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Phobes Thwarted - Being Gay is Complex


As we went to air last week, a paper in the respected research journal “Science” revealed the latest findings from research into people's se.xual orientation and their genetics. It concluded that there were definitely genetic components but that the idea of a single genetic marker on someone's DNA predisposing them to having gay or lesbian relationships was wide of the mark. As if to underline the point that we have come a long way as a community in the last quarter of a century, the LGBT newswire Pink News revisited the horrific reportage in the British tabloid papers such as the Daily Mail when an earlier research team, lead by Doctor Dean Hamer, made a claim that there was a genetic cause for being gay or lesbian. On that occasion, the Mail, normally an anti-abortion advocate, ranted that the research would open the door to eradicating gay babies from the population through selective terminations. Sir Ian McKellen, representing the charity Stonewall wrote “the announcement was leapt upon with lurid enthusiasm across the media”. The way in which the right wing papers actually proposed eugenics against gay people in 1993 is covered in the book “Mediawatch” by Terry Sanderson, now President of the National Secular Society, and is salutary reading for all members of our wider community. Be that as it may, Doctor Hamer whose work in 1993 seemed to indicate that there was a single gay gene, has welcomed the new study, in that it does confirm some genetic correlation between samesex attraction and DNA, all be it in a very different way from his findings. The Guardian newspaper said that the new research was a study based on the users of genetic mapping companies who self identified as gay or lesbian, around four per cent of male respondents and three per cent of female respondents. There are five genetic markers that appear to have some impact on attraction, but researchers are divided on the impact of other factors such as upbringing, opennness to new ideas, and hormonal activity in the womb during development. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in the US welcomed the study, saying that it underlined the fact that there is no single cause for homosexuality in adults. This was echoed by several internet commentators who were relieved that religious extremists and dictatorial governments who would seek to weaponise a gay gene against the community had been thwarted once more by the apparent complexity of human behaviour. The New Scientist magazine however, also published a lengthy opinion piece pointing out that in our society, research into the behaviour of any minority group can never be truly independent of context. They questioned why such research was even taking place.


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