07 March, 2011

Sexuality - Choice or Hardwired?

One or the other. Is it actually this simple? I'm not so sure. There's evidence for both sides of the debate, and that's even if we think sexuality is that black and white.

Natural selection would seem to prove that it can't be hardwired. After all, wouldn't the homosexual "genes" have bred themselves out of existence? Gay couples don't produce children by natural means.

But what about bisexual people? And what about women and their careers? In many cultures, the only real work available for an unmarried woman was to become a prostitute. Perhaps then, bisexual people and lesbian prostitutes have passed down some "gay" gene.

If this were true, wouldn't it be a difficult gene to avoid? Yet most children of gay parents aren't gay. Nor the grandchildren... scientists surely would have identified a pattern of inheritance by now, if it existed. They have traced far more elusive "conditions".

There is another kind of hardwire to consider. Perhaps all gay people have a gene mutation. I'm sure a lot of gay people would get a good laugh out of that - but our knowledge of genes so far seems to suggest that being gay is far too common to be a mutation. And what of the people who bat for both teams? Are they just partial mutants? (And isn't that a "nice" concept...)

So, we're left with choice. But, really? Wouldn't we have somewhere along the way figured out why gay people choose to be gay? What sort of idiot would choose to be shunned by society, spat on, teased mercilessly, treated as an outcast, and so on? Gay people certainly aren't the dregs of the intelligence pool; I'm yet to see any evidence that they could all be so stupid.

Let's assume there are people who don't see any bad side to "choosing" homosexuality. Imagine you were walking down the street and saw the most perfect, attractive human being that ever graced this earth. Everything about them is exactly what you like; nothing is what you don't; a complete image of your wildest dreams come true. Do you think you could choose not to like them? To not find them attractive? Is there anything that anyone could say to you to change what you feel? Or does attraction usually just happen without much control? Who, seriously, can turn to the complete opposite, and convince themselves to drool? Anyone? If you hate anchovies, will they start to smell delicious if you sniff them long enough?

So maybe we're being too exact, and we should ask whether it's in the upbringing. Not so much a choice, but an influence. It's true that some gay people find it "easier" to embrace who they are, thanks to a supportive family. But it's a stretch to think that it could be upbringing alone. Especially considering there are twins in this world with different orientations. And there are enough of them out there to conclude that the parents probably aren't "turning" their kids gay.

What about morality? Well, morals change according to culture, too. There's nothing wrong with cannibalism in some cultures, after all. It's certainly true that the Christian bible denounces homosexuality, but it's also true that children raised Christian still sometimes turn out to be gay - did the parents fail in their teachings? Unlikely, when they usually have hetero children too.

It is such a complex discussion, and it branches in so many directions. Nobody can hope to cover every facet in one post, or we'd be here for a decade. And I've even left a glaring chunk completely out. There are some of us who wonder why anyone has to be defined by a gender in the first place. Who don't feel that any particular gender even matters. Inevitably we all have parts of us defined by our pants - since we all grew up in some kind of society - but why should we? I don't find people physically attractive based on gender. I married my husband because I love him, and I love him for his intellect. So what am I? I have to use the label "bisexual" because people understand it, but I daresay "omnisexual" is a better word - when it comes to whether people possess a Y chromosome, I simply don't care.

Personally - and not particularly scientifically - I believe it's a combination of All Of The Above. I think it's far too simplistic to make a one-or-the-other call. I can appreciate that a person's experiences of the world influence their attractions. And I can also appreciate that all of us are individuals with different tastes and desires which (who knows) might simply be differences in how our brains are structured. After all, none of us thinks in exactly the same way as the next person.


Image: Nikki Kaye