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Homosexuality the Nature Versus Nurture Debate

16 Feb 2017Personal Essays

Abstract

Homosexuality is a social behavior or attraction between people of the same sex. It refers to a sexual orientation. It is a lasting disposition to experience sexual attractions primarily to people of same sex. While sexual orientation ranges from completely homosexual to completely heterosexual, the various forms under consideration are well contrasted. The word homosexual is a Greek and Latin hybrid, with homos meaning same. Usually gay refers to male homosexuality, but from a broader perspective, especially in media headlines and reports, gay is used to refer to homosexuality in general. However, lesbian refers to female homosexuality.

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Earliest records of homosexuality as a feature of a civic society are available form ancient Greece where certain forms of erotic attraction or sexual pleasures between males were often considered an accepted form of the cultural norm. The term homosexual was coined in the year 1869 by Karl Maria Kertbeny. Earlier homosexuality was considered as an aberration needing cure, while now it is being investigated as a part of impetus to understand biology, psychology, genetic and cultural variations of sexual practice and identity. The legal and social status of homosexuals varies around the world. It remains one of the hotly contested topics in religious or political debates.

The question on why some people are homosexual can be answered by two important theories, namely the nature and the nurture. Nature theorists believe that homosexuality as a behavioral trait is a result of genetic composition of the individual, while nurture theorists believe that homosexuality results from various social and environmental factors.

Many great historical personalities were also centered upon love and sexual relation with people of their own sex. Some such people are Socrates, Julius Caesar, Alexander the great, Hadrian, Lord Byron, Edward II, Leonardo da vinci, Michelangelo and Donatello.

With increasing opposition to homosexuals, from the general public as well as certain governments that have made homosexual acts punishable by death, arises the need to understand why some people are gay. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that the sexual orientation probably is not determined by any one factor but by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences. The American Psychological Association has stated that there are probably many reasons for a person's sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people. It also stated that for most people, sexual orientation is determined at an early age. The American Psychiatric Association has stated that, to date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality. Similarly, no specific psychosocial or family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified, including histories of childhood sexual abuse. Thus the biological and non-biological explanations of homosexual behavior arise.

There are two main theories namely the nature and nurture theories. The first theory about the nature concept in relation to homosexuality, explores the possibility of a specific genetic make up or gene combination present at the time of birth to predispose homosexuality. Thus the nature theory declares that people are born gay.

Some gay supporters believe that the presence of a gay gene will accrue a wider social acceptance and anti-discrimination protection. This follows from the fact that being a gay is not a choice and that calls for a matter of civil rights in case of discrimination. Scientists and researchers have known for decades that traits such as eye color or hair color are determined by certain genes encoded in every human cell. Even certain abstract traits such as intelligence, aggression, personality and sexual orientation are encoded in a person’s genetic sequence. This initiates the search for such behavioral genes. Search for such genes bring the fear that such genetic arguments could be used as excuses in criminal activities. A neurobiologist LeVay discovered a part of hypothalamus in the brains of homosexual men was smaller than other men and nearly the size as that of a woman. This provided a boost to the nature theory. But there were certain limitations as to the small sample space and use of AIDS infected homosexuals for the tests. A research team of L. S.Allen and R. A. Gorski reported that a nerve fibre cluster between the hemispheres of brain namely the anterior commisure was on average larger in most homosexual men inspected. Based upon brain hemisphere development some scientists suspect that homosexuals are more likely to be left-handed, dyslexic and stutterers. The problem with this study was enormous variation within their sample and dependence on AIDS infected patients as in LeVay’s study. Prenatal hormonal secretions were found to influence the sexual traits of rodents, however, no significant trait were observed in primates. Genetic studies were invigorated by report comparing identical and fraternal twins. A research team led by D. Hamer associated male homosexuality to a small stretch of DNA on the X chromosome. It became known as the “gay gene” in media. Such a relation between a gene and homosexuality does not imply causation. The gene may or may not have a remarkable impact on individuals. The biological theory is has its own merits and demerits for the homosexuals. They applaud the effect of biological theories on public opinion leading to acceptance. They also detest the possibility of discovering such traits through amniocentesis leading to abortion of homosexual fetus. The journal Science reported differences in the anatomy of homosexual and heterosexual men. However, there is no evidence to substantiate any of these biological theories as there is a lack of strong evidences. (Wikipedia)

The next theory dealing with non-biological aspects is the nurture theory. The nurture theory states that every individual is impacted by environment. The nurture theory argues that social, peer, parental and environment variables influence a person’s behavior. Thus a nurtured homosexual is a person who has become one due to environmental influences. For a long time an overbearing mother or absent father were thought to produce future homosexuals. Some even thought that sexual abuse could play a role in evolution of a homosexual. Thus nurture theory implies that the cause of homosexuality is not due to his genetic sequence but his own choice whether to be a gay or not. Some therapy groups believe that homosexuality can be reversed and cured, while certain religious groups, immersed in the concept of Adam and Eve, believe it to be unnatural and a sin. While accepting that there might be some influence of genes, the nurture theorists believe that they do not matter. The behavioral aspects originate from a person’s upbringing and his disposition amidst environmental influences. Certain scientific studies on child temperament have shown some important evidences to nurture theory. An American psychologist John Watson, who was a strong proponent of environmental learning, said that given a dozen healthy infants, well formed, and his own specified world to bring them up in, he would pick one from random and train him to be any type of specialist he selected, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his ancestors.

The non biological factors have been found to have their own impacts in certain behavioral traits. It is well evident that the sex differences come with birth, the gender differences come up as a matter of training and sexual conduct is shaped by social and environmental forces. This occurs in four stages, namely sensitization, identity confusion, identity assumption and commitment. Before puberty every individual assumes himself to be a heterosexual. During adolescence a person may show tendency towards homosexuality often with years of confusion resulting from ignorance. Late adolescence is characterized by acceptance of homosexuality and involvement in sexual association with other such individuals. Finally he develops a satisfaction and commitment to his homosexual identity often characterized by free disclosure to non homosexuals. Such an idea of homosexuality indulges in heavy combat with the biological theory. The turn of events in future must be based on the victims, either the homophobic or the homosexual. (Wikipedia, non biological explanations)

REFERENCES:

  • Ryan D. Johnson, April 30, 2003, Homosexuality: Nature or nurture, AllPsych Journal, retrieved June 14, 2008 from http://allpsych.com/journal/homosexuality.html
  • Sonya Safro (2005), Nature versus nurture: Homosexuality’s link to Biology 202, Third Web Papers on Serendip, retrieved June 14, 2008 from http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1910
  • Thomas E. Schmidt, The great Nature-Nurture Debate, Reprint from Straight and Narrow, Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate.
  • Thomas, Devine (1998), Homosexuality: Biologically or environmentally constructed, Research topic.
  • Biological explanations. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, retrieved June 14, 2008.
  • Non- Biological explanations. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, retrieved June 14, 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality#Non-biological_explanations

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