“Born This Way” May Be The Wrong Song

Turns out gay rights groups may have been barking up the wrong tree with the argument that people are born gay.

sexual orientation has strict boundaries and is not fluid, that gay men are a homogenous group, and that knowing a man’s sexual orientation immediately conveys a great deal about them.

Second Nexus
Patrick Grzanka, PhD. Credit: Source.

These are beliefs, Grzanka said, that may cause stereotyping. This revelation dovetails with polling that finds that, among Americans, a primary factor influencing support for same-sex marriage has been the simple act of knowing a gay person.

“It’s harder—though not impossible—to reduce someone to a stereotype once you actually know them,” reflected Grzanka.

C.J. Pascoe, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Oregon who researches sexuality and homophobia, said Grzanka’s scholarship “represents a shift in academic research on homophobia” and is “an important call for more nuanced and complex research on sexual identity that doesn’t assume an endorsement” of the biological origin of sexuality.

Admittedly, the study has major limitations. Researchers took a one-time snapshot of attitudes, and did not examine beliefs about gay men over time, or as they might change in response to an intervention designed to reduce homophobia. So the researchers were unable to determine cause and effect between personal beliefs and attitudes toward gays. Also, the study included a highly narrow demographic, so its findings are not necessarily generalizable to all Americans. All of the participants were women, college-aged and attended a single university; 68 percent were white and 12 percent were Asian-American, while just 10 percent of the participants were Latino and 5 percent were black.

Lessons from LGBTQ history

The focus on homosexuality as an inborn quality is a relatively new phenomenon in the grand scope of the gay rights movement. The post-Stonewall and AIDS crisis-era gay rights activist movements did not root their campaigns for equality in biological rhetoric. Homosexuality itself was only codified in the late 19th century. Many gender and sexuality theorists argue sexual orientation categories are arbitrary, socially-constructed distinctions and not driven by biogenetics.

Melanie Elyse Brewster, PhD, a psychologist and cofounder of the Sexuality, Women & Gender Project at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, cautions that heavily stressing the innateness of sexuality may 

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