Scientists have been searching for that elusive gay gene for decades, that one genetic marker that would differentiate gay people from their straight counterparts. Its existence has long been a contentious subject, with many wanting to know why ask at all. It is a debate that current science might have put an end to. According to a vast new study published in Science that involved a genetic analysis of nearly half a million people, there is no such thing as a single gay gene. While some claim that being gay is a choice, or that homosexuality can be cured, evidence is mounting that same-sex attraction is at least partly genetic and biologically based.
The new study, which uses data from the UK Biobank and 23andMe, the personal genomics and biotechnology company, found that there were a number of ”genetic variants” (small differences in DNA) that influence same-sex attraction, but these variations are not definitive; not at all. They seem to only account for 25 per cent of same-sex sexual behavior of the population. While there may not be any concrete genetic reasons for homosexual behavior, the study doesn’t rule out a biological reason for same-sex attraction.
Genetics professor Benjamin Neale told the BBC:
“Genetics is less than half of this story for sexual behavior, but it’s still a very important contributing factor. There is no single gay gene, and a genetic test for if you’re going to have a same-sex relationship is not going to work. It’s effectively impossible to predict an individual’s sexual behavior from their genome.”
The study said that the idea that sexuality itself was binary and existed on a single scale was debatable. There seem to be genes associated with opposite-sex attraction and other genes associated with same-sex attraction, and these are not related. The results suggest we shouldn’t be measuring sexual preference on a single continuum from straight to gay, but rather two separate dimensions: attraction to the same sex and attraction to the opposite sex.
David Curtis, professor at University College University’s Genetics Institute wrote:
”…even if homosexuality is not genetically determined, as this study shows, that does not mean that it is not in some way an innate and indispensable part of an individual’s personality”.
Zeke Stokes from Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) responded:
“This new research re-confirms the long-established understanding that there is no conclusive degree to which nature or nurture influence how a gay or lesbian person behaves.”
The fact that science tells us that there is no conclusive gay gene supports the idea that same-sex desire is not an abnormality or a genetic mutation. Rather, that same-sex attraction is an inherent, biological thing that makes up most what it means to be human. Years of research suggest that people can’t change their sexual orientation because they want to, and that trying can cause unnecessary mental anguish.
To ensure that their results were not glopped onto by crazy religious conservatives, the study researchers worked with LGBTQ groups and science-communication specialists on the best way to convey their findings to the public. The design of their website that lays out the results and their limitations to the public, using sensitive, jargon-free language.
Some researchers and many LGBTQ advocates question the wisdom of conducting this kind of research. There has been a lot of sociological research on same-sex sexual behavior, but it remains an incredibly complicated topic. But as nearly all LGBTQ people would say: we always knew.
Remember: Gay jeans are not the same thing as gay genes: