As you are reading this, there are probably hundreds or thousands of people, primarily those who are gay or bisexual, browsing on their smartphones or laptops daily and googling: “Is being gay a choice?” “Or is it nature?” “How do I come out and tell my parents, siblings, and friends that I’m gay?”
You’ve probably asked yourself these questions also and many others concerning one’s sexual orientation. You continue to search for answers, and maybe you’re too afraid to come out and ask out loud. The answers to these questions go far beyond sexuality; it is an issue that deals with being human.
There is an ongoing debate among the general public and health professionals on what makes people gay. Generally, most religions hold the view that same-sex relationship is a sin against God and nature. The common ones such as Catholics, Christians, Jews, and Muslims greatly abhor homosexuality and see it as totally unacceptable. Thus, most of them hold the view that being gay is a choice.
Most Africans think that being gay is a choice
Anyone in Africa will confirm that the moment you inform an African that you are gay, particularly your family and friends, you won’t believe how they will turn against you and become your worst enemies. Here’s what to expect:
First, they’ll tell you to stop and reconsider what you’ve just said and then they’ll pray for you or take you for counselling, saying that you don’t know what you’ve just said.
- They’ll even tell you to keep quiet about it and pretend you’re straight.
- But if you persistent and hold to the decision that you are gay, then expect the worst;
- They will tell you that it’s you who chose to be gay.
- They will yell all manner of insults at you for choosing to be gay, terming it ungodly and unnatural.
- They will regret knowing you and having you as part of their family.
- Your parents will probably throw you out of their house (your home).
- Your friends will dissociate themselves from you, claiming that being gay was your choice.
But being gay is not a choice
I can’t be sure how heterosexuals think same-sex relationships works or how a person ends up being gay. While I can’t force them to feel the same way, I can’t dictate their orientation and what is right and wrong with a specific sexual orientation.
The debate on what makes people gay is inevitable, much more with the above accusations by parents and society that individuals choose to be gay. The debate has persisted in Africa, a continent where same-sex relationships are criminalised in more than 30 countries, even with some countries imposing the death penalty on any person charged for being gay or participating in activities associated with homosexuality.
But the big question remains; what makes people think that being gay is a choice and not nature? Most of these people will cite their religions that strongly abhor homosexuality and condemns it to eternal suffering in hell. To me, this can’t be correct.
Why people think being gay is a choice
Many people, particularly men who are overwhelmingly sexually attracted to other men, still hide their sexualities and are not likely to act upon their attraction to others of the same gender. Most men in Africa practice this and may never come out of the closets due to fear of castigation from the social and religious leaders. In this sense, it will be considered a personal choice to act upon same-sex attraction since the person was already gay in nature but was yet to show.
Other people may also suggest being gay is a choice that a person makes after being influenced by the media. For instance, a few years ago, Uganda had rejected foreign aid to their country, suggesting that the donor was encouraging homosexuality with their assistance and media influence. But I still don’t agree with this. Why would a person who is conscious enough of what he or she will face as a homosexual choose to be gay when he or she has an option to be straight and live freely in such countries?
Even if we give the benefit of the doubt to those who believe being gay is a choice and assume that everyone does not have any sexual orientation from the moment they are born to the moment they are required to settle on one, it is still not correct to argue that being gay is a choice. I mean, why would a person, presumably in his adolescence, settle for one thing that is looked down upon?
No matter how rebellious a teen is, he or she will still want to conform to the norms after some time. So why not the same with gays? Why don’t they choose to be gay and then, after some time, choose to be gay? I believe it’s impossible to choose to be gay and then change to be straight, or vice versa. So, it’s not a choice to make.
Is being gay a choice? Scientific proof suggests not
Many studies have attempted to explain what makes a person gay, including a recent one that suggested that homosexuality has a strong link to the X chromosome, which indicates that being gay is not a lifestyle choice but is rather genetic. Another biological research linked being gay to hormonal changes occurring in the uterus of a mother who had given birth to several male children.
In a 2019 study published in Science Magazine in the same year, geneticist Andrea Ganna and his colleagues at MIT and Harvard gave a complete description of genes linked with same-sex behaviour. They analysed the DNA of approximately 500,000 participants from the U.S and U.K., and they established that genes account for up to 25% of same-sex behaviour in people.
In another study by Bill Sullivan, a molecular biologist, Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology in Indiana University, and also the author of the book, Pleased to Meet Me: Genes, Germs, and the Curious Forces That Make Us Who We Are, it was found that an additional gene influences our sexual preferences. Through extensive research into biological factors that influence the personality and behaviour of human beings, including those that affect sexual attraction, Sullivan established that there is a gay gene in the X chromosome that plays a significant role in shaping sexual preferences. This and other studies appear to prove that being gay is a heritable trait.
So, is being gay a choice or natural?
As a result of what I’ve watched, read, and experienced, I have concluded that being gay is not a matter of personal choice. Instead, it may be caused by several factors, including biological and genetic ones. See also Sullivan, B., 2021. Stop calling it a choice: Biological factors drive homosexuality.
- You may also like Do You Have to Be Gay to Know God?