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Are People Born Gay? Who Gives a Shit?

The quest to find the mythical "gay gene" is a big waste of time.

It's OK to be gay because I say so. Fuck science. If you want to bump uglies tonight with someone who has the same set of genitals as you, go for it. Seriously, this is on me, folks—as one of Britain's leading slutbags, I now pronounce you free to go gay. Or not. Whatever. I really couldn't give a shit.

You may have read some stories recently about researchers actually finding this mythical and vitally important "gay gene." Others say they might now be able to tell if someone is gay by their earwax. A lot of this research isn't peer-reviewed, but who cares about dreary old details like that? And who cares that, despite years of searching, scientists don't even know which genes control height?


These quests to find the mythical "gay gene" have proven to be pretty controversial, to the point that the scientists involved have come out and defended their efforts. Qazi Rahman, a psychologist at King's College London, recently insisted tothe Guardian that "we need to do 'gene finding' studies… to have a better idea where potential genes for sexual orientation may lie." Why? Why do we need to know? There are other areas of human sexuality that might be worth investigating. Is there, for example, a rapist gene? A pedophile gene? That knowledge could be useful. But what's the point of finding a gay gene? So homophobic parents-to-be can abort gay fetuses? If that's not the reason, what is?

When I was working as assistant editor of Gay Times magazine last year, we were sent loads of books about being gay. Books upon books upon books and all of them boring as fuck. Why? Why must we explain everything? There isn't a prize if you solve all the clues. Some people are gay. Get over it. I'm sick of hearing "gay people don't choose to be gay" like that excuses it. You may as well say, "Poor gay people, they can't help it." We hear it all the time from well-meaning straight "allies," as well as gay and bisexual people themselves, especially in the US. I like guys and gals, and I frankly couldn't give a shit whether I was born this way. I do care about dying, though, and the only thing science knows for sure is that it's going to happen to all of us one day. So I'm not going to waste precious time trying to explain every aspect of my blink-and-you'll-miss-it existence.


There are times when academia really gets on my nerves. I get that the pursuit of knowledge is, in and of itself, a noble aim and useful in ways we may not at first realize. And I appreciate that, as human beings, we are curious and keen to add to the bank of collective knowledge in the hope of moving humanity a little bit further. Lord knows we need something. I just don't feel like this gay gene is the missing piece of the jigsaw.

Sometimes we're told gay is OK because animals do it. Have you heard about bonobos? Filthy little monkeys that lie around wanking all day and playing with each other. Everything goes. Girl-bonobo-on-girl-bonobo action. MILF-bonobo action. Bonobo bukakke. Their entire lives are essentially big orgies that make London's week-long gay slamming parties seem like Holy Communion at Westminster Abbey. There are thousands of species other than Homo sapiens that have been shown to indulge in same-sex fun and games. Lesbo lions, gay giraffes, and bisexual bonobos—they're all at it, apparently. Good for them. But it doesn't mean a damn thing. Even if humans were the only species to do gay shit, it would still be natural because we are a species too and, if we do something, it is by definition natural. Remember, killing is natural. So just because something is natural doesn't mean it's desirable. The reverse is also true. Lots of good things like medicine and TV and reading this awesome article on your computer—a computer, for fuck's sake!—aren't considered "natural." And yet no one seems to have a problem with them.


People get turned on by all sorts of weird stuff. Some people can only come with their legs closed. Some people like to be beaten. I love it if you grab my throat and pull my hair till my eyes water, and I used to know a guy who could only get off while sniffing rubber toys he got free with McDonald's Happy Meals. Was that genetic? I just put it down to the fact that "everyone is a bit fucking weird, and I don't really need to know why." It's my top theory.

Call me a luddite, but we shouldn't necessarily count on science to make gay OK. In many cases, science is as guided by morals as religion. It was science that tried to "cure" Alan Turing of homosexuality through electroshock therapy and chemical castration. That he was one of the brightest scientific minds of the 20th century adds a cruel irony, but he was by no means the only gay man for whom science thought it had all the answers. Until the 70s, the American Psychiatric Association still classified homosexuality as a mental illness. It's not the science that's the problem; it's what scientists view as moral priorities and the way people choose to use knowledge. As American physicist Richard Feynman said, "Scientific knowledge is an enabling power to do either good or bad—but it does not carry instructions on how to use it."

I'm more interested in the "scientists" behind this "gay gene" research, such as the Texan J Michael Bailey. He's spent years hanging around gay bars talking to gay and transgender people, which is kind of weird considering he's a heterosexual man—don't you think? If this oh-so straight father of two does find a way of identifying fetuses that'll turn out gay, he's totally cool with parents choosing to abort them. He dresses up his research as concern; he wrote: "The brains of homosexual people may be mosaics of male and female parts…. Learning why gay men are more easily depressed than straight men might tell us why women are also." He doesn't seem to question whether depression among gay men and women could have anything to do with all the straight men like him who just won't leave us alone.

Bailey recently made headlines after he let someone make a woman come with a sex toy called a "fucksaw" during one of his college classes. The fucksaw sounds somewhat cool, but the point is that the man is a douche. His book about transgender people, The Man Who Would Be Queen, was panned as scientifically unsound, and numerous people who were featured in it filed complaints of misconduct. Stanford University neurobiologist Ben Barres, himself transgender, said the book was one of "the most unsympathetic portrayals of transsexuality ever written." In response, Bailey quoted a line from his book: "True acceptance of the transgendered requires that we truly understand who they are." Bullshit. True acceptance of transgender people simply requires that we truly accept transgender people. Ditto gay people. The end.

Some people like the taste of pizza, and some people like the taste of cock. So what? Life is chaotic and unknowable, and there are far more important things to worry about than why people with pussies like licking other people's pussies. Maybe it's just fun. Why doesn't fun ever get mentioned in these studies? Write a paper on that if you want, science. I'll be busy banging. Because whatever gets your rocks off, if it feels good, I say just do it. Suck. Scissor. Shove a fucksaw smeared with gay earwax up your butthole for all I care. If everyone is adult and you're not hurting anyone without his or her full and informed consent, I hereby declare it OK to be gay. If you fancy it. No reason required. You're welcome.

Follow Paris (@parislees) and Sam (@SptSam) on Twitter.