Homosexuality and Choice
James R. Aist
“We now have scientifically sound evidence, coming from homosexuals themselves, for a significant role of choice in homosexuality.“
Homosexual activists insist that homosexuality is not a choice, whereas many born-again Christians claim that it is. In my investigations into the truths about homosexuality, I have found that there is truth in both positions. Furthermore, a relatively recent scientific study has shed light on this issue and inspired me to take a second look into the relevant facts, which turn out to be quite instructive, if not surprising.
There seems to be some consensus that most homosexual people do not choose to have the same-sex attractions and sexual feelings that they experience initially, and I believe this consensus to be true. But that doesn’t mean that living a homosexual life-style does not involve choices. Once that first same-sex sexual attraction is encountered, there is a choice as to whether or not to act on it (either through fantasies or sexual encounters), and the same choice is made every time that attraction is experienced. Bi-sexual people make a choice every time they engage in homosexual sex rather than heterosexual sex. Heterosexual people who are married with children and then forsake their marriage for a homosexual relationship have made a choice to do so. And the fluidity in sexual orientation, found especially in lesbians but also in gays, speaks to the choice of sexual orientation available to many homosexual people, at least until their late teens (1). And where there is choice there is also the potential for change.
There is also reason to believe that, especially in the early days of one’s homosexual activity, the sexual pleasure experienced in homosexual encounters intensifies and reinforces same-sex attractions and sexual feelings, making it more difficult for any heterosexual inclinations to be sensed or expressed later on (2). At this point, homosexuality has become strongly established and sexual attractions, feelings, fantasies and behaviors are exclusively homosexual. Apparently, there is virtually no longer any role of choice involved, barring spontaneous change (3) or effective therapy (4).
The role of choice in the development of homosexuality has been investigated scientifically for more than two decades, but there have been severe limitations on the accuracy and reliability of the results because of inadequate sample sizes, unreliable sampling methods and the limited scope of the sampled populations (5, 6). Those limitations changed considerably in 2010 with publication of the results of a large, probability study of the USA population with respect to self-identified homosexuality (5). In this study, 12.1% of gay men, 31.6% of lesbians, 61.7% of bisexual men and 59.5% of bisexual women reported a small to large amount of perceived choice in their sexual orientation. This is the largest and most reliable scientific study to date of the role of choice in the development of homosexuality, and it revealed that, while a large majority of exclusively homosexual people do not believe choice had a significant role in their development of homosexuality, many of them believe it did. And a clear majority of bisexual men and women claim that there was a significant role of choice in the development of their sexual orientation. So, we now have scientifically sound evidence, coming from homosexuals themselves, for a significant role of choice in homosexuality. That said, we should keep in mind that the practice of homosexuality always involves a choice, as I implied in the opening paragraph.
Since choice 1) often is perceived to be a factor in the development of exclusive homosexuality, especially in women, and 2) always is involved in the practice of homosexuality, it should be of no surprise that the best evidence available on sexual orientation change efforts shows that both secular and religious therapy programs designed to help dissatisfied homosexuals overcome their homosexuality have success rates in the 25%-30% range (4). For these ex-homosexual people, homosexuality was not immutable. Rather, they chose to overcome it and did.
(Note: It is important to keep in mind that the summary data cited above on the role of choice in the development of homosexuality, despite being reported by individuals, applies directly only to the respective populations of the subjects in the studies and not necessarily to any one individual. Each person’s sexual orientation experience is unique to that person.)
- Whitehead, N. and B. Whitehead. 2012. Chapter 12. Can sexual orientation change? (click HERE)
- Aist, J. 2012. Are Homosexuals Really Born Gay? (click HERE)
- Aist, J. 2012. Spontaneous Change in Sexual Orientation: It Does Happen! (click HERE)
- Aist, J. 2012. Homosexuality: Good News! (click HERE)
- Herek, G.M., et al. 2010. Demographic, Psychological, and Social Characteristics of Self-Identified Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults in a US Probability Sample. Sex Res Soc Policy 7:176-200.
- Diamond, L.M. and C.J. Rosky. 2016. Scrutinizing Immutability: Research on Sexual Orientation and U.S. Legal Advocacy for Sexual Minorities. J Sex Res 53:363-391.
(To read more of my articles on homosexuality, click HERE)