM

    being gay is a choice that we make which is a bad choice , and god does not approve of it as god says in the koran 026.165-166 “Of all the creatures in the world, will ye approach males, And leave those whom Allah has created for you to be your mates? Nay, ye are a people transgressing (all limits)!
    027.055 Would ye really approach men in your lusts rather than women? Nay, ye are a people (grossly) ignorant!
    ” and it is clear that god created man for a woman not man for a man or woman for a woman and god does condemn homosexuells

    The Qur’an talks about the story of the “people of Lot, destroyed by the wrath of Allah because they engaged in “lustful” acts between men.

    Reply

    • Posted by Katja on October 3, 2010 at 3:14 PM

      If you say so, then we can have a really interesting conversation about how updated the Qur’an is, and if it really was Allah – and not priests 2000 years ago – who wrote it. Does this “condemtion” really apply to all people? I have a hard time imagining someone/something allmighty, that I’ve never believed in, judging me for my sexuality. The religious view is up to the people within the religion, not for outsiders.
      Also, did you know for a fact that the estimated percent of homo-/bisexuals is bigger in the Middle East than anywhere else? Scientists say this is because men and women in these parts of the world are isolated from eachother but stuffed together with the same gender, and that sexual pleasure actually is one of our basic needs and flexible enough for us to adapt to “switch” our sexuality to be able to fulfil that need. We have sex because we have to and need to, intinctively, and when take what is offered to us – which in the Middle East-case often is the same gender.
      Oh, and by the way: the extract from the Qur’an you had there, it only speaks to men. Ever imagined a woman to be homosexual or even have a sexuality?

      Reply

      • Posted by abdirahman muse on October 4, 2010 at 11:12 AM

        first of all the Qur’an was revealed in about 1450 years ago to muhammed(pbuh) from allah through gabriel and it is the only true and holy book that has never been changed it is today as it has been revealed to muhammed(pbuh). After the profet died it was written by his companians and definitely not by priests of all people. the condemnation that I’m Talking about applys to the people who believe in him but we`re different i chose to believe him you chose not to believe him and as human beings we have a choice to be gay or whatever you want to believe or do but im talking about the people who are religious saying that god does not condem homosexuells. you said that gays are getting a lot in middle east so who gives a crap if they are found guilty of it they will be executed and that is their right. the men and women are isoloted because of the religious aspect and middle east will never become like the western countries thank god , and please do not talk about the quran if you have no idea of how,when and where the quran came down

    • Posted by Roxanne Allen on October 13, 2010 at 12:02 AM

      What you religous folks who qoute your holy books forget to realize is that NOT ALL PEOPLE ARE RELIGOUS. whatever you book you decide to pray with, does not apply to everyone. Someone people, like me and in my opinion, have common sense and recognize this world being made by the building blocks of life and believe in the big bang, rather than god creating light and creating land and creating adam and eve. In the society that we live in today, it if very difficult to keep referring back a holy book, and quite frankly, not that many people who defend their religion actually follow all the little rules set for them.

      Reply

      • Posted by Roxanne Allen on October 13, 2010 at 12:06 AM

        And anyone has the right to talk about whatever they please, you can thank western countries for that, unlike strict middl eastern countries.
        Just so that you dont assume that im a blonde sweden, or some stupid american, my mother has a middle eastern backgroun…im pretty sure that gives me the right to say whatever i please. and saying the Qurran is the only holy book which hasnt changed is a lie. Please, before you start talking, investigate what you say first.

  12. Posted by Mirre on October 3, 2010 at 12:58 PM

    I’m just going to say one thing about all this: Love the person and not the sex!
    Just as simple as that 😉

    Reply

  13. Posted by Remote Control on October 4, 2010 at 11:05 PM

    Of course you choose if you’re gay or not it’s pretty obvious. It’s you who makes the choice no one else, the same way you decide to go to school everyday it’s not a trait you are born with that suddenly you want to go to school. The bull people having been saying in here about how you are born with it is just an silly excuse we are actually human who have free choice we are not robots that a programmed to function in a certain choice. You decide not genes or whatever.

    Reply

  14. Posted by Katja on October 5, 2010 at 7:39 PM

    From personal experience I can tell you this much: your sexuality is nothing you decide, it something you discover. When or where doesn’t matter, but you discover it and then you know it.

    Reply

    • Posted by Remote Control on October 5, 2010 at 10:23 PM

      So you’re telling me you wake up one day and think hmm i like men?? how does that sound, you either know you’re gay or not you can’t “discover” that you’re gay

      Reply

      • Posted by Katja on October 8, 2010 at 7:39 AM

        Discovering takes time, you know. If, as you say, that you simply “know” what sexuality you have, when do you know it? You have to start somewhere. There’s a lack of logic in you argument, because small children don’t think of sex as we do, they don’t experience sexual pleasure in the same way we do, because it’s a matter of maturity, and they never question the family norm with a mom, a dad and a child. If, say for example that you are straight, you don’t think of the process since it’s the “obvious” sexuality for the majority. Though if you are not straight, you one day realise that you don’t really follow the patterns of sexuality that most of your friends and family do. That part you’re right on, you can wake up one day, go out in the world and realise that something’s “different” and when you start questioning and try out different imaginations or actions, you know. The whole process is the discovering of sexuality.

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