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Basic information on sexual orientation


What causes sexual orientation:
Nature, nurture, a choice,
an addiction?
Can it be "cured?"

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Causes of sexual orientation:

There are two main belief systems about the nature of human sexuality:

  1. There is only one normal, natural, and moral sexual behavior. It involves sexual activity between one woman and one man -- perhaps restricted to couples who are married to each other.

  2. There are three normal, natural, and morally neutral sexual orientations. These are not defined according to one's behavior. Rather, they are primarily defined by a person's feelings of attraction to:
    1. Only persons of the opposite sex. They have a heterosexual orientation and include about 90% of all adults;

    2. Only persons of the same sex. They include about 5% of adults and have a homosexual orientation;

    3. Persons of both genders. They also include about 5% of adults and have a bisexual orientation. Most are not attracted to persons of both sex equally. They, alone, have a sexual preference.

Some regard asexuality -- lack of sexual attraction to other persons -- as a fourth sexual orientation.

Finally, people overwhelmingly regard any sexual behavior as immoral if it is not mutually agreeable, consensual, safe, free of the possibility of initiated an unwanted pregnancy, etc.

There is little or no agreement about the cause(s) of sexual orientation, whether it is:

  • chosen, perhaps at or near puberty,
  • caused by epigenetics: a covering layer on top of a person's DNA,
  • pre-determined by the alleles within a person's DNA: Some genes come in a variety of alleles (versions or forms). Two alleles are located at the same position on a chromosome, one inherted from each parent.
  • caused by poor parenting,
  • caused by sexual victimization as a child,
  • etc.

Beliefs about sexual orientation and behavior profoundly affect what a person believes about:

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Many religious and social conservatives believe that sexual orientation is chosen and can be changed with some effort. In contrast, many religious and social progressives, and those in the LGBT community, feel that a person is born with a sexual orientation because of something related to their genetic structure. Firther, their sexual orientation can be detected by child psychologists in pre-school children. Ned Flaherty posted a comment on the web site stating that:

"Sexual orientation has been proven to have at least 21 biological links, which can be observed in: twins, birth order, finger length ratio, fingerprint ridge density, Caucasian limb/hand-to-height ratio, hair pattern, handedness, hearing, vocal pitch, eye blinks, verbal fluency, spatial memory, amygdala activity, hypothalamus nucleus size, penis size, auditory/inner-ear function, suprachiasmatic nucleus size, stress, sweat, brain size symmetry, and X chromosome Xq28. Some of these links differ by race, thus further proving a biological basis." 1

Stanford University researchers Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang, released a report in early 2018 documenting an Artificial Intelligence study in which over 30,000 portraits were updated from a dating web site and analyzed by computers in an attempt to identify which of the men and women had a homosexual orientation. Their computer programs correctly identify men who were gay 81% of the time and lesbian women 71%.

An article in stated:

"The study proclaimed that biologically speaking, a gay man’s facial structure proved to be more effeminate and a lesbian’s more masculine. ... The Stanford researcher said:

'Gay faces tended to be gender atypical. Gay men had narrower jaws and longer noses. Lesbians had a larger jaw'." 7

This supports the:

"Prenatal Hormone theory of sexual Orientation. According to theory, one’s sexuality is determined before they are born, based on hormonal exposure in the womb.

Basically, characterististics like the faintness of beard and mustache in gay males is linked to the under exposure of male hormones like testosterone which could cause a feminizing effect, meaning less hair." 7

The article created a "media uproar" among LGBT groups who worried about the safety aspects of gays and lesbians who are keeping their sexual orientation secret becoming known in anti-gay communities. The chief digital officer at Glaad -- a main pro-LGBT group -- said that:

"... at a time where minority groups are being targeted, these reckless findings could serve as weapon to harm both heterosexuals who are inaccurately outed, as well as gay and lesbian people who are in situations where coming out is dangerous." 7

Gay marriage -- and equal rights for the LGBT community generally -- have been among the most bitter and active religious conflicts in the U.S. Much of the conflict has been influenced by beliefs about the cause or causes of sexual orientation. With the passage of time, public support of gay marriage has risen steadly, from 28% in 1996, to about 50% in 2011. After the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in mid-2015, acceptance of such marriages has increased rapidly. The Gallup Poll found it had reached about 63% in 2017. 8 More details.

Determining the cause(s) of sexual orientation might go a long way to inspire dialogue and eventually to resolve the conflicts.

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Topics covered in this section:

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Related essay:

bullet Divergent beliefs: Is homosexuality permanent? is it a choice that can be changed, or a fixed orientation?


  1. Ned Flaherty, comment posted after the article "Gay Marriage: If Being Gay is a Choice, So What?" by Alasdair Denvil, PolicyMic, 2013-MAY-14, at:
  2. "Why is my child Gay?" Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) at:
  3. "How PFOX can help," Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays, at: 
  4. Athenadorus, "Homosexuality: Its Genetic Basis & Evolutionary Benefit," at:
  5. Matt Ridley, "Nature via nurture: Genes, experience, and what makes us human," HarperCollins, (2003). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store  This book discusses the effects of genes and the environment on human behavior and traits. It touches on homosexuality in a few locations.
  6. "Sylvia," "The biological basis of homosexuality," 1997-DEC, at:
  7. "Science Proves that You Actually Can Tell Someone Is Gay Just By Looking At Them," Cozzoo, 2018-APR-07, at: blogs/news/science-proves-that-you-actually-can-tell-someone-is-gay-just-by-looking-at-them
  8. Nolan McCaskill, "Poll: 64 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage," 2017-MAY-15, at:

Site navigation: Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Basic data > here

Copyright © 1997 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2018-APR-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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