A proposed gene that gay men have (and possibly also lesbians) that explains why they're gay. The holy grail of the 'I didn't choose to be gay' brigade. It's a notion that makes me very, very uncomfortable. Why?

Well, one, because the first thing they did when they found a genetic test for Down's Syndrome was to abort all the Down's foetuses. Don't tell me they won't do the same to queer babies, because my mother told me that, if she'd know I was a foetal dyke, she'd've aborted me.

Two, why does anyone care whether people choose to be gay or not? It's only if you think there's a problem with being queer that there's a question about cause. It's only if we want to see ourselves as victims of circumstance, rather than individuals who can be as proud of our lives as anyone else, that it matters a flying fuck.

Three, what's 'gay' anyway? Is there a bisexual gene? Or is that half a gay gene? Sexuality's more complex than that, so the researchers are likely on a hiding to nothing anyway.

Well, OK, I always thought that one day they'd find the lesbian gene, and test me. And I wouldn't have it. Everyone would find out I was just doing it because it's fun.

To respond to all the genetics talk below: what you're missing, I think, is that probably the majority of same-sex-attracted people, throughout history and now, have sex with people of the opposite sex. Just because you are gay, doesn't mean you'll act gay, especially in a homophobic society.

The concept of a gene for homosexuality does not exactly make the most sense. It seems like such a gene would work to prevent itself from replicating - a self-imposed extinction.

I suppose it is possible for bisexuality, however, to be genetic. This gene would not eliminate itself, but spread just as well as not having that gene. And it is possible to imagine such a gene being succeptable to altering to the point where the same sex is preferred - or just as possible, that social influences involving this desire to categorize people so easily cause people with the gene to arbitrarily "pick" one sex to be attracted to.

Or maybe it would be something a little more, well, hidden. After all, fetal development is not a simple thing, but complex, involving a lot of steps, hormones for both the brain and the body, and such. Perhaps a gene that makes a woman more likely to have unusual hormonal releases during pregnancy, that affect a person's sexual orientation (and gender identity for that matter). It's conceivable, still genetic, but without being necessarily genetic in the person who is gay.

It would be interesting to see how, and how much, someone's genes play in determining their sexual orientation. After all, studies with identical twins seperated at birth have shown some amazing things that suggest that genes really do play a large part in who we are, what we like, and such. But not all of it, and I doubt there will ever be something as simple as being able to do a genetic test and determine "well, this child will be gay/bisexual/transgendered".

Besides, I don't think there are that many people who would abort a baby just because they're going to be gay. Large numbers of anti-gay social conservatives are also pro-life, for example, and they'd soon have to make a decision. And in some ways it might not be that horrible, after all, if the parents know ahead of time, there will be no messy coming out to do, and no worries about whether the parent will be accepting. No more gay children being disowned by closed-minded parents.

We know science though... asking them to voluntarily not search for knowledge is like asking an artist to not paint, a writer not to write, a geek to never touch a computer.

I personally don't care why the heck I am as I am. It's just a fact, just the way things are, and I can't change it. It doesn't matter if it's genetic, biological, or just a strange combination of social influences. I still can't make it go away. That's what is most important to me. It's who I am.

I've heard this concept argued before, when a rant by one of the more homophobic members of the University I attended found its way into the local student rag, called Gair Rhydd, only to be shot down in flames (and fittingly in my opinion).

To anybody with even a GCSE knowledge of biology knows, genetic structure is determined at the point of conception (barring a few possible mutations), so if you were gay then you would have a very high likelhood of not having kids, and therefore this alleged "gay gene" wouldn't last long.

On the point that Saige made about identical twins, I have a pair of identical twins as friends. One is straight and engaged, whilst the other is a lesbian. To my mind this pretty much rules out this argument.

In response to later posts: Ok so the recessive gene idea slipped my mind, but this still doesn't explain the twins differing sexualities. Although I accept that sexual orientation is very much a grey area, either one or the other of the twins is fooling themselves, or the gay gene idea is straight out of the window

If a "gay gene" were to exist, it wouldn't necessarily be removed by natural selection. There are innumerable genetic afflictions -- sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and FOP, for instance -- that, until recent medical advances, killed most of those who had them well before they reached adulthood, and left the rest chronically sick. Early death means no children, and yet the genetic affliction continues to be passed on, because it's a recessive disorder.

If homosexuality were genetically based (and I do emphasize the "if", since no such gene has ever come close to being isolated), then it would most likely be a recessive mutation which only occurred when two parents with the recessive gene happened to both pass it on to the same child. If one passed it on and not the other, the child would be genetically hetero but still carry the gene.

My 2 cents too:

Genes that seem to "code for their own extinction" (as Saige puts it above) are not always selected against by natural selection. This happens when the gene also carries some hidden, not-so-obvious benefit with it.

Does everyone here know something about Mendelian genetics? Say there was a theoretical "gay gene" (I doubt a definite one exists as I agree with bonobo above) and it was a recessive gene. Say that it causes someone to become gay when he inherits two recessive copies of it, one from each parent and that it does not appear to cause any changes when there is only one copy of it.

A "gay gene" like this could theoretically be passed on from generation to generation and not be selected strongly against IF it also had a hidden benefit such as, say, confering some protection from some prevalent disease on the carrier of the gene who was heterozygous for this gene.

It is conceivable that something like this could exist, just as the gene for sickle cell anaemia got passed along generations of Africans -- heterozygous carriers of the sickle cell gene were conferred protection from malaria.

The idea of a gay gene (or more appropriately, gay allele) need not be treated as a binary concept: present and on, or absent and off. Instead, if someone has a gay allele, i.e. gay version, of a gene, then s/he might have a tendency to develop as homosexual. This might be involved with hormone cues (timing, dosage, etc.) that can affect brain development. Brain development, though, is a complex process and heavily influenced by enivornmental variables as well.

Therefore, homosexuality having a genetic component does not negate environmental influences. This means that a gay allele can be fairly neutral, overall, towards the evolutionary fitness of the organism in hand.

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