from Clinical/Therapeutic Issues
According to Satinover, Laumann and his colleagues "found to their surprise that its [sexual orientation] instability over the course of life was one-directional: declining, and very significantly so. Homosexuality tended spontaneously to 'convert' into heterosexuality as a cohort of individuals aged, and this was true for both men and women-the pull of the normative, as it were." One of the main discoveries of Laumann was that homosexuality, as a fixed trait "scarcely even seems to exist." (Quote from Laumann, Michael, Gagnon in Family Planning Perspectives, Jan-Feb 1994.)
A study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, (April 2005) also confirms the flexibility of sexual orientation. "Sex Differences in the Flexibility of Sexual Orientation: A Multidimensional Retrospective Assessment," by Kinnish, Strassberg, and Turner, surveyed self-identified homosexuals, bisexuals, and heterosexuals, to determine if there were differences between males and females in the flexibility of their sexual orientations.
The authors note that while most researchers have maintained the position that sexual orientation is "stable across the lifespan" this view has been challenged in recent years by other researchers who say that "sexual orientation is inherently flexible, evolving continuously over the lifespan. From this perspective, individuals may experience transitions in sexual orientation experiences, social interactions, and the influence of the cultural context."
Lesbians, in particular, have been found to be more flexible in their sexual orientation than male homosexuals. Researchers have described this flexibility variously as "greater fluidity and ambiguity," "choices or social and political constructions," and that women are more responsive to "culture, learning and social circumstances."
The researchers interviewed 762 men and women who described themselves as either heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, or other.
They found that "lesbian participants were far more likely than gay men to report having previously identified as something other than homosexual .... most of the women had previously identified as heterosexual, while for the males, the modal prior identification was as bisexual (rather than heterosexual). In this sense of change too, it could be argued that the women demonstrated greater fluidity (moving from heterosexual to homosexual) than did the men (moving from bisexual to homosexual)."
The researchers also noted: "Contrary to our predictions, bisexual men and women did not differ with regard to reported change in sexual orientation over time."
They also admit: "...there is no agreed-upon definition or measurement of sexual orientation .... In this study, sexual orientation was defined as a multidimensional construct comprised of cognitive, behavioral, and affective components."