One of the most prominent arguments of our generation is the gender identity argument; is gender identity the result of nature or nurture? This is a heated debate that has been going on for decades.
“Gender identity is defined as a personal conception of oneself as male or female (or rarely, both or neither). This concept is intimately related to the concept of gender role, which is defined as the outward manifestations of personality that reflect the gender identity.” (Ghosh MD & Pataki MD, 2009). For centuries it has been widely accepted that men are men and they are supposed to be with women and that women are women and are supposed to be with men. There have been very few cultures in history and ancient history that have viewed homosexuality as acceptable. The belief that homosexuality is unacceptable has been primarily fueled by most religions. Many religions consider it a serious sin; a crime against God to engage in sexual activity with a person of the same sex. Modern science and research, however, supplies us with substantial evidence that gender identity is not a conscious choice, but mostly the result of biological factors such as hormone levels, genetics and size differences in certain areas of the brain. The nurture argument of sexuality states that gender identity is a choice; that homosexuals woke up one day and decided to be homosexual. The nurture-believers do in fact, make a few valid points. Children do tend to mimic what they see and rearing has a lot to do with who we will ultimately become in life. To support their argument, there are growing numbers of people (especially teenage girls) who are deciding to become bisexual. (MomLogic.com, 2011). Their reasons for doing so are more often than not to please men, to get attention and to rebel against their parents. These individuals will eventually realize that they are not really gay or bisexual. Another reason for people choosing to become bisexual is that they are genuinely curious. Many people go through phases of sexual curiosity. This usually occurs in late adolescents and young adulthood and/or during one’s “mid-life crisis” (around the age of 35).(Coleman, 2007). The bottom line is sexual identity is completely different from sexual fantasy.
The nurture argument has stemmed from centuries of religious belief that homosexuality is a for-sure path to hell. (Homosexual’s Destiny, 2008). The bible says some pretty scary things about the fate of homosexuals, and for centuries the bible has been a source of lifestyle laws for many. It has scared millions of people into believing that we are all born with the same exact brain and that our behaviors are the direct result of environmental programming. There is one major flaw in this belief: No two body’s are the same, even identical twins have differences; why would anyone believe that we are all born with identical brains? No two people are biologically prone to identical behaviors, even if they were exposed to identical upbringings. Beliefs that we are all born the same with the same brains and are that our behaviors are the direct result of our environment is an old fashion form of psychological study known as behaviorism. Behaviorism has been discredited for many years and very few psychologists and scientists still believe in this theory. This study of human behavior suggests that there are no internal/biological influences on behavior such as cognitive processes, mental representations, and consciousness. In this day and age, we have substantial evidence that we are much more complex human beings than what behaviorist psychologists have previously believed. (The Cognitive Revolution, n.d.).
For centuries, humans have feared religious prosecution and were very hesitant to ever question the bible. But thanks to modern research and science we have developed substantial evidence that suggests that gender identity is the result of biological factors and that homosexuals are, in fact, not evil. One biological factor that has been proven to play a role in the development of homosexuality in woman is the exposure of the fetal brain to androgens while in the womb. The exposure to male fetuses seems to have no effect in gender identity for them. Androgens are testosterone-like hormones that cause a condition called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH). Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia is a condition in which the adrenal glands over-produce androgens. This condition can be treated with medication if discovered early on in life. Statistics show the correlation between this disorder and gender identity in women in that 33% of women who are diagnosed with Congential Adrenal Hyperplasia consider themselves to be bisexual or homosexual as opposed to the norm which is about 10% of the population. However, not all homosexual or bisexual women have Congentical Adrenal Hyperplasia, proving that this is not the only factor that causes homosexuality in women. (Wirth, 2010).
Another biological factor that contributes to the likelihood that an individual will identify themselves as bisexual or homosexual is the size of certain, small areas in the brain that are associated with sex and reproduction. There is a region of the hypothalamus called INAH3 that is a certain size in straight females and a certain larger size in straight males. However, homosexual males tend to have an INAH3 the size of straight females and homosexual females tend to have an INAH3 the size of straight males. (Wirth, 2010). It has also been shown that the INAH3 of gay females will tend to grow over time suggesting that giving into their attraction of females may influence the growth of this area of the brain. Just like exercising other parts of the brain leads to neurological growth and brain health. (MedicineWorld.org, 2011).
Evidence suggests that genetics play a role a role in sexual identity, as well. Some scientists believe that sexual identity is hardwired into the brain during its development due genetic factors. One supporting study was performed by a professor of genetics at UCLA named Eric Vilain. His study involved embryonic mice that were 10 days old which had not yet produced sexual organs. He discovered certain genes in the brains of both sexes of mice that were strongly active during the development of sexual organs. (PT Staff, 2003). This information still leaves scientists with many questions as to how much of a role genetics actually play in the determination of gender identity.
All that being said; there are people who are truly bisexual and will tend to chose whether or not they identify themselves as primarily straight or homosexual. This is due to all the varying factors that contribute to gender identity. The hormone levels, INAH3 sizes and genetics of each individual vary to many different degrees. For this reason, it is not a black or white conclusion. An individual can have traits that influence both hetero and homosexual tendencies. These individuals are bisexual, but will generally feel more strongly towards one way or the other, depending on their biological variables. (ExperienceFestival.com, 2011).
The belief that gender identity is a conscious choice is an old fashion way of thinking. I understand that religion is a big part of most people’s lives, including mine. However, we are living in a time that provides us with continuous new knowledge and technological advances that allow us to research far beyond anything seen in recent decades and centuries. Anyone who feels that gender identity is solely a conscious choice, should take the time to do the scientific research to back that up. I’ve already made the argument that certain individuals do make a conscious choice to be bi or homosexual for various reasons. The truth of the matter is, most individuals who identify with a gay lifestyle are responding to biological factors that are out of their control or anyone elses. They were born that way.
Coleman, Angela. (July, 30, 2007). Mid-Life Crisis in Women. Retrieved on December 3, 2011, from: http://voices.yahoo.com/mid-life-crisis-women-461540.html .
ExperienceFestival.com. (2011). Bisexuality-Encyclopedia. Retrieved on December 4, 2011, from: http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Bisexuality/id/1894338 .
Ghosh MD, Shuvo; Chief Editor: Pataki MD,Caroly. (May 19, 2009). Sexuality, Gender Identity. Retrieved on December 2, 2011, from: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/917990-overview.
MomLogic.com. (2011). Is Bisexuality A Teen Trend?. Retrieved on December 3, 2011, from: http://www.momlogic.com/2008/06/is_bisexuality_a_teen_trend.php .
Meyer, Cathy. (2011). What Are The Differences Between Male And Female Midlife Crisis?. Retrieved on December 3, 2011, from: http://divorcesupport.about.com /od/isdivorcethesolution/f/menwomen_crisis.htm .
MedicineWorld.org. (2011). Exercise Increases Brain Growth Factor. Retrieved on December 4, 2011, from: http://medicineworld.org/cancer/lead/11-2008/exercise-increases-brain-growth-factor.html .
PT Staff. (Oct. 24, 2003). Genes Influence Gender Identity. Retrieved on December 4, 2011, from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200310/genes-influence-gender-identity .
Revlu.com. (2008). Homosexuals Destiny. Retrieved on December 3, 2011, from: http://www.revlu.com/hom.html .
The Cognitive Resolution. (n.d.). Retrived on December 4, 2011, from: http://www.edb.utexas.edu/robinson/cogRev/index.html.
Wirth, Michelle. (April 8, 2010). Sex on the Brain: The Biology of Sexual Orientation. Retrieved on December 3, 2011, from: http://www.ndsmcobserver.com/viewpoint/sex-on-the-brain-the-biology-of-sexual-orientation-1.1310439