Why Are People Gay? Gay By Choice or Is Being Gay Genetic?
Estimates as to the number of gay people in the population range from 1-in-20 to 1-in-10, so why are some people gay? Are they gay by choice or is being gay genetic?
"Of, pertaining to, or exhibiting sexual desire or behavior directed toward a person or persons of one's own sex."
In other words, 5-10% of people experience same-sex sexual attraction or behavior; of course, this doesn't speak to what makes people gay. No one knows for certain why any individual is gay, but current thought is that being gay is not a choice. (read: Cure the Gay: Gay Conversion Therapy – Real or Hoax?) The reasons people are gay are both physiological and psychological.
Why Are People Gay? – Physiology
Modern science is working to show that genetics is one of the causes of being gay, although some science conflicts in this area. According to Psychology Today,3
"In recent years, evidence has accumulated that a homosexual orientation is inherited. Study of family history reveals that homosexual men have more homosexuals in their family tree than do heterosexuals."
The precise genes involved in the causes of being gay have not yet been identified but they appear to come from the mother.
Additionally, some studies have found that the brains from homosexuals differ from the brains of heterosexuals. The connections in the amygdala and the corpus callosum have both been shown to be different depending on the sexual orientation of the individual.4
Why Are People Gay? – Psycho-Social Reasons
Psychological reasons also appear to be part of why a person is gay. According to Avert.org, what makes people gay may include:5
- A female dominated upbringing in a gay man's past, with an absence of a male role model
- Adherence or deviance from conformity to gender roles
- Family environment
- Individual experiences
- An individual's sense of self
While psychological factors may increase the likelihood that someone is gay, no single factor is known to cause homosexuality.
Is Being Gay a Choice?
Considering whether people choose to be gay is complex. It very much appears that same-sex sexual attraction is not a choice but acting on it is; so if you define gay as the mere presence of same-sex attraction, then from everything we understand, being gay is not a choice.
If, on the other hand, you consider someone to be gay only if they act on their same-sex attraction then being gay can be considered a choice depending on an individual's behavior.
But the real question is, does this really matter? If a person is an adult, is it anyone's business whom he or she is attracted to or has sexual relations with? Whether science can ultimately prove the biology of being gay or not, it's important to support all adults in their choices no matter how they identify.
Last Updated: 18 August 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD