Nature, Nurture, and the Nuances of Sexual Orientation

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In this installment from my ‘Ask Me Anything’ series, which you can find on my social media channels, I delve into the topic of the cause of sexual orientation.

“Is being gay genetic or environmental or both? I’ve been trying to look for all the evolutionary explanations for things lately.”

It’s both. There’s definitely a genetic component to sexuality, and there’s definitely an influence of in utero exposures (chemicals, hormones, etc.) and early life experiences (sexual abuse). It’s complex, basically.

But it doesn’t matter.

We don’t control what we are attracted to. So, who cares about the cause?

There’s nothing to fix.

Studies have shown that homosexuality is associated with changes in brain wiring and structure compared to heterosexuality. Studies have also shown that there are unique brain connections in people with various fetishes. Our brain, sculpted by both genetics and environment, determines our attractions. We don’t choose them.

There’s also no specific “gay gene” or anything similar. We know that genetics plays a role in sexual orientation because studies of twins have shown that sexual orientation is more similar between identical twins than fraternal twins. But how genes express themselves is complex.

I also think that focusing on genetic aspects of sexual orientation can be problematic because it’s tied to the idea of “fixing” homosexuality, similar to how addiction is sometimes approached. Gay people have a unique world outlook due to their unique genetic make-up and experiences. There’s nothing that needs changing.

I’ll also add that there’s an interesting evolutionary perspective on homosexuality. Namely, that the apparent paradox (since homosexuals cannot reproduce) is explained by reciprocal altruism in same-sex alliances. Basically, humans and other apes would engage in homosexual acts as a means of maintaining alliances.

So sure, there are certainly genetic and environmental variables, but it’s my position that it doesn’t matter. When we try to fix something we think is broken, we risk losing the unique ways individuals contribute to the world.

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