Scientific Studies Fail to Corroborate `Gay Gene' Theory

By Kabbany, Jennifer | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Scientific Studies Fail to Corroborate `Gay Gene' Theory


Kabbany, Jennifer, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The human genome finally has been sequenced, and with that, one theory seems to have fallen from favor - that of the "gay gene."

Ideas about the origins of sexual preferences are reverting to the argument that homosexuality is a decision rather than an inherited trait.

Edward Stein, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Lawin New York, is leading a movement calling for homosexuals and the groups that support their causes to abandon the "gay gene" theory. He argues it hurts rather than helps their fight for equality.

"How or why people are gay doesn't matter, says Mr. Stein, himself a homosexual. Linking "human rights to some scientific theory as yet completely unproven is risky. All that you'll get with the gene theory is the right with things you don't choose, but homosexuals want things they do choose: to be openly gay and hold a job and have same-sex `marriages.' "

Mr. Stein's recently published book, "The Mismeasure of Desire: The Science, Theory and Ethics of Sexual Orientation," argues that genetic research could lead to misguided attempts to abort potentially homosexual fetuses or to medically alter people.

"My concern is that as soon as we start to encourage and embrace as part of a political agenda scientific research in this area, we lead to remedicalization of sexual orientation," he says. "Jumping on the genetic bandwagon is hurting [our] cause. The point is, nothing's wrong with homosexuality, so why try to take it on with science?"

But homosexual-rights groups are reluctant to abandon the "gay gene" theory because of the sympathy it creates from those who otherwise would disapprove of the lifestyle, Mr. Stein says. Groups that tout the "gay gene" theory often demonize the few media personalities critical of the lifestyle, such as conservative radio personality "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation since May 1997 has criticized Mrs. Schlessinger for calling homosexuality a biological error. Such comments are "defamation," they say.

Last month, Time magazine quoted GLAAD director Joan Garry as saying: "When [Mrs. Schlessinger] states that some people just don't want to hear the truth, she can't be referring to lesbians and gays. Scientific truth is on our side."

What scientific truth?

GLAAD communications director Stephen Spurgeon says the proof lies with the official statements from organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA).

Local GLAAD spokeswoman Cathy Renna says that when Mrs. Schlessinger talks about homosexuality as if it is something that can be cured, she defames homosexuals because, "the preponderance of scientific evidence that we can point to, states it's genetic."

When asked to cite the evidence, Miss Renna points to the APA's Web site (www.apa.org). But that site does not state homosexuality is genetic.

"We have not said it's genetic," says Rhea Farberman, director of communications for the APA. "We don't have an official position as an organization. The current state of science is that it's probably a combination of factors, partly biological and partly environmental.

"What causes it is an interesting question, but it doesn't really matter, except maybe in political arguments. Discrimination is wrong, no matter what the cause of sexual orientation."

Still, the cause of homosexuality is a hot topic among many. Chandler Burr, author of "A Separate Creation: The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation," states on his Web site (members. …

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