Another Genetic Link?

Jim Burroway

February 14th, 2014

That’s what a new study from Chicago suggests:

A region of the X chromosome called Xq28 had some impact on men’s sexual behaviour – though scientists have no idea which of the many genes in the region are involved, nor how many lie elsewhere in the genome.

Another stretch of DNA on chromosome 8 also played a role in male sexual orientation – though again the precise mechanism is unclear.

Researchers have speculated in the past that genes linked to homosexuality in men may have survived evolution because they happened to make women who carried them more fertile. This may be the case for genes in the Xq28 region, as the X chromosome is passed down to men exclusively from their mothers.

Michael Bailey, of Northwest University in Chicago, presented his findings at a meeting of the of the American Association for the Advancement of Science yesterday in Chicago. Bailey’s findings have yet to be published. Earlier research by Dean Hamer in 1993 also found that 33 out of 40 gay brothers had inherited similar genetic markers on the Xq28 region of the X chromosome.

The data however suggests that this may not explain homosexuality in all gay men. Some may inherit these markers, while others may be gay due to other factors, including potentially other biological factors such as pre-natal hormones. The data also suggests that even for those who do inherit these markers, genetics is likely not the sole influence on sexuality. For example, identical twins are not carbon copies of each other. For example, they still have unique fingerprints, irises, mole patterns, and many other differences.

Nathaniel

February 14th, 2014

Actually, identical twins can vary to some small degrees at the genetic level, as well. As for physical differences, the ones you cite are subject to random forces, much like the ones that would keep the clone of a calico cat from looking identical to its original. While these offer comparable mechanisms by which sexual orientation might be influenced by non-genetic forces, they are not, in themselves, proof that such forces do indeed influence sexual orientation.

Thanks for this, though. While it doesn’t matter, at the socio-political level why people are gay, it is scientifically interesting, particularly in an evolutionary sense. Also, I keep reading anti-gay ranters say that there is absolutely no proof that orientation is genetic, and I believed that statement to be technically correct (if misleadingly so). I was unaware of Hamer’s research, which is quite the opposite of “absolutely no proof.” It isn’t and identified gene, but such research is complex and difficult, even for common, Mendelian traits.

Timothy Kincaid

February 14th, 2014

Nathaniel, perhaps it should not matter at the socio-political level.

But the “genetic v. choice” question is very important in politics. While neither of those two descriptions is strictly true, once we establish that orientation is innate and biological, we have won half the battle of changing minds and hearts.

Nathaniel

February 15th, 2014

You are right, Timothy. I meant to say “shouldn’t.” The irony is, of course, that the primary challenges to our rights come from those committed to a particular religious choice. Freedom of Religion is so fundamental to the US, but it protects the rights of people to a chosen lifestyle. Interestingly, while there is evidence to an innate, biological tendency towards religious devotion, this scientific finding is fought and denied by those very religious persons, fearing the dire consequences of not being able to choose their religion. Yet, they have to be excessively convinced that gay and trans people do not pick their orientation or gender identity before they will offer us the same rights they get, rights not denied in spite of their choice of religion.

Hyhybt

February 19th, 2014

If this turns out to be true, the anti-gay people who’ve been insisting for decades that it’s our mothers’ “fault” can take solace in being right for the wrong reasons :)

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