Is There A Gay Gene?

Many articles come from an evolutionary or Darwinian perspective. However, explaining homosexuality has long been a problem for evolutionary psychologists in that it is difficult to explain why childlessness would prevail in a world seen through the mentality of “survival of the fittest.” According to an article entitled, “The Origins of Male Homosexuality,” much research has been conducted on a genetic solution to homosexuality and scientists are now closer than ever to discovering such a genetic link. The article explains the evolutionary point by stating, “To take the genetic case, evolutionary theorists have proposed a range of selective scenarios which, in aggregate, suggest that a supposed male homosexual gene (or genes) survives because it confers a reproductive advantage to heterosexuals which keeps the gay gene in balance against its reproductive liability. That is, heterosexuals who carry a gay gene are more fecund and carry this gene forward to future generations” (p. 225). Of course, this is a theory and has not yet been proven.

In another article titled, “In the New: Gay Genes Boosts Fertility,” the same approach as above is taken, but instead of being strictly theoretical it is more scientific. This article says, a “scientist interviewed the families of 98 homosexual and 100 heterosexual men – a total of 4,600 individuals – and found that mothers and maternal aunts (but not paternal relatives) of the homosexuals were more fertile than those of the straight men, and also produced more gay offspring” (p. 884). This research shows that the gene(s) that favors homosexuality also spikes female fertility and that homosexuality is probably passed through the maternal side. Therefore, it might be found on the X chromosome.

The final article is from The Journal of Counseling and Development, and it does take a more developmental approach since this is more widely accepted than the genetic approach of the etiology of homosexuality. The article titled, “Understanding and Counseling Gay Men: A Developmental Perspective,” takes the approach that homosexuality develops through three stages beginning in childhood, where childhood experiences begin to shape the child into either a homosexual or heterosexual mold. Next the individual goes through the sociocentric stage, where he or she will begin developing homoerotic tendencies and suffer from identity confusion. Finally, stage three, known as universalistic, consists of the individual embracing their identity as a homosexual, despite ridicule, and disclosing their new found identity to close family and friends. The article presents this approach as helpful because it assists gay men in accepting their experiences and way of life as congenial with their past.

Searching the Web led me to an article from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. The article titled, “Is There a ‘Gay Gene’?”, presents a strict approach that no such gene exists. Within the article research findings favorable to a homosexual linkage are presented, critically examined and found to be lacking. One study in particular showed that homosexuality was more likely found in children of homosexuals. The assumption was that homosexuality must be genetic. However, this research is strictly correlational and therefore not causational. There are endless implications for why the trait was passed on besides genetics.

Finally, the APA has recently stated, in not too many words, that there is not evidence for a “gay gene.” While they do have trouble admitting this in a straightforward sense, they do acknowledge that there seems to be more of a developmental etiology of homosexuality than genetic through their retraction of their disapproval of sexual reorientation therapy. If they thought it was genetic, then they would not think that such therapy could be of assistance.

As discussed, there are many differences between the above sources. Some are influenced by religion, Darwin, or the culture at large. They do all provide credentials, references, and affiliations. It is interesting that all sources have a sense of being critically acclaimed and possibly true. However, this cannot be the case since they all are fundamentally different. Thinking about special interests, one would wonder who is behind the above research. I happen to think that no research can be done without any bias. All of the above contain bias, and, as you could imagine, all of the research above found what they set out to find. I would say that one major strength of the article presented by NARTH is that it takes claims represented in some of the other articles and critically assesses them. I appreciate those who are not afraid to address specific criticisms. For now, though, the debate continues.