Sunday Essays: Is it nature or nurture?

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

MANY people still don’t know what being gay really means. And the debate on why there are gay people persists.

Even homosexuals themselves have contradicting opinions whether being gay is nature or nurture.

“I really think that homosexuality is nature. Sometimes people say its nurture; for example, having girl and gay friends. But I don’t believe that because it’s in the person if he feels the feminism inside,” RG Jalalon aka Barbie Ann, a 24-year-old freelance hairdresser, make-up artist, model and a proud gay, said.

RG’s opinion on homosexuality is contradicting to others like the opinion of Nico Bernardino, a19-year-old Accounting Technology student and a proud gay.

“For me, I think it’s nurture. Nurture because my sister is a ‘babaeng bakla’, most of her friends are gays, and she would also bring her friends to our house that’s why I became close to them. And I’m also a mama's boy. I think that would explain it,” Nico said.

Scientists believe that homosexuality is purely nature or biological. However, social theorists argue that an individual's upbringing or its environment (nurture) can directly influence a person’s sexual orientation.

But why are there gay or homosexual people? Is it because of nature of nurture?

Many groups of researchers around the world are trying so hard to unravel the threads of how sexuality may be biologically determined. Some are studying hormones, some are studying for the possible “gay genes”, and others are studying the brains of gays to identify how they are different from those of heterosexuals.

There is a study done to support the biological perspective. The research was conducted on rats. Adult female rats that received androgens exhibited male symptoms of attraction to female rats.

The hypothesis that was formulated is that sexual orientation is determined by the early levels of androgen on relevant neural structures. If highly exposed to male hormone, the rat will become masculine, or attracted to females.

However, according to Raissa N. Matunog, a psychologist and a faculty member in Ateneo de Davao University and in San Pedro College teaching gender and sexuality, she said that the result of the study cannot exactly be attributed to human because rats are not human.

“For example, girls that have an excess of androgens (male hormone) when they were born because there is a defect in their system are not all homosexuals,” Ms. Matunog explained.

So that means that it’s not just a matter of hormones. And also, not all gay men are gender atypical, meaning not all gay men are effeminate.

“If it was just a gender atypicality, if it was just a person who likes using his mom’s lipstick when he was young, if it were just a girl like playing with trucks when she was five years old or like wearing shorts more than wearing dresses, then everyone who were like that when they were younger should be gay, but they’re not,” Ms. Matunog said.

Ms. Matunog also added that not all men and women who are gay are gender atypical when they were kids.

“We have these super straight guys who were suddenly turned out to be gay in college. There are biological explanations for some, but not all,” Ms. Matunog said.

In 1993 Scientist Dean Hamer examined the prospect that homosexuality being an X-linked trait. He examined the family of openly gay men, and thought he saw a maternal link, leading him to investigate his theory of X-linkage.

He found a significant linkage between gays and the maternal X. His study, along with his startling discovery on Xq28, led his findings to the possible "gay gene".

However, Ms. Matunog explained that it is important to understand how the sampling is made; this means that they asked first if a person is homosexual or heterosexual?

“We do not know whether these biological differences in the person’s body came from being homosexual. We do not know if the sexual orientation cause the differences in the body, or differences in the body is caused by the sexual orientation,” Ms. Matunog said.

There may be differences in the make up in the brain size or certain structures, but it is not clear if it was because the subjects were homosexual or the homosexuality caused the changes.

“That's the biggest problem when it comes to biological implications. We don't know which one causes the other,” Ms. Matunog added.

She also said if it is proven that genetic differences are the causes to be gay then certainly it can be hereditary. And if it is not, then there must be other reasons.

“Anything can be hereditary; intelligence, your eyes, height, weight. And among other things, homosexuality can also be hereditary as well as your shoe size. Homosexuality can just be like that, it can be because of your genes or it can be because this is what you are exposing to,” Ms. Matunog said.

She also said that there are gay men coming from militaristic households, those who have a father in the military or those who have masculine guy members in the family.

Social theorists are not convinced to all of this scientific experimentation and hypothesis about being gay. This opposing point-of-view firmly believes that homosexuality is the result of environmental factors or nurture instead of biological factors or nature.

“Life experiences as a factor for being gay can be explained by the Psychoanalytic Theory of Sigmund Freud, it tells as that for everything that happens to our lives is rooted in some sort of events when we were a child,” Ms. Matunog said.

However, Ms. Matunog also said that life experiences might be true to be a factor of sexual orientation for some, but not all.

“Just like the biological theory, it may be true for some but not for all. For example, not all abused children become gay,” Ms. Matunog added.

She explained that genes do help persons to become who they are. On the other hand, environment also helps a lot in shaping a person’s genes into the expression of the genes to make who he or she is.

“It affects your sexual orientation, as well as your choices, your hair color, and quite a lot of things about a person, and not just a person’s preference of who to be with,” Ms. Matunog added.

Ideologist can also affect someone’s sexual orientation like feminism.

“It can be because some are immerse into gender studies, that they were exposed to a more accepting outlook in life, this is the path (being gay) that they choose,” Ms. Matunog explained.

However, she added that this is for a very small amount of people, and mostly are females.

“But these is something we do not talk often because in can be twisted into something that does not benefit the LGBT community,” Ms. Matunog explained.

She said that if we being gay is perceived as choice, people will grab and say that if it’s a choice, why don't you choose to be straight?

She said it is a choice for some cases but not for everyone.

“It is really nature and nurture, not nature versus nurture,” Ms. Matunog clarified. (Hanna Mae Salcedo)

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