Feeds

Whatever happened to the gay gene?

The great debate: genetics or environment?

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Also in this week's column:

Whatever happened to the gay gene?

Asked by Alex Walsh of St Albans, Hertfordshire, UK

Is homosexuality caused by genetic or environmental factors? Is there a "gay gene"?

This debate is well into its second decade and we are still not sure. In 1993, Dr Dean Hamer and four colleagues from the US National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland published a study in the 16 July issue of Science on 114 families with homosexual men.

The study found linked DNA markers on the Y (male) chromosome. This suggested the possibility of genetics being involved in sexual preference of males. Thus a "gay gene" or genes was a possibility, but the evidence applied only to males.

Intense debate ensued both inside and outside the scientific community and continues today, although perhaps not as hot as it was a decade ago. Some argue that, whether or not a "gay gene" or genes exist, gays will be stigmatised with such a finding. Others argue that gays will be stigmatised without it.

Studies of male twins have suggested that about 50 per cent of the variability of sexual orientation is due to genes. This would leave about 50 per cent due to various environmental factors. In the March 2005 issue of Human Genetics, Dr Brian Mustanski and five colleagues including Hamer, studied the genetics of 146 families with two or more gay brothers. This study found that, among 60 per cent of the gay men, an identical clustering of genetic patterns occurred on three of the body's 23 chromosomes (7, 8, and 10).

This is somewhat greater than chance would predict, thus the existence of a "gay gene" or genes seems more likely.

In the 30 April 2005 British Medical Journal Dr Timothy Murphy, professor of philosophy and biomedical sciences at the University of Illinois in Chicago, comments that: "Like the others before it, this study is far from conclusive, but it adds to the growing sense that genes play a role in male sexual orientation. The evidence for a genetic contribution to female homosexuality is less well developed, but the case is hardly closed." ®

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.