Is Sexuality A Choice?

Our sexuality is an integral part of the person we are. When wondering if a person can choose their sexuality, he or she is usually questioning whether they can choose or change their sexual attraction and orientation. Sexual orientation is how a person identifies in relation to what gender(s) they are attracted to. Differing sexual orientations include heterosexual or straight, homosexual or gay, bisexual or bi, and asexual. Today we use the initials LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual, and Trans – as a more inclusive abbreviation for what once was simply called ‘gay’. We are not yet sure why someone has a particular sexual orientation as opposed to another, but one thing is certain: we aren’t able to choose or control who we are attracted to. Experts think sexual orientation is influenced by a combination of environmental, emotional, hormonal, and biological factors, but no one is completely sure. Each person experiences different influences growing up and he or she is shaped by differing factors. There is no one thing that causes a person to be straight, gay, bisexual or asexual. It is part and parcel of life’s unfolding mystery. When people question choice in sexuality, they are most often referring to whether or not gay people choose to be gay. Very few people ask themselves if they ‘chose’ to be straight. Most straight people just take it for granted. If you identify as straight or heterosexual and have wondered if gay people choose to be gay, take a moment to consider the following questions: Is this just a phase you’re going through? – Since you never tried it, how do you really know you’re not gay? – When was the first time you realized that you might be straight? – What is your earliest memory of being straight? – Have you ever thought you might be confused regarding your sexuality? – Have you ever tried being with the same sex to see if you might like it? These are all common questions that people often ask gay people when they learn of their sexual orientation. To a straight person these questions might sound ridiculous. You might well have thought: “I never really realized I was straight–I just accepted it.” Some people may even feel offended at the suggestion that they try to be anything other than straight. If you felt offended by any of those questions, pause for a moment and consider how a gay person must feel when asked the same kind of things. A gay person can no more alter who they find themselves attracted to than can a straight person, and what valid reason is there why anyone should be expected to be anything other than they are? There are certain types of ‘therapy’ that promise to change a person’s sexual orientation; they are called ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion therapy’. The American Psychological Association (APA) and the British Psychological Society (BPS) has taken an official stand denouncing this kind of therapy. Both have categorically stated that there is no evidence that this sort of therapy is effective and it can lead some people to develop depression and suicidal tendencies. Instead of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation, it is much more healthy for him or her to learn how to come to terms with the way they respond to it. Here good counseling or an experienced therapist can offer guidance and support. Those close to the gay person–friends and family–who are struggling to come to terms with a person’s sexuality can find support through organizations such as PFLAG in the US, and FLAG in the UK. Check online for your nearest group. When it comes down to it, life is filled with diversity and difference. Sexuality is a simple reflection of this.

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