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The 'gay gene' does not exist, according to researchers of a new study

Scientists argued that genetics cannot predict someone’s sexual identity and said social and environment play a role as well

2019-08-30

Words: Steve Brown

The ‘gay gene’ does not exist according to researchers.

Published in Science, the genetic analysis study of nearly half a million people, by using data from the UK Biobank and 23andMe, found genetic variants associated with same-sex relationships.

But these accounted for around 35 per cent of same-sex behaviour and according to GLAAD, researchers found ‘no conclusive degree to which nature or nurture influenced how a gay or lesbian person behaves’.

Researchers studied the genetic make-up of around 409, 000 people signed up to the UK Biobank project and 68, 500 registered with the company 23andMe.

Scientists argued that genetics cannot predict someone’s sexual identity and stressed that there were no clear patterns among genetic variants that could identify behaviour.

They argued social and environmental factors play a role, too, the BBC reported.

But Harvard and MIT researchers at the revered biomedical research centre Broad Institute found around five markers more common with those who have had same-sex sexual partners.

Those taking part in the study were asked whether they had same-sex partners as well as opposite-six partners.

In the five markers, one was linked to the biological pathway for smell and others to sex hormones.

Andrea Ganna, a biologist at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Finland, told the New York Times: “We scanned the entire human genome and found a handful – five to be precise – of locations that are clearly associated with whether a person reports in engaging in same-sex behaviour.”

The study – which was published this week – faced immediate backlash from the LGBTQ community.

Steven Reilly, a geneticist on the committee of the institute’s LGBTQ+ group, [email protected], said: “I deeply disagree about publishing this.

“It seems like something that could easily be misconstrued. In a world without any discrimination, understanding human behaviour is a noble goal, but we don’t live in that world.”

Other postdoctoral researcher, Joe Vitti, also voiced his objections and said: “As a queer person and a geneticist, I struggle to understand the motivations behind a genome-wide association study for non-heterosexual behaviour.

“I have yet to see a compelling argument that the potential benefits of this study outweigh its potential harms.”