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Homosexuality research sparks debate

Homosexuality research sparks debate

ILLINOIS Researchers trying to determine link between genes, homosexuality

A recently announced research project seeking evidence of a "gay gene" is getting a decidedly mixed reaction from the gay community.

"Why do people need to know why (people are homosexual)?" said Jean-Marie Navetta, a national spokeswoman for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. "Some people are born different."

Researchers at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute are working to determine if there is a link between genes and homosexuality by recruiting 1,000 pairs of gay brothers for DNA samples. Dr. Alan Sanders, a Northwestern University psychiatrist spearheading the study, hopes to undermine the idea that "somebody just chooses to be gay or to be straight."

"We don't know how many genes are involved," he said. "We think sexual orientation is a pretty important trait that is relatively understudied."

But such a study brings along controversy. Some believe scientific evidence of a gay gene may foster understanding that some people are simply born gay.

But some fear that evidence of a gay gene may be perceived as mutation or "biological error."

"I do not believe that there is one gene that involves homosexuality. It is most likely a combination," said Dr. Jack Drescher, former chairman of the Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Committee for American Psychiatric Association.

Drescher, a New York City psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, is the author of "Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man."

Sanders, who expects to release findings by the end of 2008, estimates human sexuality is determined by roughly 40 percent genetic factors and 60 percent environmental factors.

"Genes make a difference, but they only make a partial difference," said Tim Murphy, a bioethicist at University of Illinois at Chicago who is working with Sanders.

Speculation about a possible link between homosexuality and genetics isn't new. Murphy said it has been a hot issue since the 1800s.

For more information on the research, go to


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