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Drescher, J. (2002). Causes and Becauses: On Etiological Theories of Homosexuality. Ann. Psychoanal., 30:57-68.

(2002). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 30:57-68

II. The Question of Origins

Causes and Becauses: On Etiological Theories of Homosexuality

Jack Drescher, M.D.

The story of origins is thus a strategic tactic within a narrative that, by telling a single, authoritative account about an irrecoverable past, makes the constitution of the law appear as a historical inevitability.

—Judith Butler, Gender Trouble

Although some claim to know what causes either homosexuality or heterosexuality, the origins of human sexual attraction remain an unsolved mystery. In the absence of certain knowledge, theories of etiology seek to provide both explanations and an ontological rationale for the way things are. From another perspective, however, etiological theories can be listened to as narratives that communicate the values of the theorizer.

Consider the following: “In the beginning God created man.” This etiological story then goes on to relate the subsequent creation of woman. Patriarchal religions have traditionally argued that being first made man the better of the two. Some feminists, however, read the same biblical story as making a case for the later model improving upon the first (de Beauvoir, 1952). Who decides which position is better and which is worse? How does a person's place in the developmental line of an origin story relate to his or her place in a social hierarchy? How does an etiological narrative serve an individual's need for self-definition or a culture's need to define itself? And how do individuals or cultures decide which values are preferred in making these decisions? In the following sampling of homosexuality's etiological theories, this paper explains not only the narratives of immaturity, pathology, and normal variants, but also the morality tales that underlie them as well.

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