This page is a work in progress. It turns out there is actually a ton of evidence that backs up the idea that sexual orientation is a spectrum and a matter of both nature and nurture. In the research process I got thrown off by the strong opinions and counter-information. My feeling at this point in the process is that this is a lot like climate change, where there is a lot of overwhelming (but complex evidence) that is buried in-between counter-evidence and strong emotion. Stay tuned, comments welcome below!
Are People Born Gay? Are People Born Transgender? – The Science and the Logic
Science suggests people are born in a range of places in the gay and transgender spectrum, with both nature and nurture playing a role in sexuality. More specifically, there are many theories and facts pointing to the theory that “people can be born gay” being true.
Below we present different types of evidence that can lead us to reasonably conclude that sexuality (sexual preference and identity), just like gender, is naturally fluid and non-binary and results in a spectrum of results, one of which is “being born gay”.
To sum up the argument in a sentence, “we know gene expression, especially regarding sexual differentiation in fetal development, creates a range of genders and results in intersex individuals. Why wouldn’t the same be true for sexuality (preference and identity)… especially given all the first hand accounts and the prevalence of different sexualities in society throughout history and culture.”
- The simplest “proof” is testimony, some say they were born gay, some say they weren’t. Thus, first hand accounts hint that both are possible. This fits in with the other theories below which prove only that being born gay is possible due to the non-binary and fluid nature of genetic expression related to sex.
- Although scientist haven’t found “a gay gene” (a gene that shows sexual preference hardwired into our genetic code), research has shown that there may be a link between genetics and sexual orientation. A close inspection of sexual differentiation offers tons of evidence that genetics are involved, but research hints that it is more epigenetic than purely genetic. See The Genetics of Sex Determination: Rethinking Concepts and Theories.
- Although there may or may not be “a gay gene”, recent research in epigenetics suggests sexual preference and identity are largely a result of changes that occur in gene expression in fetal development. As a fetus develops from a fertilized egg to a newborn, gene expression and the related hormonal effects affect mental and physical development. It is likely that this leads to people having a wide range of sexual identities, preferences, and related physical and mental characteristics. We can prove this is true for physical characteristics related to gender and we can prove this is true in terms of hormones. Thus, it stands to reason that since sex and gender is a naturally occurring spectrum, then sexuality and sexual preference is a naturally occurring spectrum too. To understand this, it can help to understand that we all “essentially” start as a blank slate (with only the X chromosome expressing) and then the Y chromosome triggers the testosterone hormone turning males into males at about 5-6 weeks. The process is complex and can lead to a wide range of results we call “intersex”. Here the logic reasons that since things aren’t black and white on the outside, they aren’t black and white on the inside either (this is an overly simple answer, there are other complex genetic factors, see a discussion of how sexual differentiation works here, it is a full essay on this subject and provides further scientific evidence).
- Some research has shown that birth order may play a role in sexual orientation (yes that sounds like a shaky theory, but Google it, it is a thing).
- A variety of research shows that nurture and personal experience play a role in sexual orientation after birth as well. Putting all the evidence together it truly does not seem that we can boil this down to something simple like “people are either born fully gay or not”. 
- Despite all factors of nature and nurture, our free-will allows us to make sexual preference and identity choices on some level. We can’t override our wiring, but we can make choices. This aspect is a philosophical matter rather than a matter of natural or social science. Simply, liberty and free-will allow us to carve our own path in life, even if it isn’t the life nature intended.
Below we will present further evidence (logic, natural science, social science, etc) and arguments that back up the theory that people are “born gay” (a term, to be clear, we are using broadly to discuss the spectrum of sexual identity and preference for both sexes). We will discuss not only epigenetic differences (the effects of hormones and gene expression in development), but factors of nurture and environment, physiological and neurological factors, the role free-will plays in all of this, and the implications of this in a constitutional representative democracy with freedom of (and from) religion.
MYTH: Some say, “If homosexuality were inborn and predetermined, then when one identical twin is homosexual, the other should be, as well.” However, the research above doesn’t suggest this. First off, identical twins have identical genes, not identical gene expression. Secondly, if one can be born gay or become gay via nurture, then it could be a case where one twin “becomes gay” and the other one uses their “free will” to make another choice, as is their liberty. If sexuality is non-binary and fluid as is suspected, then basic arguments like this don’t hold up.Nature or Nurture – Are People Born Gay?. A brief overview of the genetic and epigenetic evidence.
How Can We Know Being Gay is or isn’t a Choice? More on the Genetics, Epigenetics, and Social Science of Being Gay.
The best proof of people being born gay, rather than being gay being strictly a choice, is primarily the genetic tests that have been done (see the links in the citations) and what we know about how a fetus develops.
In overly simple terms, we all start life as females having the XX or XY code, but that code is not triggering until later in fetal development (about 5-6 weeks) when males become male in the blastocyst stage after the single fertilized egg begins the process of splitting 37 trillion times to form a person.We were all female. This is the quick video that in very simple terms will give you that “ah, ha” moment that helps explain the role epigenetics plays in sexuality and gender. Study of Gay Brothers Provides Even More Evidence People Are Born Gay
The way the genes express themselves (epigenetics) and not genetic code (the genes themselves) seem to be the key to proving people are “born gay.” While we have only found some preliminary (not conclusive) evidence of a “gay gene”, we do have compelling evidence to show that between being a fertilized egg and leaving the uterus many things can happen to make a person gay. Outside this we have to rely on empirical evidence and social experiment.Are People Born Gay? Genetic and Epigenetic Determinism in Homosexuality. An overview of all the genetic and epigenetic-based evidence that being gay is not solely a choice. (Remember free-will makes everything “a choice” of sorts.)
“Researchers working in the young science of epigenetics acknowledge they are unsure just how an individual’s epigenome is formed. But they increasingly suspect it is forged, in part, by the stresses and demands of external influences. A set of chemical marks that lies between the genes, the epigenome changes the function of genetic material, turning the human body’s roughly 20,000 protein-coding genes on or off in response to the needs of the moment. While genes rarely change over a lifetime, the epigenome is constantly changing. Geneticists suggest that together, the human genome and its epigenome reflect the interaction of nature and nurture — both our fixed inheritance and our bodies’ flexible responses to the world — in making us who we are.” – Scientists find DNA differences between gay men and their straight twin brothers.
The Social Science and First Hand Accounts of Being Born Gay
To make the conclusion that people are born gay, we have to either believe the natural science we do have, look at the social science related to sexual orientation, or ask and listen to those who feel they are born gay.
It is widely accepted in the gay community that being gay is not fully a choice. See this Gallup poll that shows the majority of those who identified as gay polled believed they were born gay). If we aren’t in that community, then we have to at least be skeptical that our empirical evidence is better than theirs. This is especially true if our knowledge is rooted in belief while their evidence is based on empirical evidence, reason, and science, which may be partially objective, based on falsifiable non-faith-based fact, also a strong certainty.
Given the vast spectrum of what “gay” means throughout times and cultures, and given what we know about heterosexual sexuality (namely that many people will confirm being “born straight,” with each having a wide range of preferences), we can only conclude that “gay” is composed of a spectrum of preferences. Some of the people are only mildly on the spectrum, able to pick and choose, others appear genetically hardwired since in or around birth, if not conception, with less ability to make a choice they can live with.Gay? You Were Born This Way!
Why Do People Think Being Gay is a Choice?
People think being gay is a choice because:
- They are on the heterosexual end of the spectrum, and thus don’t have any direct empirical evidence and are unconvinced by the science they have seen: A person who strongly believes that being gay is a choice, due to family, culture, or religion; a person who isn’t themselves gay, and doesn’t seek to empathetically jump in the shoes of a gay person would have no measure by which to realize that people are born gay.
- They are on the gay side of the spectrum and choose not to explore this aspect of their personality: People who, typically by influence of religion, family, and culture, choose to repress their sexual identity or preference or are unaware of it, can justify the repression by accepting the idea that being gay is never genetic and always a choice.
- Religion: Most religions are written as moral philosophies and practical guides for people. They are generally based on one philosophy and ONE book, which contains all the knowledge of a religious culture. Taking out the spiritual aspect, which is respectable and valid and is not on the table for judgement, the practical aspect of sexual orientation is an attempt to ensure a large population that can withstand disease and war (and thus is only fornicating after marriage for procreation and not for love and fun). This is also the general reason why the Bible tells us not to eat Shellfish or Pork; it wasn’t optimal at the time (due to disease) and now it is a tradition. Thus, it is at least partially a numbers game and basic cold hard logic. If it was a matter of negative eugenics (selective breeding to weed out undesirable traits) then one would want to know who was gay and thus ensure they didn’t breed with the general population. For most of history, religion has asked gay people to repress their sexuality employing threats to their life or shame.
TIP: It is important to note, for those who are very religious, no book (as far as my research shows) says that “being gay is a sin.” Even the most literal readings seem to say it is “acting on being gay that is a sin.” To be clear, we are not making a judgement on this. Thus, even if your total view on the issue is based on nothing but your specific faith, if you don’t have direct evidence someone has acted on same-sex sexual activity, then you have no right to judge the person. Most religions promote brotherly love and fraternity and actively promote same-sex love especially in close family type relationships. This train of logic, of course, presents a slippery slope for judging people, a slope that becomes even more slippery as we compile more and more solid evidence that people, just like animals, are be born gay.Religion and Gay Marriage.
Is Being Gay a Choice? Is Being Transgender a Choice? – Logic and Reason
If we accept the above science, then we can say that the genetics and epigenetics of being gay are not a choice, but our free-will means that how we choose to act is always technically a choice.
While we can’t decide not to be who we are, we can technically decide how we act. A straight person can theoretically act or identify as gay; a gay person may behave as though they were straight.
While someone on the straight side of the spectrum probably won’t “choose to be gay” and a person on the gay end of the spectrum probably won’t “choose to be straight”, it is technically a possibility (especially for those in the middle of the spectrum who would logically be the most likely to consider themselves bisexual).
TIP: See our page on free-will and determinism.
Are People Born Gay? – The Logic and Reason
Given the above, and years of other scientific evidence, we can further conclude, using reason and logic, that:
Some people are born gay (meaning toward the gay side of the gay-straight spectrum), while other people choose to be gay (choosing to embrace same-sex relationships of any kind despite their place on the spectrum). Some born on the “gay side of the spectrum” act on being gay and some don’t. Some who are born gay, or who act on it and behave as though they are gay, consider themselves straight or bisexual (despite what other people would consider them). To clarify, by “acting on it”, we mean any same-sex relationship ranging from non-sexual to sexual only. Lastly, some people show physiological features of the opposite sex, while some preference and identity is purely neurological.Science Says There Are More Than Two Genders. Given the facts and the nature of sexuality as a spectrum, we can easily see where the concepts of there being more than two genders arise from. This video explores this concept.
TIP: In Latin America it isn’t “OK” to be gay due to religious and cultural reasons; instead they have something called “Machismo” that involves guys who consider themselves straight hooking up with other guys. This has, in-part and in-cases, led to an outbreak of HIV / AIDS (which is more likely to happen in causal relationships than long-term one partner relationships). By this metric, in an environment where religion has less control over people, a modern guide to ethics might promote same-sex marriage over random encounters (as we do in America).
Transgender, Asexuality, and the Sexual Identity and Preference Spectrum
Before modern times in the west “gay” was a catch-all term that meant anything from sexual activity to sexual identity, to cross dressing. Looking at “being born gay” from this broad definition, we can apply the same science, reason, and logic as above to all transgender and “cross dressing” preferences.
People can identify and/or dress as another gender, but not necessarily be or consider themselves gay. Likewise, for much the same reasons, some people are born or choose to be asexual, and these people (like anyone else), can be in a range of sexual or nonsexual relationships with people of any other sexual identity or preference.
Science related to fetal development and epigenetics fully backs up the idea that sexuality in general (especially sexuality related to the roles of man and woman), including sexual preference and sexuality identity, are (as Kinsey concluded) spectrums of possibilities and not strictly binary “either/or” things.About the Kinsey and Klein models of sexual orientation. A video showing how sexuality is a spectrum and not binary. Teaching Gender Identity and Transgender Health – Leibowitz. Finding the right videos for this page is a process, but this one discusses understanding transgender and children.
The Implications of Free-Will and Being Gay in America
This means people have the right to believe that people aren’t born gay despite the evidence and can choose not to be gay themselves, and likewise, people have the right to identify as and be gay.
In both cases, it is expected that individuals and groups adhere to the law and basic principles of non-aggression. Meanwhile, it is a personal or family choice to adhere to another sub-ruleset, such as religion or cultural practices, as long as those sets are in the bounds of the social contract as defined by the law, and not outside of it.
We know this subject is debated, the aim here is to present arguments of science and reason and call attention to the testimony and research which strongly suggests people, and animals by the way, can both be born gay and can make the choice to practice same-sex activity.
Do you have supporting or detracting evidence? Comments welcome below!
- ‘Gay genes’: science is on the right track, we’re born this way. Let’s deal with it.
- Is Sexual Orientation Determined at Birth?
- Peer-Reviewed Studies on the Origin of Sexual Orientation Since 1990
- Homosexuality is Genetic: Strongest Evidence Yet
- Sexual orientation
- Genome-wide scan demonstrates significant linkage for male sexual orientation
- Epigenetic ‘tags’ linked to homosexuality in men
- Nature, Nurture, and a Third Option: Does Homosexuality Develop in the Womb?
- Homosexuality: Nature or Nurture
- Are gays ‘born that way’? Most Americans now say yes, but science says no
- Insights From Identical Twins
- Scientists find DNA differences between gay men and their straight twin brothers
- “Some biology of sexuality” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Majority in U.S. Now Say Gays and Lesbians Born, Not Made
- Why Christians should embrace same-sex relationships.
- Homosexuality and religion
- Girl Brain, Boy Brain?
- Death by Machismo: Latino American Community Suffering from HIV/AIDS Due to Fear of Being Labelled as Gay
- Kinsey scale
- In historic decision, Court strikes down state bans on same-sex marriage: In Plain English
People are born gay and being gay is also a choice (specifically, same-sex relationships are a choice). It is all about nature, nurture, free-will, and respecting the fact that we are all, in light hearted terms, “self-similar snowflakes” that span the spectrum of sexual identity and preference.