Read the full article at USA Today.
For decades, “born this way” has been the rallying cry of the mainstream gay rights movement, a simple slogan cited as the basis for both political change and cultural acceptance.
Gay rights advocates used it to make the case for legal equality. Allies declared it when standing in solidarity. Lady Gaga in 2011 released her triumphant gay anthem "Born This Way" and that same year co-founded the Born This Way Foundation, which this very week is the beneficiary of a set of Starbucks drinks.
Getting America to believe that people are born gay — that it’s not something that can be chosen or ever changed — has been central to the fight for gay rights. If someone can’t help being gay any more than they can help the color of their skin, the logic goes, denying them rights is wrong. But many members of the LGBTQ community reject this narrative, saying it only benefits people who feel their sexuality and gender are fixed rather than fluid, and questioning why the dignity of gay people should rest on the notion that they were gay from their very first breath.
Human sexuality is incredibly complicated, and there are limitations to what science can tell us.
“The science of whether sexual orientation is biological is pretty sparse and full of disparate, mixed and unreplicated findings,” said Sari van Anders, a professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Michigan who studies how social behavior affects testosterone in men and women. “So that is one reason why there is a lot of confusion about it. Because a study will come out that says ‘This gene!’ And then another study will say ‘Oh, we didn’t find that same gene, but we found this gene.’”
An important reason why the science on sexual orientation is limited, van Anders says, is that the ways in which scientists define sexual orientation for the purposes of their studies — who counts as gay, who counts as lesbian, who counts as bisexual — assumes we can draw bright lines, when we can't. Are you gay if you have same-sex desire, but never act on it? What if you’re a man who has had sex with other men, but you're married to a woman and don’t identify as gay?