A new study published in the journal Science found there’s not a single gene that determines human sexuality but several genes that contribute to whether someone is LGBT or not.
The study, the largest ever to explore the connection between genetic makeup and sexual orientation, involved over 470,000 participants from Sweden, the US, and the UK.
DNA data was accessed from the UK Biobank study and from 23andMe, a private genetics company. 26,000 participants reported at least one same-sex sexual encounter.
Researchers found a strong connection between homosexuality and five autosomal loci (areas of DNA not on sex chromosomes).
The researchers acknowledged that the presence of the genes does not in itself determine someone’s sexual orientation.
But, the scientists found that a range of 8% to 25% of the variance in sexuality could be explained by the genes.
Some of the genes were more impactful on men, some on women, and some on both.
And so, the authors wrote in the study, “Same-sex sexual behavior is influenced by not one or a few genes but many.”
Eric Vilain, director of the Center for Genetic Medicine Research at Children’s National Health System, said that the study could have been more specific had the scientists focused on only gay and bi people instead of just asking if people have ever had a same-sex sexual experience and lumping them all together.
Vilain added that the study should be replicated with more diverse participants.
Interestingly, media outlets have spun the study in several ways.
For instance, the headline in Science read, “There’s no evidence that a ‘gay gene’ exists.”
Over at Bloomberg, they wrote, “Science Hasn’t Found A ‘Gay’ Gene – So What?” That seems vague to me.
But the New York Times headlined more accurately, “Many Genes Influence Same-Sex Sexuality, Not a Single ‘Gay Gene.’”
And the Washington Post – “There’s no one ‘gay gene,’ but genetics are linked to same-sex behavior,” new study says.”
Considering how many – MANY – people read headlines and think they read ‘the news,’ you can see how a few words make a big difference.