Are people born gay, or does upbringing and personal choice play a part? The acrimonious row between gay rights activists and God-fearing conservatives over this burning question has now raged for over a decade. But the science they employ in their arguments is not merely outmoded but often fallacious.
Since the ground-breaking work of Simon LeVay and Dean Hamer in the early 1990s, a tremendous amount of new research has been carried out by scientists who now understand a great deal more about the biology of sexual attraction. How much does the non-scientific community really know about this research or understand the far-reaching implications of it?
In the book Wilson and Rahman show that attempts to find a sociological cause for homosexuality have little foundation and argue that popular efforts to blame parents or teachers for a child’s homosexuality are futile and unjust. Combining their own findings with all the available quantifiable research, the authors have, with this study, provided an urgently needed addition to – and overview of – the major work that has been done in this field.
‘My first reaction to this book was, oh dear, not another attempt to investigate the causes of homosexuality. Gay people have been treated as medical curiosities for 200 years. We’ve been studied, probed and tested long enough. Why don’t scientists ever examine what makes people straight? Then I had a cup of tea and calmed down. It is silly to be so defensive. On reading Born Gay I discovered a surprisingly interesting book – even though I disagree with its conclusion that sexuality is largely or entirely determined by our genes and hormonal influences in the womb. In other words, it is a biological given, fixed at birth. To substantiate this claim, the authors, Glenn Wilson and Qazi Rahman, present masses of fascinating evidence from dozens of studies which, they conclude, show that sexual orientation is overwhelmingly innate. Social or environmental factors have little or no influence. Blaming parents and childhood upbringing is mistaken and unfair. The idea that people become gay by seduction or conscious choice is not supported by scientific evidence, they say. . .’ – Peter Tatchell, London Evening Standard
‘Is there a gay gene based on differences in the shape of the brain or are the conservatives right when they claim that what they deem abhorrent, skewed behaviour is a matter of conditioning that can be corrected? Psychiatrist Wilson and psychologist Rahman reckon neither is strictly correct, placing the truth somewhere in between in this thought provoking and often funny study, which reveals that gay men have larger penises.’ – The Glasgow Herald
‘An absolutely fascinating book. It really is interesting and seems to me to have nailed the argument.’ – Richard and Judy, Channel 4
‘The authors of this down-to-earth and extremely rational book are at pains to push aside all the hitherto prevailing ideas about homosexuality . . . Not only is a well researched book that comes to sensible conclusions but it is also remarkably wide-ranging in encompassing such subjects as the Kinsey Report, Liberace, Rock Hudson, Oscar Wilde and even Little Britain and Dafydd, ‘the only gay in the village’.' – What’s On London
GLENN WILSON (born 1942) is one of the most distinguished commentators on psychology, a regular on radio and TV.
QAZI RAHMAN is an academic at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. He studies the biology of sexual orientation and its implications for mental health.
|Date Published||1st May 2008|