Declan Kolakowski

The Gay Gene: Damned If We Don't... Damned If We Do

Added on by Declan Kolakowski.

Huffington Post recently published this article on the continued research of scientists into a "gay gene". Lets be clear about what these researchers are trying to find - a specific chromosomal identifier that indicates the genetic presence of homosexuality. While the evidence behind these discoveries is still being treated skeptically I find the discussion of the the "gay gene" and the research behind it exceedingly worrying.

One of the big impetuses behind this sort of research seems to be the gay community's persistent use of arguments about the "naturalism" of homosexuality as a justification for its existence when debating with (often religious fundamentalist) anti-gay homophobes. Generally this naturalism argument is made in response to the claim that "Being gay is wrong and gay people are sinners, you can only choose to commit sin, therefore being gay MUST be a choice" to which people who are pro-gay (or anyone who is gay and not completely fucking stupid knows) "No, being gay obviously isn't a choice, just like being straight isn't a choice, and the fact that animals exhibit homosexuality, when they are not afforded the autonomous choice for sin, demonstrates that it can't possibly be a choice."

However, this obvious empirical demonstration of this fact isn't enough for the anti-gay movement - who, I will tell you right now, will never be satisfied with whatever evidence is thrown at them - and instead, funding has been put into finding a "gay gene" to once and for all "prove" that homosexuality has a natural impetus behind it. If this discovery were ever proved to have efficacy, I think it could be one of the most harmful things possible to the gay people.

We no longer live in a world where DNA is a rigid construct. Chromosomes are not a black box of human biology anymore. The building blocks of life are fluid and writable objects which can be manipulated in extremely direct and specific ways. What happens IF we have identify a gay gene?

Imagine you are a parent and your doctor tells you your child has the gay gene, but for $300 they can easily "correct" that to a nice, normal, heterosexual gene. Even with all the advances in how gay people are viewed (in the west... for the most part) I truly believe most parents would elect to have their child "turned straight". No matter what people might "say" if you ask them this question hypothetically, given the choice, in a confidential clinical environment...

Being gay is hard. And any parent would consider it a kindness that they could make their child's life easier and safer by effectively erasing their homosexuality before they are born. But gay people ARE IMPORTANT. We are outside one of the most fundamental cultural systems of human society; gay people bring a perspective that is completely unique. This removal translates over in fundamental ways to gays' contribution to all fields in the arts and sciences. "Specialisation breeds weakness"... I do not propose gay people are better than their straight counterparts, only different, and it is these differences of perspective that have produced some of the most sublime and daring works of art, particularly in the realms of discussing gender and sexuality as well as indispensable discoveries in the sciences and humanities. Being gay is no longer defines simply sexuality, it is as much a culture as any ethnic way of life that exists in this world. It would be scandalous for a doctor to suggest we "make your child a little less black"... "a little less asian"... "just a little less different"....

Even if these particular "gay gene" claims prove to be failures this will not be the last attempt to find a genetic expression of homosexuality. And what do gay people get from the discovery of the "gay gene"...? Some briefly lived, self serving sense of being right when you shove it the face of some Christian fundamentalist who won't take any notice anyway because of the what their god book tells them...?

And then... a year or two down the line all the potentially gay children start to disappear. And their silent deaths will be couched in the disgusting, easily soluble rhetoric of social pragmatism and its recourses to parental love, to caring and sexual understand, while all we have really created is another justification for a new eugenics that punishes our fellow gay people before they ever existed by erasing them from the gene pool.

This is not science fiction. Altering genes is a real technology and everyday the rate at which technology improves accelerates. It is completely within the realms of possibility that this type of genetic erasure could take place in clinics "on demand"... how long will it be before such a technology becomes ubiquitous.

This sort of recourse to naturalism should be unnecessary for gay people. If you are gay then you are gay, you know very well that it is not a choice, and it matters not whether there is a naturalistic justification for your homosexuality or not. The very tenants of our society dictate that you should be able to live with and love whom you want. The origins of your sexuality are COMPLETELY FUCKING IRRELEVANT.

Scientific progress cannot be stopped, in the end the actual discovery is morally neutral, only how people might exploit it given our current cultural environment is dangerous. I don't doubt that a gay gene WILL eventually be found. But I don't believe as a society we are ready for it. And I have no desire to accelerate the process of looking for it in aid of some cheap win against the the wackos who think the earth was created six thousand years ago.

If this research turns out to be the real thing we'll need more than God on our side.