Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Study of gay brothers seeks genetic clues

I actually was going to participate in this study, but my brother would not participate (they are taking gay and non-gay brothers sets too). I tried to explain that (1) everything was highly confidential and (2) participating did not indicate that he was gay since they wanted other brother sets too, but he nonetheless was spooked. I got as far as actually speaking with Dr. Alan Sanders and did the initial questionnaires, etc.
Personally, I would like conclusive proof that sexual orientation is genetically determined to at least partially but significant extent because then (A) the Courts - and legislatures - will be less susceptible to being influenced by Christianist propaganda that being gay is a choice and (B) existing non-discrimination laws may become applicable depending upon their wording. Obviously, such scientific proof is the Christianists' worse nightmare. It would (i) show that they have been lying (deliberately, I might add) and (ii) the less crazed religious might be inclined to put aside their prejudice and bias. Here are some highlights from a Boston Globe story (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/10/16/study_of_gay_brothers_seeks_genetic_clues/):

CHICAGO - Julio and Mauricio Cabrera are gay brothers who are convinced their sexual orientation is as deeply rooted as their Mexican ancestry. They are among 1,000 pairs of gay brothers taking part in the largest study to date seeking genes that may influence whether people are gay. The Cabreras hope the findings will help silence critics who say homosexuality is an immoral choice. If fresh evidence is found suggesting genes are involved, perhaps homosexuality will be viewed as no different from other genetic traits like height and hair color, said Julio Cabrera, a student at DePaul University in Chicago.

Added his brother, "I think it would help a lot of folks understand us better." The federally funded study, led by Chicago area researchers, will rely on blood or saliva samples to help scientists search for genetic clues to the origins of homosexuality. Parents and straight brothers also are being recruited.

Dr. Alan Sanders of Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute, the lead researcher of the new study, said he suspects there isn't one "gay gene." It is more likely there are several genes that interact with nongenetic factors, including psychological and social influences, to determine sexual orientation, said Sanders, a psychiatrist. Still, he said, "If there's one gene that makes a sizable contribution, we have a pretty good chance" of finding it.

Many gays fear that if gay genes are identified, it could result in discrimination, prenatal testing, and even abortions to eliminate homosexuals, said Joel Ginsberg of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. However, he added, "If we confirm that sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic, we are much more likely to get the courts to rule against discrimination."

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