C Rulon: The Homosexual Orientation & the Religious Right

By | October 25, 2011

By Charles L. Rulon
Emeritus, Life & Health Sciences
Long Beach City College

The homosexual orientation

Decades of research has documented that sexual orientation (which sex one is erotically and/or romantically drawn to) ranges along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the opposite sex to exclusive attraction to the same sex. Having a homosexual orientation means having essentially a life-long erotic and/or romantic attraction primarily to individuals of the same sex.

According to the American Psychological Association “Sexual orientation is closely tied to the intimate personal relationships that meet deeply felt needs for love, attachment, and intimacy . . . .Prejudice and discrimination make it difficult for many people to come to terms with their sexual orientation identities, so claiming a lesbian, gay, or bisexual identity may be a slow process.” {1]

Having sex with some¬one of the same sex is not synonymous with having a homosexual orientation. Such sex acts are not uncommon among those who are heterosexual, especially in early adolescence, or in the absence of opposite sex partners. Also, many gays have had heterosexual sex. And one can have a lifelong homosexual orientation, but remain celibate.
Also, one’s gender identity (the deep psychological sense of being male or female) should not to be confused with one’s sexual orientation.

Is having a homosexual orientation a choice?

Having sex with the same sex is usually a choice. Having a homosexual orientation is not. The homosexual orientation is not a lifestyle or preference. Nor is it a temporary condition, any more than a heterosexual orientation is a free choice or a temporary condition. Our own experiences tell us that we just can’t be erotically attracted to or romantically fall in love with just anyone. And remember, for centuries gays were tortured, castrated and burned at the stake. So one must ask, why would anyone, much less untold hundreds of millions throughout the ages, choose to be gay, only to spend their whole lives in mortal fear of being discovered?

Until just a few decades ago homosexuality was officially labeled a mental illness in the United States — an illness that could potentially be cured. In addition, since homosexual activity could be criminally prosecuted, gay men either sought out treatment or were often forced into treatment to avoid prison.

To treat this “mental illness” therapists and medical doctors used electric shock, drugs, prostitutes, and hormone injections, plus every kind of psycho-therapy imaginable, all with little to no success. Aversion therapy was common in the 1960s and 1970s. Gay men would be shown erotic pictures of other men. If they became aroused, they would receive an electric shock to their genitals, or be given drugs that induced vomiting.[2] Did these men change their sexual orientation? No. More drastic treatments such as castration and frontal lobotomies (cutting nerve fibers in the frontal lobe of the brain) were also attempted. They also failed.

It wasn’t just the United States that held homosexuality to be curable and that criminalized homosexual behavior. In 1952, renowned English mathematician Alan Turing (the key intellect in breaking the German codes in World War II, critical to winning the war) should have been “knighted and feted as a savior of his nation,” according to Richard Dawkins. Instead, he was convicted of gross indecency in the U.K. after admitting to a sexual relationship with a man in private. In private! He was given the choice of two years in prison or chemical castration through estrogen injections. He “chose” estrogen. Two years later he committed suicide with cyanide.[3]

Finally, “marriage cures”, of course, failed. Many gays married and had children in hopes of “out-growing” their homosexual orientation. But rarely was there any change. They just weren’t nearly as romantically and erotically attracted to their spouses as they were to those of the same sex; their sexual fantasies remained homosexual ones. Such marriages were usually doomed to failure.

In conclusion, considerable scientific re¬search over the last few decades continues to confirm that the homosexual orientation is a largely unchangeable core aspect of a person’s being. To quote Bryant Welch, executive director of the American Psychological Association’s Practice Directorate back in 1990: “Sexual orientation is at the very bedrock of our personality structure…It’s fair to say that mainstream opinion holds that a characteristic so fundamental as sexuality is not likely to change.” And gays, themselves, report having experienced little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

Even if the homosexual orientation is not a choice, aren’t homosexuals still mentally ill?

Not according to the American Psychological Association. Several decades of research and clinical experience have led mainstream medical and mental health organizations in the U.S. to conclude that (if not being harassed or imprisoned by society, or taught to believe by their church that they are sinning and going to Hell) gay men, lesbians and bisexual people, on the average, live lives as healthy, happy, productive and well-adjusted as do heterosexuals. In one large study, 85% of gays interviewed did not see themselves as sick and did not wish to be cured of anything. For them, it seemed quite natural and normal to seek out love and sex with members of the same sex. In fact, 60% of gays are college graduates, compared to the national average of only 18%. And 50% of gays are in professional and management positions, compared to the national average of only 16%.

So if the homosexual orientation is not a choice, what causes it?

So far researchers have had the most success in determining what DOESN’T cause the homosexual orientation. For example, they have found very little support for any of the many proposed psychological and sociological theories. The homosexual orientation does not seem to be caused by being seduced or molested by an older person of the same sex. Nor are parents to blame. The dominating mother/distant father “cause” turns out to be a myth. Also, the sexuality of the parents does not appear to influence the sexuality of the children. Gay parents almost always raise straight kids. Nor is it “spreading”; gay teachers and other role models can’t “give it” to their students. The often heard claim that “since gays can’t reproduce, they are out to recruit the young” is a harmful myth that only perpetuates homo¬phobia.

Because all of the scientific research studies provided little support for any of the many psychological and sociological theories to explain homosexuality, researchers turned to biology. Decades of scientific studies have examined every conceivable biological possibility. Currently, the evidence points to sexual orientation being caused by a combination of genetic, hormonal and environmental influences during fetal development. Yet, the bottom line is that, although there are many smoking guns, the ultimate cause(s) still eludes scientists. But for that matter, scientists also don’t know what causes most of us to be heterosexual.

But if homosexuality is genetically caused, wouldn’t evolution have weeded it out?

Q. If the homosexual orientation has a biological cause, wouldn’t it have been eliminated through natural selection long ago? After all, isn’t the “evolutionary game” to have the largest number of successful offspring?

A. Since homosexual behavior has been documented in hundreds of different animal species and has persisted in the human species across the planet and throughout recorded history, several hypotheses have been advanced to explain its apparent survival value.
1. Although the homosexual orientation is believed to have a genetic component (the “gay gene”), it’s also likely that additional biological and environmental components combine with this genetic predisposition to influence brain development before birth. These non-genetic factors would not be weeded out by natural selection.
2. It’s possible that the “gay gene” has strong survival value in strengthening social cohesion and friendships between men and between women, very important for human survival. It’s only when other biological and/or environmental factors influence the fetal brain does the homosexual orientation emerge.
3. Women carrying the “male gay gene” may be more fertile and have more offspring than other women, thus spreading this gene.
4. Homosexuals are not sterile. Many do have children. In fact, ironically, persecuting gays has only succeeded in forcing many to stay in the closet, to marry and to have children, thus spreading the “gay gene.”

Conservative Christians disagree with scientific findings

Many conservative Christians strongly disagree that being a homosexual is not a choice. They are convinced that God would not create people to be homosexual, only to condemn them to burn in eternal Hell after His followers had tortured, castrated and burned them to death at the stake. These Christians therefore believe that homosexuality is a choice sinful people make.
Other Christians admit that homosexuality could be biological. After all, humans have been biologically and mentally degenerating since Adam and Eve. But these homosexuals can still choose not to sin by remaining celibate their entire lives, or by going to church, marrying and having children as God intended. After all, “God hates the sin, not the sinner.”

Still other Christians believe that “demonic spirits” have invaded certain sinful people and chemically influenced their brains and sex hormones to make them gay. But prayer and conversion to Christ will either overcome this disposition, or drive out those evil forces, thus restoring gays to heterosexuality as they were initially created by God.

Still other Christians remain convinced that homosexuality is the result of male children growing up without a loving father, or is the result of innocent children having been physically seduced by homosexual child molesters. They believe that conversion therapy can cure those who really want to change.

Conversion therapy

In the last few decades, various Christian groups have been touting conversion or reparative therapy programs to free gay men from this “sinful, immoral sickness”. “Ex-gays” have been paraded as success stories. The large majority of mental-health professionals, however, view these conversion therapy programs with strong skepticism. They now believe that conversion ministries and conversion therapists are trying to force gays into a mold that doesn’t really fit and that could lead to depression, even suicide. (Ironically, the two male co-founders of Exodus, a widely advertised conversion program, purportedly fell in love with each other and left the program.)

In 1990 the board of the American Psychological Association’s stated that scientific evidence does not show that any of the conversion therapies work and can do more harm than good. In 1998, the board voted to oppose conversion therapy, saying that it could “reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.” Again in 2009 the APA’s governing council, in a resolution adopted on a 125-to-4 vote, put itself firmly on record in opposition to reparative therapy. This position was supported by 83 studies on attempted sexual orientation change conducted since 1960. [4]

Mainstream therapy today

Because of the scientific research, the large majority of therapists and counselors have changed their focus in the last few decades. Rather than assuming that they must try to cure their gay clients, therapists are now trying to help them to love, live and work in homophobic societies. This change in therapeutic practice is significant in that it defines homophobic societies, rather than gays and lesbians, as the source of the problem.

[1] www.apa.org/topics/sorientation.pdf. Also see www.apa.org/pubinfo/orient.html.
[2] see http://discover magazine.com/2009/sep/09 for a “century of treatments ranging from horrifying to horribly unscientific” in failed attempts to turn gay men straight.
[3] The God Delusion, R. Dawkins (2006) p. 289.
[4] www.apa.org/topics/sorientation.pdf.

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