A new and comprehensive study about the nature of same-sex attraction has failed to pinpoint a so-called “gay gene”, but doesn’t dispute that homosexuality is “a natural part of our diversity as a species.”
The results of the study, conducted by Andrea Ganna, lead author and European Molecular Biology Laboratory group leader at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Finland, were released on 29 August.
In an effort to understand the origins of human sexuality, the study was the largest-ever project of this kind, utilising DNA collected from 470,000 participants from two genetic databases: the UK Biobank, the home DNA testing company 23andMe, together with three smaller studies.
Volunteers were asked to answer questions related to their sexuality and sexual identity, including how many sexual partners they have had, what they found attractive in a sexual partner and what kinds of sex they had had, among other questions about their sexual identity and fantasies.
While researchers did find five genes that are clearly connected with same-sex attraction, there was no conclusive genetic evidence that determines whether someone has a same-sex partner.
Researchers have pointed to the results as evidence that sexual orientation is determined by both environmental and biological components, but places prominence on the fact that the study was meant to look at sexual behaviour, and not sexual identity.
Speaking about the study, one of its coauthors, J. Fah Sathirapongsasuti, told Science News that the lack of evidence for a gay gene does by no means invalidate anyone’s sexual orientation, or make it subject to discussion.
“Just because something is not completely genetic or something has an environmental, or what we call nongenetic, component, doesn’t mean it’s a choice,” said Sathirapongsasuti.
In his response to the results of the study, GLAAD’s Zeke Stokes said that it “provides even more evidence that being gay or lesbian is a natural part of human life, a conclusion that has been drawn by researchers and scientists time and again. The identities of LGBTQ people are not up for debate. This new research also reconfirms the long established understanding that there is no conclusive degree to which nature or nurture influence how a gay or lesbian person behaves.”