Homosexuality: The Untold Story — The phantom geneSUSAN BRINKMANN
Beginning here, The Catholic Standard & Times will publish a six-part series that will focus exclusively on the untold side of this issue. We will explore what is known to the medical, social, scientific and religious communities about homosexuality, giving our readers and their loved ones an opportunity to make an intelligent and fully informed choice about their lifestyle.
Notice to Reader: "The Boards of both CERC Canada and CERC USA are aware that the topic of homosexuality is a controversial one that deeply affects the personal lives of many North Americans. Both Boards strongly reiterate the Catechism's teaching that people who self-identify as gays and lesbians must be treated with 'respect, compassion, and sensitivity' (CCC #2358). The Boards also support the Church's right to speak to aspects of this issue in accordance with her own self-understanding. Articles in this section have been chosen to cast light on how the teachings of the Church intersect with the various social, moral, and legal developments in secular society. CERC will not publish articles which, in the opinion of the editor, expose gays and lesbians to hatred or intolerance."
The Untold Story ? The phantom gene
For instance, consider the gay gene. Almost everyone believes it exists. Homosexuals were "born that way," right?
Not according to the science. Once inside the venerated halls of disciplined study, one discovers the radical truth ? there is no gay gene.
However, in the absence of actual discovery, newspaper headlines frequently allude to the unfound gene in ways that make it sound real. Consider the October, 2003 Reuters headlines "Sexual Identity Hard-Wired by Genetics." The title sounds much more convincing than the actual facts, even though the article opens with the statement, "Sexual identity is wired into the genes, which discounts the concept that homosexuality and transgender sexuality is a choice. ?" Not until one reads the article does one realize that the headline and opening sentence have absolutely nothing to do with the study being reported.
In reality, the story is about a University of California, Los Angeles, study of the developmental differences between male and female brains. According to Ray Waller of the National Association for Research and Therapy on Homosexuality (NARTH) the study did nothing more than confirm what had already been known to science, that genes play a role in creating differences between male and female brains. The lead researcher, Dr. Eric Valain, said, "This is not about finding the gay gene." In fact, the word homosexuality is not even mentioned in the study.
News services echoed Reuters, most of them omitting one of the most salient facts about the study ? it was conducted on mice.
"There is no animal model that accurately reflects human sexuality," said Dr. A. Dean Byrd of NARTH. "Pigs don't date, ducks don't go to church, and mice don't fall in love."
Where rumors start, the truth departs, but it is not irretrievable.
The truth about the search for the gay gene begins in 1991 at the Salk Institute in San Diego with a scientist named Simon LeVay. LeVay reported that a group of neurons in the hypothalamic region of the human brain appeared to be twice as large in heterosexual men than in homosexual men.
The hypothalamus is a part of the brain involved in the regulation of sexual behavior in non-human primates. Other studies showed that these neurons were larger in men than women. For this reason, LeVay concluded that sexual orientation had a biological basis.
The study, however, had three major flaws that would later completely discredit it.
First, LeVay claimed to have been comparing the brains of 19 homosexual men and 16 heterosexual men. However, he was never able to confirm that all of the heterosexual men were indeed heterosexual. Six had died of AIDS, a disease whose transmission is often associated with homosexual behavior. Second, all the brain samples he took from homosexual men were taken from men who had died of AIDS, which raises the question whether the size of the neurons was related to AIDS. Third, LeVay concluded that the size difference in neurons explained homosexuality, but this was not a legitimate conclusion. Homosexual behavior may have been the cause, rather than the effect of the different in neuron size.
As widely as this study was publicized, there was not a peep about the paper LeVay recently published wherein he backs away from his hoped-for hypothesis that science can explain homosexuality.
Appearing in the Spanish journal, Reverso, LeVay admitted, "Science cannot tell us what constitutes core identity." In other words, it can't tell us who we are, a homosexual or a heterosexual.
Another study was done in 1991 by John M. Bailey and Richard C. Pillard and published in the Archives of General Psychiatry (48: 1089-1096) determining a genetic cause for homosexuality after finding it was more likely for identical twins to both be homosexual than it was for fraternal or adopted brothers.
The study found that 29 of 56 pairs (52 percent) of the identical twins were both homosexual; 12 of 54 of the fraternal twins were both homosexual and six of 57 of adopted twins were both homosexual.
Again, problems with the study arise. First, if homosexuality is genetically determined, why didn't all of the identical twins share the same sexual orientation. How does one explain the 48 percent who did not?
How valid could the study be, when it was determined that the test sample was not random.
Researchers could not rule out the fact that they had recruited twins who were both gay by advertising in homosexual newspapers and magazines rather than from material used by the general public.
In the year 2000, Bailey and his colleagues repeated the experiment, but with twins recruited from the Australian Twin Registry. This time, only 20 percent of the twins shared the same homosexual orientation, rather than the more convincing 52 percent.
The last and most publicized study was published by Dean Hamer, et al, at the National Institute of Health. Forty pairs of homosexual brothers were studied. It was found that some cases of homosexuality could be linked to a specific region on the human X chromosome inherited from the mother. This study was criticized and Hamer was actually under investigation for alleged fraud, but was eventually cleared of the charges. More importantly, no one has been able to replicate the study.
Assuming that there is a gay gene, it would therefore be logical to conclude that the homosexual condition is irreversible. Acting on this premise, Dr. Robert L. Spitzer of Columbia University, a champion of gay activism, pioneered a successful movement to have homosexuality removed from the psychiatric manual of mental disorders in 1973.
Spitzer himself seems to have changed his mind and published a new study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior (Vol. 32, No. 5, Oct. 2003, pp 403-417). His new study surveyed 200 respondents (143 male and 57 female). After therapy, 61 percent of the men and 44 percent of the women reported a marked changed toward heterosexual attraction that lasted at least five years.
In Spitzer's conclusions, he writes, "The mental health profession should stop moving in the direction of banning therapy that has, as a goal, a change in sexual orientation."
He discounts those who believe therapy to reverse same-sex attraction is actually harmful to the individual. "To the contrary," he writes, "they reported that it was helpful in a variety of ways beyond changing sexual orientation itself." For this reason, he urged the American Psychiatric Association to stop discouraging reorientation therapy, while encouraging treatments that affirm the gay-identity in people.
that people understand that the gay gene remains a phantom. It's important to
those who believe they have the "gene" and, therefore, cannot change. It's also
important to the American public, which is far more likely to give in to demands
for change in law and religious teaching if they believe sexual attraction is
genetically determined and unchangeable.
Part 1 of 6: The Phantom Gene
Part 2 of 6: Known causes of same-sex attraction
Part 3 of 6: Health risks of the homosexual lifestyle
Part 4 of 6: Treatment and prevention
Part 5 of 6: Gay Marriage: Who's minding the children
Susan Brinkmann. "Homosexuality: The Untold Story ? The phantom gene." Catholic Standard & Times (May-June, 2004).
This article is reprinted with permission of the author and Catholic Standard & Times.
Susan Brinkmann is a correspondent with the Catholic Standard & Times.
Copyright © 2004 Catholic Standard & Times
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