“Baby, you were born this way.” As soon as Lady Gaga sang these words on her smash hit “Born This Way,” they became a rallying cry for gay people around the world, an anthem for sexual minorities facing discrimination.
In recent years, scientists have proposed various speculative biological bases for homosexuality but never settled on an answer. As researchers draw closer to uncovering an explanation, however, a new question has arisen: What if in some cases sexuality is caused by an identifiable chemical process in the womb? What if, in other words, homosexuality can potentially be prevented? That is one implication of one of the most widely accepted hypotheses thus far proposed. And if it’s true, it could turn out to be a blow for the gay rights movement.
Some of the strongest current evidence that some people are born gay is based on a phenomenon called the fraternal birth order effect. Several peer-reviewed studies have shown that men with older biological brothers are likelier to be gay than men with older sisters or no older siblings. The likelihood of being gay increases by about 33 percent with each additional older brother. From these statistics, researchers calculate that about 15 to 30 percent of gay men have the fraternal birth order effect to thank for their homosexuality.
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