The Determination of Sexual Orientation

The focus of this research is to investigate what determines one’s sexual orientation.The investigation is targeted toward the people who want an answer to the Nature vs.

Nurture debate; is it genes or it is the environment or perhaps both that decide the sexual orientation of an individual? Research through secondary sources as well as through a primary source is conducted in order to find out what leads to an individual being attracted to a particular gender. ‘Was I born like this or did I become like this? Did I inherit my mom’s short temper or did I become like this because of all the stress I have been through?’ These are questions many people ask themselves for several situations. There are many cases of the big Nature vs Nurture debate, whether it is genes or the environment to blame. This paper will particularly focus on the determination of one’s sexual orientation in terms of this debate. Sexual orientation is a term which refers to a person’s attraction to a gender, whether that would be attraction to the same gender, different gender or both genders.

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Some people believe that humans are born as blank slates, while others think that humans are predisposed to certain things. People ‘think’ and ‘believe’ because it is not known for sure. Scientists have not found concrete answers to whether it is nature or nurture that make people who they are, or particularly, make them be attracted to whoever they are attracted to. There is evidence that genes play a role in the determination of one’s sexual orientation, and on the other hand there is evidence that the environment plays a role as well. There is research, experiments, and studies constantly done but that still do not have answer the question whether it is genes or the environment. Scientists have not been able to give a simple answer to the public, is it nature such as genes, or is it nurture such as the environment and life experiences.

This paper will serve as a research investigation in order to enlighten the public about this long going argument of nature vs nurture in the determination of one’s sexual orientation. It will make it clear that in fact it is both nature and nurture that determine somebody’s attraction to the same, opposite or both genders. First, let’s look at how genes play role in the determination of one’s sexual orientation in terms of brain function and structure. There has been a study done in 1991 by Simon Levay, a neurobiologist, who carefully analyzed the brain specimen of men and women going through the process of autopsy (Levay, 2011). LeVay studied the hypothalamus part of the brain. The hypothalamus is a small region of the brain that maintains homeostasis within the body by being in control of hormone production.

Hormones keep things in the body, such as mood, body temperature, sex drive and heart rate in check and under control. Within the hypothalamus, there is an anterior region consisting of nerve cells known as INAH3, which regulate sexual behavior particularly in men (LeVay, 2011).The INAH3 is the part LeVay focused on when he was studying the hypothalamus. The important discovery he made was that INAH3 was smaller on homosexual men than on heterosexual men on average (Levay, 2011). He also found out that there was not a significant difference of the size of the INAH3 between homosexual men and women (Levay, 2011). Assuming that the women are heterosexual because LeVay did not provide information about this, this shows that people attracted to men have a smaller INAH.

This, in turn, supports the biological perspective, or nature side of the argument. In addition, to support his findings, LeVay discusses how his observations are the same as the observations done by others such as a Dutch group of scientists. They have also have come across the same observations and conclusions as LeVay (LeVay, 2011). Evidently, it is clear of the possible connection between biology or nature and being homosexual because of this physiological difference in the brain structure between gay and straight men. Another situation that supports the biological perspective is research Richard A.

Lippa discusses in his book Gender, Nature, and Nurture (2014). He talks about studies he has read that have come to the conclusion that masculine girls and feminine guys are seen to have higher levels of “creativity, scholastic achievement, and giftedness…” (Lippa, 2014). This shows there is some common differences in the brain structure of masculine girls and feminine guys, indicating that biology plays a role. However, just because of this study supporting biology, the fact that the environment can also play a role to what gender one is attracted to cannot be ruled out. For instance, if it was written in stone whether an individual was going to be straight, gay, bisexual, etc, how can people change their sexual orientation over their course of life? Certainly, genes are not the only cause of this change, life experiences and social factors must also play a role.

In “Genetics and Homosexuality: Are People Born Gay? The Biological Basis for Sexual Orientation,” Rich Deem cites numerous examples of this situation in which people change their sexual orientation or who they are attracted to. In particular, Deem explains of a two-year survey with the participants consisting of women ages 16-23, who half of which had changed their orientation more than one time in their lives (Deem, 2013). This shows how women themselves were choosing to change who they were attracted to based on their life experiences. This change could not have been because of genes, because genes do not change throughout one’s lifetime, while life experiences do. Therefore, the cause of change was the environment or nurture. Another example which Deem uses that appears to be from the environmental perspective is a study conduced by Paul Cameron in 2006 (Deem, 2013).

In this study, it was found that homosexual orientation was expressed more often in children of homosexual parents than those of heterosexual parents (Deem, 2013). This study was backed up and further supported by Walter Schuum’s research in 2010 (Deem, 2013). According to Deem, Schuum looked at ten studies that studied this situation and statistically showed that there is a correlation between homosexual raised children becoming homosexual themselves (2013). Schuum found that 16-57% of the 262 participating children in this study raised by homosexuals, became homosexuals (Deem, 2013). Evidently, environment played a big role because typically a population consists of only5% of homosexuals so it is clear that being raised by homosexuals significantly affected the children to be homosexuals as well. This shows that the environment or nurture also plays a big role in the determination of one’s sexual orientation.

A situation that demonstrates that both genes and the environments both have to do with who an individual is attracted to is the case of a man in England who is in his mid-twenties and who used to be homosexual (PFOX, 2008). This young man named Jake has written a long diary in which he explains how he goes from being born straight, to having become gay, and then going back to being straight. Jake explains how him being gay first had to do with having a distant father and a close relationship with his mom whom he was better understood by (PFOX, 2008). The fact that he was distant with his father can explain his feeling of not feeling like a man (PFOX, 2008). Jake writes, “I felt totally inferior to the men I saw around me and on TV, and as much as I wanted to “be a man,” that goal always felt far beyond my reach (2008). His hunger for a father as Jake himself puts it, leads him to needing “male affections and affirmation” (PFOX, 2008).

This lead him to believe that the only way he could obtain this is through homosexual means (PFOX, 2008). Clearly, the environment factor of the lack of a father in Jake’s life had a great impact of him turning to homosexuality in order to find that masculine warmth he was missing. Although, Jake was not happy with being homosexual and with his many relationships with other men; he describes them as “quickly [having] became empty” (2013). He also admits that “the fashionable gay culture soon seemed pathetic..

. selfish, materialistic, and shallow” (PFOX, 2008). At that time, Jake befriended a few heterosexual men who stuck with him; he also then began a therapy to become straight. Slowly, he started feeling one of them, ‘one of the guys’ (2008). After a long time, he became almost fully heterosexual. He found the idea of being with other men silly and something that he did not understand (2008).

Jake said that “men are no longer mysteriously attractive things to me, they’re just mirrors” (2008). Jake thought he was born straight but because of his life experiences, such as not having a father and having a mother he was too attached to, deprived him of masculine affection which lead him to seeking it sexual relationships with other men. Once he however went through many relationships with men and found good heterosexual friends, he fit in with, he realized he just needed to belong in the male world. As soon as he found his sense of belonging, he says he “started noticing small, although weak, heterosexual flashes;” that is all he needed to realize that he just needed to belong (2008). This case demonstrates that although genes may first decide who one is going to be attracted to, the environment or social factors can sway that attraction the other way.

As a consequence, it is not genes that predetermined that Jake was straight, nor the environment itself. It was both biological and social or environmental factors that determined who he was going to be attracted to. Some people might, however, think genes make people who they are and that it is DNA that determines whether they are going to be homosexual or heterosexual. Although, this may seem logical, and something many would think such as the 40% of the participants in the survey that was conducted, it is not necessarily true. If it was DNA that determined everything about people, then people would not be able to change.

They would be born straight and stay straight, or born gay, and stay gay. Nevertheless, others might further argue that some people do not discover their sexual orientation until later on in life simply because they had not figured out who they were. This, however, is not true. If it was only genes or nature, then people would know from the beginning, the environment would not play tricks on them, which is exactly what happens. As people go about their lives, their brain gets filled with memories and experiences that constantly shape people, change them and make up who they are. People tend to think of genes ruling everything, as was shown by the survey that only 10% of the participants think sexual orientation is determined thought the environment.

DNA can predetermine somebody to be homosexual, but the environment has the final say in it. So both genes and the environment determine one’s sexual orientation, which is what 45% of the participants of the survey thought. One cannot say that it is their DNA that decided what gender they are attracted to. Nor can one say that because of what happened in their life they are attracted to who they are attracted to. It cannot not be simply pinpointed whether it is one’s biological makeup or one’s experiences and social environment that made them attracted to a particular gender. One man is not gay simply because a specific brain region is smaller than that of other men, as was the case with the experiment by LeVay (2011).

Also, one cannot be homosexual simply because they were raised by homosexual parents or heterosexual because they raised by heterosexual parents which is what Deem showed (2013). LeVay (2011) found that there is physiological or biological cause to one’s determination of sexual attraction; and Deem (2010) showed that one’s environment also played a big role in that. In addition, the case with Jake (PFOX, 2008) also demonstrated that it was both his genes and his environment that lead to him being attracted to who he ended up being attracted to at the end. Sexual Orientation is not determined from a simple formula. You cannot use genes to figure it out, nor can you analyze one’s life experiences and calculate it.

It is a combination of biological and societal factors that determine one’s sexual orientation. M. Scott Peck said “Abandon the urge to simplify everything, to look for formulas and easy answers, and to begin to think multidimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life, not to be dismayed by the multitude of causes and consequences that are inherent in each experience — to appreciate the fact that life is complex.” References (2008). Dairy of an Ex-Gay Man.

PFOX. Retrieved from: Deem, R. (2013, November 25).

Genetics and Homosexuality: Are People Born Gay? The Biological Basis for Sexual Orientation. Retrieved from: Goldstein, J. (2015).

The neurobiology of sexual orientation. Science Direct. Retrieved from LeVay, S. (2011). Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation.

Location: Oxford University Press. Lippa, R. A. (2014). Gender, Nature, and Nurture. Location: Psychology Press.

Appendix A survey was conducted by Elena Bani and was sent via email to students of the University of the Sciences. The survey used is shown below. Your age: Your gender: Do you think sexual orientation is determined through: A. Nature (genes)B. Nurture (environment and life experiences)C. Both nature and nurtureD.

I am not sure A total of twenty people between the ages of 18-20 did the survey, with 12 of them being females and 8 being males. According to the results, 40% answered A, 10% answered B, 45% answered C, and 5% answered D.