I've been thinking about the "nature or nurture" debate in regard to myself a lot lately. I feel I have a somewhat unique experience to relate, but the experience has left me sitting on the fence with regards to homosexuality as a genetic trait or a learned behavior.
In the nature corner we have the following experiences:
The second memory I can recall (when I was three years old) was one of powerful attraction to an image of a man in a book. It must have been pretty overwhelming to impress itself that strongly in my tiny toddler brain.
I'm adopted, and I've met my very large birthfamily. My oldest birthsister is a lesbian, one of my brothers is gay and another brother is bisexual. That's four kids out of six, all raised in completely different environments (everyone was adopted out when I was born) who aren't all that straight.
Most every gay person I know (and I felt this way until I met my birth sibs in '94) sincerely feel they were "born that way". That love and sex with their own gender felt far more natural to them than the same feelings and actions towards the other gender.
In the nurture corner we have the following experiences:
I played doctor as a little boy. A lot. With members of both genders. I always got busted by a parent when with a girl, but as chance would have it, my escapades with other boys were never found out. When discovered with girls, there was usually a lot of negative reinforcement (ie, the opportunities for me to be alone with a girl were removed) that what I was doing wasn't right for someone my age. Since I had no kind of message like that in my experience with boys, who's to say this didn't tip the scales for me?
My two brothers from my birthfamily? They, and a third brother, were all adopted into the same home (rare, but it happens). The father in that family sexually molested them from day one. In honest discussion with the three, they all admitted as to how what happened felt good even though they knew it was wrong. They then propagated their father's behavior with their friends, and continued having sex with guys on into adulthood. I find most guys who've been exposed to some sort of same-sex contact early in life tend to be more, uh, non-gender-selective when choosing a sex partner, no matter the circumstances of that initial contact, good or bad.
My sister has also spent most of her life in some form of correctional facility, and has had extremely limited contact with men. Prison sex is overwhelmingly homosexual, since one of one's own gender is often the only choice available.
Some days, that second memory of mine hits me, and it's so strong that I just can't believe it's not genetic in nature. But that feeling will be balanced out a few days later by the image of my parents towering over me, telling me what I did with my (female) friend was wrong, dirty, disgusting, and evil. I recall the sheer terror they instilled in me (not to mention, often losing a female friend over it), and it's very easy for me to understand how a mind, if crafty enough, could continue a certain disapproved behavior, but ensure that the chance of discovery is minimized by selecting partners and circumstances far from the baleful parental eye.
Thus, I'm forced to conclude that even with all the evidence I've accrued in my life, it's still too close to call.
Saige: I propose that one's genes make up the source code of the program of a human being, while their life experiences (including those while in the womb) make up the bug fixes and the patches. To me, the two are inseparable.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. :-)