Researchers from the North Shore University Health System’s Research Institute in Illinois recently published a study in the journal Scientific Reports which compared the genomes (that is, the complete DNA codes) of over 1,000 gay men to a similar number of straight men’s genomes. They found a distinct difference in a specific part of the genetic code. This gay gene study lends further credence to a possible genetic basis for homosexuality, but the study is not without its flaws.
The genetic difference occurred between the genes known as SLITRK5 and SLITRK6 which affect brain development including a particular part of the hypothalamus, the almond-sized part of the brain that releases Gonadotropin-releasing hormones (GnRH) that help regulate a person’s sexual behavior.
“Previous studies have shown parts of the [hypothalamus] are up to 34% larger in gay men,” The Telegraph reports.
Details of the gay gene study
The study asked over 1,000 gay men to provide DNA through blood or saliva samples and had their sexual orientation rated based on their self-reported sexual feelings and identity.
And here’s where the study’s potential methodological flaws begin, because, as we’ve seen, some men will have sex with men and hide it or not identify their feelings or themselves as “gay.” It’s unclear whether bisexuality was an option in the study.
Also, “sexual feelings and identity” are just two ways to measure sexuality. Since we’re all innately able to participate in homosexual behavior, including gay-for-pay porn performers and men who only have sex with men in prison and the military, then such chosen behavior casts uncertainty on the degree to which genes actually drive our sexual behavior.
While the study marks “the first time researchers have studied the entire genome of individuals and … is the most comprehensive assessment of the genetic basis of sexuality ever undertaken,” according to The Telegraph, the study wasn’t large or intensive enough to definitively conclude that SLITRK5 and SLITRK6 are in fact “gay genes.”
Lead author Dr. Alan Sanders said:
The goal of this study was to search for genetic underpinnings of male sexual orientation, and thus ultimately increase our knowledge of biological mechanisms underlying sexual orientation. What we have accomplished is a first step for genome wide study on the trait, and we hope that subsequent larger studies will further illuminate its genetic contributions.
Previous studies have suggested that at least half of all humans carry genetics that could result in gay offspring. Last year, medical doctor James O’Keefe made headlines with his theory that prenatal stress experienced by pregnant mothers could affect “epigenetics” that, in turn, transform unborn child into homosexuals.
Featured image by Natali_Mis via iStock