Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What happens when we discover the cause of sexual orientation?

The recent UT study which used mathematical modeling to show links between epi-markers on genes and sexual orientation led me to raise questions with Darrell Greene on Fox 13 in Memphis last night:


This new report revisits an old question: What causes sexual orientation? I personally side with nature over nurture as a cause along with many other gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Others claim they had a choice. This study also raises new questions:


  • Whether sexual orientation is determined by genes or epi-markers on genes, what do we do when and if that question is settled?
  • What would parents do, if their doctor tells them that an epi-marker test projected they will have a gay or lesbian child?
  • What if we had the medical technology to ensure that certain epi-markers were "switched on" for a particular orientation?
  • Would such knowledge lead to genetic engineering to eliminate homosexuality or bisexuality in newborns? 


After struggling with homophobia for many years, I finally came to the conclusion that a person's orientation is a morally neutral phenomenon. In my personal experience, I find being gay to be a gift. Being gay brings a perspective that enriches my life and career. I believe it would be wrong to terminate a pregnancy if parents learn that that unborn child will be gay, lesbian or bisexual. I also think it would be unethical to apply "treatments" to an unborn child that would ensure heterosexuality.

Our society needs to explore these matters more deeply before a cause for sexual orientation is known. We need an ethical framework for new discoveries that will have profound social and political consequences for gay, straight, lesbian and bisexual people. What do you think?

 - Jonathan Cole

1 comment:

Bobnoxious said...

I think it's a damned good question, and one that doesn't have an answer that's palatable to everyone. Assuming any sort of genetic engineering at this level becomes possible, what "rights" should prospective parents have (if any)? If engineering is not allowed, would abortion be an option? What markers are "protected" or not, and what's the moral justification? This goes to sexual orientation, sexual proclivities of any kind, tendencies for dominance, submission, violence, passivity, deafness, eyesight, and other "disabilities," and not just sexual orientation (with the assumption that these are all controllable through some form of engineering).

I think that individual liberty of the prospective parents should be protected as much as reasonably possible. This should spark a very good debate. I'd love to hear others' takes on this one. It will eventually need to be dealt with through some sort of policy position.