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The Gay Gene? - by Jeffrey Satinover, M.D. -- The Journal of Human Sex

Jeffrey B. Satinover, M.D. has practiced psychoanalysis for
more than nineteen years, and psychiatry for more than ten.
He is a former Fellow in Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry at
Yale University, a past president of the C.G. Jung
Foundation, and a former William James Lecturer in
Psychology and Religion at Harvard University. He holds
degrees from MIT, the University of Texas, and Harvard
University. He is the author of Homosexuality and the
Politics of Truth (Baker Books, 1996).




In this age, in this country, public sentiment is
everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing
can succeed. Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than
he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.

-Abraham Lincoln

On July 15, 1993, National Public Radio (NPR) made a
dramatic announcement on stations across the country: Was a
team of scientists at the National Institutes of Health on
the trail of a gene that causes homosexuality? Their report
would be published the next day in Science, one of the two
most prestigious scientific research journals in the
world.[1]

The discussion that followed explained for the listening
public the implications of these findings for social
attitudes toward homosexuality and for public policy
concerning it. Science was on the verge of proving what many
had long argued: that homosexuality is innate, genetic and
therefore unchangeable-a normal and commonplace variant of
human nature. In the light of these findings, surely only
the bigoted or ignorant could condemn it in any way.

Shortly after the announcement, amidst a well-orchestrated
blizzard of press discussions, there ensued the watershed
legal battle over "Proposition 2" in Colorado. (This
popularly enacted legislation precluded making sexual
orientation the basis of "privileged class" minority status,
a status conferred previously only on the basis of immutable
factors such as race.)

Among the many crucial issues raised by the legislation was
the question as to whether homosexuality was indeed normal,
innate and unchangeable. One prominent researcher testified
to the court, "I am 99.5% certain that homosexuality is
genetic." But this personal opinion was widely misunderstood
as "homosexuality is 99.5% genetic," implying that research
had demonstrated this. Certainly, that was the message
promulgated by NPR's report on the recent research, and by
all the discussions that followed. In a few weeks, Newsweek
would emblazon across its cover the phrase that would stick
in the public mind as the final truth about homosexuality:
"Gay Gene?"

Of course, just near the end of the NPR discussion, certain
necessary caveats were fleetingly added. But only an expert
knew what they meant- that the research actually showed
nothing whatever in the way of what was being discussed. The
vast majority of listeners would think that homosexuality
had been all but conclusively proven to be "genetic." But
the real question is whether or not there is such a "gay
gene."

In fact, there is not, and the research being promoted as
proving that there is provides no supporting evidence. How
can this be? In order to understand what is really going on,
one needs to understand some little- known features of the
emerging study of behavioral genetics (much subtler than the
genetics of simple, "Mendelian" traits such as eye color).

When it comes to questions of the genetics of any
behavior-homosexuality included-all of the following
statements are likely to be at least roughly true:

1. Such and such a behavior "is genetic";

2. There are no genes that produce the behavior;

3. The genes associated with the behavior are found on such
and such a chromosome;

4. The behavior is significantly heritable;

5. The behavior is not inherited.

The scientific distinctions that make these seeming
contradictions perfectly reasonable and consistent seem
completely misunderstood by the media who report on them.

For example, in response to the "gay gene" research, the
Wall Street Journal headlined their report (which appeared
the next day), "Research Points Toward a Gay Gene."[2] A
subheading of the Journal article stated, "Normal
Variation"-leaving the casual reader with the impression
that the research led to this conclusion. It did not, nor
could it have. The subhead alluded to nothing more than the
chief researcher's personal, unsubstantiated opinion that
homosexuality, as he put it, "is a normal variant of human
behavior." Even the New York Times, in its more moderate
front-page article, "Report Suggests Homosexuality is Linked
to Genes," noted that other researchers warned against
over-interpreting the work, "or taking it to mean anything
as simplistic as that the 'gay gene' had been found."

At end of the Wall Street Journal article, at the bottom of
the last paragraph on the last page deep within the paper, a
prominent geneticist was quoted for his reactions to the
research. He observed that "the gene...may be involved in
something other than sexual behavior. For example, it may be
that the supposed gene is only 'associated' with
homosexuality, rather than a 'cause' of it."

This rather cryptic comment would be most difficult to
understand without the needed scientific background. Yet it
is the most critical distinction in the entire article;
indeed, it renders the findings almost entirely worthless.
Why bury and fail to explain what it means? Perhaps the
motives were innocent, but in fact, the belief that
homosexuality is "biological" or "genetic" causes people to
develop more positive attitudes toward it. They need not
have the foggiest understanding of what "biological" or
"genetic" really mean in order to change their view:

105 volunteer[s]... were exposed to one of three...
conditions.... [T]he experimental group read a summary...
emphasizing a biological component of homosexual
orientation.... [O]ne control group read a summary...
focusing on the absence of hormonal differences between
homosexual and heterosexual men. [A]nother control group
w[as] not exposed to either article.... As predicted,
subjects in the experimental group had significantly
lower[3] scores [more positive attitudes toward homosexuals]
than subjects in the control groups.[4]

And:

Analysis indicated that subjects who believed that
homosexuals are "born that way" held significantly more
positive attitudes toward homosexuals than subjects who
believed that homosexuals "choose to be that way" and/or
"learn to be that way."[5]

What was actually going in the study the media was
trumpeting? Dean Hamer and his colleagues had performed a
kind of behavioral genetics study now becoming
widespread-the so-called "linkage study." Researchers
identify a behavioral trait that runs in a family and then
look to see whether there is a chromosomal variant in the
genetic material of that family, and if that variant is more
frequent in the family members who have the trait.

To the uninitiated, a positive finding ("correlation" or
"association" of a genetic structure with a behavioral
trait) is taken to mean that the trait "is genetic"-that is,
inherited.

In fact, it means absolutely nothing of the sort, and it
should be emphasized that there is virtually no human trait
without innumerable such correlations. We will see shortly
just how this is can be so. The most important take-home
messages will be these:

(1) All the research that has been done on homosexuality has
been selectively trumpeted through the press in carefully
crafted form in order to shape public opinion-hence public
policy-in predictable ways. The research itself means almost
nothing.

(2) The research projects that would truly mean something
are scarcely being done because they would all explicitly or
tacitly lead to but one end highly undesirable to activists:
a method or methods for preventing homosexuality or changing
it with ever-increasing efficacy; and to one conclusion:
homosexuality per se is not inherited.

(3) Most of the research has been hastily and often sloppily
done-but this point is a distraction. Even were it superb,
the findings would still mean almost nothing.

(4) To whatever extent this research has been good enough to
generate valid conclusions at all, these conclusions are
precisely the opposite of what is claimed in the press.

Before we talk about specifics, here is what serious
scientists think about the recent behavior-caused-by-genes
research. From Science, 1994:

Time and time again, scientists have claimed that particular
genes or chromosomal regions are associated with behavioral
traits, only to withdraw their findings when they were not
replicated. "Unfortunately," says Yale's [Dr. Joel]
Gelernter, "it's hard to come up with many" findings linking
specific genes to complex human behaviors that have been
replicated. "...All were announced with great fanfare; all
were greeted unskeptically in the popular press; all are now
in disrepute."[6]

A scientist at Washington University School of Medicine
calculated what would be required for such a replication.
He:

...projected that if the trait [in question] was 50%
heritable... detecting [just] one of [its] genes would
require studying 175 families-that is, almost 2000 people.[7
] Replicati[on] would require studying 781 families-another
8000 people.... [E]ach additional gene (for a polygenic
trait), researchers would need... the whole business again.
"Suddenly you're talking about tens of thousands of people
and years of work and millions of dollars."[8]

Nothing even remotely close to this has been done with
respect to homosexuality.

Using arguable-at-best methods, two American activists
recently published studies showing that if one of a pair of
identical twins is homosexual, the odds that the other one
is, too, are less than 50% (the study examined a few dozens
of pairs). On this basis, they argue that "homosexuality is
genetic." British researchers generated comparable results
in a similar study. Their conclusion? The surprisingly low
odds that both twins were homosexual:

...confirmed that genetic factors are insufficient
explanation for the development of sexual orientation.[9]

Two Columbia University researchers (who have published the
most comprehensive research summary on the subject to date)
note the unexpectedly:

... large proportion of monozygotic twins who [did not
share] homosexuality despite sharing not only their genes
but also their prenatal and familial environments.[10]
The... [50% odds]... for homosexuality among the identical
twins could be entirely accounted for by the increased
similarity of their developmental experiences. In our
opinion, the major finding of that study is that 48 percent
of identical twins who were reared together [and where at
least one was homosexual] were discordant for sexual
orientation.[11]

Two other genetics researchers (one heads one of the largest
genetics departments in the country, the other is at
Harvard) comment:

... recent studies seeking a genetic basis for homosexuality
suggest that... we may be in for a new molecular phrenology,
rather than true scientific progress and insight into
behavior.

While the authors interpreted their findings as evidence for
a genetic basis for homosexuality, we think that the data in
fact provide strong evidence for the influence of the
environment.[12]

The author of the lead article on genes and behavior in a
special issue of Science notes:

...the growing understanding that the interaction of genes
and environment is much more complicated than the simple
"violence genes" and "intelligence genes" touted in the
popular press. Indeed, renewed appreciation of environmental
factors is one of the chief effects of the increased belief
in genetics' effects on behavior [my emphasis]. The same
data that show the effects of genes also point to the
enormous influence of non-genetic factors.[13]

The director of the Center for Developmental and Health
Genetics at Pennsylvania State University comments:

Research into heritability is the best demonstration I know
of the importance of the environment.

(Note the term "heritability;" we will be returning to it in
detail as it lies at the heart of much confusion).

With regard to the work announced by NPR, genetics
researchers from Yale, Columbia and Louisiana State
Universities noted that:

Much of the discussion of this finding [of a purported gene
locus for homosexuality] has focused on its social and
political ramifications. [But] inconsistencies... suggest
that this finding should be interpreted cautiously....

The results are not consistent with any genetic
model....neither of these differences [between homosexuality
in maternal versus paternal uncles or cousins] is
statistically significant....small sample sizes make these
data compatible with a range of... hypotheses.

[T]he... data... present no consistent support for the...
results.[14]

By contrast to their public policy statements, the
researchers responded carefully as follows:

We did not say that [the chromosome segment under study]
"underlies" sexuality, only that it contributes to it in
some families. Nor have we said that [it] represents a
"major" gene, only that its influence is statistically
detectable in the population that we studied.[15]

Ignoring possible flaws in the research, have the
researchers actually pointed to this more modest claim with
any degree of certainty? In fact, they have not-as they
themselves acknowledge, but in language that will surely
evade general understanding-and that will continue to be
avoided by the press:

...the question of the appropriate significance level to
apply to a non-Mendelian trait such as sexual orientation is
problematic.[16]

English translation: "It is not possible to know what the
findings mean, if anything, since sexual orientation cannot
possibly be inherited the way eye-color is." Thus, to their
fellow scientists, the researchers properly acknowledge what
every serious researcher knows, but the public does not.

Complex behavioral traits are the product of multiple
genetic and environmental antecedents, with 'environment'
meaning not only the social environment but also such
factors as the 'flux of hormones during development, whether
you were lying on your right or left side in the womb and a
whole parade of other things'...the relationships among
genes and environment probably have a somewhat different
effect on someone in Salt lake City than if that person were
growing up in New York City.[17]

English translation: "You're more likely to become gay
growing up in Manhattan than in Utah among Mormons and
Christian fundamentalists, even if everything else is the
same, including genes."

Unfortunately, anyone who is so disposed can readily offer
the public partial truths which are seriously misleading.
This is so only in part because of an easily led or poorly
educated press. The major reason is really that the ideas
being cooked beyond recognition once they leave the labs are
inherently complex, even if originally formulated and
presented properly. There are no "lite," sound-bite versions
of behavioral genetics that are not fundamentally in error
in one way or another.

Nonetheless, if one grasps at least some of the basics, in
simple form, it will be possible to see exactly why the
current research into homosexuality means so little-and will
continue to mean little even should the quality of the
research methods improve-so long as it remains driven by
political, rather than scientific objectives.

There are really only two major principles that need to be
carefully assimilated in order to see through public
relations distortions to the actual meaning of recent
research. They are as follows:

1. Heritable does not mean inherited.

2. Meaningful genetics research identifies and then focuses
on traits that are directly inherited. One prominent
genetics researcher (discussing a matter unrelated to
homosexuality, but equally frustrated with the bad science
reporting) flatly calls the question of heritability
"trivial."

Heritable Does Not Mean Inherited

Heritability studies can be done on almost any human trait-
physical, behavioral, emotional, etc.-and will show positive
results. That is, almost every human characteristic you can
think of is in significant measure heritable (thus
discussing it is "trivial"). But few human behavioral traits
are directly inherited the way simple physiological traits
are (e.g., eye color). Inherited means "determined directly
by genes," with little or no way of changing the trait by
choice, or by preventing it, or by modifying the environment
in which the trait has emerged (or is more likely to
emerge).

Here is a simple hypothetical example, but it is 100%
plausible. It tracks the kinds of studies that have been
done with innumerable other traits, including homosexuality.
(But only in the area of homosexuality has the meaning of
such studies been so badly distorted).

Suppose that for political reasons you want to demonstrate
that there is a "basketball gene" that "makes" people become
basketball players ("BBPs"). (Please suspend your immediate,
correct understanding that the idea is absurd.) To make your
case you would use the same methods as with homosexuality.
These methods fall into three categories, and represent
important forms of preliminary research when investigating
any trait: (1) twin studies; (2) brain dissections; (3) gene
"linkage" studies.

Twin Studies

The basic idea in twin studies is to show that the more
genetically similar are two people, the more likely it is
that they will share the trait you are studying. So, you
create a study set of pairs of people, divided into
categories according to how genetically similar they are, as
follows:

Pair Type --------- Degree of Similarity (% same genes)

Identical Twins --------- 100%
Fraternal Twins --------- 50%
Non-Twin Siblings ------ 50%
Unrelated People ------- <5%

The most similar are identical twins, the next most similar
are fraternal twins (who are on average as different as
non-twin brothers or sisters, but no more so), the least
similar are unrelated people.

Then you identify those pairs of twins in which at least one
is a BBP. It will not be difficult to show that if one such
identical twin is a BBP, his brother (or her sister) more
frequently will be, too, than would a non-identical twin or
a non-twin sibling or a non-sibling. You would create groups
of such different kinds of pairs to make the comparison in a
large number of cases. (One set of identical twin pairs, one
set of non-identical twin pairs, one set of non-twin
siblings, and so on.)

From the "concordance rate" in each set (the percentage of
pairs in each set in which either both are BBPs or both are
not. Pairs in which one was and the other was not would be
called "discordant for BBP") you would calculate a
"heritability" rate. (Perhaps you have an armchair guess as
to how many identical twin-pairs either both play or both do
not play basketball. Probably a good deal more than half,
the concordance rate for homosexuality in such twin-pairs.)

You respond to the reporter from Sports Illustrations that,
"Our research demonstrates that BBP is very strongly
heritable," and you would be right. But the article that
comes out that month reads something slightly different, but
completely wrong. "... Recent research shows that BBP is
probably inherited. A number of outside researchers examined
the work and found it substantially accurate and well-
performed. They cautioned against arriving at hasty
conclusions, however." No one notices the difference.

Brain Dissections

Second, your colleagues perform a series of autopsies on the
brains of some dead people who appear to have been BBPs.
(Old jerseys, high-top sneakers and Knicks ticket-stubs were
found among their possessions, for example.) They do the
same with a group of dead non-players (no sneakers, jerseys
or tickets.) They report that, on average, "certain parts of
the brain long thought to be involved with BBP are much
larger in the group of BBPs than in the controls." Certain
nationally renowned newspapers in the Northeast pick up on
the story and editorialize, "It will be very difficult for
anyone except poorly educated yokels who believe in Santa
Claus, the Tooth-Fairy and God to argue that BBP is not
inborn. For not only has it been proven to run in families,
even the brains of basketball players are different."[18]

In a pretense of balance, some of these papers interview
diehard believers in the old view-yokels who still think
that one must decide to play basketball, and play it for a
long time, before you really can be considered "a BBP." One
of them is quoted as claiming that, "maybe if you do
something long enough your brain changes as you get better
at it, and that part of the brain gets bigger." (Remarkably
enough, this surmise seems obvious to the old-time
believer.) The reporter does not merely report the comment,
however, he also hints that it is especially idiotic-typical
of diehards and yokels-since everyone knows the brain does
not change.

Of course, you yourself are well aware that among
neuroscientists it is extremely old news that the brain
indeed changes, quite dramatically, in just the way the old
diehard guessed: those parts responsible for an activity get
much bigger over time (and there are definitely parts that
are more utilized in BBP). You will not lie about it if
asked (since you will not be), but neither will you go out
of your way to confirm the truth.

Gene "Linkage" Studies

Now for the coup de gr�ce. You find a couple of families of
BBPs and compare them to some families of non-BBPs. You have
a hunch that of innumerable genes of every imaginable sort
likely to be "associated" or "linked" to BBP (you never use
the word "causing" because you do not need to-no one knows
the difference), there are some genes on, say, the
X-Chromosome. After a few false starts, sure enough, you
find what you are looking for: among the BBP families one
particular chromosomal variant (cluster of genes) is more
commonly found (though not always) than among the
non-players.

Now, sympathizers at National People's Radio were long ago
quietly informed of your research, since they want people to
come around to certain beliefs, too. So, as soon as your
work hits the press, they are on the air:

"Researchers are hot on the trail of the 'Basketball Gene!'
In an article to be published tomorrow in Sports Science..."

Learned-sounding commentators pontificate in soft,
accentless, perfectly articulated and faintly condescending
tones about the enormous public policy implications of this
superb piece of science-in-the-service-of- humankind. Two
weeks later, there it is again, at a jaunty angle across the
cover of the major national newsweekly: "Basketball Gene."

Now what is wrong with this scenario? It is simple: of
course BBP is heritable ("has a non-zero heritability" to
use the words of homosexuality researchers). That is because
many physiological traits-muscle strength, speed, agility,
reflex speed, height, etc.-are themselves directly
inherited, and they make it more or less likely that one
can, and will want to, and will successfully, and will
therefore continue to want to, and will in fact continue to,
play basketball. In short, because of intermediate inherited
traits associated with BBP (none of which are BBP), it shows
significant heritability. (The genetic association, of
course, is in no way necessary or predetermined, and is
highly culturally conditioned: there were no BBPs at all in,
say, ancient Greece, yet the same genes were there.)

BBP also shows a strong biological representation in the
brain, both at birth (e.g., nervous system factors
contributing to reflex speed) and especially later (e.g.,
the parts of the cortex that are cultivated and become
responsible for the movements of basketball, as in the huge
increases in finger-related brain tissue among blind people
who learn Braille).

And the specific genes that run in families that are
responsible for height, athleticism, etc. can surely be
found and they will be statistically linked to BBP. And if
one identical twin decides to play basketball, the unusually
strong emotional bond between such siblings will make it
even more likely that his twin will, too. (The fact of their
genetic identity, not their specific genes, are here
influencing an outcome above and beyond the indirect
contributions from any specific genes.)

The basic problem is this: BBP is "influenced" (made more or
less an easy and enjoyable thing to do) by the presence or
absence of other associated traits. For BBP we can readily
guess what they are and so immediately see that the
"genetic" component of BBP has nothing to do with the game
itself but with these associated (facilitating) traits. What
are these traits? Height, athleticism, bone structure,
reflexes, muscle refresh rate, and so on. So evident are the
specifics of this association that no serious researcher
will waste his time looking into the genetics of BBP proper;
he will concentrate on the obvious intermediate
traits-height, athleticism and so on.

The same is true for homosexuality, except (a) the more
important, intermediate traits with which it is associated
are mostly unknown and suspected ones are harder to confirm,
and (b) the research agenda is being distorted by the
political requirement that no such associated traits be
discovered and that homosexuality be falsely presented as
directly inherited.

Meaningful Genetics Research Identifies and Focuses on
Traits That Are Directly Inherited

Research into merely heritable traits is useful only in
generating hypotheses about what the directly inherited
traits might be. Here is what this means: Let us imagine
that it was not immediately evident to us that the heritable
aspects of BBP were intermediate traits such as height. A
good researcher would not be at all tempted to conclude from
the studies we described that BBP itself was inherited. He
would conclude however that, indeed, there must be some
inherited traits that facilitate BBP, and it would be these
as-yet-unknown traits that were producing the "non-zero
heritability" results. If he could identify the traits
correctly, he would find that the heritability results, when
he redirected his genetics research, would increase
dramatically.

In other words, studying the genetics of BBP is really a
crude way of unwittingly studying the genetics of height and
athleticism, etc. If he selects his population on the basis
of the indirect trait (BBP), when it is other traits that
are really inherited, the researcher's results will be
"fuzzed up" by the inevitable proportion of BBP's who lack
these traits, or have them in lesser degree (e.g., a small
number of shortish BBPs). But if he correctly identifies the
traits in question, his next round of studies will "divide
the herd" more efficiently, corralling his subjects not by
BBP (or "sexual orientation"), but by height. Of course,
there will be more BBPs among the tall subjects than among
the short, but that is incidental. He will seek out other
tall people who are not BBPs, and in his new study, the
heritability factor (height) will be even more concentrated.

How might he guess at what the most important traits are,
and then try to confirm his guess, so he could investigate
the genetics of these traits? Very simply: he looks, does
the best he can to name what he sees, and tries not to run
afoul of the currently fashionable taboos enforced by the
thought-police! He will probably have no trouble studying
height, but he might run into difficulties should he suspect
that athleticism (or even height) has a racial association.
(More people of Nordic stock, being taller, become basketball
players than do people of Appenzeller Swiss stock, being
short. Perhaps other such groupings might occur to a
researcher.)

In the case of homosexuality, the inherited traits that are
more common among homosexuals (and that produce "non-zero
heritability" in studies) might include such qualities as
greater than average tendency to anxiety, shyness,
sensitivity, intelligence, aesthetic abilities and so on.
(Of course, these traits may themselves be further reducible
to a variety of mutually influencing, associated genetic and
non-genetic factors.) The brain changes that are more
prevalent among homosexuals, the tendency of homosexuality
to run in families (and to vary with degree of genetic
similarity within families) and the presence of associated
chromosomal markings are all certainly due to as yet
unresearched and therefore not- yet-identified intermediate
traits. There is no evidence that homosexuality itself is
inherited.

Like height and BBP, these traits-intelligence, say, or
anxiety-are surely widely distributed in the population at
large and densely present therefore in groups that are
properly selected to have them. If researchers had divided
their populations by shyness or aesthetic sensibility, and
ignored the homosexual/non-homosexual division, they might
well have found even stronger chromosomal linkages as well
as brain changes and twin concordance rates.

Conclusion

Here, then is a final summary, in the form of a dialogue.

Q. Isn't homosexuality heritable?

A. Yes, significantly.

Q. So it is inherited?

A. No, it is not.

Q. I'm confused. Isn't there is a "genetic component" to
homosexuality?

A. Yes, but "component" is just a loose way of indicating
genetic associations and linkages. This will not make sense
unless you understand what, and how little, "linkage" and
"association" really means.

Q. What about all the evidence that shows that homosexuality
"is genetic"?

A. There is not any, and none of the research itself claims
there is; only the press and, sadly, certain researchers
do-when speaking in sound bites to the public.

Q. But isn't homosexuality "biologically in the brain"?

A. Of course it is. So is just about everything else. I'll
bet people who pray regularly have certain enlarged portions
of their brains!

Q. So doesn't that mean that homosexuality is "innate"?

A. No more than prayer is. The brain changes with use or
nonuse as much as muscles do-a good deal more, in fact. We
just do not usually see it happening.

Q. But doesn't homosexuality run in families?

A. Yes.

Q. So you get it from your parents, right?

A. You get viruses from your parents, too, and some bad
habits. Not everything that is familial is innate or
genetic.

Q. But it just seems to make sense. From the people I know
there's a type-it's got to be inherited-that runs in
families and a lot of these people are gay, right?

A. That is what associated traits are-but what exactly is
the associated trait-or traits-you are detecting? If there
is one thing the research confirms, it is that it is not
"gayness" itself. That is why these traits are sometimes in
evidence at a very early age, long before sexuality is
shaped.

Q. So what are these traits?

A. An important question, indeed. Science is being seriously
obstructed in its effort to answer that question. If we were
allowed - encouraged- to answer it, we would soon develop
better ideas on what homosexuality is and how to change, or
better, prevent it. We would know who was at greater risk
for becoming homosexual and what environments - family or
societal - foster it. As one prominent gay activist
researcher implied, all genetic things being equal, it is a
whole lot easier to become "gay" in New York than in Utah.
So who do you think would benefit most from that kind of
research?

Q. Well, what traits do you guess are "associated," as you
put it, with homosexuality?

A. May I speculate, perhaps wildly? That is how scientific
hypotheses are first generated. The important thing is not
to avoid ideas that prove wrong, just not to cling to them
if they do.

Q. Okay, go ahead, speculate.

A. Intelligence, anxiety, sensitivity, aesthetic abilities,
taste. You know, all the stereotypes.

Q. But where do these traits come from? Aren't they
inherited?

A. We do not know yet. Some may be. Or rather, we do not
know how much is inherited, and which elements are direct
and which merely further associated and linked with other
yet more fundamental traits. But you are getting the
picture. That is how the research ought to proceed. It is
not necessarily that the traits that facilitate
homosexuality are themselves bad; perhaps many are gifts.
Athleticism is a generally good thing, and we think highly
of people who satisfy their athletic impulses as, say,
outstanding BBPs. Not so the fellow who merely becomes a
thug.

Endnotes

[1]D. H. Hamer et al, "A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the
X-chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation," Science (1993),
261, no. 5119, pp. 321-27.

[2]"Research Points Toward a Gay Gene," Wall Street Journal,
16 July 1993.

[3]A lower score on this scale means a less negative
attitude toward homosexuality.

[4]Piskur and Degelman, "Attitudes Toward Homosexuals,"
Psychological Reports 71 (1992); my emphasis, pp. 1219-25
(part 2 of 3). See also K. E. Ernulf, "Cross-National
Analysis."

[5]K. E. Ernulf, S. M. Innala, and F. L. Whitam, "Biological
Explanation, Psychological Explanation, and Tolerance of
Homosexuals: A Cross-National Analysis of Beliefs and
Attitudes," Psychological Reports 65 (1989), pp. 1003-10 (1
of 3).

[6]Mann C. Genes and behavior. Science 264:1687 (1994).

[7]None of the studies of the genetics of homosexuality (all
of which are initial; none are replicatory) have come even
remotely close to studying this many subjects.

[8]Mann C. op. cit. p. 1688.

[9]King, M and McDonald, E. Homosexuals who are twins: a
study of 46 probands. British Journal of Psychiatry
160:407-409 (1992)

[10]Byne W and Parsons B. Human sexual orientation: the
biologic theories reappraised. Archives of General
Psychiatry. 50, 3:230 (1993).

[11]Quoted by Horgan, J., Scientific American: Eugenics
Revisited. June 1993, p. 123.

[12 ]Billings, P. and Beckwith, J. Technology Review, July,
1993. p. 60.

[13]Mann C. op. cit. pp. 1686-1689.

[14]Risch N., Squires-Wheeler E., and Bronya J.B.K., "Male
Sexual Orientation and Genetic Evidence," Science 262
(1993), pp. 2063-65.

[15]Hamer DH et al. Response to Risch N et al. ibid. p. 2065

[16]Hamer DH et al. Response to Risch N et al. loc. cit.

[17]Mann C., op. cit. p. 1687.

[18]Readers may recall Simon LeVay's much touted discovery
that the certain parts of the brains of (supposedly)
homosexual men were larger than among (supposedly)
heterosexual men. But even if the research is valid-its
quality has been strongly criticized-the discovery of brain
differences per se is on a par with the discovery that
athletes have bigger muscles than non-athletes. For though a
genetic tendency toward larger muscles may make it easier
to-and therefore more likely that one will-become an
athlete, becoming an athlete will certainly give one bigger
muscles.

When this particular critique was raised, the press quickly
took its accustomed potshot at the usual "poorly educated
and easily led" religious groups for the suggestion's
politically incorrect implications: "Some religious
fundamentalists even suggested that homosexual activity
somehow could have caused the structural differences [that
LeVay claimed to have discovered."

But as the editor of Nature-an equally prestigious
publication-wrote, commenting on the LeVay research:
"Plainly, the neural correlates of genetically determined
gender are plastic at a sufficiently early stage....Plastic
structures in the hypothalamus allowing the consequences of
early sexual arousal to be made permanent might suit those
who claim an environmental origin to homosexuality well."
This editor is not, to anyone's knowledge, a religious
fundamentalist.

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