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Can you change your gay?

Brittney M. Walker | 8/18/2010, 5 p.m.

The past few weeks in California have been interesting with the controversy surrounding Proposition 8 and the 14th Amendment. Opening the window for same-sex marriage has been delayed while pro-traditional marriage activists and voters have entered the appeal process of Judge Vaughn Walker's decision. Where the tide will turn next is up to the courts. In the meantime, it has been an interesting debate as a matter of fact, as we reflect on the words of our experts from last week.

Mark Rosen, chief counsel from the Southern California office of the ACLU explained that the 14th Amendment protects homosexuals in regards to equal rights and qualifies homosexuality as an "immutable" characteristic, one that cannot be changed.

However on the other side of the fence, Rev. Jesse Peterson, founder and president of BOND Action Inc. said homosexuality is a problem, a "bad behavior."

For years, scientists, sociologists, and psychologists have studied homosexuality, trying to decide whether or not homosexuality is an innate trait or if it is something that is developed later in life.
Both sides are valid thoughts, but inconclusive at this point. Research shows, however, that there is compelling evidence suggesting that homosexuality is in fact a changeable characteristic. But like every study or school of thought, there are two sides.

In 1993, Dr. Dean Hamer of the National Cancer Institute conducted a study to determine if there is such a gene as the "gay gene." In his study, he examined the X chromosomes from 40 pairs of homosexual brothers (relationally). He concluded that 33 of the pairs carried a "gay gene."

However, shortly thereafter, Dr. Richard Pillard, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University's School of Medicine, replicated his study. He concluded that homosexuality was primarily based on environment and genetics had limited influence.

Jeramy Townsley, a gay sociology professor and researcher at Butler University specializes in areas of identity construction, social movements, and sexuality. He says although there is no conclusive evidence of a "gay gene," research has discovered sexual identity is determined early in life.

"If you are asking, 'Are there genetic or in utero biological processes that make one gay?' The conservative scientist has to answer that we don't have enough evidence to make a determination, although the bulk of evidence points to the fact that sexual orientations 1) are fixed very early in life, and 2) there are neurobiological and hormonal correlated to sexual orientation," Townsley wrote in an e-mail. "Two problems run through all of these studies. The first is that we don't know what is cause and what is effect. We know that social behavior can alter neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, so while there is amazing neuro evidence about correlations between structures/processes and sexual orientations, any introductory science student can remind us that correlation does not equal causation."

He added that environmental complexes play a significant role in determining sexuality. Townsley points out that diverse cultures around the world incorporate "gay behaviors" in rites of passage and bonding phases, but these cultures are rarely homosexual. He also said many of these cultures young males learn to be adult men by having sexual experiences with another man.