there's officially no such thing as a single gay gene

Nature or nurture, being gay is still great.

by Alim Kheraj
30 August 2019, 12:22pm

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

For decades, scientists have debated the existence of the elusive gay gene, that one genetic marker that differentiated gay and lesbian people from their heterosexual counterparts. Its existence has long been a contentious subject: as Lady Gaga once sang, are people born this way? Or are people moulded this way?

It’s a debate that science might now have actually put an end to. According to a vast new study published in Science that involved a genetic analysis of almost half a million people, there is no such thing as a single gay gene.

The study, which used data from the UK Biobank and 23andMe, a personal genomics and biotechnology company, found that there were a number of “genetic variants” (aka small differences in DNA) that influence homosexual behaviour. However, while this may be the case, these variations are by no means definitive. In fact, they only accounted for “an upper limit of 8 to 25 per cent of same-sex sexual behavior of the population”. So while there may not be any concrete genetic reasons for homosexual behaviour, the study doesn’t rule out a biological reason for same-sex attraction.

“Genetics is less than half of this story for sexual behaviour, but it's still a very important contributing factor,” said genetics professor Ben Neale, speaking to the BBC. "There is no single gay gene, and a genetic test for if you're going to have a same-sex relationship is not going to work. It's effectively impossible to predict an individual's sexual behaviour from their genome."

In fact, as The Guardian reports, the authors of the study said that the idea that sexuality itself was binary and existed on a single scale was debatable. “[There] seem to be genes associated with opposite-sex attraction and other genes associated with same-sex attraction, and these are not related,” said Dr Brendan Zietsch, co-author of the research from the University of Queensland. “These results suggest we shouldn’t be measuring sexual preference on a single continuum from straight to gay, but rather two separate dimensions: attraction to the same sex and attraction to the opposite sex.”

Indeed, David Curtis, an honorary professor at UCL’s Genetics Institute told the BBC that “even if homosexuality is not genetically determined, as this study shows, that does not mean that it is not in some way an innate and indispensable part of an individual's personality”. His sentiments were echoed by Zeke Stokes from the LGBT group GLAAD, who said: "This new research re-confirms the long-established understanding that there is no conclusive degree to which nature or nurture influence how a gay or lesbian person behaves."

Essentially, the fact that there’s no conclusive gay gene supports the notion that homosexuality and same-sex desire is not an abnormality or a genetic mutation. Rather, it seems that same-sex attraction is an inherent, biological thing that makes up the body of what it means to be human.

But as any gay, lesbian, bisexual or pansexual person will say, we been knew.

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.