Are people born gay? It’s a question that continues to surround us as LGBTQ life and rights become more prominent with every day. And with the need for LGBTQ rights increasing as well, having scientific backing for LGBTQ people would better support the fight for equality and protections. But according to a new study published in the journal Science, the answer isn’t as easy as you would think.
The international team of scientists studied DNA from over 477,000 U.S. and U.K. citizens (collected through the U.K. Biobank study and private genomics firm 23andMe). Their goal was to find possible links between DNA’s genetic markers and sexual behavior.
The results found that there is no specific “gay gene,” but genetics do play a part in a person’s sexuality. Specifically, researchers found that five genetic markers “were significantly associated with same-sex sexual behavior.” None of the factors had a particularly large impact, and none could predict sexual behavior alone. That said, the markers accounted for 8 to 25 percent of the variation in sexual orientation and expression.
Despite the study stating that there is no “gay gene,” it does state that sexual orientation is somewhat affected by our DNA. As such, LGBTQ advocacy groups have celebrated the study for backing the idea that homosexuality is a natural trait.
“The identities of LGBTQ people are not up for debate,” said GLAAD’s chief programs officer Zeke Stokes. “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.”
“It just shows us that same-sex sexual behavior is much more complex than this idea of having just one gene influencing it all,” Eric Vilain, director of the Center for Genetic Medicine Research at Children’s National Health System, told The Washington Post. “It shows that there are genetic factors, which we had suspected long ago … but it also shows those genetic factors do not tell the whole story.”
Even Andrea Ganna, the study’s lead author and an esteemed biologist at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Finland, said the research strengthens the thought that homosexuality and bisexuality are simply “a natural part of our diversity as a species.”
That said, this study is still not the end of the discussion. After all, it was made up of data from mostly European-American participants. So as Vilain stated, “It’s missing out on what’s going on in other populations.” As such, there’s more work to be done.