The “Gay Gene” Theory

Nicholas Kristof wants to know why, if homosexuality is genetic, gays haven’t died out already:

Surprisingly few readers raised the most obvious question: if homosexuality is partly genetic, why are there so many gays?

After all, gays are presumably less likely to engage in heterosexual pairings — the behavior that passes down genes. So if there are genes linked to homosexuality (which is still not proved, but seems increasingly likely), then how have they been passed down to our day?

Kristof goes on to discount a few glib theories, and then offer some genetic gobbledygook as a possible reason why homosexuals abound today.

But to examine the issue in such a binary manner, I think, is to narrow the scope of discussion and miss the point entirely. While most people self-identify as gay or straight, many of them fall somewhere in between, being physically fixated on one sex but also finding themselves strongly attracted to certain attributes that can be manifested in either.

The fact that people are often pressured to embrace the label of gay or straight (or the equally simplified 50-50 bisexual) may explain why so few people acknowledge such a latent attraction.

There are certainly many, many people who are exclusively attracted to the same sex. Some of them would even declare, forcefully, that they have never ever felt any non-familial affection for someone of the same sex — no, not even a fleeting attraction during that confused and transitory period in junior high that everybody talks about. To them I respond, okay, okay, I believe you.

But for many others, sexuality is a far more complex entity, varying not only with genetic and biological traits, but also with one’s environmental and emotional circumstances.

That’s why I don’t put too much stock in theories of a “gay gene.” Sure, genetic factors can foment certain sexual traits. But overall, sexuality is far too dynamic be calculated and controlled through heredity.

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4 Responses to The “Gay Gene” Theory

  1. Michael says:

    I can’t put my finger on the study that documents what I’m about to write, so feel free to reject this as groundless rumor-mongering:

    I’m nearly positive there was a study in the ’90s showing that, among identical twins *raised apart*, if one adult twin is homosexual, then the other twin will turn out to be homosexual roughly 50% of the time.

    Assuming my memory is accurate *and* the study was performed properly, this seems to indicate a strong genetic factor in sexual orientation.

  2. Eric Lindstrom says:

    bah, that’s groundless rumor-mongering….

  3. Jessica says:

    This was a very thoughtful post that I appreciated very much. In this day and age I think many women don’t like to talk about their stints with other women because it has now become a cliche, a thing used to sexually arouse men in which little has to do with actual women together. They would like to discuss it and the issues surrounding it without getting a million comments from guys who love seeing two women together.

    Personally a woman’s body is inherently gorgeous, and many gay men put the female form on a pedastal and think it a work of art. I think if we would allow ourselves to see beyond the black and white of gay and straight, and if the macho culture would die down a bit, more men would be open to discussing the beauty within their own sex.

    One thing that always struck me was how utterly effective androgany was. With androgany their is no immediate qualities given due to the persons sex. Nina Simone comes to mind, and one of the reasons her music is so powerful is do to the androgeny of her voice. you can’t tell whether it is a man or a woman singing, and it enhances the message and the lyrics because you don;t focus on anything gender related.

    Anyways I got off subject =p

  4. John says:

    I behind Aaron on this one. Metaphorically speaking of course.

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