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Essentialist-Constructionist Debate on the Origins of Sexual Orientation

Sexual identities, behaviors, and lifestyles have always been a subject of much discussion and controversy. One of the enduring questions posed by academics and the general public alike is how and why some individuals become gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Put more simply—but not unproblematically—sometimes individuals ask what “causes” someone to be bisexual, homosexual, or queer. Questions about the origin or causation of sexual orientation are often answered using one of two frameworks: biological essentialism (nature) or social constructionism (nurture).

This entry begins by providing definitions and applications of biological essentialism and social constructionism, both in general and then more specifically in the context of LGBTQ identities and behaviors. Next, a brief historical context of the emergence of the Essentialist-Constructionist debate in sexology is offered. This is ...

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