The Roots of Sexual Orientation and Gender Conformity

Where do you stand on the sexual orientation question: genes or environment? Is it a choice or are you “born this way?” Recent research in the UK took a close look at nonconforming behavior and sexual orientation of women in at attempt to answer these intriguing questions. The study followed 4,000 women, each of whom was one of a pair of twins. Resulting data suggested that gender conformity and sexual orientation are characteristics that are inherited. Also indicated by the study is that being gender-nonconforming and/or lesbian comes from within the person and is not a fad, an obsession, or an entity that one tries to become.

Besides shedding light on the phenomena of homosexuality, the researchers are hopeful that these findings as well as what is learned from further research of this type will prove helpful in improving the quality of life of the gay population, which is known to be afflicted in general with poor mental health. The health problems faced by homosexuals in our society (with depression and anxiety at the top of the list) are usually brought on–not by the person’s sexual orientation, but—by the stressors of living under societal stigma and the feelings of being unaccepted, hated, or victimized.

Do you think that scientific studies like this one help to enlighten the homophobic community? Or do they widen the chasm between the two divergent opinions? How could the findings help an individual who is having difficulty “coming out?” Are there implications here for proponents or opponents of gay marriage? For parents of gay children?

Finally, the findings provide tools for the therapist or counselor of lesbian and gay clients experiencing emotional problems or psychological disorders. There has been recent media coverage of practitioners using what is known as “reparative counseling” of gays, i.e., techniques used in attempts to “turn gays straight.” What do the results of this study indicate about reparative and similar efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation?

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