Causes of Male Homosexuality

Ash over at Odd Psalms has posted a video that’s a year or two old from the American “60 minutes” slot. It raises some issues as to the causation of male homosexuality.

The statistics about older / younger male siblings is probably the best bit of research in this area and, unlike hypotheses like Hamer’s gay gene, has been replicated in multiple repeat studies. As the video shows though, just because we observe an effect doesn’t mean we know the cause. Shouldn’t stop us speculating though should it?

These are some of the suggestions that have been made for why this effect is observed. Can you think of any others and can you also think of reasons why these causes may or may not be actually the root of male homosexuality?

  • Later male children respond to increased female hormones in the womb after multiple pregnancies (but this notion is challenged by identical twins who are not identically gay)
  • Later released female gametes have a greater tendency to react with the womb so the body releases higher levels of female hormone during pregnancy (this theory suggests the number of previous pregnancies is not as great a factor)
  • More children leads to younger boys having less one-on-one time with their significant role-models leading to developmental issues
  • Some combination of the above

What do you think?

Doctor Who / Torchwood’s John Barrowman explored some of these issues in a BBC documentary a few years back. You can watch the first part of that piece here and then following the links to the other five. As you listen to the discussion of causes that occurs later on, ask yourself whether all the options are being properly discussed.

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  • http://www.blightyandy.co.uk/ Andrew Gray

    Tell me why it matters? Homosexuality can't be "cured" and it's as natural as heterosexual attraction.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      It matters because if homosexuality has a "nurture" component that might be malleable with appropriate counselling and if it has a recognisable "nature" component that might be subject to change as medical science progresses. Note the "might" – we're talking hypotheticals not definite plans, but the debate isn't as simple as "Homosexuality can't be cured" especially given the reports from many individuals (and an ongoing longitudinal study) that for some people sexual orientation and identity does alter over time.

  • William

    I suppose it’s conceivable that it could eventually be discovered that both homosexuality and heterosexuality have a “nurture” component that might be malleable with “appropriate” counselling and that both have a recognisable “nature” component that might be subject to change as medical science progresses. Even if so, what would be the supposed justification for tampering with either?

  • Drew_Mac

    I think the point is that if you think that homosexuality is wrong then you want/need it to be 'malleable'.

    Personally I think it is clear that sexuality is 'variable but given'. In general people don't choose their sexuality but many people undoubtedly change it, in either direction, for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they are 'really' straight or gay when they thought they were the opposite? Maybe they were always bi? Maybe sexuality can change over time or circumstance.

    To me the main issue about change is the driver. If somone wants to change that's their choice. If someone wants to impose change upon them then I'm not at all convinced. If it's OK to encourage a gay person to want to become 'straight' them what should we say if a 'straight' person wishes to become gay?

    In the end it comes down, to me at least, to behaviour not sexuality. We can judge behaviour by moral norms, is it harmful, loving, nurturative, etc, that we can all discuss as moral beings with (God-given) moral autonomy rather than hiding behind the idea that someone else tells us what should be so – even if that someone else claims divine authority.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      I think the point is that if you think that homosexuality is wrong then you want/need it to be ‘malleable’.

      Yes, but just because you want/need it to be malleable doesn't mean it actually is.

      We can judge behaviour by moral norms, is it harmful, loving, nurturative, etc

      On what basis are those things moral? Because enough people agree? That leads us down very dangerous paths.

      • Drew_Mac

        I certainly think it may be variable/changeable in some people but I'm less sure that it can *be changed*. Anecdotal evidence exists in both directions but the majority still seems to suggest that sexuality remains generally robust and resistant to being changed from outside at least.

        As for moral norms well in one sense a democratization of values is all we've got. Morality is defined by what people in a certain culture or context agree about – which is why morality is varied in time and place. It will be interesting to see how fully moral norms become globalised – which is certainly happening around a human rights agenda, even in different religious contexts (Islam and the Arab spring, for example).

        As Christians we contribute to this but we may no longer make any automatic claim to the moral high ground – after all we have our own culturally conditioned morality but live in the same ethical marketplace as everyone else. We have to be prepared to argue for our view of right and wrong, not hiding behind 'God/Scripture says' (even though we still believe this) but rather trying to articulate God's reasons and logic in pointing to what he says is right and wrong.

      • David

        "I think the point is that if you think that homosexuality is wrong then you want/need it to be ‘malleable’." Not necessarily. I'm sure we can all think of sexual attractions that we think are wrong, even though the people that experience them don't seem to have chosen them, and find them incredibly hard to resist.

        Mind you, the reverse is also true: "If you think that homosexuality is ok then you want/need it to not be ‘malleable’!"

  • William

    “If you think that homosexuality is ok then you want/need it to not be ‘malleable’!”

    Non sequitur. I'm sure that if we sit down and think about it, we can make a list of hundreds of things which we regard as perfectly O.K. but which we nevertheless know to be malleable. Just for starters, our hairstyle.

    Whether or not homosexuality (or heterosexuality, for that matter) is malleable is a question to be answered on the basis of evidence not of our wants/needs. The weight of the evidence is that sexual orientation does change in some females and in very few males; that there is no means of engineering such a change; and that in most people it is not malleable.

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