Saturday February 16, 2013

Over the years, gay rights and LGBT acceptance have risen tremendously, but with continued acceptance, people are also becoming more interested in the causes of sexual preference. Is it nature, or is it nurture? The sad truth is that, at this point, scientists don’t have a definitive answer, therefore the only reasonable way to associate nature and nurture with a person’s sexual preference would be to say that both affect sexual preference. Some argue that there is an undiscovered gene that will affect their sexual preference, while others argue their preference is because of their environment growing up. Many also argue that being gay or lesbian is a choice which seems to be the only opinion proven wrong by scientists and common opinion.

According to Michael Hopkin, scientists had found evidence suggesting that homosexuality is greatly affected by genes inherited by mothers who have many children. In a study conducted in Italy by a group of researchers from the University of Padua, it showed that gay men had more fecund women in their families, whether it be mothers or aunts, and that straight men did not. A theory evolved saying that in some cases, a woman’s immune system would change during or after the birth/births of her first sons, resulting next in a homosexual child. The researchers go on to explain that their findings only account for about 20 percent of the "pattern" in the reasoning behind sexual preference. Their research suggests that genes merely influence homosexuality, although the same idea is expressed about a father and daughter in research conducted by William Rice. Genetics can’t be the only reason for sexual preference though, which is where the idea of nurture comes in.

Nurture suggests that one’s environment affects a person’s sexual preference, and when thinking rationally about one’s environment, it seems rather logical that one’s sexual preference could be determined by not only where and how they grew up but childhood experiences as well. For instance, if you grow up with gay parents, you have already learned to accept the idea of same-sex relationships, in turn imprinting in one’s mind that homosexuality is acceptable. This could lead to a questioning of one’s own sexuality, as well as having an increased possibility of being attracted to the same-sex. This is not saying that someone who has homosexual parents will be homosexual themselves, just a mere suggestion that the probability may increase.

Another idea is that someone who was sexually assaulted/molested repeatedly when they were a child may have an increased possibility of being homosexual due to the continued repression and then confrontation of their experiences. The traumatic events in a person’s life may steer a victim towards or away from a certain sex because of the treatment they received as a child or young adult. In conclusion, there are multiple ways that one’s environment could affect their sexual preference, but either way it’s not a choice.

Some people are born with an attraction to the same-sex, and others are simply conditioned to be homosexual. Genes play a part in sexual orientation as well as early-life conditions or ideals. There is no way to give a single reason that someone is homo- or heterosexual, but people don’t make the conscious choice to be straight or gay, there’s a myriad of factors affecting a person’s sexuality and society needs to learn to continuously accept and support our LGBT community.

Elizabeth Symanski is a junior at Leland & Gray High School.