Today, presidential candidate Herman Cain declared on ABC’s The View that homosexuality is a choice. He told View co-host Joy Behar: “You show me the science that says that it’s not [a choice], and I could be persuaded. Right now it’s my opinion against the opinion of others who feel differently. That’s just a difference of opinion.”
Actually, empirical and scientific evidence strongly suggests that sexual orientation is not a choice but is inborn.
The official battle over this issue began around 1970 when the American Psychiatric Association first began to consider whether homosexuality should be listed as a mental disorder. After reviewing the data the APA found that there was no evidence to support labeling being gay a sickness. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association officially removed homosexuality from list of mental disorders (DSM). The following year, the American Psychological Association declassified being gay as an illness; since then, every major medical and mental health organization has come to embrace this view.
Angered by the new evidence-based scientific view, a handful of disgruntled therapists created a new organization to argue that homosexuality was a choice and create the false impression that the issue remained up for debate. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) was co-founded by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi and Dr. Charles Socarides, who held the pseudoscientific view that “Homosexuality is… a purple menace that is threatening the proper design of gender distinctions in society.
Three years after the American Psychiatric Association made its historic decision, the fundamentalist Christian “ex-gay” organization Exodus International was founded. Shortly thereafter, Seventh Day Adventist minister Colin Cook founded another “ex-gay” organization, Homosexuals Anonymous, which is a twelve-step program for overcoming homosexuality (there are actually fourteen steps in the HA program)
Unfortunately, these groups seemed to prove the opposite of what they set out to show. Two of Exodus’ founders, Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, left their wives and married each other. After appearing on the Phil Donahue show as a “cured” ex-gay, Colin Cook had to leave his ministry after having sex with his male counseling clients.
NARTH’s record is equally dubious, with the organization resting its claims of change on a series of debunked studies from disreputable sources. The following sources are the five most frequently cited by NARTH:
- Irving Bieber’s outdated 1962 study, Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals. This “study” tried to prove that gay men had overbearing mothers, distant fathers, and “fit the sissy stereotype.”
- Masters & Johnson’s 1979 book, Homosexuality in Perspective, that claims to cure homosexuality.
- A 1970 study by UCLA’s Gender Identity Clinic led by Dr. George Rekers, who claimed he “cured” the homosexuality of a boy named Kirk. Rekers later became a NARTH board member.
- The work of the Family Research Institute’s Paul Cameron
- The International Healing Foundation’s Richard Cohen
However, these studies and spokespeople could not withstand the test of time:
- Irving Bieber’s study was rendered invalid by the psychiatric establishment because of his deeply flawed research sample. Out of 106 gay male subjects, 28 were schizophrenic, 31 neurotic, and 42 were diagnosed with character disorders.
- In his groundbreaking new book, Masters of Sex, author Thomas Maier’s investigative reporting showed that the results of Masters & Johnson’s study were entirely fabricated; Virginia Johnson herself later acknowledged this.
- Earlier this year, blogger Jim Burroway discovered that the Rekers study, in which he claimed to have “cured” a young man named Kirk of homosexuality, was a fraud. To the contrary, Kirk remained gay, and his family believes that he committed suicide as a result of the trauma caused by this study. The failed study was covered in a three-part series on CNN’s AC360. Last year, George Rekers resigned from NARTH’s board after he was discovered vacationing with a male escort he hired from RentBoy.com.
- Paul Cameron was expelled from the American Psychological Association and the Nebraska Psychological Association for fabricating research against LGBT people.
- Richard Cohen was expelled from the American Counseling Association for multiple ethics violations.
Despite overwhelming scientific and empirical evidence that being gay is not a choice, fifteen anti-LGBT organizations launched the million-dollar Truth in Love campaign in 1998. The goal was to cast homosexuality as changeable because polls showed that harsh anti-gay rhetoric was backfiring. These same polls also pointed out that those who believed being gay was a choice were significantly more likely to vote against LGBT equality.
The “Truth in Love” campaign featured “ex-gay” activist John Paulk, who appeared with his wife on the cover of Newsweek. In 2000, Paulk was photographed inside a gay bar in Washington, DC. He was suspended from Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out program and stepped down as chairman of Exodus International.
This campaign also featured Michael Johnston, who said he had gone from gay to straight through prayer. At the time, Johnston worked with the American Family Association and Rev. Jerry Falwell. He was also the founder of the so-called “National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day.” In 2003, Johnston checked into a sex addiction facility in Kentucky after it was revealed that he was having sex with men he met on the Internet.
Meanwhile, as the scandals involving prominent “ex-gays” continue to debunk “ex-gay” propaganda, a growing body of research is showing potential biological origins of homosexuality:
- In 1993, the National Institute of Health’s Dean Hamer illustrated that homosexuality might be inherited from the mother by her sons through a specific region of the X chromosome (Xq28). Hamer demonstrated this by noting that 33 out of 40 pairs of homosexual brothers whom he studied showed the same variation in the tip of the chromosome.
- A June 2006 Canadian study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said that nature, not nurture, explains the origins of homosexuality. The study’s author, Prof. Anthony F. Bogaert of Brock University in Ontario, explored the causes behind what is known as the fraternal birth order. The research showed a correlation between the number of biological older brothers a man has and his sexual orientation. Dividing his sample of more than 900 heterosexual and homosexual men into four groups, Bogaert examined the impact of all types of older brothers, including step and adopted siblings, and the amount of time brothers spent together while growing up. His research found that only the number of biological brothers had an impact on sexuality, regardless of whether the boys were raised together.
- A study released in May 2006 by Swedish scientists demonstrated that biology plays a key role in determining a person’ sexuality. The research showed that the area of the brain that helps regulate sexuality — the hypothalamus – reacted the exact same way in straight women and gay men when exposed to male pheromones, which are chemicals designed to provoke a behavior such as sexual arousal. The same area of the brain only became stimulated in heterosexual men when introduced to female pheromones.
- In 2005, Dr. Brian Mustanski of the University of Illinois at Chicago published a study in the esteemed biomedical journal Human Genetics, claiming he identified three chromosomal regions linked to sexual orientation in men: 7q36, 8p12 and 10q26.
- In 2003, University of Texas psychoacoustics specialist Dennis McFadden found that when measuring the way the brain reacts to sound, lesbians fell in between heterosexual men and straight women, suggesting they might be exposed to higher than normal levels of male hormones in utero.
- In 2003, University of Liverpool biologist John T. Manning found that the lesbians whom he studied have a hand pattern that “resembles a man’s more than a straight female.” Manning concluded from his study that this “strongly tells us that female homosexuals have had higher levels of exposure to testosterone before birth.”
- A 1991 study by Dr. Simon LeVay found that a specific region of the hypothalamus is twice as large in heterosexual men as it is in women or gay men. This strongly points to the role of biology in sexual orientation.
- Another 1991 study by scientists Richard Pillard and John M. Bailey studied homosexuality among brothers and found that 53 percent of identical twins were both gay. In adoptive brothers, 11 percent were both homosexual. Of non-twin biological siblings, 9 percent were gay. Again, this points to solid evidence that homosexuality is a matter of nature.
- The June/July 2006 issue of Seed Magazine points out that at least 450 vertebrate species engage in homosexual behavior.
The weight of the evidence was too much for even the “ex-gay” organizations to ignore. They have recently begun to shift their rhetoric away from promises of a magic “cure” and admit that being gay is not a choice. Here is what Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, says about changing sexual orientation:
- “One thing we can expect as Christians is a life of denial. I don’t think we’re afraid to tell people that they may have a lifetime of struggle. Freedom isn’t the absence of struggle, but the life of struggle with joy in the process.” (Christianity Today, Sept. 13, 2007)
- Sexual orientation “isn’t a light switch that you can switch on and off.” (Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2007)
- “And so every single morning – this is a ritual for me – I wake up and I say, “Dear Lord, I can’t make it today without You. I choose to deny what comes naturally to me.’” (Love Won Out, Phoenix, Feb. 10, 2007, www.boxturtlebulletin.com)
- Chambers told One News Now that he had never met someone who had a “sudden or complete change when it came to homosexuality.” He told the news service that he believes that God gives people the ability to overcome on a daily basis, rather than “a complete transformation in an instant.” (One News Now, June 22, 2007)
- “I don’t think change is going from gay to straight. Just saying that doesn’t sound like an accurate representation of what Exodus facilitates or proclaims.” (Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth, pg. 35, Haworth Press 2003, interview taped March 11, 2001)
- “To say that Exodus is a great healer and the place for people to become straight, I would think that is not right. If there are Exodus ministries that do that, we need to change that. We need to work on that.” (Ibid.)
- “Put me in a bathhouse, would I find people attractive or would it stir me, it probably would. I’m not a raging heterosexual where I have to worry about if a lady walks in the room and I have to turn my head, while some guys are like that.” (Ibid., p. 58)
Eli Coleman, professor and director of Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School, told CNN: “We’ve been through this over and over. You can get behavioral changes, but that’s not orientation change. You can get short-term behavioral change. It’s not sustained.”
Coleman’s views are echoed in a landmark 2009 American Psychological Association report which states that there is “no evidence that sexual orientation change efforts work.” The report also says that “practitioners should avoid telling clients that they can change from gay to straight.”
And finally, let’s not forget that millions of LGBT people will tell you firsthand that they did not choose their sexual orientation.
The evidence is clear: Herman Cain needs to do his homework.