Wired for heterosexuality or homosexuality?

The difference between the gay and straight brain

It’s a topic that has been at the center of countless debates, both rational and irrational. Is there a clear biological difference between the heterosexual and homosexual brain? According to Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain and The Male Brain, the answer is predictably complicated.

The science is still fuzzy, and the topic remains as controversial as ever, but according to Louann, our brains determine our sexual preferences from the moment they begin to develop. There’s no single part of the brain that spells out sexual orientation, she says, but by puberty, our brains are marinating in hormones that guide behavior, gradually revealing our true attractions and desires.

“Attraction unfolds at the normal developmental stage during puberty,” says Louann in this brief video clip. “It’s not some moral decision you make at a certain point. It unfolds naturally, and in the same kind of way between those interested in the opposite sex or same sex.”

What’s for certain, says Louann, is that we can tell when someone is sexually attracted by looking at the brain. In a recent Swedish study she cites, the brains of homosexual and heterosexual males were scanned after they smelled pheromones from other men and women. The pleasure centers of the brain lit up when gay men smelled male pheromones, and when straight men smelled female pheromones.

Rich Simon

Richard Simon, PhD, founded Psychotherapy Networker and served as the editor for more than 40 years. He received every major magazine industry honor, including the National Magazine Award. Rich passed away November 2020, and we honor his memory and contributions to the field every day.