Born This Way? Born That way?

By: Carol Rood

We are all born a certain way. With a certain genetic code that decides what color hair we will have, how tall we will be, how stout. It tells us what color eyes we will have -hazel, green, brown or blue. Or in the case of my friend Tanja, one blue and one brown. Actually, Tanja has one blue eye and her other eye is half brown and half blue. Our DNA decides if we will be born with all of our body parts and brains fully functioning, or if we are missing a chromosome, or piece of DNA, it decides if we will have Down’s Syndrome, or autism, or any number of other genetic birth defects.

That being said, what about gender and sex? Of course we know our gender and sex are determined by our DNA. But what about sexual orientation?

Many will say that people CHOOSE to be gay or straight. Others say they are born gay or straight. I am not a scholar and I have not done enough research to determine if the scientific data supports either theory. All I can tell you is what people have told me.

I wrote last week about how I was a guest on a panel of LGBT people for a class at church. Our church teaches sexuality classes using a curriculum called Our Whole Lives. It is a wonderful curriculum that is age appropriate and divided into age groups such as 4-5 grade, 7-9 grade, 10-12 grade as well as adult classes. We are currently teaching a 7-9 grade class, and there is a session that is a guest panel of LGBT people. This is the final session of those discussing sexual orientation, gender, and stereotypes. I invited a young man who is 19 and came out as a gay male the summer before his senior year of high school, a young lady who came out a few weeks ago (she is a senior in high school) and a young man who is a senior and who has not completely come out yet, just to some friends. I decided I would put myself on the panel as a “back up” in case any of the young people didn’t show up. I prefer to have young people on the panel because they relate well to 7-9 grade kids.

It was prior to that class that I had the discussion about exactly what my sexuality is and one of the people I was talking to told me about Pansexuality.

I was very intrigued by what one of the guests on the panel had to say when he told his story. I am going to call him “GQ Dude”. If you have ever seen the handsome men on the cover of that magazine, you will get the picture. GQ Dude is 19 years old. He is very handsome and is NOTHING like a stereotypical gay male. He is athletic. He is not flamboyant at all. As a matter of fact he is not someone I would ever guess is gay if I were to meet him for the first time. I actually knew who this young man was, because he dated my best friend’s daughter for a short time a few years ago. His family lives in my neighborhood. I had never met him personally, but I knew his mom and dad.

GQ Dude was kind enough to come to the GLBT panel for my 7-9 graders, and he told us his story. He told us that after years of trying to fool himself by dating lots of young ladies, he came out the summer before his senior year. He said his friends all but abandoned him, and the church where his family had been worshiping for years turned their backs on him. He was told he was “going to hell”, and that they could “love him, but not his sin.”

He told us about how he spent weeks inside the house because his friends would not speak to him or answer his calls. He felt alone, betrayed, and abandoned. All because he decided to be honest about who he is.

It was at that point that he stopped himself, and said, “You know, I hear people say that gay people choose to be gay, but I am here to tell you that is not true. Why would I choose this lifestyle? Choose being discriminated against? Choose a lifestyle that made my friends and church family abandon me? Choose an orientation where I can’t even walk down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand? Who would choose that? Nobody would.”

GQ Dude articulated the thoughts that I believe MANY GLBT people have had. Why in the world would we CHOOSE to be born that way? A life of discrimination, ridicule, and being treated differently? A life where you can’t have a legally binding civil union or marriage (or whatever term you prefer to use) in most of the 50 states in this country. A lifestyle where you get bullied and picked on in school.

These are questions that anyone who believes that being gay is a choice should ask themselves. It would be much easier to be heterosexual. I think GQ Dude is absolutely right! You go dude!

Or, as my friend Lady GaGa says,


  1. says

    Great post Carol and I am so glad the church has someone like you on their panel and teaching equality with an open mind and fair presentation and most importantly real kids. That is fabulous. Should be more churches like yours.

  2. says

    There’s good evidence that sexual orientation is at the very least in part heritable (usually on the mother’s side, oddly). I do have to take issue with the idea that gender is genetic, however. Gender is very much a socially constructed issue, with the meaning of “male” and “female” varying widely across cultures and time, and in some cultures as many as 5 genders are recognized. Sex is more cut and dry, but even that can be fairly plastic, and influenced by the environment, especially prenatal environment. Always a good topic, and one that I wish more people would listen to the data on.

  3. says


    Thank you so much, I completely agree! However, the good news is there ARE more churches like mine. The panel I and “GQ Dude” participated in is part of a Human Sexuality class for 7-9 graders called Our Whole Lives. It is a curriculum that was created by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Therefore it is taught in both of those denominations of churches on a regular basis!! Yay for teaching equality and enlightenment. :-)

  4. says


    Thank you for your comment and insight! I agree that gender is socially constructed. Maybe I should have said that sex is genetically coded. Whether you are male, female, intersexed or other, is decided by chromosomes. Thank you for keeping me on the right track. :-)

  5. says

    Hi, biologist and teacher here. I sometimes (often) can’t shut off the teacher part of my brain. :)

    Once you take an embryology and development class, especially one that discusses multi-generational effects and maternal environment, you wonder how on earth we’ve managed to decide that two sizes fits all. Throw in some endocrine disruptors, or teratogens, and WHOA! All bets are off the table and we see how plastic organisms can be.

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