Is Homosexuality Hereditary or a Choice? — Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.

There are few issues in American society today more volatile than those dealing with human sexuality. Anyone looking at our culture with an objective eye would be right to conclude that sexual mores are in a virtual free fall. Topics like homosexuality, transgenderism, and pansexualism dominate everything from Facebook posts and tweets from celebrities to legislation shaping government policy.

One of the critical issues at the core of the debates over the nature of human sexuality is whether homosexuality is hereditary or a choice. As many homosexual advocates have said in the past, they were simply born with a natural attraction to the same sex. The reason is that if they were born with such proclivities, then they must be genetic and therefore immune to criticism. If a person’s sexual orientation is determined in the same way as their ethnicity, then homophobia should be just as criminal as racism. 

Homosexuality in Antiquity

What does it mean to be homosexual? Here we must see an important, and perhaps even complicated, difference between homosexual practice and homosexual orientation. Throughout history, human beings have sought out sexual encounters for the sake of personal gratification. We can see some of this in the ancient Greek practice of pederasty, in which an older man would take a younger man (usually a teen) as a lover. This one-sided relationship was considered part of the maturation process for the young men and did not include shared affection or mutual desire. Instead, it was a very one-sided affair.

Roman society did have homosexual relationships, although they tended to be somewhat different from their earlier Greek counterparts. Similar to Greek attitudes, relationships between males were considered acceptable only in an unequal relationship. Roman men would take the active (penetrative) role in the physical encounter, while their partner was typically a non-Roman male prostitute or slave. Romans criticized effeminate behavior and seemed to have seen the Greek practice of pederasty as something to be avoided.

Homosexuality in the Modern World

Homosexuality in Islamic culture today is significant, perhaps because Islam places such extraordinary restrictions on the social interaction of men and women. Same-sex relationships are forbidden in Islam, a fact that came to light prominently in 2015 when the US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Proponents in the Middle East showed their support for the ruling but were quickly silenced by their respective authorities. This official condemnation of homosexuality may lead some to believe that Islam expressly forbids sexual contact between males. This is not the case. For many centuries wealthy Muslim men—often powerful warlords—have engaged in bacha bazi (sexual slavery and child prostitution involving adolescent boys). Although outlawed by the Taliban and highlighted by the documentary Dancing Boys of Afghanistan, it continues today.

The prison population in the United States frequently engages in homosexual behavior. It is well-known that sexual behavior and sexual orientation here are not the same. Like other men in various times and places, incarcerated adults in the US frequently engage in sexual encounters with members of the same sex purely for the sake of sexual gratification. Thus, homosexuality in these instances is born from physical desire and regulated by social or cultural circumstances and does not truly represent a different form of human relationship entirely analogous to natural heterosexual relationships.

Genetic Research and Homosexuality

Some people today seem to have adopted the view that sexuality is a social construct, including some element of personal choice. However, attempts to discover a genetic basis for homosexuality date to the 1970s. Two additional studies in the 1990s also tried to find a genetic cause. One attempted to locate a gay gene, while the other studied the differences between the neural physiology of heterosexuals and homosexuals. Both studies were conducted by gay activists, and the scientific community challenged their conclusions. Although these studies failed to show a genetic cause for homosexual behavior, they gave a veneer of legitimacy to the belief that some people are born gay.

Although additional studies have been conducted, researchers today confess that any reference to a “gay gene” is inaccurate, with most of them questioning whether such a gene exists (or will ever be discovered). Most scientists today understand that human sexuality is a complex interaction of many factors, including both biological and environmental factors.

Is there proof of a genetic basis for homosexuality?  So far, researchers exploring the subject have failed to offer any convincing evidence.  This evidence would need to clearly define the genetic cause, with test results needing duplication by other researchers who could verify the original conclusions. This cause would have to be something identifiable explicitly in homosexuals but absent in heterosexuals. Test results would also need to be free from influence by the researchers, a problem inherent in early tests conducted by pro-homosexual advocates.

A great deal of misinformation exists about homosexuality and its supposed genetic basis. Advocates often describe historical perspectives on same-sex relationships with modern language, obscuring the significant differences between ancient practices and modern ones. Many writers also seem to assume that science had proven a genetic link and simply claim that research has proven it despite their inability to produce any actual proof. Others deny science altogether and claim to have been born as homosexual without providing any evidence.

Homosexuality is forbidden in Scripture (Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:26-28; 1 Cor. 6:9-11), although it would be a mistake for Christians to see homosexuals as the enemy in a unique way.  Indeed, every human being who has sinned has been considered an enemy of God (Rom. 5:10).  Those who experience same-sex attraction must be approached in the same way as anyone else needing the gospel. Every human being desperately needs to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

Dewayne serves the New York Ave. congregation in Arlington, TX. He also serves as a staff writer for The Daily Apologist, Apologetics Press and the Apologia Institute, and as a professional associate for the Associates for Biblical Research.

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