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

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.

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