Geneticist Says Lesbianism Is Cultural, `Not Inherited': Hamer Claimed Genetic Link for Male Homosexuality

Article excerpt

The federal scientist who claimed a genetic link for male homosexuality says his research indicates lesbianism is "culturally transmitted, not inherited."

"If these results hold up under further testing, it would appear that whatever is being transmitted to lesbians is fundamentally different than what is transmitted to gay men. It's more environmental than genetic, more nurture than nature," Dean Hamer, chief of gene structure and regulation in the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Biochemistry, writes in his new book, "Living with Our Genes," slated for publication by Doubleday in March. "Why should there be such a deep difference?" Mr. Hamer asked.

That's the same question conservative critics of earlier studies by Mr. Hamer, which purported to find a link between male homosexuality and a region of the X chromosome, are asking.

Said Robert L. Maginnis, senior policy adviser for the Family Research Council: "I find it rather disturbing that a male homosexual is genetically predisposed to that proclivity," while a lesbian is not.

"Why in the world would there be any difference [between sexual orientation] in women and in men?" Mr. Maginnis asked.

He added: "This is a major departure [for Hamer]. And it certainly makes the case that socialization plays a role in this."

Two published reports by the NCI molecular biologist, an activist for homosexual causes, published in the journals Science and Nature Genetics in 1993 and 1995, respectively, concluded male homosexuality is transmitted maternally.

Mr. Hamer acknowledged in his new book that his findings in those studies have not been duplicated by other researchers, but he still strongly defends his work.

"Corroboration from other laboratories . . . hasn't happened yet, and the progress is depressingly slow," he says in his new book, co-authored by Peter Copeland.

In 1994, investigations into "genetic influences" on both male and female homosexuality constituted the prevailing research in Dr. Hamer's laboratory at NCI.

Describing that controversial research, Mr. Hamer said his studies "showed that male sexual orientation had many of the characteristics of a genetically influenced trait: It was consistent, stable and dichotomous, meaning men were either gay or straight."

In contrast, he said, "female sexual orientation looked more soft and fuzzy, less hard-wired: it was variable, changeable and continuous, meaning lots of women were somewhere between gay and straight. …