Not ‘Born That Way’, As If We Didn’t Know

Now that the presidential election and inauguration are past, and President Trump may be buying some time for civilization against the plague of postmodern Leftism, I am returning to a more contentious subject: sexual orientation.

In the coming weeks, I will publish a three-part essay critiquing some traditional conservative ideas regarding sexual orientation. I will argue that conservatives severely undercut their case by making fundamental concessions to the postmodern Left.

As prelude to that essay, as well as postscript to my previous writings on sexual orientation, I call the reader’s attention to two interesting academic research articles published in 2016 on the etiology of sexual orientation. One article is by a pair of staunch ‘LGBT’ (that is, Anti-H) advocates—Lisa M. Diamond & Clifford J. Rosky—highly regarded by the LGBT movement; and the other article is co-written by a well-known researcher—Paul R. McHugh—who has in the past argued more on the conservative side of the issue. Both articles are systematic reviews of past research. Both articles argue against the thesis that sexual orientation is immutable. The basis of their conclusion is that sexual orientation has been observed to be highly fluid over time in many individuals. Not surprisingly (to me), the fluidity is usually in the direction of heterosexuality.

The second article also argues that ‘gender dysphoria’ in children usually subsides.

Here are citations and links for the articles:

Lisa M. Diamond & Clifford J. Rosky (2016) Scrutinizing Immutability: Research on Sexual Orientation and U.S. Legal Advocacy for Sexual Minorities, The Journal of Sex Research, 53:4-5, 363-391, DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2016.1139665.

Lawrence S. Mayer and Paul R. McHugh (2016), Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences, The New Atlantis, 50:1-144.

Diamond and Rosky 2016 (pp. 368–369) states,

The best and most reliable data on “naturally occurring” change in sexual orientation come from studies that have longitudinally tracked large, population-based samples of heterosexual and sexual-minority individuals … Several such studies have now been completed, and they unequivocally demonstrate that same-sex and other-sex attractions do change over time in some individuals. The degree of change is difficult to reliably estimate, given differences in study measures, but the occurrence of change is indisputable.

The samples in the studies cited by Diamond and Rosky 2016 cites are indeed large, and so are the percentages of change in sexual orientation. Consider this first example from the article (p. 369):

Savin-Williams et al. (2012) analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which has been regularly tracking same-sex attractions and sexual identity in a random, representative sample of more than 12,000 adolescents since 1994. We focus here on changes in attractions reported between the third wave of data collection (when respondents were between 18 and 24 years old, with a mean age of 22) and the fourth wave of data collection (when respondents were between 24 and 34 years old, with a mean age of 29). …

At the third and fourth waves of data collection, respondents were asked to describe themselves as 100% heterosexual, Mostly heterosexual, Bisexual, Mostly homosexual, or 100% homosexual. Of the 5.7% of men and 13.7% of women who chose one of the nonheterosexual descriptors at Wave 3, 43% of the men and 50% of the women chose a different sexual orientation category six years later. Of those who changed, two-thirds changed to the category 100% heterosexual. … 8% of the exclusively homosexual men and 26% of the exclusively homosexual women who initially considered themselves exclusively gay changed categories six years later.

Aside from its statistical references and arguments, Diamond and Rosky 2016 is revealing—perhaps inadvertently—regarding honesty and political advocacy in the ‘LGB’ movement championed by these authors. The abstract of the article begins as follows:

We review scientific research and legal authorities to argue that the immutability of sexual orientation should no longer be invoked as a foundation for the rights of individuals with same-sex attractions and relationships (i.e., sexual minorities). On the basis of scientific research as well as U.S. legal rulings regarding lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) rights, we make three claims: First, arguments based on the immutability of sexual orientation are unscientific, given what we now know from longitudinal, population-based studies of naturally occurring changes in the same-sex attractions of some individuals over time. Second, arguments based on the immutability of sexual orientation are unnecessary, in light of U.S. legal decisions in which courts have used grounds other than immutability to protect the rights of sexual minorities.

What do the authors mean by the curious statement, “arguments based on the immutability of sexual orientation are unnecessary”? If the arguments are wrong, what does it mean to add the statement that the arguments are unnecessary? Are some wrong arguments necessary?

The meaning of this curious statement becomes clearer from the following text from the body of the article (pp. 372–373):

the perception that immutability claims are fundamentally linked to sexual-minority civil rights is so pervasive that public figures who question immutability arguments are reflexively considered homophobic [references]. Scientists themselves (including the first author) have sometimes contributed to misconceptions about the immutability of sexual orientation by failing to challenge and unpack these misconceptions in the media, often to avoid having their statements misused by antigay activists [references]. …

When immutability claims are the only way to save lives, it makes both strategic and moral sense for scientists and advocates to highlight scientific findings that support these claims. Yet in the United States, the social and legal context is obviously more favorable to sexual-minority rights, and immutability claims are no longer necessary, nor particularly effective. …

This is not to say that these claims have no utility whatsoever. For sexual minorities who do experience their same-sex sexuality as early-developing and unchanging, immutability arguments may resonate with their experiences and provide them with a meaningful foundation for their self-acceptance. Also, within highly rejecting contexts (such as a family threatening to disown a gay child because they view same-sex sexuality as a moral failing), immutability arguments may reduce rejection and stigma by countering the view of same-sex sexuality as “blameworthy.”

In short, lying has been useful in the past; but lying is “no longer necessary”—though still useful in some cases.

Neither the statistical nor ethical/political arguments from this article should be surprising to readers of my own work on sexual orientation. As I wrote in The Federalist in 2015,

opponents of the biological determinists cite evidence that sexual orientation is changeable throughout a person’s lifetime, varies from culture to culture, and varies even among animals when they are placed in different environments.

In my book, Masculine Power, Feminine Beauty: The Volitional, Objective Basis for Heterosexuality in Romantic Love and Marriage. I devote an entire chapter to recent research on the etiology of sexual orientation. I also discuss related political advocacy at length; and I include the following quotation, from historian and LGBT advocate John D’Emilio, which anticipates the quotation above from Diamond and Rosky 2016. D’Emilio, often cited favorably by mainstream psychologists, said in a friendly interview with the International Socialist Review in 2009,

The idea that people are born gay—or lesbian or bisexual—is appealing for lots of reasons. Many of us experience the direction of our sexual desires as something that we have no control over. We just are that way, it seems, so therefore we must be born gay. The people who are most overt in their hatred of queer folks, the religious conservatives, insist that being gay is something we choose, and we know we can’t agree with them. Hence, again, born gay. Liberal heterosexual allies love the idea. If gays are born that way, then of course they shouldn’t be punished for it. …

What’s most amazing to me about the “born gay” phenomenon is that the scientific evidence for it is thin as a reed, yet it doesn’t matter. It’s an idea with such social utility that one doesn’t need much evidence in order to make it attractive and credible.

Recall these words from Leftist ideologue Saul Alinsky (Rules for Radicals, p. 76):

With very rare exceptions, the right things are done for the wrong reasons. It is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason—this is a fight with a windmill. The organizer should know and accept that the right reason is only introduced as a moral rationalization after the right end has been achieved, although it may have been achieved for the wrong reason—therefore he should search for and use the wrong reasons to achieve the right goals. He should be able, with skill and calculation, to use irrationality in his attempts to progress toward a rational world.

In addition to the articles Mayer and McHugh 2016 and Diamond and Rosky 2016, two other related articles may be of interest to readers:

Diamond, L.M. (2016), Sexual Fluidity in Male and Females, Current Sexual Health Reports, 8: 249–256.

Rosik, Christopher H. (2016), The Quiet Death of Sexual Orientation Immutability: How Science Loses When Political Advocacy Wins, Journal of Human Sexuality, 7:4–23.