The largest study ever to focus on gay men and women finds no evidence that there is a singular gene that influences people’s sexuality.
The myth of the gay gene has been around for years. Ever since a study from 1993 found a correlation between the genetic marker ‘XQ28’ and gay men, the myth has taken a life of its own, disregarding the fact that no other studies have reached similar findings.
A group of researchers decided to analyze data from 477,522 American and British subjects. This information was obtained through the website 23andMe and from a U.K. Biobank. While the study is limited in scope (no trans or people of color were included) it is still the largest study to focus on gay men and women.
Published in the journal Science, the study is called The Genetics of Sexual Orientation and it says sexuality is shaped by different genetic variants. There isn’t one gay gene, there are several, thus making it impossible to determine someone’s sexuality based on their genetic material.
“Same-sex sexual behavior is influenced by not one or a few genes but many,” explains the study. “Overlap with genetic influences on other traits provides insights into the underlying biology of same-sex sexual behavior, and analysis of different aspects of sexual preference underscore its complexity and call into question the validity of bipolar continuum measures such as the Kinsey scale.”
The study puts an emphasis on external factors influencing sexuality, while also highlighting how much of this information remains unknown. There were some differences found between gay men and women, and some connections between LGBTQ people and mental diseases, which could be explained by enduring societal prejudice. Younger participants were more likely to demonstrate same sex attraction, showing off how evolving perspectives help shape sexual expression.
While some members of the LGBTQ community were concerned by a genetic study that analyzed gay people’s DNA, others found the results interesting and thought provoking. “This wasn’t something I, of all people, would have chosen. There must be some sort of biological background,” says Dr. Robbee Wedow, research fellow of the Broad Institute and Harvard’s Sociology department. “Saying ‘sorry, you can’t study this’ reinforces it as something that should be stigmatized.”