Searching the phrase “the gay gene” in Nexus brings up thousands of articles beginning in 1979 all the way to the present day. The topic has been a mainstay of LGBT advocacy for decades now since, as sociologist Thomas Alloway correctly predicted, a confirmed genetic cause of homosexuality would support arguments for legal protection.
In 1979, writing for the Canadian paper The Globe and Mail, Lydia Dotto argued in favor of seeking out a genetic component to homosexuality, quoting Alloway:
He said that many of the problems gays face stem from the beliefs of heterosexuals concerning the causes of homosexuality. Straights often believe that homosexuality stems from something abnormal in the gay’s post-birth environment and that homosexuals are themselves a part of that abnormal environment (hence the fears about recruiting.) Many do not want gays near children or in positions of respect and responsibility and many want to change or ‘cure’ gays. Such fears would be unfounded if it were proved that homosexuality was caused primarily by genes.
Writing for The Weekly Standard in 1996, Chandler Burr titled an article “Why Conservatives Should Embrace The Gay Gene,” arguing, “The question about homosexuality and volition — whether one chooses to be gay — is subject to empirical verification. And among researchers, this question is considered answered. Which means that supporting Position 1 or 2 — lifestyle or disease — will soon be as politically successful for the Republican party as supporting creationism.”
Two years later, Jeffrey L. Sheler, writing for U.S. News and World Report, argued in an article titled “Faith-based therapies aim to ‘cure’ gays”: “Biology is destiny. The weight of scientific research in recent years suggests homosexuality has biological roots, with highly publicized studies suggesting that a ‘gay gene’ or differences in brain structure may determine sexual orientation.”
In 1995, writing for U.S. News and World Report, Betsy Streisand, in an article titled “Getting a little science on his side,” quoted a study participant named Daniel Phelan. Phelan states, “Sometimes I have just wanted to shake people and say, ‘Do you think I just woke up one day and decided I wanted to be society’s definition of a deviant?’ … It shattered my own expectations to realize that I was gay and that I would never have a wife or children or a traditional family. But I always knew it wasn’t something I did or something I ate. I always knew it was something I was.”
For much of LGBT social history, from the 1980s to the recent explosion of gender identity, gay men and women have long waited for scientific confirmation of their sexuality. It has been a key argument to our very legal existence.
Latest Media Storm About ‘Gay Gene’ Studies
So in the last week of August 2019, as news outlets began releasing headlines, as CNN did, saying “No ‘gay gene’ can predict sexual orientation, study says,” LGBT media was uncertain exactly how to respond. Out magazine chose to interpret the study, published in Science Magazine, with the headline “There’s no ‘Gay Gene’ — There are Thousands.”
Describing the five markers discovered to influence sexuality, author Matt Baume wrote, “None of them had a significant impact, but in total, those markers are thought to contribute a small amount to an individual’s sexual orientation. What’s more, the research team says, behavior is further impacted by personal environment and experiences. Essentially, they claim sexuality is both nature and nurture.”
LGBT Nation took the position similar to previous eras of discussion on the topic by reacting to how the religious right would view the study. In an article titled “The religious right is really happy about the study saying there is no single ‘gay gene,’” writer John Gallagher states, “Anti-LGBTQ conservatives are using the study to argue being gay is a choice that can be cured by ex-gay ‘therapy.’”
The article cites Jim Dennison, head of the Christian Dennison Institute, arguing, “Even if up to 32 percent of a person’s same-sex sexual behavior is genetically conditioned, this means that more than two-thirds of their sexual behavior is not.” The article also quotes columnist Rod Dreher, writing for The American Conservative, “If homosexuality is primarily a matter of nurture, not nature, why is it wrong to let gay people who want to seek therapy in hope of reducing or eliminating same-sex desire undergo that treatment?”
In the same news cycle, a video of two apparently male lions engaging in mating behavior went viral, leading to the LGBT Nation headline, “This video of male lions mating has gone viral, reminding us that being gay is natural.” It argues that more than 1,500 species of animals have been seen engaging in homosexual behaviors. Of course, the article mentions one lion could have been female, as many female lions have manes, or if both were male, it could have been a demonstration of play or other nonsexual behavior.
But the alignment of headlines seems to illustrate an important aspect of this now-decades-long argument: Animals that engage in mating behaviors with others of their own sex are demonstrating instinctive behavior, and instinctive behavior is a very shaky foundation to stand on.
So What If People Are Gay Because They Want to Be?
The “gay gene” argument was born out of a need for social validation and has ever since been an anticipated victory over conservative objection toward liberal sexual ideology. But the religious conservative writers quoted above are correct that if sexuality is largely conditioned behavior, it can rationally be altered through intervention. Sexual and gender identity theory sways back and forth between the idea of a permanent, inborn condition and personal revelation and design in identity. Seeking out science to prove their theories only limits their options when that same science fails them.
As a gay person, I never relied on the idea of genetic destiny regarding my sexuality because it largely took away my sense of personal control over my life and decisions. As I grew older, the “cause” of my sexuality became less and less relevant.
I am happy in my life and husband. I live in a free society where I can enjoy choosing the lifestyle I want. I am not limited or defined solely by my emotions and instincts. I really do not care why I am gay, as I am perfectly content being so. What the LGBT community fails to understand when citing animal behavior studies or genetic investigations is that both only describe how an animal or an individual behaves. It does not shed light onto how they think, feel, or perceive.
I predict this study, as so many others, will be used to validate whatever social narrative the reader prefers, as it is capable of addressing both nature and nurture arguments. But in the end, it really does not matter if several genes interact in such a way as to push an instinctual desire toward same-sex sexual behavior or if it is found not to be influential at all. What matters is the freedom to choose how you wish to act on your desires in a society that tolerates a great many optional lifestyles. In this, I believe both arguments are valid.
A person should not have to explain or be held to a strict scientific set of reasoning for why he or she is in a same-sex relationship, and a person should not be shamed away from or legally forbidden to seek out options to alter how they respond to those same urges. What the end result comes down to is personal liberty. It is my hope that the LGBT left is able to understand why that is far more valuable for their social movement than any scientific study could ever be.