by Dr. Sadiq Muhammad
- How Prevalent is Homosexuality?
- The Role of Parents
- The Role of Peers
- Adolescence Approaches
- What Causes Homosexuality?
- Homosexual individuals make up 1% of the UK population and have done consistently since 2010. The idea that the proportion of homosexual individuals in the UK is 10%, is a myth.
- Sexual orientation is born out of a gender-identity which itself is built upon one’s relationship with one’s parents, and then with one’s peers of the same gender. Having relationships with parents and peers that are supportive, intimate and safe, enable the development of a stable gender identity. With adolescence, this gender identity becomes sexualised, with the individual developing the sexual orientation typical for their gender group, i.e.: heterosexuality.
- Intersex individuals (i.e.: individuals with no clear classification of male/female) usually follow in the sexual orientation consistent with their gender identity. This demonstrates that sexual orientation is born out of psychological gender, rather than one’s biological gender.
- This can further be seen by the fact that children raised in households by homosexual couples model their gender-identity on their parents, and so have between 1.4-12 times higher rates of homosexuality, depending on the combination of the child’s gender and the gender of the parents.
- Homosexuality developing from heterosexual parents is associated strongly with suffering of parental divorce, adoption, sexual assault, incest, rape, and a breakdown in relationships with both parents and peers. This demonstrates that, just as heterosexuality develops from a healthy and stable relationship with parents and peers, homosexuality develops from disordered, unstable and damaging relationships with parents and peers. The lack of acceptance from parents or peers in turn results in a craving for acceptance and affection from members of the same gender. This is characterised by behaviour and mannerisms in the pre-pubertal and pubertal phase of “butchness” in girls and “effeminancy” in boys. This desire for acceptance becomes sexualised with adolescence, resulting in early homosexual experiences.
- Sexual assault of pre-pubertal girls by males results in their turning away from male affection and causes them to be drawn to seeking solace and affection from other females. Pre-pubertal boys who experience sexual contact with older males however, go on to crave further male sexual contact, and turn away from female contact.
Having reviewed the evidence that homosexuality is not genetically, epigenetically, hormonally or developmentally driven, in this article we will ask the question as to what actually does cause homosexuality. To do this, we will first look at how sexual orientation develops in the first place.
How Prevalent is Homosexuality?
Though the public perception is that homosexuals make up 10% of the population, the reality is far from this. The UK office for National Statistics between 2010-2014 found that the total percentage of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the UK never exceeded around 1.5% of the population (see Figure. 1).
Figure 1: UK Sexual Identity, from the Office for National Statistics1. These figures were obtained through surveying 180,000 individuals in the UK, as part of the ‘Integrated Household Survey’.
The myth that homosexuals make up 10% of the population was at best a guesstimate by famous researcher, Kinsey. His method to determine this percentage was later heavily criticised; however, the number had already gained currency in popular culture.
The question to be asked is: why are the overwhelming majority of individuals heterosexual, even in a society that is, in comparison to others, accommodating to homosexuality? If there is any sexual orientation that should be thought to be genetic, should it not be heterosexuality? Perhaps, yet despite this, the overwhelming evidence indicates that heterosexuality as an orientation is not genetic or innate, but is largely a learned behaviour too. Below is a summary of the development of heterosexuality. From this discussion we will see how homosexuality subsequently develops.
The Role of Parents
Parents have been found to play a fundamental role in shaping a child’s ultimate gender identity and from there, his or her sexual orientation.
Researchers have found that nurturing of mothers plays a fundamental role in the development of our ability to be affectionate to others. Animal studies on monkeys have found that when a young male monkey is isolated from other monkeys and raised with only a piece of monkey-shaped cloth as its mother, the monkey grows up unable to mate2. Female monkeys raised with a maternal cloth-monkey showed an ability to mate as adults, being the passive participants of the process, but were brutal to their infant children and even lethal at times. The parallel with abusive parents among humans was noted. Other animal studies have shown comparable results, among rats especially3.
Studies looking at the effect of absent parents abound. Children raised in isolation have been found to be unable to form basic human relationships4. Delinquent adolescents have similarly been shown to often come from families where maternal figures were absent5. Early loss of maternal nurturing has been linked numerous times to a failure to form relationships in adulthood. The picture that emerges from this is that nurturing is especially key in teaching children affection, bonding and trust – the basic characteristics of healthy relationships.
Having learned the basics of relationships, the child begins increasingly to recognise itself as belonging to one of two classes: male or female. This starts at around 18 months of age. Before this age, children do behave in gender specific ways, though parental conditioning seems to be the main driver of such behaviour. Between 18 months and seven years of age, children undergo a process of being able to assign to both themselves and others, the correct gender. This process has been delineated into several stages6. At first, notions of gender are extremely superficial. Famous psychologist Piaget showed that most three to four year olds believed that a girl could become a boy by simply cutting her hair, wearing boy’s clothing and playing boy-games. The terms “boy” and “girl” are only labels at this age. At around five years old, most children understand that their gender is stable over time and that boys will grow up to be men and girls will grow up to be women. By seven years of age, children develop what is known as “gender consistency” meaning that they understand that their gender cannot change by changing their appearance or behaviour. However, at around seven years old, children still struggle to understand that men and women have genital differences.
This entire process of gender realisation up to the age of seven is driven mainly by a child’s relationship with its parents. Whitehead summarises it thus:
Psychologists differ over details of the process, but all concede the importance of attachment to the parent of the same sex (or a surrogate), the start of a dependent relationship, and imitation and modeling off that parent for the formation of a sense of gender identity. The child identifies with what is masculine or feminine in the parent of the same sex and absorbs it in a kind of daily osmosis. In identifying with his father (“I am like daddy”), the boy makes the shift away from his mother that is essential for development of a masculine personality. For this shift to occur, the father needs to be an attractive and “salient” figure to the child: present, involved, warm, interested7.
Part of the reason boys are thought to mature slower than girls is because boys must make a split from their mother as a gender model and switch to the father, once the child realises that he is “like daddy”. It is this switch from mother to father that can be precarious. A bad father who creates conflict and with whom the child is unable to form a dependent and intimate relationship, and thus able to take as a model of masculinity, is worse than a father who is absent, for the formation of a stable masculine identity (to this we shall return later). The father figure is not only important for the boy but also for the girl. A warm, loving and interested father figure reinforces her mimicry and imitation of the mother.
As a child approaches six and seven years old, he or she enters school and develops relationships with members both of the same and opposite genders. At this precarious age, gender identity can either be cemented or undermined.
The Role of Peers
Children segregate their play clearly from around three to four years of age into gender-specific groups. Boys will tend to play with boys and girls will tend to play with girls. There are, of course, exceptions, but exceptions do not make the rule. Kohlberg observed that pre-school children had friends who were 80-90% the same gender.
The key thing to note in regards to the role of peers is that boys and girls tend to play and interact in very different manners. Repeatedly it has been shown that boys play in a manner that typifies traditional gender stereotypes. At seven to eight years of age, boys play competitive games with strict rules and strict hierarchies. Girls play games however, that are generally characterised by relationships and communication8. Girls show social networks, which are largely restricted to a group of core friends, while boys interact with both friends and non-friends9.
In their middle childhood, boys and girls both tend to develop contempt for the opposite gender. Their identity at this stage is as much defined not by what they are but also by what they are not; a boy is a boy because he isn’t a girl. This is reflected in the fact that by the age of eight, around 85% of children believe that their gender group is the best. Once a gender identity has been formulated, there is a strong motivation to behave in a manner that is consistent with what their view of that gender is. In fact, work by William Damon10 showed that children at this stage are quite intolerant and outraged at the idea of boys and girls behaving in ways that contradict traditional gender stereotypes. The following, for example, is reproduced from a conversation with Michael, a six-year-old boy, regarding an imaginary boy of a similar age, George, who plays with dolls:
Why do you think people tell George not to play with dolls?
Well, he should only play with things that boys play with. The things that he is playing with now is girls’ stuff…
Can George play with Barbie dolls if he wants to?
What should George do?
He should stop playing with girls’ dolls and start playing with G.I. Joe.
Why can a boy play with G.I. Joe and not a Barbie doll?
Because if a boy is playing with a Barbie doll, then he’s just going to get people teasing him… and if he tries to play more, to get girls to like him, then the girls won’t like him either.
The last answer as to why boys and girls should stick to traditional roles can be summarised as ‘fear of social rejection’. Indeed, with increasing age, boys tend to take their view of masculinity from their peers and less from their fathers. This is not so marked during the middle childhood but increases, especially through early adolescence and beyond. They increasingly develop concern about acceptance from peers, and less about acceptance from parents, which is more and more taken for granted.
By the time of adolescence, both boys and girls have already psychologically assigned themselves to a particular gender. Gender assignment is not necessarily on the basis of anatomical and physiological characteristics but on which gender group he or she feels most closely aligned with. This is naturally an outcome, first and foremost, of the relationship the child has with its parents, particularly with the parent of its own gender, and secondly, the relationship the child has with peers of the same gender.
The flood of hormones with adolescence does not, as popularly thought, determine a child’s sexual orientation and act to override pre-existing psychological gender identities. Whitehead points out,7 citing Man & Woman, Boy & Girl by Money and Ehrhardt that children raised as female but possessing male gonads (known as “intersex” children) experience a flood of testosterone at puberty just as a non-intersex boy would. As such, they experience sexual dreams, but only ones about men rather than about women, as one would expect from an individual possessing male genetics. What this tells us is that puberty merely sexualizes the existing psychological gender orientation of an individual. It does not in itself determine the sexual orientation of an individual.
While the above is certainly powerful evidence, the case is further cemented when we look at the rates of homosexuality in intersex individuals, raised by heterosexual parents. ‘Intersex’ individuals are people who defy such simplistic terminologies as “male” or “female”, or at least, whose journey towards “male” or “female” has been rather more tortuous than usual.
There exist various medical conditions, which alter an individual’s genitalia from birth, thus rendering categorisation of the child to a particular gender problematic. Such conditions, such as “partial androgen insensitivity syndrome” render the developing foetus (as the syndrome describes) partly insensitive to the effects of testosterone. This results in an infant whose genitalia has features of both male and female anatomy. If the infant has less androgen insensitivity, they develop more masculine genitalia, often with a larger micro-phallus. If the infant has more androgen insensitivity, there may be no clearly discernible phallus at all. This is important because all of these individuals, whether their genitalia appears as more masculine or feminine, are genetically male, possessing the 46XY genotype. Yet these individuals, depending on the appearance of their genitalia, have been traditionally raised as male or female. Studies looking at the sexual orientation of such individuals in adulthood, and the degree of their identification as male or female, supports the notion that sexuality is determined not by biological gender, but by psychological gender, based upon parental upbringing.
Migeon and his team in 2002 looked at 39 of such individuals with intersex conditions, among them “partial androgen insensitivity syndrome” and “partial gonadal dysgenesis”.11 All of these individuals were genetically male, with genotypes of 46XY and all the conditions gave rise to ambiguous genitalia as described above. Such individuals have a much stronger and concrete biological basis for homosexuality than non-intersex individuals; indeed, homosexuality would mean something very different for such individuals. Of the total 39 individuals, 21 were raised as men and 18 raised as women, with their gender determination occurring usually in the first weeks after birth. Migeon showed that the vast majority of men (76%) and the vast majority of women (78%) were happy with the assigned gender of rearing. Moreover, the vast majority of men and women were exclusively heterosexual in relation to their gender of rearing, with around 88% of men being exclusively heterosexual. For women, this dropped, though 80% of women still had bisexual or heterosexual orientations. As the authors pointed out, this difference between men and women, with women showing higher rates of bisexuality is seen among non-intersex populations also. The rates of exclusive-homosexuality among both genders was low and correlated well with those who were dissatisfied with their gender of rearing. Among those reared as men, two individuals regarded themselves not as male but as “intersex” and “female”, respectively, with the latter having undergone gender reassignment surgery. These two individuals made up the homosexual (in relation to the gender of rearing) proportion of 20%. Among the women, 22% expressed dissatisfaction with their gender of rearing, and similarly, those same women showed strong homosexual tendencies. In other words, intersex homosexual individuals were largely dissatisfied with their gender, with individuals among both the male and female groups having undergone gender reassignment surgery in young adulthood. This demonstrates that the individual mix of hormones, upbringing, multiple surgeries, parenthood etc., come together to determine gender identity first and foremost, and through that, the sexual orientation of the individual. The sexual orientation is not affected directly. It is through assignment of one’s psychological gender, irrespective of one’s biological gender, that determines the sexual orientation of developing children. When psychological gender clashes with biological gender, it is then that homosexuality occurs.
That their homosexuality was related to their gender dissatisfaction is supported by the fact that designation of intersex infants as male or female has been shown to work best when the least genital reconstructive surgery is needed; the more masculine the genitalia appears already, the greater the success and satisfaction there will be with a male gender identity, and vice versa with a female gender identity. This is pointed out by Wisnieweski and Migeon when they explain that for patients with congenital micropenis, male sex of rearing was concluded optimal because genital reconstructive surgery is not required with this choice.12 As would be expected, genital surgery plays a large part in undermining the assigned gender of the child, by making them believe that their gender grouping is forced or artificial, thus making them more prone to self-identify with the gender opposite to their rearing. This is supported additionally by the recent work of Reiner and Gearhart13 who demonstrated that genetic males with Cloacal Exstrophy – a condition that leads to severe pelvic malformation and requires extensive surgery – have higher rates of gender dissatisfaction.
Another way to prove this point is to look at whether the children of homosexual parents grow up to be heterosexual or homosexual. If it is true that sexual orientation is genetically or hormonally programmed into us, then we should see no difference in rates of homosexuality in such children. Is this the case?
Work by Schumm in 201014 statistically analysed results from ten narrative studies. Overall, he looked at 262 young adult children of gay fathers and lesbian mothers. Each individual was assessed by name, gender, age and sexual orientation of the parents. Sexual orientation of the offspring was assessed as heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual or unsure. For the purposes of comparison, he also created an artificial database of 280 children of heterosexual parents, assuming that 10% would develop homosexual attractions, behaviours or identification. Given that UK rates of homosexual identification stand at 1.5%, this was a very generous leeway Schumm provided, admitting as much himself. He then compared the results of his real database drawn from the children of homosexual parents, to the artificial database created. He found that, as compared to the artificial database, children raised by homosexual parents were between 1.7 to 12.1 times more likely to be bisexual or homosexual, depending on the combination of which parent was homosexual and whether the child was a boy or a girl. He found that daughters of lesbian mothers were the most likely to become homosexual, at 57% (p<0.001; the p-value represents the likelihood that the result is by chance) while sons were non-heterosexual 33.3% of the time (p<0.008). 40% of the daughters of homosexual fathers were non-heterosexual (p<0.008), making them 6 times more likely to be non-heterosexual than the daughters of heterosexual parents. Finally, sons of homosexual fathers were 4.8 times more likely to identify with a non-heterosexual orientation, at 34.8% (p<0.009). Looking at overall family data showed that 57.3% of families with lesbian mothers included a non-heterosexual child, while 34.3% of families of gay fathers included a non-heterosexual child. These results provide powerful evidence that children take parents of the same gender as their earliest gender role models, and use their sexuality as blueprints to map out their own sexuality.
We have looked at how sexual orientation, whether heterosexuality or homosexuality, can develop through identification and imitation of one’s earliest gender role-models, be they parents or peers. If a girl has a lesbian mother, she is more likely to become a lesbian, and if a girl has a heterosexual mother, she is more likely to develop heterosexually. However, this does not explain why the majority of homosexual individuals do not have homosexual parents, but heterosexual parents. How does homosexuality develop in such individuals, despite the fact that their earliest gender role-models are heterosexual? From hereon in therefore, we shall look at the cause of homosexuality in individuals with heterosexual parents.
What Causes Homosexuality?
Out of all the various factors that predict for homosexuality, “gender non-conformity”, also known as “gender variance” ranks highest15. A child who has traits of “gender non-conformity” means that he or she exhibits behaviour which is typical for the opposite gender, and does not conform to sociological or psychological expectations of his or her own biological gender. This may be a boy who behaves like a girl or a girl who shows behaviour typical of a boy. It should be emphasised that not every child who shows gender non-conforming behaviour will go on to develop homosexuality. By no means is this the case. However, many individuals who are today homosexual showed gender non-conformity as pre-pubescent children.
In a fascinating prospective study by Steensma15 and her team from the Netherlands, gender non-conformity was measured among 406 boys and 473 girls in 1983. These individuals were then followed up in 2007 for assessment of their sexual orientation. It was found that among both men and women, childhood gender non-conformity was strongly associated with homosexuality for all parameters measured (attraction, fantasy, behaviour and identity). Children with gender non-conformity were 8 to 15 times more likely to later become homosexual than children without it. This was a powerful study, not only for the number of individuals surveyed, but also because it was a prospective study, in other words, it looked forward in time, and so was not subject to what is known as “recall bias”. It showed that childhood gender non-conformity is predictive of future homosexuality.
Having reviewed in the previous section how childhood gender-identity shapes a child’s sexuality at the time of puberty and how childhood gender-identity is built upon the relationship with both one’s parents and one’s peers, the question arises: if childhood gender non-conformity is a major predictor of later homosexuality, is there evidence that homosexual people have disrupted relationships with their parents and peers? If so, this would powerfully indicate that it is these disrupted relationships that are the cause of gender non-conformity and thus, later homosexuality.
Surveys of homosexual and heterosexual individuals have shown that homosexual individuals as a group experience significantly worse relationships with parents during their childhood. In one study, 84% of homosexual men rated their fathers as being “indifferent” or “uninvolved” as compared with 10% of heterosexual men16. The same team found that among lesbians, a similar pattern emerged as regards their relationship with their mothers: only 23% of homosexual women rated their relationships and, crucially, identification with their mothers positively, as compared to 85% of heterosexual women. Such findings have been repeated numerous other times17.
The problem with such retrospective studies is that they are coloured by bias. If a homosexual individual had a happy childhood prior to puberty and then, following their “coming-out” as homosexual, developed a negative relationship with their parents, one would likely see recollection bias, with the individual painting their entire relationship with their parents in a negative light. This was precisely the issue that Bos and Sandfort addressed in their powerful study18.
This team asked 886 Dutch high school students between the ages of 13 to 15 years of age, as to their relationships between their parents and their peers. They found that those students who experienced same-sex attraction had significantly worse relationships with both their fathers and with their peers. Children with same-sex attraction showed no evidence of poorer relationships with their mothers however. What this study shows is that individuals who experience same-sex attraction and who, as adults, may identify as homosexuals, have worse relationships with their fathers and their peer groups, prior to their identification as homosexual, which occurs in late adolescence at the earliest. The question is, is the poor relationship the cause of the same-sex attraction or is the poor relationship a consequence of same sex attraction in children, i.e.: fathers and peers not bonding with sons or daughters who show gender non-conformity?
The answer to the above question can be ascertained when we look at population statistics on family breakdowns. Homosexual individuals are much more likely to have marked disruptions in their childhood relationships with both parents and peers. The New Zealand Mental Health survey (cited in the article “Sexual Orientation Determined in the Womb?”) demonstrated that, as compared to children raised by their own biological parents, adopted children are 2.6 times more likely to later become homosexual. This trend continued with bisexuality too and with individuals who exhibited homosexual behaviour but classed themselves as heterosexual. Interestingly, being raised in a household with one stepparent did not increase one’s chance of self-identification as homosexual but did double the probability of bisexuality. Such a picture was similarly repeated with individuals who class themselves as heterosexual but have had homosexual experiences. The general trend one sees, once again therefore, is that the further one moves away from the model of two biological parents, either as a result of divorce or adoption, the rates of homosexual behaviour, relationships and self-identification all increase.
The New Zealand mental health survey also, as discussed elsewhere, demonstrated that homosexual individuals are more likely to have suffered from or witnessed domestic violence as children, as well as being more likely to have suffered rape or sexual assault, in addition to other traumas. Here we address the question of how sexual abuse, in particular, could lead to the development of adult homosexuality. Work has been carried out to show that child sexual abuse has different effects in boys and girls, to lead to homosexuality in different ways. This data also indicates that poor relationships with parents and peers are the cause of homosexuality, rather than the other way around.
Van Wyk and Geist19 found that in their analysis of 7669 American men and women that pre-pubertal homosexual experiences, often with older, adult individuals, were the most powerful predictors of adult homosexuality. For lesbians, there was a strong association with intense pre-pubertal sexual contact with boys or men, or in other words, sexual abuse. For homosexual men, we again find the same strong association with intense pre-pubertal sexual contact with boys or men, again, in other words, sexual abuse. What is interesting about this is that in the development of lesbianism, pre-pubertal contact with boys or men precedes homosexual contact with women. Subsequently, lesbian development after such abuse follows the pattern of finding the thought or sight of females, but not males, arousing by age 18, … homosexual contact by age 18…and higher first-year homosexual behavior frequency. On the contrary, despite also experiencing male sexual abuse pre-pubertally, male homosexuals tend to develop along these lines: had neither heterosexual contact…by age 18, found thought or sight of males, but not females, arousing by age 18, had homosexual contact by age 18, … and had higher first-year homosexual behavior frequency.
What this tells us is that for women, sexual abuse pre-pubertally with men drives them to seek the sexual company and solace of other women, while when boys experience such sexual abuse, again from other men, they are more likely to further crave homosexual behaviour in puberty. Whitehead explains it thus:
It appears that these women as growing girls had retreated from distressing male sexual contact at the same time as they had also experienced female sexual contact. By contrast, young pre-homosexual males appear not so much to be in flight from female sexual contact, as to find satisfaction in male sexual contact…They (Van Wyk and Geist) comment…“once arousal to the particular type of stimulus occurs, it tends quite rapidly to form a pattern.”
We shall show later that sexual abuse and indeed, relationship abuse, plays a role also in driving changes in sexual orientation among both adult men and women, after the development of sexual orientation too.
The above findings are confirmed by data on sexual abuse in the family (i.e.: incest). Work by Cameron and Cameron20 has demonstrated that homosexual and bisexual individuals are disproportionately more likely to have suffered incest in childhood. In their study sample of 5,182 adults from six U.S metropolitan areas, they found that 10.1% of homosexual men had experienced incest within the biological family, as compared with 1.3% for heterosexual men (p<0.001). Among male homosexuals, the rate of homosexual incest from any biological family member stood at 22.3% as compared to 1.2% for heterosexual men (p<0.001). Among lesbians, 9.1% had experienced either biological or step-family related incest as compared with 2.5% of heterosexual women (p<0.01). Similar data trends and conclusions have been replicated several times21.
It is obvious however, from even the data above, that not everyone who is homosexual has suffered sexual abuse. What then, are the factors that lead to the development of homosexuality in such individuals?
Whitehead argues that “Path Analysis” gives us the best answer to this question. He highlights several major studies, which analysed through extensive questionnaires, which factors were similar between homosexual individuals in respect of their parents, siblings, childhood in general and adolescent experiences and feelings. The purpose of such analysis was to see if there are any common paths that lead to homosexuality. Whitehead argues that the studies were misinterpreted by the authors. The authors concluded that no one path was significant for homosexual development. This was understood in the public as “no social factors lead to homosexuality” which was patently incorrect. Whitehead explains that:
…social causes as a whole are significant, but a social factor which may be important to one individual will not be important to the majority with SSA (Same-sex attraction), i.e., there are a multitude of paths, each very important to the individuals concerned, but not important for all7.
Social factors as a whole, were the most significantly associated paths leading to adult homosexuality, with Bell and Weinberg finding that they accounted for 76% of adult homosexuals in total. The factors that were found to lead to adult homosexuality were not individually significant, but collectively significant. This indicated that each individual had their own path to homosexuality, through an accumulation of different factors, which increased their likelihood of adult homosexuality overall. Figures 2 and 3, reproduced from Bell and Weinberg’s work show the most important factors22.
For men, a cold father, a negative relationship with their father, childhood gender-non conformity, feeling different for gender-based reasons, first homosexual arousal in adolescence, were all important in the development of adult homosexuality. Gender non-conformity is an especially interesting case in point to illustrate the development of adult homosexuality: gender non-conformity was found to contribute directly to only 12% of adult homosexuality, however, it contributed indirectly to 61% of adult homosexuality, by itself being a factor which increased the chances of other significant milestones, such as feeling sexually different in childhood and homosexual arousal in childhood.
Fig 2. Path Analysis for Homosexual Women: Demonstrating the factors that lead to (positively weighted) and away from (negatively weighted) adult homosexuality in women.
Fig 3. Path Analysis for Homosexual Men: Demonstrating the factors that lead to (positively weighted) and away from (negatively weighted) adult homosexuality in men.
For lesbians, a prudish or detached, hostile father figure, in conjunction with an “unpleasant mother” contributed greatly to childhood gender non-conformity, which, once again, went on to both directly contribute to adult homosexuality, as well as increase adolescent homosexual development. Interestingly, identification of the daughter with her mother protected the child against childhood gender non-conformity
When such studies emerged initially, they were understood as simply describing the process of “tracking”, i.e.: the process by which an individual, who is homosexual for non-social reasons, develops adult homosexuality. This however is undermined by two facts: firstly, many of the factors that increase the likelihood of adult homosexuality are entirely out of control of the individual, such as the attitude and personality of the parents, including their interaction with each other. Thus, we cannot say that all these factors are simply a result of an individual who is homosexual from birth, developing homosexual tendencies. Secondly, research since these studies emerged has shown that homosexual feelings in adolescence occur for a large number of individuals, the overwhelming majority of whom develop into fully heterosexual adults (see article: Can Homosexuals Become Heterosexuals and Vice Versa?). If individuals can experience homosexual attraction as a phase during adolescence and yet develop into healthily exclusive heterosexual adults, then this means that individuals who experience the life-events described in Figures 2 and 3 cannot be said to be inevitably “tracking” to adult homosexuality.
Path Analysis indicates that while the above life-events may individually feature in the lives of heterosexual individuals, homosexual individuals are more likely to have experienced these events as cumulative developments, one leading on to the other. Those who experience a few events, not enough to lead them to adult homosexuality, may have homosexual feelings during adolescence, but will still develop into heterosexual individuals. Those who experience more cumulative events, especially such events as homosexual sexual activity in adolescence, will have a much greater likelihood of developing adult homosexuality.
Moreover, just as each person’s life experiences are unique, so too their path to adult homosexuality will be unique. Path Analysis supports the notion that a failure in self-identification of the child with parents of the same gender and with its peers of the same gender, seems to exist, though what causes that breakdown specifically, will be different in the case of each individual. This is demonstrated when we look at Figures 2 and 3 more closely. It may be noted that many of the factors that contribute to adult homosexuality, were not fully explained by this study. As can be seen in the figures, many of the factors have above them boxes indicating a contribution, which does not originate from any other cause. As can be seen in Fig. 2, 87% of childhood gender non-conformity could not be tracked to any other cause. Similarly, isolation from other girls in school could not be tracked from any other cause in 97% of the time. Homosexual arousal in childhood was also not linked to another factor in 96% of cases. We see similar issues in Fig. 3 with male homosexuality. What this indicates is that, unsurprisingly, the questionnaires were not detailed enough to pick up on all the potential causes of the factors, for each individual. Human lives are vast and each individual’s life experiences will be different. Thus, we should not expect a questionnaire, no matter how detailed, to explain the individual causes of each life-event. It may have been better for each individual to be able to give their own reasons as to the causes of such life-events, though the study method did not permit this.
Path Analysis, in addition to population studies on rates of divorce, abuse and adoption, provide confirmatory evidence that just as heterosexual development is dependent on a healthy relationship and identification with one’s heterosexual parents and peers, homosexual development is related to a disruption in the relationship between the child and his or her heterosexual parents or peers. If we are to accept the narrative that homosexuality is the product of genetics or hormones, we must ask ourselves the very simple question: why are homosexual individuals more likely to have experienced parental divorce, physical and sexual abuse, poor relationships with parents and adoption? Are these the hallmarks of a healthy child’s development?
Decades of research have not provided any clear genetic or hormonal mechanisms that would mean homosexual men are born “feminised” or homosexual women are born “masculinised”. What we do find however is that the gender identity of homosexual individuals in childhood, is significantly disrupted as a result of dysfunctional relationships with heterosexual role models of the same gender and members of the same-gender peer groups. This demonstrates that homosexual orientation is dependent in such cases, not on biological gender differences, but on psychological gender differences. This supports the notion that homosexuality is the product of a psychological gender-identity disorder, born out of a failure to identify and receive acceptance from other members of the same biological gender group, whether they be parents or peers. Sexual orientation is only one part of this gender identity disorder. This is demonstrated by the fact that gender non-conformity in childhood is the most powerful predictor of later homosexuality. This development of a psychological gender-identity of the opposite sex, as evinced by childhood gender non-conformity, strangely demonstrates that gay individuals are actually expressing a heterosexual orientation through their homosexual desire. The same goes for gay women, vice-versa. Since they psychologically consider themselves as belonging to the opposite sex, they develop homosexual attractions to members of their own biological gender. More than that, homosexual cravings are also it seems rooted in a desire for acceptance and affection from members of one’s biological gender, a desire that becomes sexualised with adolescence, resulting in early adolescent homosexual experiences.
This explanation of the causes of homosexuality is summarised most succinctly and powerfully by Robert Oscar Lopez – an individual raised by two lesbian women. For twenty-seven years he was estranged from his father, and he has identified this as the principal cause for the homosexual impulses of his youth:
Even in the conditions of my home, which represent in many ways the best possible conditions for a child raised by a same-sex couple, I experienced a great deal of sexual confusion. I had an inexplicable compulsion to have sex with older males… By 1985 and 1986, I had moved past teenagers and wanted to have sex with older men who were my father’s age, though at the time I could scarcely understand what I was doing. There was a bookstore in our neighborhood…where I went regularly to find older men.
My first time being paid for sex brought me a mix of shame and further compulsion. I became a habitual sex worker by the age of sixteen in various cruising spots where older men told me I could find other customers…
In 1998, I found out I had cancer and had to be rushed into surgery at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. The tumor was severe, according to the doctor, and had to be removed right away. At that instant, I called my father rather than my mother’s lover. After twenty-seven years of estrangement and absence, we rebuilt our relationship. He took care of me after the surgery and liberated me, in a sense, from the gay “family” that had been positive but also toxic. Being able to say, “you are my father” to him meant the world to me. I moved in with him while I underwent extended treatment at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, and we were able to re-create my childhood between 1998 and 2000; in 2000 I moved in with my girlfriend who would later become my wife. (She still is today.)23
This powerful account raises an interesting question: can homosexuals become heterosexuals, and vice versa? If so, this would be powerful proof that homosexuality is not biologically determined. This topic is taken up in “Can Sexual Orientation change in Adulthood?“