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Homosexuals are oft criticized for their sexuality to which they would say they are just not attracted to the member of the opposite sex and that it's the other way round.

So, is this attraction to member's of the same-sex a (by-birth) psychological illness (that could be treated), a natural disposition, or just voluntary choice?

Or maybe something else?

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    $\begingroup$ Just because someone is born with an unusual trait (with its own pros and cons) doesn't mean it's an illness - you wouldn't say that being short is an illness, even though it prevents you from reaching the apples in the tree. $\endgroup$ – user6682 Oct 21 '14 at 10:03
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding voluntary choice, do you believe you could choose to be attracted to someone of the same sex as you? $\endgroup$ – Justas Aug 25 at 23:27
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Freud (1905) believed that every human was innately bisexual, and that monosexuality (i.e. hetero- or homosexuality) is a result of internal and external influences during psychological maturation.

Currently, the question of a biological, e.g. genetic or uterine, cause of non-heterosexual sexual orientation is still a subject of research and has not yet led to any conclusive results. Until that question has been answered with some level of certainy, we simply do not know whether homosexuality is a natural variety of sexuality or a deviation from an inborn disposition through influences after birth. (Wikipedia summarizes the research well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biology_and_sexual_orientation)

What you must differentiate is homosexual behavior, which can appear in heterosexual individuals such as experimenting adolescents or prisoners, and homosexuality, which is a preference for same-sex partners, which might not show up in behavior at all. Historically, many homosexuals led heterosexual lives, marrying, mating with and procreating with opposite-sex partners, despite a contrary sexual preference.


  • Freud, S. (1905). Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie. Leipzig: Deuticke.
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    $\begingroup$ Freud was wrong about nearly everything no one cites him anyone $\endgroup$ – user3832 Feb 2 '14 at 2:53
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with user3832. Freud is mentioned in textbooks because of his contributions to the Cognitive Sciences while it was in its infancy, not because of the validity of his theories. So I'm sure of the point of putting that at the top of your answer, when it's more of a curious footnote. $\endgroup$ – 6628 Jul 14 '15 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ I arranged my answer in chronological order, as is the convention in scientific overviews. Many of Freud's contributions still stand today, such as the unconscious, which neuropsychologists study today, or many of the psychological defense mechanisms, which have been shown to exist, or transference and countertransference, a concept that even cognitive behavioral therapists work with nowadays. You shouldn't blindly repeat the opinions of the ignorant, but actually study the reception of psychoanalysis today. $\endgroup$ – user3116 Jul 15 '15 at 6:12
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It never should have been considered an illness. Homosexuality was at one time viewed as a psychological illness from DSM-I in 1952 to the 7th printing of DSM-II in 1974. Psychologist corrected themselves and it is no longer viewed as an illness.

Homosexuality can happen as a result of scarcity and sexual drive. (as such often happens in prisons) It can also happen as a single sexual desire; those having no desire to have sex with the opposite gender. Most of the time it is present from birth but things can happen in someones life to cause them to have homosexual desires.

All attempts to "treat" homosexuality have failed as conversion therapy works only for those who are extremely religiously motivated and causes harm to those individuals. Abstinence works for both homosexuals and hetrosexuals who find conflict with their sexuality but autonomic functions eventually force the body to be somewhat sexual.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is an appeal to authority, not an answer to the question. $\endgroup$ – 6628 Jul 14 '15 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ "Homosexuality can happen as a result of scarcity and sexual drive." No. Homosexual sex is not the same thing as homosexuality. Homosexuality is an orientation. Sex is a behavior. Heterosexuals can and do under certain circumstances engage in homosexual sex, just as homosexuals can and do under certain circumstances engage in heterosexual sex. $\endgroup$ – Lee Woofenden Jul 16 '15 at 17:12
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Disclaimer, we're in the fuzzy zone of psychology where nothing is certain, only likely to be certain, and "likely" is not that close to 100%.

Is homosexuality ...

  1. A psychological illness? No (although what's an "illness" is itself fuzzy, see female hysteria).
  2. A natural disposition of a person? To some extent.
  3. A voluntary choice? Probably not.
  4. Something else? Partly.

See a recent paper published in Science. It studied 477,522 US & UK participants and is the largest study performed to date. Its conclusions are, homosexuality is caused by multiple genes and "something else", with the former accounting for less than a third of the effect. The "something else" remains to be explored, but the obvious candidate is environmental factors, such as cultural norms.

If the Science paper is too dense to be understood, there are various summaries in the popular media such as this one.

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