If you found out you weren't born gay, would it make a difference?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jan 12, 2008 12:37 AM GMT
    It seems to be fashionable these days to claim that sexual preference is something you're born with. As a professional scientist, that makes no sense to me. How can a genetic trait that results in fewer offspring be passed down through all those generations? It conflicts with direct observation, and the studies that claim to offer "proof" are all hopelessly flawed. Most people who claim to have been "born gay" believe so because "I've always felt this way" - but you can't project adult sexual desires onto a six-year-old boy. Moreover, psychologists are in nearly universal agreement that every other component of your personality - chemical imbalances aside - is a result of your environment during your first two years of life. But nobody remembers their first two years of life, so how can anyone claim to be gay from birth based on their own personal memories?

    I'm gay, but I'll guarantee I wasn't born that way. I'm a product of my environment. And I'll guarantee that many of you (if not all of you) are too. But that doesn't mean we "chose" to be gay or "decided" to be gay. Sexual attraction isn't the result of conscious effort. You can't choose to be attracted to men over women any more than you can choose to be attracted to this guy and not that guy.

    I'm not trying to start a fight over whether you were born gay or not. Once again, I'm a scientist, and if you can't give me any scientific evidence then it doesn't mean anything to me. What does interest me, though, is why it matters to you. If you found out for sure that you were not born gay, would it make a difference to you? And for God's sake, why?
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    Jan 12, 2008 1:14 AM GMT

    Man has a prostate for a reason.

    It's neato.
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    Jan 12, 2008 1:23 AM GMT
    riptjock, you make an interesting arguement there but I think I'd have to respond to your question with the answer no. I've been on both sides of this fence... tried to live the life that wasn't meant for me...just came out this week after 22 yrs of marriage and honestly, it doesn't make any difference to me if I was born this way or if it was a developmental environment, the end result is the same, I'm attracted to men. Not by choice and I've done everything to try and eliminate those desires but to no avail. I've always thought it might have to do with environment but then read somewhere a long time ago that the mother's hormones might be a factor...who's to know...but bottom line...not sure the reason really matters..at least not to me.
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    Jan 12, 2008 1:27 AM GMT
    It would ruin my life. I could never have sex again knowing I'm just a product of an upbringing gone wrong. I'd need to go cry in Oprah's arms.

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    Jan 12, 2008 1:39 AM GMT
    I raises a LOT of ethical questions.

    1. If people are "born gay," due to genetic reasons, some couples might try to select embryos or otherwise avoid having gay children.

    2. If sexual orientation is a product of environment, people will endlessly search for causes and ways to manipulate it.

    3. If sexual orientation is a choice, or a disorder, people will endlessly search for ways to counsel or medicate people out of it.

    In reality, there does not have to be a single cause. It could be a combination of causes, or multiple independent causes. To me, pursuing the cause subtly implies that there is something wrong or abnormal about it. I think whatever the reason or reasons, knowing for certain would clarify the debate, so in that sense, I would like to know. Even if someone could prove that it was a choice (a ridiculous proposition), we could still argue that people had an inalienable right to pursue their happiness, and insist that no one be pressured to change against their will.

    If it was proven to be an environmental factor, such as birth order, we could honestly ask if manipulating birth order was a valid pursuit.

    And if it was proven genetic, we could address it in the context of genetically engineering humans, which is already done in cases of some "birth defects."

    Certainly a review of the contributions of gays and lesbians throughout history could lend credance to any argument against trying to manipulate orientation.
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    Jan 12, 2008 1:47 AM GMT
    No, it would make no difference. I have no reason or desire to change who I am, the way I've experienced life, or the person with whom I'm in love. I tend to not put a lot of value in the theory that my sexuality was decided by environment during my first two years. Considering the people I was surrounded by in those years, it makes no sense to me at all. I admit I could be wrong... wouldn't be the first time... and I remain open to that possibility... but at this point, I just don't see it.

    That said... and since you're a professional scientist, riptjock... I remember seeing research a few years back that I want your take on (and the other scientists here, too). I don't remember where it was published after all this time, but it in essence proposed that bi-sexuality may be the evolutionary norm, and that heterosexuality and homosexuality may be evolutionary deviations of that norm. I seem to remember something about a particular protein in a particular segment of DNA being their basis for this proposal. Scientifically, with or without the DNA argument, how much water does that theory hold? Logically, I can see how that could be possible as evolution sometimes tries several variations of a theme... but I am not a scientist (I am a science junkie, howevericon_biggrin.gif).
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    Jan 12, 2008 1:55 AM GMT
    The Freudian theories of "weak or absent father, domineering mother" have been pretty well consigned to the trash heap of Inane Theories by now. So if by "environment" you mean "nurture", I disagree utterly. If by environment you mean "exposure to hazardous chemicals", like Lily Tomlin in The Incredible Shrinking Woman, I suspect that too many movies have been watched. So, what does that leave?

    I go with mainly genetic, with possibly some sort of hormonal exposure in the womb. I am gay; my exwife was a lesbian, and my daughter is a lesbian. My son is straight. This argues (though does not prove) some sort of genetic pass-through.

    And as someone said above, what difference does it make?

    And as far as six year olds being too young, the literature of psychiatry has many examples of "pre-sexual" feelings among children as young as two. Clearly, they cannot know a real sex urge at that age, but the attractions can be seen. When I examine my own history, I realize that a crush I had at age 4 had every sign of an adult crush, except obviously the sex act itself was unknown and not imagined. But the yearning, the wanting to be with him (an older man of seven)...these feelings are recognizable to anyone at any age.

    Also, perhaps coincidentally and perhaps not, almost that precise age gap (3 or 4 years older than me) has been the age difference between me and my wife and me and both of my male partners.
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    Jan 12, 2008 1:58 AM GMT
    Hey Native - thanks to you and everyone for your responses. I didn't mean to imply that sexuality is determined during your first two years, and in fact I don't believe that to be the case. But many attributes of your personality do seem to be developed during that time - before you're capable of making lasting memories - so the common "I've always felt this way" argument doesn't seem to hold water.

    I haven't heard of the idea that bisexuality is the proto-natural, pre-evolutionary state; actually having two genders is itself a product of evolution (simple organisms reproduce asexually), and in evolutionary terms, bisexuality and homosexuality would serve no purpose (aside from fun, of course). So the idea seems a bit odd to me. At any rate, you certainly could not relate this pre-evolutionary form of bisexuality to any sort of bisexuality going on in the locker rooms of America today.
  • irishboxers

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    Jan 12, 2008 1:59 AM GMT
    I'm with Chuckystud. The prostate serves no biological purpose (that I'm aware of) other than to provide stimulation to the anal area and income for doctors when they can test for one more form of cancer. Women don't have it, which further makes me wonder what women who like anal sex are getting out of it, other than satisfying their gay-curious boyfriends.

    As a scientist, I wonder how you don't understand why there would be a naturally-occurring genetic mutation (nasty word, but stay with me) that happens all the time in other species. Who's to say that this isn't a built in condition of the human species to control population? Other animals have a funny way of controlling their population on their own and in ways not necessarily understood by us (or helped by us).

    I know that in many nights of Discovery Channel or Animal Planet I've heard of many species that adapt to their environment by either becoming asexual or some that even switch genders to compensate for the current population imbalance (too many males or females). Who's to say that this didn't happen thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia when water sources were limited and overpopulation meant drought and famine?

    I know I liked boys from a very, very young age (6 or 7 years old) and I don't think I had a choice in the matter. It's a naturally occurring mutation of one of the DNA markers; figuring out which one is for people with more degrees than me. I don't think the next step from here will be developing superpowers, but who knows. icon_wink.gif

    Haven't seen any research on this. Just a theory.

    No, it wouldn't make a difference to me. I yam who I yam. My parents did the best job they could and, based on stories I've heard of a lot of other childhoods, they did a pretty awesome job. It's not their fault. Some things are just the way they are and it's a waste of time trying to find someone to blame.
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    Jan 12, 2008 2:11 AM GMT
    Uh, for the record, the primary function of the prostate is to produce a slightly alkaline seminal fluid (as much as 30% of your total seminal fluid) that helps the sperm survive in the acidic uterine environment.

    And, as Chuckystud said, it's neato.
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    Jan 12, 2008 2:13 AM GMT
    the genetic trait is passed by the survival of offspring....just not the direct offspring. We are all related and share genes with our nieces and nephews. Thru the ages, we have added to the survival of the species.

    Think of it this way...

    If there were two families with equal number of siblings.

    In one family, all the siblings were straight. All of the siblings had children. All of the siblings competed with each other to raise their children.

    In the other family, all of the siblings were straight...except for one gay. All of the straight siblings had children, but the gay sibling did not. All of the siblings competed with each other to raise their children ...except for the gay sibling.

    Therefore, the family with the gay sibling, who shares genes with his nieces and nephews, has one more provider to help raise the children and get their genes to the next generation. Before this age of abundance, that could have made the difference in one family surviving better than another.

    So gay have played an important role in the survival of our species.

    You are right...otherwise, we would make no sense and would have been selected out of the gene pool, tout suite!
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    Jan 12, 2008 2:16 AM GMT
    Who thinks the prostate has no function?!?!?!?! ... icon_eek.gif
  • Alan95823

    Posts: 306

    Jan 12, 2008 2:21 AM GMT
    It wouldn't matter to me a bit if someone proved it one way or another. I've always wanted to kiss and cuddle with guys, and while I can be affectionate with girls it's purely platonic.

    If I haven't gotten sexually aroused by a woman yet, I doubt it's going to happen.

    And I concur, prostates are neato.
  • olden

    Posts: 194

    Jan 12, 2008 2:23 AM GMT
    There is an exhibit at the Natural History Museum in Oslo, Norway, called "Against Nature?" It shows the role that homosexuality plays in the lives of 51 species of animals, ranging from Chimps to Orcas.

    It appears that homosexuality has the role of allowing groups/herds/pods of animals in numbers large enough to ensure survival to live together without perpetual challenges for dominance.

    You can Google the subject "homosexuality in animals" and find the link.

    It would seem that homosexuality is not an abnormality, but may be heavily linked to societal evolution.
  • Paradigm_Shif...

    Posts: 251

    Jan 12, 2008 2:31 AM GMT
    Not being a scientist or even that well informed lol, I can't add toonmuch, but I do have two questions.

    1) If there is a "gay gene" could it be dominant or recessive? So could it be recessive in straight parents, and in straight children, but dominant in just their gay son? Is this a way that the gene could be passed down through generations?

    2) Riptjock, you argue that sexual orientation is determined by environment. What specific factors do you think make that determination? Do you mean the environment in the wound, or the environment in the home? What about being exposed to a Cher music video between the ages of 1 and 2...? lol.
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    Jan 12, 2008 2:37 AM GMT
    i'm listening, but not sure what environmental "triggers" there could be. But I think guys like Riptjock made me "thisaway"
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    Jan 12, 2008 2:49 AM GMT
    The idea that sexual orientation is completely programmed by genetics is attractive to people for a bunch of reasons -- one being that it completely obliterates the notion that sexuality is a "choice." If it's inevitable, like skin color, then you can't call it inherently any more sinful than heterosexuality.

    But there's also the problem of sexuality's definition. The genetic argument is also popular because it usually reduces sexuality to simple sexual desire (as the original poster seems to be doing). That way, gay people can argue that they are different from straight people only in being attracted to their own gender.

    Such people usually attribute any other differences to being socialized as a member of a stigmatized minority. Thus it becomes paramount to avoid the "gay scene," lest they be swallowed up and spit out as flaming homos.

    But many of us think the construction of homosexuality, either by genetics or socialization or a combination, involves more than literal sexual desire. If you read something like "Satyricon," the world's first novel, you see clear behavioral echoes of what people disdainfully call the "stereotypes" of contemporary homosexuality, such as a love of irony, obsession with penis size, gender variance, even the inclination to dramatize problems, etc. (I stress that these are echoes of what is really a pretty incoherent definition in contemporary terms, anyway.)

    I think the latter, an almost different way of perceiving, is what many people mean when they say they remember being "different" as children. But we also know that sexuality emerges at a much younger age than most people realize. While Freud was a crackpot in many respects, he at least realized how central sexuality is to human identity and becomes tied up with more than the explicit sex drive.

    The business about early memories is fascinating. We assume that a preverbal memory is impossible, since language programs thought. (That's why infant boys used to be circumcised without anesthesia; they wouldn't "remember" the pain, anyway.) But there's reason to think now that memory may be encoded in ways other than linguistic.

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    Jan 12, 2008 2:56 AM GMT
    riptjock saidIt seems to be fashionable these days to claim that sexual preference is something you're born with. As a professional scientist, that makes no sense to me. How can a genetic trait that results in fewer offspring be passed down through all those generations?

    I'm going to assume that the branch of science in which you are a professional is not biology, because even I, with no background in biology, know that a genetic trait does not have to be expressed in order for it to be passed down to the next generation. For example, my mother passed her father's red-green color blindness down to my brother without, herself, being red-green color blind. A recessive gay gene could be passed on to the next generation via heterosexuals. I'm quite certain that there are genetic diseases that tend to keep people from reproducing, yet they continue to show up, generation after generation. Basically, you're saying that gayness can't be genetic because you don't understand basic biology.
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    Jan 12, 2008 2:57 AM GMT
    I am not a scientist either, but I read a lot about this issue. Not just about being gay but the issue of nature v.s. nurture. It seems to be really difficult to set up research that can prove one or the other in many cases of behavior.

    The relationship between the environment and genetic disposition will never be clear cut because the environment will cause the expression of a genetic disposition. The opposite is also probably true, that genetics will affect the relationship to the environment.

    My unscientific feeling is that there is a strong genetic component to being gay and that most people are gay in degrees. Some can deny it for a long time, others it is much more obvious to themselves at a young age.

    Whether one realizes being gay seems to be environmental because if you are never introduced to the idea you may never be able to understand the feelings in any context that would frame it as something real. That does not mean you can have a REAL relationship with a women if you are gay.

    There has always been something missing in my marriage. I know what it is now: passion.

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    Jan 12, 2008 3:13 AM GMT
    obscenwishI think the latter, an almost different way of perceiving, is what many people mean when they say they remember being "different" as children.

    Exactly... I remember being "different" as far back as I can remember. I remember having different perceptions of things, different opinions, a different way of expressing thoughts and feelings, etc. I remember with many of the traditionally "masculine" things... like hunting, football, etc... no matter how hard I tried to understand their appeal to other guys or to learn to like those things, I just didn't get it. I also remember being able to clearly understand, in the case of discord between a male and a female, each perspective as well as being able to see the point at which the two did not mesh. All the above continues to be true with me. And I remember how my environment (and the people within it) clearly sent me the message that all that should be suppressed because it wasn't "normal".

    I tend to agree that it could be any combination of factors... genetics, evolution, nurture, physical environment, etc... that determines or at least shapes sexual orientation. But as strongly as I was taught to suppress my "differences" and conform to society of that time, I never did... I couldn't, no matter how hard I tried. So I suspect its something much more inherent within me than environment.
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    Jan 12, 2008 3:16 AM GMT
    Ah I beg to differ my friend. Big time. I was ALWAYS attracted go guys. Just like little girls are attracted other boys and have crushes, and vice versa. So where do you get your theory from? As long as I can remember I was always interested in guys and not girls. If you are born with brown hair and other traits why couldnt you be born hetero or homo...
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    Jan 12, 2008 3:18 AM GMT
    It wouldn't make any difference to me at all. I do not experience my sexual orientation as a "choice"--it's a spontaneous response. But even if being gay were a choice, it would be a choice I should be free to make.

    I'm confused why explanations of sexual orientation on the basis of genetics or brain anatomy are so appealing to many people. Sure, I think biology must be a part of it. But there are so many elements of sexuality that would be impossible to account for in biological terms. What I am still looking for is a study that explains why a certain number of white men are exclusively attracted to Asian women (I know you have met these men before). Or why some men are more into shoes than the woman wearing them. I doubt biology will ever be able to explain most of what we experience as sexual desire.
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    Jan 12, 2008 3:18 AM GMT
    And I dont know what your environment growing up was like , but even when I Was with my dad and all his cop friends at age 5 I had crushes on other guys. Or doing general masculine "guy" things. Makes no sense in my mind to comrehend what you said. But this is a very interesting thought and thread.
  • Timbales

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    Jan 12, 2008 3:18 AM GMT
    It wouldn't make a difference to me. Like I said in another thread, I don't believe anyone is born into their sexuality.

    I believe that sexuality develops as part of a person's cognitive and emotional development. I believe that there are biological factors involved, but not in a direct correlation to sexuality. I think our biology and chemistry effects how we interpret and react to the world around us.

    As human beings, we are also subject to our culture. We live in a culture that does not accept sexual ambiguity. We require people to pick a label and stick with it. Once defined, there are norms for each group that we really have no choice in defining. Whether one are acting with or against the norm, it's still a reaction to a set of rules forced on us.
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    Jan 12, 2008 3:20 AM GMT
    Kill me now! If found out something like that I would want to die. There is nothing more liberating for me than being gay!

    It has nothing to do with having sex with men because I having most of my life celibate and single.

    If I found out otherwise it would be devastating. I was born GAY. I am not of my enviornment.

    I have not desire at all to be straight..what the FUCK for?

    I'm a MAN! Being gay doesn't change that!

    There is nothing fashionable about claiming to being born gay?

    It is what it is! UGH!