Nov 6, 2008

¨People who have erroneously operated out of the belief that homosexuality was environmentally caused...¨

By Dr. James E. Walton
For more information on sexual developement and orientation, click here for L.A. Therapist:

¨In 1991 Simon Le Vey, the well known neurobiologist, discovered that homosexuality was biologically determined, as opposed to environmentally caused. He discovered that the hypothalamus of the average homosexual man was smaller than the one found in heterosexual men. This discovery lent strong credence to the biological theory of homosexuality in opposition to the old idea that homosexuality was caused by the environment or as choice made from a side effect of “weak” morals. People who have erroneously operated out of the belief that homosexuality was environmentally caused have cause irrespirable emotional and psychological damage to their gay children in a futile attempt to usurp nature.

This erroneous and archaic understanding implied, if not outright stated, that homosexuality is caused by poor parenting skills, something that anti-gay parents abhor. This belief maintains that homosexual men did not have a "normal" development and are therefore unhealthy. Certainly, no parent wants to be held responsible for causing such damage to their very own child.

Gay men have been made to feel as though they were somehow flawed right from the beginning of their childhood. If only they had the right and normal experiences when growing up, maybe they would have turned out "normal" in their sexuality like their heterosexual counterparts. This labeling and looking for causes for homosexuality has done more harm than good for the self-esteem of gay men and women. Just the suggestion of a cause for homosexuality implies the possibility of a "cure" for their "disorder." The self esteem of gay men and women is not served by such implied beliefs.

According to Richard A. Isay, M.D., the strained relationship between a gay child and the family may be a result, rather than the cause, of a child's development of homosexual orientation. It is a widely held belief backed by research that gay males experience a high proportion of hostile or withdrawing fathers. Isay, however, proposes that it is the fathers who are reacting to their sons' homosexuality with withdraw and hostility, rather than the hostility and anger causing the homosexuality. It is from this withdraw and hostility that the gay child begins to develop a lower sense of self-esteem.

Fathers of gay sons may become aware of their child's differences at some time in the early development of the child and have a sense that the child is closer to them than what they expected or for what society deems normal. Some fathers grow very uncomfortable with this sense of closeness or difference and reject the child through either withdrawing or by becoming hostile towards the child. It is the father's initiative to reject the child not the other way around. The reasons for this rejection has more to do with the father's sense of insecurity than with the child's actual "deviant" behavior.

It is also probable that the father feels some sense of responsibility and guilt for his son's being gay. It might be difficult for a father to face the son or even be able to stand the feelings that might be associated with the thought of having caused his son to be gay. Isay proposes that gay male children do go through an Oedipal phase of development, but it differs from the heterosexual experience in that the love attachment is to the father rather than to the mother. It is at this point that the father becomes uncomfortable with his son and begins the hostile or withdrawing behavior. Most gay men would deny this original erotic attachment to their fathers. This is apparently a natural aversion response children, straight and gay, have to incest. Rejection by the father is very confusing to a young gay child.

Gay sons have been accused throughout history as being mama's boys. Society shifts as much blame on the mother as on the father for raising a gay son. The mothers of gay sons are viewed as dominating, doting and castrating women. Popular belief has it that these women squelch the masculinity out of these boys so much that they do not know how to behave as men. It is also believed that gay men are afraid of women as a result of the behavior of their mothers.

Any way one looks at it, the mothers of gay sons are condemned by society, as much as, the fathers. It is no wonder that parents of gay sons feel a tremendous amount of shame when they discover that their child is gay. They are very much aware of how society will view them as parents. In many instances, they feel shame and anger over the child's admission of being gay which they direct to the child. Often they feel as failures having let their child and family down and that they have caused this to happen in some way.

If it were true that gay men had such oppressive mothers, they would probably not be able to handle relationships with women of any kind because of having projected the bad part of their mothers onto them. However, many gay men are able to seek out and enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships with women. As a result, gay men have long been fervent supporters of women's rights. In a recent survey of 312 homosexual men three quarters of them had at least 1 heterosexual experience since puberty and 98 of those men were either married or living with a female lover for three months or longer (McWhirter & Mattison, 1984, p. 270).

In reality, the mother becomes the only ally the child has when the father rejects him. A mother may or may not be able to sense the child's latent homosexuality, but she can clearly recognize when the father is rejecting or hostile to the child. For these reasons, the mother may find herself defending the gay child in front of the father more often than she might with the other heterosexual children in the family. It is only common sense that if the child has been rejected by the father, he would seek out his mother for the attention he could not receive from his father. In many cases, it is actually the mother who requests that the son not tell the father. Although this may appear on the surface as a manipulation of the mother to distance the father from the son, in reality, the mother has been witness to the hostility of the father and in most cases is probably trying to protect the son from further assault and harm from the father.

If environmental causes are paramount for the creation of a gay child, then we would expect to see evidence of such a belief by a high rate of homosexuality in the other children who are growing up in the same environment. This has not turned out to be the case. Out of a study of 312 gay men, only two and a half percent of the siblings were known to be gay (McWhirter & Mattison, 1984, p. 182). That is one half to one quarter of the estimated percentage of gay people in the general population, which is estimated to be somewhere between 7% and 10% of the population. Such widely held beliefs beg the question, if environment is the cause, why are all of the children within this type of family not gay? Such a question seems to expose the unreasonableness of these archaic beliefs.

These kinds of experiences can be very damaging to a developing gay boy. As the child grows up and develops into an adult, the models he has had for relationships have been fraught with hostility, rejection and shame. The child now leaves the home, and hopefully at some point acknowledges his homosexuality and may desire to enter into a relationship with another man.

In conclusion, the hostility of the father and the protection of the mother are the result of the parents' reactions to the child's latent homosexuality rather than the cause of the child's gay orientation. It is the dysfunctional family constellation that pathologizes his future love relationships. However, a gay man who has experienced a tumultuous childhood, can overcome his liabilities of the past and enjoy a rich, fulfilling and healthy love relationship as can any human being.¨


Clark, D. (1978). Loving someone gay. New York: New American Library.

Isay, R. (1989). Being homosexual: Gay men and their development. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

Lewes, K. (1988). The psychoanalytic theory of male homosexuality. New York: Simon and Schuster.

McWhirter, D. & Mattison, A. (1984). The male couple. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Beebe, J. (1993, March). The individuation of homosexuality. Unpublished lecture, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpinteria, CA.

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Kirkepiscatoid said...

Hell, to the right wing fundies, the article might as well been written by Anton LeVey (sigh)....

Leslie Littlefield said...

Thanks for this post Leonardo. My nephew is having a rough time with the passing of Prop 8. It makes me so sad to watch. Thank goodness he has a supportive family who love him as God made him.
The picture of the dogs is awesome!
My daughter and I love dogs. We have a Standard Poodle and a Toy too.
Many Blessings...

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Thanks Leslie, I have two more a mixed Peekaneese that I inherited from a old friend who passed away and another a Minature Snowzer who comes for extended visits when her mother(s) are traveling (which is often)...our house is filled with the sound of chirping birds during the day as we have around 30 Love Birds and Parakeets (we keep giving them as gifts and they keep reproducing) we´re going to the Lake for the´s gorgeous there...see you Sunday Night...we have a caretaker come in to take care of the pets here.

Cany said...

I guess what is remarkable to me is that anyone viewing their own progeny as somehow "defective" because they are gay is downright odd.

But I guess this is the same thing that happens when Patty Hearst ends up advocating a radical tract or when a child of a wealthy family walks away from the wealth or (worse... gasp) gives it away.

There was a time not so long ago that physicians performed a lobotomy on such people. Francis Farmer being one painful example. She was just too darned renegade and (horror) female, to boot.

Difference in society has never fared well until society finally understands what that difference is.

There is a huge group of people that don't understand, for instance, the diff between being a gay priest and a pedophile. And the church doesn't help explain it, either, because, remember, both are bad...

It ain't over for prop 8, in fact, it is just the beginning. Sometimes it takes an action like Prop 8 to force truth into the light.

And while those who are married suffer under this--their marriages facing annulment, legally, as some project--these are the very people who will rise to defend as they never have before.

I had a woman last night at church who is openly pro 8 say to me that it took no rights away. I said, well, what about my married gay friends. She looked very puzzled. She said, how are they married. I said sweetheart, they were married under California law and you just voted to reneg that.

She voted for it, emotionally, and didn't understand it legally. That is likely true with many.

We have a row to hoe, and there are those that worked REALLY hard for Obama that will now be taking this on. It will have an additional face and the trick will be to make surse that those that are harmed by this law and those that understand how to work a campaign successfully get along.

We progressives are famous for eating our young.

Leslie Littlefield said...

We are dog sitting this weekend. Besides our 2 poodles we have 2 doxies whose dads went away for the weekend and a mini schnauzer whose dads went to NY. We love to dog sit!!! Enjoy the lake...

It is amazing to me how many souls do not get it. People just do not understand that we are talking about human rights here. You are correct. It ain't over yet!

Tim said...

How crazy is it that I had to stop for a second to be sure I wasn't reading "Anton LeVey" in the first sentence? Thank God it was Simon!

It's a fascinating take on how family dynamics shape gay male personalities--a variation of the Oedipus complex with the dad as the latent object of desire. If this is true, it turns the "smother-mother" myth on its head to suggest her protective tendencies are a natural maternal reaction to her son's innate antagonism toward her as his chief rival. To some degree, this places the child as the unconscious source of family dysfunction, with both parents responding to his drives in inappropriate, unhealthy ways.

While we may accept this theory--just as we accept Freud's concept that hetero sons compete with their fathers for their mother's affection--I think we should be careful not to let it stigmatize gay boys as naturally disruptive, difficult family members. According to Freud, how well and how quickly straight boys work through their Oepidal conflicts is determined by the stability of the parental relationship.

It would be most interesting (and enlightening, I bet) if a researcher looked into what percentage of straight men vs. gay men failed to successfully resolve their parental attraction issues. How or what such a study would look like I have no idea. But my uneducated guess is that the numbers would be within a margin of error with each other, assuming the frequency of unstable parental relationships would be consistent for both groups.

But then again, it could also be significantly higher in gay men for one reason. Society and culture play enormous roles in the Oedipal complex as little boys leave their mothers' sides to attend school, etc., and often "fall in love" and "want to marry" one of the little girls they play with. This helps straight kids, but it confuses gay ones profoundly. And while I don't advocate burdening tots with a "love the one you're with" socialization policy, I do think until society as a whole and the people we trust with our children in particular learn to be sensitive to the emerging gay personality's needs and desires, the syndrome discussed in this article will persist--no matter how secure and accepting the child's parents are.

That's why I think we as gay adult men have to do everything in our power to present a legitimate, favorable image of who we are to the world. The harder we work at it, the easier it will be for those who come after us. As a species and a culture, we're naturally averse to change and perilously lazy about adaptation. This is what we've just seen in Prop 8. But we have to keep chipping away until the dam finally breaks and enough people learn to flow with better, healthier, and more just times.

Just my two cents... Thanks for the intriguing article!

Lynn said...


"As a species and a culture, we're naturally averse to change and perilously lazy about adaptation."

You shouldn't have hidden this gem at the end! Let us also add: naturally inclined to prove we are right, ignoring other possibilities as we dash through the stacks (oops, internet :-).

Leonardo, your dogs are beautiful. Those shiny coats and loving eyes say it all.

Tim said...

Brava, Lynn! I believe our compulsion to prove we're right is a fear-based thing and it's dangerously deceptive. In terms of the fight/flight construct, we think we're fighting for what's "right," when in fact we're running away from what we don't want to understand. A lot of the "holy boldness" we see in the world is really corrupt cowardice--neither holy nor bold. As my grandmother used to say, you can't be right and behave incorrectly at the same time.

Fred Schwartz said...

I just wanted to say sorry. I thought we had it made. I knew it was going t o be close but with the way that many of the general population voted I thought sure it would be okay. Turns out that many may have traded there vote. We will get it!!!