Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Many People Are Born Gays and Lesbians - They're Not That Way by Choice

Should two people of the same sex be allowed to marry? Should a gay couple be covered by the health insurance of the employed spouse's benefits package? Should a gay person be allowed to serve openly in the military? Should a homosexual be allowed to serve in the ministry? Is homosexuality a sin?

Issues like these are being hotly debated these days.

Conservative religions cite scripture to affirm that homosexuality is an abomination before God. People who "choose" to practice a gay or lesbian lifestyle are ostracized.

It's true that some people with normal sexual desires choose a bisexual or homosexual lifestyle - for a variety of reasons. But for many gays and lesbians, choice has nothing to do with it. Some men are born with female brains and some women are born with male brains. It's a fact of biology, not choice, and no amount of discipline or indoctrination or will power can change it.

Recently I reread Brain Sex: The Real Difference between Men and Women, by Anne Moir and David Jemmel (Delta, 1992) as I pondered these issues. I first read the book over 10 years ago. It explains the difference between male brains and female brains and how this affects behavior. It also explains the issues related to developing sexual orientation. The politics surrounding this issue has made it difficult to sponsor research, and it's hard to do this kind of research on human subjects. The book is helpful in the way that it points to the research that has been done.

One major difference is that the female brain has a much larger corpus callosum, the bundle of neurons that connects the left brain with the right brain. This means that there is far greater "cross-talk" between the hemispheres and explains why women are better able to express feelings and consider the feelings of others.

From the standpoint of sexual orientation, a more important difference is that the male brain produces far more testosterone than does the female brain. Testosterone stimulates competitiveness, aggression and sexual drive. The male brain produces 20 times as much testosterone as progesterone. In the female brain, the two hormones are relatively balanced.

So men feel a stronger drive towards sex. Women feel a stronger drive towards relationships. With men, sex sometimes results in intimacy. With women, intimacy sometimes results in sex.

The sexual differences between men and women, whether sexual drive or the physical body, are decided in the womb. A male fetus has the XY sex chromosome, while the female has the XX sex chromosome. If development within the womb proceeds naturally without interference, in the sixth week hormones will stimulate the XY fetus to develop male sexual organs and the XX fetus to develop female sexual organs.

Some men have an extra female chromosome - XXY. They look male, are raised as males, but very little masculine hormone is sent to the developing brain to make it match its male body. So the XXY adult males have low testosterone levels and low libido. They typically report sexual confusion and a hesitancy to assume masculine behaviors, which often expresses itself in transvestism, transsexualism, homosexuality, bisexuality and non-sexuality.

This is important, because it means that not all homosexuals choose their sexual orientation. A person can have a male body and a female brain. A person can feel like a woman trapped in the body of a man.

Five to ten times as many men as women become homosexuals. Brain development suggests why. All fetuses begin with female brains and bodies. When the chromosomes instruct the fetus to develop sex organs, the organs then produce female or male hormones. Male hormones turn the initial female brain into a male brain. If this chemical process is thrown out of balance, sexuality in the brain can easily fail to develop normally. An unnaturally low level of male hormone in a male fetus or an unnaturally high level of male hormone in a female fetus can result in homosexuality.

Furthermore, the normal development of sexual differences in the brain can be derailed if abnormal concentrations of female hormone are present at a key time of fetus development. Children whose mothers took high doses of therapeutic female hormone were more likely to remain unmarried as adults. Female fetuses who experienced abnormally high concentrations of male hormone more frequently exhibited bisexual or homosexual behavior as adults.

It's easy to upset the hormonal balance at the wrong time in fetal development because the small amounts of hormone involved are easy to affect. What causes the unnatural concentrations? Very little is known about this. High stress levels are known to lower the level of male hormone in the womb. Barbiturates are thought to have been prescribed to 25% of pregnant women from 1950-1980. In animal experiments, the drug altered physiological and behavioral sex differences in offspring.

Many gay people don't support this kind of research because they think it will suggest they're challenged, disabled or abnormal human beings.

The problem is, they're being labeled this way anyway by people who don't understand brain development. Without this kind of research, it's hard to pin down the exact substances that perturb normal sexual development in the brain. People can become homosexuals, not by choice but by unnaturally interrupted biology.

When people call homosexuality a "sin," they aren't being righteous. They're revealing their ignorance of what science has already told us. The writers and translators of holy texts who did their jobs thousands of years ago can be excused for their conclusions. People today don't have this excuse.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Sarcastic Bastard said...

Very interesting post. Nothing makes me more angry than prejudice against LBGT people.

Hope all is well with you and Kathleen. Please send my love.


Rich Hopkins said...
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Denny Coates said...

Yes, a person can choose a life of heterosexuality, even if their biology - who they are - is driving them to act differently. But people who try to do what society wants them to do, even if it conflicts with their basic drives, ultimately are damaged by the pain of not being who they are. It's an old story.

Rich Hopkins said...
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Sarcastic Bastard said...

I agree with Denny. It's shitty to have to go through life pretending to be someone you're not. Why should anyone have to? There is nothing wrong with being gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered.Not one damn thing. And, no, I am not LGBT just for your information. Like Denny, I'm just smarter than the average pinhead in this country. If I were LGBT, I sure as hell wouldn't let other pea-brained people make me feel ashamed of it. I wouldn't give one damn what they thought.


Ms. Moon said...

I have always thought that people who claim homosexuality is a "choice" have experienced strong attraction to same sex themselves and yet, have "chosen" not to act out on that feeling. Or, to stop acting out on it. They may not be homosexual, maybe they're just a bit bi. Why else would anyone think that sexuality is a choice?
It's not just a cliche that the loudest proclaimers that homosexuality is evil, often turn out to be homosexual themselves, which makes me so sad. They have not only done damage (especially if they are pastors or law-makers) to others, but they have displayed such hatred for themselves.

Denny Coates said...

I appreciate everyone's comments on both sides. This is such a controversy in our time, because if we don't know how people come to be LBGT, then it's hard to understand it.

I agree that for many, it IS a matter of choice. Normal people choosing same-sex orientation. Personally, I don't care what they choose, as long as they're happy and don't go around hurting people. I have relatives who have made this choice, I care for them, and I just want them to be happy.

But for many others, it's NOT a matter of choice. Their brain development got derailed along the way, and they're women in men's bodies, and men in women's bodies. To me, it's cruel to demand that they act against their nature, just because we're put off by who they are. You might as well condemn people with Downs syndrome.

It is what it is. What's needed is compassion and support and let them make their contributions to our world. Christians promote a gospel of love, and this is an ideal situation to practice it.

Fit2B Mama said...

I like your last sentence, Denny. When I became a parent, I suddenly understood all the biblical analogies of the divine as a parental being (i.e. God the Father). He loves us. He wants what is best for us. It is we, the squabbling siblings, his children, who bicker and fight with each other over who gets what and who is better. Jesus didn't die for perfect people. He died for all of us.

mcphig said...

I am so glad to see someone with some Klout come out and say this. I have seen a documentary on this same issue and have been saying this for years. No one would choose this life style on purpose, One that is ostracized by so many parents & religious groups. The fact that you find homosexuality in the animal kingdom as well leads me to believe it is a matter of nature over nurture.
I have always believed that it was genetically determined. Hopefully the public at large will realize this one day and stop persecuting those, who by no fault of their own (or anybodies), are born this way. You wouldn't deny someone born with a physical or mental handicap a right to a full & happy life. Why should this be any different? Religious groups are the ones that bother me most. God loves "everyone" they say....except you. How hypocritical. Thanks for posting this Denny.

butterflywings said...

What rubbish. There is no such thing as 'male' and 'female' brains. And your use of 'normal' to mean heterosexual is offensive.

Denny said...

Austic people are born with their abnormalities. So are kids with Down's syndrome. There are many, many things that can go wrong during brain development.

It's always interesting when uninformed people hear something that clashes with their beliefs and they simply say, "Rubbish." Dismiss the information and you remove the cognitive dissonance.

Unknown said...

Hi Denny,
I returned to this post because it was obviously well thought out but some aspects bothered me.

First, as a late 40's gay male, I've met a LOT of gay people and I think there's more people in society who pretend to be a law enforcement officer than a gay person. I'm not aware of this being an issue and I believe would have heard about it. Sure there are exceptions to every rule but more people pretend to work for the Fire Department. Not sure of any driving payoff you get by pretending to be gay. Quite the opposite in fact.

The other thing is, all the issues raised about what make people gay sound generally reasonable. I just point out that you're talking about multiple things. Genetics, what the mother consumes, etc. I wouldn't dismiss any of it but which reason is it? All, some? I've read much on the subject and I've yet to hear anyone dare to be so sure that they have the answer as you appear to do here. It seems a little arrogant to declare you have found or read the definitive answer people world-over have been researching without quoting the scientific paper. As far as I'm concerned, there is no such definitive explanation. There are a range of indicators but none, in themselves, paint the full picture.

Finally, the overall sense I get is that there is an attempt to describe this in terms of an abnormality and an attempt to justify religious-based opposition. Don't get me started on that.

Overall, the book you've read has delivered more of an opinion than fact. Some points certainly valid but have been stretched to make a less reasonable implication i my opinion.

Oh, and all human traits are largely the impact of exactly the same things. hair, eyes, voice, height.. a combination of all the same things you mention.

Unknown said...

Darren, in the article I say "It's true that some people with normal sexual desires choose a bisexual or homosexual lifestyle - for a variety of reasons. But for many gays and lesbians, choice has nothing to do with it." This is far from an absolute opinion.

And you have it totally backwards. Religious opposition to gays is based on the idea that a normal person chooses to be gay. I'm saying that this isn't true with a lot of people, that they had no say in the process of becoming gay.

Maybe you should read the article again - more carefully.

don said...

This is bulshit is never written in the two holy books...liar