Editor’s note: The media’s made a big deal over John Kerry’s statement in the last presidential debate that Dick Cheney’s daughter is a lesbian. What was overlooked, though, was his contention that homosexuality is an inborn condition – a distortion Focus on the Family Homosexuality and Gender Analyst Caleb H. Price refutes in this commentary.

It was bound to happen eventually. Before an audience of 51 million during the final presidential debate, John Kerry trumpeted the cultural myth that homosexuality is inborn and immutable. Flying in the face of the facts, he misled the public by declaring, “If you talk to anybody, it’s not a choice.” No doubt this assertion pleased gay activists seeking credibility for the view that homosexuality is normative and should be embraced by society.

However, for a man known for his faith in science and attention to nuance, Kerry has ignored the best data. He also hasn’t talked to any ex-gays. The truth is that “nature vs. nurture” in sexual orientation is far from settled.

As someone who self-identified as gay for 14 years, I, too, struggled mightily with this issue. Like many homosexuals, I knew that I had not consciously “chosen” my feelings of attraction to the same sex. In the ’80s, I remember having long conversations with my gay friends pondering the origins of our homosexuality. We concluded there were reasons we experienced homosexual feelings – we were trying to somehow bond with the same sex because we had poor relationships with our fathers, had been rejected by same-sex peers, had domineering mothers, had been sexually molested, or some combination thereof.

Looking back, I’m amazed at the clarity we had on the issue. But then, in the early-’90s, something amazing happened: The media reported that a “gay gene” had been identified. Gay people everywhere were thrilled and relieved. I remember sharing this with my father: “See, Dad, I was born this way!”

Indeed, several studies were reported in succession: Simon LeVay highlighted subtle hypothalamus differences in the brains of gay and straight cadavers; Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard studied twins and concluded that homosexuality is substantially genetic; and Dean Hamer looked at a marker on the X chromosome and speculated that at least one subtype of male homosexuality is genetically influenced.

Like countless others who were encouraged by these “scientific” assurances that homosexuality was our destiny, I decided to embrace “who I really was” and be proud. I joined a gay church, went to a gay gym, lived in a gay neighborhood, participated in gay bowling leagues, went to the Gay Games as an athlete, and attended every Pride Parade that rolled through town. Although I never found Mr. Right, I was well adjusted and happy – with good friends, a great job, and a nice condo.

I also witnessed firsthand the undeniable and deadly consequences of homosexuality: high levels of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV-AIDS, drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity, domestic violence and depression.

It wasn’t until 1999 – when I began the journey out of my gay identity following a profound spiritual experience – that I began to seriously question the idea that I had been “born gay.” I found that there was an increasing body of research indicating that people can and do change their sexual orientation. I learned that there is no consensus even within the gay community about “nature vs. nurture” and that many gays and lesbians continue to adamantly defend “choice” as the critical factor in the development of sexual identity.

Furthermore, I discovered there are significant methodological weaknesses with every single study claiming a genetic link to homosexuality and that the conclusions reached by the researchers were simply not supported by the data. Even the American Psychiatric Association in 2000 confirmed there are no replicated studies supporting any specific biological origin for homosexuality. In sum, the current consensus in the scientific community is that homosexuality is likely caused by a complex interaction of biological, psychological and social factors.

Despite these facts, however, we have seen dramatic shifts in public opinion on homosexuality since the mid-’90s. Thanks to the largely unchallenged and unrelenting promotion of the “born gay” view in newspapers, television and Hollywood, more Americans are coming to support “civil rights” for gays. I suspect this has been the progression in John Kerry’s mind as well.

Because of his faith in the notion that homosexuality is inborn, he has pledged to remove the ban on gays in the military, to pass “hate crimes” legislation, and to appoint Supreme Court judges who will fight for “equality” and oppose discrimination against gay couples. Ultimately, Kerry will support same-sex marriage, too, because this position inevitably flows from the belief that homosexuality is inborn and unchangeable.

Given such sweeping implications, it is imperative that Kerry and other policymakers get the facts straight before trumpeting the gay party line and embarking upon radical social overhaul. The myth that people are “born gay” and left without choices betrays both the scientific facts and the personal experience of ex-gays like me. Indeed, my very existence proves that change.

Caleb H. Price is a homosexuality and gender analyst for Focus on the Family.

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