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You lean on the "we shouldn't presuppose the conclusions before we have solid evidence" point in this piece—and why not, it's a good and important point—but I think at least as important is the "it doesn't matter whether GLBTs are 'born that way' or 'a matter of choice' or whatever." Legally and morally it's freaking irrelevant whether homosexuality (and bisexuality, transgenderism, you name-it) are genetically hard-wired or just a matter of which side of the bed you got up on this morning. Regardless of cause, sexual orientation and gender identity are legitimate and central aspects of individuals' identity, and there is no basis for anyone—whether a government or a supposed moral authority—to discriminate against a person, or declare her morally blameworthy, on the basis of those aspects of her identity.

I agree with the important premise of your post, that the question of nature vs. nurture, intriguing though it be, is an inappropriate basis for decisions about equality. It's to be hoped this utterly logical idea gains traction. However, that hasn't yet happened, so the "study" you mention must be exposed for the sham it is, each and every time it is mentioned. See .

Alice in Wonderland

As usual, I find that I agree with pretty much everything you say, and you express it beautifully!

It occurs to me that it is possible (intuitively, I'd say it's probable) that gay children of gay parents are statistically more likely to come out than are gay children of straight parents. Hm. Muddying the waters further!


I'm hetero, married, male. I've lots of gay friends and family. I resent any attempts to disadvantage them or any other people based on orientation.

When I encounter anti-gay people (and I take the time to try to reason with them), I ask them: "Did you look at women and men when you were a teenager and then decide who you were attracted to?" I know I didn't! Who you are attracted to is as much a part of you as your hair color, height, shoe size, or anything else.

I challenge them to think (seriously) about feeling obligated (or forced) to partner with the sex to which they are not attracted. That's what they are expecting from gay people. It's ridiculous.

And another thing, how can some other person's marriage, be they gay, straight, bright pink or green, possible affect your marriage? The anti-gay-marriage thing has nothing to do with protecting marriage. It is all about retaining legal coverage to disadvantage gays, period. It's wrong and it's against the constitution (as many courts are now finding, I'm pleased to say.)

Does it really matter the mechanisms that induce gay sexual orientation? It's there, it's real, and it's not a choice. History shows that gays have always been around, in about the same proportions forever. The only thing different now is that they are expecting (of course!) to be treated as full citizens.

We're getting there. I wish it were faster; but we are making slow, painful progress. I am an optimist on this.

I actually worry about science discovering the "real" causes of gay orientation: Because people will then want to actively prevent them.

Gay orientation for some is part of what humanity is. Let's recognize and honor this (not tolerate it.)


I'm amazed that you made it through that whole piece without discussing the nature vs. nurture debate over gender and sexual identity. There has been much less stigma and politics over that research for a lot longer, and we're still miles away from an answer. I suspect both issues will remain political for a long time before the science offers any meaningful pronouncement on the matter.


I love this topic. I am a straight/married/white/male so I know a thing or two about discrimination (I'm kidding, I understand my privilege).

I think the whole topic is looked at as being far too black/white. There is an enormous gray area of sexuality that most (if not all) people occupy. We are not simply gay or straight. Some are more gay than others, some are more straight than others, most of us are somewhere in between. Also, each of us has a sexual identity that was formed by 1000 different factors.

Were you molested as a child? Were you raised catholic? Mormon? Did you play sports? Did dad drink? Did mom? How old were you when you hit puberty? How old were you when you first kissed? fooled around? had sex? How many partners have you had? Do you look at porn?

Any and all of those things (and countless others) can influence the sexual identity that you develop for yourself.

Now ask yourself, how much have your experiences influenced your sexual identity? How much of it was natural and inherent to your body/mind? How much of it are you denying yourself?

I think that being straight or gay is like the weather; its impossible to predict and we are incapable of influencing it.

Also like the weather, we need to just deal with it and move on with our lives.


The possibilities aren't restricted to "genetic", "learned" and a combination of those two. Environmental causes include the chemical environment in the womb during development. A trait can be entirely environmental and the person still be "born that way". As an extreme example, consider the effects thalidomide had on babies.

Allienne Goddard

I think Thegoodman nailed it with his comment. It occurred to me several years ago that the reason why so many homophobes are so certain that "homosexuality" is a choice is that, for them, in a very real sense, it often was. They were probably bisexual and were attracted to both certain men and certain women, and they "chose" not to pursue the same-sex attractions. They always appear very annoyed with gay and bi people, as if what these latter are doing is somehow not fair. They seem obsessed with the road not taken. I think that the duality of gay/straight or the trinity of gay/bi/straight is a categorical convenience, and ought not to be reified.


Myk already said exactly what I came here to say. One can certainly be "born that way" without having anything to do with genetic inheritance. Our development is much more complicated than that, and many, many things can influence how we turn out at birth beyond simply our dna.

the reason why so many homophobes are so certain that "homosexuality" is a choice is that, for them, in a very real sense, it often was. They were probably bisexual and were attracted to both certain men and certain women, and they "chose" not to pursue the same-sex attractions.
Well, that’s clearly true of a few: hello Barney Frank, Ted Haggard, et. al. But honestly, I think they’re the exception, not the rule. The bigots believe homosexuality is a choice because, frankly, that idea supports their pre-conceived notions and agenda. In other words, they’re doing the exact same thing Great warns about “us” doing.

I’m certainly not defending bigots! But having (unfortunately) known a lot of homophobes in my time, the notion that all/most of them are really gay/bi-in-denial just seems idiotic IMO. Humans have never been short on reasons to hate “others;” it’s not like prejudice against blacks comes from whites who are somehow in denial of their own blackness! The idea that people are resistant to questioning long-held beliefs certainly shouldn’t be a new one to anyone who reads Greta’s blog.

Greg Marshall

Is it possible, that maybe, there is no actual difference in the rates, just that children of gay parents are more comfortable coming out, therefore skewing the numbers?


Greg Marshall has a great point too.

Assuming the Kinsey Scale is accurate; we can also assume that all 0's are straight and all 6's are gay; anyone else (a large majority of the population) have the choice of being gay or straight and are capable of being influenced into being gay or straight.

Most children want to be like their parents, the children of gay parents shouldn't be denied this dream just because their parents don't fit into the conservative model of a family.

Sean Santos

Here here! It's disheartening to hear people talk about this issue as if it was a matter of ideology. The question of what causes variation in sexual orientation is very interesting to me, and the political stuff gets in the way.

I am a little annoyed about this new paper though. It's not out yet, so... it's not like there's much to be said about it. Schumm is a fan of Cameron, which is not really a good sign, but he hasn't been unabashedly anti-gay. The AOL news makes Schumm sound pretty self-aggrandizing as well. (I'm the one guy who cares about the answer, among all these biased liberals/progressives who suck!) It's annoying to me, because I actually think it's quite plausible that upbringing influences sexuality (at least for some people; I find it dubious that any particular method of upbringing would produce anything like a 100% straight or 100% gay population). But someone who makes A Cause out of proving that may not make a very level-headed case and will be prone to exaggeration and sloppiness. Schumm sounds like a crank.

There's all kinds of confusion in these debates overall. Some problems involve equating biological, genetic, heritable, and prenatal factors. Then there is the confusion between environmental, post-natal, cultural, upbringing-related, and "choice" factors. And the confusion between factors that causally influence or affect orientation, and those that might "determine" it.

It's perfectly possible that sexual orientation could be influenced by all kinds of environmental factors, and yet this understanding would never invoke "choice" or lead to any kind of effective prevention or "correction" for homosexuality.

(Of course, my best guess based on the studies I've seen is that most gay people are in a certain sense "born that way", but my point is that even if I was wrong, there would still be tons of different possibilities for how the whole thing works.)



I only recently started reading your blog. I am also white, straight, married (although i kinda have a problem with the saying white.. aren't we all people)

The science as far as i can read (and i am actually a scientist, but not in this area) is statistically sound. Ignoring all the nurture vs nature arguments and if children copy their parents behaviour, there is one point that isn't raised.

Gay parents are sort of by necessity ON AVERAGE more tolerant than straight parents. Just because within the straight sample there will always be families that raise their kids on the principle that being gay is a choice and a wrong choice. These couples simply do not exist in the gay parents sample.

Does this make the question unsound? No, but as in almost all science, answers are never black and white, Yes or No.

The answer to "Do Gay parents cause their kids to be more gay" cannot be answered by "Yes" or "No", but "Yes, because XXX" or "No, unless XXX" or something.
The answer (eliminating nature vs nurture arguments) is likely Yes simply because gay couples are more tolerant and will thus almost never raise a person who will deny to himself that he is gay. Chances that a straight christian couple raising someone is a convinced straight but who might be/become gay when raised in different circumstances are non-zero.

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