For the last while I’ve been thinking more about my beliefs about human sexuality, different perceptions about what is/isn’t sinful, and whether to be homosexual/bisexual/transgender is a choice or a lifestyle. This has become more intense as I have become more involved in living out my beliefs by participating in Pride London last week, and as the issue has taken centre stage in the United States again as the Chick-Fil-A controversy unfolds.
I’ve been thinking about the theological questions posed about sexuality and marriage from the Bible, and working to speak with/read from different people to explore different perspectives on sexuality. However, I’ll tackle it in a future post, and want to start with the debate if sexuality is a lifestyle choice or a predisposition that is ingrained in who we are.
I’ve tried to read from a variety of scientific publications, and I’ve found strong scientific evidence to support my belief that sexuality of all kinds isn’t a choice. From what I’ve read from organizations like the American Psychological Association and Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists is that there seems to be a strong scientific consensus that not only is sexuality (both hetero- and homosexuality) formed by biological conditions (and therefore a part of who the person is) it is a natural part of human bonding, not an aberration or disease. As well, many studies warn against the prejudice and discrimination that non-heterosexual people face based on negative stereotypes that persist although they aren’t backed by evidence, which harm the individual victimized as well as the society/community as a whole.
This “Submission to the Church of England’s Listening Exercise on Human Sexuality” by Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2004 states that there isn’t evidence to support the claim parenting/early childhood experiences shape sexuality:
Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation. It would appear that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice, though sexual behaviour clearly is. Thus LGB people have exactly the same rights and responsibilities concerning the expression of their sexuality as heterosexual people.
The RCP also issued this statement:
The Royal College of Psychiatrists holds the view that lesbian, gay and bisexual people should be regarded as valued members of society who have exactly similar rights and responsibilities as all other citizens. This includes equal access to health care, the rights and responsibilities involved in a civil partnership, the rights and responsibilities involved in procreating and bringing up children, freedom to practice a religion as a lay person or religious leader, freedom from harassment or discrimination in any sphere and a right to protection from therapies that are potentially damaging, particularly those that purport to change sexual orientation.
From this Q&A-style statement by the American Psychological Association titled “Answers to Your Questions: For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality”, answering “Is homosexuality a mental disorder?”:
No, lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations are not disorders. Research has found no inherent association between any of these sexual orientations and psychopathology. Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Both have been documented in many different cultures and historical eras. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding.
The article also makes a statement about therapy intended to change sexual orientation:
All major national mental health organizations have officially expressed concerns about therapies promoted to modify sexual orientation. To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. This appears to be especially likely for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals who grow up in more conservative religious settings.
Finally, this publication by the American Academy of Pediatrics states that adverse life events aren’t responsible for sexual orientation.
Sexual orientation probably is not determined by any one factor but by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences…Although there continues to be controversy and uncertainty as to the genesis of the variety of human sexual orientations, there is no scientific evidence that abnormal parenting, sexual abuse, or other adverse life events influence sexual orientation. Current knowledge suggests that sexual orientation is usually established during early childhood.
It also states:
The mechanisms for the development of a particular sexual orientation remain unclear, but the current literature and most scholars in the field state that one’s sexual orientation is not a choice; that is, individuals do not choose to be homosexual or heterosexual.
From these and other scientific reports, I conclude that human sexuality is a continuum, and that there isn’t anything innately “wrong” with any one kind of sexuality. There isn’t scientific evidence to support any kind of sexuality-based discrimination, and evidence that when we do discriminate, not only are we doing terrible harm to the victim, but harm to our entire society.
This also raises serious theological questions: if God creates people along a sexual continuum instead of only heterosexual, what implications does this have for our understanding of God and scripture? I hope to write soon on this subject.