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The Myth of the ‘Gay Gene’

March 14, 2011

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.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2011 7:12 pm

    Thanks for this post..

  2. Cathy Brennan permalink
    March 20, 2011 2:43 pm

    So do you believe that gay folks should work to try to get rid of their SSA?

    • March 20, 2011 8:30 pm

      While each person with SSA is an unique individual, with his or her personal history, there is substantial evidence that the origin of SSA lies in childhood experiences, in particular problems that arise during the attachment, separation, and identification period (birth to 2 years of age). Freedom from feelings that arise from disordered experiences should be a goal for everyone. Therapy for SSA focuses on understanding the origins of SSA, not inducing other sex attraction. I strongly recommend “Shame and Attachment Loss: The Practical Work of Reparative Therapy” by Joseph Nicolosi. However, it is important to remember that such work is difficult and the desired outcome is not assured.

  3. Ruben permalink
    February 4, 2017 10:39 pm

    Dear Dale O’Leary,

    I loved the article, and i would love to share it with my friends and family, but in order to do that i had to translate it into Spanish, here is the article translated, it would be of great help to have more of them in Spanish as well. I like all of your articles. Thanks for this blog.

    La gente apela a los mitos porque satisfacen un anhelo humano de una explicación simple. Aunque no hay evidencia científica que respalde el mito del “gen gay”, y toda la evidencia que apoya la teoría de que las experiencias tempranas son un elemento crucial en el desarrollo de la atracción del mismo sexo (AMS), es más fácil creer que la AMS está predeterminada genéticamente, Que las personas con AMS nacieron de esa manera, y que no pueden cambiar.
    La gente rechaza la evidencia y se aferra al mito del “gen gay” por varias razones. Una es que no les gusta una teoría que parece “culpar” a los padres porque conocen a personas agradables que tienen hijos con AMS. Y en esto tienen razon. Muchos padres de personas con AMS son personas agradables, que sinceramente creían que estaban haciendo lo mejor para sus hijos. El problema es que no sabían qué era lo mejor. Los padres necesitan ser educados en cuanto a cómo establecer una identidad heterosexual sana en sus niños tal y como la necesidad de ser educados en la nutrición y en la prevención de enfermedades. Todo niño necesita pasar con éxito las etapas de apego, separación e identificación, no sólo para evitar el desarrollo de la AMS, sino para evitar otras numerosas dificultades psicológicas que surgen de no hacerlo.
    Otra razón por la que las personas creen en el mito del “gen gay” es porque son conscientes de lo difícil que es para una persona cambiar su patrón de atracción sexual una vez que se establece. Decir que una condición es tratable, no quiere decir que el tratamiento sea fácil o que siempre tenga éxito.
    En cuanto a la AMS, no estamos tratando con predestinación genética o desequilibrio hormonal, sino con un patrón de pensamiento establecido en la infancia temprana y reforzado por experiencias posteriores. Estas experiencias tempranas llevan a un profundo sentido de que uno es diferente que los padres y compañeros del mismo sexo. Esto a su vez conduce a un deseo de cercanía a las personas del mismo sexo, que se interpreta como una necesidad sexual.
    El cerebro se modela a través de experiencias, decisiones y acciones para responder de una manera particular. Una vez que se establece un patrón cada experiencia, cada decisión, cada acción refuerza ese patrón o crea un nuevo patrón. La creación de nuevos patrones requiere esfuerzo y decisiones difíciles, hechas una y otra vez. Una vez que se establece un nuevo patrón en el cerebro, el viejo patrón de pensamiento no desaparece inmediatamente. Permanece disponible, y puede reactivarse en períodos de estrés.
    Los patrones en nuestro cerebro están incrustados en las conexiones físicas y por lo tanto son difíciles de cambiar. En un momento se creyó imposible, pero con la nueva investigación sobre la neuroplasticidad, sabemos que el cambio real, aunque difícil, es posible. Sólo podemos esperar que, a medida que nuestro conocimiento en este campo aumente, el tratamiento de todas las dificultades psicológicas que están enraizadas en las experiencias de la primera infancia mejorará dramáticamente.
    Desafortunadamente, los activistas homosexuales se dieron cuenta muy pronto de que promover el mito del “gen gay” les ganaría apoyo o al menos piedad. Por lo tanto, han promovido el mito del “gen gay”, oponiendose a la educación de los padres y al tratamiento para la AMS.

    • February 5, 2017 10:21 pm

      Thank you for the translation. My book the gender agenda is available in Spanish.
      Feel free to translate and share anything on my blog.

      • Reuben permalink
        March 8, 2017 7:07 pm

        Dear Dale,
        I bought the book and I read it. I want to say that it is an amazing book. I was shocked with the Mar Del Plata, Arg conference. It all makes sense with what it is going on in my country (Arg).
        Thanks again for your book.
        Reuben

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