Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Objectivists and Causes of Homosexuality

Posted by Jerry on May 22, 2006

Updated:

It seems like some Objectivists are quite in disagreement over the causes and moral status of homosexuality. Of course, wrestling with that issue is not unique only to us, as much of contemporary society is dealing with trying to understand gay people like me and why we are the way we are. Even we homosexuals are divided over these important issues regarding our sexual identities.

Over at Trey Given’s blog, a young discussion has arisen over the causes of homosexual identity. Trey is of the opinion that homosexuality is entirely or mostly biological (genetic), and therefore homosexual behavior is simply amoral- and that’s that.

Diana Hsieh is of the opinion that while she finds absolutely no reason to hold homosexual identity as immoral, she cannot accept that there are any biological or genetic roots to its manifestation in some people. Diana asks some crucial questions on the topic: How could homosexuality (or any sexuality, for that matter) be innate (i.e. genetic) without innate concepts of male and female…. Are our brains programmed with not just the innate capacity to distinguish male from female, but also an innate desire for one or the other? How exactly might that work? Do we have all kinds of other innate knowledge and desires? Or is sexuality some kind of radical anomoly [sic] in the way our brain works?

My own opinion is that homosexuality is a bit of both, and maybe more. The two alternatives proposed by Trey and Diana, of being mostly genetic or entirely psychological, respectively, are inadequate and fall short of capturing the vast range of differences one finds in human sexual manifestations.

Moreover, coming from an Objectivist perspective, such disjunctive bifurcation of the human sexual identity in either the wholly genetic or the wholly psychological wrongly sustains the separation of the mind from the body – a dichotomy that Objectivism vehemently rejects in every understanding of man.

Trey’s insistence that homosexuality is almost entirely dictated by genetic predispositions does not fit into our current understanding of human sexuality as a rich, complex, and varied phenomena. It furthermore would need to admit that all manifestations of sexual orientations, like heterosexuality, transexuality, bi-sexuality, bestiality, etc. etc. are also entirely determined by genetic causes (as people bearing these identities often claim for themselves).

I don’t believe this position can be viably held in the face of current and future revelations on the matter.

On the other extreme position that Diana holds, i.e. sexual orientation could not be genetic at all, and must be entirely psychological, similarly goes against current science, and on a more personal level, it goes against my own (and other gays’) experience and understanding of sexual identity.

The questions Diana poses regarding homosexuality could also be asked of heterosexuality. [Note: Diana does emphasize that even heterosexuality cannot be genetic and is therefore, psychologically developed – either consciously or sub-consciously.]

Why is it that throughout history, the majority of human population have been heterosexuals if it were possible for them to easily develop sexual attraction to any thing or any person (since it is not genetically determined)? Why didn’t people develop a pre-dominantly homosexual orientation, leaving reproduction to the 10% minority? If there are no innate concepts of male and female, and no innate attraction for one or the other, then the overwhelming pre-dominance of heterosexuality needs crucial explanation beyond our current understanding of its evolutionary causes and roles.

I’ll copy/paste here some of the arguments I posted on the comments at Trey’s blog. If you are reading this and are interested in participating in the discussion, please proceed to his site to include your comments and get a complete picture of everyone else’s arguments. My post here is mainly for my own purpose of synthesizing my scattered opinions on homosexuality in one place, on my blog.

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Explanations such as physiological suitability of opposite sex organs dictating the *choice* people made throughout history is very inadequate for atleast two reasons I can think of right now:

1) I personally do not find any difference in the *physiological* suitability between heterosexuals and homosexuals (yes, even among lesbians). This notion of “suitability” probably carries some subjective and arbitrary beliefs of the purpose of sex and our sex organs. If the “suitability” of sex organs are viewed with a subconscious view that they are primarily for reproduction, then I would only concede so much that TODAY opposite sex organs have better suitability than same-sex sex organs. If “suitability” is understood in the view of sex as expression of love, pleasure, lust, etc… then to claim that one set is more “suitable” than the other is simply arbitrary.

2) If sexual identity was indeed totally unconnected with genetic causes, then, given the variety of human sexual choices we already witness, the number of heterosexuals should have been far lower – or atleast widely ranging during different periods of history depending on prevailing socio-cultural norms. However, I believe it is a matter of fact that homosexuality has remained at a steady minority rate, and hetersexuality has maintained a huge majority throughout history. Other sexual identities (possibly, as I mentioned earlier, due to random genetic/evolutionary processes) have been typically lower than homosexuality.These trends cannot be explained away by saying simply that the large *majority* of people throughout history just chose to be heterosexual because of the suitability of opposite sex organs. If choice were truly the main factor, then the diversity of sexual choices would have been more evenly spread out.

I’ve always held that homosexuality is not entirely or merely a genetic/biological phenomena. I believe there is certainly some environmental/psychological aspect that probably triggers a latent “gay” gene in the people that have it. I’ve read some studies to this effect – which I find to be the most plausible scenario.

Yet, I have also held firmly that homosexuality – whatever its causes – is not immoral in any sense.

If given a chance to change my sexual orientation (I don’t like the word “orientation”, but I can’t think of any appropriate one to use right now), I would choose not to do it. However, I don’t mean to imply that I am somehow more comfortable with my homosexuality and Trey – because he leans toward being open to change – is somehow not fully comfortable. I agree with Trey that it is purely an individual decision made in their given contexts.

It seems to me that all the “inconveniences” or “hurdles” or “problems” associated with being gay actually has no proper root in the fact of being gay, per se – but of being gay in *today’s* cultural environment. Being gay as such does not give rise to any uniquely different or significant problems that would not similarly arise among heterosexuals… I agree that there are real problems homosexuals experience – but it is because we are gay *today*, in *this* cultural environment. However, we must remember that our situation is much, much, better off that gays living only 20 or 30 years ago.

My understanding of the “gay” gene does to correspond to a cognitive or conceptual understanding of gay sexuality, masculinity, etc. I understanding genetic basis of behavior dispositions as simply *tendencies* – not a hard-wired *programmed* formula.

There are genetic tendencies that different people have to differing degrees… for example, scientists have studied some people’s genetic predisposition to a short temper, get angry more quickly and easily, or get hooked on some addiction or alcoholism, etc.

However, my argument is that these predispositions are tendencies that typically are latent unless they are triggered early on in a person’s life (depending on what those tendencies are) by environmental or psychological factors.

Thus, a person with a predisposition for easy addiction (maybe a gene that allows for a quicker neural connection in the brain to process drug-induced chemicals and respond quickly with a positive “high” experience)… might not actually be an *addict* until they actually interact with some trigger in their environment (peer pressure to smoke at an early age, drug abuse at home, etc.).

Similarly, the gay genetic tendency is not present in all persons… and even those who DO HAVE that genetic predisposition might not manifest it in their conscious sexual orientation unless it had already been triggered through some means early enough in their psychological development. That might explain bi-sexuality, latent homosexuality, anecdotes of abuse in childhood common among many gay people, etc.

If […] homosexuality is *entirely* psychological or developmental, then it implies to whatever degree, a deliberate choice I made after understanding concepts like my masculinity, sexual attraction, other males, etc. But I must say, and I think Trey would agree, that I cannot ever remember making any such choices nor understanding any such concepts in my early childhood – when there were already clear signs of my homosexual attraction. My earliest memory of being attracted to another male (a little boy, actually) seemed to arise automatically and naturally when I was only 3yrs old, and he was maybe only a few yrs older than me.
Was that childhood attraction possible because even at that age I had some concept of sexual roles, gender, penis, masculinity, etc? I don’t know. But I doubt it. To me, it seems more like the physiological reaction of my gay gene after being triggered positively, releasing positive and reinforcing emotions in me.

I take it being analogous to a person who has good genes that respond quickly to muscle-building when the person works-out in the gym only few days a week, while another person sweats out 2 hours everyday at the gym and yet can barely maintain a decent physique (I submit myself as an example of the latter!)

I cannot honestly agree with any theory that regards homosexuality as completely devoid of any genetic, physiological, or biological roots. It creates an unresolvable conflict in my mind between what “stomach-feeling” I have and what that theory would espouse.

I think homosexuality (its different degrees, and bi-sexuality, etc.) are caused by some interactive influence of both, the biological and the psychological.All behaviors are subject to moral judgement. Harmful addiction is immoral regardless of the person’s genetic predispositions – because, as I mentioned, those addictive acts are still under the control of the person’s deliberate choices. Homosexuality is not immoral regardless of its causes.

7 Responses to “Objectivists and Causes of Homosexuality”

  1. Ergo Sum said

    Hmm… Diana’s point is interesting. Maybe, as she says, homosexuality is initiated in early childhood through psychological, environmental, parental influences (to name a few) and as one grow older, those neural pathways in the brain corresponding to homosexual attraction, gratification, and reinforcement gets solidified, thereby becoming “hard-wired” in the brain, with little or no possibility of “re-progamming”.

    But, how then, would one explain the issue of “late bloomers” – those who realize their homosexual identites much later on life… some, way into adulthood? How did they develop a neural pathway strong enough to convey a homosexual identity at such a late stage in their psychological development??

  2. Ah, the old “Nature Vs. Nurture” Debate…

    I personally am a nature proponent, with nurture kicked in for reinforcement…

    There have also been some studies in the last few years that point to hormonal balances in the mother during pregnancy that may also be a factor in the whole argument, besides being simply genetic or nurturing… would that make the argument “Nature Vs. Nurture Vs. Diet”?

    😀

    great post!

  3. Tim Wikiriwhi said

    Ergo,
    Finding this post has answered my own question from my ‘300 Spartians’ posting.
    It is an interesting fact that Objectivism attracts more than it’s fair share of Gay men despite that Rand found it immoral. Some might call her a “Homophobe” .
    It is also surprising how many gay men become Catholic priests.
    Sexual drives are very perplexing.
    The bible talks about the fall of man into sin and our corruption.
    It says that as a consequence that Man has a inbuilt bent to desire what is forbidden.
    The Bible condemns various sexual practices as corrupt and clearly makes us morally accountable for our actions in this regard, thus it seams to be bible doctrine that while sexual immorality is not a strict genetic necessity there are definitely innate factors that predisposes Humans to all sorts of immoral sexual practices.
    The bible also makes it clear that rejection of God’s word leads to both personal darkness and collectively as a social darkness and so it is possible for social factors to play a large part in this situation, and I believe history bares this out.
    The bible says sexual immorality ranges from unmarried heterosexual sex all the way to bestiality and pedophilia. Thus it is rare in my neck of the woods to find adults who have not by biblical standards defiled themselves in sexual immorality of some form, myself included. As a Christian I must battle urges to commit adultery, and must resist voyeurism of pornography esp group sex and lesbian sex.
    Thus while I acknowledge the Bible is true, my Balls have not dropped off, nor has my own fallen nature been completely overcome.
    This leads me to a very critical position on both those Christians who are bigoted towards homosexuals yet enjoy the company of fornicators and adulterers, and also of everyone who seeks for a philosophy or theology that justifies themselves.
    I am wondering if your own disregard of Christianity is because you sub consciously don’t like the ethics it contains regarding sex because you enjoy being gay and don’t wish to feel morally guilty, and that one of the strongest reasons you are an objectivist is because in Rand you found a strong ally that writes off Christianity as corrupt, and offers you a substitute religion free of guilt?
    While you may disagree about homosexuality as being unnatural and immoral, I do not doubt that you will agree that bestiality is immoral and pedophilia, and rape.
    Thus I challenge you to present to me an ethic as to how you can say some sexual activities are clearly immoral but not homosexuality. You must include an Ideal sexual norm and I also think it must factor in Procreation and that raising of children as these are clearly the primary functions of sexuality, that is Male and female.
    I believe mankind has twisted sex into a drug rather that its original purity.
    God made sex Fun! I am no prude, sexual satisfaction is a blessing from God, and intimacy with your partner is one of the great truths of the scriptures.
    The bible does say at the fall the God multiplied Eves conception, which to me suggests that prior to the fall a couple could enjoy sex more often without contraception and yet still not breed like rabbits!
    And as for Ayn Rand we may right off her theory of sex as being ‘intellectual soul mates’
    As can be seen regarding her expectations of Nathaniel Branden to find herself the most attractive sexual partner! Nathaniel was so disturbed by this intellectual obligation that he became impotent! Thus I am not surprised that you ignore Rands judgments on sexual matters and embrace her philosophy none the less as it serves to free you of feelings of sexual guilt that Christianity would impose on you. My self I embrace God Almighty and his Christ. I know my own sexual hang ups, yet am grateful that there is a way of forgiveness in Gods mercy and grace and that every day that I choose to submit to the objective morality of the bible that that is a victory, and a sign of my virtue, and yet at the same time I have compassion on my fellow man who I do not hypocritically despise but seek to lead into the same grace of God that I have found.
    Some say homosexuals are damned. I say All mankind are damned who do not trun to Christ but freely choose to reject his grace, and continue to wallow in the mire.
    Do not be deceived. A homosexual can be saved even if they continue in their homosexuality. The Bible says “by grace are you save, through faith. It is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.” (Epheasians) and also “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved “ (Romans).
    Every one of us needs Christ as we all fall short of Gods holiness.
    Christ died for your sins and was buried, and rose from the dead in evidence of his victory over sin and death.
    I hope this posting give you another view to consider in your inquires on subject which hopefully removes a lot of the false hypocrisy that is generally assumed to be the Christian position.
    Regards,
    Tim Wikiriwhi

  4. Ergo said

    Tim,

    Your comments do nothing to give me “another view to consider.” In fact, I’d hope you would keep your comments brief, and read other related articles on my blog before you decide to post. For example, if you would have read through my “Atheism” category articles, you would have known that I arrived at atheism much before I discovered and embraced Objectivism. Therefore, I thoroughly resent your psychologizing of my reasons for accepting atheism and Objectivism as merely a rationalization or justification of my homosexuality. You have no right–nor the requisite knowledge of me as a person–to make such inane speculations. Frankly, I’m getting weary of reading your rambling comments that display poor analysis and thought before being put into words.

    I consider homosexuality unnatural just as I consider driving a car unnatural–and only to that extent. I do not believe that standards of “naturalness” are set by our sexual “plumbing” systems or some barn-yard animalistic need for procreation. Such a view is of the cheapest kind of biological determinism–it views man as not a creature with volition and free will but as an animal doomed to succumb to the requirements of biological survival and speciation. But Man is a volitional being–he can choose to die or choose to live, he can choose to procreate or choose to remain celibate. Only those which are open to his choices fall in the realm of morality. Man is free from evolutionary pressure to procreate. Thus, I reject offspring-bearing ability as the standard for morality–although I will accept it as a standard for deciding the predominantly observed natural behavior.
    In that sense, it is more natural for men to walk and run, not drive cars. But he does, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

    Now, there is much reason to believe that Jesus might himself have been homosexual–given that it was a very unnatural thing for Jewish men of that time to not be married by the age of 33. Furthermore, given Jesus’ proclivities to hang out with a bunch of men, and have such close and intimate relationship with John makes one wonder if their love was purely of the platonic kind. Either way, I care a crap about Jesus’ personal life. If he was gay, that’s fine with me.

    Finally, Tim, read more of my views before you begin criticizing or psychologizing about me. And with regard to your empty remarks on Objectivism, I shall not even dignify them with a response–it is becoming tedious to make some sense from the noise of your comments.

  5. Tim Wikiriwhi said

    Ergo,
    That homosexuality is a choice, is something we agree on and so I take offence that you have chosen to ignore my whole argument regarding sexuality as a moral choice. By what standard?… was my challenge which had nothing to do with determinism (which by the way is your Materialist monist problem not my Spiritual free will position). I challenged you to produce an Ideal that incorporates the realities of Male and female as primary sexual realities along with procreation, and physical pleasure as being a secondary bonus.
    I too am weary of your inability to post guile-free replies to my honest contributions and your denial of the role that psychology has in determining our choices.
    I find it an hallmark of intellectual poverty that it can be supposed that something as great as the human body and something as spiritual as sex and procreation can be considered simply freak accidents of space matter, and that the universality of homosexuality in regard to every tribe of humanity is not understood as proof of the fall of mankind into sin.
    The Lord has come close to you and given you an opportunity to be free from that anti Christ false prophet, yet I see your spirit loves darkness, and so hates me for questioning your facade of reason and pretence to value individual free thinking.
    Therefore I will grant your wish and never post here again.

  6. […] by Ergo on May 29th, 2007 I was just re-reading a comment by Tim Wikiriwhi on an old post, and I am still awestruck–as if reading it for the first time–by the absurdity of his […]

  7. hiutopor said

    Hi

    Very interesting information! Thanks!

    G’night

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