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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

 

Gay brothers study

The Chicago Sun-Times posted an article about the Alan Sanders study of gay brothers currently recruiting pairs of gay brothers for a genetic linkage study. The website for the study is www.gaybros.com. The brochure describing the study is on the site as a pdf.

I wrote Alan Sanders several months ago and asked if he was including measures of gender nonconformity as a covariable but received no reply. Environmental measures would also be helpful in the event they did not find linkages. I wonder if ex-gay brothers should apply?

As I read the comments of the researchers about what they hope to accomplish both in the article and in the brochure, it occurred to me that the researchers may be introducing bias into the sampling.

Given Bailey's last twin study, I have to wonder about this statement to prospective participants:

Earlier studies suggest that homosexual orientation runs in families; 8 to 12% of brothers of gay men are also gay, compared to 2 to 4% of men in the general population. Twin studies suggest that this pattern is largely due to heredity rather than environment, but we cannot be sure of this unless we actually locate genes that affect sexual orientation.



Comments:
My (gay) boyfriend's older brother is also gay. My older brother is straight. Don't know if that proves anything. His family loves and accepts them both their gay sons.
 
Warren,

I too find some assumptions on the website to be concerning. For example, sexual orientation is discussed in terms of sexual desire or sexual activity without even a token mention of the romantic, emotional, or connectedness aspect of orientation. I think this skewing of orientation purely into genital activity (or desire) suggests a misunderstanding of its most basic nature.

I was also concerned that the estimates used for total homosexual population was from the lowest end of the spectrum: 2.8% combined gay and bisexual from 1994 as opposed to the much larger, more recent, more accessable, and more broad study by the CDC which found that at least 4.1% could be considered gay and bisexual from either identity, activity, or reported attraction. This suggests either bias or sloppy research.

Nonetheless, these are minor and may mean nothing at all. So too does your objection seem to be a very weak indication of bias.

Fortunately, genetic research is a much more direct science than, say, observations about gender conformity. It's much more difficult to introduce bias to the results and conclusions can be reevaluated from the data.
 
Timothy: Good points all. I hope they are taking into account or at least controlling for environmental effects in the event that the genetic effects are weak or non-existant. This would make the study more useful.
 
I rarely comment on etiological conjectures, mostly because I fail to see the point except as idle curiosity. The same sort of curiosity that makes me wonder why I'm left-handed. (which, by the way, appears to be more common among gay men than straight men, for whatever that may be worth. On the other hand, I'm the oldest brother -- so much for the sibling ratio thing)

I suspect that if we could ever tease out all of the reasons why some folks are gay and others aren't and others still are somewhere inbetween, I think the picture would not be much less muddy than it is now. I have a hunch, one that is completely unsupported by any actual research that I'm aware of, that maybe there are multiple "types" of homosexuality.

For some, it's genetic.
For some, it's hormonal disturbances during pregnancy.
For some, it's maternal stress.
For some, it's developmental.
For some, it's listening to too much Donna Summers.

And for most, it's a combination of a lot of things. Or something else entirely different.

I'll be interested in what this particular study finds out. But I suspect it won't be conclusive, no matter how large the sample size may be or what effects they take into account. But it will be interesting nonetheless.

Maybe I'll learn more about why I'm left-handed.
 
Jim Burroway, I think you are probably the most reasonable person I've heard from so far.

I have a hunch, one that is completely unsupported by any actual research that I'm aware of, that maybe there are multiple "types" of homosexuality.

For some, it's genetic.
For some, it's hormonal disturbances during pregnancy.
For some, it's maternal stress.
For some, it's developmental.
For some, it's listening to too much Donna Summers.

And for most, it's a combination of a lot of things. Or something else entirely different.



This is the "theory" that I tell everyone I talk to about these matters.

That perhaps people become gay due to different reasons.

Oh, by the way, the APA states that there "different people are probably gay due to different reasons."

So your thoughts are bang on the spot with them as well.

Craig
 
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