Shedding Light on the Gay Issue
It has become increasingly common in the Orthodox community for young men to turn to a therapist because of concerns regarding their “sexual orientation.” Sometimes, even if they give other reasons for their interest in therapy, the concern over same-sex attraction (SSA) later emerges as an underlying concern that permeates their subconscious mind.
Sometimes the concern over SSA relates only to their fantasy life. At other times the impetus for their concern is the fact that these young men have acted out sexually with others of the same gender. In the past, when this happened the participants “only” had to struggle with guilt feelings over sinful behavior. Since the advent of the “gay revolution” and its fabrication of the concept of “being” gay with its attending supposition that people are born this way, many youngsters react to such events with the alarming fear that their actions prove that they are indeed gay - a fear that overshadows feelings of guilt. The anxiety over “sexual orientation” touches off many secondary problems of difficulties concentrating, depressed mood, poor self-esteem, etc.
The Fallacy of the “Gay Gene”
Due to the highly effective public relations efforts of the gay activists, many people find it difficult to believe that there is an absence of credible scientific evidence for the existence of a “gay gene,” since it flies in the face of what is presented as fact in the world at large. There have been a few attempts by self identified gay scientists to present evidence of genetic causes of homosexuality, but these endeavors have never withstood scientific scrutiny, a point that some gay activist researchers now concede. Most people are unaware of the fact that gay rights advocates have often written in their internal documents that it advances their agenda to popularize the concept of a “gay gene” (in spite of the lack of scientific evidence).
The manner in which the question of being “born gay” is framed in the popular culture is in itself a political ploy on the part of gay activists. The public is presented with two possible ways to understand homosexuality; that people are born gay or that they “choose to be gay.” Since it is very far-fetched to assume that someone would choose in a conscious, deliberate manner to be gay, it forces reasonable people to conclude that gay people must be born that way. When they are told that the cause is genetic, they see this as part of the advance of science, i.e., uncovering the specific mechanism of being “born that way.”
This choice, however, is a false dichotomy. The third, unacknowledged possibility is that factors in a person’s developmental environment bring into being the emotional, subconscious basis for homosexual feelings. Genetic determination is not the sole explanation for what many gay people experience as having “no choice” other than homosexual attraction. These same types of compulsions are also experienced by many people for purely psychological reasons.
Those who grew up in a very abusive home may feel compelled to distrust everyone. Or they may feel compelled to assume that they will fail in everything they do. Or they may experience uncontrollable anger at the slightest provocation. Does the great difficulty they would experience in trying to change these mind sets compel us to conclude that they must have been “born that way”? Or can we understand that powerful psychological forces can also create compelling drives?
Even if evidence of a gene associated with homosexuality were to be found (which has not actually happened), it would be grossly inaccurate to describe such a gene as “a gene for homosexuality.” The popular image of “finding a gene” for a disorder or a human attribute is that having that gene dictates that the person will definitely develop that disorder or attribute. This is simply not so. It is almost universally accepted by serious researchers that biological factors that influence human attributes do so only in ways that are significantly shaped by environmental factors (Dar-Nimrod, I. & Heine, S.J., 2011).
As a researcher in the field of stuttering emphasizes (Starkweather, 2002): Genetics do not determine behavior in the same way that they determine physical traits, such as eye color. With behavior, the environment itself is substantially involved in genetic transmission, even when the proportion of variation attributable to genetic influence is high…. Genes do not produce behavior; they do not even determine behavior, they only influence the probability that behavior will occur, given a specific environmental influence….[p. 275] Caution is warranted [even in interpreting twin studies that purportedly shows evidence of genetic influences since] the difference between monozygotic and dizygotic concordance overestimates heritability to an indeterminate degree [p. 274]. The overly simplistic picture drawn by the popular press of a gene that “makes” a person gay is only partially a result of the gay activists’ propaganda. It also reflects the very American tendency to oversimplify complex matters (a la “Kabbalah for Dummies”). In a recent article in the American Journal of Psychiatry, a researcher decried the “Gene Talk” prevalent in both the lay and professional writings about psychiatric disorders and other complex behaviors, misleadingly implying a direct link between a gene and a trait or disorder (Kendler, 2005). Likewise, a noted genetic researcher stated in a special issue of Science (Mann, 1994): …the interaction of genes and environment is much more complicated than the simple “violence genes” and “intelligence genes” touted in the popular press…. The same data that show the effect of genes, also point to the enormous influence of non-genetic factors [p. 1687].
The following true incident illustrates the overriding impact of environmental factors (e.g., parental attitudes), even when dealing with behaviors with a genetic base (Neubauer & Neubauer, 1990): [Identical twin] girls were separated in infancy and raised apart by different adoptive parents…. When the twins were two and a half years old, the adoptive mother was asked a variety of questions. Everything was fine with Shauna, she indicated, except for her eating habits. “The girl is impossible. Won’t touch anything I give her. No mashed potatoes, no bananas. Nothing without cinnamon. Everything has to have cinnamon on it. I’m really at my wit’s end with her about this. We fight at every meal. She wants cinnamon on everything!” In the house of the second twin, far away from the first, no eating problem was mentioned at all by the other mother. “Ellen eats well,” she said, adding after a moment: As a matter of fact, as long as I put cinnamon on her food she’ll eat anything” [p. 20].
The preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that environmental factors play the dominant role in causing someone to experience same sex attraction (SSA) with any possible biological factors playing a minor role of making some particular people more vulnerable to environmental influences. Some people find this difficult to accept, because they have felt SSA from a very early age. This fact is seen by many as conclusive evidence that such feelings must be “hardwired.” One wonders if they would feel the same about those who have always felt a sexual attraction to children (or for bestiality, for that matter), or those who always felt an impulse for promiscuousness. Are we to assume that they are also hardwired to feel this way, and if so, do we then conclude that it must therefore be a normal variant of human sexuality? The abundant evidence from the rigorous scientific research on Attachment Disorders makes it clear that the earliest interactions between a caretaker and child have a profound impact on the developing child, so there is no reason to doubt that it can also impact gender identity and sexual orientation. We have seen that the dominant and most direct causes of SSA are the environmental ones. Let us now discuss these factors.