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Are they born gay?

First, understand that this is hardly a unique experience. “Most gay men and lesbian women have their own opinions about why they are homosexual,” Simon LeVay says in his book Queer Science: The Use and Abuse of Research into Homosexuality. “Although there are exceptions, gay men in the United States today generally tend to claim that they were ‘born gay’. Ninety percent of gay men surveyed by The Advocate (a gay magazine) in 1994 claimed to have been born gay.”

Why do so many homosexuals believe this? Maybe my personal experience will be instructive. I didn’t understand much about homosexuality except that I thought I “was” and that most people “weren’t.” Because I knew this wasn’t something that was accepted by most people, I thought soliciting advice on the subject from Christians wasn’t an option — especially since I interpreted the attitude at my church to be that there was a hotter place in hell for gays and lesbians. I surely wasn’t going to approach my parents. I decided to look for help at school.

As a 16 year old sophomore in high school who needed some clarity, I went to see a counselor. I sat with her and shared that I thought I was gay. She assured me that if I had felt this way for years, then this must have been the way God made me. If I desired to “live a healthy, productive life,” I was going to have to accept who I was — including my homosexuality. A weight seemed to fall from my shoulders. At last, something that made sense: I was born gay! Why hadn’t I thought of this before? It all became so clear. I had felt different for years — all the way back to kindergarten. Now everything was coming together.

Does the fact that I (and many others) can recall feeling “different” as young as age five mean we really were “gay”? Of course not. Who at the age of five even knows heterosexual strivings and functioning exist (unless one has been sexually abused)? Our feelings certainly were real, but our interpretation of them was not. Some of us had gender-identity deficits as early as we can remember, but that doesn’t mean we were homosexual. Most people who continue to embrace this notion are guilty of interpreting their earliest feelings through the lens of their adult homosexual identity.

The thinking works like this: If I’m gay now, then those feelings I had at age five were gay too. This deductive reasoning is flawed. Those feelings we had at age five were not gay but were very real feelings of longing, difference, inadequacy, or lack of belonging. They were not signs that we were homosexual.

This reality is corroborated by gay researcher Simon LeVay:

Should one take these assertions seriously? Not entirely, of course. No one even remembers being born, let alone being born gay or straight. When a gay man, for example, says he was born gay, he generally means that he felt different from other boys at the earliest age he can remember. Sometimes the difference involved sexual feelings, but more commonly it involved some kind of gender-nonconformist or “sex-atypical” traits — disliking rough-and-tumble play, for example — that were not explicitly sexual. These differences, which have been verified in a number of ways, suggest that sexual orientation is influenced by factors operating very early in life.

You can’t deny the validity of gay men’s feelings, but you can challenge their interpretation of them. Base that challenge on your understanding of the roots of male homosexuality. Help your friends see the influence of their environment and their relationships with parents and peers had on their feelings. Believing in a “born gay” theory is easy and convenient, but it lacks personal responsibility and gives many a false sense of righteousness.

101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality (2004) Harvest House: Eugene, Oregon

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