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What Causes Homosexuality?

Although the human brain is far too complex for a single theory to explain the development of homosexual attractions, the combination of psychology and human experience have made some interesting discoveries.

More than a hundred years of psychological research and the attempts of science to provide a biological explanation for homosexuality have continued to support a developmental theory; that is, homosexual orientation is developed during the formative years of life as a response to both internal (genetics) and external (environmental) circumstances.

The seemingly automatic process by which nonsexual attraction to members of one’s gender morphs into a sexual desire for one’s opposite gender during puberty is not automatic at all. It is the culmination of an entire childhood of affirmation, attention, affection, approval, discipline, instruction, touch, time and nurturing from a member’s of one’s own gender, usually the same-sex parent.

Research has found that when a child’s needs for same-sex affirmation and identification are met, the child’s need to identify with his or her same-sex counterparts will lessen. By the time the child reaches puberty, his or her same-gender peers seem familiar and boring, and attractions to the opposite sex kick in. Dr. Joseph Nicolosi writes, “We do not sexualize what we identify with; when we identify with someone, we are no longer sexually attracted to them. It is always to the other-than-ourselves that we are drawn.”

According to Dr. Nicolosi, a child’s relationship with his or her same-sex parent is generally the child’s primary means of identification with and affirmation from his or her gender. “As very young infants, both boys and girls are first identified with the mother, who is the first and primary source of nurturance and care. However, whereas the girl maintains primary identification with the mother, the boy later has the additional developmental task of shifting identification from the mother to the [father].”

Dr. Nicolosi goes on to say that if the father is warm and receptive, the boy will be encouraged to disidentify from the feminine and identify with the masculine. The boy will then become masculine-identified and most probably heterosexual. “In freeing himself from his bond with mother, the boy needs help in becoming fully male. He needs to know who he is, and only another man can tell him.”

In the same way, a warm and receptive mother will encourage her daughter to become feminine-identified and most likely heterosexual. When the relationship between a boy and his father, or a girl and her mother, suffers, the child may not identify with his or her same-sex parent. This can create an unconscious drive for gender identification that follows him or her into adolescence.  This unconscious drive for gender identification becomes eroticized (turns sexual) as a child develops his or her sexual identity. By the time a child reaches adolescence, the child may experience sexual attractions to members of his or her own sex. In short, an emotional need becomes an erotic desire.

Andy Comiskey, who works with people overcoming homosexuality, writes, “In joining with the same sex erotically, the needy child within seeks in adult form the affirmation and emotional intimacy from the same sex that was never and properly attained in childhood.” Comiskey says that in the majority of his clients, “gay sex wasn’t really the motivating factor in their homosexual pursuits, while same-sex intimacy was, [and therefore reflected] an emotional need as opposed to an erotic one.”

In his book Coming Out Straight, psychotherapist and author Richard Cohen writes, “A man is looking for his father’s love through another man, and a woman is looking for her mother’s love through another woman.” This is why many people (that’s many, not all) who experience homosexual attractions report poor relationships with their same-sex parent or primary caregiver while growing up. There is little controversy surrounding the belief that a child’s parents play a significant role in his or her emotional development, yet when theorists suggest that the same applies to sexual development, they sometimes receive opposition from those in the lesbian and gay community who believe that sexuality is determined purely by genetics.

CHAD W. THOMPSON
Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would (2004) Brazos Press: Grand Rapids, Michigan

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