Are some people born lesbian or gay?

There are some theories that stress biological differences between heterosexual and homosexual adults suggesting that people are born with their sexuality already differentiated. The evidence is still pretty weak for the existence of a ‘gay gene.’ Where experiments and tests have been undertaken to measure hormone levels or brain structures in homosexual and heterosexual people, hoping to find a difference between them, for the most part the findings have been unclear. It is generally thought that biological explanations of sexuality are insufficient to explain the diversity of human experience and behaviour. Psychosocial explanations stress the importance of life experiences, childhood and relationships with parents and treatment by them, adherence or deviance from conformity to gender roles, and individual psychological make-up. While none of these factors alone completely answers the question ‘what causes homosexuality?’; they rule out certain things. For example, lesbian and gay young people are not ‘failed’ heterosexuals. Also, homosexual partners are generally of the same age hence giving the lie to assumptions that young people are ‘turned gay’ by older people.

What is clear is that young people’s assumptions about sexuality and their behaviour is influenced by their family environment, their experiences and their sense of themselves. Beliefs about sex are initially shaped by family values. Later on these beliefs may be shaped by pleasurable and unpleasant experiences of sex and also shape their choice of activities and partners. Throughout their life a person’s sense of who and what they are has a strong impact on their sexual development and experience.

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