The Gay Gene?
potential consequence of accepting a doctrine of genetic determinism
relates to the potential link between genetics and sexual orientation.
In the summer of 1993, Dean H. Hamer and his research team at
the National Cancer Institute announced their discovered evidence
of a connection between genetics and some male homosexuality.
By constructing family trees in instances where two or more brothers
are gay, and performing actual laboratory testing of the supposed
homosexual DNA, Hamer located a region near the end of the long
arm of the X chromosome that likely contains a gene influencing
sexual orientation. Because men receive an X chromosome from their
mother and a Y chromosome from their father (women receive two
Xs, one from each parent), it is assumed that the possible
gay gene is inherited maternally. Mothers can pass on this gene
without themselves, nor their daughters, being homosexual. A parallel
study of lesbian genetics is as yet incomplete; and the present
study of gay men will certainly require replication and confirmation
to render indisputable proof. Nevertheless, Hamer was ready to
write in the article making the dramatic announcement, We
have now produced evidence that one form of male homosexuality
is preferentially transmitted through the maternal side and is
genetically linked to chromosome region Xq28."
What are the implications of this? Time magazine
projected an ethical and political forecast: If homosexuals
are deemed to have a foreordained nature, many of the arguments
now used to block equal rights would lose force. Time
cited a gay attorney who says, I cant imagine rational
people, presented with the evidence that homosexuality is biological
and not a choice, would continue to discriminate.
If we eventually accept as fact that male homosexuality
is genetically inherited, then the ethical logic that follows
could go a number of different directions.
To demonstrate this, we might begin with a couple of basic
questions: Does the genetic disposition toward homosexuality limit
the person's free will in the realm of sexuality? And, if so,
what are the ethical implications of this discovery? Two answers
are logically possible. On the one hand, a homosexual man could
claim that because he inherited this gene and did not choose a
gay orientation by his own free will, he should not be discriminated
against, or judged, in any way different than another member of
society. He could claim this because homosexuality could not be
judged immoral, on the grounds that it is natural; or, even if
society believes homosexuality to be immoral, he could not help
the fact that he has inherited his particular genome.
the other hand, society could take the opposite road and refuse
to accept homosexual behavior, even if it is proven to be genetically
determined. Homosexuality could be accepted as a biological fact,
but still be rejected socially, on the grounds that it lies outside
of a culture's traditional, or preconceived, values and norms.
In this way, homosexuality would parallel current societal views
of other forms of unacceptable, though often genetically-based,
behaviors, such as alcoholism and obesity. The underlying premise
of this position is that innate genetic dispositions, though outside
of a person's conscious control, do not excuse the behavior, trait,
or lifestyle. We are then left with the unanswered question: Does
our biological predisposition toward a specific behavior in itself
make that behavior moral or immoral?
link | Printer-friendly | Feedback
| Contributed by: Dr. Ted Peters