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The ‘Gay Gene’ Study Is Being Used to Justify Conversion Therapy


Using the new research to promote abuse requires a willful misreading of the evidence.

Following the release of a study into the genetic basis for sexual orientation, a handful of conservatives are tying themselves in knots to justify the ongoing existence of "ex-gay" practices. Their argument is that if there's no single genetic cause of homosexuality, then it must be acceptable to adjust through therapeutic interventions.

The only problem: The study actually doesn't support that conclusion at all.

In a blog post titled "Not Born This Way After All?" American Conservative writer Rod Dreher writes, "If homosexuality is primarily a matter of nurture, not nature, why is it wrong to let gay people who want to seek therapy in hope of reducing or eliminating same-sex desire undergo that treatment?"

"Even if up to 32 percent of a person's same-sex sexual behavior is genetically conditioned, this means that more than two-thirds of their sexual behavior is not," adds Jim Denison of the Christian Post.

But even if that was true, that still wouldn't doesn't mean that "ex-gay" treatment is worthwhile, possible, or safe. For one, there's no evidence that conversion therapy -- as it is often called -- even works. There's evidence that it causes harm, and every legitimate medical organization to weigh in on the subject, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Psychiatric Association (APA), agrees the practice is dangerous and ineffective.

A study published by the Trevor Project in June found that 57 percent of conversion therapy survivors had considered taking their own lives in the past year.

Even aside from the harmful nature of conversion therapy itself, Claiming that the study shows that "homosexuality is primarily a matter of nurture" is a misreading of the research. The study, which was published in the journal Science, didn't investigate environmental factors. There's nothing in the paper to support that conclusion, and instead it simply claims that there are numerous contributing factors to human sexuality and genes are among them.

"This study provides further evidence that diverse sexual behavior is a natural part of overall human variation," its authors report. "Sexual behavior is a highly complex trait and that there is not a single dimension of sexuality."

Still, anti-gay writers are doing their best to stretch the research to suit their agenda.

Researchers acknowledged these findings had the potential to be misunderstood or manipulated.

"It seems like something that could easily be misconstrued," geneticist Steven Reilly told the New York Times. "In a world without any discrimination, understanding human behavior is a noble goal, but we don't live in that world."

For now, conservatives such as Denison, who previously blamed clerical sexual abuse on homosexuals, will likely try to weaponize the study to further their anti-LGBTQ+ agenda. But this is ultimately a losing battle, given the preponderance of evidence that attempts to control a person's sexual orientation are both futile and potentially deadly. Whatever factors affect a person's sexuality, attempts to intentionally manipulate human desires do significant, lasting damage.

Anyone claiming to advocate for such practices in the name of "science" clearly has other interests.

RELATED | There's No 'Gay Gene' -- There Are Thousands

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Matt Baume