The causes of homosexuality are not fully understood, and many people who struggle with the temptations do not choose or want them. There has been much debate over the issue of nature versus nurture, but scientists have been unable to find a genetic cause for homosexuality. Dr. Dean Hamer (who coined the phrase “gay gene” ) said, “We have not found the gene—which we don’t think exists—for sexual orientation.” Another study concluded, “Critical review shows the evidence favoring a biologic (genetic) theory to be lacking.” There may be genetic factors that have yet to be discovered, but the development of homosexual desires often appears rooted in an individual’s upbringing.
In my research and ministry, I have frequently encountered the following three issues related to the onset of homosexual attractions.
One: Sexual abuse. If a young woman is abused by any male, she may subconsciously think, “Men must all be like you, and no man will do that to me! I don’t want to be hurt that way again.” At times homosexuality becomes a shield for the heart and a sort of haven to escape the hurt of abusive relationships. It is understandable that a person hurt in the past would want to avoid future relationships that cause pain—and pain may be all a person knows from the opposite sex. Also, a child who was sexually abused by a member of the same sex can become confused about his or her sexual orientation.
Two: Sometimes the opposite-sex parent is too enmeshed in the life of the child. For example, a mother and son can rely too exclusively on one another for needs that should be met elsewhere. This can contribute to gender identity confusion in the child.
Three: The same-sex parent may be emotionally or physically absent. In the case of a young man, the absence of a father may lead to feelings of inferiority or rejection by peers when it comes to athletic endeavors with the other guys. Other times, a father can be so critical of a son that the dad never bothers to affirm the manhood of the young man. This can cause a young man to feel an inability to relate to his own gender. It is common that as a young man matures he will seek to identify with what is masculine. Sometimes this desire to identify with a guy who is particularly masculine may be confused with the onset of homosexuality.
If a young man acts on this and begins to explore homosexuality, he may gradually come to believe that his orientation is homosexual. But the attraction may have been there simply because the other guy possessed a degree of masculinity that the young man admired and feared he lacked.
This admiration of a member of the same sex is not uncommon during adolescence, for women as well as men. During this time young people are trying to discover their identity. They often go through a maturing process that moves them from a strong interest in same-sex friendships to a primary interest in opposite-sex relationships. It is not unusual for adolescents to feel confusion in the midst of their rapid sexual development, identity search, and maturing of interests.
Let us assume for the sake of argument that some people are born homosexual. Does this mean they should be free to indulge in homosexual behavior? Unmarried heterosexual men could easily argue that they are genetically wired to desire premarital sex. Some evidence exists that certain people are biologically more prone to alcoholism. But just because a person has certain desires or inclinations, this does not mean that it is moral to act on those urges.
People have spent decades searching for genetic clues to better understand sexual orientation. In their quest for microscopic evidence, they miss what is plainly revealed in the body. Every man’s body is designed for a woman’s, and every woman’s body is designed for a man’s. If a woman is “born homosexual,” why does she have a womb? Why is a man’s ability to reproduce dependent upon a woman?
Such questions are difficult to consider for those who feel no attraction toward the opposite sex. But their bodies reveal their calling to make gifts of themselves. They are made in the image and likeness of God, and only by loving as God loves will they find true fulfillment and meaning in their lives. By looking to the examples of unmarried people such as Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and Jesus, a person with same-sex attractions can see that it is possible to give up certain pleasures in this life in order to experience a deeper union with God now, and in the life to come.
. R. McKie, “The Myth of the Gay Gene,” The Press NZ, July 30, 1993, 9. As quoted by Neil and Briar Whitehead, My Genes Made Me Do It! (Lafayette, La.: Huntington House Publishers, 1999), 135.
. W. Byne and B. Parsons, “Human Sexual Orientation: The Biological Theories Reappraised,” Archives of General Psychiatry 50 (1993), 228–239; “Gay Genes Revisited,” Scientific American, November 1995, 26.
. E. Moberly, Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic (Cambridge, U.K.: James Clarke, 1983); G. van den Aardweg, On the Origins and Treatment of Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Reinterpretation (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1986).