They’re Born That Way

Earlier today I came upon an excerpt from lawyer Rena Lindevaldsen’s new book, Only One Mommy. In it, Lindevaldsen explains how people become gay.

“For men with temperaments that predispose them to same-sex attractions, two key factors are (i) the lack of a strong father-son bond, and (ii) same-sex abuse as a child. For women, two key life factors are (i) the lack of a healthy relationship between mom and dad and (ii) sexual abuse (primarily opposite-sex) as a child.”

According to Lindevaldsen, children become gay because they had unhealthy relationships with their parents and/or because they were sexually abused. This is the same logic I was taught as I grew up, the same logic put forward by James Dobson and others like him. Lindevaldsen goes on to explain how this happens:

“Picture for a moment, a boy who is artistic, sensitive, talkative, and, as is frequently the case, not very athletic. Now imagine that his father has made clear that he had dreamed of having a boy that would be a star athlete. At some point, in some way, the father conveys his disappointment to his son, either expressly or implicitly – perhaps the father doesn’t spend time with this son or takes no interest in his son’s more artistic interests. The son soon realizes that he hasn’t lived up his father’s expectations and that he’s different (since the kids at school also make fun of his interests and personality.).”

So far, this story sort of makes sense. We can see the artistic young boy whose football tossing father doesn’t appreciate him. We can even see him getting picked on at school for not being athletic enough, or not being macho enough. But what does this have to do with “making” someone gay?

“It doesn’t take long before the son wishes he could be more like his father. Soon, the desire to be more like his father leads to the son idolizing other boys and men who have all the characteristics he believes that he is lacking. In essence, he idolizes all that he thinks he is not.”

Well…maybe. I have to say I find it difficult to believe that this boy would idolize those who are making fun of him and maybe even making his life a living hell. But then, I suppose plenty of girls hate what the popular girls do to those “beneath” them and simultaneously want to be like them. So I guess it’s totally possible. I’m just saying that alternatively this boy could just hate his father for being a prick and not appreciating any abilities outside of football, and hate those bigger boys who pick on him. This is a minor point, though, because the real kicker comes next.

“As he gets older, the feeling change from idolizing to a longing to be close with men – to be attracted to them. From the son’s perspective, he hopes that having a sexual relationship with a man he perceives to be all that he is not will fill the void in his life, will make him feel whole, but it does not.”

Um. WHAT? See, this is the problem here. This unappreciated artistic boy might want to be like his manly daddy or the more macho boys at school, but how the heck does that lead to him being sexually attracted to them? Here’s an example. I greatly admire Natalie Zemon Davis, the preeminent medieval historian. However, that admiration does not make me get all wet between my legs. Admiring someone, wanting to be like them, does NOT cause one to have sexual feelings towards them. Period. Regardless of what some religious leaders would have us believe, sexual feelings are not something we can change. We look at a picture of a fit man or woman and we are either sexually attracted to them or we are not. You can’t change that, it’s part of your biology. You’re born with it. No amount of absent fathers is going to make a boy sexually attracted to other males. It doesn’t work like that. This was first driven home to me when I asked a gay friend I made in college (we’ll call him Bob) how he realized he was gay. He told me that he literally never felt sexually attracted to girls. When he was around ten his friend shared one of his dad’s porn magazines with him, and Bob felt nothing. He watched his friend leering over the naked photos, and realized that he was different. What they did for his friend, they didn’t do for him. As he went through puberty and his friends all went crazy over girls, he didn’t. Because he literally wasn’t attracted to them. Bob’s older brother noticed that he was different and hired a girl to seduce him in an effort to fix him. It didn’t work, because it couldn’t work. Bob had no sexual feelings toward this girl, none at all. Those feelings that all of his friends had toward girls – those sexual urges, longings, and rushes – he didn’t have. Instead, he had those same feelings toward guys. The bottom line is this: Who you are sexually attracted to is a product of your biology, not a product of your upbringing. Just like you can’t change your skin color, even so you can’t change your sexual orientation.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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