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Dear Christine, Wondering in Washtenaw County

| March 28, 2016

ccc 2Dear Christine,

I have several questions for you:  First, Is there a connection between sexual orientation and temperament? And are glbt people more temperamental than heterosexual people? 

Wondering in Washtenaw County

Dear Wondering,

I’ll take your first question this blog and subsequent ones in the future. Here’s some basic definitions to start with. Dictionary.com defines temperament as  the combination of mental, physical, and emotional traits of a person; natural predisposition.  Temperamental is relating to someone’s usual attitude, mood or behavior” per  Merriam-Webster.com.  It also means likely to become upset or angry, or unpredictable in behavior or performance.

Sexual orientation is a the preference for sexual activity with people of the same sex, the opposite sex or both, including homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality.  Some people identify as asexual, monosexual or polysexual as well.  Usually, homosexuals consider themselves attracted to a person of the same sex, as in gay or lesbian.  Some people consider themselves straight, if they have engaged in same sex encounters occasionally, so the idea that one sexual experience defines someone is not necessarily the case.

Sexual orientation also involves a political meaning.  Identifying as “straight” or  “lesbian” or “gay” or “bi” often occurs when someone identifies being in one type of relationship as being a life-long commitment or someone who is drawn to both sexes.  There are people who also identify as queer, and as questioning, as well.

It is normal throughout the animal kingdom for all sorts of animals that have different sexuality behaviors and preferences, including penguins, bonobos, mallard ducks, Western gulls and male sheep who get sexually excited by rams.  By 1999, research showed that there are over 500 species of animals that exhibit homosexual behavior.  But humans talk about the morality of human sexuality, which isn’t usually applied to animals.  However, homosexual behavior is common among living beings.

Temperament as well as sexual orientation are connected to personality which is 50% inherited and 50% from the environment we are raised in.  There is no “homosexual” temperament or “heterosexual” temperament, per se.  There are some stereotypes of gay men being artistic or having a sense of style and feminine, and other stereotypes of lesbians being “butch” and masculine. This gender inversion hypothesis has some traction, but it is based in psychosocial and biological theories of gender and sexual orientation.

The Big Five personality traits of openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism show gender differences, but these traits or temperaments also are quite different among the 55 nations that were surveyed for these traits.  Personality and temperament are affected by gender, orientation (somewhat) and the type of culture:  collectivist, traditional culture vs. individualistic, egalitarian countries.

To answer your question directly, yes, there is some connection between sexual orientation and temperament, but it is not very definitive and can be affected by class and culture as well.  As to LGBT people being “more temperamental” than heterosexual people, they are not, in the sense that they are no more likely to become upset, angry or unpredictable in performance or behavior than straight people.

To extrapolate from your question, sometimes people think that GLBT people are more depressed or anxious than straight people, but much of this can be attributed to the lack of acceptance in society and with the laws that protect individual differences of people.  When acceptance is present legally and socially, GLBT people do not differ from straight people in mood disorders.

Thanks for asking your questions.  I look forward to more,
Christine Cantrell, PhD,

Psychologist
Email me!

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067
248-591-2888

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