In a recent addition to the Nature versus Nurture debate, a survey has revealed that for the majority of lesbians, sexuality is not a choice.
Lesbian dating site Pink Sofa found that in a poll of 5,000 users, more than 60% believe they were born lesbian or bi-sexual and only 6% attribute their sexuality to upbringing or a life event.
Seven percent said their sexuality was a conscious choice.
A fifth of respondents opted for a middle ground, attributing their sexuality to a combination of nature, nurture and choice.
The nature/nurture debate is one that has a long and volatile history.
The ‘nature’ concept explores the possibility of a specific gene present at the time of birth that genetically predisposes people to homosexuality.
Advocates of this theory argue that proving there is a gay gene will provide “wider social acceptance and better protection against discrimination,” as Neil Swidey wrote in his article What Makes People Gay?
Proving that being gay is not a choice would mean that discrimination against being gay is unequivocally an infringement of civil-rights.
The ‘nurture’ concept of homosexuality argues that social, parental and environmental variables influence a person’s sexuality.
Until the 1970’s, this theory that someone could be ‘made’ gay was the predominant one and used to support attempts by doctors to ‘cure’ someone who was gay.
Freud wrote extensively about the affect overbearing mothers and the lack of father-figure has on children’s sexuality.
An shift in the official line came in 1973 with the removal of ‘homosexuality’ from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders.
In 1991 neuroscientist Simon LeVay challenged behavioural theories further with his discovery that the hypothalamus in the brain of a gay man was smaller than a heterosexual man’s sexual brain providing compelling physiological evidence to support the ‘nature’ theorists.
Researchers continue to hunt for the ‘gay gene’. Many avenues have been explored, from isolating DNA to observing gay animals, but as of yet, no one absolute explanation has been found.
Many take the line that being gay is a combination of both nature and nurture.
This suggests that a person can be born gay but their feelings are either perpetuated or (not perpetuated) by their environment.
In this case, their sexuality is only an issue if and when the person comes out of the closet.