Gay genes?

by endlesspsych

Research from Andrea Camperio Ciani and colleagues at the University of Padua, Italy has suggested that bisexuality has a genetic root.  It is reported in New Scientist here journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (DOI: 10.10.98/rspb.2004).

(The research) Showed that the female relatives of homosexual men tend to have more children, suggesting that genes on the X chromosome are responsible. Now the team have shown that the same is true for bisexuality.

For those who can’t find the research here is the abstract:

The Darwinian paradox of male homosexuality in humans is examined, i.e. if male homosexuality has a genetic component and homosexuals reproduce less than heterosexuals, then why is this trait maintained in the population? In a sample of 98 homosexual and 100 heterosexual men and their relatives (a total of over 4600 individuals), we found that female maternal relatives of homosexuals have higher fecundity than female maternal relatives of heterosexuals and that this difference is not found in female paternal relatives. The study confirms previous reports, in particular that homosexuals have more maternal than paternal male homosexual relatives, that homosexual males are more often later-born than first–born and that they have more older brothers than older sisters. We discuss the findings and their implications for current research on male homosexuality.

“It helps to answer a perplexing question – how can there be ‘gay genes’ given that gay sex doesn’t lead to procreation?” says Dean Hamer of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not involved in the work. “The answer is remarkably simple: the same gene that causes men to like men also causes women to like men, and as a result to have more children.” Now it’s probably fair to say that the current thinking regarding sexuality is that its genetically predetermined as oppossed to socially learned or a psychological disorder (previous popular explanations) but I was unaware that there was evidence to this end.

 To my mind it raises two possibilites:- Greater acceptance of Homosexuality and Bisexuality as natural because they are part of an individuals genetic make-up. We must all hope for this one and cheer it on. or alternatively (and worryingly) Instead of psychodynamic therapy and shock treatment for homosexuality we could see a whole range of distasteful things occuring. From embryo screening to gene therapy for identified genetic homosexuals. I stress to add I don’t know if any of the above are in anyway likely but still it could be interesting to see how society would deal with the idea that there is a gene for wanting to have sex with men (and presumably one for wanting to have sex with women as well.)

Psychiatry and homosexuality have a somewhat fractious history – for most of the 20th centuary it was standard to view homosexuality in terms of a pathological model of mental health condition rather and as a sexual preference rather then a sexual orientation. It was not until 1973 when homosexuality was declassified as a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association and in 1975 by the American Psychological association. However this has not been the end of organisations offering treatment or medicalising sexual orientation – NARTH – the National Association for research and therapy of homosexuality. An organisation that upholds the rights of the individual with unwanted homosexual attraction to recieve effective psychological care and the right of professionals to offer that care. They appear to question that homosexuality is a matter of sexual orientation determined by genetic and have a page linking to sources purporting to refute the “born that way theory”. It also has pages titled “medical issues” (where teen suicide is identified as an issue) and a page about Gay activism in Schools. All in all the organisation give’s the impression of being perhaps a touch homophobic.

Far be it from me to highlight that an organisation supposedly devoted to psychological care also has a alink to “theological issues” under the heading newswatch… It would perhaps be wrong to suggest that it is potentially the religious convictions of those involved in NARTH that guides them to their believe that homosexuality is something that requires “curing” or “treatment” via sexual reorientation therapy. It would also be a further suppossition to suggest that many of the people who are seekign treatment for “unwanted homosexual attraction” are either doing so because organisations like NARTH allow people to cling to bigoted ideas about homosexuality and classify it as something that’s wrong with an individual – abnormal and unnatural. Or so homophobic parents, relatives and friends can persuade homosexual relatives that they need therapy in order to be normal – because their own moral convictions don’t extend to allow someone to be themselves…

To stir up a little outrage it’s worth noting that the NARTH takes a position on homosexuality and paedophilia – suggesting child abuse is more common among homosexual men. It also makes excuses for homophobia by stating “”homophobia” is often used inaccurately to describe any person who objects to homosexual behavior on either moral, psychological or medical grounds”.  They also want to redefine tolerance and understanding so that we allow the intolerant and bigoted to hold and express their “traditionalist views”.

All in all a disturbing organsation with a disturbing outlook.