Is Homosexuality “Unnatural”?

Spoiler alert: no.

First, let’s define “natural.” Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say:

  • “being in accordance with or determined by nature”
  • “having a specified character by nature”
  • “occurring in conformity with the ordinary course of nature : not marvelous or supernatural”
  • “existing in or produced by nature : not artificial”

For something to be “unnatural,” then, it would have to be the opposite of these things.

And now here are some facts about homosexuality:

  • Same-sex attraction exists among humans all over the world.
  • Although there’s no such thing as the “Gay Gene,” plenty of research has suggested that ties do exist between genetics and sexual orientation.
  • While some research has shown that one’s environment can influence their sexual orientation–for instance, a study showed that gay men report less positive interactions with their fathers than straight men–such factors aren’t exactly up to the individual to choose. (Also, one can’t really determine causation in cases like that.)
  • In general, psychological authorities agree that homosexuality is caused by an interaction of countless factors, usually develops in early childhood, and is not a choice.
  • There is no evidence that sexual orientation can be forcibly changed through “conversion therapy” or any other methods. (However, one’s orientation may be fluid and can sometimes change on its own over time, just like other types of sexual preference.)
  • Even animals can be gay! Homosexual behavior has been documented in tons of different animal species, such as penguins, pigeons, vultures, elephants, giraffes, dolphins, lizards, sheep, and, curiously, fruit flies and bedbugs. Bonobos, meanwhile, are almost entirely bisexual.

Compare this list to the definitions of “natural” above. Could it be that homosexuality is just a part of nature?

Some people like to claim that because homosexuality is “unnatural” because it’s maladaptive in terms of evolution–after all, how are you supposed to pass on your genes if you can’t have biological offspring?

First of all, for various reasons that I may elaborate in a future post, I don’t believe we need to let evolutionary concerns dictate our behavior. Second, there are plenty of other conditions that people are born with that aren’t evolutionarily adaptive–albinism, for instance. Nobody goes around railing about how albino people are “unnatural.” (Except perhaps in parts of Africa, where the condition is heavily stigmatized. But it goes without saying that what happens to albino people in some cultures is deplorable.)

That’s not even to mention the fact that, last I checked, it’s not anybody’s business whether or not particular individuals want to pass their genes on to the next generation or not.

The reason I’m writing about all of this is because homosexuality’s supposed “unnaturalness” is a common justification given by bigots for why they oppose gay rights. (For some examples, see here, here, and here.) As usual, however, their arguments have nothing to do with the meaning of the word “natural” or with current research on homosexuality. (At least among Christians, the idea that homosexuality is “unnatural” comes from bible verses such as Leviticus 18:22, which refers to same-sex relations as an “abomination.” There’s a vague line of reasoning if I ever heard one.)

Therefore, I wish they’d just give the real reason they don’t support gay rights–that they don’t like gay people, don’t wish to examine why they feel this way, and would rather the LGBT community just shut up and stop making their lives so difficult.

7 thoughts on “Is Homosexuality “Unnatural”?

  1. Great article! Just one thing – and you may have implied this – but for what it’s worth, a significant number of Christians disagree with the literalist interpretation of scripture often used to discriminate against the LGBT community. I only say this because I spent a long time (and wasted a significant amount of emotional energy) thinking that I had to make an impossible decision – accept being gay and abandon a religion that was and is a large part of my life, or hide being gay in order to fit into a skewed idea of what Christianity is. It turns out I didn’t have to decide between being Christian and being gay. Realizing that earlier would have saved me from a lot of mental distress.

    And it’s not just a small group of liberal, gay Christians who don’t believe the Bible condemns homosexuality. Though it’s only one example, the mainline Protestant church I attend in Evanston is gay-affirming, even though the vast majority of the congregation is straight.

    I know you probably already realize this. I just think it’s important to emphasize that Christianity and homosexuality are not mutually exclusive.

    • That’s a great point, and thanks for making it! Even just statistically speaking, it’s pretty clear that many Christians support gay rights–around two-thirds of Americans identify as Christian and slightly over half of Americans support marriage rights for same-sex couples, so there’s obviously overlap.

      That also makes me think of the University Christian Ministry on campus. I’ve seen them with shirts that say something like “Gay? Fine by me.”

      Anyways, I’m glad you’ve found a way to affirm both your religion and your orientation, especially at a (relatively) young age. 🙂

  2. Ah this is good. It would have come in very handy last week when I got called in for backup by a friend battling this very attitude from someone on fb (she’s a lesbian and had posted a cartoon critical of biblically-based arguments against gay marriage and a guy had jumped in with comments about homosexuality being “unnatural” and needing to be “cured” etc.). Maybe I’ll track down the thread and add a link to this post.

  3. Pingback: Are Gays Worse Than Murderers? Absolutely, According to Former Bush Administration Official | Firebrand Progressives

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