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Did I Choose to be Gay?

“Do you think I chose to be gay?” Pastors often get this question from gay people they are serving. Or just as commonly, they’re asked: “Do you think people are born gay or choose to be gay?”

I want to be clear from the start: I never chose to be gay—to experience same-sex attraction—and those of you who are straight never chose to experience opposite-sex attraction. People do not choose their sexual orientation (a person’s enduring pattern of attractions for the opposite sex, same sex, both sexes, or neither sex).

Now to the second question: Are people born gay? Before we go further, let’s reflect on why this question is so important. Commonly, many argue that if we knew that people were born gay, then we should assume that God intended people to be gay. Then, if God intended people to be gay, He must support those people following their God-given desires for monogamous relationships with people of the same sex. So, are people born gay?

One scientific study of identical twins where one twin is gay, lesbian, or bisexual found that 52% of the time the other twin was also gay, lesbian, or bisexual[1]. However, as the study was replicated, that number oscillated over time from 48%[2] to 65.8%[3] and then down to 11%[4] and 7.7%[5]. If the development of same-sex attraction were genetically determined, this number would be 100%, so the findings demonstrate that same-sex attraction is not genetically determined but is genetically predisposed, as the frequency of same-sex attraction is higher among both twins when one twin experiences same-sex attraction than among the general population. Scientists have also studied hormone levels in the womb in an attempt to discover a relationship between prenatal hormones and sexual orientation. These scientists reached similar conclusions to twins studies: conditions in the womb may predispose an individual to a certain sexual orientation, but they do not determine an individual’s orientation.

Across the ideological spectrum, the consensus of scientists is that genetics, prenatal hormones, and social environment contribute to the development of same-sex attraction. While scientists believe social environment contributes, in part, to the development of sexual orientation, there is no evidence to support common theories that sexual abuse or a bad relationship with a parent leads to developing same-sex attraction.

As a result, we would conclude that no one is born gay: scientific evidence does not support the claim that sexual orientation is biologically determined.

But even if we became convinced that sexual orientation is biologically determined—if some flood of new research outweighed consistent past results from decades of sexual orientation development research—even if that were the case, that doesn’t necessarily mean that God intended for people to be gay. God’s intentions aren’t a scientific question; they’re a theological one.

Science can’t answer the question of God’s intentions because none of us are how God made us to be. None of us are born how God first imagined us to be—we are all corrupted at a genetic level before birth, formed brokenly in the womb, and quickly injured by the broken world we are born into. None of us today are how God first intended us to be.

So are we born gay or do we choose to be gay? I say neither. More accurately, no one is born gay (genetically determined to experience same-sex attraction) nor does anyone choose to be gay (to experience same-sex attraction).

Curious about Equip’s answers to other questions pastors and parents commonly ask? Check out our Top Ten Most-Asked Questions.

[1] Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1991 Dec;48(12):1089-96. A genetic study of male sexual orientation. Bailey JM1, Pillard RC.

[2] Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1993 Mar;50(3):217-23. Heritable factors influence sexual orientation in women. Bailey JM1, Pillard RC, Neale MC, Agyei Y.

[3] Archives of Sexual Behavior. June 1993, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 187-206. Homosexual orientation in twins: A report on 61 pairs and three triplet sets. Frederick L. Whitam, Milton Diamond, & James Martin.

[4] Genetic and environmental influences on sexual orientation and its correlates in an Australian twin sample. Bailey, J. Michael; Dunne, Michael P.; Martin, Nicholas G. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 78(3), Mar 2000, 524-536.

[5] Opposite‐Sex Twins and Adolescent Same‐Sex Attraction. Peter S. Bearman and Hannah Brückner. American Journal of Sociology. Vol. 107, No. 5 (March 2002), pp. 1179-1205. Published by: The University of Chicago Press.

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