Gay genes: Haven't we had enough of the nature vs nurture debate on homosexuality?

These questions are far too one dimensional when it comes to the infinitely complicated spheres gender and sexuality

Jamie Tabberer
Friday 14 February 2014 15:11
Comments

While I and most gay men I know will in theory welcome a new US study – which has found fresh evidence to suggest male sexual orientation is not a choice, but something genetically pre-determined – it'll doubtless provoke a few eye-rolls from some.

In a month where the homophobic prejudices of an entire nation are under the spotlight, and a Channel 4 documentary called 'Cure Me, I'm Gay' is in the works (in which TV doctor Christian Jessen seeks to expose the ludicrousness of so-called gay conversion therapies by undertaking one – at least I hope that's the angle he's going for), the study should prove beneficial in stamping out a few homophobic sentiments. Unfortunately, though, it doesn't come close to providing a definitive answer to a question so age-old I rarely hear a person under 30 ask it. And that's why it's more than a little trying having this redundant debate – about whether my sexuality is 'natural' or not – trudged up for the zillionth time.

Like most studies of its nature the results seem vague, ambiguous and easily twisted. At its presentation, Dr Michael Bailey of Northwestern University, Illinois stated that while “sexual orientation has nothing to do with choice; our findings suggests there may be genes at play […] It is not completely determinative; there are certainly environmental factors involved”. He obviously means well, but this amounts to a whole lot of nothing to me. That said, perhaps it's a blessing in disguise it wasn't more conclusive: that could have raised the terrifying possibility of prospective parents one day being able to determine their baby's sexual orientation in the womb ('it would not be very accurate,' says Bailey, in the understatement of the century). My imagination immediately leaps to some hideous science fiction movie, in which 'gay babies' are avoided at all costs – and a Daily Mail from 1993 headline proves it’s not such an baseless dystopia.

What's more, although the study is about ‘men's sexual orientation’, it's homosexuality alone which news headlines around the world are placing under the metaphorical microscope ('Being gay IS in your genes' is the Daily Mail's take on the matter). That's because the question is always 'Do you choose to be gay?' and never 'Do I choose to be straight?' In truth these questions are far too one dimensional when it comes to the infinitely complicated spheres of gender and sexuality, and part of me wants them to remain beautiful enigmas, anyway. Like most non-heterosexual people, I have my own beliefs about how my sexuality came to be, and I don't actually want or need a study to validate that. For me, a resolution will come when people stop asking about it – because acceptance shouldn't depend on the answer.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in