Chief Science Correspondent
With 19 states allowing same-sex marriage as of this week, America has made major strides in equality for its citizens within the LGBTQ community.
However, research indicates the American public still has a long way to go in attitudes towards these individuals. Half of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be legalized across the entire nation, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted last March. While these numbers are promising, 41 percent remain opposed. As the nation discusses the rights of millions of its citizens, one question that arises is the factors that “make” a person gay or straight.
A popular argument used by those opposed to same-sex marriage is that sexuality can be controlled, and is often “chosen” by an individual as a result of early childhood and various psychological factors. While this idea is not necessarily absurd, it has commonly been used as an argument for therapy intended to “make” an individual heterosexual.
A Washington Post article was released yesterday, with the headline “Scientists just found the gene that makes us gay or straight.” This phrase raises a major red flag, as newspapers will write often catchy, exaggerated claims that attempt to generalize scientific research into groundbreaking discoveries.
However, in the actual story, La Trobe geneticist Jenny Graves explains that her research in pursuit of the “gay gene” is not as simple as it might appear, noting that current research suggests there are several candidate genes that could potentially affect sexual orientation. She also acknowledges that there are likely other factors, such as physical and behavioral environments.
Graves describes the newly-researched gene as “male-loving genes,” because the gene has been linked to homosexuality in men and early promiscuity in girls, suggesting that the gene could have evolved as a mechanism to maximize a woman’s reproduction.
These findings could help refute the argument that a gene contributing to homosexual attraction is unlikely to be passed from generation to generation, as this type of gene would likely pass through the female reproduction. (Although there are many other reasons that this argument is not valid)
As of now, Graves’ research appears to be unpublished, so I was unable to learn much more about the gene’s function or the mechanism in which it passes from parent to offspring. Additionally, I cannot comment on her experimental design or her interpretation of her results.
But in the end, it should not matter whether sexual preference is a result of genetics or the environment. It should not even matter if it is a conscious choice. Although Graves’ results could potentially be scientifically interesting in that they could allow us to better understand ourselves, they do not change the fact that there is no need to discriminate against a group of individuals whose lifestyles may deviate from the majority.