In need of a 250 word response/discussion to each of the following forum posts. Agreement/disagreement/and/or continuing the discussion.
Original forum discussion/topic post is as follows:
Gender identity and sexual orientation are believed to be the result of both biological and environmental components. Select either gender identity or sexual orientation and discuss the possible biological components involved. Support your explanations with the references to concepts, theory, and research from your readings and learning this week.
Include in your discussion:
- What are possible biological contributions to gender identity or sexual orientation?
- What are possible environmental issues that may be involved in gender identity or sexual orientation?
- What effect do human values have on research in the area of human sexuality?
forum post response #1
There are a lot of words and terms now used to help describe people’s sexuality, such as sex, biological sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. This response will focus on sexual orientation within the context of both biological and environment components. The term sexual orientation is about whom an individual is emotionally, sexually, and/or amoroursly attracted to. The person can be drawn: to the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, both sexes and genders, or – in some rare cases – none of the above (asexual), with a completely absent sexual orientation.
There are possible biological contributions to sexual orientation. LeVay (2011) asserted there is an abundance of scientific evidence, which proves that sexual orientation is the result of interrelationships between genes, sex hormones, and cells in the developing human body and brain. In fact, researchers were able to confirm quite some time ago that sexual orientation had a heritable genetic component. Then, later, other scientists discovered genetic variations in men that were linked with their chosen sexual orientation, confirming that sexual orientation does have a genetic biological contribution. Regarding contemporary genetics studies into sexual orientation, research continues to also explore epigenetics changes. Still other researchers provided convincing evidence that prenatal hormones determined what the individual’s sexual orientation will be when he or she becomes an adult. This issue, however, is viewed as being both environmental/biological. Still more researchers provided evidence about neural features, especially with the ventral striatum (a main part of the basal ganglia, connected with the reward system), which correlates with sexual orientation in women (Safron, Klimaj, Sylva, Rosenthal, Li, Martin, & Bailey, 2018).
Scientists additionally continue to research into environmental factors and sexual orientation. There is, however, a tentative consensus: research conclusions remain hazy. Some of the possible environmental factors investigated include: unresolved issues with one parent or the other; men or women in an environment that has no access to the opposite sex (such as prison); early childhood experiences; parental divorce; urbanization; child sexual abuse victimization; media; and even specific familial factors, which researchers viewed as being crucial for all traits (Bailey, Dunne, Martin, & Diener, 2000). It is important to point out that many of these environmental factors are still viewed as being highly controversial. Things get even more controversial from there. A few years ago, Italian scientist Gian Palo Vanoli announced his findings that vaccines were causing homosexuality in developing children. Vanoli blamed the substance mercury, as well as other vaccine ingredients, for creating small scale autism (Queer Voices, 2013). In turn, according to Vanoli, this inhibits the child’s natural development, specifically, his or her efforts to find his or her own personality (Queer Voices, 2013). The rest of the scientific community has largely dismissed Vanoli’s conclusions.
There are a number of human factors and values, which impact research into this area of human sexuality. First, segments of the LGBT community passionately oppose any further discussion of the sexual orientation nurture argument, favoring – instead – the idea they are “born this way” (not a choice (nature)). An example of this was the sharp criticism of two John Hopkins Medicine psychiatrists by the LGBT, after the two doctors announced there was no scientific evidence that people are born gay or transgender (McDaniels, 2017). The community adopted this position in order to ensure legal equality. In opposition, the Christian Right traditionally views the insertion of the topic of sexual orientation, no matter its causes, into society as an open threat to its beliefs and, ultimately, its authority (Macgillivray, 2008). Regarding the latter, interestingly enough, religious orientation certainly serves as one of many possible contexts involved in individual sexual orientation development (Worthington, 2004). Therefore, sexual orientation is well rooted within the moral convictions learned, embraced, and/or rejected by individuals; potentially causing conflicts between sexuality and socio-religiosity (Worthington, 2004). This is not, of course, isolated to Christianity; but also includes followers of Judaism, Islam, and other religions to boot.
Peer-reviewed scientific research, particularly, psychology research, continues to be “agnostic”, with no hidden agendas served. Psychologists want to comprehend the world around them, while also understanding people’s thoughts and behaviors. Accordingly, psychologists want to also understand how sexual orientation is manifested because their concern is with people’s well being. In spite of a great deal of research already transpired and research ongoing, sexual orientation is still not completely understood.
Forum post response #2
Choose: Gender identity
It is common to confuse gender identity with sexual orientation/preference or sexual actions. Gender identity is the concept of personal beliefs about one’s gender. The sex of an individual is considered labeling (“female” or “male”) by medical professionals, based on one’s genetic chromosomes and genitalia; however, this information is annotated on legal documentation, which is considered binding (i.e. birth certificate and vital statistics) of an individual’s biological characteristics. This makes it challenging, as gender is more of a cultural and societal perspective, yet still labeled, to those who may have different biological and cognitive perspectives about their own identity (Wu, 2016). Furthermore, the issue is more complicated than just labels. In addition to legal and identity concerns, the conceptualization of gender identity faces challenges of societal acceptance, expression of representation, personal struggles (i.e. physiological, mental, cognitive, etc.), values/ethics/morality, and conformity.
Polderman et al. (2018) concludes that biological contributions to gender identity are predicated on “multifactorial complex traits with a heritable polygenic component” (para. 1). Meaning, the reason for gender identity can be correlated to genetic traits that are controlled by various factors, which could be physiological and/or environmental. Polygenic genes are similar to the concept of multifactorial genetics, but includes specific characteristics to considered (i.e. height, skin color, eye color, etc.). In the late 1990s, scientists discovered that anatomic brain activity between transsexuals and nontranssexuals played a role in gender identity (Cohen-Kettenis & Cooren, 1999). However, McLeod (2014) believes there’s no differentiation between sex and gender; it’s predominately based biological sex, which is indicative of “gendered behavior” (para. 5). Vilain (2010) claims there isn’t any significant research that is convincing to definitively state biology is a common factor in gender identity. Although there was research he reviewed that found fetal exposure to a special chemical can have an effect on brain development that’s linked to gender role behavior. Nonetheless, he concludes there is research that suggests biology and environmental elements are major factors in gender identity.
Possible environmental factors show that parental upbringing and involvement on how children should behave (based on how female and male behavior), played vital roles with gender identity (Lee & Houk, 2005). It common for household to raise children based on what’s considered “gender roles” and responsibilities. Burri, Cherkas, Spector, and Rahman (2011) claim the responsibility for environmental influences are based on childhood gender typicality and adult gender identity theories, stating in their research, a single latent variable by common non-shared environment factor could be accountable gender identity influences. Additionally, there’s societal influences and how others deem those who have gender identity issues. In the twenty-first century, one’s gender identity perspective has been accepted more than it would have been 20 years ago, but there’s a large part of society that still struggles with it based on traditional values, personal believes, discrimination, or simply not understanding it.
Human values play a huge role in learning about human sexuality. Today, discussing the topic seems taboo and Americans still aren’t comfortable speaking about it publicly (i.e. sexual conservation). On the contrary, there’s people who believe it’s fine to discuss human sexuality and believe that the more the public knows, there’s increased awareness and education on the matter. Not to mention the groups that are totally fine with their sexuality and don’t care to express it freely, regardless of criticism and/or share (i.e. sexual liberalism). Though human sexuality can have a biological or environmental influence, it’s more of concern about what’s considered socially and conservatively accepted.
Forum post response #3
For this week’s forum topic I have chosen to discuss sexual orientation. This choice immediately caught my eye because I have a few close friends who are homosexual, and I honestly believe environment has nothing to do with sexuality. I believe the only except that environment would have on a person’s sexuality would be if they chose to hide their sexual orientation due to feeling they would be ostracized, however hiding how they feel is not the same as having an effect on it. I tried to find evidence contradicting my belief, yet the best I could find was a 2006 study by Danish epidemiologist Morten Frisch and statistician Anders Hviid. In their study, they had over 2,000,000 participants, and showed, “Being born in urban settings increased the probability of homosexual marriage and decreased the probability of heterosexual marriage. Frisch and Hviid noted, ‘our study may be the first to show that birth place or some correlate thereof influences marital choices in adulthood.’” However, this does not mean environment has anything to do with sexuality, all if shows is that if one lives in an urban setting they will probably feel more secure in following what they feel and being able to marry a member of the same sex. Who one chooses to marry is quite different than one’s true sexuality in many cases, as it is not unusual for homosexuals to choose opposite-sex partners to marry because they feel it is more accepted (Throckmorton, 2006).
It has been found that homosexuality does tend to run in families, thus showing that genetics and biological contributors due have a link in one’s sexuality. This should not be surprising, as genes literally make up who a person is, although one’s environment will also help to shape the person they become. If an individual is born homosexual, however, their environment will not be able to change that, although it could shape how they feel about it and whether they choose to be open about it. Interestingly, there has even been a discovery of what is, very un-politically correctly, referred to as the “gay gene.” “DNA studies have identified the general location of at least one “gay gene.” The maternal heritability of male homosexuality narrowed the region where such a gene must reside to the X chromosome, because sons get this chromosome from their mother,” (Biological basis of sexual orientation, 1995).
Human values play a considerable role in research on homosexuality for a number of researchers. Because homosexuality is a controversial topic for many, it can be difficult for some scientists to compose fair and accurate studies that will not skew the results that they may be looking for. For example, in 1968 homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder. This listing, of course, skewed the belief in many people’s minds that homosexuality was something that could be cured, or at least repressed through medication and therapy. It was not until 1987 that homosexuality was reversed, and the label of mental disorder was removed, but for many, the stigma still remained. When it comes to studying homosexuality, one must be able to remove their own thoughts, feelings and beliefs on the matter and only rely on scientific methods to garner results, otherwise their own human values could very easily play more of a roll in their research than the research itself (Burton, 2015).