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There is No Gay Gene 


By Carman Bradley

Homosexuals Anonymous, a Christian fellowship for men and women asks, “Have genes or hormones made you homosexual?”  Some have tried to maintain this argument, but there is little evidence to support such a view.  The HA web site records many scientific testimonies.  Dr. William Byne and Dr. Bruce Parsons of the Department of Psychiatry of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons state:

Recent studies postulate biologic factors as the primary basis for sexual orientation. However, there is no evidence at present to substantiate a biologic theory ... Critical review shows the evidence favoring a biologic theory to be lacking.[i]

After reviewing the scientific studies on genetics and homosexuality, Masters and Johnson concluded: "The genetic theory of homosexuality has been generally discarded today."[ii]

Dr. C.A. Tripp summarizes the scientific experience regarding hormones and homosexuality as follows:

A number of clinicians have seen fit over the years to run their own experiments by administering testosterone to both effeminate and ordinary homosexuals. The results have been consistent.  When there were any behavioral changes at all, the subjects became more like themselves than ever. Their sex drives were usually increased and sometimes their effeminate mannerisms as well (when they had any), but there were never any directional changes in their sexual interests. From these has become abundantly clear that the sex hormones play a considerable role in powering human sexuality, but they do not control the direction of it.[iii]

More recently some have argued that the problem lies in our prenatal hormones. They suggest that stress during pregnancy may alter the production of sex hormones in the mother at a crucial time, changing the level of hormones reaching the brain of the fetus, thus affecting sexual orientation.  Here too, however, the available evidence is against the theory.  Thus, researchers have found that " the majority of intersex patients with known hormone abnormalities, the sexual orientation follows the sex of the rearing.  Consequently, we have to assume that prenatal hormone conditions by themselves do not rigidly determine sexual orientation.”[iv]

Dr. Judd Marmor reported on the work of Richard Green.  He writes: a long series of studies on boys who showed effeminate behavior in childhood has demonstrated that although over half of these boys do become homosexual, a substantial minority of them do not. This indicates that gender-discordant children are not born homosexual, but rather are born with certain behavioral tendencies that, given contributory environmental factors, can predispose them towards homosexual behavior. Thus, a little boy whose behavior is effeminate, who does not like competitive athletics, and who prefers music and art, may be disappointing to a macho father, who tends to reject the boy and distance himself from him. The mother may respond by overprotecting her son. Such reactions disturb the boy's capacity to identify positively with his father and cause him to over identify with his mother. He may then ultimately develop homosexual erotic responses, which are reinforced by later experiences.[v]

Dr. John Money says:

With respect to orientation as homosexual or bisexual, there is no human evidence that prenatal hormonalization alone, independently of postnatal history, inexorably preordains either orientation. Rather, neonatal antecedents may facilitate a homosexual or bisexual orientation, provided the postnatal determinants in the social and communicational history are also facilitative."[vi]

Dr. Earl D. Wilson writes, "The disputed evidence for physical causes of male homosexuality is even weaker when it comes to lesbianism. [vii]

Facts like these led John DeCecco, editor of the Journal of Homosexuality and professor of psychology at San Francisco State University to say:

The idea that people are born into one type of sexual behavior is foolish.' ... The move towards 'biologizing' homosexuality, he says, isn't the result of a scientific consensus, but a political consensus by those eager to label people gay or straight.  Homosexuality, he says, is a 'behavior, not a condition,' and something that some people can and do change, just like they sometimes change tastes and other personality traits.[viii]

According to Homosexuals Anonymous, some will find these truths deeply disturbing.  They rob homosexuals of some favorite excuses.  Homosexuals can no longer claim: “I can't help myself. I was born this way.”  These truths mean homosexuals have to take responsibility for their lives and their actions.”[ix]  In doing this, however, these truths give homosexuals the key to freedom. The scientific truths show GBLTQ that they are not prisoners to cruel fate or faulty genes or hormones.  There is hope!  As Masters and Johnson put it:

When dealing with problems of sexual preference, it is vital that all health-care professionals bear in mind that the homosexual man or woman is basically a man or woman by genetic determination and is homosexually oriented by learned preference.[x]

Dr. Robert Kronemeyer summarizes his experience:

From my 25 years' experience as a clinical psychologist, I firmly believe that homosexuality is a learned response to early painful experiences and that it can be unlearned.  For those homosexuals who are unhappy with their life and find effective therapy, it is 'curable'.[xi]

Joan Laird, professor emerita of Smith College School for social work, contends:

There is no strong evidence to date to conclude that lesbians are biologically sexed or gendered any differently than heterosexual women, and no strong evidence to suggest that lesbianism is rightly understood as gender inversion or perversion.[xii]

Woman who transition to lesbianism later in life are particularly problematic for an innate homosexual premise:

One of the problems with research in this area, which may be used to support the hypothesis that gayness or lesbianism is biological, is that it is often late adolescents or adults who are explaining their sexual orientation from a retrospective position. Kitzinger and Wilkinson point out that ‘this focus on adolescence is a consequence of an essentialism that assumes a dormant, true lesbian self waiting to be discovered or revealed at puberty or shortly thereafter.’ It does little to explain the experiences of women who may change their self-identity from heterosexual to lesbian in early, mid-, or even late adulthood. From their research with women who made transitions from heterosexuality to lesbianism, they concluded that ‘adult women who make such transitions are no more driven by biology or subconscious urges than they are when, for instance, they change jobs; such choices could be viewed as influenced by a mixture of personal re-evaluation, practical necessity, political values, chance, and opportunity.’ [xiii]

In 1989, the Centers for Disease Control (currently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC) funded the AIDS Prevention Project of the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health to develop, implement, and evaluate interventions targeting non-gay identifying men who have sex with men (NGI-MSM).  Drawing upon personal or professional knowledge and experience, the project staff defined the risk population as homosexually active men who did not read the local gay press, did not participate in local gay events (such as parades or dances), and generally did not frequent publicly gay establishments (such as bars).  However, based on interviews of 79 NGI-MSM at bathhouses and a movie-sex shop complex, secretive attitudes, risky behaviors, and denial of risk was evident among these men.[xiv]  Project staff also surveyed individuals who have contact with NGI-MSM but are not themselves NGI-MSM: employees and managers of adult erotica businesses (bookstores, video arcades, X-rated theaters), public park groundskeepers, public and private transportation workers (rest-stop maintenance personnel, taxicab drivers), bartenders, vice officers, male escorts (prostitutes), counselors and therapists, and gay and bisexual support group participants. These interviews clarified points of access to NGI-MSM.  The six priority groups were then defined as follows:

Hustlers, or men who have sex with men primarily for economic reasons, including adolescents living on the streets, low-income men, and non-gay-identified professional prostitutes or escorts.

Closeted (highly secretive) or coming-out men, including NGI-MSM who generally are not heterosexually active, but have some compelling reason not to identify as homosexual. Some men are closeted by choice (to maintain heterosexual privilege within the general population) and others by circumstance (men in the military or clergy). This sector also includes men who are in the process of coming to terms with their sexual orientation.

New Age men or experimenters, including NGI-MSM who reject conventional notions of sexual roles and feel free to participate in or experiment with a variety of sexual activities.

Incarcerated or formerly incarcerated, including men in and out of jail or prison who may experience same-sex behavior while incarcerated and who continue to practice this behavior after release from jail or prison.

People of color or cultural groups, including NGI-MSM from other sectors who are distinguished by cultural factors that allow or encourage same-sex behavior among heterosexuals or that restrict the ability of a member of a particular culture to identify himself as gay or bisexual if he is involved in same-sex activity.

Heterosexually identified bisexual men, including married men who have occasional same-sex encounters, men who have sex with men in all-male institutions (such as dormitories), and sexually active men who don't necessarily discriminate on the basis of gender. This sector is a "catch-all" for the majority of NGI-MSM.[xv]

Chistopher Hewitt, using both national surveys and surveys of self-identified gay men in the United States, analyzed the numbers, age distribution, life expectancy, and marital status of men who have sex with men.  He concluded that five types of behavior could be distinguished: open preferential, repressed preferential, bisexual, experimental, and situational. These five categories have different patterns of sexual behavior, and the numbers in each category are influenced by changing social conditions, in particular the growth of gay neighborhoods, and public tolerance.[xvi]

Another study that looked at dimensions of sexual experience, as measured on Kinsey’s Homosexual-Heterosexual Continuum, found significant variety.  Male respondents were less apt to consider themselves exclusively homosexual in their feelings.  Some 42 percent of White and more than half of the Black homosexual males gave themselves a rating of 5 or less (i.e., not exclusively homosexual) on the scale.  A minority of the White homosexual females (47 per cent) and barely a majority of Black homosexual females rated themselves exclusively homosexual in both their sexual behaviors and feelings.  Some 75 percent of the White homosexual females considered themselves more homosexual in their behaviors than their feelings; 55 percent of White and 41 percent of Black homosexual females said they had had sex dreams involving sexual activity with males.[xvii]

These studies concluded a variety of categories for homosexuality and confirmed that many could not be considered exclusively homosexual.  In the face of such diversity in attraction, Dr. Dean Hammer says: “We have not found the gene – which we don’t think exists – for sexual orientation.”[xviii]  Neil Whitehead sums the issue as follows:

Hamer knows that any attempt to argue the existence of a ‘homosexual gene,’ a single, apparently autocratic, gene governing homosexuality, is nonsense, genetically.  There is no single gene governing sexual preference or any other preference.  There is no gene for smoking, dancing, or making sarcastic remarks.[xix]

More than 100 genes are involved in IQ in humans because at least 100 separate gene defects are already known to individually lower IQ.  If when many genes are involved, changes in behavior take place very slowly, over very many generations, how can homosexuality suddenly appear as it does in a family?  The only possible way would be for many recessive “homosexual” genes to switch on spontaneously and simultaneously very early in the life of the fetus, and all the “heterosexual” genes to completely switch off.  This is extremely unlikely.  If many genes were involved the typical genetic pattern would be a gradual change in the family toward homosexuality – a few per cent each generation over the course perhaps thirty generations.  Similarly, homosexuality would only slowly disappear in the descendants (if any) of a homosexual person.  Whitehead concludes that any other proposed mechanism is highly speculative.  Behaviors which do change slowly over the generations in a family or society are much more likely to be genetically influenced or determined, but homosexuality changes too swiftly to be genetically controlled or influenced by many genes.[xx]

Although acknowledging that it is highly unlikely the GBLTQ community would accept the notion of non-heterosexual orientation resulting from genetic mutation, Whitehead studied the hypothesis.  He concluded, from a biological point of view, that homosexuality does not appear to be caused by mutation.  He explains why:

Just as many ‘homosexual’ genes would suddenly have to switch on and off if the sudden appearance and disappearance of homosexuality in families is to be accounted for, so, many genes would suddenly have to mutate if we want to argue that homosexuality is caused by mutation.  The chances that even ten genes might spontaneously change from ‘heterosexual’ to ‘homosexual’ by mutation is much less than one in a thousand, and geneticists would find it inconceivable that hundreds of genes could do so.[xxi]

There is another difficulty with the mutation theory.  Most conditions caused by mutations affect only a very small proportion of the general population: about 0.025 per cent of the population or less, in each case.  Altogether, conditions caused by genetic mutation are found in about only 1 per cent of the total population.  Homosexuality, with its total incidence (2.2 percent), does not fit plausibly into the category of genetic diseases because the incidence is too high.[xxii]

Whitehead asks, “How could genetic homosexuality maintain itself in a population?”  In reply he concludes: “genetically enforced homosexuality (exclusively same-sex sex) would die out of the population in several generations.”  A gene is retained in the gene pool when an average of at least one child is born to every adult having that gene (one child per person).  As unlikely as it sounds, surveys show that of persons classifying themselves as exclusively homosexual, one in five has a child.  Moreover, according to surveys, bisexuals, have an average of 1.25 children each.  On its own, that’s enough to replace the adult gene or genes, but the average total number of children produced by bisexuals and exclusive homosexuals still comes to less than one per person – 0.9.[xxiii]

No mainstream geneticist is happy with the idea that genes dictate behavior, particularly homosexual behavior.  Geneticists G.S. Omenn and A.G. Motulksy said, when they talked about the difficulties of predicting behavior from gene structure:

The hopelessness of understanding behavior from simple analytical approaches can be compared to the hopelessness of seeking linguistic insights by a chemical analysis of a book.[xxiv]

About 1 percent of the adult male population is exclusively homosexual, and about 0.5 per cent of the adult female population is exclusively lesbian at any given time – a grand mean of 0.7 per cent of the total adult population.  Around 2.2 per cent of the total adult population is GBLTQ.[xxv]  The surveys of bisexual incidence come up with an interesting statistic.  Of all homosexually active males, about 55 per cent are married (which is the average of a range of surveys finding between 25 per cent and 80 per cent).  About 45 per cent of lesbians have been married.[xxvi]

Those who accept that homosexuality may not be genetically determined, may then argue that the behavior is so long-term, so strong, and so resistant to change that it should be called an instinct or reflex.  But this premise too, needs to be deconstructed.  According to Whitehead, we have an instinctive blinking reflex when something comes near our eyes and even male ejaculation is a reflex.  It can be tricked by artificial stimulation – even triggered by electric shock.[xxvii]  Whitehead draws upon the instincts of survival and mothering to argue that instinctive responses (reflexes) are not always rigid and can be changed.  He writes:

Young children have an instinctive fear of heights.  In some experiments several decades ago, researchers placed a strong sheet glass over a deep recess created in a level surface and let babies crawl along the sheet glass.  All the babies paused in fear at the apparent edge and retreated. This natural fear of falling is not absent in potential mountain climbers as babies, but the instinctive fear is abated through progressive training and experience.  The mothering instinct leads timid ewes and tiny birds to charge humans and dogs if their babies are threatened.  Mothers are equipped to conceive, carry, and suckle their young.  They appear to be natural nurturers.  Fathers on the other hand don’t appear to have the same instinct to nurture.  Surveys usually show that they spend only about one third of the time with their children that mothers do.  However, are human males biologically programmed or instinctively geared to be poor nurturers?  Where do the good househusbands and domestic fathers come from? Indeed, if such discrepant nurturing instincts can be reprogrammed in both females and males, is there not equal likelihood that such is true of a so-called “homosexual instinct?[xxviii]

Whitehead cites some revealing experiments:

In an unusual experiment, scientist Jay Rosenblatt took several-day-old rats and put them in with virgin females.  The females showed no mothering instincts and of course could not nurse the pups, so the pups tended to languish.  Rosenblatt replaced the pups each day, and by the sixth day there was an enormous change in the behavior of the virginal females.  They began to look after the pups, licking them, retrieving them, and even more astonishingly, lying down as though trying to nurse them.  Even though they were not primed by hormonal changes of pregnancy, the presence of the pups alone was sufficient to trigger the maternal behavior.

Rosenblatt tried exactly the same thing with adult male rats.  After six days, the males started behaving just like the virgin females: licking the pups, retrieving them when they strayed, and even lying down as trying to nurse them!  In other words, maternal ‘instincts’ were evoked by the presence of the pups in male rats, sometimes known to eat their infant offspring.[xxix]

The modern woman who insists that men are quite capable of mothering and nurturing children appears to have science on her side; fathers are certainly able to increase the quality time they already spend with their children.  “House-husbands” have brought up very young children with the aid of glass bottles, powdered milk and rubber teats.  There are even cases where older men with hormonal treatment have breast-fed babies.[xxx]  Nor is nurturing behavior an over-riding instinct in human females.  Some human mothers abandon their babies at birth.  Hundreds of thousands of babies are aborted each year.  Some women are poor mothers; some men are successful replacements.  Says Whitehead, “It seems the mothering instinct can be developed or neglected in a woman, and evoked in a man.”

Focusing on our sexuality, some 90 per cent of mankind have a powerful instinct to reproduce.  The remaining 10 per cent for various reasons have no urge to personally contribute to perpetuating our species.  Anhedonia is an often-temporary state of being turned off from all pleasures, not just sexual ones.  In a 1970 study, some 10 per cent of adults saw no prospect of sexual enjoyment with either sex.[xxxi]  For many pro-creation is not an overriding drive.  Homosexuality cannot reproduce, so homosexuality cannot be considered an instinct to perpetuate the species.  Says Whitehead, “If it could be called an instinct, it is no less malleable than any other of the powerful instincts that man experiences, which, we have seen, are subject to a huge degree to man’s will and other environmental influences.”[xxxii]  In sum there is no gay gene.  Gay theology can neither biblically nor scientifically claim the existence of a gene for homosexual behavior.


Copyright © 2008 StandForGod.Org

[i] W. Byne M.D., Ph.D., B. Parsons, M.D., Ph.D, “Human Sexual Orientation: The Biologic Theories Reappraised,” Archives of General Psychiatry, 1993, p. 228.

[ii] W.H. Masters, V.E. Johnson, R.C. Kolodny,  Human Sexuality, 2nd Ed, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1985), pp.411 and 412.

[iii] C.A. Trip,  The Homosexual Matrix (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975), p.12.

[iv] A.A. Ehrhardt, H.F.L. Meyer-Bahlburg, "Effects of Prenatal Hormones on Gender-Related Behavior," Science, 1981, p.1316 .

[v] J. Marmor, “Homosexuality: Nature versus Nurture,” The Harvard Mental Health Letter, October 1985, p.6.

[vi] J. Money, "Sin, Sickness or Status? Homosexual Gender Identity and Psychoneuroendocrinology," American Psychologist, 42, No. 4, April 1987, p. 398.

[vii] E.D. Wilson (1988) Counseling and Homosexuality, 42, No.4 (April), p.398 .

[viii] K. Painter, “A Biologic Theory for Sexual Preference,” USA Today, March 1, 1989, p.4D.

[ix] Homosexuals Anonymous Fellowship Services,, 2/22/01.

[x] W.H. Masters, V.E. Johnson, Homosexuality in Perspective (Boston:Little, Brown and Company, 1979). 

[xi] R. Kronemeyer,  Overcoming Homosexuality  (New York; Macmillan Publishing, 1980), p.7.

[xii] Joan Laird, “Gender in lesbian relationships: Cultural, feminist, and constructionist,” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Upland, October 2000.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Gary Goldbaum, Thomas Perdue, Donna Higgins, “Non-gay-identifying men who have sex with men: Formative research results from Seattle, Washington,” Public Health Reports, Hyattsville, 1996.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] 237

[xvii] Alan P. Bell and Martin S Weinberg, Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity: Among Men and Women (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1978), pp.57 and 59.

[xviii] Neil and Briar Whitehead, My Genes Made Me Do it! (Lafayette, Louisianna: Huntington House, 1999), p.17.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Ibid., pp.20 and 21.

[xxi] Ibid., p.23.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid., p.25.

[xxiv] Ibid., p.29.

[xxv] Ibid., p.39.

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Ibid., p.78.

[xxviii] Ibid., pp.77-79.

[xxix] Ibid., pp.79 and 80.

[xxx] Ibid., p.81.

[xxxi] Ibid., p.71.

[xxxii] Ibid., p.82.