New study busts the ‘gay gene’ myth

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Thursday the 5th of September, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. 

Before we get started today,  I want to announce the next The World and Everything In Live! This is where we travel around the country to come meet you in person. This time, we’ll be in Music City!

BASHAM: Nashville, Tennessee!! I LOVE that place!

REICHARD: That’s good, because you’ll be there, I’ll be there, Nick will be there, some of our other colleagues and staff will be there. The date is Thursday, November 21, one week before Thanksgiving Day.

BASHAM: So if you have family in town, you can bring them, too! We’ll explore with you the history of journalism and how that relates to what we do now. We’ll talk about how you can be more discerning about what your mind consumes. All that with a view not to conform to this world, but to bring about transformation by the renewal of your mind.

REICHARD: Not only that, we’ll have a local guest to analyze the culture, and such a great opportunity for your listener feedback, live and on the spot!

BASHAM: Yeah, it’ll be fun to meet you and take pictures and just get to know each other better. We love talking to our listeners. The event is free, but we do need for you to register online. Just go to, look at the top menu under “engage,” and there’s a pull-down menu. Select “Live Events” and all the details are right there to make the reservation. Again, it’s free, but you have to claim your seat.

REICHARD: Can’t wait!

Okay, now on to our first topic today: the genetics of homosexuality.

Whether a “gay gene” exists has had scientists searching for years. A new study released last week pretty well ends the debate. The gay gene does not exist. 

The study population was enormous: nearly 500,000 people from the United States and the United Kingdom.

BASHAM: Although researchers didn’t find one gene that determines sexuality, the report notes hundreds of other genes do seem to influence it. And at least five seem to indicate a predisposition to same-sex attraction. 

Still, the researchers found that genetics only accounted for between 8 and 25 percent of same-sex behavior. That leaves other things, like social setting, culture, family, and experience as big factors affecting a person’s sexual orientation.

REICHARD: Dr. Michelle Cretella is executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, a conservative alternative to the American Academy of Pediatrics. She joins us now to talk about the implications of this study.

Good morning, Dr. Cretella.

CRETELLA: Good morning! So good to be here.

REICHARD: Well, thank you for being here. What were the biggest take-aways for you from this study?

CRETELLA: What is tremendous is this sample size—we’re talking almost half a million people—we can definitively say that no one is born LGB. This study found that a person’s developmental environment is two times more influential than genetics on the probability of same-sex behavior later in life. So, I say that is the biggest take-away, you’re not born LGB. The second huge take-away is that those who come to identify as LGB are not genetically distinct from any other human being. They are not genetically distinct from those who identify as heterosexual. And we can say that because the authors of the study found—as you said, there was no controlling single gene, but the large number of markers that they did identify across the genome are virtually found in all human beings. So gay persons are not genetically distinct from those who are heterosexual.

REICHARD: Now I notice you were very careful to say LGB, meaning lesbian, gay and bisexual. You didn’t include the “T” for transgender. Why’s that?

CRETELLA: Because this was looking at same-sex behavior as the trait versus identifying those who identify as something other than their biological sex.

REICHARD: Okay. Well, commentary from other researchers published along with this study were quite interesting. One sociologist hopes this will lead to more research about how environmental factors affect genetic predispositions. That seems to suggest that maybe under different circumstances a person might not identify as homosexual. So do you think this study opens the door to research showing sexuality is largely about choice?

CRETELLA: I’m going to answer that question by refining it just slightly. I think this study is very important in that it should allow us to take a look and make a distinction about feelings and behavior. So, as far as sexual feelings, all feelings—including sexual attractions—develop as a result of multiple factors. Some factors we know that do pertain to developing same-sex attraction include sexual abuse, shame and attachment loss experienced in early childhood from either the same-sex parent or from peers, for example. So, having those feelings is not a conscious choice. But how do we behave? What do we do with those feelings? Do we act them out? Do we engage in a same-sex relationship? That is a choice. And so my answer would be yes. I hope that this study does lead to further research to help refine our understanding.

REICHARD: And then long term, do you think this study will affect the way we talk about sexuality?

CRETELLA: Again, my hope is that it will, is that it will—the myth that you are born LGB needs to die. It’s a lie. No good and health cannot come from lies. And so my hope is that this will encourage researchers and physicians and therapists in the general public to start talking in terms of sexual feelings and sexual behavior and empowering people to make healthy choices. 

REICHARD: This study focused on adults. But there are implications for children, too. Do you see any movement around the way we treat children with gender dysphoria or other issues with sexuality?

CRETELLA: Yes. Now, this study is actually very critical. The results of this study should be used to oppose therapy bans. There are many states right now that have actually made it illegal to counsel a child or a teenager who has unwanted same-sex attractions or even—and gender dysphoria. By outlawing this therapy, we are locking these children into a false identity. So, what’s very interesting is that the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association for over a decade has recognized that in adolescence, sexual attractions are extremely fluid. Well, the same-sex attractions are extremely fluid and are likely to change. So, really, this study is just more ammunition in favor of patient choice when it comes to counseling. We have a culture that now is very tolerant of those who embrace an LGB identity. We’re experiencing significant intolerance toward those who espouse a traditional Christian or orthodox Jewish or traditional views of sexuality. Those of us who hold those views, we’re the ones being discriminated against now and my hope is that this study, which clearly explodes the “born gay” myth will help us achieve true tolerance.

REICHARD: Dr. Michelle Cretella is executive director of the American College of Pediatricians. Thanks so much for joining us today.

CRETELLA: Thanks for having me on.

(Photo/Creative Commons)

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