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AZID HUSSAIN

RESEARCH PAPER

 

                                                      Determining Homosexuality

As far as most people can remember, the argument is usually how gay rights, whether they should be able to have gay partners or get married or just be gay at all. Most seem not to care even a little bit about how individuals become homosexuals or come to the point of realization that they were in fact homosexuals all along. Homosexuals today account for almost 10% of the population approximately. This number isn’t intimidatingly huge but it’s great enough for people to look more deeply into this. There can be multiple factors on how a person becomes gay, whether they’re born gay or they develop it over time etc. The most reasonable approach seems to be that, yes, homosexuality is in fact genetically determined. Now science hasn’t actually proven this to be true but it doesn’t mean that genetics doesn’t play a role at all in determining whether a person is homosexual or not. Genetics determine the sex of an embryo so can’t it be true that it also plays a role in what gender will you be attracted to? It’s a fair question isn’t it? This is obviously not to rule out other factors as well such as environmental factors, family, religion, culture etc. They without a doubt play a role as well. But genetics seem to be the dominant factor that explains why a person is born gay.

 

The only thing we know at this point about homosexuality is the intolerance we show as a society towards gay people and how hard and miserable life becomes for them because of our attitudes towards them. Even so, let’s look at why genetics seem to play a bigger role in  determining homosexuality than many environmental factors. As discussed in the chapter, “The Last Mile”, from the book The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee, Dean Hamer, a researcher the National Cancer Institute, kept looking into family trees and found that maternal cousins had a higher chance of being gay than the cousins on the paternal side of the family. He theorized that the “gay link” is somehow linked to the X chromosome. Later on it is stated in, The Last Mile, “He had not identified the gay gene-but he had proved that a piece of DNA associated with sexual orientation could be physically mapped to the human genome.”(Mukherjee 377). Now this isn’t to say that Hamer found the exact chromosome that affects the sexuality of people. But it does lay down a strong theory that can help us prove the genetic linkage to homosexuality. Later on in the same article Mukherjee goes onto say, “This much is certain :sooner or later, we will  discover the precise nature of the heritable elements that influence human sexual identity.”(Mukherjee 379). Right now, it’s just the beginning of the effort. It’s safe to say that the results will take a while. Rome wasn’t built in one day and this won’t be so easy to figure out as well.

 

As more researchers and scientists get involved in this issue and start to contrast the differences in homosexual and heterosexual individuals, the more our knowledge about this topic will expand. John Money, a John Hopkins University psychologist stated, “Of course it[sexual orientation] is in the brain”, “The real question is, when did it get there? Was it paternal, neonatal, during childhood, puberty? That we do not know?”, Homosexuality: Born or Bred? (2). According to Mr. Money, we’ve been looking at this the wrong way this whole time. Perhaps looking at it from any perspective would only do us good because we need more information on the difference in homosexual genetics than heterosexual one’s and it doesn’t matter how it is derived. Simon LeVay, a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, scanned the brains of 41 cadavers, including 19 homosexual males. He determined that an area believed to control sexual activity in the brain was less than half the size in gay men than in the heterosexuals (2). As we continue to look more into this issue, it is becoming clear that there are differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals, their organ structures and genotype etc. We don’t know that those differences are the reason for people to be gay but we do know that there are genetic differences, plain and simple. Later on in the same article, Homosexuality” Born or Bred?, the report of a twin study is discussed. The Bailey-Pillard twin study. Researchers found that 56 identical twins, 52 percent were both gay as against 22 fraternal twins. The numbers alone say a lot. So out of these 56 identical twins, if one turned out to be gay, there was a 52% chance of the other one being gay. Even though it is only half, but it’s a huge percentage. This can mean that there had to be something in the genes that factored into these siblings being gay since identical twins share the exact same genotype. The genetic linkage to homosexuality makes more and more sense after looking at this twin study.

Since genetic factor being dominant in determining the homosexuality of an individual isn’t a ‘proven’ factor, we certainly can’t rule out the environmental factors. It is possible that homosexuality may be more a choice than it is an inherited gene that you’re stuck with. In the same article, Homosexuality: Born or Bred?, Doug Barnett who was a practicing heterosexual, vaguely attracted to men, had no idea about his sexuality until his twin brother came up to him and revealed that LeVay was gay. It wasn’t until Barnett then realized that if my identical brother is gay maybe the same thing that interests him would work for me too. He then tried sex with other men to find out he enjoyed it more, i repeat, MORE, than women. Can’t it be possible, that, had Barnett never found out that his identical brother with the exact same DNA did not tell him of his sexual preference, Barnett would have continued living his heterosexual life having sex with women and enjoying it slightly less than having sex with men but that wouldn’t have mattered because Barnett wouldn’t have known about sex with men. Plus if identical twins share the exact same DNA and if one is gay, shouldn’t it be a hundred percent chance that the other one is gay as well. Why only 52%? This is true as far as the environmental factors are concerned, maybe people become gay because they grow thinking about the males in their lives that give them a good time. They don’t have any females that have given them happiness and therefore they just don’t end up liking them. But these theories are very unreliable with no concrete evidence to even consider it as the bigger reason. I’m not saying it doesn’t play a role at all. But it’s not all due to the environmental side of this issue. We can also ask a very important question to ourselves, why is that even in societies where homosexuality is forbidden or strictly frowned upon, people still openly announce their homosexuality. The article “Everything you need to know about being gay in Muslim countries” by Brian Whitaker validates the theory of genetics being the dominant factor in determining homosexuality. Mr. Whitaker discusses the fact that throughout the 19th and 20th century, men that expressed being ‘gay’ were persecuted. These peoples’ families, religion and culture completely went against their ideologies. So even in these times of extreme cruelty and hate towards the homosexuals, if they still openly express their sexual identity and stand up for who they are, it’s probably true that this is the way they were born. It can also be true that no environmental factor influenced their sexual identity and their sexuality is the way it is due the genetic factor. Again, just a theory. But this definitely seems like a more reliable one. Another theory from a religious perspective can be that since God has made everything, from the Earth to the Heavens and plants and animals, can’t it be possible he also created another sexuality? The article “ ‘God Made You This Way,’ Pope Is To Have Told Gay Man” by Jason Horowitz states the direct quotation of the Pope to a gay man, “You have to be happy with who you are. God made you this way and loves you this way, and the Pope loves you this way.”(Horowitz). This is coming from the Pope himself. So for those who claim homosexuality goes against religion and try to use religion as a cover blanket to support their hatred against gay people, might have to come with better reasons to keep on hating. Nevertheless,  as the genetic research advances on this issue, the differences in structures, DNA, and to an extent chromosomes between heterosexual and homosexual individuals may even become clearer because many of the theories are supporting the idea of genetic factor in determining homosexuality of being the dominant factor.

 

In determining homosexuality, the genetic factor plays a greater role than any other factor. Because if the brain is structured in homosexual individuals to be attracted to the same gender then it doesn’t matter when they realize they like the same gender more than the opposite gender. The important thing is that the individual still comes to realize it. To an extent religion, family values and culture even plays a role in determining the sexual preference of an individual but it’s not as huge as the one in the brain. All our neural impulses come from the brain and sexuality is a huge thing in the human anatomy. To rule out the genetic factor, would be a very unreasonable thing to do.

Work Cited

Horowitz, Jason. “God Made You This Way,’ Pope Is To Have Told Gay Man.” The New

York Times, 21 May 2018, pp. 1–5.

 

Mukherjee, Siddhartha. “The Last Mile.” The Gene, an Intimate History, Scribner, 2016.

 

Newsweek Staff. Homosexuality : Born or Bred? 23 Feb. 92AD, 7:00,

www.newsweekstaff.com/homosexuality-born-or-bred-200636

 

Whitaker, Brian. “Everything You Need To Know about Being Gay in Muslim Countries.” The Guardian, Tuesday 21st June 2016, pp. 1-9.

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