Disclaimer: I should say I am not a psychologist or biologist, though I have a few college level courses in the prior which probably color my view. In addition, I am not sexually a homosexual and have no personal experience with that aspect of it, though it piques my intellectual interest. Also, I am European (this is apparently a synonym to many).


Question: Do you tend to support a psychological or a biological explanation to why some people are homosexuals? Do you have a "pure" or a "mixed" view of the two, and why?


My opinion: I tend to support the psychological explanation of sexuality due to it being more parsimonious. Being "born" a homosexual doesn't immediately ring clear as a biological explanation requires a number of a priori assumptions of future state of the social environment as one grows up. Two people of the same sex cannot biologically reproduce and thus face extinction. Becoming a homosexual through the psychosocial environment is to me a simpler explanation as this would imply it being either a learned behavior, which may account for homosexual couples having a higher probability of raising a homosexual child, or as a response to other environmental factors such as sexual competition.

I'll stop explaining here and rather see where the discussion goes off to.


(Two notes to add: I don't think homosexuality should be treated even if it is "treatable". It is no more a condition than preferring beer over vodka. Also, I tend to support a twin explanation of both inherited and environmental causes, though with the latter overwhelmingly more explanatory, i.e. 90%)



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It really shouldn't matter.  I don't think it's wrong if it is psychological.  I don't think it's wrong if it's purely political--ei: political lesbianism.  We're all consenting adults.


The reason people are so passionate about the argument is because homosexuality has been historically viewed as a deviance or an illness by religious and psychological authorities.  A lot of people just want(ed) a "cure"--whether by religious, therapeutic, or genetic treatment.

Well, those clearly have biological/genetic/accidental explanations and are a bit besides the topic.

Some people who lose a limb will never realize that it's gone. In fact, both you and I might be missing a finger, we just don't know it and if anyone tells us we'll considered them crazy. It's not a choice we make, but neither does it have a biological explanation.

Instead of looking at sexual preference and biology/psychology as dichotomies, I prefer thinking about it like scales. I don't think we are born with either a blank slate or a full answer set to our sexuality.

Well, you are correct in assuming that sexual preference can be viewed as a scale ranging from total hetero-sexuality to total homo-sexuality.  You are, however, incorrect in your assumptions about the cause of the existence of people who are not part of the general population who sit firmly at the heterosexual end of it.  "Crushes" on same sex people are reasonably common among a subset of people who do on to develop are completely heterosexual preference after puberty but the development of homosexual or bisexual preferences are far more intense and qualitatively different than the transitional "homosexual crush" of those whose final orientation is gender-typical. 

As someone else mentioned, it's really all about the type of environment that the developing fetus experiences in the womb.  This can be influenced by the genetics of the mother, the increasing influences on the mother's genetic expression of previous male embyros, the endocrine disturbances of certain types of prolonged or traumatic stress during pregnancy or during phases of pregnancy, and the effects of several other factors.

Do not assume that genes are uninfluenced by the environment in which the find themselves, that they always express themselves or that every cell in the body expresses its genes in the same way.  Even identical twins do not express their identical genes in the same fashion which is why some clearly heritable conditions do not affect such twins equally. Genetics is not nearly as simple as popular science suggests.  If you argue from the simplicities of popular science you will make errors of judgement and logic.


Oh, BTW, there are clear differences in brain structure before or just after birth between those who will develop heterosexual preferences and those who will develop predominately homosexual preferences in later life.  There are also differences in relative finger lengths of the second and fourth (ring) fingers.  Now, that is clearly genetic.

I recall a documentary on BBC Knowledge which correlated the length of the ring vs index finger and athletic performance. Apparently, a longer ring finger than index finger had substantial positive influence on athletic performance. The reason provided was exposure to a higher level of testosterone in the womb, either by natural or artificial causes.

Guess there's a lot of suppressed gay athletes... ;)

Rosemary - it's been a delight to read the sanity of your posts on this... thanks for lucidity and expertise which is precisely what is needed here. 

It's a dangerous thread perhaps, that opens a scientific and technical question to opinion.  Who cares what anyone believes on this unless it is informed by scientific rigour?


What matters is what the best science tell us and that really should be the end of it.  If the science isn't clear - fine: then we can says so.  But that should no more give us the right to go off and opinionate to fill the 'gap' (that word should fill us with care...) than when the religious fill perceived knowledge gaps with their nonsense.


I've really appreciated the science led view (and that was an interesting reminder about environment impacting how a gene is expressed...I'd forgotten that and it is of course, critically important).


Thank you.



I subscribe to the biological view on this subject. In (very) short, it is a necessary part of population control.

You treat the sick, not what is!


Knowledge looks at us as a whole group of one.  It does not differenciate between us and teaches us this through its inspirations.  Therefore when anything is spoken against it is the individual who breaks one into parts by way of pointing fingers, knowledge reminds you of the three pointing back.


As there are snow flakes without identicals, there are so humans repeating that formation. 


When referring to the physical you will without doubt come across a blend of female genes and male bodies and visa versa.


When referring to the mental state the same rules apply.


Now these two by themselves will effect the nature of a child, if it develops or produces a homosexual result in unknown.  A child may simply more or less aggressive in nature.  However it would be logical to assume when these blends at their peaks cross within one child the averages for that change increase.


Therefore to state one over the other as an influence is illogical and can only be done through individual "opinion".


Bless the child, we are all children...to hell with the rest!



Can you give me the recipe to that kool aid your drinking?

I believe it's all in the genes as is most things, natures way of ensuring a species doesn't explode, as other animals are also gay. I think it depends only on how liberal an environment is, as to how many gays feel open enough to be gay. I personally believe most people are probably Bi they just like one more than the other as most 'straight' girls have experimented as it's a lot less taboo than man love and I think a lot more men would too if there wasn't so much stigma attached to it!!!

I appreciate your point but I am not sure that a liberal environment is more likely to produce homosexuality. It can certainly add to an individual's comfort and happiness in their own skin but I think most of us have heard stories of tortured souls knowing exactly who they are but find themselves surrounded by family and friends that condemn them for it. It is almost as though they are homosexual in spite of their environment. I suppose that is why I go back to the biological explanation as I have yet to see any common thread in homosexuals (i.e. victims of abuse, gay parents, etc.) that would tie all of it together in any real way.


This thread has inspired me to do some research though. I am interested to know if the prevalence of homosexuality is high enough now that it can no longer be seen as an anomaly. Of course, this may be a hard thing to pin down since the first question that comes to my mind is whether or not the prevalence is seemingly higher because our culture has begun to make it acceptable to admit to homosexuality. I imagine if the numbers would be vastly different if some sort of study was performed in the 50's versus today regardless of how many people were/are actually homosexuals.

Check out the prevalence of homosexuality in humans across cultures.  Comparisons are fraught with difficulties because of the differences in penalties for admitting being sexually atypical  from society to society.  Nevertheless, there is a clear trend that suggests that the rate of homosexuality among humans is relatively consistent across nations and generations.

Check out the statistics on homosexuality in animals. There are thousands of species where it has been documented and hundreds where it has been studied in some depth.  Ten percent of domestic male sheep are exclusively sexually interested in other male sheep.  The rate does not change from generation to generation in spite of the fact that these sheep do not pass their genes to the next generation.  Ergo, whatever is causing their homosexual orientation is not in the genes that they would pass on but in genes that their parents pass on. 


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