“There are so many interacting causes for sexual orientation that two different individuals can be gay for a different combination of reasons. Some people know at earlier ages than others. Some are bisexual rather than gay, some show more change over the course of their life. All this means that whenever someone comes up with a tag line like “we’re born that way”, they ultimately do everyone involved a disservice.” (Lisa Diamond, NS 25 July 2015 p18-19)
Lisa Diamond, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Utah was interviewed for the Opinion Interview in the 25 July issue of the New Scientist about her research on human sexuality. She had some interesting things to say.
Before looking at some of the points mentioned lets get out of the way that Diamond is on record as saying that her research does not support reparative therapy, and she has in the past been more than annoyed by groups that have misrepresented her findings to do just that. Diamond’s research examines sexual fluidity – “the capacity to experience attractions that run counter to your overall orientation.” Her earlier research looked at women. She is the author of the book “Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire”. She was interviewed by the Huffington Post in 2012 (see here and here). More recent research has looked at men (cited here).
I would recommend reading the NS interview. What I want to do with this post is to highlight several things brought out in the interview that may have relevance to the LDS church in handling LGB issues in the future, and which form an interesting back drop to the current BSA debacle.
- Whilst there are those who experience solely same sex attraction, the most common form of same sex attraction is a bisexual form.
- Increasing social acceptability correlates with an increasing number of people who identify as gay, and in particular as either bisexual or as heterosexual but having had same sex experiences.
- Studies show that same sex attraction in and of itself is not “contagious”, but social acceptance is, lowering the risks of acting on those attractions.
- The development of sexual identity is complex, involving both an underlying capacity, and environmental interactions (environment includes the prenatal environment).
- There is no evidence that a person’s closeness or otherwise to their mother or father has anything to do with it.
For a church that wants to show love towards LGB members, and which at the same time wants to promote a heterosexual norm of marriage to an opposite sex partner, this research would seem to pose something of a conundrum. It may be one reason for the reluctance to be seen as condoning LGB relationships in any way. A difficult line to walk.