Nature nurture and sexual identity

James Woodson jwoodson at ucla.edu
Wed Jul 23 14:15:51 EST 1997

Previous post (sent to me privately, but others may wish to reply as well,
or continue the topic in the newsgroup)
from <mailto:maryjaneg at aol.com> (MaryJaneG)

I am in a bit of a crunch.  I was in a discussion a couple of days ago
with a group of "like minded individuals"about whether nature or nuture
plays a bigger role in sexual identity.  I said that both contribute
equally and was accused of homophobia.    Is there a current status on the
answer to this question, and are there places on the net where I can go to
find such information?  Also, how would I go about finding copies of
journals which contain this sort of information:  genetic factors,
multiple family menbers( I read somewhere that there are usually more than
one gay/lesbian/bi person  in a family.   ie... older brother gay, younger
brother straight, middle sister bi.)  and the nurture link.  Thank you for
your time.


(yes, damnit, it's my real name!)  :)

Reply from James Woodson <mailto:jwoodson at ucla.edu>

Biology necessarily contributes to all forms of behavior, but similarly,
behavior does not occur in an "environmental vacuum".  We are modified by
our experiences in very subtle and complex ways, resulting in the
interaction of biology and behavior in the production of any behavioral
trait, whether it be a motor pattern or a sexual preference.  Developmental
influences of parents, education, interaction with peers, and other aspects
of the human social environment that obviously alter the expression of
sexuality in general and probably apply to the expression of homosexuality
as well.  After years of being classified as having a mental disorder or
socially derived "sickness", there are many individuals who consider the
suggestion that their sexual orientation is less than hard wired to be
insulting and homophobic.  This might be your reaction too were you subject
to the daily grind of being a homosexual in a currently less harsh but
nonetheless homophobic world.  However, your insistance that biology and
environment are interacting in an inseparable and unquantifiable manner
would  not be indicative of homophobia, rather of good common sense.  I
like the textbook analogy of a guitarist:  Does the music come from the
guitar? or from the guitarist.  Neither functions without the other, and
"percentages of contribution" to the end result are senseless indeed.

James Woodson

James C. Woodson* - Behavioral Neuroscience
U.C.L.A. Dept. of Psychology, Franz Hall
405 Hilgard Ave.
Los Angeles, CA  90095

"To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient
solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection."  - Jules Henri

* Research in mechanisms and loci of sexual differentiation of the brain,
motivated responding, developmental interactions between nerve growth
factors and endogenous gonadal steroids, evolutionary psychology, & learned
helplessness.  All opinions expressed are mine alone, and do not reflect
those of the University of California, Los Angeles.

P.S. You may be able to find out more about me by visiting my web site, at 

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