Born this Way

New research from Swedish and American scientists published in the Quarterly Review of Biology says that it’s unlikely that we will ever find a “gay gene” but that homosexuality is indeed something that arises in the womb. The study suggests genetics  which make a person more likely to be gay are passed from fathers to daughters and mothers to sons. Previous studies have already shown that homosexuality runs in families, leading most researchers to presume a genetic underpinning of sexual preference.

But to date, no major gene for homosexuality has been found despite numerous studies searching for a genetic connection. However, researchers from the US National Institute of Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the Uppsala University in Sweden now suggest homosexuality has an epigenetic link, not a genetic one.

The study reports that “sexually antagonistic” epi-marks, sometimes carried over generations, are transmitted through the opposite gender, such as father to daughter or mother to son during foetal development. “Transmission of sexually antagonistic epi-marks between generations is the most plausible evolutionary mechanism of the phenomenon of human homosexuality,” said study co-author Sergey Gavrilets.

William Rice, an an evolutionary biologist at the University of California Santa Barbara and lead author of the study, said epi-marks can determine the development of homosexuality in the offspring of heterosexual parents. “There is compelling evidence that epi-marks contribute to both the similarity and dissimilarity of family members, and can therefore feasibly contribute to the observed familial inheritance of homosexuality and its low concordance between [identical] twins,” the Mail reports Mr Rice as saying.

More on io9

  

22 thoughts on “Born this Way”

  1. Definitely an interesting artle but this whole argument seems irrelevant to me (from a political/rights standpoint…It’s definitely intriguing and important science.)

    Why do we feel that we have to prove we were born this way in order to justify our rights as human beings? In almost no other circumstance do we deny choice. We don’t tell an interracial couple that chooses to marry that they can’t. Why? Because it’s their right as a human being! Hell, Christians aren’t born Christians, and yet they are arguably the most protected group in the country (if not the world).

    At some point the tone of the discussion needs to change. It needs to be more aggressive in it’s stance that this is a basic civil right, as was the civil rights movement of the 60s, or women’s suffrage.

    1. I think this work is very important, because it takes the legs out from under the position that homosexuality (or any other “brand” of sexuality, for that matter) is something that is chosen, or can be cured. Your argument that it shouldn’t “have” to be that way, that basic human rights should never need to be justified, squares nicely with logic. However, in reality, we still need to make the point, since there is a significant portion of the earth’s population for which logic seems to have eluded them.

      1. Except that the ignorant ‘masses’ want to see a gay ‘gene’ to justify our existence. If you show them that science/research says it’s more complicated than that and a fetus is possibly bombarded with a mixture of hormones to produce a gay baby…they only cry; bullshit/fowl. That’s shifting the blame to mom…we can’t have that, because moms are protected from every conceivable attack from womb to tomb. Women’s rights trump ALL other rights. The next time somebody is trying to get you to donate to breast cancer awareness, ask them if they donate to prostate cancer awareness….just sayin’.

        1. ^ This, very much this. A further problem is gays mistakenly thinking they have anything in common with feminism or the women’s rights movement and that there is some kind alliance between the two. This could not be further from the truth.

          When we discount religion, we see the other hysterical anti-sex (and so called sexual deviance) groups are the feminist/women’s groups (not to mention anti-male/masculinity).

          Also, if environment alone is to “blame” for being gay, then it is obviously heterosexual parents doing something “wrong”. Most likely primarily the mother following the modern feminist urge to denounce any unwanted show of masculinity in “her” child or perhaps just from the child being in an excessively feminine environment (in which pre-industrial cultures were boys to 18yrs of age expected the spend the majority of their time around females and female influence?)

          What choice does a child have in their upbringing….precisely zero choice. What “blame” should an individual have for being gay….precisely zero. What effect can some “ex-gay” program have on a lifetime of environment (this is assuming there is no weight to the nature theory)…precisely zero.

      2. On the other hand, for many guys, their sexuality could be a choice because they have both heterosexual and homosexual impulses. It’s only the small number of exclusively homosexual guys that don’t have a choice.

        Guys who says being gay is a choice are really talking about themselves (and some of them work really hard not to do anything homosexual!). Still, it doesn’t do anyone any good to suppress their own feelings.

        1. If we assume that human sexuality in on a simple continuum, then yes. But I fend it more complicated than that. I’m probably truly pansexual, but for personal reasons find it easier to be with males, so I identify as gay. The point being that human sexuality needs to be more fluid and we need to support a system in school and society where it’s OK to be fluid and not so rigorous as by past definitions.

          Words like “choice” should be replaced by ‘safe discovery’ or ‘sexual odyssey’.

    2. “Why do we feel that we have to prove we were born this way in order to justify our rights as human beings?”

      Because of we can’t / don’t, then the ignorant religious will continually press their agenda with discrimination and outright laws against everything that even remotely suggests homosexuality. Regardless of how correct you are with your logic, until we succeed in educating these idiots, we will always need to discover the science of this (which is really a good thing as well).

      Most common sense heterosexuals already understand and know that homosexuality is not a “choice” of lifestyle or sexuality. But, as soon as you allow idiotic religions into the mix, then when it comes to common sense and logic (not to mention medical and scientific facts), all “bets are off the table.” And they will continue to be ignorant as long as someone screams at them with “hellfire” from their pulpits. And as long as the wealthy religious keep making their wealth and gaining power through government actions, they won’t stop grabbing this control over the [ignorant] masses. Power and wealth begets more power and wealth through the ignorant.

      1. “Most common sense heterosexuals already…..”

        I’d ask you to denounce the idea of “common sense”, there is no such thing, most people are far from sensible. This is not to mention the fact that people invoke “common sense” to prop up almost anything, often nonsensical.

  2. I think it will certainly be interesting to see how this theory develops. It seems to make sense. I am a little confused as to the nature of the research that was done, did they actually look at these epi-marks (are they something that can be looked at?) or is it based off of mathematical models? it says its a model yet they claim to have discovered their presence. None the less, I concur with you Audaciter, that choice vs born should not matter when it comes to rights. But establishment of born would remove a “key point” to opposition arguments, that we could just choose to be strait and then we wouldn’t need these rights. It could also make it easier to stop “pray the gay away” institutions and anti-gay exorcisms from occurring.

  3. @Audaciter: I couldn’t agree more. This study could end up not producing that much evidence, and it appears most of what these epigenetic mechanisms supposedly do is so far merely mathematical theory, nevertheless I’m happy to see every avenue of study is being explored.

    It is important to to find a biological cause for being L B G or T. From observing the opinions and arguments from many heterosexuals, they simply can’t wrap their small brains around the concept that being gay isn’t a choice at all. Many consider homosexuality to be some sort of a fad, and was somehow a conscious decision. Some even believe it’s possible for gay people to ‘recruit’ others (such as their children) into becoming gay. If such scientific evidence can be found, it will do wonders to finally prove to many heterosexuals that they are wrong.

  4. “milkboys is a community for & about queer boys. Hang out & connect with other LGBT teens”

    I suppose this is a further issue. What exactly is a queer boy? Any boy who has sex with another boy? I’d argue that in an environment that didn’t condemn homosexuality or differentiate it from heterosexuality, the first sexual contacts most boys would have would be with other boys, regardless of whether they go on to like girls, boys or both.

    I think thrusting a sexual identity on adolescent boys when sexuality throughout this time is fluid and not necessarily indicative of adult sexuality is rather ridiculous and could be damaging. Boys would have to feel very strongly that they are “gay” before engaging in natural urges with other boys (still in secret, of course!), this could create great conflict in boys who have feelings towards other boys, but are not primarily and undeniably “gay”.

    1. “I think thrusting a sexual identity on adolescent boys when … sexuality throughout this time is fluid and not necessarily indicative of adult sexuality is rather ridiculous and could be damaging.”
      Boys would have to feel very strongly that they are ‘gay’ before engaging in natural urges with other boys”

      I think you just contradicted yourself. You say sexuality is “fluid” during the young ages, but then say “would feel very strongly ‘gay’.” Depending on their environment, a very strong feeling would not be all “that fluid.” And a “fluid” feeling could very well just be the acknowledgement that he is, in fact, gay (or more gay than straight).

      If a boy knows he likes both and/or just “experiments” with boys, then he’s not going to be that put off with gay comments in his mind — of course, what he says in public or to his family may differ quite a bit because of said environment.

      I don’t think what milkboys says about being “queer*” is all that detrimental — in fact, it helps boys to learn more because saying “queer*” leads to more openness than something else.

      * I’m just not happy using that word — I would prefer ‘gay’. But that’s my take on it.

      1. No, I didn’t contradict myself, I said “would have”, very different. By fluid I meant changeable, not from minute to minute, but throughout adolescent. i.e. feelings towards boys in early puberty may change towards girls later and vice versa.

        My argument is that trying to get someone to identify as a “queer boy” or “gay” in adolescence is going to put off all but the bravest or boys that have decided to identify as “gay” irrespective of the changeability of sexuality in adolescence (assuming he knows of such things). It’s just seems like lazy extrapolation of ideas about adult sexuality onto adolescents and probably cheats many boys who don’t identify very strongly as “gay” from exploring their sexuality.

        1. Which is one of the great things about this site — it’s one of the only places online that the word “gay” is associated with interest in actual boys and not grown men. If you’re 14 and you like other boys (more than you like adult men), the gay world doesn’t have much to offer.

          1. This is because the “gay world” is running scared from the idea of discussing adolescent sexuality or even interacting with gay/questioning adolescents for fear for being called “pedophiles” or being seen as actively recruiting (whatever that is).

            Gays today would rather fight for their right to become entangled in the theistic, heterosexual nonsense of marriage than discuss anything of real importance.

            What would the Stonewall rioters think about that?

            1. “Gays today would rather fight for their right to become entangled in the theistic, heterosexual nonsense of marriage than discuss anything of real importance.”

              Two points regarding the above:

              1. By acquiring full rights of marriage for same-sex couples and quite frankly, by the very “definition” of gay marriage, this actually has nothing to do with theistic — in fact, quite the opposite. When gays are granted this right, that’s an important step in crushing religions’ hold on gays, brick by brick (albeit slowly, unfortunately). Religions by their definitions don’t recognize homosexuality as anything near “normal.” (Please, don’t offer the crap that some churches are “open arms” with not just homosexuals and gay couples but also homosexuality [the actual sex acts.] They “accept” us because of obvious reasons — the fucking money some donate to these churches. And here’s the pathetic irony of this: The upper hierarchy of these “accepting” religions use this very money from gays to be used against all homosexuals and homosexuality.)

              2. The more rights homosexuals get [legislated] in our respective countries, the further religions in these countries get in making headway for their futures and with their prejudices and hate. Is this taking too long for most of us? YES, but there’s nothing else we can do about it. Simple fact: the ‘religious’ [and that also includes the apathetic among them] outnumber us by a wide margin.

              So, how about being accepting of what we can do and is being done, even in increments?

            2. Because I don’t think homosexuals should follow a path just because it is the one of least resistance i.e. molding themselves to fit society and not vice versa

              I wonder what percentage of homosexuals actually want to marry, I imagine it is vanishingly small (presuming such a thing can be measured).

              I take your points about rights, but I wonder if there aren’t better ways to go about rights that would be rather more all encompassing, than just addressing a minority group inside a minority group.

  5. However, if you like the same sex, but under 18, it isn’t a gene, it isn’t anything epigenetic, it’s a mental perversion who’s only answer is prison.

    Fascinating scientific culture we live in, dominated by morality.

  6. Idiots: Feebleminded or foolish persons. Not all people who dislike homosexuals are feebleminded or foolish. I feel that these anti-gay people are just misguided people who in time well change. I have seen this over my years, people who would have nothing to do with a gay person, come around to being friends. There are those that are slow in coming around, I well agree on that,but CIVIL RIGHTS didn’t happen over night. I agree with Jim on his comment#11. I never did like that QUEER BOYS line line much. I look at queer the same way I look at faggot. I’am neither queer or a faggot,but I am a gay man or homosexual.

Leave a Reply