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Oracle of Delphi

Gay brothers may hold genetic clues

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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 than other genetic traits like height and hair color, said Julio, a student at DePaul University in Chicago.

Adds 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.

While initial results aren’t expected until next year — and won’t provide a final answer — skeptics are already attacking the methods and disputing the presumed results.

Previous studies have shown that sexual orientation tends to cluster in families, though that doesn’t prove genetics is involved. Extended families may share similar child-rearing practices, religion and other beliefs that could also influence sexual orientation.

Research involving identical twins, often used to study genetics since they share the same DNA, has had mixed results.

One widely cited study in the 1990s found that if one member of a pair of identical twins was gay, the other had a 52 percent chance of being gay. In contrast, the result for pairs of non-twin brothers, was 9 percent. A 2000 study of Australian identical twins found a much lower chance.

No single 'gay gene'

Dr. Alan Sanders of Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute, the lead researcher of the new study, said he suspects there isn’t one so-called “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.”

There is less research on lesbians, Sanders said, although some studies suggest that male and female sexual orientation may have different genetic influences.

His new research is an attempt to duplicate and expand on a study published in 1993 involving 40 pairs of gay brothers. That hotly debated study, wrongly touted as locating “the gay gene,” found that gay brothers shared genetic markers in a region on the X chromosome, which men inherit from their mothers.

That implies that any genes influencing sexual orientation lie somewhere in that region.

Previous attempts to duplicate those results failed. But Sanders said that with so many participants, his study has a better chance of finding the same markers and perhaps others on different chromosomes.

If these markers appear in gay brothers but not their straight brothers or parents, that would suggest a link to sexual orientation. The study is designed to find genetic markers, not to explain any genetic role in behavior.

And Sanders said even if he finds no evidence, that won’t mean genetics play no role; it may simply mean that individual genes have a smaller effect.

Skeptics include Stanton Jones, a psychology professor and provost at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. An evangelical Christian, Jones last month announced results of a study he co-authored that says it’s possible for gays to “convert” — changing their sexual orientation without harm.

Jones said his results suggest biology plays only a minor role in sexual orientation, and that researchers seeking genetic clues generally have a pro-gay agenda that will produce biased results.

Sanders disputed that criticism.

“We do not have a predetermined point we are trying to prove,” he said. “We are trying to pry some of nature’s secrets loose with respect to a fundamental human trait.”

Jones acknowledged that he’s not a neutral observer. His study involved 98 gays “seeking help” from Exodus International, a Christian group that believes homosexuals can become straight through prayer and counseling. Exodus International funded Jones’ study.

The group’s president, Alan Chambers, said he is a former homosexual who went straight and believes homosexuality is morally wrong.

Critics espouse 'freedom to choose'

Even if research ultimately shows that genetics play a bigger role, it “will never be something that forces people to behave in a certain way,” Chambers said. “We all have the freedom to choose.”

The Cabrera brothers grew up in Mexico in a culture where “being gay was an embarrassment,” especially for their father, said Mauricio, 41, a car dealership employee from Olathe, Kan.

They had cousins who were gay, but Mauricio said he still felt he had to hide his sexual orientation and he struggled with his “double life.” Julio said having an older brother who was gay made it easier for him to accept his sexuality.

Jim Larkin, 54, a gay journalist in Flint, Mich., said the genetics study is a move in the right direction.

Given the difficulties of being gay in a predominantly straight society, homosexuality “is not a choice someone would make in life,” said Larkin, who is not a study participant.

He had two brothers who were gay. One died from AIDS; the other committed suicide. Larkin said he didn’t come out until he was 26.

“I fought and I prayed and I went to Mass and I said the rosary,” Larkin said. “I moved away from everybody I knew ... thinking maybe this will cause the feelings to subside. It doesn’t.”

Link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21309724/

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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.

That would create an interesting dilemma for the right wingers wouldn't it? "All abortions are wrong....except if the fetus is gay" billboards really wouldn't be that convincing.

In my ex's family, 2 out of 5 kids is definitely gay.... and I suspect the youngest one might be also.

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Someone once said to me that human beings arent homosexual or asexual or bisexual...just sexual. Of course I was 11 and it was my Junior High School gym teacher.

That never happened but the ramifications are evident anyway. It's not a choice or decision it just is. The same is true for the rest of the animal kingdom where they don't have the social stigmas in the way we do. Then again some species after a fight like to sodomize the loser just to put a period at the end.

Edited by FloydHendershot
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EGAD! Can't they research the genetic markers of the HIV virus, or something useful?

I could care less why I am gay. I just am and would never EVER change it.

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EGAD! Can't they research the genetic markers of the HIV virus, or something useful?

I could care less why I am gay. I just am and would never EVER change it.

I don't care why you are either. Or anyone, really cure cancer or something already.

Edited by FloydHendershot
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Haha... For the sake of my parent's sanity, my brother better not be gay. I don't know if they could handle two of us boy-kissers. :lol::P

Edited by blackviper8891
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I know of one interesting family. A straight, male friend of mine has one younger sister - also straight. He also has 3 older half-siblings, from his father's previous marriage. 2 half-brothers, one half-sister, all gay.

Not saying it's necessarily genetic, but it sure does make for an interesting family.

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I used to know two sets of twin brothers who were gay. Homosexuality definitely runs in families. Any clown can tell it is genetic. If all gay people turned purple tomorrow morning, all this bull$h! would end. No more hiding, no more denials. No more groups for the 'cured.' No more getting married with kids and hiding it for 30 years. It would all just end.

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I used to know two sets of twin brothers who were gay. Homosexuality definitely runs in families. Any clown can tell it is genetic. If all gay people turned purple tomorrow morning, all this bull$h! would end. No more hiding, no more denials. No more groups for the 'cured.' No more getting married with kids and hiding it for 30 years. It would all just end.

it'd have to be a fairly fabulous shade of purple though....

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I don't quite understand how it takes so long for some people to sort out that they are gay.

People living in denial are a different thing, and that's not what I'm talking about. They know they are gay, they just won't admit it to anyone else, or in some cases even to themselves.

What I'm talking about are the ones who just honestly don't realize until they hit their 20s.

I mean for me, the sexual desire is/was way stronger than society's 'norms' could control. I knew, very clearly, how much I liked women. So how do some young gay men not realize until their 20s? Just because it's "wrong", would you not at some point think about the guy down the street?

Anyways, just my 2c.

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More scientific BS. I mean if it is genetic, then either of their parents should have them, which means either of them should be a homosexual. So like dart said, either of them should have been living in denial and so on to the previous generration.

Why can't people accept the fact of homosexuality being part of human life? Why is it hard for people to see that it is love and attraction which is important in human nature and not the genatalia of the person they are attracted to or love?

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I don't quite understand how it takes so long for some people to sort out that they are gay.

People living in denial are a different thing, and that's not what I'm talking about. They know they are gay, they just won't admit it to anyone else, or in some cases even to themselves.

What I'm talking about are the ones who just honestly don't realize until they hit their 20s.

I mean for me, the sexual desire is/was way stronger than society's 'norms' could control. I knew, very clearly, how much I liked women. So how do some young gay men not realize until their 20s? Just because it's "wrong", would you not at some point think about the guy down the street?

Anyways, just my 2c.

It's actually fairly simple. You're told your entire life that you are heterosexual. Think of all the "icons" of your childhood. Kermit and Miss Piggy, Barbie and Ken, any Disney movie.....

Homosexuality is usually covered up and hidden from kids. It takes people so long because they don't understand why the feelings they are told are "right" don't feel "right" to them. I was very very sheltered as a kid. I really didn't know what "gay" was except that it meant a guy who liked to dress in women's clothing. It was a trip to London and meeting "normal" gay people when I was 17 that opened my eyes. Once I knew what "gay" was... I knew I was gay.

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It's actually fairly simple. You're told your entire life that you are heterosexual. Think of all the "icons" of your childhood. Kermit and Miss Piggy, Barbie and Ken, any Disney movie.....

Homosexuality is usually covered up and hidden from kids. It takes people so long because they don't understand why the feelings they are told are "right" don't feel "right" to them. I was very very sheltered as a kid. I really didn't know what "gay" was except that it meant a guy who liked to dress in women's clothing. It was a trip to London and meeting "normal" gay people when I was 17 that opened my eyes. Once I knew what "gay" was... I knew I was gay.

See but 17 makes sense. That's an age when you start to really be sexual.

It's the people that don't figure it out until they're in their 20s that really confuse me.

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See but 17 makes sense. That's an age when you start to really be sexual.

It's the people that don't figure it out until they're in their 20s that really confuse me.

Societal and Family pressures. I'd guess that most of them know it by their 20s. They usually just aren't willing to admit it. Big difference.

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More scientific BS. I mean if it is genetic, then either of their parents should have them, which means either of them should be a homosexual. So like dart said, either of them should have been living in denial and so on to the previous generration.

Why can't people accept the fact of homosexuality being part of human life? Why is it hard for people to see that it is love and attraction which is important in human nature and not the genatalia of the person they are attracted to or love?

The scientific definition of "genetic" (particularly in behavioral biology) merely means that it's not a learned trait, but one with genetic basis instead. Often it has little to do with "hereditarianism" or phenotypic traits (hair color, earlobes, etc), even though that's how we usually use the word in popular culture.

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