Scientists Outing ‘Gay Gene’ Myth
The notion that same-sex attraction is inborn and unchangeable does not hold water, according to the American Psychological Association.
WASHINGTON — Twenty years ago, Greg Quinlan was living as a homosexual and was a homosexual-rights grassroots lobbyist. He had no doubt he was born homosexual.
Advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign, for which Quinlan worked, claim that homosexuals have the right to marry and adopt children. These rights are presumably based on the idea that sexual orientation cannot be changed.
“To whom one is drawn is a fundamental aspect of who we are,” proclaims the Human Rights Campaign website.
Yet, scientific, medical and professional groups increasingly acknowledge that the notion that same-sex attraction is inborn and unchangeable does not hold water.
“Heretofore, no clear-cut ‘gay gene’ has been found,” said Clinton Anderson, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Office at the American Psychological Association, in an e-mail to the Register. This does not rule out biological causality, he said. Last year, the APA changed its definition of homosexuality to increase emphasis on environmental causality.
Not all agree. Dean Hamer, a behavioral geneticist at the National Cancer Institute, published a controversial study on male twins in 1993 that indicated a gene on the X chromosome linked to male sexual orientation.
Hamer told the Register that “sexual orientation has a very strong genetic and biological influence” from a combination of “anywhere between a dozen to hundreds of genes” that scientists have not identified. Hamer’s study has not been replicated.
Homosexuality is not genetically “hardwired,” according to Dr. Francis Collins, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work sequencing the human genetic code. Any genetic contribution to male homosexuality represents a predisposition, not a predetermination, he stated.
If genetics were determinative, then identical twins should “virtually always” show the same pattern of same-sex attraction, said the Catholic Medical Association. But a study of the Australian Twin Registry cited by CMA showed that only 11% of identical twins with same-sex attraction had a twin brother who also experienced it.
An Emotional Breach
The causes of same-sex attraction are more complicated.
Quinlan recalls being physically abused by his father as a child. “He was beating me and I remember yelling, ‘You hate me, don’t you?’ And my father yelled, ‘Yes, [expletive], I hate you!’”
Certain “family dynamics that are scientifically validated” are at the root of same-sex attraction, psychologist Joseph Nicolosi told the Register. Nicolosi is director of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and treats clients with unwanted same-sex attraction. Same-sex attraction, at its root, is not biological but emotional, he said.
Male clients often report having “a distant, detached, critical father and an over-involved, intrusive mother,” said Nicolosi. Female same-sex attraction is more complex but follows a similar pattern, he said.
Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist with 30 years of clinical experience, has drawn similar conclusions. Men with same-sex attraction demonstrate “weakness in male confidence” resulting from “deficient bonding” with the father, Fitzgibbons said, especially in boys with gender identity disorder. Same-sex attraction also arises from a “lack of healthy bonding with same-sex peers in early childhood and adolescence.” The result is a sexualized desire to bond with another male, which therapists call the “reparative urge.”
Quinlan’s first sexual experience occurred at age 11 with a male friend. “I got something I was missing,” he recalled. “For the first time, I received approval, affirmation and affection from a male.”
Both Nicolosi and Fitzgibbons have seen reparative therapy work for their clients. Thirty percent return to normal heterosexual attraction, 30% reduce same-sex attraction, and 30% show no change. The latter usually have been coerced into therapy or have some overriding psychological issue like addiction, said Nicolosi.
The APA plans to adopt a model for reparative therapy based on forthcoming research.
In this light, the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching that the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered” and “constitutes a trial” for most of the men and women who experience it takes on profounder meaning (see No. 2358).
Despite scientific and psychiatric evidence to the contrary, the media, culture, government, schools and even some in the Church perpetuate the myth that same-sex attraction is inborn. For that, promoters of homosexuality can claim a victory.
Research used by homosexual activists shows that public opinion regarding homosexuality will change if people believe it is genetic. “To the extent people are not responsible,” said Nicolosi, “their behavior will be tolerated.”
Friends and families of persons struggling with same-sex attraction should provide them with the hope (and resources) that they can change if they want to, said Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays.
“‘Gay’ is not an identity: It is a feeling and a decision to act on those feelings,” said Griggs, whose son has same-sex attraction. “It’s never a choice to have those feelings,” she added.
Quinlan made the decision to quit the homosexual lifestyle cold turkey not because his feelings toward men changed, but because he was deeply unhappy. “I was sick of it, and I knew what I was doing was wrong,” he said.
He eventually deepened his relationship with God, which led to forgiving his abusive father. That burden released, his same-sex attraction diminished.
Today, Quinlan is a pro-family lobbyist. “I am doing for the Lord what I used to do for the gay-rights movement,” he says. “I hope I can make up for some of it.”
Janneke Pieters writes from
Asheville, North Carolina.
Catholic Medical Association
National Association for Research
and Therapy of Homosexuality
Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and
- July 26-August 8, 2009