Queer Sense Ecological Model: Individual Biology
THE INDIVIDUAL: BIOLOGY
Each human being who has existed since the beginning of time has been unique in terms of having a distinct DNA structure. Individuals are a complex set of variables of age, gender, temperament, intelligent potential, learning style, and a complex network of neurological and biological makeup.
Is there a gene that determines whether a person will be gay? The scientific community has examined this question thoroughly over the years by researching genes, brain makeup, and prenatal care and studying mostly males. Their findings? They have yet to find the elusive gay gene.
If you took a person identifying as gay, who also had an identical twin, then wouldn’t you expect to find a gay twin too?
Let’s examine the premise of identical twins before we answer this question.
Identical twins come from the same sperm and egg where early in development the embryo divides in half creating two babies. On the other hand, fraternal twins are formed from two different sperm and two different eggs. Returning to the original question, if one identical twin identifies as gay, if they’re identical, how would you expect the other twin to identify? You’d expect the identical twin to be waving his rainbow flag and proudly saying-“I’m gay, folks.” But this is not the case.
First, identical twin studies do not show a 100% ratio between one twin identifying as gay and another identifying the same. Second, and this is a point I’ll come back to, identical twins it turns out are not identical in terms of DNA.
Researchers have found that 52% of homosexual males who have identical twin brothers also have a brother who’s gay. Among fraternal twins, researchers have found the ratio to be 22%. Researchers concluded that because identical twins have a higher incidence of mutual homosexuality than fraternal twins, there is a definite genetic component in the development of homosexuality.
Over the last couple of years, researchers have come up with new data regarding the relationship between genetic makeup and homosexuality. They concluded there is a link.
Scientists state that gay men share a genetic make-up, but it accounts for only 40 percent chance of a man being homosexual. This is based on research done at the Northwestern University where 400 sets of twins were examined. This is noted as one of the largest studies completed to date regarding the link between homosexuality and genetics.
The researchers did not find a specific homosexual gene, but they did find specific markers on a chromosome. Their research demonstrated the existence of genes on pericentromeric chromosome 8 and chromosome Xq28 which they say influences development of male sexual orientation.
The lead author, Dr. Alan Sanders, said of his study, “It is not proof but it’s a pretty good indication” that genes on the two chromosomes have some influence over sexual orientation.
Dr. Michael Bailey, another researcher on the study, said, “Sexual orientation has nothing to do with choice. Our findings suggest genes may be at play.” Dr. Sanders added to his colleague’s comment, “We don’t think genetics is the whole story. It’s not. We have a gene that contributes to homosexuality but you could say it is linked to heterosexuality. It is the variation.”
One reason that there is variation among identical twin studies is that identical twins are actually not identical. That is, recent scientific evidence concludes identical twins are not identical in terms of DNA. If you are a person who learned that identical twins share 100% of DNA from their twin you’re not alone.
Researchers have been working with this presumption for years. In fact, many have based conclusions on this very premise.
In an article titled, Identical twin studies prove homosexuality is not genetic, the researcher conducted an identical twin study and he prefaced his research with these statements:
1. Identical twins have the same genes or DNA. They are nurtured in equal prenatal conditions. If homosexuality is caused by genetics or prenatal conditions and one twin is gay, the co-twin should also be gay.
2. Because they (identical twins) have identical DNA, [sexual orientation] ought to be 100%. But the studies reveal something else…
The truth of the matter is that the statements above are false.
This is not the fault of the scholarly scientist who made this assertion. He, after all, based his statements on what most of his colleagues presumed to be fact. This study was carried out prior to the research that has concluded identical twins are not genetically the same.
Historically, there are numerous studies that have concluded that certain disorders or conditions lack a genetic-origin based on the presumption that identical twins are genetically one hundred percent identical. In fact, not too long ago, you could have Googled identical twins and found a reliable source which stated that identical twins were 100% genetically alike.
It turns out though that no two humans are alike-including identical twins.
Geneticist Carl Bruder of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and his colleagues stumbled across this finding. They closely compared the genomes of nineteen sets of adult identical twins. The conclusion of their study was startling to say the least. Identical twins share large portion of genetic DNA, but they are not genetically identical.
Normally people carry two copies of every gene, one inherited from each parent. “There are, however, regions in the genome that deviate from that two-copy rule, and that’s where you have copy number variants,” Bruder explains. These regions can carry anywhere from zero to over 14 copies of a gene.
One underlying point the scientific community does not address, but is the crux of Queer Sense, is that we are reliant on people’s self-reported sexual orientation. This underscores the point that people may not be fully aware of their same-sex attractions and have yet to label their feelings appropriately.
This discrepancy points out that we have two distinctive concepts at work-
1. Sexual Identity, and
2. Sexual Orientation.
Sexual identity is the person’s inherent biological makeup that determines whether a person is attracted wholly to males, females, or both. We perceive our sexual identity through the vehicle of feelings and our ability to precisely label these feelings is dependent on the environment we live inside.
Sexual orientation refers to the label we use to identify our spectrum of same-sex or opposite-sex feelings such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, bi-Curious, heterosexual and questioning, gay but bi-curious, etc.
In other words, a person may have a sexual identity that falls outside the spectrum of heterosexuality but not have full awareness of these feelings.
Let’s presume a person has underlying same-sex attractions but has lived in a heterocentric environment all of his life and has limited exposure to gay-related-media or gay role models. This person may not become fully aware of their same-sex attractions and end up labeling himself with a sexual orientation that is the standard bearer in society-Heterosexual.
This does not mean such an individual is closeted and is consciously lying about his sexual orientation, which can also be reasons why a person identifies as heterosexual. That is, a male is aware he has attraction to males but finds it safer to blend in as a heterosexual within his community.
Rather the point above is that there are some males and females who are not fully aware of their underlying sexual identity and have never attempted to identify these feelings with labels that would be congruent with their inner feelings.
Imagine this case scenario. A person lives in New York City, is growing up in a liberal family, is exposed to a religious community that is pro-gay, attends a school with other gay students, has a family member who is gay and accepted by his work and family, and has access to media with media figures or characters who identify as gay.
If this person’s sexual identity falls outside the spectrum of heterosexual, it is going to be much easier for such a person, in this environment, to explore his feelings and make meaning of them by putting a label on them that affirms his true inner feelings. This label could be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or even names like Heteroflexible.
Ultimately, a person in a more accepting a culture will find it easier to explore his feelings and therefore it’s easier for him to make meaning of his sexual identity. He’ll be able to appropriately come up with a sexual orientation label that helps him express his sexual identity as a person.