Long before I heard the name of esteemed sexologist Alfred Kinsey, I heard about his theory of sexuality as a continuum. Using data collected from thousands of subjects, Kinsey made waves in 1948 by saying that sexuality was far more fluid and complex than previously thought. As his hypothesis goes, sexuality can be measured on a scale from 0-6, 0 being exclusively heterosexual and 6 being exclusively homosexual — but most of us fall somewhere in between and can shift positions during the course of our lives. A new study from Washington State University suggests that the Kinsey Scale might need to be revisited, however, and that there isn't a linear connection between straight and gay.
Using data taken from 33,000 people along with in person interviews, researchers at WSU found that there is a "categorical distinction between people who are heterosexual and those who are not." Three percent of men and 2.7 percent of women are firmly in the "not heterosexual" camp. They argue that because there are qualitative differences in sexual orientation, there must be distinct categories of people based upon sexual orientation, too. These findings also support theories regarding the biological underpinnings of sexuality. But if there's a marked break between gay and straight, what about those who are neither?
According to one of the study authors, WSU psychology department chair David Marcus, "People at some point are crossing a threshold between one group and another group," although the reason remains to be seen. "Why they do it, we can't answer in this study," he continued. "But that they do it tells researchers they should be looking at that question, not as much at the continuum question. The most radical, extreme version of that would be to say Kinsey led a lot of this research down the wrong path as much as he was a pioneer whose work helped destigmatize same-sex relationship and inclinations."
The good news is there's even more evidence showing that being gay isn't a choice — which can go a long way to fight certain forms of bigotry. And while those of us who fall in the nebulous regions outside heterosexual and homosexual might still be looking for answers, with any luck, science will catch up soon.
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