Oftentimes, the debate for homosexual equality is related to the racial and gender equality debates. One differentiating factor however, is that race and gender are without a doubt, a trait that a person is born with, whereas it is questionable if a person is born homosexual. This opens the debate on whether a homosexual person is born (nature) or raised (nurture) into homosexuality. The results of this research topic may have a significant impact on the validity of the equal rights debate in same-sex marriage. Although there has since been research done in support of nature such as prenatal exposures to androgen, DNA correlations and brain structure, as well as in support of the nurturing effects of society, family dynamics and upbringing, there may not be a single answer.
Theories on the root of homosexuality date back as far as Ancient Greece, dispelling the notion thathomosexuality is a modern phenomenon and also affirming openness and interest dating back to ancient society. The goals of these findings are not to establish “whether or not homosexuality is right or wrong, but rather to establish a thorough understanding of the biological and social theories surrounding the cause of homosexuality” (allpsych.com). Understanding the root of homosexuality may have a significant impact on the equal rights portion of the debate on same-sex marriage. Like racism and gender discrimination, if findings conclude that nature is absolute versus nurture in determining sexual orientation, then “Lawmakers would be obligated to protect gay people, just as any other group of individuals with a predetermined genetic makeup” (gaylife.com). If nurture is the root of homosexuality however, then the debate will continue on and we may see an increase in therapy that specializes in “repairing” homosexuality.
Research on homosexuality roots in biology dates back to the 1930’s when Alfred Kinsey first studied human sexuality at the University of Indiana and designated 10% of adult males to having sexual relations with a same sex partner as well as normalizing the term “homosexual”. Karen Hooker then performed a psychological test in 1957 to analyze the thought process between heterosexual and homosexuals, subjecting them to psychological tests and the results which showed no significant differences between the two groups and concluding with “a zero correlation between social determinism of sexuality” (allpsych.com). In the nineties, two separate researches were done by D.F. Swaab and Laura S. Allen which discovered that the hypothalamus, the portion of the brain responsible for sexual drive and function, was significantly larger in homosexual males than in heterosexual males. Both studies conclude that this size difference “came prenatally during sexual differentiation” (allpsych.com) and not a result of upbringing. Other prenatal testing involves testing exposure to androgen hormones prenatally with results showing that a lack of exposures to androgen decreased masculine traits and may lead to homosexuality in males. Genetics studies conducted by J. Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard found a positive correlation between genetic similarities and sexual orientation similarities by polling twins, fraternal twins, and adopted siblings. This prompted scientist Dean Hamer to hypothesize that there may be a “Gay gene”, known as Xq28, which he found by examining family trees, revealing that maternal lineages may carry this gene. These findings encourage the idea that homosexuality is in a person’s nature and not a choice.
Although there is strong evidence favoring the nature root of homosexuality, sociobehaviorists are not convinced, believing that childhood elements play the largest role in determining sexual orientation. Ancient Greek civilization was more accepting of homosexuality and in Crete, “every adolescent boy undertook a homosexual relationship as a rite of passage into manhood” (allpsych.com). This leads to the belief that social structures influence or encourage sexual orientation. Research on environmental factors place the most emphasis on fitting into family and society as a child in an attempt to prove that masculine and feminine stereotypes influences sexual orientation heavily. David Halperin also theorizes that a strong mother and weak father can lead to an unresolved Oedipus complex and result in a homosexual son. The overbearing mother may create unconscious misogynistic views toward women, leading the son to become homosexual. The theory that homosexuality is nurtured and not a choice creates the belief that you can “cure” homosexuality and there are many “ex-gay reparative therapy groups” that “believe that homosexuality can be reversed or “repaired” (gaylife.com).
Whether sexual orientation equality will have the same validity as racial and gender equality arguments, the nature or nurture debate must first conclude. Although both sides have plenty of supporting research, there are inconsistencies on both ends. For example, the difference in size of the hypothalamus does not show an effect on sexual orientation even though there is a difference between heterosexual and homosexuals. Nurturing theories often do not explain the significance of extremely un-accepting social stereotypes against homosexuality and how that should “nurture” a person into heterosexuality. Because of these inconsistencies and strong oppositions for both nature and nurture, there is not yet a solid conclusion about the root of homosexuality. Therefore, the equality debate for same-sex marriage continues on.