Feeds

Whatever happened to the gay gene?

The great debate: genetics or environment?

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.