The headline this week that the largest study of its kind found no evidence for the existence of a “gay gene” is basically an acknowledgment that science does not need tell us the plainly obvious fact that gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and pansexuals are who they are.
Andrea Ganna, lead author and European Molecular Biology Laboratory group leader at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Finland, said their research reinforces the understanding that same-sex sexual behavior is merely “a natural part of our diversity as a species.”
For LGBTQ advocates, the word “natural” cannot be overstressed as it implies that being gay is not a choice.
But the following quote will delight opponents of LGBTQ rights, especially those who insist they can “convert” gay people to choose to be straight by praying-
“There is no ‘gay gene’ that determines whether someone has same-sex partners,” said Ganna, a geneticist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard as well as the University of Helsinki.
Ganna’s research exposed that there are a number of genetic variations that can influence sexual behavior but the paper published in the Journal Science doesn’t specifically name the ingredients that exactly cause a human being to deviate from heterosexuality, the most common form of sexual orientation.
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The Washington Post reported that the scientists conducted this study by collecting DNA from over 470,000 people.
J.Michael Bailey, a Northwestern University psychologist with experience in genetics ad not part of the study, told Science News, “The study is a big step forward because of its huge size”.
These hundreds of thousands of participants belonged to two huge genetic databases viz. the home DNA testing company 23andMe, the UK Biobank and from three smaller studies. Participants answered questions about how many sexual partners they have had, and what kinds of sex they had had. 23andMe customers were even asked what they found attractive in a sexual partner, their sexual identity and their sexual fantasies.
The researchers’ investigation identified five genes which are evidently connected with same-sex sexual attraction. While the variations in these genes were not enough to raise a rainbow flag and label an individual as unquestionably gay, the researchers believe these biological variants may at the very least partially influence sexual behavior.
One was exposed in a chain of DNA which contains several genes related to the sense of smell; another one of the genes is connected to male pattern baldness, which the authors said might suggest that sex hormone regulation may in some way be involved.
“There’s a lot of room for nongenetic effects,” Bailey said to Science News.
Coauthor Benjamin Neale, a geneticist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the Broad Institute, agreed and said that his study makes it clear that both biology and one’s environment may be a factor that influences sexuality. By “environmental”, Neale is referring to the range of experiences in a person’s development as well as social and cultural factors that all could affect behavior.
Whether Bailey’s “nongenetic” critique is fair isn’t the point, according to coauthor J. Fah Sathirapongsasuti, a computational biologist at 23andMe in Mountain View, Calif.
“Just because something is not completely genetic or something has an environmental, or what we call nongenetic, component doesn’t mean it’s a choice,” said Sathirapongsasut,
GLAAD’s Zeke Stokes said, “ This new research provides even more evidence that being gay or lesbian is a natural part of human life, a conclusion that has been drawn by researchers and scientists time and again. The identities of LGBTQ people are not up for debate. This new research also reconfirms the long established understanding that there is no conclusive degree to which nature or nurture influence how a gay or lesbian person behaves.”
Genetics cannot tell “the whole story,” as Eric Vilain, director of the Center for Genetic Medicine Research at Children’s National Health System, told the Washington Post, about what “makes” somebody gay.