Survey of over 200 peer-reviewed studies finds no biological basis for “sexual orientation”

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

There was a report published last year in the journal The New Atlantis, surveying all the peer-reviewed research that has been done on sexual orientation and gender identity.

This article from the Daily Signal explains what the report is about:

A major new report, published today in the journal The New Atlantis, challenges the leading narratives that the media has pushed regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Co-authored by two of the nation’s leading scholars on mental health and sexuality, the 143-page report discusses over 200 peer-reviewed studies in the biological, psychological, and social sciences, painstakingly documenting what scientific research shows and does not show about sexuality and gender.

The major takeaway, as the editor of the journal explains, is that “some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence.”

The report, “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” is co-authored by Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh. Mayer is a scholar-in-residence in the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and a professor of statistics and biostatistics at Arizona State University.

McHugh, whom the editor of The New Atlantis describes as “arguably the most important American psychiatrist of the last half-century,” is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was for 25 years the psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was during his tenure as psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins that he put an end to sex reassignment surgery there, after a study launched at Hopkins revealed that it didn’t have the benefits for which doctors and patients had long hoped.

These are serious people. Johns Hopkins is the top medical school in the USA, and probably in the whole world.

The Daily Signal article also lists the four main findings:

The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property—that people are ‘born that way’—is not supported by scientific evidence.

Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex—so that a person might be a ‘man trapped in a woman’s body’ or ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’—is not supported by scientific evidence.

Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. There is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.

Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. Discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.

The reason why we need to be guided by science in these matters, and not by ideology or feelings, is because of the harm we can do to children if we are not accurate:

Policymakers should be concerned with how misguided school policies might encourage students to identify as girls when they are boys, and vice versa, and might result in prolonged difficulties. As the report notes, “There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender.”

You should read the rest of the Daily Signal’s post, and if you want to go on and read the report, you can find that here on the New Atlantis journal’s web site.

I feel pretty comfortable talking about the same-sex marriage issue, having read several books and papers on that. I also have some background in gender identity disorder, and different things that happen to a child in the womb, and during their childhoods, that can affect that. But this transgender question is an area where I need to read more – this was not on the radar when I was exploring all this in the late 90s and early 2000s. I want to be able to discuss this as competently as I can discuss other social issues.

3 thoughts on “Survey of over 200 peer-reviewed studies finds no biological basis for “sexual orientation””

  1. McHugh is not someone for whom the pro-LGBT activist/enabler has much respect. His opposition, and nothing else it seems, makes his every pronouncement suspect to say the least. I wish there were more people of note who would support his positions publicly. Despite the help of Mayer, he pretty much stands alone and is commonly seen as a quack. His lone voice alone is all the evidence there is for this charge, but it is the case.

    No matter how accurate the McHugh/Mayer assessments of the many peer-reviewed studies, the activist/enablers need only the faintest hint to feel convicted that the facts are one their side. Loren Marks can show how the 59 studies claiming equal or better child outcomes from “gay” parenting are woefully flawed, and the activist will instead ignore that to castigate the Regnerus study that counters them. The pro-LGBT activist/enabler hears only what they want to hear, sees only what they want to see.


  2. In the sense the term “sexual orientation” is used by popular culture and politicians, there certainly is no biological basis for it. Biology is definitive about sex: Sexual species are “oriented” (physically, sexually) in such a way that requires a male and a female to reproduce. This is middle-school biology stuff.

    But I would go even further than to deny a basis for “sexual orientation”. I read an article from First Things several years ago called Against Heterosexuality ( Up until that point, I was aware that Christianity was opposed to same-sex acts, but I figured the whole nomenclature of homosexuality, heterosexuality, orientation, etc, was a real and scientifically demonstrable thing.

    I’m convinced now that even psychologically, there is no such thing as a “sexual orientation”. The term was originally useful as a placeholder mechanism to maintain Christian sexual ethics in regard to same-sex acts while dismissing the divine source of those ethics. It doesn’t and can’t serve any other purpose.

    Instead, what we see on the Left is a total abandonment of any structure and purpose whatsoever – human beings as utterly blank slates who can define themselves any way that they want. And thankfully, there’s a reassurance of the teleological view from the Right. It isn’t that someone has an “orientation”, but that someone is tempted to misuse their sexual organs for an evil purpose rather than for their intended purpose. What we have in so-called sexual orientation is nothing more or less than classical temptation, and everyone has their own.

    This doesn’t mean we can’t acquire temptations because of childhood trauma (which is how nearly every same-sex attracted person acquires it) or from other things. But it means at root that such desires are not part of our fundamental identity, nor can we change them as we please. We are ordered a certain way as human beings, and we have temptations that are disordered. We must fight these temptations. So there’s no such thing as a “gay man”. They can’t truly be oriented toward sexual attraction to other men, because they can’t engage in the act with men, by definition! Instead, these are men who are tempted to misuse their sexual organs. It’s like all other sin. And it means that same-sex attracted people are not in categories which are somehow united (as the term LGBT implies). There’s nothing material to their temptation which causes them to act or dress or talk in a certain way (that’s all cultural nonsense pushed by pop culture). They are just a bunch of people of all kinds with temptations to do a particular thing that is wrong. It’s actually pretty straightforward.


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