“…the genetic theory of homosexuality has been generally discarded today.”
(W.H. Masters, V.E. Johnson, R.C. Kolodny, Human Sexuality, 1984, 45)
Homosexuality as a discussion topic often provokes controversy but there are some indisputable aspects of the topic that are beyond controversy.
One such is whether there is clinical evidence for a genetic basis for homosexuality. The other is whether a homosexual can change orientation. We have learned much from cross-cultural studies and psychotherapy about both indisputable aspects mentioned here.
Let’s begin with cross-cultural studies.
Despite the remarkable similarities in the genetic characteristics of different ethnic groups, researchers have found quite a variety of sexual norms and customs in the cultures studied. There is variety in heterosexual customs as well as variety in homosexual customs and these varieties seem largely influenced by what a particular group reinforces in the raising of the young. If sexual orientation was essentially genetic then cultural anthropologists would have seen a greater degree of similarities in sexual expression within, between and among the various ethnic groups studied.
Focusing on homosexuality, it needs to be said that cross-cultural studies indicate cultural patterns that have little to do with an individual’s genes.
The evidence in this regard is available from Neil and Briar Whitehead in My Genes Made Me Do It! A Scientific Look at Sexual Orientation, 1999, 100, drawing on The Many Faces of Homosexuality: Anthropological Approaches to Homosexual Behaviour, edited by E. Blackwood, 1986, 19-33.
For instance, one prominent aspect of ancient Greek culture was that an older married man was expected to have a young boy as a lover. He would share sexually with the boy and would assist in finding him a wife when he was of marriageable age. Interestingly, the Greeks, though comfortable with homosexuality between a mature man and a boy, frowned on homosexuality between adult men because it was degrading for a mature man to be ‘receptive’ in the sex act.
Patterns similar to the Greeks have been found in ancientChina,Japan, medievalPersia, theSudan, etc.
There is also what is called the ‘Melanesian model’ of homosexuality seen in Papua New Guinea. According to this model of homosexuality “…men pass through three compulsory and sequential stages: passive exclusive homosexuality, active exclusive homosexuality, and exclusive adultheterosexuality.” (Whitehead, 101)
The culture not only requires homosexuality through the adolescent period and up to the age of marriage but requires a cessation of homosexual activity after the required period had elapsed and a switch to heterosexuality. As Neil and Briar Whitehead say about this cultural reality, “Two such radical shifts in behaviour in one lifetime would not be possible if homosexuality were genetically mandated.” (Whitehead, 101).
Why the dismissive statement about the genetic theory of homosexuality from Masters, Johnson and Kolodny above?
From a clinical standpoint, it is notoriously difficult to prove that any human behaviour is genetic in an exclusive sense. Additionally, clinical research on identical twins has been damaging to the ‘genetic’ or ‘born homosexual’ thesis. Why are studies on identical twins so important for homosexuality research?
Just think a bit, if one’s genetic makeup is the essential factor which makes one homosexual, then if you have identical twins (of the same genetic makeup) and one is found to be homosexual then the other must also be homosexual. You would have to have a concordance rate of 100%. You should not find a discordant pair at all, where one is homosexual and the other heterosexual. So what are the clinical results of the studies done on identical twins like?
Let it be clear that no study of twins, that still attracts respect in the scientific world, has come close to the 100% concordance rate needed to prove that homosexuality is genetic.
What of studies done on the brains of homosexual men? Dr. Simon LeVay, a gay neurobiologist is alleged to have found a difference in the brains of homosexuals and heterosexuals which some assumed helped the ‘born so’ or genetic thesis. It is critical though to hear LeVay’s comments on his own work. He urges,
It’s important to stress what I didn’t find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn’t show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain. (quoted in an article by Dr. A. Dean Byrd et al in the Salt Lake Tribune, May 27, 2001)
However politically correct it might be to claim that homosexuals were born so, the claim is clinically incorrect.
Can the homosexual orientation and practice be reversed?
Homosexual activists and others would say no, but there is contrary clinical evidence.
One of the persons providing a slice of the contrary evidence is Dr. Robert Spitzer, a gay-affirmative psychiatrist and the architect of the 1973 decision to declassify homosexuality as pathological, in the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association. His preliminary comment on a study he was doing about the possibility of change in the homosexual orientation is this,
I’m convinced from the people I have interviewed, that for many of them, they
have made substantial change toward becoming heterosexual…I think that’s
news…I came to this study skeptical. I now claim that these changes can be sustained. (cited in an article by A. Dean Byrd et al, in the Salt Lake City Tribune, May 27, 2001. The article isHomosexuality: The Innate-Immutability Argument Finds No Basis in Science by A. Dean Byrd, Shirley E. Cox and Jeffrey W. Robinson, see http://connellodonovan.com/not_innate.pdf)
There is much clinical evidence of change in homosexual orientation and practice on the website NARTH, the American National Association for Psychoanalytic Research and Therapy of Homosexuals.
Therapist Jeffrey Satinover reported a 52% success rate in the treatment of unwanted homosexual attraction. Masters and Johnson, the famed sex researchers, reported a 65% success rate after a five-year follow-up.
One can indeed be an ex-homosexual because the homosexual orientation, though complex in its etiology, is neither genetic nor is it an essential or immutable aspect of any human’s personhood.
In 2000, Dr. Diamond published a study, "Sexual identity, attractions, and behavior among young sexual minority women over a 2 year period."
This study was distorted by the so-called ex-gay therapy group NARTH. They claimed that Dr. Diamond's work shows that sexual orientation is "amenable to change."
Dr. Diamond also produced a second study, "Female Bisexuality From Adolescence to Adulthood: Results From a 10-Year Longitudinal Study" in Developmental Psychology (2008, Vol. 44, No 1., 5-14).
NARTH recently cited this study to support its anti-scientific belief that homosexuality is a mental disorder that should be treated.