Gay Gene Essay Research Paper HomosexualityIs it

Gay Gene Essay, Research Paper Homosexuality Is it Really a Choice? Since the 1800’s, psychiatrists and psychologists have concluded that homosexuality is a mental disorder. They have

Gay Gene Essay, Research Paper


Is it Really a Choice?

Since the 1800’s, psychiatrists and psychologists have

concluded that homosexuality is a mental disorder. They have

believed it is brought about by misguided upbringing and their

social environments. For instance, it was believed that if the child

was lacking a male – figure in the home, he would most likely be

gay. Or that child abuse can lead to lesbianism when the special

needs of a little girl are denied, ignored, or exploited and the

future womanhood of the child is in jeopardy. However,

inconsistencies in the research subjects’ abuse records ruled these

theories out. And if this were the case, then why is homosexuality

present in different cultures?

Some believed homosexuality was caused by a difference in

brain structure. In 1991, Simon LeVay published research stating

that sexual orientation may be the result of differing brain

structures. The hypothalamus, a region in the brain that governs

sexual behavior, was the structure that LeVay was pinpointing as

the structure at fault. In his studies of the hypothalamus, he found

that in homosexual men, the hypothalamus was smaller than that

of heterosexual men. Instead it was the size of the female

hypothalamus, thus explaining their sexual tendencies. ” It would

begin to suggest why male homosexuality is present in most

human populations, despite cultural constraints, ” says Dennis

Landis, a neurologist who studied brain structure at Case Western

Reserve University. ( Williams, 1993)

A woman by the name of Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

criticized LeVay’s theories and found several flaws in his

experimental studies. First off, she looked at LeVay’s sample

population. It turned out that LeVay had autopsied 19

homosexual men, 16 men presumed to be heterosexual, and 6

women presumed to be heterosexual. So already we have one

flaw, too small a sample size. Flaw number two was that LeVay

simply presumed that the 16 males and 6 females were

heterosexual. Perhaps they hadn’t come out of the closet yet. Or

perhaps they were bisexual! Flaw number three being that all of

the 19 homosexual men died of AIDS, which infiltrates the central

nervous system. How could he be sure that there wasn’t some

relationship between the disease and the size of the

hypothalamus? So you see, differences in brain structure couldn’t

be proven according to LeVay’s studies.

More recently, however, scientists have begun to view sexual

preferences as hereditary. It is no longer a question of nature vs.

nurture. Most homosexual men and women have always had the

same sexual orientation. Among gay men, 96% had their ” first

crush ” on another male. Whereas 100% of heterosexual males

were first attracted to females. One thing that didn’t differ

between heterosexuals and homosexuals was the age at which

they had their first attractions. Most males had their first

attractions around the age of 10. Also, 86% of gay men had their

first sexual activity with another male. With heterosexual males,

on the other hand, only 73% had their first sexual activity with a

female! The age median age for puberty among males, regardless

of sexual orientation, is approximately 12 years of age. Although

gay men who reached puberty later tended to have fewer sexual

partners than men who reached puberty at an early age. Most

gay men self – acknowledge that they are gay anywhere between

the ages of 4 through 30, with the median being at age 16.

Coming ” out of the closet ” and revealing their identity to the

public generally took longer. Most gay men revealed their secret

at the median age of 21.

Some individuals go through a gay phase as a result of

emotional or mental rejection. This helps explain why some

individuals carry the gay gene, but don’t express it. And

adversely, why other individuals don’t possess the gay gene, but

do express gay tendencies.

There was one man in particular that took great interest in

this debatable topic. A graduate from Harvard University with his

Ph.D. in Genetics, Dr. Dean Hamer now works in a division of the

National Cancer Institute ( NCI ) as chief of Gene Structure and

Regulation Section of the Laboratory of Biochemistry. In 1992 the

NCI became especially interested in Kaposi’s sarcoma ( KS ), a

cancer of the skin cells that appears most frequently in Greeks,

Italians and in gay men with AIDS. Hamer began thinking about

the role of genes in ” complex traits” and began to question the

possible role of genes in sexual orientation. He began his

research by drawing out family pedigrees of gay men to prove its

heredity. In the pedigree shown in Figure A , the gay form of the

sexual orientation gene is present in the maternal grandfather.

The gene seems to disappear in his offspring, but he has passed

the ” gay gene ” onto his daughters. The daughters, however, don’t

express the trait because they received a ” straight gene ” from

their mother. The trait then reappears in the male grandchildren

in the next generation. The mother was a heterozygous carrier

and passed the trait on to her sons. In Part B of Figure A, the gay

gene is passed down from the maternal grandmother to the gay

subject’s uncles and male cousins.

Another way they tested their ” guinea pigs ” was by asking

them a set of select questions based on their sexual preferences.

Figure E shows an outline of the topics covered to determine their

sexual orientation.

Another technique used was the Kinsey Scale which was

developed by Alfred Kinsey in the 1940’s for sexual research. The

Kinsey scale ranks sexual orientation on a six level scale ranging

from exclusive heterosexual to exclusive homosexual. 0 being

exclusively heterosexual and 6 being exclusively homosexual. A

series of questions is again asked based on these four aspects:

Self-identification, attraction, fantasy and behavior. See Figure D

for the distribution of these four aspects in homosexuals and

heterosexuals. For the individual to classify as Definitely Gay,

they had to have a Kinsey score of 5 or 6, meaning that they had

openly acknowledged their attraction to the same sex to

themselves of to other family members. They were classified as

Definitely Bisexual if they received a 2 – 4 on the Kinsey Scale and

as an adult, they openly acknowledged that they were bisexual.

The individual was possibly gay or bisexual if they had some

reason to suspect something other than heterosexuality, but not

openly acknowledged. A person was considered heterosexual if

they had a Kinsey Score of 0 or 1 and they indicated an

acknowledged attraction to the opposite sex.

Once their sexual orientation was determined, 76 gay

individuals were asked how many of their relatives were gay, if

any. And if they were, which ones, so they could determine the

possible genetic linkage. After drawing out 76 family pedigrees

they found that there were far more gays on the mother’s side of

the family than on the father’s side. Because of these findings they

concluded that it must be a sex – lined trait. They found a small

region of the X chromosome, Xq28, appeared to be the same in a

high proportion of gay brothers. Out of 56 pairs of identical twins,

where one gay twin was interviewed, 52% of the co – twins were

also gay. Also along those lines, a brother of gay twins has a 22%

chance of being gay. Whereas they found that individuals with

twin brothers, one gay and one straight, had only a 4% chance of

being gay ( Hamer and Copeland, 1994). If you look at Figure B,

you will note that there are more gays on the maternal side than

their are on the paternal side. Figure C is a chart of lesbian’s

male relatives. Their values are different of those of the gays

values, but both have relatively the same results. Since they found

that sexual orientation is a recessive X – linked trait, that would

explain why it appears more frequently in males than it does in


The results of this study were published on July 16, 1993

and since then, the topic still remains debatable and

argumentative. Gays and lesbians seemed to appreciate and

make light of the subject, though. Shortly after the report

publications were released, T-shirts were made that read ” Xq28 -

– thanks for the genes, Mom! “