I attended a talk by a scientist from Harvard last night. Her work focuses primarily on pheremones and neural circuitry. During the course of her investigations, she managed to knock out a gene in mice that appears to make the male mice try to mate with both male and female mice. That same gene, apparently, also makes the female mice the aggressor when it comes to mating behavior (as opposed to the norm where its the male hitting on the female).
I thought her talk was really interesting (too bad I was also very very tired). She’s interested in neural circuitry. She wasn’t interested in the publicity or the potential human implications. To her, it was about the Science. A trait which I greatly admire. But more on that another time.
Her talk touched on a few issues that I thought weren’t completely explored owing to the nature of the talk (which was supposed to be about basic science, and not social issues as a result of science). The first thing that comes to mind, of course, is whether or not one’s sexual identity and/or sexual preference is inscribed in one’s genes or if its environmental. Why is this important? Simple. Many people feel that one’s sexual identity and sexual preference are in-born. Its an integral part of a person. Hence, it is written in our genes. There is no choice here. I still remember interviewing a homosexual medical student when I was an undergrad and he was convinced that there is a gay gene or rather spectrum of genes out there. I know some people will celebrate the very day scientists announce that they have found the ‘gay’ gene. But I also know of some people who argue against that when you find a gene that explains why a person is gay, being a homosexual becomes a disease that has the potential to be cured. Its a double-edged sword. Finding the gay gene(s) can hopefully allow many people to come out of the closet or at the very least force society to accept that nobody chooses to be different, we, as a species just are inherently different. The same way we can’t choose to be male or female, or our race, we can’t choose whether or not we want to be gay. At the same time, the same way that genetics has allowed people to screen for genetic defects in a newborn, screening for the ‘gay’ gene might be a very ugly reality one day.
I have a lot of friends who are gay. And I won’t wish them any other way because I know that the world would be that much sadder and darker without them. However, I also know that it would help their families to accept that their sons and daughters were born that way, and that it wasn’t because they chose to be that way.