Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Genetics of Homosexuality

By Mister Curie

As my profile states, I am an aspiring physician scientist geneticist.  My current work has nothing to do with human sexuality, but since I have accepted my homosexuality, I have been pondering the likely genetic contribution to homosexuality.  I, of course, think all things genetic are fascinating.  I am planning a series of posts on what is known about the genetics of homosexuality.  But before I delve into my pet topic, I thought I would conduct a poll.  Do you think scientists should even try to further understand the genetics of homosexuality?  Feel free to post the reason for your response in the comments section.


  1. I've been pondering as to whether it can be pointed to a single gene or an interplay of many or even natural variation within the father's sperm cells. With that in mind, it is important to link to a genetic cause of homosexuality (if there is at all), not for Gattaca-like reasons, but to leave no stone unturned (which is one of the unspoken rules of science).

  2. Hello Senor Curie! Love the new blog.

    I'm torn on this question of whether it's worth the time, effort, and expense to gain a better scientific understanding of homosexuality. On the one hand, knowledge for the sake of knowledge is a good and pure pursuit. On the other hand, what would change if we discovered exactly how genetics influenced sexuality? Would society then try to "fix" those genes? In truth, I'd rather society evolve to the point where it/we can at least tolerate people's self-declared preferences, whether they are based in objective truth or not.

    Huh...that kind of leads me to compare sexual orientation to religion. Though imperfect in application of the principle, most nations at least purport to tolerate people's religious beliefs and practices as long as they are not overly harmful (the definition of harmful being up for debate, of course). Yet, many nations (ours included) do not yet provide the same tolerance for people's relationship choices. Shouldn't this be a matter of respect for human choices, as with religion, rather than a reluctant acceptance of genetic inevitability?

  3. Other Species - That is an interesting hypothesis about sperm cell and one I haven't come across in my reading yet, most studies seem to assume a maternal mode of inheritance. I'll have to keep my eyes out for that one. I recognize the Gattaca-like parallels (I love that movie! And in a BYU freshman english class for the class final we wrote a produced a similarly themed play - although before Gattaca was released - about a society focused on genetic imperfection - I may have to write a blog post about that). But you do hit on one of my reasons for genetic research - I'm just an intensely curious individual.

    EL - Great insight about the parallels with religious rights. I think it is one of the more compelling arguments. I will definitely be highlighting it in an upcoming blog post.

  4. I would support spending more time and effort into understating the genetics of homosexuality if there wasn't such a negative view of all things gay in parts of our culture. I wouldn't want a test for the gay gene in unborn children, and I wouldn't want therapies to "cure" us.

    I think we are moving that way, so maybe in the future it would be helpful to reinforce our increasingly enlightened cultural acceptance of gays in society.

  5. I think it would be good to understand the way our body is constructed, but if the info is used wrongly... say to cure someone of homosexuality if it indeed is only a gene, than I say nay to that kind of practice. I am interested in the outcomes of your investigations!

  6. I think the question of whether to explore the genetics of homosexuality is similar to the question of whether to explore nuclear energy at the risk of developing atomic bombs. Albert Einstein was uncomfortable of where the development of nuclear fission would take humanity - for good cause. I equally worry to understanding basis of homosexuality could turn into a GATTACA (I love capitalizing all the letters in that movie title) or X-Men scenario: Where people are judged based on their genetic background or a "cure" is made to "fix" homosexuality.

    The difficulty as a scientist is that its hard to just let the unknown go... you want to uncover what is beneath every rock.