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Born This Way: Sexual Orientation or Preference?

An ongoing argument exists that spans the psycho-social-sexual-political-spiritual-legal spectrum. Is sexuality fixed at birth? Do we come into the world loving and being attracted to someone with the same or different “equipment” as our own? Planned Parenthood breaks the discussion down in a simple manner. According to the organization, “Recent research suggests that 11% of American adults acknowledge at least some same-sex attraction, 8.2% report that they’ve engaged in same-sex behavior, but only 3.5% identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.”

This is both a professional and personal issue for me. I am a therapist who works with clients all along the gender/sexuality spectrum. I have friends who self-identify in various and sundry ways as well. Throughout my life I have questioned my own relationship style, attractions and actions. I identify as a cis gender “heteroflexible” woman who was monogamously married to a man for nearly 12 years, until I was widowed at age 40 and whose partners have primarily been men and whose lovers have been both men and women (since my 20s).

I had some initial hesitation in sharing this information publicly until I realized that most people in my life either know already, wouldn’t be shocked at the information and would support my relational style. It would have no impact on my professional status since I have long been the go-to person at every place I have worked, for issues around sexuality. I am also an interfaith minister who marries both heterosexual and same sex couple. My own son has even encouraged my being open to a loving partner regardless of their “plumbing.”

I have read studies over the years that declare definitively that sexuality is determined genetically and is immutable. I have also read those that infer it is a choice. I have shaken my head at descriptions that imply male and female behavioral traits, choices of the toys they play with, the cultural interests they have, and fashion sense indicate who and how they will love. I know plenty of Gay men who are stereotypically masculine and Lesbians who are stereotypically feminine and vice versa.

Yesterday I found myself immersed in a celebration of identity, at one of several Pridefests happening in my area. This was in New Hope, PA which is considered a bastion of free speech and presentation. Imagine Key West on the Delaware River. Rainbow flags adorn many storefronts and restaurants so that people know it is an inclusive and welcoming place. I offered Free Hugs as the founder of Hugmobsters Armed With Love. On that day, I was also representing Free Mom Hugs founded by Sara Cunningham whose son came out to her a few years ago as a Gay man. This revelation brought her face to face with the doctrines of her Christian faith and cost her peace of mind, until she came to a sense of reconciliation of those two worlds; her love for her son and her love for the God of her understanding. Many women flooded the streets of town decked out in the t-shirts that identified them as a dispenser of hugs to replace the disapproval and rejection some face when they share the news with their families. So many thanked us with clinging hugs and tears. I was delighted to meet two families in particular. One included triplet teen daughters and their middle- aged mother. The other was a mother, grandmother, and an adolescent and tween sons. Not sure of the sexual identity of the girls in the first family, but in the second one, the mom told me that her older son had been afraid to come out to them even as accepting as they were.

I grew up in a home in which people were accepted for who they were, and the paradox was that in the culture in which I was raised, the disparaging term, “faygelah” (translates to little bird in Yiddish) was used frequently to refer to a Gay man. Somehow it implied that he was less manly as a result. There was no equivalent word for a woman.  It was never a consideration in my family that my sister or I could be anything other than heterosexual. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s and married for a few years that my husband dared me to tell my parents about my history. I told my mom first and although she said she didn’t understand the inclination she wasn’t rejecting me as a result. My father had a similar response and then I reminded him that he had been pen pals for years with a friend of mine who had been in a committed relationship and is long married to a woman. His response was “She isn’t my daughter,” as if it was somehow a parenting fail if I had revealed it to them before I had married my husband.

In conversation with a female friend who is married to a woman, we were musing about why it even matters whether the term ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘sexual preference’ is to be used; the former indicating brain wiring and latter implying choice. I then posited whether people were hardwired for one end of the spectrum or the other, or any number of notches in between. There are those who choose (and I do think of it as a choice) to hate, fear or reject someone because of their life/lovestyle, use the choice/chance/change paradigm to justify their own actions. I don’t think hatred and judgment are hardwired. I remember watching an episode of Glee a few years ago when a character came out to his father and he made a profound statement, questioning why a loving God would create him Gay only to condemn him for it.

Imagine a world that glorified homosexuality and demonized heterosexuality. Those who invoke heterosexual privilege would be well served to view this short film on the topic.

Born This Way: Sexual Orientation or Preference?

Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW

Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW is a journalist and interviewer, licensed social worker, interfaith minister, radio host and best-selling author.

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APA Reference
Weinstein, E. (2019). Born This Way: Sexual Orientation or Preference?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 May 2019 (Originally: 26 May 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 23 May 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.