Hindu view of LGBT © Srishti Madurai.

Hindu views of homosexuality and, in general, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) issues, are diverse. Homosexuality is regarded as one of the possible expressions of human desire and Hindu mythic stories have portrayed homosexual experience as natural and joyful. There are several Hindu temples which have carvings that depict both men and women indulging in homosexual sex.
Same-sex relations and gender variance have been represented within Hinduism from Vedic times through to the present day, in rituals, law books, religious or so-called mythical narratives, commentaries, paintings, and sculpture.
The extent to which these representations embrace or reject homosexuality has been disputed within the religion as well as outside of it. In 2009,
The United Kingdom Hindu Council issued a statement that 'Hinduism does not condemn homosexuality', subsequent to the decision of the Delhi High Court to legalise homosexuality in India.

Difference between Western LGBT view and Hindu view of male sexuality

Unlike the West, the Hindu society does not have the concept of 'sexual orientation' that classifies males on the basis of who they desire.

However, there is a strong, ancient concept of third gender which is for individuals who have strong elements of both male and female in them.
Third genders include males with a predominant feminine soul or gender orientation. These males are not classified as men. Only non-feminine gendered males are classified as 'men.'

The Hindu society, since the ancient times, does not consider the men's desire or sexual activity with men, the same as that of a third gender's desire or sexual activity with men.
Although, the society, formally does not acknowledge sexuality between men, it formally acknowledges and gives space to sexuality between men and third genders as a variation of male-female sex
(i.e., a part of heterosexuality, rather than homosexuality, if analysed in western terms).

In fact, Hijras, Alis, Kotis, etc. -- the various forms of third gender that exist in India today, all are characterized by the gender role of having receptive anal and oral sex with men. Sexuality between men (as distinct from third genders) have nevertheless thrived, mostly unspoken, informally, within men's spaces, without being seen as 'different' in the way its seen in the West.
 Like in other non-western cultures,  it is considered more or less, a universal aspect of manhood, even if not socially desirable. Its the effeminate male sexuality for men (or for women) which is seen as 'different,' and differently categorised.

Men often refer to their sexual play with each other as 'Masti.'
Western concept of Homosexuality seeks to break this distinction between third gender and men, and to isolate sexuality between men along with the third genders, with all its negative consequences.
 As such, men in India have long resisted the concept of 'gay,' and have sex with men without identifying as a 'homosexual.'

Gay activists, have sought to introduce a locally acceptable term for 'homosexual' for two decades, without success. Finally, the term MSM was taken, because it was technically difficult for men to avoid, if they had sex with men. However, it too was rejected by Indian men, as if was seen as just another term for 'gay.'

In the past few years, however, the concept of 'homosexuality' has finally taken root, as men's spaces have weakened because of Westernization and gay groups becoming strong with years of gay and AIDS activism.
A significant fallout of this has been that sexual desire between men, which was near universal earlier, is now become more and more isolated from the mainstream, as men are distancing themselves from it because of the stigma of effeminacy or third gender attached to the notion of 'gay.'
Things have become so bad in some westernized urban spaces, that two men can no longer hold hands—something which was a common sight in India, not too far back.

Contemporary Hindu society

Sexuality is rarely discussed openly in contemporary Hindu society, especially in modern India where homosexuality was illegal until 2009, due to colonial British laws.

On July 2, 2009 The Delhi High Court in a historic judgement decriminalised homosexuality in India; where the court noted that the existing laws violated fundamental rights to personal liberty (Article 21 of the Indian Constitution) and equality (Article 14) and prohibition of discrimination (Article 15). Even before this judgement, in India homosexuals were very rarely prosecuted despite the existence of such laws in the penal code.

Even though Hinduism is never known to exclusively ban homosexuality,
certain Hindu nationalist factions are opposed to legalising homosexuality while certain others choose to remain silent.
However, in the last twenty years homosexuality has become increasingly visible in the print and audio-visual media, with many out LGBT people, an active LGBT movement, and a large Indian LGBT presence on the Internet.
From the 1990s onward, modern gay and lesbian Hindu organizations have surfaced in India's major cities and in 2004, plausible calls were made for the first time to repeal India's outdated and nontraditional laws against homosexuality.

Deepa Mehta's 1996 film Fire, which depicts a romantic relationship between two Hindu women, was informally banned for "religious insensitivity" after Hindu Nationalists attacked cinemas where it was being screened on the grounds that it denigrated Indian culture, not on the grounds of homophobia per se,a position shared and confirmed by feminist Madhu Kishwar.
In addition, The Bharatiya Janata Party (Hindu Nationalist Party) who were in power in India at the time, refused to ban it.
Similar protests occurred in 2004 against the lesbian-themed film Girlfriend — even though the portrayal of lesbianism was this time distinctly unsympathetic.
Several human-rights groups such as the People's Union for Civil Liberties have asserted that sexual minorities in India face severe discrimination and violence, especially those from rural and lower caste backgrounds.
In her book, Love's Rite, Ruth Vanita examines the phenomena of same-sex weddings, many by Hindu rites, which have been reported by the Indian press over the last thirty years and with increasing frequency. In the same period, same-sex joint suicides have also been reported.

Most of these marriages and suicides are by lower middle-class female couples from small towns and rural areas across the country; these women have no contact with any LGBT movements. Both cross-sex and same-sex couples,
when faced with family opposition, tend to resort to either elopement and marriage or to joint suicide in the hope of reunion in the next life.
Vanita examines how Hindu doctrines such as rebirth and the genderlessness of the soul are often interpreted to legitimize socially disapproved relationships, including same-sex ones. In a 2004 survey, most — though not all — swamis said they opposed the concept of a Hindu-sanctified gay marriage.
 But several Hindu priests have performed same-sex marriages, arguing that love is the result of attachments from previous births and that marriage, as a union of spirit, is transcendental to gender.

Many Indian and Hindu intellectuals now publicly support LGBT civil rights.
Some liberal Hindu reform movements, especially those in the West, also support social acceptance of gays, lesbians and other gender minorities.

Psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar writes that Hindus are more accepting of "deviance or eccentricity" than are adherents of Western religions, who typically treat sexual variance as "anti-social or psychopathological, requiring 'correction' or 'cure'".
Hindus, he argues, believe instead that each individual must fulfil their personal destiny (svadharma) as they travel the path towards moksha (transcendence).

Commenting on the legalisation of homosexuality in India;
Anil Bhanot, general secretary of The United Kingdom Hindu Council said:

The point here is that the homosexual nature is part of the natural law of God; it should be accepted for what it is, no more and no less. Hindus are generally conservative but it seems to me that in ancient India, they even celebrated sex as an enjoyable part of procreation, where priests were invited for ceremonies in their home to mark the beginning of the process


The third gender Hijra (South Asia)

Hindu philosophy has the concept of a third sex or third gender (tritiya-prakriti – literally, "third nature"). This category includes a wide range of people with mixed male and female natures such as transgenders, effeminate homosexuals/bisexuals/heterosexuals, transsexuals, the intersexed, and so on.

Such persons are not considered fully male or female in traditional Hinduism, being a combination of both. They are mentioned as third sex by nature (birth) and are not expected to behave like ordinary men and women.
They often keep their own societies or town quarters, perform specific occupations (such as masseurs, hairdressers, flower-sellers, domestic servants, etc.) and are generally attributed a semi-divine status. Their participation in religious ceremonies, especially as crossdressing dancers and devotees of certain temple gods/goddesses, is considered auspicious in traditional Hinduism.

Some Hindus believe that third-sex people have special powers allowing them to bless or curse others. In Hinduism, the universal creation is honored as unlimitedly diverse and the recognition of a third sex is simply one more aspect of this understanding.

In 2008, the state of Tamil Nadu recognised the "Third Gender"; with its civil supplies department giving in the ration card a provision for a new sex column as 'T', distinct from the usual 'M' and 'F' for males and females respectively. This was the first time that authorities anywhere in India have officially recognised the third gender.

Hindu religious narratives

LGBT themes and Hindu mythology
In the Hindu narrative tradition, stories of gods and mortals changing gender occur.
Sometimes they also engage in sexual activities as different reeincarnated genders.

Homosexual and transgender Hindus commonly identify with and worship the various Hindu deities connected with gender diversity such as

Ardhanarisvara (the hermaphrodite form of Shiva);

Aravan (a hero whom Krishna married after becoming a woman);

Ayyappa (a god born from the union of Shiva and Mohini, a female incarnation of Vishnu);

Bahuchara-devi (a goddess connected with transsexuality and eunuchism);

Bhagavati-devi (a Hindu goddess associated with crossdressing);

Bhagiratha Maharaja (an Indian king born of two female parents);

Caitanya Mahaprabhu (an incarnation of Radha and Krishna combined);

Chandi-Chamunda (twin warrior goddesses);

Gadadhara (an incarnation of Radha in male form);

Gangamma-devi (a goddess connected with crossdressing and disguises);

Harihara (Shiva and Vishnu combined); Kartikeya; Vallabhavardhana,

Yellamma-devi and countless others.

There are also specific festivals connected to the worship of such gender-variant deities, some of which are famous in India for their crossdressing devotees and homosexual undertones.
 These festivals include the Aravan Festival of Tamil Nadu,
the Ayyappa and Chamaya-Villaku Festivals of Kerala, the Bahucara-mata Festivals of Gujarat and the Yellamma-devi Festivals of Karnataka, among others.


O monarch, it is, indeed difficult to hide the marks of the bowstring on my arms. I will, however, cover both my cicatrized arms with bangles. Wearing brilliant rings on my ears and conch-bangles on my wrists and causing a braid to hang down from my head, I shall, O king, appear as one of the third sex, Vrihannala by name."

Another important character, Shikhandi, is born female, but raised as a boy. Sihkandi's father, King Drupada, had begged the god Mahadeva to give him a son, to which Mahadeva replied: "Thou shalt have a child who will be a female and male. Desist, O king, it will not be otherwise." When Sikhandi comes of age and marries, Sikhandi's wife "soon came to know that [Sikhandi] was a woman like herself, refusing him." Fleeing from the unnamed wife's enraged father, Sikhandi encounters a male Yaksha (nature spirit) in the forest, and they agree to swap sexes.

Now in a male body, Sikhandi proves to his father-in-law that he is truly male, after the latter sends "a number of young ladies of great beauty" to Sikhandi to test him. They report back that he is "a powerful person of the masculine sex," and Sikhandi becomes a skilled and famous warrior, playing a pivotal role in the war.


In some versions of the Krittivasa Ramayana, the most popular Bengali text on the pastimes of Lord Ramachandra (an incarnation of Vishnu), there is an interesting narrative of two queens that conceived a child together. When the famous king of the Sun Dynasty, Maharaja Dilipa, died, the demigods become concerned that he did not have a son to continue his line. Lord Shiva therefore appeared before the king's two widowed queens and commanded them, "You two make love together and by my blessings you will bear a beautiful son." The two wives, with great affection for each other, executed Shiva's order until one of them conceived a child. Unfortunately, however, the child was born boneless, but by the blessings of a sage, Astavakra, the child was restored to full health and continued the dynasty. Astavakra accordingly named the child "Bhagiratha" – he who was born from two vulvas . Bhagiratha later became a king and is credited with bringing the Ganges River down to earth through his austerities.

Hindu texts

Hindus have many sacred texts and different communities give special importance to different texts. Even more so than in other religions, Hindus also foster disparate interpretations of the meaning of various texts. The Vedas, which form the foundation of Hinduism for many, do not refer explicitly to homosexuality, but Rigveda says Vikruti Evam Prakriti (perversity/diversity is what nature is all about, or, what seems un-natural is also natural),

which some scholars believe recognizes the cyclical constancy of homosexual/transsexual dimensions of human life, like all forms of universal diversities. People of a third gender (tritiya-prakriti), not fully men nor women, are mentioned here and there throughout Hindu texts such as the Puranas but are not specifically defined. In general they are portrayed as effeminate men, often cowardly, and with no desire for women. Modern readers often draw parallels between these and modern stereotypes of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sexual identities.

Historians Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, in their pioneering book, Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History, for the first time compiled extracts from Indian texts, from ancient to modern times, including many Hindu texts, translated from 15 Indian languages. In their accompanying analytical essays, they also demonstrated that Hindu texts have discussed and debated same-sex desire from the earliest times, in tones ranging from critical to non-judgmental to playful and celebratory.

Historian Devdutt Pattanaik summarizes the place of homosexuality in Hindu literature as follows: "though not part of the mainstream, its existence was acknowledged but not approved." Other Indologists assert that homosexuality was not approved for brahmanas or the twice-born but accepted among other castes.
In his book, Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex, Vaishnava monk Amara Das Wilhelm demonstrates how ancient expressions of Hinduism accommodated homosexual and transgender persons much more positively than we see in India today: "Early Vedic teachings stressed responsible family life and asceticism but also tolerated different types of sexualities within general society."


Manu Smriti

The Manusmriti, which lists the oldest codes of conduct that were proposed to be followed by a Hindu, does include mention of homosexual practices, but only as something to be regulated. Though homosexuality was considered a part of sexual practices, it was not always well accepted.

There were punishments prescribed for homosexual behaviour. For instance, the verse referring to sexual relations between an older woman and a virgin (woman) reads"...a woman who pollutes a damsel (virgin) shall instantly have (her head) shaved or two fingers cut off, and be made to ride (through the town) on a donkey", suggesting a severe punishment.

However, the verse referring to sexual relations between two virgins suggests a relatively milder punishment – "...a damsel who pollutes (another) damsel must be fined two hundred (panas), pay the double of her (nuptial) fee, and receive ten (lashes with a) rod".
These provisions, quoted out of context, seem homophobic, but in fact they are concerned not with the gender of the partners but with the loss of virginity that rendered a young woman unworthy of marriage.

For instance, the punishment for a forced sex act between a man and a woman states "...if any man through insolence forcibly contaminates a maiden, two of his fingers shall be instantly cut off, and he shall pay a fine of six hundred (panas)",which seems more severe in comparison to the punishment prescribed for the same act between two virgins. Sex between non-virgin women incurred a very small fine, while homosexual intercourse between men was sought to be censured by a prescription of a bath with one's clothes on, and a penance of "eating the five products of the cow and keeping a one-night fast"- the penance being a replacement of the traditional concept of homosexual intercourse resulting in a loss of caste.

The discrepancy in treatment may have been due to the text's non-equal views on males and females, considering that the Manusmriti is the same scripture that has stated that the status of woman in the society is the same (or even lower than) that of a man’s land,
his cattle and other possessions.
For Brahmanas and twice-born men, "causing an injury to a priest, smelling wine or things that are not to be smelled, crookedness, and sexual union with a man are traditionally said to cause loss of caste" In the same chapter,
the atonement for twice-born men is a ritual bath: "A twice-born man who has intercourse with a male, or with a female in a cart drawn by oxen, in water, or in the day-time, shall bathe, dressed in his clothes." Here again, it can be noticed that the proscriptions are specifically for brahmana and twice-born males;
there is no mention in the Manu Smriti of punishment for homosexual behavior between males of the other classes.

The majority of sexual matters dealt with by the law books are heterosexual in nature, and the punishments prescribed for heterosexual transgressions are often more severe. For example, "A man who is not a Brahmana ought to suffer death for adultery (samgrahana)" (2.8.359).

The Manu Smriti also notes the biological origins of a third gender: "A male child is produced by a greater quantity of male seed, a female child by the prevalence of the female; if both are equal,
a third-sex child [napumsaka] or boy and girl twins are produced; if either are weak or deficient in quantity, a failure of conception results." (MS 3.49)


Narada Smriti


The Narada Smriti, written around 400 CE, forbids the marriage of homosexual men (mukhebhaga – men who perform oral sex on other men) to women: "These four [irsyaka, sevyaka, vataretas, and mukhebhaga] are to be completely rejected as unqualified for marriage, even for a woman who has been raped." (NS 1.12.15)
The Narada Smriti also lists fourteen different types of panda or men who are impotent with women (see below).

Kama Sutra

The Kama Sutra is an ancient text dealing with kama or desire (of all kinds), which in Hindu thought is one of the four normative and spiritual goals of life.

The Kama Sutra is the earliest extant and most important work in the Kama Shastra tradition of Sanskrit literature.
 It was compiled by the philosopher Vatsyayana around the 4th century, from earlier texts, and describes homosexual practices in several places, as well as a range of sex/gender 'types'.

The author describes techniques by which masculine and feminine types of the third sex (tritiya-prakriti), as well as women, perform fellatio.

The Second Part, Ninth Chapter of Kama Sutra specifically describes two kinds of men that we would recognize today as masculine- and feminine-type homosexuals but which are mentioned in older, Victorian British translations as simply "eunuchs."

The chapter describes their appearances – feminine types dressed up as women whereas masculine types maintained muscular physiques and grew small beards, moustaches, etc. – and their various professions as masseurs, barbers and prostitutes are all described. Such homosexual men were also known to marry,

according to the Kama Sutra:
                                               "There are also third-sex citizens, sometimes greatly attached to one another and with complete faith in one another, who get married together." (KS 2.9.36). In the "Jayamangala" of Yashodhara, an important twelfth-century commentary on the Kama Sutra,
it is also stated: "Citizens with this kind of [homosexual] inclination,
who renounce women and can do without them willingly because they love one another, get married together, bound by a deep and trusting friendship."

After describing fellatio as performed between men of the third sex, the Sutra then mentions the practice as an act between men and women, wherein the homosexuals acts are scorned, especially for brahmanas. (KS 2.9.37)

The Kama Sutra also refers to svairini, who are "independent women who frequent their own kind or others" (2.8.26) — or, in another passage: "the liberated woman, or svairini, is one who refuses a husband and has relations in her own home or in other houses" (6.6.50).

In a famous commentary on the Kama Sutra from the 12th century, Jayamangala, explains: "A woman known for her independence, with no sexual bars, and acting as she wishes, is called svairini.
She makes love with her own kind. She strokes her partner at the point of union, which she kisses." (Jayamangala on Kama Sutra 2.8.13).
The various practices of lesbians are described in detail within the Second Part, Eighth Chapter of the Kama Sutra.


There are other ancient Hindu/Sanskrit texts that refer to homosexuality.
The Sushruta Samhita,

for example, a highly-respected Hindu medical text dating back to at least
600 B.C., mentions two different types of homosexual men (kumbhika – men who take the passive role in anal sex; and asekya – men who devour the semen of other men) as well as transgenders (sandha – men with the qualities, behavior and speech of women).

It also states that men who behave like women, or women who behave like men, are determined as such at the time of their conception in the womb.
 (SS 3.2.42–43)The Sushruta Samhita also mentions the possibility of two women uniting and becoming pregnant as a result of the mingling of their sexual fluids. It states that the child born of such a union will be "boneless." Such a birth is indeed described in the Krittivasa Ramayana of South India (see below).

Other texts list the various types of men who are impotent with women (known in Sanskrit as sandha, kliba, napumsaka, and panda).

The Sabda-kalpa-druma Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary, for instance, lists twenty types, as does the Kamatantra and Smriti-Ratnavali of Vacaspati (14th century).

The Narada Smriti similarly lists fourteen different types. Included among the lists are transgenders (sandha), the intersexed (nisarga), and three different types of homosexual men (mukhebhaga, kumbhika and asekya).

 Such texts demonstrate that third-sex terms like sandha and napumsaka actually refer to many different types of "men who are impotent with women," and that simplistic definitions such as "eunuch" or "neuter" may not always be accurate and in some cases totally incorrect.
In his article Homosexuality and Hinduism, Arvind Sharma expresses his doubt over the common

English translation of words like kliba into "eunuch" as follows:
"The limited practice of castration in India raises another point significant for the rest of the discussion, namely, whether rendering a word such as "kliba" as "eunuch" regularly is correct..."

Third-gender Hindu sects
Below are listed some of the most common third-gender sects found in Hinduism.
There are an estimated half million crossdressing "eunuchs" in modern-day India, associated with various sects, temples and Hindu deities. Despite being called "eunuchs",
the majority of these persons (91%) do not practice castration but are more accurately associated with transgender.

The Aravani or AliThe most numerous third-gender sect (estimated at 150,000) is the aravani or ali of Tamil Nadu in southern India. The aravanis are typically transgender and their main festival, the popular Koovagam or Aravan Festival celebrated in late April/early May, is attended by thousands – including many transwomen and transmen. The aravani worship the Hindu god, Aravan, and do not practice any system of castration.

man within an orgiastic group receiving fellatio from another male.


Hijra (South Asia)

The most well-known third-gender group in India is perhaps the hijra of northern India.
The hijra is the only sect that practices castration, a custom introduced during Muslim rule around the tenth century A.D. Male castration is unrecommended in the Vedas and is not a traditional Hindu practice.
There are an estimated 50,000 hijra in northern India.
After interviewing and studying the hijra for many years, Serena Nanda writes in her book, Neither

Man Nor Woman: The hijras of India, as follows:

"There is a widespread belief in India that hijras are born hermaphrodites [intersexed] and are taken away by the hijra community at birth or in childhood, but I found no evidence to support this belief among the hijras I met, all of whom joined the community voluntarily, often in their teens."
 Nanda also states:
"There is absolutely no question that at least some hijras – perhaps even the majority – are homosexual prostitutes. Sinha's (1967) study of hijras in Lucknow, in North India, acknowledges the hijra role as performers, but views the major motivation for recruitment to the hijra community as the satisfaction of the individual's homosexual urges...
" The hijras especially worship Bahuchara-devi, the Hindu demigoddess presiding over transsexuality.


The Jogappa

A lesser-known third-gender sect in India is the jogappa of South India (Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh), a group similarly associated with prostitution.

The jogappa are connected with Yellamma-devi, a popular Hindu deity of Durga, and include both transwomen as well as transmen. Both serve as dancers and prostitutes, and they are usually in charge of the temple devadasis (maidservants of the goddess who similarly serve as dancers and female courtesans). Large festivals are celebrated at these temples wherein hundreds of scantily-clad devadasis and jogappas parade through the streets. The jogappa do not practice castration.


The Sakhi-Bekhi

The sakhi-bekhis are prominent throughout Bengal, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh although their numbers have diminished in recent years.

Members of this sect typically dress themselves as women in order to reinforce their identity as sakhis or girlfriends of Krishna and to attain the esteemed spiritual emotion known as sakhi-bhava. Such people are not always transgender or homosexual but in many cases they are.

In modern times, the sakhi-bekhi sect was condemned as sahajiya (unauthentic) when some members began making public shows of their romantic feelings for Krishna while at the same time having illicit relations with cudadharis (men dressed up as Krishna with a crown of peacock feathers). Nowadays, most sakhi-bekhis crossdress in private and are less conspicuous. They generally worship Sri Radha, the consort of Lord Krishna, although some specifically worship Lord Caitanya (the incarnation of Radha and Krishna combined) and are known as gauranga-nagaris. Neither group practices castration.


Religious art

Medieval Hindu temples such as those at Khajuraho depict sexual acts in sculptures on the external walls. The meaning of the erotic images is disputed. Some of these scenes involve same-sex sexuality:

  • An orgiastic group of three women and one man, on the southern wall of the Kandariya Mahadeva temple in Khajuraho. One of the women is caressing another.
  • A similar group, also on the southern wall, shows a woman facing the viewer, standing on her head, apparently engaged in intercourse, although her partner is facing away from the viewer and their gender cannot be determined. She is held by two female attendants on either side and reaches out to touch one of them in her pubic area.
  • Also at Khajuraho, a relief of two women embracing one another.
  • At the Lakshmana temple in Khajuraho (954 CE), a man receives fellatio from a seated male as part of an orgiastic scene.
  • At the Shiva temple at Ambernath, constructed in 1060 CE, a badly weathered relief suggests an erotic interest between two women.
  • At the Rhajarani Temple in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, dating from the 10th or 11th century, a sculpture depicts two women engaged in oral sex.
  • A 12th century Shiva temple in Bagali, Karnataka depicts a scene of apparent oral sex between two males on a sculpture below the sikhara.
  • At Padhavli near Gwalior, a ruined temple from the 10th century shows a man within an orgiastic group receiving fellatio from another male.
  • An 11th century lifesize sandstone sculpture from Orissa, now in the Seattle Art Museum, shows Kama, god of love, shooting an arrow at two women who are embracing one another.



Poem for Parents by Khalil Gibran

And a woman, who was breastfeeding her baby, said:
"Tell us about the children."

And he said:
"Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of the desire of life for itself.
They are coming here through you, but are not of you, and even though they are always with you, you don't own them.

You may give them your love, but not your thoughts, because they have their own thoughts.

You may give their bodies a house, but not their souls, because souls are living in the house of tomorrow, which you can not visit - not even in your dreams.

You may try to be like them, but never force them to be like you,
because Life never runs backwards, nor it stands still.

You are the bow, of which your children are sent into life as living arrows.

The Shooter knows and sees the aim on the path of infinity, and he strains the bow with all his power, so the arrows might fly as far and fast as possible.

Let your bow be pointed to love, and the shooter loves the flying arrow, and the bow, which is still.



A Review of Scientific Research on Homosexuality
In 1959 a report was published with the title, "Organizing action of prenatally administered testosterone propionate on the tissues mediating mating behavior in the female guinea pig" by Charles H. Phoenix, Robert W. Goy, Arnold A. Ger all, and William C. Young [6]. This was one of those "animal studies" -- of interest only to psychologists and neurologists. In 1991, the popular journal, Science, published a paper that revisited the 1959 report and included many more recent studies. Their paper came to the conclusion:
"This finding indicates that IN AH [part of the hypothalamus] is dimorphic with sexual orientation, at least in men, and suggests that sexual orientation has a biological substrate." [4]

Ever since Science published the article, I've been waiting for the big changes. But they have been slow. Public opinion still maintains that homosexuals have chosen to live a deviant lifestyle. Some of the worst hate towards homosexuals -- from an anti-homosexual religious group that targets veteran's funerals [below] -- comes from the belief that it is a chosen lifestyle.
Ignorance about the cause of homosexuality has been responsible for many teen suicides as well as violence against teens who are perceived as different by their classmates. School officials, even parents of homosexual children, do little to clarify this condition and seem often to turn away from the issue all together.

Many church leaders continue to equate homosexuality as a sin, suggesting that through prayer they could be "made whole." The husband of one of the top Republican presidential candidates runs a clinic, claiming to be able to "cure" homosexuality as if it were merely a bad decision. This view is echoed in many religious churches, based on the writings of Apostle Paul:
"Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." -- I Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)

What's going on here? Can homosexuality be "washed away" with Conservative beliefs?
Homosexuality: Born That Way
The Conservapedia states that:
"The causes of homosexuality are attributable to man's sinful nature, nurture and environment, and personal choice." [5]

But scientific research directly contradicts this.
Homosexuality is a congenital condition much like being "left handed". Before you dismiss the analogy remember there were times in history when being left-handed (the archaic meaning of "sinister") meant you were possessed by evil. You could have been hanged, burned, stoned to death or buried alive. Having personally lived in an Arab country, I can assure you that being left-handed was something that I did my best to hide. Today we know that left handedness is the result of excess testosterone slowing the growth of the left-hemisphere in the developing fetal brain.[2] It's not a choice. It's a condition.
Ironically, homosexuality is caused much the same way as being left-handed. Instead of excess testosterone, the developing male fetus receives too little, often too late.
Researchers naturally focus on an organ in the brain called the hypothalamus because it is known to be responsible for gender preference. It is also what is called dimorphic, meaning its structure is different in males and females. There's also differences in the hypothalamus between homosexuals and heterosexuals. Recent studies of the different sections or nuclei have revealed much that was not known before. And there have also been some surprises.
With advances in laboratory technology, a specific region of the hypothalamus, called the sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN), has been the focus of some interesting research. The SDN is the most conspicuous anatomical male/female difference in the mammalian brain. The nuclei is 3 to 8 times larger in males than in females. Another nuclei of the hypothalamus, IN AH-3, reveals that heterosexual males have double the volume of both homosexual and female subjects.

"As has been reported previously, IN AH 3 was more than twice as large in the heterosexual men as in the women. It was also, however, more than twice as large as in the homosexual men."

A review of current research shows that there is no evidence supporting a social cause for homosexuality [8, 9]. On the contrary, there are multiple studies, both with animals and humans, demonstrating the causative relationship with the pre-natal testosterone during a critical stage in "defeminization".
Dr. Harry Harlow's famous studies with Rhesus monkeys [5] demonstrated that such things as love and the ability to nurture healthy children was a learned skill that could be altered by after birth experiences. This non-biologic effect may play a role in female homosexuality and may also be a contributing factor in the degree to which congenital homosexuality is either expressed or repressed. But they do not cause homosexuality.

How Do Brains Get Gender?
Embryology teaches that early embryos all start out as female. At some point in early gestation, if the chromosomes destine the fetus to be male, the embryo is altered by the genetically programmed addition of certain hormones, called androgen's. These androgen's, especially testosterone, instruct the embryo to develop male characteristics. In their absence, the embryo continues to develop into a female.
An "XX" pair of chromosomes will yield a female; an "XY" pair will result in a male. The "X" is always contributed from the mother (since she has only "X's"), but the father can contribute either an "X" or a "Y"-- so it is the father's genetic contribution that determines the gender of the child. If homosexual men have "XY" pairs which are typically male in all respects, what makes their hypothalamus different?

In a paper published almost a quarter of a century ago, a research psychologist at Villa nova University was also puzzled about gender. Dr. Inge bog Ward was studying the sexual behavior of rats, years before the role of the hypothalamus was even suspected of gendering human brains. [6]
Dr. Ward divided some pregnant rats into three groups. Suspecting that something special might be happening in the early stages of pregnancy, she subjected the first group to stress during the first ten days of gestation by irritating the mother rats to bright lights, noise and annoying vibrations. Ten days in a rat's pregnancy corresponds to the first trimester (3 months) of a human pregnancy. The second group was subjected to stress towards the end of their pregnancy, just before birth. The third group was comprised of male offspring from both prenatal stressed mothers and unstressed mothers. These babies were subjected to the same stress producing stimuli.
Dr. Ward then allowed all the males to grow to adulthood without further interference. She then placed each group of males in cages with healthy females to observe their ability and desire to mate with normal adult females. Here is what happened:

"Abstract: Male rats were exposed to prenatal (i.e. before they were born) or postnatal (after they were born) stress, or both. The prenatally stressed males showed low levels of male copulatory behavior and high rates of female lordotic responding (i.e. "lordotic" refers to mounting behavior which usually occurs during mating). Postnatal stress had no effect. The modifications are attributed to stress-mediated alterations in the ratio of adrenal to gonadal androgen's during critical stages of sexual differentiation. Specifically, it appears that stress causes an increase in the weak adrenal androgen, androstendione, from the maternal fetal adrenal cortices, or both, and a concurrent decrease in the potent gonadal androgen, testosterone." [6]

If the baby carries "XY" chromosomes and is destined to become a male, testosterone needs to activate the newly forming hypothalamus. This is the first known critical phase of "defeminization" when something can go awry, upsetting the master plan.[10]
If a mother is stressed during the early stages of pregnancy, she will release an adrenaline related hormone into her shared bloodstream with her unborn baby. This hormone, called androstendione, is structurally similar to testosterone, the male hormone. Both are androgens, but testosterone is more than twenty times as potent as androstendione.
It has also recently been suggested that testosterone actually breaks down to estradiol in some way that androstendione may not [12, 15], further implicating this androgen in disrupting the process of early brain development.

Because the stress hormone seems to mimic testosterone, there is the delay or blockage of the effectiveness of testosterone, even if it is plentiful. This causes a disturbance in the "defeminization" of the hypothalamus .

In 1972, Dr. Ward had no idea that androstendione in male pregnancies would prevent or inhibit the hypothalamus to develop into a healthy male brain, but this stress-related hormone now appears to do just that. The brain makes its gender commitment very early in development and, once committed to either male or female, it can not change.
The interference with environmental testosterone in the later stages of pregnancy does little or nothing to inhibit gender development of the body. By mid-pregnancy, the gonads can produce enough systemic testosterone to develop the body along male plans; however, problems do happen in these later stages  . Sometimes the receptors which receive testosterone are defective or greatly reduced in number. This is generally seen as a defect resulting from the initial blocking of testosterone by the presence of other androgen's . This can inhibit the effectiveness of testosterone and cause a less effective defeminization.
In Doctor Ward's own words:

"...The present data support the hypothesis that exposure of pregnant rats to environmental stressors modifies the normal process of sexual behavior differentiation in male fetuses by decreasing functional testosterone and elevating androstenedione levels during prenatal development. During stress conditions plasma testosterone emanating from the gonads decreases while adrenal androstenedione rises. The molecular structure of the two androgen's, being very similar, it is postulated that the two hormones compete for the same receptor sites. Since androstenedione is a less potent androgen than testosterone, the decrease in male copulatory ability and increased lordotic potential seen in the prenatally stressed animals of the present study would be expected. The relative difference in potency between testosterone and androstendione has been repeatedly demonstrated.

But Why?
As we begin to understand that homosexuality is not inherited, we note that it occurs in more or less the same frequency of the population. This could suggest that a preference for one's own gender served some evolutionary benefit. If not, we should expect the perceived vulnerability of the developing fetal brain to have been corrected. But what could the benefit be?
Again, in Doctor Ward's own words:

"The resulting alterations in sexual behavior provide the basis for an effective population control mechanism, since offspring so affected would not possess the behavioral repertoire necessary to contribute to population growth. Thus, the environment, by triggering an adrenal stress response, may control the reproductive capacity of successive generations of differentiating fetuses and, thereby, population size. "

[Some more recent explanations from Science Daily  article can be found at the bottom of this page.]

What about Lesbians?
The developing female fetus is expecting no pre-natal testosterone. This molecule is significant only if the fetus is destined to be male. Androstenedione, produced by maternal stress, closely resembles testosterone. Even a small amount of this molecule during the critical first trimester of pregnancy could be enough to make the developing hypothalamus defeminized or masculine. So the same mechanism can possibly explain both male and female homosexuality.
Now what?
I approached some homosexual blogs before posting this article on view zone. I summarized the facts and asked for their replies. Some were critical of calling their gender preference a "condition" and thought that implied a defect. Others reminded me that even the anti-discrimination laws often only include protection against discrimination based on sex (meaning male of female) and that being recognized as a congenital phenomenon would only be protected if (a) it was considered a "disability" or (b) homosexuality would be covered under sex discrimination (meaning that a third gender would have to be added). In short, there was a kind of apathy.
What do you think about this?
[1] Swaab, DF, Hofman, MA, "Sexual differentiation of the human hypothalamus in relation to gender and sexual orientation", Trends Neuroscience 1995 June, 18(6): 264-70.

[2] NORMAN GESCHWIND, PETER BEHANI!,Left-handedness: Association with immune disease, migraine, and developmental learning disorder,Proc. Nati Acad. Sci. USA, Vol. 79, pp. 5097-5100, August 1982
[3] Exp Clin Endocrinol. 1983 Jan;81(1):83-7. Stressful events in prenatal life of bi- and homosexual men. Dorner G, Schenk B, Schmiedel B, Ahrens L.
[4] S. LaVay, "A difference in hypothalamic structure between heterosexual and homosexual men", Science 30 August 1991, Vol. 253 no.5023 pp 1034-1037
[5] http://www.conservapedia.com/Causes_of_Homosexuality
[6] "Parental Stress Feminizes and Demasculizes the Behavior of Males", Science, January 7, 1972 (83-84).
[7] Swaab DF, Chung WC, Kruijver FP, Hofman MA, Ishunina TA., "Sexual differentiation of the human hypothalamus", Adv Exp Med Biology, 2002;511:75-100; discussion 100-5
[8] Dohler, KD, "The pre- and postnatal influence of hormones and neurotransmitters on sexual differentiation of the mammalian hypothalamus", Int Rev Cytology, 1991;131:1-57.
[9] Savic I, Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF., "Sexual differentiation of the human brain in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation", Prog Brain Res., 2010;186:41-62.
[10] Kula K, SÅ‚owikowska-Hilczer J., "Sexual differentiation of the human brain", Przegl Lek. 2000;57(1):41-4.
[11] Bradley SJ, Oliver GD, Chernick AB, Zucker KJ., "Experiment of nurture: ablatio penis at 2 months, sex reassignment at 7 months, and a psychosexual follow-up in young adulthood", Pediatrics,1998 Jul;102(1):e9.
[12] Wu MV, Manoli DS, Fraser EJ, Coats JK, Tollkuhn J, Honda S, Harada N, Shah NM., "Estrogen masculinizes neural pathways and sex-specific behaviors", Cell, 2009 Oct 2;139(1):61-72.
[13] Balthazart J, Tlemçani O, Ball GF., "Do sex differences in the brain explain sex differences in the hormonal induction of reproductive behavior? What 25 years of research on the Japanese quail tells us", Horm Behav. 1996 Dec;30(4):627-61.
[14] Wallen K., "The Organizational Hypothesis: Reflections on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Phoenix, Goy, Gerall, and Young (1959)", Horm Behav. 2009 May;55(5):561-5.
[15] W.J. Friedman, B.S. McEwen, C.D. Toran-Allerand and J.L. Gerlach, "Perinatal development of hypothalamic and cortical estrogen receptors in mouse brain: Methodological aspects", Accepted 14 June 1983. Available online 11 March 2003.

Some interesting facts & further reading about homosexuality:

  • In heterosexual women, the index and ring fingers are usually about the same length. In heterosexual men, the index finger is shorter, on average, than the ring finger. It's one of several differences between the sexes that seem to be set before birth, based on testosterone exposure.
  • Every older brother a man has increases his chances of being gay. A man with four older brothers is three times more likely to be gay than a man with none. (Blanchard)
  • Lesbians' finger lengths were, on average, more like men's. The same holds true for other traits, like eye-blink patterns and inner-ear function.(Breedlove)
  • 75 percent of young boys who dress up like girls, play with dolls and consistently choose stereotypical female pursuits will grow up to be gay. A similar, though less pronounced, pattern is found in girls who prefer trucks over tea sets.
  • Mothers and aunts of gay men had more offspring than female relatives of heterosexuals.
  • In animal studies, about 8 percent of rams never father offspring because they only have eyes for other males. Australian sheepherders call them "shy breeders." (Roselli).
Some primate work has been done at the University of Wisconsin's Harlow Primate Research Center on the effects of stress and the importance of maternal care on the sexual behavior of monkeys; however, much of this work measured post-natal nurturing and was not experimentally designed to assess homosexual behavior. A review of this work suggest that the expression of healthy sexual behavior and successful knowledge of mating can be environmentally inhibited by the lack of parental nurturing. This work indicates a potential source of aberrant sexual behavior and dysfunction rather than simple homosexuality.
Currently, Dr. Simon LeVay, a neurobiologist at California's Salk Institute and founder of the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies in Santa Monica, California, has been the most vocal proponent for some type of gendered brain influence on homosexuality but his work has unfortunately remained unreviewed by many professionals.
Some of LeVay's works are listed here for recommended reading:
Albrick's Gold - New York: Richard Kasak Books, 1997.
Queer Science - Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996.
City of Friends - Cambridge Press, 1995.
The Sexual Brain - Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993.

Are Lesbian Brains Different?
Study Suggests Difference in Lesbians' Brains
From Dr. Alan Cantwell, MD

WASHINGTON (AP) - Lesbians' brains react differently to sex hormones than those of heterosexual women, new research indicates.
That's in line with an earlier study that had indicated gay men's brain responses were different from straight men - though the difference for men was more pronounced than has now been found in women.
Lesbians' brains reacted somewhat, though not completely, like those of heterosexual men, a team of Swedish researchers said in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A year ago, the same group reported findings for gay men that showed their brain response to hormones was similar to that of heterosexual women.
In both cases the findings add weight to the idea that homosexuality has a physical basis and is not learned behavior.
"It shows sexual orientation may very well have a different basis between men and women ... this is not just a mirror image situation," said Sandra Witelson, an expert on brain anatomy and sexual orientation at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
"The important thing is to be open to the likely situation that there are biological factors that contribute to sexual orientation," added Witelson, who was not part of the research team.
The research team led by Ivanka Savic at the Stockholm Brain Institute had volunteers sniff chemicals derived from male and female sex hormones. These chemicals are thought to be pheromones - molecules known to trigger responses such as defense and sex in many animals.
Whether humans respond to pheromones has been debated, although in 2000 American researchers reported finding a gene that they believe directs a human pheromone receptor in the nose.
The same team reported last year on a comparison of the response of male homosexuals to heterosexual men and women. They found that the brains of gay men reacted more like those of women than of straight men.
The new study shows a similar, but weaker, relationship between the response of lesbians and straight men.
Heterosexual women found the male and female pheromones about equally pleasant, while straight men and lesbians liked the female pheromone more than the male one. Men and lesbians also found the male hormone more irritating than the female one, while straight women were more likely to be irritated by the female hormone than the male one.
All three groups rated the male hormone more familiar than the female one. Straight women found both hormones about equal in intensity, while lesbians and straight men found the male hormone more intense than the female one.
The brains of all three groups were scanned when sniffing male and female hormones and a set of four ordinary odors. Ordinary odors were processed in the brain circuits associated with smell in all the volunteers.
In heterosexual males the male hormone was processed in the scent area but the female hormone was processed in the hypothalamus, which is related to sexual stimulation. In straight women the sexual area of the brain responded to the male hormone while the female hormone was perceived by the scent area.
In lesbians, both male and female hormones were processed the same, in the basic odor processing circuits, Savic and her team reported.
Each of the three groups of subjects included 12 healthy, unmedicated, right-handed and HIV-negative individuals.
The research was funded by the Swedish Medical Research Council, Karolinska Institute and the Wallenberg Foundation.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
Alan Cantwell M.D.

ScienceDaily (Oct. 26, 2009) -- Prenatal sex-based biological differences extend to genetic expression in cerebral cortices. The differences in question are probably associated with later divergences in how our brains develop. This is shown by a new study by Uppsala University researchers Elena Jazin and Bjorn Reinius, which has been published in the latest issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
Professor Elena Jazin and doctoral student Bjorn Reinius at the Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology previously demonstrated that genetic expression in the cerebral cortices of human beings and other primates exhibits certain sex-based differences. It is presumed that these differences are very old and have survived the evolutionary process. The purpose of the new study was to determine whether they appear during the process of brain development or first upon the conclusion of that process. Identifying the initial genetic mechanisms that prompt the brain to develop in a female or male direction is a long-range research objective.
The Uppsala University researchers analysed data, on the basis of sex, from another extensive study of the prenatal human brain.
"The results show that many of the genes situated on the Y chromosome are expressed in various parts of the brain prior to birth and probably provide a developmental basis for the sex-based differences exhibited by adult brains," according to Elena Jazin.
More than a third of Y-chromosomal genes appear to be involved in sex-based human brain differentiation. Some of the genetic activity in question is evident in the adult brain, while other of it only appears at earlier stages of brain development. It is yet unknown whether the differences in genetic expression among female and male brains have any functional significance.
"The findings are consistent with other factors, such as environment, also playing a role in how we develop," emphasizes Elena Jazin.
Knowledge of the development of sex-based brain differences is of potential significance for the treatment of brain disturbances and diseases. A large number of psychiatric illnesses, including depression and autism, affect men and women differentially.
"Taking account of sex-based differences is crucial to the study of normal and abnormal brain activity," according to Elena Jazin.

Article in Science Daily: 
February 2010: Potential Evolutionary Role for Same-Sex Attraction

Male homosexuality doesn't make complete sense from an evolutionary point of view. It appears that the trait is heritable, but because homosexual men are much less likely to produce offspring than heterosexual men, shouldn't the genes for this trait have been extinguished long ago? What value could this sexual orientation have, that it has persisted for eons even without any discernible reproductive advantage?
One possible explanation is what evolutionary psychologists call the "kin selection hypothesis." What that means is that homosexuality may convey an indirect benefit by enhancing the survival prospects of close relatives. Specifically, the theory holds that homosexual men might enhance their own genetic prospects by being "helpers in the nest." By acting altruistically toward nieces and nephews, homosexual men would perpetuate the family genes, including some of their own.
Two evolutionary psychologists, Paul Vasey and Doug VanderLaan of the University of Lethbridge, Canada tested this idea for the past several years on the Pacific island of Samoa. They chose Samoa because males who prefer men as sexual partners are widely recognized and accepted there as a distinct gender category -- called fa'afafine -- neither man nor woman [right]. The fa'afafine tend to be effeminate, and exclusively attracted to adult men as sexual partners. This clear demarcation makes it easier to identify a sample for study.
Past research has shown that the fa'afafine are much more altruistically inclined toward their nieces and nephews than either Samoan women or heterosexual men. They are willing to babysit a lot, tutor their nieces and nephews in art and music, and help out financially -- paying for medical care and education and so forth. In a new study, the scientists set out to unravel the psychology of the fa'afafine, to see if their altruism is targeted specifically at kin rather than kids in general.
They recruited a large sample of fa'afafine, and comparable samples of women and heterosexual men. They gave them all a series of questionnaires, measuring their willingness to help their nieces and nephews in various ways -- caretaking, gifts, teaching -- and also their willingness to do these things for other, unrelated kids. The findings, reported on-line this week in the journal Psychological Science, lend strong support to the kin selection idea. Compared to Samoan women and heterosexual men, the fa'afafine showed a much weaker link between their avuncular -- or uncle like -- behavior and their altruism toward kids generally. This cognitive dissociation, the scientists argue, allows the fa'afafine to allocate their resources more efficiently and precisely to their kin -- and thus enhance their own evolutionary prospects.
To compensate for being childless, each fa'afafine would have to somehow support the survival of two additional nieces or nephews who would otherwise not have existed. "If kin selection is the sole mechanism by which genes for male same-sex sexual attraction are maintained over time," the fa'afafine must be "super uncles" to earn their evolutionary keep, explains Vasey. Consequently, Vasey suggests "that the fa'afafine's avuncularity probably contributes to the evolutionary survival of genes for male same-sex sexual attraction, but is unlikely to entirely offset the costs of not reproducing."
Do these findings have any meaning outside of Samoa? Yes and no. Samoan culture is very different from most Western cultures. Samoan culture is very localized, and centered on tight-knit extended families, whereas Western societies tend to be highly individualistic and homophobic. Families are also much more geographically dispersed in Western cultures, diminishing the role that bachelor uncles can play in the extended family, even if they choose to. But in this sense, the researchers say, Samoa's communitarian culture may be more -- not less -- representative of the environment in which male same-sex sexuality evolved eons ago. In that sense, it's not the bachelor uncle who is poorly adapted to the world, but rather the modern Western world that has evolved into an unwelcoming place.

New Primate Studies!--Androgen's cause brain gender--A must read.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Brains of gay men show similarities to those of heterosexual women, study reports The brains of gay men resemble those of straight women, according to research being published Tuesday that provides more evidence of the role of biology in sexual orientation.

Using brain scanning equipment, researchers said they discovered similarities in the brain circuits that deal with language, perhaps explaining why homosexual men tend to outperform straight men on verbal skills tests -- as do heterosexual women.
The area of the brain that processes emotions also looked very much the same in gay men and straight women -- and both groups have higher rates of depressive disorders than heterosexual men, researchers said.

The study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, however, found the brain similarities were not as close in the case of gay women and straight men.
Previous studies have found evidence that sexual orientation is hard-wired. More than a decade ago, neurobiologist Simon LeVay reported that a key area of the hypothalamus, a brain structure linked to sexual behavior, was smaller in homosexual men compared to heterosexual men.
The latest study, led by Ivanka Savic of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, was significant in that it looked at areas of the brain that have nothing to do with sexual behavior, suggesting there was a basic biological link between sexual orientation and a range of brain functions.
"The question is -- how far does it go?" said Dr. Eric Vilain, who studies human sexual development at UCLA and was not involved in the study. "In gay men, the brain is feminized. Is that limited to particular areas or is the entire brain female-like?"
Vilain said his hunch was the entire brain was not feminized because "gay men have a number of masculine traits that are not present in women."
Savic and colleagues used magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain volumes of two groups, each divided evenly between men and women: 50 heterosexuals and 40 homosexuals. They knew going into the study that in men the right cerebral hemisphere is largest but in women the left and right hemispheres are of equal size.

The results showed that gay men had symmetrical brains like those of straight women, and homosexual women had slightly asymmetrical brains like those of heterosexual men. Language circuits are thought to be more symmetrical in straight women than in heterosexual men, the report said.

The differences were pronounced. For example, the right cerebral hemisphere in heterosexual men was 624 cubic centimeters -- 12 greater than their left side. In homosexual men, the right hemisphere was 608 cubic centimeters -- 1 cubic centimeter smaller than the left.
In heterosexual women, there was no volume difference between right and left hemispheres. But in homosexual women, their right hemisphere was 5 cubic centimeters larger than the left.

Next, researchers used positron emission topography to measure blood flow in the amygdala, a brain area involved in processing emotions. The wiring of the amygdala in gay men more closely resembled that of straight women than straight men, researchers said. The amygdala of gay women looked more like those of straight men, according to the report.
Savic said she believed the brain differences were forged in the womb or infancy, probably as a result of genetic or hormonal factors.
She said she could not explain why the differences were more pronounced in homosexual men than in homosexual women.
Marc Breedlove, a neuroscientist who studies sexual development at Michigan State University, said that in his studies with rats, changes in prenatal levels of testosterone caused the sort of brain alterations Savic observed in her study.

Sexual Orientation and Science

Dr. Myers' textbooks in psychology are widely used in schools across North America. This excerpt is from David G. Myers'Exploring Psychology 4th edition (Worth Publishers, 1999). Excerpted and reformatted with the permission of Worth Publishers. A similar section appears in Dr. Myers'Psychology 5th edition (Worth Publishers, 1998).


We express the direction of our sexual interest in our sexual orientation--our enduring sexual attraction toward members of a particular gender.

As far as we know, all cultures in all times have been predominantly heterosexual (Bullough, 1990). Yet, cultures vary in their attitude toward homosexuality. Whether a culture condemns and punishes homosexuality or views it as an acceptable alternative, homosexuality survives and heterosexuality prevails.

Homosexual people often recall childhood play preferences like those of the other sex (Bailey & Zucker, 1995). But most homosexual people report not becoming aware of same-gender sexual feelings until during or shortly after puberty, and not thinking of themselves as gay or lesbian until around age 20 (Garnets & Kimmel, 1990).

How many people are exclusively homosexual?

Until recently, the popular press assumed a homosexuality rate of 10 percent. But in both Europe and the United States, more than a dozen national surveys in the early 1990s explored sexual orientation, using methods that protected the respondent's anonymity. Their results agree in suggesting that a more accurate figure is about 3 or 4 percent of men and 1 to 2 percent of women (Laumann & others, 1994; Smith, 1996).

Less than 1 percent of the respondents reported being actively bisexual, but a larger number of adults reported having had an isolated homosexual experience. And most people said they had had an occasional homosexual fantasy.

Although health experts find it helpful to know sexual statistics, numbers do not decide issues of human rights. Similarly, it's helpful in manufacturing school desks to know that about 10 percent of people are left-handed. But whether left-handers are 3 percent or 10 percent of the population doesn't answer the moral question of whether lefties should enjoy equal rights.

What does it feel like to be homosexual in a heterosexual culture?

One way for heterosexual people to understand is to imagine how they would feel...

  • if they were to be ostracized or fired for openly admitting or displaying their feelings toward someone of the other sex;
  • if they were to overhear people making crude jokes about heterosexual people;
  • if most movies, TV shows, and advertisements portrayed (or implied) homosexuality; and
  • if their family members were pleading with them to change their heterosexual life-style and to enter into a homosexual marriage.

Facing such reactions, homosexual people often struggle with their sexual orientation.

At first, they may try to ignore or deny their desires, hoping they will go away. But they don't.

Then they may try to change, through psychotherapy, willpower, or prayer. But the feelings typically persist, as do those of heterosexual people--who are similarly incapable of becoming homosexual (Haldeman, 1994).

Eventually, homosexuals may accept their orientation — by electing celibacy (as do some heterosexuals);

  • by engaging in promiscuous sex (a choice more commonly made by men than by women);
  • or by entering into a committed, long-term love relationship (a choice more often made by women than by men) (Peplau, 1982; Weinberg & Williams, 1974).

Most psychologists today view sexual orientation as neither willfully chosen nor willfully changed.

Sexual orientation in some ways is like handedness: Most people are one way, some the other. A very few are truly ambidextrous. Regardless, the way one is endures.

Nor is sexual orientation linked with psychological disorder or sexual crime. "Child molester" is not a sexual orientation. Some homosexuals do abuse children, but most child molesters are heterosexual males (Gonsiorek, 1982).

These facts led the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 to drop homosexuality from its list of "mental illnesses." Understanding Sexual Orientation

If our sexual orientation is indeed something we do not choose and cannot change, then where do these preferences come from? How do we move toward either a heterosexual or a homosexual orientation? Is homosexuality linked with problems in a child's relationships with parents, such as with a domineering mother and an ineffectual father or a possessive mother and a hostile father? As children, were many homosexuals molested, seduced, or otherwise sexually victimized by an adult homosexual? Are children who observe homosexual role models (such as parents) more likely to become homosexual?

Consider the findings of lengthy Kinsey Institute interviews with nearly 1000 homosexuals and 500 heterosexuals (Bell & others, 1981; Hammersmith, 1982). The investigators assessed nearly every imaginable psychological cause of homosexuality--parental relationships, childhood sexual experiences, peer relationships, dating experiences.

Their findings: Homosexuals were no more likely than heterosexuals to have been smothered by maternal love, neglected by their father, or sexually abused.

More recent studies have also found that sons of homosexual men were not more likely to become gay if they lived with their gay dad, and that 9 in 10 children of lesbian mothers developed into heterosexuals (Bailey & others, 1995; Golombok & Tasker, 1996).

If even being reared by a homosexual parent has no appreciable influence on sexual orientation, then having a gay or lesbian teacher or bus driver also seems unlikely to have an appreciable influence.

Homosexual people do, however, appear more often in certain populations:

In America's dozen largest cities, the percentage of men identifying themselves as gay jumps to 9 percent, compared with only 1 percent in rural areas (Binson & others, 1995; Laumann & others, 1994).

One study of the biographies of 1004 eminent people found homosexual and bisexual people overrepresented (11 percent of the sample), especially among poets (24 percent), fiction writers (21 percent), and artists and musicians (15 percent) (Ludwig, 1995).

For uncertain reasons, men who have older brothers are somewhat more likely to be gay, report Ray Blanchard and his colleagues (1995, 1996a,b, 1997). Assuming the odds of homosexuality are roughly 3 percent among first sons, they rise to 4 percent among second sons and 5 percent for third sons.

So, what determines sexual orientation?

One theory proposes that people develop same-sex erotic attachments if segregated by gender at the time their sex drive matures (Storms, 1981). But even in a tribal culture in which homosexual behavior is expected of all boys before marriage, heterosexuality prevails (Money, 1987). (As this illustrates, homosexual behavior does not always indicate a homosexual orientation.)

Another theory proposes the opposite: that people develop romantic attachments to those who differ from, and thus are more fascinating than, the peers they associated with while growing up (Bell, 1982).

The bottom line from a half-century's theory and research: If there are environmental factors that influence sexual orientation, we do not yet know what they are. If someone were to ask me, "What can I do to influence my child's sexual orientation?" my answer would have to be "I haven't a clue."

The Brain and Sexual Orientation

New research indicates that sexual orientation is at least partly physiological. Researcher Simon LeVay (1991) discovered this while studying sections of the hypothalamus taken from deceased heterosexual and homosexual people.

As a gay scientist, LeVay wanted to do "something connected with my gay identity," but he knew he had to avoid biasing the results. So he did the study "blind," without knowing which donors were gay. After nine months of peering through his microscope at a cell cluster he thought might be important, LeVay sat down one morning and broke the codes.

His discovery: The cell cluster was reliably larger in heterosexual men than in women and homosexual men. As the brain difference became apparent, "I was almost in a state of shock ... I took a walk by myself on the cliffs over the ocean. I sat for half an hour just thinking what this might mean" (LeVay, 1994).

It should not surprise us that brains differ with sexual orientation. Remember our maxim: Although we find it convenient to talk separately of psychological and biological explanations, everything psychological is simultaneously biological.

The critical questions are, can this finding be replicated? If so, when does the brain difference begin? At conception? In the womb? During childhood or adolescence? Does experience produce the difference? Or do genes or prenatal hormones (or genes via prenatal hormones)?

LeVay does not view this little neural center as a sexual orientation center; rather, he sees it as an important part of the neural pathway engaged in sexual behavior. Moreover, he acknowledges that it's possible that sexual behavior patterns influence the brain's anatomy. (In fish, rats, birds, and humans, brain structures are known to vary with experience.) But he believes it more likely that brain anatomy influences sexual orientation.

Laura Allen and Roger Gorski (1992) offered a similar conclusion after discovering that a section of the fibers connecting right and left hemispheres is one-third larger in homosexual men than in heterosexual men. "The emerging neuroanatomical picture," notes Brian Gladue (1994), "is that, in some brain areas, homosexual men are more likely to have female-typical neuroanatomy than are heterosexual men."

Genes and Sexual Orientation

The evidence suggests that genetic influence plays a role (Whitam & others, 1993).

One research team studied the twin brothers of homosexual men. Among their identical twin brothers, 52 percent were homosexual, as were 22 percent of fraternal twin brothers (Bailey & Pillard, 1991, 1995).

In a follow-up study of homosexual women, a similar 48 percent of their identical twins were homosexual, as were 16 percent of their fraternal twins (Bailey & others, 1993).

With half the identical twin pairs differing, we know that genes aren't the whole story. Moreover, a new study using a diverse sample of Australian twins found somewhat lower rates of sexual similarity--although, again, identical twins were more likely than fraternal twins to share homosexual feelings (Bailey & others, 1997).

This is the sort of pattern we expect to see when genes are having an influence. Moreover, with a single transplanted gene, scientists can now cause male fruit flies to display homosexual behavior (Zhang & Odenwald, 1995).

Prenatal Hormones and Sexual Orientation

The elevated rate of similar homosexual orientation even in fraternal twins might also result from their sharing the same prenatal environment. In animals, abnormal prenatal hormone conditions have altered the sexual orientation of a fetus.

German researcher Gunter Dorner (1976, 1988) pioneered this research by manipulating a fetal rat's exposure to male hormones, thereby "inverting" its sexual behavior toward rats of the other sex. Female sheep will likewise show homosexual behavior if their pregnant mothers are injected with testosterone during a critical gestation period (Money, 1987).

Atypical prenatal hormones may produce similar results in humans. A critical period for the human brain's neural-hormonal control system may exist between the middle of the second and fifth months after conception (Ellis & Ames, 1987; Gladue, 1990; Meyer-Bahlburg, 1995). It seems that exposure to the hormone levels typically experienced by female fetuses during this time may predispose the person (whether female or male) to be attracted to males in later life.

Some tests reveal that homosexual men have spatial abilities like those typical of heterosexual women--a pattern consistent with the hypothesis that homosexuals were exposed to atypical prenatal hormones (Gladue, 1994; McCormick & Witelson, 1991).

Curiously, gay men also have fingerprint patterns rather like those of heterosexual women. Most people have more fingerprint ridges on their right hand. Jeff Hall and Doreen Kimura (1994) observed that this right-versus-left difference is less true of females and gay males than of heterosexual males--a difference that these researchers believe is due to prenatal hormones.

Because the physiological evidence is preliminary and controversial, some scientists remain skeptical. Rather than specifying sexual orientation, perhaps biological factors predispose a temperament that influences sexuality "in the context of individual learning and experience" (Byne & Parsons, 1993).

Perhaps, theorizes Daryl Bem (1996), genes code for prenatal hormones and brain anatomy, which predispose temperaments that lead children to prefer sex-typical or sex-atypical activities and friends. These preferences may lead children later to feel attracted to whichever sex feels different. Boys with feminine interests may find masculine males exotic. This could explain why, in personal ads, gay men tend to seek masculine partners and lesbians feminine partners (Bailey & others, 1997).

The dissimilar-seeming sex (one's own, for homosexual people) becomes associated with anxiety and other forms of arousal, which eventually gets transformed into romantic arousal. The exotic becomes erotic.

Regardless of the process, the consistency of the genetic, prenatal, and brain findings has swung the pendulum toward a physiological explanation. Nature more than nurture, most psychiatrists now believe, predisposes sexual orientation (Vreeland & others, 1995). If biological influences prove critical (perhaps especially in certain environmental contexts), it would explain why sexual orientation is so difficult to change.

Still, some people wonder: Should the cause of sexual orientation matter?

Maybe it shouldn't, but people's assumptions matter. Those who believe (as most homosexual people believe) that sexual orientation is a biological given--an enduring identity, not a choice--express more accepting attitudes toward homosexual persons (Allen & others, 1996; Furnham & Taylor, 1990; Whitley, 1990).

In American surveys, agreement that homosexuality is "something that people are born with" doubled from 16 to 31 percent between 1983 and 1993. Over roughly the same period, support for equal job rights for homosexuals increased from 59 to 80 percent (Moore, 1993).

Between 1982 and 1996, agreement that "homosexuality should be an acceptable alternative lifestyle" also increased, from 34 to 44 percent (Gallup, 1996). Accepting attitudes are most common among women and those with a gay or lesbian friend or relative (Herek & Capitanio, 1996; Kite & Whitley, 1996).

To gay and lesbian activists, the new biological research is a double-edged sword (Diamond, 1993). If sexual orientation, like skin color and sex, is genetically influenced, that offers a further rationale for civil rights protection. Moreover, it may alleviate parents' concerns about their children having gay teachers and role models. It does, however, raise the haunting possibility that genetic markers of sexual orientation could someday be identified through fetal testing, and the fetus aborted.

Sex and Human Values

Recognizing that values are both personal and cultural, most sex researchers and educators strive to keep their writings on sexuality value-free. But can the study of sexual behavior and what motivates it really be free of values?

Those who think not say that the very words we use to describe behavior often reflect our personal values. When sex researchers label sexually restrained individuals as "erotophobic" and as having "high sex guilt," they express their own values.

Whether we label sexual acts we do not practice as "perversions," "deviations," or part of an "alternative sexual life-style" depends on our attitudes toward the behaviors. Labels both describe and evaluate.

When education about sex is separated from the context of human values, some students may get the idea that sexual intercourse is merely recreational activity. Diana Baumrind (1982), a University of California child-rearing expert, has observed that adolescents interpret sex education that pretends to be "value-free" as meaning that adults are neutral about adolescent sexual activity. Such an implication is unfortunate, she added, because "promiscuous recreational sex poses certain psychological, social, health, and moral problems that must be faced realistically."

Researchers have found that teenagers who have had formal sex education are no more likely to engage in premarital sex than those who have not (Furstenberg & others, 1985; Zelnik & Kim, 1982).

Moreover, we enrich our lives by knowing ourselves, by realizing that others share our feelings, by understanding what is likely to please or displease our loved one. Witness the crumbling of falsehoods about homosexuality. Witness the growing realization that some types of sexually explicit material can lead people to devalue or hurt others.

Perhaps we can agree that the knowledge provided by sex research is preferable to ignorance, yet also agree that researchers' values should be stated openly, enabling us to debate them and to reflect on our own values.

We might also remember that scientific research on sexual motivation does not aim to define the personal meaning of sex in our own lives. One can know every available fact about sex--that the initial spasms of male and female orgasm come at 0.8-second intervals, that the female nipples expand 10 millimeters at the peak of sexual arousal, that systolic blood pressure rises some 60 points and the respiration rate to 40 breaths per minute--but fail to understand the human significance of sexual intimacy.

Surely one significance of sexual intimacy is its expression of our deeply social nature. Sex is a socially significant act. Men and women can achieve orgasm alone, yet most people find greater satisfaction while embracing their loved one. There is a yearning for closeness in sexual motivation. Sex at its human best is life-uniting and love-renewing.