Why the ‘born this way’ approach to sexual orientation is failing

Suzanna Walters, the director of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Northeastern University and the author of the book The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions are Sabotaging Gay Equality, agrees—and believes our culture is at a tipping point, in which the “born this way” argument may even start to do more harm than good.

“Historically, biological arguments for identity are largely used in the service of quite heinous political movements like slavery, the Holocaust, and the history of racism,” she told me.

So it’s no shock that people who believe sexual orientation is biological may also harbor homophobic beliefs, she continued, because, on some level, they believe being gay is abnormal.

The “born this way” argument is problematic “because it presumes that there is something wrong there,” she said. “No one is looking for the straight gene. Why are straight people the way they are? We look for causes for things we already think are problems.”