The Myth of the ‘Gay Gene’
Myths appeal to people because they satisfy a human longing for a simple explation. Although there is no replicated scientific evidence supporting the ‘gay gene’ myth, and massive evidence supporting the theory that early experiences are a crucial element in the development of same-sex attraction (SSA), is easier to believe that SSA is genetically predetermined, that persons with SSA were born that way, and that they can’t change.
People reject the evidence and cling to the ‘gay gene’ myth for a number of reason. One is that they don’t like a theory that appears to “blame” the parents because they know nice people who have children with SSA. And in this they are correct. Many parents of persons with SSA are nice people, who sincerely believed that they were doing the best for their chidren. Their problem was that they didn’t know what was best. Parents need to be educated as to how to establish a healthy heterosexual identity in their children just as the need to be educated on nutrition and disease prevention. Every child needs to successfully negotiate the stages of attachment, separation, and identification–not simply to avoid the development of SSA, but to avoid the numerous other psychological difficulties that arise from a failure to do so.
Another reason people believe the ‘gay gene’ myth is because they are aware of how hard it is for a person to change their sexual attraction pattern once it is established. To say a condition is treatable, is not to say that treatment is easy or will always be successful.
With SSA, we are not dealing with genetic predestination or hormonal imbalance, but a pattern of thinking established early in childhood and reinforced by subsequent experiences. These early experiences lead to a deep sense that one is different from one’s same-sex parent and peers. This in turn leads to a desire for closeness to persons of the same-sex, which is interpreted as a sexual need.
The brain becomes patterned to respond in a particular way through experiences, decisions, and actions. Once a pattern is established each experience, each decison, each action either reinforces that pattern or creates a new pattern. The creation of new patterns requires effort and hard decisions, made over and over. Once a new pattern is laid down in the brain, the old pattern of thinking does not immediately disappear. It remains available, and can be reactivated in periods of stress.
Patterns in our brains are imbeded in the physical connections and are therefore hard to change. At one time it was thought impossible, but with the new research on neuroplasticity, we now know that real change, while difficult, is possible. We can only hope that, as our knowledge in this field increases, treatment of all the psychological difficulties which are rooted in early childhood experiences will improve dramatically.
Unfortunately, gay activists realized early on that promoting the myth of the ‘gay gene’ would win them support or at the least pity. They have therefore promoted the ‘gay gene’ myth, opposed education of parents, and treatment for SSA.