Friday, August 30, 2019

Not one but many genes influence sexual orientation

It will he interesting to see how the religious right reacts to a new study confirming that genetics play an import role in the development of our attractions.
Click to enlarge
A number of outlets have reported on the new peer-reviewed study published to Science. Even the New York Times botched things in my opinion.

This study cannot be attributed to a single research facility. The investigators have 22 different affiliations in the United States and abroad.

Let's deal with the conclusion directly from the abstract:
Same-sex sexual behavior is influenced by not one or a few genes but many. 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. Nevertheless, many uncertainties remain to be explored, including how sociocultural influences on sexual preference might interact with genetic influences.
According to this paper, there is no single gay gene but many genes which influence whether or not someone will explore same-sex sex. It is important to understand that this is not a study of gay people vs. straight people. To quote the paper the analysis is “ever versus never had a same-sex partner.”

In fact, if you look at the graphic above (click to enlarge) you can see that the “ever” group provides a continuum within a continuum. The reference to Kinsey is to question the simplicity of the Kinsey Scale in consideration of the enormous complexity of sexual orientation and sexual experience.

If genetics plays a part in whether one ever has same-sex sex then we can safely assume that the correlation is even more pronounced in individuals who identify as gay.

Bottom line: Genetics play an important role in forming sexual orientation but there is more to it. It has long been theorized, for example, that the birth mother's hormones at the time of birth have a role. That could explain, for example, the fraternal birth order effect. Each successive male child that a woman gives birth to has an increased probability of being gay.

As you read about this study you might come across phrases like “genetic and environmental factors.” In science, environmental means anything that is not genetic.

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