Dr. Cynthia Chappell discusses the history and present state of the Nature vs. Nurture argument.
Dr. Chappell is the mother of a gay son and has investigated the research conducted about the science of sexual orientation. What she shares is not her original research but a synthesis of the findings of confirmed scientific studies.
Choice or No Choice Debate
From as recent as the 1980s there was a belief that people were born with no sexual preference and that life experiences were the determining factors that led to a particular sexual orientation. Sigmund Freud’s idea that humans are born as blank slates was the foundation of this belief and it was accepted by the general population. His ideas about experiences shaping behaviors were overgeneralized.
- Neutrality at Birth
- Animal Studies
- Sigmund Freud
Case of David Reimer
The case of David Reimer in the 1970s involved a twin boy that was surgically reassigned as female following an unsuccessful surgery to remove his foreskin. He was raised as a female and the attending physician reported that the child developed and retained through his childhood all the traits one would expect of a child raised as a female. This report supported the belief that gender could be determined by the way in which one was raised, validating the “blank slate” theory.
Twenty-five years later, these reports were found to not be true and at age 14 David Reimer threatened to commit suicide if he was not allowed to live as male. It was only then that his parents told him of the surgical issues of his infanthood. The prior claims were retracted by the very media that had previously touted the success.
Other cases similar to the case of David Reimer were used as follow-up cases and found similarly that sexual identification did not change when early sex reassignment surgeries had occurred. Sexual orientation cannot be changed by social influences or surgery. Studies emerged in the late 1990s that indicated that influences from hormones impacted sexual orientation during pregnancy.
American Academy of Pediatrics
Because of the findings of these newer studies and understandings that emerged, the medical and psychological professions recommended that the sex of a child not be changed and that past deceptions be undone.
Biological Variations – Continuum of Sexuality
All human characteristics have a normal variation. Whether we are looking at height, weight, eye color, or sexual orientation, normal variations occur for all traits.
Review of Section 202
What are your thoughts? What questions do you still have?