The largest study on human gene to date on the genetic basis of sexuality has revealed five spots on the human genome that are linked to same-sex sexual behaviour — but none of the markers are reliable enough to predict someone’s sexuality.
“There is no ‘gay gene’,” says lead study author Andrea Ganna, a geneticist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
But she cautions that the results may not be representative of the overall population — a limitation that the study on human gene authors acknowledge.
The results demonstrate the complexity of human sexuality, says Ganna. To ensure that their results are not misinterpreted, the study researchers worked with LGBTQ advocacy groups and science-communication specialists on the best way to convey their findings in the research paper and to the public.
Although some researchers and LGBTQ advocates might question the wisdom of conducting this kind of research, Birney says that it’s important. There has been a lot of sociological research on same-sex sexual behaviours, he says, but this is an incredibly complicated topic. It’s time to bring a strong, biologically based perspective to the discussion, Birney says.