The brain's role
in sexual orientation
by James Olson
It is somewhat ironic that with so many scientists trying to understand what causes same-sex attraction, a major find was made by accident while doing research for a book that examines how brain dominance affects human behavior. I like to think this insight into sexual orientation illustrates the power of whole-brain thinking, the subject of my book.
Here is what I found: There are four primary sexualities, not two: left-brain-dominant men, right-brain-dominant men, right-brain-dominate women, and left-brain-dominant women. Basically, each sex comes in two models, according to which brain hemisphere is running the show.
This understanding came about while examining a pair of lists I had created detailing the differences between left- and right-brain perspectives (what we see) and processes (what we do – behavior). I was seeking to discern what happens when brain dominance is reversed.
Sexuality is based in the brain, not in the genitals. When brain dominance is reversed we experience a reversal in perspective, and with it a reversal in sexual orientation. This theory complements existing physical-based theories (genetic, hormonal, and environmental).
If sexual attraction is a function of brain dominance, it suggests that the predisposition to homosexuality or heterosexuality is already present in one's infancy, perhaps even at or before birth. In this case, homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice.
In building a description of how the two brain hemispheres affect us individually and culturally, I based my research on science. To support my observations of sexual orientation, I again turned to science and discovered that in numerous recent studies, neuroscientists have found that gay men and heterosexual women tend to exhibit similar responses to stimuli – as do lesbians and heterosexual men. Studies have also found that key structures in the brains of lesbians and gays governing emotions resemble those of straight people of the opposite sex – and even that sexual orientation could be predicted with 95 percent accuracy based on the size of the corpus callosum (the largest connecting structure between the two brain hemispheres) and test scores on language, visual spatial, and finger dexterity.
The brain is split laterally into two hemispheres that complement one another. What one doesn't do, the other does – because there is redundancy, science will find exceptions – but this is the rule. They are a team of specialists.
One might think that we use both sides equally, and some do, but most of us have a dominant hemisphere. And basically, it's in charge. Call it a natural bias. This creates two types of people: one informed and acting based on the right brain's advice, one on the left.
Most men are directed by their left brain. They respond to its dualistic perspective and structure. Our left brain is strongly individual, aggressive, competitive, thing- and think-oriented, and separative.
Women are typically guided by their right brain giving them a collective-oriented view that sees reality in its wholeness, and as such, gives precedence to cultural life over individual life. The right brain is attractive rather than aggressive, cooperative rather than competitive, and relationship-oriented rather than thing-oriented. It feels, and it tries to bring unity to everything, our ideas being an important example.
In some people however, this relationship is reversed, producing right-brain-dominant men and left-brain-dominant women. The rational response was to conclude that right-brain-dominant males see the world from the same holistic perspective that most females do. And since our behavior is based on belief, and belief (perception) is fed by perspective, the implication is this: a reversal in brain dominance reverses our perspective and along with it behavior, sexual desire included.
Thus, male or female, if your left-brain is dominant, you see the world from a masculine perspective, develop a masculine perception of life, and respond to life as typical of straight males – attracted to women, for example (more or less, depending on both the degree of dominance you experience and cultural contributions).
Keep in mind that in describing sexual orientation we are trying to draw lines and differentiate where no lines exist. Our lines are artificial and arbitrary efforts used in an attempt to distinguish subtle differences along a vast continuum that we recognize as variation.
On the male side of the continuum the extremes range from effeminate to macho; on the female side, tomboy to ultrafeminine. People with same–sex attraction naturally experience this same variation. Sexuality is complex. I don't claim to have all of the answers – and there are undoubtedly exceptions – but this is a place to start.
Brain dominance is not always easy to identify. Proficiency in left- or right-brained activities is not the same as dominance. Vocational and cultural pressures – the equivalent of cultural dominance – may lead to a perceived identification that differs from one s natural dominance. Free tests are available by searching the web and at thewholebrainpath.com/blog/ under "links."
Peace is best recovered by resolving conflict, which is most effectively removed though education. My belief is that by understanding what causes same-sex attraction we can remove some of the cloud of fear that separates us, and that this goal is most efficiently achieved when we use both sides of our brain.
James Olson is an integral philosopher whose studies have included business, engineering, art, Eastern and Western religion, language, psychology, and sacred geometry. He is the author of The Whole-Brain Path to Peace: The Role of Left- and Right-Brain Dominance in the Polarization and Reunification of America (Origin Press, 2011), which has received four national book awards.