Angier, Natalie. "Report Suggests Homosexuality is Linked to Genes," New York Times, pp. 1,
This page 1 article announces yet another determination concerning the "politically explosive"
notion that male homosexuality may be genetic. "The findings ... indicate that sexual orientation
often is at least partly inborn, rather than being solely a matter of choice." (p. 1)
However, the report's authors are modest: "‘Sexual orientation is too complex to be determined
by a single gene,' said Dr. Dean H. Hamer of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., the
lead author on the new report. ‘The main value of this work is that it opens a window into
understanding how genes, the brain and the environment interact to mold human behavior.'" (p.
"Despite the cautionary notes, the latest study is likely to add fuel to the debate over gay rights in
the military and civilian realms.
"If homosexuality is shown to be largely inborn, a number of legal experts say, then policies that
in any way discriminate against homosexuals are likely to be shot down in the counts.
"‘We think this study is very important,' said Gregory J. King, a spokesman for the Human
Rights Campaign Fund in Washington, the largest national lesbian and gay lobbying group.
‘Fundamentally it increases our understanding of the origins of sexual orientation, and at the
same time we believe it will help increase public support for lesbian and gay rights.'" (p. A12)
Caution is noted: "‘I don't think it's an interesting study,' said Darrell Yates Rist, confounder of
the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. ‘Intellectually, what do we gain by finding
out there's a homosexual gene? Nothing except an attempt to identify those people who have it
and then open them up to all sorts of experimentation to change them.'"
Simon LeVay, the author of a previous study of the biology of homosexuality, comments: "It's
the most important scientific finding ever made in sexual orientation."
"In the latest experiments, the researchers began by taking the family histories of 114 men who
identified themselves as homosexual. Much to their surprise, the researchers discovered a higher
than expected number of gay men among the men's maternal uncles and male cousins who were
the sons of their mothers' sisters. The ration was far higher than for men in the general
population, suggesting a gene or genes that is passed through the material line and thus through
the X chromosome.
"The scientists then focused on gay brothers, on the assumption that it two boys in a family are
homosexual, they were more likely to be so for genetic reasons than were those homosexual men
without gay brothers. Using a well-known genetic technique called linkage mapping, they
scrutinized the X chromosome in the bothers and other relatives by the application of DNA
markers, tiny bits of genetic material that can distinguish between chromosomes from different
people. The researchers found that more than three-quarters of the brothers had inherited
identical DNA markers on the Xq28 region of the chromosome.
"‘I was surprised at how easy this was to detect,' Dr. Hamer said... So far the study has been
limited to men who said they were gay, eliminating the ambiguity that would come from
considering the genes of men who called themselves heterosexual. "Nonetheless, the region is
about four million bases, or DNA building blocks long, and hence holds hundreds of genes,
meaning the scientists have much work ahead of them to sort out which gene or genes is relevant.
The researchers are also trying to perform a similar linkage study on lesbian sisters,s but so far
they have not managed to find a chromosomal region that is consistently passed along in
families." (p. A12)