Understanding genes and homosexuality: is being gay a choice?
To understand whether homosexuality is genetics, we must first understand what genes are? Genes are simply a segment of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid). They are so powerful that they control who we are: our height, the color of our skin, and probably behaviors like who we fall in love with. Identical twins are very good indicators of how powerful genes are. Not only do they look alike, but they have very similar mannerisms, preferences, and habits. This uncanny similarity is not just limited to twins but can be observed among siblings and even parents who share the same characteristic behaviors with their children. So basically we are doing the bidding of our genes and to betray that “bidding” will be betraying our very own nature.
To understand how genes work we first have to understand what they are. Basically, we are just a bunch of cells carefully arranged with cells combining to form corresponding tissues and organs. Almost every cell in our body has 23 pairs of chromosomes in the nucleus. These 23 pairs of chromosomes are made up of materials called histones wrapped around strands of DNA. A short section of that DNA is a “gene”.
These genes contain instructions of basically everything from how and when our cells are formed, to our height, the color of our eyes, to the creation of hormones that are responsible for emotions we feel. It is also good to note that we inherit our genes from our parents. Sperm cells(male gamete) and egg cells(female gamete) undergo meiosis with each gamete containing half the usual number of chromosomes and both gametes later combining to form 23 pairs chromosomes which carry the instructions to “build us” through a process called mitosis. Some times in the process of “copying our genes” mistakes happen. These “mistakes” are called mutation and may produce sickle cells or the 46 chromosomes becoming 47 a condition called trisomy. The point here is to show how powerful genes are and how the process of copying genetics can lead to mutation which has known to be a major recipe for big evolutionary changes.
Remarkably these genes only consist of a small percentage of 3 billion base pairs of DNA. The implication is that a very big chunk of DNA is doing something else other than coding instructions. Why is so much of our genome not being used to code for protein? Projects like the Human Genome Project have begun to unravel the complexity and size of the human genome and hopefully in the future answers to such questions will be known.
Read Now: LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria
How genes play their part in determining sexuality?
Scientists are still on the verge of properly figuring out which particular genes affect certain expressions, but it is very clear that genes are responsible for our nature. It shouldn’t then be a surprise that genes are responsible for our preference, and even our love choices. Animals have been seen engaging in same sex acts with same sex couples even stealing eggs and looking after them as observed in penguins. It has been estimated that a quarter of black swans pairing are of males. The paired males have been known to steal nests from females and also forming threesomes with females to obtain eggs. Mammals also display homosexual behaviour. Males of the American bison, a bovine mammal, engage in courtship, mounting and full anal penetration.
A new study from Science Magazine analyzed the genetics of same-sex sexual behaviors and found that genetics plays a role, responsible for a third of the influence on homosexuality. The influence does not come from one gene alone, but many genes each contributing small effects, and the rest of the influence coming from the environment. The study analyzed the genetic data of 408,000 men and women from a large British database, the U.K. Bio-bank, who answered extensive health and behavior questions between 2006 and 2010 when they were between the ages of 40 and 69.
The conclusion of the study was that genes are not solely responsible for same-sex behaviors, but the environment has some part to play. There have been fears concerning the study of genes and their linkage to homosexuality, with some LGBTQ activists concerned that anti-gay groups will misconstrue such findings like using the fact that environmental factors are also at play in determining homosexuality. What such groups fail to grasp is that no matter how the environment plays a part, genes also play a part, and who are we if not our genes?
Interesting facts about genetics
- Some diseases are inherited through genes.
- Doctors may be able to cure diseases in the future by replacing necessary genes.
- DNA is a long molecule and there are lots of them in the human body. If you unraveled all the DNA molecules in your body, they would reach the sun and back several times.
- Some inherited traits are determined by multiple different genes.
- Genes make up only about 3 percent of your DNA. The rest of your DNA controls the activity of your genes.
- The word gene wasn’t coined until the 20th century by Danish botanist Wilhelm Johannsen.
- Genes can disappear as species evolve.
- Octopuses can edit their own genes.