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#72143 - 12/17/03 07:39 PM interesting article by Harvard Med Researcher on homosexuality
abcd Offline

Registered: 10/20/00
Posts: 189
Loc: GA
Somewhat off-topic (and conservative in some estimates), but just something interesting....

Search for biological roots of homosexuality leads to genes

Judy Foreman

Published December 7, 2003 FORE07
Is there a biological basis for homosexuality?

With gay marriage likely to be a hot-button issue in the presidential campaign, the question of whether sexual orientation is an innate or acquired trait is increasingly urgent.

Since at least 1991, some scientific research has suggested a biological basis to homosexuality -- meaning sexual orientation is probably at least partly not a choice. But that point is open to political and scientific debate, and our understanding of how biology drives sexual orientation is still fuzzy. An estimated 2 to 4 percent of the general population is homosexual, although activists say the figure is higher.
Some data on identical twins suggest that homosexuality -- particularly in men -- is inherited. Other scientists have tried to pin down differences in brain structure.

Understanding homosexuality, or even heterosexuality, involves, among other things, figuring out how the brain, the seat of all complex behavior, becomes male or female in the first place.

Until recently, researchers thought that a surge in the male hormone testosterone in the fetus set the brain on a male track. Without testosterone, the brain continues on a female track.

But in a study published in October, California researchers identified 54 genes that play a role in the expression of sex -- before hormones are ever released.

"This refutes the idea that hormones are the only story in sexual differentiation of the brain. That has been the dogma in the field for 30 years," said lead researcher Dr. Eric Vilain, assistant professor of human genetics and urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

The study's implications are many. An estimated one in 4,000 babies is born with "ambiguous genitalia," making it difficult to tell whether the baby is a boy or a girl. By analyzing chromosomes and looking for internal sexual organs such as ovaries or prostate gland, doctors make their best guess as to the true sex of the child and sometimes perform surgery to make the anatomy conform to that. DNA analysis of the variations in these 54 genes and other genes that interact with them may help doctors in figuring out the child's gender, Vilain says.
Genes and gender identity

The 54 genes may also help explain transgenderism. That condition, which affects about one in 50,000 people, is characterized by the feeling that one was born the "wrong" sex. Some transgendered individuals simply live as the gender they feel they are, regardless of anatomy; others have sex-change surgery.

The UCLA study does not address homosexuality directly. But other data suggest that 75 percent of boys who were confused about their gender identity as children grow up to be gay, Vilain says. The study, he said, may help "pave the way to find out about gender identity" in such children.

Other studies on the genetic roots of homosexuality are mixed.

Dr. Richard Pillard, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, has studied male and female homosexuals. In men, he said, sexual orientation is often inherited. In women, "sexuality is not as rigidly set."

In identical male twins, his research shows, if one is gay, there's a 50 percent chance that the other one is, too. If homosexuality were totally genetically determined, that figure should be 100 percent. On the other hand, in male fraternal twins, there's only a 20 percent chance that if one is homosexual, the other will be.

In 1991, an autopsy study by Simon LeVay at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego found that part of the brain called the anterior hypothalamus was twice as large in heterosexual men as in homosexual men, suggesting a biological basis for homosexuality. Because the gay men in the study all were infected with HIV, it is possible that the disease, rather than their homosexuality, transformed their brains.

Proof proves evasive

Other studies that have tried to draw a biological link to homosexuality have faced problems, as well.

In 1993, Dean Hamer, a molecular biologist at the National Cancer Institute, studied 40 pairs of gay brothers and published his results in Science. With a technique called linkage mapping, Hamer identified a region called Xq28 on the X chromosome (inherited from the mother) that was statistically correlated to homosexuality. In 1995, a second study by Hamer and others confirmed that finding.

In 1999, researchers at the University of Western Ontario studied the same brain region in 52 gay male sibling pairs and reported contradictory findings. Clearly, more research is needed to prove homosexuality is inherited.

However, Dr. Fred Berlin, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said the basic conclusion is already clear: Homosexuality "is not due to voluntary choice.
None of us as kids sat down and said, 'Do I want to be attracted to members of the same gender?' "

Judy Foreman is a lecturer on medicine at Harvard Medical School.She can be reached at

Another interesting article from another web-site...

From the very beginning, the "ex-gay" ministries have been enmeshed in a
series of high profile failures. In addition to the crestfallen Paulk, the
following are the most well publicized defections and scandals in the
colorful annals of "ex-gay" history:

* In 1973, John Evans, co-founded the world's first modern "ex-gay"
ministry, Love In Action, on the outskirts of San Francisco. However, after
Evans' best friend Jack McIntyre committed suicide in despair over not being
able to change, Evans realized that the program was not working and
denounced Love in Action. To this day, the co-founder of the world's
original "ex-gay" ministry condemns the program as a dangerous - and
sometimes fatal - fraud.

* In the early 1970's Gary Cooper and Michael Bussee were counselors at an
"ex-gay" ministry in Anaheim, Calif. In 1976, they organized the first
national conference of "ex-gay" ministries. At this conference, Exodus
International was formed and it is now the world's largest "ex-gay"
organization. While traveling on behalf of Exodus, the two men acknowledged
that they had not changed and were in love with each other. They soon
divorced their wives, moved in together and eventually held a commitment

* In 1979, Seventh Day Adventist minister Colin Cook founded Homosexuals
Anonymous (HA). Appearing twice on the Phil Donahue show, he solidified his
reputation in the early 80's as the nation's premier "ex-gay" spokesperson.
But Cook's efforts collapsed in 1986 after he was exposed for giving clients
nude massages. Cook moved to Colorado and made a comeback in 1992 by helping
Colorado for Family Values and Focus on the Family promote their anti-gay
agenda. But in 1995, Cook's efforts unraveled, once again, after several of
Cook's clients accused him of phone sex and inappropriate hugs.

* In 2000, Wade Richard's appeared as a media spokesperson for a group
called the Saviors Alliance for Lifting the Truth and gave his testimony of
"change" at a major press conference sponsored by right-wing leader Peter
LaBarbera, who now works for an affiliate of Concerned Women for America.
But a year later, Richards rebuked the "ex-gay" ministries when he came out
in an interview with the Advocate magazine.

* In 1987, Jeremy Marks founded Courage, London's first "ex-gay" ministry.
In 2001, after nearly 15 years of watching people - including himself -
struggle in vain to change, he renounced Exodus's methods by saying that
they were failing in their efforts to change peoples' sexual orientation.

"Those who do not study history are destined to repeat it," said Herrschaft.
"And the history of the 'ex-gay' myth is clearly one of extreme sadness and
failure. We implore Focus on the Family to stop this campaign of ill will
and tell the truth: Many people escape the 'ex-gay' hoax and go on to live
satisfying, spiritually-fulfilling lives as openly gay men and women."

#72144 - 12/18/03 08:18 PM Re: interesting article by Harvard Med Researcher on homosexuality
Brayton Offline

Registered: 10/21/03
Posts: 696
Loc: Minneapolis
I read this when it appeared in the local newspaper 2 or 3 weeks ago.

It is interesting and thought provoking but fails to explain why I find no other gay men or lesbians in my immediate and extended family while stories of abuse run rampant.

Seems that the genetic combo might have occured at least one more time.


Though this will seem in direct opposition to some other things I have written here, I think of gayness as a spiritual gift. I think we have perhaps strayed from those roots but it is, I believe, that place that we will return to.

Science? What's that?

Anti-gay persecutors could care less. Their hate has dark origins that have nothing to do with logic and understanding.

And SA? Their hearts are hard and resist healing.

Sometimes, things just won't work the way we want them to.

#72145 - 12/21/03 06:12 AM Re: interesting article by Harvard Med Researcher on homosexuality
abcd Offline

Registered: 10/20/00
Posts: 189
Loc: GA

Thank you for your thoughts...someone brought up your point a while ago to me. I think though that (at least from what I have learned), we are not 100% genetic (one can readily see this in say two monozygotic twins being not exactly the same). Indeed, we are influenced by the environment (some argue a 50/50% influence). This is not to say that the environment can necessarily change your sexuality (no more than a straight person can change theirs). Still, the point is that in order for something to be "genetic," it does not mean that it has to have 100% control. For instance, you may have a genetic height (based on bone length, etc.,), however, if you do not eat enough food and have the right nutrients, you may not get there. On the flipside, however, if you have a set amount of genetic height, you can't increase past it regardless of how much you eat, etc.,. It's like the number of fat cells thing.

Moreover, as you know, inheritance of genes is based on two people. Thus, others may have (by coincidence) inherited simply the other parents genes (and if the trait is recessive, you will not detect it--nevermind even that the person may be closeted). For instance, people with blue eyes and the like may find that they have no immediate family members with blue eyes for generations and generations (simply because blue eyes is a recessive trait).

Also, the genetic factors for homosexuality are likely multi-factorial and the dominance is likely not straight forward (like most genes actually). This means that it's a specific combination of genes that would likely do so, thus you may need an exact combination to "be gay". I have even heard some credible information, that perhaps something as homosexuality is triggered by the environment (that is, genes are there, but may not be triggered until exposure to a certain environment). It's like that bone analogy I said up top.

One other thing...when it comes to genetics, we cannot easily generalize from one or two families to say this is or is NOT the case. For instance, in my family and my partner's family, there are definite examples of homosexual persons. Still, this is our family. This no more proves that homosexuality is genetic as your family NOT having "out" homosexuals DISproves it. For genetics, you have to look at a sizeable sample pool to really evaluate it (in science/medicine, it's called not being able to see "Mendelian" ratios until you have a large enough sample size). Studies conducted (if they are credible and peer-reviewed like ones mentioned up top) must and do meet this standard.

Okay...just my thoughts. Hope that made sense. Happy Holidays, and thanks for your comments.

#72146 - 12/23/03 07:42 PM Re: interesting article by Harvard Med Researcher on homosexuality
Brayton Offline

Registered: 10/21/03
Posts: 696
Loc: Minneapolis
I guess I won't totally dismiss the genetic origins idea. It is certainly easier when dealing with right wing fanatics to claim that part of our identity as an immutable characteristic.

I think perhaps it also has to do with brain chemistry which of course may have genetic origins but maybe not entirely. Recent findings seem to suggest that the brain is "trained" to work in specific ways.

I have read about this specifically in reference to depression where traumatic events (such as CSA) changed the way neurotransmitters work in the brain. The theory is that the brain can be "re-trained."

I'm not suggesting that the brain can be "re-trained" out of a s-x-al orientation or even suggesting that that would be desireable. In fact, even if orientation were entirely a concious choice, I would still insist on equal rights for all.

Is it possible that orientation has mystical origins as well genetic and chemical, even primarily? Haven't some societies in history recognized this? Perhaps brain chemistry is affected by this as well.

Sometimes, things just won't work the way we want them to.


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