An unpublished UCLA study challenging the societal “born this way” dogma of homosexuality has already been gaining traction in the public media since its presentation at an annual scientific conference last week.
The twin study conducted at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, finds that homosexuality may be triggered by environmental factors after birth. The research uses an algorithm covering epigenetic markers from several genomic sites of 37 sets of identical male twins to predict homosexuality in males, with 70 percent accuracy, as presented at the American Society of Human Genetics 2015 Annual Meeting in Baltimore.
“The finding is highly controversial because it suggests that some men are not born gay, but are turned homosexual by their surroundings,” Sarah Knapton of Telegraph suggested.
The research attracted widespread criticism, from lay people who cry “homophobe!” to experts who decry the study as “statistically [in]significant.“
Dr. Eric Vilain, an author on the study and director at the Institute for Society and Genetics (ISG) at UCLA, has been championed as an LGBTQ hero in many publications who misconstrued the study itself. Ironically, he’s also been scalded by politically correct leftists on issues of transgenderism ever since he coauthored an op-ed in the LA Times last May called “What should you do if your son says he’s a girl?”
The op-ed, written by two award-winning intersex experts, challenged the idea that adult transgenderism is inevitable for boys with gender dysphoria, and encouraged parents to not be quick to assume that their feminine-acting boys are gay.
Gender dysphoric children have not usually become transgender adults. For example, the large majority of gender dysphoric boys studied so far have become young men content to remain male. More than 80% adjusted by adolescence.
The op-ed also challenges Barack Obama’s statement last April, which called for a ban on all LGBTQ conversion therapies. The op-ed stated that some such therapies done by professionals could be useful in “trying to help children avoid later medical stress,” and bear no moral biases against transgendered people.
Dr. Vilain’s op-ed was attacked by readers of the LA Times, who took it as an offense to the LGBTQ community.
“Good to see Fox News has bought the LA Times and forced them to publish this bull $#!+,” was one response.
“Shame on Eric Vilain,” someone tweeted.
“I think that boys can behave in ways that seem very effeminate without being encouraged in the idea that they are of the opposite gender.”
Dr. Eric Vilain
These attacks and other attacks on Dr. Vilain’s work are not only morally outrageous because the content of his argument may offer insight and psychological remedy to the sexually ambiguous, they also ignore Dr. Vilain’s expert knowledge and personal contribution to intersex study in the past. The author of this article has been a student of the ISG, and can assert that Dr. Vilain has dedicated a large portion of his life since to studying intersexuality and sexual development, receiving numerous awards for his work, notably from NIH and the March of Dimes.
“There is often a confusion in the minds of young children between their behavior and their identity,” he said yesterday, regarding his research. “If a young boy behaves in a female typical fashion, he may be believe that he IS a girl. That is not the case. I think that boys can behave in ways that seem very effeminate without being encouraged in the idea that they are of the opposite gender.”
Dr. Vilain continued that while it is unknown what the best method for raising “gender nonconforming” children would be, “one should be cautious in immediately supporting social transition of children who are non-conforming.”
He gave two reasons why he thinks that parents in the case of children with genetic markers for potential homosexuality should not try to enforce their children’s sexes with a definitive biological line. “One is that even if there were genetic predisposition markers, they should not be used as part of parenting or any kind of behavioral intervention,” he said. “The other is that there simply should not be definitive line, because it does not exist.”
Ed Yong, a scientific journalist and blogger, published an article in the Atlantic criticizing both the UCLA researchers and the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) for misleading information which caused many news publications to infer that they had discovered a “gay gene.”
“The research was described badly in the press release and the ensuing coverage,” Yong said this morning in an email. He insisted that the research was “fundamentally flawed,” though it had not mentioned a “gay gene.”
Dr. Dean Hamer, a geneticist currently in Hawaii, wrote in the New Scientist that he had been the first to hypothesize that epigenetics, or environmental factors affecting phenotypic expression, may play a role in homosexuality. Dr. Hamer later tweeted to a colleague that he thinks the ASHG had sent out their press statement on Vilain’s research without consulting Vilain first, even though he was senior author and PI.
Nalini Padmanabhan, communications manager at the ASHG, insisted in an email this morning that the ASHG has not misrepresented or commented independently on Vilain’s research in any way, and that the ASHG press release had simply represented the abstract sent to them by Vilain’s lab.
“Dr. Ngun, who is quoted directly throughout, worked with our office to refine the draft press release and ultimately approved the final version,” Padmanabhan said.
Regardless, the inferences drawn from ASHG’s press statement reflect a stubborn desire to twist the pending study as one proving genetic dominance over epigenetics. This is likely derived from a cultural fear of the “homophobic” idea that homosexuality can be triggered by environmental factors during a child’s upbringing.
Failure to acknowledge environmental factors as important triggers in the upbringing of sexually dysphoric children is in itself a disservice to the LGBTQ community, as it ignores possible helpful treatments and can instead often result in a tragic series of self-identity crises, severe mental illness, and in many cases, suicide.