The human genome finally has been sequenced, and with that, one theory seems to have fallen from favor that of the “gay gene.”
Ideas about the origins of sexual preferences are reverting to the argument that homosexuality is a decision rather than an inherited trait.
Edward Stein, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Lawin New York, is leading a movement calling for homosexuals and the groups that support their causes to abandon the “gay gene” theory. He argues it hurts rather than helps their fight for equality.
“How or why people are gay doesn’t matter, says Mr. Stein, himself a homosexual. Linking “human rights to some scientific theory as yet completely unproven is risky. All that you’ll get with the gene theory is the right with things you don’t choose, but homosexuals want things they do choose: to be openly gay and hold a job and have same-sex ‘marriages.’ “
Mr. Stein’s recently published book, “The Mismeasure of Desire: The Science, Theory and Ethics of Sexual Orientation,” argues that genetic research could lead to misguided attempts to abort potentially homosexual fetuses or to medically alter people.
“My concern is that as soon as we start to encourage and embrace as part of a political agenda scientific research in this area, we lead to remedicalization of sexual orientation,” he says. “Jumping on the genetic bandwagon is hurting [our] cause. The point is, nothing’s wrong with homosexuality, so why try to take it on with science?”
But homosexual-rights groups are reluctant to abandon the “gay gene” theory because of the sympathy it creates from those who otherwise would disapprove of the lifestyle, Mr. Stein says. Groups that tout the “gay gene” theory often demonize the few media personalities critical of the lifestyle, such as conservative radio personality “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation since May 1997 has criticized Mrs. Schlessinger for calling homosexuality a biological error. Such comments are “defamation,” they say.
Last month, Time magazine quoted GLAAD director Joan Garry as saying: “When [Mrs. Schlessinger] states that some people just don’t want to hear the truth, she can’t be referring to lesbians and gays. Scientific truth is on our side.”
What scientific truth?
GLAAD communications director Stephen Spurgeon says the proof lies with the official statements from organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA).
Local GLAAD spokeswoman Cathy Renna says that when Mrs. Schlessinger talks about homosexuality as if it is something that can be cured, she defames homosexuals because, “the preponderance of scientific evidence that we can point to, states it’s genetic.”
When asked to cite the evidence, Miss Renna points to the APA’s Web site (www.apa.org). But that site does not state homosexuality is genetic.
“We have not said it’s genetic,” says Rhea Farberman, director of communications for the APA. “We don’t have an official position as an organization. The current state of science is that it’s probably a combination of factors, partly biological and partly environmental.
“What causes it is an interesting question, but it doesn’t really matter, except maybe in political arguments. Discrimination is wrong, no matter what the cause of sexual orientation.”
Still, the cause of homosexuality is a hot topic among many. Chandler Burr, author of “A Separate Creation: The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation,” states on his Web site (https://members.aol.com/gaygene) that homosexuality is indeed genetic.
He adds that people easily accept the notion that left-handedness is genetic because it “doesn’t threaten anyone’s theology, political power base, or morality.”
But “with homosexuality, people don’t want to accept the evidence that they so easily accept with handedness,” he says, “because they don’t want to believe what’s clearly empirically true, [so] they demand higher proof: a gene.”
Many homosexual-rights groups embraced such ideas in the early 1990s as scientific research on genetics and homosexuality exploded, says Paula Ettelbrick, New York family policy director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Miss Ettelbrick says she agrees with Mr. Stein’s viewpoint that genetic claims are irrelevant and perhaps harmful to homosexual rights. She says groups that still cling to the notion are “confused.”
The homosexual community is not divided on the issue, she says, but there is a need for education on the topic.
So the debate rages on. The human-genome sequencing success in June will help answer the question of whether homosexuality is genetic.
Although no study has ever been able to prove that homosexuality is inherited, 35 percent of Americans think it is, according to a recent Harris Interactive poll.
In fact, the closest researchers have come to proving that human behavior and biology are linked is through animals, not humans, says National Institutes of Health neuroscientist Dr. Vittorio Gallo.
“I think the human-genome mapping is a very important step to learning about disorders and diseases. However, there is a very long way to go to link complex human behaviors, such as homosexuality, to human genes,” says Dr. Gallo, who emphasizes that his viewpoint does not represent the NIH’s official stance on the matter.
The neuroscientist had three main complaints with the most prominent and widely accepted studies in support of the “gay gene” theory and the like:
Many are based on deceased subjects, and therefore cannot take into account the chemical changes a brain undergoes throughout life, as well as the drugs used to prevent death, and the effect the cause of death had on the brain’s chemicals.
The famous “gay gene” study has yet to be reproduced despite attempts to do so.
The definitions of heterosexuality and homosexuality are ambiguous; therefore, a scientific sample population is nearly impossible to create.
While scientists try to uncover the mystery, others such as former homosexual Anthony Falzarano, director of the National Parents and Friends Christian Ministries quietly change their homosexual behaviors through therapy and religion.
Despite opposition from homosexual groups, Mr. Falzarano insists people become homosexual through sexual molestation or rape, an absentee father, or an overbearing female influence during childhood.
He bases these claims on his own research with more than 600 former homosexuals, as well as studies by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.
“If you’re happy being gay, and you’re not concerned about answering to God, then I would suggest a monogamous relationship,” Mr. Falzarano says. “We minister to people of faith, who know that [homosexuality] is not an alternative for them.”
Jennifer Kabbany is an editorial assistant at the Weekly Standard.