By Kolbe Franklin.
In recent years the rhetoric of “born this way,” as a model for understanding sexual orientation, has become normalized in public discourse. From Lady Gaga’s famed song, to polls that indicate that most Americans today feel that homosexuality is biological, sexual orientation is largely understood as an intrinsic, core identity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this perspective is only gaining more support. A 2015 Gallup poll shows that from 1978 to 2015 the percent of adults who claim that homosexuality is something a person is born with increased from 13% to 51% (Jones 2015).
This view has been gaining social, as well as academic, momentum since the 1980s when scientific findings from a variety of disciplines appeared to give legitimacy to the notion that sexual identity was innate, stable, and foundational to a person’s identity. This model, defined as biological essentialism, maintains that same-sex sexual identity has roots in either a person’s genes, brain, or exposure to prenatal hormones. Based on these biological factors, as gay children develop, their same-sex sexuality manifests in a linear fashion, beginning with “‘feelings of differentness’ and progressing through gender atypicality, nascent same-sex attractions, and experimental same-sex behavior” (Diamond 2007: 142). It is assumed that this path ends with the adoption of a gay, lesbian, or bisexual identity, after which, no further changes in identity will occur. Notably, this model positions individuals with same-sex sexual attractions and behaviors as specific “types” of people. Continue reading