There is a very good article in the Sunday Boston Globe about the various theories as to the origins of sexual orientation. The author, Neil Swidey, covered most of the ideas floating about relating to what factor may be the determinant as to why a boy may end up gay.

Some are familiar, such as hormones in the uterus. Some were new to me, such as the idea of a viral infection in the uterus (back to “it’s a sickness”) or something called “imprinted genes” (genes that are “turned off” but which in the gene-splitting that creates a fetus could turn back on, which may go to explain inconsistency in the sexual orientation of identical twins). And others I personally find to be preposterous, for example the “exotic becomes erotic” theory.

Swidey came away with no clear favorite.

In the course of reporting this story, I experienced a good deal of whiplash. Just when I would become swayed by the evidence supporting one discreet theory, I would stumble onto new evidence casting some doubt on it. Ultimately, I accepted this as unavoidable terrain in the hunt for the basis of sexual orientation. This is, after all, a research field built on underfunded, idiosyncratic studies that are met with full-barreled responses from opposing and well-funded advocacy groups determined to make the results from the lab hew to the scripts they’ve honed for the talk-show circuit.

And that, I believe, is true. Some gay rights groups want a clear argument for Genetics Only, believing this will best lead to equality between gay and strait individuals and couples. Alternately, the change advocates desperately want No Genetic Cause, rightly believing that should sexual orientation be inarguably proven to be determined pre-birth then their ministry would become an embarrassment.

Swidey did make the following conclusion:

Still, no matter how imperfect these studies are, when you put them all together and examine them closely, the message is clear: While post-birth development may well play a supporting role, the roots of homosexuality, at least in men, appear to be in place by the time a child is born. After spending years sifting through all the available data, British researchers Glenn Wilson and Qazi Rahman come to an even bolder conclusion in their forthcoming book Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation, in which they write: “Sexual orientation is something we are born with and not `acquired’ from our social environment.”

I, for one, am looking forward to the Wilson / Rahman book. That is, indeed, a bold statement and I curious to see how they back it up.

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