Homosexuality: Environment vs. Genetics Essay

In 1992, Vice-President Dan Quayle said that homosexuality “is more of a choice than a biological situation… It is a wrong choice. ” (PBS). Quayle’s statement counters the sentiment of many homosexuals that their sexual orientation is neither a lifestyle nor a personal choice, it is innate and unchangeable.

The question as to whether homosexuals are born gay, or through some experience or mere choice, choose to be that way is one that has brought about a significant amount of conflict throughout the last decade. There is a common belief according to liberals that people are either born gay or straight.Conservatives believe that sexual orientation is actually a choice made by the individual. Much of the current media presume that the answer to the question is a solved scientific problem in which all evidence points to a biological, most likely genetic, basis for a homosexual orientation. However this question has been researched very lightly, yet there is still evidence defending both sides. Also, many of the studies that have led people and the media to believe that sexual orientation has a biological basis, have been contradicted later by more in depth studies.The evidence covers 2 major studies; studies pertaining to the human brain including the possible differences in hormonal influences, and how environmental factors such as abusive childhood experiences can affect sexual orientation.

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Until recently, sexual orientation was simply deemed sexual preference. The two clearly have very different meanings which has led the term to be considered politically incorrect since the two terms vary largely regarding the manner as by which sexuality develops.A preference is a choice, whereas orientation is merely something that defines us and that we have no control over. These differences become important when their rights are put into the hands of the law, separate from the rights of presumably heterosexual humans.

If homosexuality is not a choice but a biologically-determined characteristic then the laws should be the same for gays as they are for anyone else, since homosexuality would be equivalent to race, under which we have no control. Recently, a large amount of studies have been done in hopes of finding an answer to this age old question.Researcher’s decided to first look into the differences in brain structure between males and females, heterosexual and homosexual peoples, due to the fact that sexual attraction begins in the brain. Prenatal and prenatal hormones organize the components of the brain and create either a male or female brain and thereby produce male or female typical behavior. The most sexually dimorphic region of the brain is located in the hypothalamus and the sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN) is most differentiated portion of the brain between sexes.The SDN is twice as large in men then it is in women, and it also has a lot to do with the secretin of gonadotropin, maternal behavior, and sexual behavior in many mammals and therefore implies that it is critical in human sexual behavior. Additionally, the four groups located in the pre-optic hypothalamic have been termed the Interstitial Nuclei of the Anterior Hypothalamus, (INAH 1-4).

Studies showed that the INAH 2 and 3 are significantly larger in males then they are in females. Simon LeVay’s work on the anterior hypothalamus is the most widely discussed and debated research in the area of sexual orientation and neuroscience (Rana).LeVay has come to the conclusion that there is a distinct physiological difference between the brains of heterosexual and homosexual men. Based upon the research done with INAH, LeVay hypothesized that INAH 2 or 3 would be larger in men who sexually prefer women than it would be for men who prefer males. Through his research LeVay found a correlation between brain structure and sexual orientation, finding a substantial difference in the size of INAH 3 in heterosexual and homosexual men.

However his work has been discredited due to the fact that the correlation of INAH 3 volume and sexual orientation are possibly due to confounding factors such as AIDS. Even if LeVay’s work had received the backing of the scientific community, the nature of human sexual preference makes this research difficult. For example, observing differences between the brains of homosexual and heterosexual men does not tell us when these differences arose. It is quite possible that the INAH-3 in homosexual men started out the same size as the INAH-3 in heterosexual men and then became smaller due to their experienced sexual behaviors.


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