1. Are gays born that way?
In his book, Born Gay? Dr John Tay, clinical geneticist and former Head of the Division of Human Genetics in NUS, talks about the contrast in opinion between public and the scientific community, on whether gays are born this way. He noted how public’s popular belief stems from the media play up of early scientific studies in the 1990s on brain structures, twin studies and the Xq28 gene. These studies have in fact been heavily criticized by fellow professionals to be flawed and biased. It must be noted too that other than the media headlines, the very same researchers of these studies have themselves confessed that they have not found anything genetic that is deterministic of the homosexual orientation.
Dr John gave insight to the question of whether gays are born that way and they cannot change by explaining what genes really do to us:
“The effects of genes on behaviour are very indirect because genes make proteins, not preferences. The scientific truth is that our genes do not force us into anything. Genes are responsible for an indirect influence, but on average, they do not force people into homosexuality. The startling conclusion is that genetic factors are much less important than environmental ones in the causation of homosexuals. On this basis, the claim by homosexuals that ‘I am born that way, so I cannot change’ is simply not true.”
2. Then how does same sex attraction come about?
Environmental factors, or simply put, circumstances at a very young age, are found to be significant factors.
For the sake of a clearer explanation, I will pick a particular gender to explain the developmental dynamics, say male.
Newborns are usually more attached to mothers in the beginning since mothers are likely to be the primary caregiver. Mothers breastfeed and nurse. Mothers’ nurturing side compels them to be responsive to the high needs of a newborn child. However, around a year old, the boy starts to desire attachment with dad. By then, the toddler could recognize the difference between mum and dad. He understands that dad is different and he desires dad’s love as well. As the boy make attempts to bond with dad, dad’s response is crucial. If daddy is abusive, neglectful, stern, condescending, passive or distant, the boy fails to form a healthy bond with dad. This becomes an unmet need in the boy’s life.
Satir’s ice-berg theory tells us that our unmet yearnings give rise to expectations. The yearnings of wanting to be loved, held, cuddled, physically bonded, wanted, accepted, approved by our father, when unmet, cause us to expect these affection from other male figures in our lives. Along the way, this yearning becomes eroticized. We need to understand that a young boy e.g. in his toddler years, lacks the ability to evaluate his self image, including, his gender identity. All he knows is that he desires so much to be loved by a male figure. Whether or not the love is healthy or unhealthy is secondary to him. So depending on the kind of stimulus he ends up getting exposed to, his own perception evaluating his responses /emotions to those stimulus, his personality and upbringing etc, it might trigger a sexualisation of his unmet yearning.
Furthermore, there’s also the possibility of how this boy who is distant from dad, will naturally model after mother, and be more familiar / in tuned with his feminine side than his masculine side. This might lead to name-calling, teasing, bullying and rejection by other boys in school. This gender-based social isolation can only raise more questions and confusion about his gender identity. The boy might not be able to find the confidence to see his identity as a boy (a bit like how many adult men feel like they are still more like a boy rather than a man). Also, he becomes curious about males and about masculinity. This can evoke attraction or bring him to experiment with SSA, which sexualises him further.
3. So homosexuals did not choose to be that way?
Though it is possible, it is a rarity. Many homosexuals would actually wish to be straight, especially when they first become aware of their homosexual feelings.
4. Why do most homosexuals believe that they are born that way?
The onset of their unmet need and confusion regarding their sexuality happens at such a young age (as early as age 1-2) that by the time they become aware of their homosexual feelings, they really felt it to be natural and believe that they are born that way.
5. What should we do to help them then?
Many activists propagate that society should affirm gays and lesbians in their identity to help them. However, reaffirming a confused person that his pseudo identity is actually his true identity does not help him discover the dignity or inner peace that he really needs. Neither does the wanton pursuit of sexual pleasures make a homosexual feels better about himself. Sexual pleasures might numb a pain but it never truly helps or heals the person. Like promiscuous heterosexuals who indulge in prostitution and sex, a lust-oriented lifestyle is never the way to remove the pain and emptiness. In fact, it will bring more consequential destruction.
Rather, offer love by fostering an emotionally close and healthy friendship to support him in coping with his struggles. Reaffirm him in his biological identity and spot his strengths and talents to encourage him as a person. Gently help him re-frame his childhood experiences and help him be aware of how he might have perceived everything through his own tainted childhood lens.The goal of helping a homosexual is not in converting his sexual orientation but in supporting him emotionally so he can find strength and dignity to live the healthiest life he can live. Some homosexuals do in fact get happily married to a spouse of an opposite gender and experience true committed monogamous love. In such cases, their spouses are often their best accountability partner and friend; and their love transcends their orientation concerns.
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