Mustang Daily Staff Report
What makes a person gay, straight or bisexual?
Former Harvard neuroscientist Simon LeVay discussed the science behind sexual orientation during his presentation last night at Cal Poly’s Recreation Center as a part of Pride Month hosted by the Pride Center.
LeVay said the speech was an effort to educate people on discrimination and change attitudes about what it means to be gay, he said in an interview prior to the event.
“We need to create a world where people welcome gay people and value them for the difference they create in the world,” LeVay said.
LeVay’s extensive research in whether a person is born gay or if they become gay found concrete evidence that homosexuality is biological rather than a lifestyle choice. He said some people think it’s important to figure out what makes people gay before they decide about equal rights with marriage and other legal cases.
“Quite often we hear people say that when they learn that (being gay) is more of a born that way, they become sympathetic to gay people and support nondiscrimination or gay marriage,” LeVay said.
LeVay said as a homosexual, being gay is a central part of who the person is and that it’s an important part of their nature as a human being. With the Supreme Court currently tackling the controversial issue of whether to overturn California’s Proposition 8 as being unconstitutional, framing homosexuality as a biological outcome rather than a conscious choice can change the decision if gay people are entitled to rights, he said.
“I think the reason for discrimination in the states is that a lot of anti-gay feelings are tied up with conservative Christian feelings, that it’s something people have chosen to do to make themselves gay,” he said.
Pride Center intern and mathematics sophomore Brady Hiob said that as a homosexual, in the argument of nature versus nurture, nurture is false based on his own experiences.
“I don’t know who would choose to have segregation and prejudice,” he said. “If I would have had the choice, I wouldn’t have chosen to have all this prejudice against me, but I am grateful of who I am and I’ve been able to learn so much about myself.”
Hiob personally organized inviting LeVay to Cal Poly after he learned about LeVay’s research in a biology lecture. Hiob said he never had a solid answer on the reason behind sexuality; if it’s a choice to be gay or if it’s innate.
“I’m on the side of science,” Hiob said. “I guess I just wanted to let everyone know that that is the reason. I didn’t want people to think it’s a choice and wanted to push that onto campus.”
Hiob said he thinks Cal Poly’s campus is pretty open minded, but LeVay’s groundbreaking research from 1991 can bring a different perspective into the conversations about the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students and culture.
“It’s getting back down to the building blocks of it and why we are the way we are, rather than just discussing our culture,” he said. “Any sexual orientation is all related and there isn’t actually choice in there because you figure it out through experimentation. In college, you get to experiment because you’re around all these different people and your sexuality goes where your attraction lies.”
Hiob said the prevalence of the biological argument can help get cultural ideas about homosexuality to shift from the idea of being gay as a lifestyle choice. LeVay’s presentation and other events happening in April as a part of Pride Month are to inform and help people, Hiob said.
Alexandria Scott contributed to this staff report.