Homosexuals Anonymous

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Gay Gene

Posted on January 11, 2016 at 9:00 AM



Jeffrey B. Satinover, M.D. has practiced psychoanalysis for more than nineteen years, and psychiatry for more than ten. He is a former Fellow in Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry at Yale University, a past president of the C.G. Jung Foundation, and a former William James Lecturer in Psychology and Religion at Harvard University. He holds degrees from MIT, the University of Texas, and Harvard University. He is the author of Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Baker Books, 1996).


On July 15, 1993, National Public Radio (NPR) made a dramatic announcement on stations across the country: Was a team of scientists at the National Institutes of Health on the trail of a gene that causes homosexuality? Their report would be published the next day in Science, one of the two most prestigious scientific research journals in the world. (1)


The discussion that followed explained for the listening public the implications of these findings for social attitudes toward homosexuality and for public policy concerning it. Science was on the verge of proving what many had long argued: that homosexuality is innate, genetic and therefore unchangeable - a normal and commonplace variant of human nature. In the light of these findings, surely only the bigoted or ignorant could condemn it in any way.


Shortly after the announcement, amidst a well-orchestrated blizzard of press discussions, there ensued the watershed legal battle over "Proposition 2" in Colorado. (This popularly enacted legislation precluded making sexual orientation the basis of "privileged class" minority status, a status conferred previously only on the basis of immutable factors such as race.)


Among the many crucial issues raised by the legislation was the question as to whether homosexuality was indeed normal, innate and unchangeable. One prominent researcher testified to the court, "I am 99.5% certain that homosexuality is genetic." But this personal opinion was widely misunderstood as "homosexuality is 99.5% genetic," implying that research had demonstrated this. Certainly, that was the message promulgated by NPR's report on the recent research, and by all the discussions that followed. In a few weeks, Newsweek would emblazon across its cover the phrase that would stick in the public mind as the final truth about homosexuality: "Gay Gene?"


Of course, just near the end of the NPR discussion, certain necessary caveats were fleetingly added. But only an expert knew what they meant - that the research actually showed nothing whatever in the way of what was being discussed. The vast majority of listeners would think that homosexuality had been all but conclusively proven to be "genetic." But the real question is whether or not there is such a "Gay Gene."


In fact, there is not, and the research being promoted as proving that there is provides no supporting evidence. How can this be? In order to understand what is really going on, one needs to understand some little-know features of the emerging study of behavioral genetics (much subtler than the genetics of simple, "Mendelian" traits such as eye color).


When it comes to questions of the genetics of any behaviors- homosexuality included- all of the following statements are likely to be at least roughly true:


1. Such and such a behavior "is genetic";

2. There are no genes that produce the behavior;

3. The genes associated with the behavior are found on such and such a chromosome;

4. The behavior is significantly heritable;

5. The behavior is not inherited.


The scientific distinctions that make these seeming contradictions perfectly reasonable and consistent seem completely misunderstood by the media who report on them.


For example, in response to the "gay gene" research, the Wall Street Journal headlined their report (which appeared the next day), "Research Points Toward a Gay Gene."(2) A subheading of the Journal article stated, "Normal Variation"-leaving the casual reader with the impression that the research led to this conclusion. It did not, nor could it have. The subhead alluded to nothing more than the chief researcher's personal, unsubstantiated opinion that homosexuality, as he put it, "is a normal variant of human behavior." Even the New York Times, in its more moderate front-page article, "Report Suggests Homosexuality is Linked to Genes," noted that other researchers warned against over-interpreting the work, "or taking it to mean anything as simplistic as that the "gay gene" had been found."


At end of the Wall Street Journal article, at the bottom of the last paragraph on the last page deep within the paper, a prominent geneticist was quoted for his reactions to the research. He observed that "the gene…may be involved in something other than sexual behavior. For example, it may be that the supposed gene is only ´associated' with homosexuality, rather than a 'cause' of it."


This rather cryptic comment would be most difficult to understand without the needed scientific background. Yet it is the most critical distinction in the entire article; indeed, it renders the findings almost entirely worthless. Why bury and fail to explain what it means? Perhaps the motives were innocent, but in fact, the belief that homosexuality is "biological" or "genetic" causes people to develop more positive attitudes toward it. They need not have the foggiest understanding of what "biological" or "genetic" really mean in order change their view:


105 volunteer[s]… were exposed to one of three… [T]he experimental group read a summary… emphasizing a biological component of homosexual orientation… [O]ne control group read a summary… focusing on the absence of hormonal differences between homosexual and heterosexual men. [A]nother control group w[as] not exposed to either article… As predicted, subjects in the experimental group had significantly lower(3) scores [more positive attitudes toward homosexuals] than subjects in the control groups(4).




Analysis indicated that subjects who believed that homosexuals are "born that way" held significantly more positive attitudes toward homosexuals than subjects who believed that homosexuals "choose to be that way" and/or "learn to be that way"(5).


What was actually going in the study the media was trumpeting? Dean Hamer and his colleagues had performed a Kind of behavioral genetics study now becoming widespread -the so-called "linkage study." Researchers identify a behavioral trait that runs in a family and then look to see whether there is a chromosomal variant in the genetic material of that family, and if that variant is more frequent in the family members who have the trait.


To the uninitiated, a positive finding ("correlation" or "association" of a genetic structure with a behavioral trait) is taken to mean that the trait "is genetic" - that is, inherited.


In fact, it means absolutely nothing of the sort, and it should be emphasized that there is virtually no human trait without innumerable such correlations. We will see shortly just how this is can be so. The most important take-home messages will be these:


(1) All the research that has been done on homosexuality has been selectively trumpeted through the press in carefully crafted form in order to shape public opinion -hence public policy- in predictable ways. The research itself means almost nothing.


(2) The research projects that would truly mean something are scarcely being done because they would all explicitly or tacitly lead to but one end highly undesirable to activists: a method or methods for preventing homosexuality or changing it with ever-increasing efficacy; and to one conclusion: homosexuality per se is not inherited.


(3) Most of the research has been hastily and often sloppily done but this point is a distraction. Even were it superb, the findings would still mean almost nothing.


(4) To whatever extent this research has been good enough to generate valid conclusions at all, these conclusions are precisely the opposite of what is claimed in the press.


Before we talk about specifics, here is what serious scientists think about the recent behavior-caused-by-genes research. From Science, 1994:


Time and time again, scientists have claimed that particular genes or chromosomal regions are associated with behavioral traits, only to withdraw their findings when they are not replicated. "Unfortunately" says Yale's (Dr. Joel) Gelernter, "it's hard to come up with many" findings linking specific genes to complex human behaviors that have been replicated. "…All were announced with great fanfare; all were greeted unskeptically in the popular press; all are now in dispute" (6)


A scientist at Washington University School of Medicine calculated what would be required for such replication, He:


…projected that if the trait (in question) was 50% heritable… detecting (just) one of (its) genes would require studying 175 families - that is, almost 2000 people (7). Replicati(on) would require studying 781 families - another 8000… (E)ach additional gene (for a polygenic trait), researches would need… the whole business again. "Suddenly you're talking about tens of thousands of people and years of work and millions of dollars". (8)


Nothing even remotely close to this has been done with respect to homosexuality.

Using arguable-at-best- methods, two American activists recently publish studies showing that if one of a pair of identical twins is homosexual, the odds that the other one is, too, are less than 50% (the study examined a few dozens of pairs). On this basis, they argue that "homosexuality is generic". British researchers generated comparable results in a similar study. Their conclusion? The surprisingly low odds that both twins were homosexual:


… confirmed that genetic factors are insufficient explanation for the development of sexual orientation. (9)


Two Columbia University researches (who have published the most comprehensive research summary on the subject to date) note the unexpectedly:


… large proportion of monozygotic twins who (did not share) homosexuality despite sharing not only their genes but also their prenatal and familial environments. (10) The… (50% odds)… for homosexuality among the identical twins could be entirely accounted for by the increased similarity of their developmental experiences. In our opinion, the major finding of that study is that 48 percent of identical twins who were reared together (and where at least one was homosexual) were discordant for sexual orientation. (11)


Two other genetic researches (one heads one of the largest genetics departments in the country, the other is at Harvard) comment:


… recent studies seeking a genetic basis for homosexuality suggest that.. we may be in for a new molecular phrenology, rather than true scientific progress and insight into behavior.


While the authors interpreted their findings as evidence for genetic basis for homosexuality, we think that the data in fact provide strong evidence for the influence of the environment. (12)


The author of the lead article on genes and behavior in a special issue of Science notes:


... the growing understanding that the interaction of genes and environment is much more complicated than the simple "violence genes" and "intelligence genes" touted in the popular press. Indeed, renewed appreciation of environmental factors is one of the chief effects of the increased belief in genetics' effects on behavior (my emphasis). The same data that show the effects of genes also point to the enormous influence of non-genetic factors. (13)


The director of the Center for Developmental and Health genetics at Pennsylvania State University comments:


Research into heritability is the best demonstration I know of the importance of the environment.


(Note the term "heritability"; we will be returning to it in detail as it lies at the heart of much confusion).

With regard to the work announced by NPR, genetics researchers from Yale, Columbia and Louisiana State Universities noted that:


Much of the discussion of this finding (of a purported gene locus for homosexuality) has focused on its social and political ramifications. (But) inconsistencies… suggest that this finding should be interpreted cautiously…

The results are not consistent with any genetic model… neither of these differences (between homosexuality in maternal versus paternal uncles or cousins) is statistically significant… small sample sizes make these data compatible with a range of… hypotheses.

(T)he… data… present no consistent support for the… results. (14)


By contrast to their public policy statements, the researches responded carefully as follows:


We did not say that (the chromosome segment under study) "underlies" sexuality, only that it contributes to it in some families. Nor have we said that (it) represents a "major" gene, only that its influence is statistically detectable in the population that we studied. (15)

Ignoring possible flaws in the research, have the researches actually pointed to this more modest claim with any degree of certainty? In fact, they have not - as they themselves acknowledge, but in language that will surely evade general understanding - and that will continue to be avoided by the press:


… the question of the appropriate significance level to apply to a non-Mendelian trait such as sexual orientation is problematic. (16)


English translation: "It is possible to know what the findings mean, if anything, since sexual orientation cannot possibly be inherited the way eye-color is". Thus, to their fellow scientists, the researchers properly acknowledge what every serious researcher knows, but the public does not.


Complex behavioral traits are the product of multiple genetic and environmental antecedents, with 'environment' meaning not only the social environment but also such factors as the 'flux of hormones during development, whether you were lying on your right or left side in the womb and a whole parade of other things'… the relationships among genes and environment probably have a somewhat different effect on someone in Salt lake City than if that person were growing up in New York City. (17)


English translation: "You're more likely to become gay growing up in Manhattan than in Utah among Mormons and Christian fundamentalists, even if everything else is the same, including genes."

Unfortunately, anyone who is so disposed can readily offer the public partial truths which are seriously misleading. This is so only in part because of an easily led or poorly educated press. The major reason is really that the ideas being cooked beyond recognition once they leave the labs are inherently complex, even if originally formulated and presented properly. There are no "lite," sound-bite versions of behavioral genetics that are not fundamentally in error in one way or another.

Nonetheless, if one grasps at least some of the basics, in simple form, it will be possible to see exactly why the current research into homosexuality means so little - and will continue to mean little even should the quality of the research methods improve - so long as it remains driven by political, rather than scientific objectives.


There are really two major principles that need to be carefully assimilated in order to see through public relations distortions to the actual meaning of recent research. They are as follows:


1. Heritable does not mean inherited

2. Meaningful genetics research identifies and then focuses on traits that are directly inherited. One prominent genetic researcher (discussing a matter unrelated to homosexuality, but equally frustrated with the bad science reporting) flatly calls the question of heritability "trivial".


Heritable Does Not Mean Inherited


Heritability studies can be done on almost any human trait - physical, behavioral, emotional, etc. - and will show positive results. That is, almost every human characteristic you can think of is in significant measure heritable (thus discussing it is "trivial"). But few human behavioral traits are directly inherited the way simple physiological traits are (e.g. eye color). Inherited means "determined directly by genes", with little or no way of changing the traits by choice, or by preventing it, or by modifying the environment in which the trait has emerged (or is more likely to emerge).

Here is a simple hypothetical example, but it is 100% plausible. It tracks the kinds of studies that have been done with innumerable other traits, including homosexuality. (But only in the area of homosexuality has the meaning of such studies been so badly distorted).

Suppose that for political reasons you want to demonstrate that there is a "basketball gene" that "makes" people become basketball players ("BBPs"). (Please suspend your immediate, current understanding that the idea is absurd). To make your case you would use the same methods as in homosexuality. These methods fall into three categories, and represent important forms of preliminary research when investigating any trait: (1) twin studies; (2) brain dissections; (3) gene "linkage" studies.


Twin Studies

The basic idea in twin studies is to show that the more genetically similar are two people, the more likely it is that they will share the trait you are studying. So, you create a study set of pairs of people, divided into categories according to how genetically similar they are, as follows:


Pair Type Degree of similarity


Identical Twins 100%

Fraternal Twins 50%

Non-twin Siblings 50%

Unrelated people <5%


The most similar are identical twins, the next most similar are fraternal twins (who are on average as different as non-twin brothers or sisters, but no more so), the least similar are unrelated people.

Then you identify those pairs of twins in which at least one is a BBP. It will not be difficult to show that if one such identical twin is a BBP, his brother (or her sister) more frequently will be, too, than would a non-identical twin or a non-twin sibling or a non-sibling. You would create groups of such different kinds of pairs to make the comparison in a large number of cases. (One set of identical twin pairs, one set of non-identical twin pairs, one set of non-twin siblings, and so on.)

From the "concordance rate" in each set (the percentage of pairs in each set in which either both are BBPs or both are not. Pairs in which one was and another was not would be called "discordant for BBP") you would calculate a "heritability" rate. (Perhaps you have an armchair guess as to how many identical twin-pairs either both play or both do not play basketball. Probably a good deal more than half, the concordance rate for homosexuality in such twin-pairs.)

You respond to the reporter from Sports Illustrations that, "Our research demonstrates that BBP is very strongly heritable" and you would be right. But the article that comes out that month reads something slightly different, but completely wrong. "…Recent researchers examined the work and found it substantially accurate and well-performed. They cautioned against arriving at hasty conclusions, however." No one notices the difference.


Brain Dissections

Second, your colleagues perform a series of autopsies on the brains of some dead people who appear to have been BBPs. (Old jerseys, high-top sneakers and Knicks ticket-stubs were found among their possessions, for example). They do the same with a group of dead non-players (no sneakers, jerseys or tickets.) They report that, on average, "certain parts of the brain long thought to be involved with BBP are much larger in the groups of BBPs than in the controls." Certain nationally renowned newspapers in the Northeast pick up on the story and editorialize, "It will be very difficult for anyone to expect poorly educated yokels who believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth-Fairy and God to argue that BBP is not inborn. For not only has it been proven to run in families, even the brains of basketball players are different." (18)

In a pretense of balance, some of these papers interview diehard believers in the old view - yokels who still think that one must decide to play basketball, and play it for a long time, before you really can be considered "a BBP". One of them is quoted as claiming that, "maybe if you do something long enough your brain changes as you get better at it, and that part of the brain gets bigger." (Remarkably enough, this surmise seems obvious to the old-time believer.) The reporter does not merely report the comment, however, he also hints that it is especially idiotic - typical of diehards and yokels - since everyone knows the brain does not change.

Of course, you yourself are well aware that among neuroscientists it is extremely old news that the brain indeed changes, quite dramatically, in just the way the old diehard guessed: those parts responsible for the activity get much bigger over time (and there are definitely parts that are more utilized in BBP). You will not lie about if asked (since you will not be), but neither will you go out of your way to confirm the truth.


Gene "Linkage" Studies

Now for the coup de grace. You find a couple of families of BBPs and compare them to some families of non-BBPs. You have a hunch that of innumerable genes of every imaginable sort likely to be "associated" or "linked" to BBP (you never use the word "causing" because you do not need to - no one knows the difference), there are some genes on, say, the X-Chromosome. After a few false starts, sure enough, you find what you are looking for: among the BBP families one particular chromosomal variant (cluster of genes) is more commonly found (though not always) than among the non-players.

Now, sympathizers at National People's Radio were long ago quietly informed of your research, since they want people to come around to certain beliefs, too. So, as soon as your work hits the press, they are on the air: "Researchers are hot on the trail of the 'Basketball gene!' In an article to be published tomorrow in Sports Science…" Learned-sounding commentators pontificate in soft, accentless, perfectly articulated and faintly condescending tones about the enormous public policy implications of this superb piece of science-in-the-service-of-humankind. Two weeks later, there it is again, at a jaunty angle across the cover of the major national newsweekly: "Basketball Gene."


Now what is wrong with this scenario? It is simple: of course BBP is heritable ("has a non-zero heritability" to use the words of homosexuality researchers). That is because many physiological traits - muscle strength, speed, agility, reflex speed, height, etc. - are themselves directly inherited and they make it more or less likely that one can, and will want to, and will successfully, and will therefore continue to want to, and will in fact continue to, play basketball. In short, because of intermediate inherited traits associated with BBP (none of which are BBP), it shows significant heritability. (The genetic association, of course, is in no way necessary or predetermined, and is highly culturally conditioned: there were no BBPs at all in, say, ancient Greece, yet the same genes were there.)

BBP also shows a strong biological representation in the brain, both at birth (e.g.) nervous system factors contributing to reflex speed) and specially later (e.g. the parts of the cortex that are cultivated and become responsible for movements of basketball, as in the huge increases in finger-related brain tissues among blind people who learn Braille).

And the specific genes that run in families that are responsible for height, athleticism, etc. can surely be found and they will be statistically linked to BBP. And if one identical twin decides to play basketball, the unusually strong emotional bond between such siblings will make it even more likely that his twin will, too. (The fact of their genetic identity, not their specific genes, are here influencing an outcome above and beyond the indirect contributions from any specific genes.)

The basic problem is this: BBP is "influenced" (made more or less an easy and enjoyable thing to do) by the presence or absence of other associated traits. For BBP we can readily guess what they are and so immediately see that the "genetic" component of BBP has nothing to do with the game itself but with these associated (facilitating) traits. What are these traits? Height, athleticism, bone structure, reflexes, muscle refresh rate, and so on. So evident that are the specifics of this association that no serious researcher will waste his time looking into the genetics of BBP proper; he will concentrate on the obvious intermediate traits - height, athleticism, and so on.

The same is true for homosexuality, except (a) the more important, intermediate traits with which it is associated are mostly unknown and unsuspected ones are harder to confirm, and (b) the research agenda is being distorted by the political requirement that no such associated traits be discovered and that homosexuality be falsely presented as directly inherited.


Meaningful Genetics Research Identifies and Focuses on Traits That Are Directly Inherited


Research into more heritable traits is useful only in generating hypotheses about what the directly inherited traits might be. Here is what this means: Let us imagine that it was not immediately evident to us that the heritable aspects of BBP were intermediate traits such as height. A good researcher would not be at all tempted to conclude from the studies we described that BBP itself was inherited. He would conclude however that, indeed, there must be some inherited traits that facilitate BBP, and it would be these as-yet-unknown traits were producing the "non-zero heritability" results. If he could identify the traits correctly, he would find that heritability results, when he redirected his genetics research, would increase dramatically.

In other words, studying the genetics of BBP is really a crude way of unwittingly studying the genetics of height and athleticism, etc. If he selects his population on the basis of the indirect trait (BBP), when it is other traits that are really inherited, the researcher's results will be "fuzzed up" by the inevitable proportion of BBP's who lack these traits, or have them in lesser degree (e.g. a small number of shortish BBPs). But if he correctly identifies the traits in question, his next round of studies will "divide the herd" more efficiently, corralling his subjects not by BBP (or "sexual orientation"), but by height. Of course, there will be more BBPs among the tall subjects than among the short, but that is incidental. He will seek out other tall people who are not BBPs, and in his new study, the heritability factor (height) will be even more concentrated.

How might he guess at what the most important traits are, and then try to confirm his guess, so he could investigate the genetics of these traits? Very simply: he looks, does the best he can to name what he sees, and tries not to run afoul of the currently fashionable taboos enforced by the thought-police! He will probably have no trouble studying height, but he might run into difficulties should he suspect that athleticism (or even height) has a racial association. (More people of Nordic stock, being taller, become basketball players than do people of Appenzeller Swiss stock, being short. Perhaps other such groupings might occur to a researcher.)

In the case of homosexuality, the inherited traits that are more common among homosexuals (and that produce "non-zero" heritability" in studies) might include such qualities as greater than average tendency to anxiety, shyness, sensitivity, intelligence, aesthetic abilities and so on. (Of course, these traits may themselves be further reducible to a variety of mutually influencing, associated genetic and non-genetic factors.) The brain changes that are more prevalent among homosexuals, the tendency of homosexuality to run in families (and to vary with degree of genetic similarity within families) and the presence of associated chromosomal makings are all certainly due to as yet unresearched and therefore not-yet identified intermediate traits. There is no evidence that homosexuality itself is inherited.

Like height and BBP, these traits - intelligence, say, or anxiety - are surely widely distributed in the population at large and densely present therefore in groups that are properly selected to have them. If researchers had divided their populations by shyness or aesthetic sensibility, and ignored the homosexual/non-homosexual division, they might well have found even stronger chromosomal linkages as well as brain changes and twin concordance rates.




Here, then is a final summary, in the form of a dialogue.


Isn't homosexuality heritable?

Yes, significantly


So it is inherited?

No, it is not.


I'm confused. Isn't there is a "genetic component" to homosexuality?

Yes, but "component" is just a loose way of indicating genetic associations and linkages. This will not make sense unless you understand what, and how little, "linkage" and "association" really means.


What about all evidence that shows that homosexuality "is genetic"?

There is not any, and none of the research itself claims there is; only the press and, sadly, certain researchers do - when speaking in sound bites to the public.


But isn't homosexuality "biologically in the brain"?

Of course it is. So is just about everything else. I'll bet people who pray regularly have certain enlarged portions of their brains!

So doesn't that mean that homosexuality is "innate"?

No more than prayer is. The brain changes with use or nonuse as much as muscles do - a good deal more, in fact. We just do not usually see it happening.


But doesn't homosexuality run in families?



So you get it from your parents, right?

You get viruses from your parents, too, and some bad habits. Not everything that is familial is innate or genetic.


But it just seems to make sense. From the people I know there's a type - it's got to be inherited - that runs in families and a lot of these people are gay, right?

That is what associated traits are - but what exactly is the associated trait - or traits - you are detecting? If there is one thing the research confirms, it is that it is not "gayness" itself. That is why these traits are sometimes in evidence at a very early age, long before sexuality is shaped.


So what are these traits?

An important question, indeed. Science is being seriously obstructed in its effort to answer that question. If we were allowed - encouraged - to answer it, we would soon develop better ideas on what homosexuality is and how to change, or better, prevent it. We would know who was at greater risk for becoming homosexual and what environments - family or societal - foster it. As one prominent gay activist researcher implied, all genetic things being equal, it is a whole lot easier to become "gay" in New York than in Utah. So who do you think would benefit from that kind of research?


Well, what traits do you suggest are "associated," as you put it, with homosexuality?

May I speculate, perhaps wildly? That is how scientific hypotheses are first generated. The important thing is not to avoid ideas that prove wrong, just not cling to them if they do.


Okay, go ahead, speculate.

Intelligence, anxiety, sensitivity, aesthetic abilities, taste. You know, all the stereotypes.


But where do these traits come from? Aren't they inherited?

We do not know yet. Some may be. Or rather, we do not know how much is inherited, and which elements are direct and which merely further associated and linked with other yet more fundamental traits. But you are getting the picture. That is how the research ought to proceed. It is not necessarily that the traits that facilitate homosexuality are themselves bad; perhaps many are gifts. Athleticism is a generally good thing, and we think highly of people who satisfy their athletic impulses as, say, outstanding BBPs. Not so the fellow who merely become as thug.




Foot Notes:



1. D. H. Hamer et al, "A linkage Between DNA Makers on the X-chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation," Science (1993), 261, bno. 5119, pp. 321-27


2. "Research points Toward a Gay Gene," Wall Street Journal, 16 July 1993.


3. A lower score on this scale means a less negative attitude toward homosexuality.


4. Piskur and Degelman, "Attitudes Toward Homosexuals," Psychological Reports 71 (1992); my emphasis, pp. 1219-25 (part 2 of 3). See also K.E. Ernulf, "Cross-National Analysis."


5. K.E. Ernulf, S.M. Innala, and F.L. Whitam, "Biological Explanation, Psychological Explanation, and Tolerance of Homosexuals: A Cross-National Analysis of Beliefs and Attitudes, "Psycological Reports 65 (1989), pp. 1003-10 (1 of 3).


6. Mann C. Genes and behavior. Science 264:1687 (1994)


7. None of the studies of the genetics of homosexuality (all of which are initial; none are replicatory) have come even remotely close to studying this many subjects.


8. Mann C. op. cit. p. 1688.


9. King, M and McDonald, E Homosexuals who are twins: a study of 46 probands. British Journal of Psychiatry 160:407-409 (1992)


10. Byne W and Parsons B. Human sexual orientation: the biological theories reappraised. Archives of General Psychiatry. 50, 3:230 (1993).


11. Quoted by Horgan, J., Scientific American: Eugenics Revisited. June 1993, p. 123.


12. Billings, P. and Beckwith, J. Technology Review, July, 1993. p. 60.


13. Mann C op. cit. pp. 1686-1689.


14. Risch N., Squires-Wheeler E., and Bronya J.B.K., "Male Sexual Orientation and GeneticEvidence," Science 262 (1993), pp. 2063-63


15. Hammer DH et al. Response to Risch N et al. ibid p. 2065


16. Hammer DH et al. Response to Risch N et al. loc. cit.


17. Mann C., op. cit. p. 1687


18. Readers may recall Simon LeVay's much touted discovery that the certain parts of the brains of (supposedly) homosexual men were larger than among (supposedly) heterosexual men. But even if the research is valid - its quality has been strongly criticized - the discovery of brain differences per se is on a par with the discovery that athletes have bigger muscles than non-athletes. For though a genetic tendency toward larger muscles may make it easier to - become an athlete, becoming an athlete will certainly give one bigger muscles.

When this particular critique was raised, the press quickly took its accustomed potshot at the usual "poorly educated and easily led" religious groups for the suggestion's politically incorrect implications: "Some religious fundamentalists even suggested that homosexual activity somehow could have caused the structural differences [that LeVay claimed to have discovered]."

But as the editor of Nature - an equally prestigious publication - wrote, commenting on the LeVay research: "Plainly, the natural correlates of genetic determined gender are plastic at a sufficiently early stage... Plastic structures in the hypothalamus allowing the consequences of early sexual arousal to be made permanent might suit [those who claim an environmental origin to homosexuality] well." This editor is not, to anyone's knowledge, a religious fundamentalist.

Parents of a Homosexual Child

Posted on January 6, 2016 at 1:10 PM

Why Is This Child Different From Most Other Children?

Ten Questions & Answers For a Parent of a Homosexual Child


(*NOTE: Deep appreciation to Rabbi Samuel Rosenberg,L.C.S.W., Clinical Director of JONAH, and to my Co-Director, Arthur A. Goldberg, for their help with this article. JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, can be reached by telephone at 201-433-3444 and on the Internet at www.Jonahweb.org.)


“Gender, that deep sense or essence within us that reflects our

biological sex, is absolutely fundamental to our humanity.”

- Janelle Hallman


OK. You may have always suspected something, but now you know. Your child is self-identified as “gay.” You try to bargain with God, you cry, you rage, you deny – but you can’t run away from the pain that has gripped you ever since your child told you the news.


Why did this happen to your child? In today’s politically correct culture, the “experts” tell us that he/she was born that way, but in your heart and soul you know that isn’t true and that something went wrong in your family. Is it your fault? Is it your child’s fault? Is it anyone’s fault? Bottom line, what can and should you do about the situation?


Every day, anguished Jewish parents (as well as parents in every other societal group) around the globe ask themselves these questions as they go through the torment of learning about their child’s involvement with homosexuality. One of the worst aspects of this family problem is the common advice that parents must accept their child “for who they are” and there is nothing they can do. Even worse is the mistaken notion that reparative/change/reorientation therapy can actually harm their child. Nothing is further from the truth.


Politically astute gay activists have changed the way society views homosexuality in less than four decades. To their credit, gay activists have brought the issues surrounding homosexuality out of the closet. While this is good, the callous myths that homosexuality is inborn, benign, and unchangeable are absolutely false. Homosexual attractions are the result of childhood wounds which arrested a child’s psycho-sexual development. JONAH’s multi-faceted program (outlined below) offers great hope that your child can grow out of homosexuality and into the God-given heterosexuality which was his/her birthright. Please go to the Library Section of JONAH’s web site, Jonahweb.org, for a more complete discussion of this Model:





Healing of the Family System

Jewish Spiritual Development

Masculinity Development & Empowerment

Networking, Support Groups, Daily Internet E-mail Listserve

Overcoming Shame & Narcissism

Receiving Healthy Touch & Affection

Experiential Healing Weekends

Individual Psychotherapy



JONAH is frequently asked these ten common questions. The answers below can help start a parent on the long, difficult, but ultimately rewarding quest of learning why their child feels same-sex attractions and what can be done about changing this painful truth.





ANSWER: The good news is that your child was born, like all children, to develop into a heterosexual; the bad news is that your child suffered emotional wounds in his/her childhood that blocked his/her innate capacity to grow into heterosexuality. The specific issues for each individual will depend on the totality of his/her environment


As Richard Cohen tells us in his book, Coming Out Straight, same-sex attractions (SSA) are symptoms of underlying wounds. They represent an inappropriate response to conflicts in the present, a way to medicate pain and discomfort, unresolved childhood trauma, archaic emotions, frozen feelings, wounds that never healed. They also represent a reparative drive to fulfill unmet homo-emotional love needs of the past – an unconscious drive for greater bonding with the same-sex parent.


Very briefly, homosexuality is not about sex, but is rather an emotionally-based condition consisting of the following three subconscious drives:


Need for greater attachment to the same-sex parent and less attachment to the

opposite sex parent

Need for stronger gender identification

Fear of sexual or emotional intimacy with the opposite sex.






ANSWER: Some of the issues underlying male and female homosexuality are the same, but others are different. Here is an outline of the key elements underlying male and female same-sex attraction (SSA). For lesbianism, I will quote Janelle Hallman, a therapist noted for specializing in lesbian issues:


The Most Frequently Reported Elements of the Lesbian Struggle:


A strained, detached or missing bond and/or attachment with mother WITHOUT an available mother substitute, resulting in a fear of abandonment and need for secure attachment;

The presence of disrespect or abuse at the hands of a male, resulting in a fear or hatred of men;

Few if any girlhood/adolescent same-sex friendships, resulting in a need for acceptance,

belonging and fun;

A sense of emptiness or identity confusion in lieu of a full and rich identity, resulting in a need for self and gender identity.


Common Root Problems of the Male Homosexual Struggle:

( A complete discussion of these issues can be found on the web site: peoplecanchange.com.)


- Feelings of masculine deficiency;

Idealization of other males and maleness; same-sex peer wounds;

Fear of men, estrangement from men, disassociation from maleness;

Overidentification with the feminine;

Over-sensitivity; body image wounds

Father hunger; mother enmeshment;

Shame, secrecy, self-loathing, isolation, loneliness;

Touch deprivation;

Spiritual emptiness.






ANSWER: Homosexuality is a systemic problem involving family, extended family, school environment, peers, etc. You should never ostracize your child nor should you blame your child. Each member of the family needs to do his/her part in healing the family system.

Family therapy and/or spiritual counseling will help to educate the members of the family in how to set up new and better relationships. Whether your child chooses to leave homosexuality or not, strengthening the family is a worthwhile goal. The lines of communication between parent and child should always be open. Many families find an improvement in their relationship with their child as a result of this “big secret” finally being out in the open. Parents don’t have to accept homosexual behavior, but they do need to always love and accept their child.


Bibliotherapy is JONAH’s term for educating yourself about the issues underlying SSA and we believe this is a critical first step. Homosexuality is complex, caused by a variety of factors and often misunderstood by most therapists, doctors, teachers, and the general community. Therefore, parents need to read extensively until they understand the common causes of homosexual attractions and which of these apply to their son or daughter. For those who don’t enjoy reading, there are cassette tapes and videos available. The following web sites display extensive information about SSA and recommend the books, cassettes, and videos that will give you the education you need in order to help your child:


Jonahweb.org (Jewish)

NARTH.com (Scientific and Educational)

Peoplecanchange.com (Non-Denominational)

Gaytostraight.org. (Non-Denominational).





ANSWER: Remember that your child has probably been feeling tremendous conflict and anxiety for years before you found out about his/her SSA. We have found there is a process involved in coming to terms with this issue. The following suggestions have worked for other parents who have faced this problem:


Educate yourself about the causes of homosexuality and the strategies used to grow out of same-sex attraction.

The same-sex parent should become more involved with the child feeling SSA while the opposite-sex parent should step back and encourage the growth of the same-sex parent’s relationship with the child.

Seek counseling for you and your family with a gender-affirming therapist.

Understand that you probably will go through a process of grieving, followed by healing, and finally acceptance and understanding.

Tell a few close relatives or friends about the problem so you can confide in someone about the pain and confusion you feel. Choose your confidants carefully so you do not choose someone who has accepted the gay activist’s mythology.

Seek out group support and networking with others who have faced your problem. JONAH can help with referrals to appropriate resources.

Speak with a Rabbi or spiritual advisor to help you come to terms with your relationship to God and the anguish you feel.

Understand that whether your child chooses to grow out of homosexuality or not, you can keep your family together and have more trusting and vital relationships.

Expect your family’s healing process to take time – there are no “quick fixes.”





ANSWER: There are a number of caveats that are supported by most individuals and organizations that work in this field. Some are common sense and some have been gleaned by long years of experience:


Never ostracize your child. He/she did not choose to have SSA.

Don’t try to convince your child that he/she must change – it doesn’t work because a person needs internal motivation to undertake this difficult journey.

Don’t focus on this issue when you are with your child because he/she is much more than a person with homosexual issues.

Don’t try to make your child feel guilty; don’t take a burden of guilt on yourself either.

SSA resulted from the combination of his/her individual temperament, the relationships within the family, and the totality of his/her environment. Everyone in the family (including siblings) needs to assume some responsibility for repairing the broken relationships and forging healthier family dynamics.






ANSWER: Growing out of homosexuality rarely means that the person will never again experience a homosexual thought or attraction. We must learn to stop treating those who feel SSA as “different kinds of persons.” We understand that recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, obesity, heterosexual promiscuity, etc., doesn’t mean the person will never be tempted again. So, too, many recovered homosexuals feel overwhelmed at times of stress and desire a “quick fix” to solve their problems. However, if they understand their “trigger points” and disengage them, they generally can resist such impulses.


Fantasizing or acting on homosexual impulses has been the way these individuals handled stress and feelings of inadequacy in the past, so at times they may briefly fall back to old habits of thinking and feeling. The difference will be that now they understand their homosexual feelings are symptoms of underlying emotional issues they need to address. Fantasizing or acting on those homosexual impulses will not solve their problems – in fact, acting out usually makes things worse because acting out covers up the real issues affecting their lives. Growth out of homosexuality or “change” will be different for each man or woman who makes the journey. Some will never have a homosexual feeling again; some will frequently struggle to overcome their attractions and/or compulsions; most will fall in between these two extremes.





ANSWER: Gay activism has done an excellent job of convincing the public. Not only do they confuse political and personal goals, but most distressingly they wrongly label those who have a principled disagreement with them as homophobic. Many professionals in the therapeutic field are skeptical about gay activist claims, but are afraid of being called intolerant, non-inclusive or homophobic if they speak up or protest.


In the personal sphere, each man or woman who feels SSA should be treated with the same dignity and compassion we feel for anyone with an emotional problem – which includes everyone of us at some point in our lives. However, to say that a problem like SSA is normal and merely an alternative lifestyle is the equivalent of saying that obesity or alcoholism is normal.


In the political sphere the gay activists have also gone too far and have almost succeeded in deconstructing the male/female design of God, nature, and evolution. We Jews were the first to proclaim that the nuclear family should be the basic building block of society. Numerous groups seek to overturn the Torah prohibition against the practice of homosexuality and accept such behavior as normal and unchangeable.


As parents who admit that we inadvertently played a role in our children feeling same-sex attraction, we must stand together and educate the Jewish community and the larger community about the prevention, intervention, and treatment of homosexuality. Our children, and all children, deserve to know the truth about this important issue.





(For a fuller discussion of this question, please see the Rabbinical Commentary Section of Jonahweb.org.)


ANSWER: JONAH’s philosophy is consistent with the Torah’s approach to homosexuality. There is no word in the Torah for a homosexual, although there are words for homosexual behavior, which leads us to believe that the Torah sets forth an understanding that homosexuality is neither inborn nor an identity. The Jewish literature is replete with examples of accepting and loving the person who feels same-sex attractions while not accepting the undesirable behavior.


Accepting a person’s same-sex attractions as inborn and unchangeable does great harm to the individual, the family, and the community. There is absolutely no reliable proof that homosexuality is inborn so to tell young people who feel same-sex attractions they were born that way and have no choice to grow out of homosexuality is simply cruel and untrue. Same-sex attractions are just one of the many life-damaging conditions we all must learn to overcome.


In Judaism, teshuvah (repentance and return) is available to all of us. We must reach out to those feeling SSA, welcome them into the Jewish community, and educate them about their ability to grow out of homosexuality.





ANSWER: JONAH is constantly expanding its world-wide list of referrals and resources. Please call our Message Line at 201-433-3444 for recommendations in the following categories:


Individual and/or family therapy with those committed to gender affirmative psychotherapy.

Support groups

Experiential Healing Week-ends for individuals, couples, and families

Teleconferencing classes for individuals, parents, therapists, and couples

Educational books, articles, and tapes

Seminars and conferences helpful to parents dealing with homosexuality.





ANSWER: While we cannot answer that question for any particular individual, we can tell the truth about homosexuality so that the individual is enabled to choose his/her own path based on facts, not myths. Some will choose not to start the journey, some will only be able to journey part of the way, some will be able to complete the journey. Many who complete the journey will reach back to help others. As one inspiring response to this question, here are the words of Jeffrey Burke Satinover, M.D., who is a member of JONAH’s Advisory Board:


“I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have met many people who have emerged from the gay life. When I see the personal difficulties they have squarely faced, the sheer courage they have displayed not only in facing these difficulties but also in confronting a culture that uses every possible means to deny the validity of their values, goals, and experiences, I truly stand back in wonder. Certainly they have forced me by the simple testimony of their lives to return again and again to my own self-examination. It is these people – former homosexuals and those still struggling, all across America and abroad – who stand for me as a model of everything good and possible in a world that takes the human heart, and the God of that heart, seriously. In my various explorations within the worlds of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, and psychiatry, I have simply never before seen such profound healing.


Because it is not really a battle over mere sexuality, but rather over which spirit shall claim our allegiance, the cultural and political battle over homosexuality has become in many respects the defining moment for our society. It has implications that go far beyond the surface matter of “gay rights.” And so the more important dimension of this battle is not the political one, it is the one for the individual human soul. It would be easy in this modern era, when our vision for things invisible is so easily blinded by the dazzling allure of our material accomplishment, to not even take the soul – and her loving, watchful, worried shepherd – seriously. But the soul that emerges in the lives of those who have successfully struggled with homosexuality, and the soul that is in the process of emerging in those who struggle still, is so beautiful that at one stroke her emergence into sight, even dimly, simply shatters the false dazzle of modernity.


And so, as dangerous a moment as this one may be, when so much of our inheritance stands in the balance, there is great hope as well. Slowly but surely, the great truths that have embodied themselves in the lives of these men and women – after terrible struggle – will be made widely known. More and more people will themselves gain the courage to return home from their long and fruitless wanderings in the wasteland of modern sophistication, however painful that return may be. It is our joyful duty to stand waiting, with open arms, remembering that we too are journeying home.” (Dr. Jeffrey Satinover: Postscript: Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth)

Affection between Men

Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:20 AM

Affection Between Men

Torah Study Program: Hazon - Our Universal Vision


I would like to discuss the issue of affection between men. But before I discuss the issue in a broad sense, I will attempt to respond to the question that was raised whether, according to halacha (Torah law), two men can engage in erotic hugging, kissing, and touching, as long as they do not have intercourse.


There is a general Torah prohibition against engaging in any erotic touching with someone whom one is forbidden to sleep with, and this prohibition also includes erotic touching of a homosexual nature. The source for this prohibition is found in Leviticus 18:6 which states: "Any man shall not approach his close relative to uncover nakedness; I am Hashem." The Oral Torah interprets the phrase "shall not approach" to refer to any erotic touching which can lead one to have any form of intercourse which is forbidden by the Torah. This prohibition is discussed by Maimonides in his Sefer HaMitzvos (Prohibition 353), and it is also discussed in the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzva 188). The Sefer HaChinuch states that this prohibition applies to both men and women.


There is a major halachic difference, however, between the Torah's prohibitions against forbidden forms of intercourse, and the Torah's prohibition against erotic touching: Unlike the prohibitions against intercourse, the prohibition against erotic touching does not bring "kares" (the soul being cut off) or the dealth penalty. Even if one violated one of the Torah's prohibitions against intercourse, there is the life-giving option of "teshuva" - repentance and renewal which cause us to return to the path of our Creator.


There is no question that Torah-committed individuals who are unable to get married, whether they have a heterosexual orientation or a homosexual orientation, were given a difficult life-challenge. In some respects, the person with the homosexual orientation has the greater challenge, for reasons already mentioned in previous correspondence. The reason why the Creator gives certain individuals unusual life-challenges is a topic for another discussion. It may be helpful, however, for all people to remember, regardless of their sexual orientation, that there can be warm, physical expressions of affection and love which are not erotic. There are many men, including "gay" men, who sometimes engage in non-erotic hugging and touching with other men. In fact, traditional Jewish culture is much more open to displays of physical affection between men than Anglo-Saxon culture. For example, in Israel, especially among the Sephardim, one sees men hugging or kissing each other at joyous occasions or when greeting each other after a period of separation. And in Israeli yeshivos, when a young man gets engaged, it is customary for his fellow students to not only wish him "mazel tov," but to also give him a hug or a kiss on the cheek. And let us not forget that in Torah-observant communities, men dance with men and women dance with women. These "mitzva" dances create a warm sense of unity among the participants, and they are emotionally and spiritually uplifting.


Last, but not least, men can experience with their male friends the deep pleasure of "emotional" affection and intimacy. To experience this form of intimacy, however, they need to be in touch with their feelings and to be capable of expressing these feelings in words. Many men find this to be a difficult process, especially those who grew up in an Anglo-Saxon culture. In fact, some married men have difficulty developing this type of intimacy with their wives.


I have known some single men and women who had a deep need for emotional intimacy, but they didn't know how to achieve this, so they ran after sexual experiences which they hoped would meet this need. They ended up feeling unsatisfied, for they did not receive the emotional love they were looking for.


The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:19) teaches that all love which depends on a physical or external cause will pass away when the cause is no longer there, but a love which is not dependent on a physical or external cause will last forever. And the Mishna cites the friendship between David and Jonathan as an example of a love which lasts forever. It is recorded in the Book of Samuel 1 that "Jonathan's soul became attached to David's soul" (18:1). As the Malbim and other commentators explain, the good and the holy within Jonathan's soul was drawn to the good and the holy within David's soul, and vice versa. These spiritual qualities last forever; thus, a love based on these spiritual qualities also lasts forever.


Our sages often refer to Hashem as "Rachmana" - an Aramaic word which means "the Loving One." May Rachmana bless all of us with a love that lasts forever.


Shalom Rav,


Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen



The author is the director of the E-mail Torah study program "Hazon - Our Universal Vision":




Homosexuality: Choice or Consequence?

Posted on January 5, 2016 at 2:50 PM

Written By Ben Newman


Gay sympathizers insist that homosexuality is not a choice. On this point I completely agree. It is not a choice. No man I know or have heard of who deals with homosexuality, whether they reject and struggle against it or embrace it with pride, feels like they ever chose these desires.


It is not a choice, it is a consequence -- an unintended consequence of a lifetime of choices -- conscious, subconscious and unconscious. It is an unfortunate but natural consequence of choices made by a growing boy that were intended only to protect himself against rejection and hurt, to make himself feel safe, and to do what seemed most natural.


One can hardly fault a little boy for running away from male peers he felt were taunting and frightening and for preferring the company of girls he felt were accepting and easy-going. One can hardly fault a little boy for rejecting and protecting himself from a seemingly cold or harsh or absent or disinterested father, or for expressing his naturally artistic and sensitive talents while rejecting what for him are the frightening, unfamiliar and uncomfortable rough-and-tumble games of boyhood. After all, he is only trying to take care of himself, feel safe and be true to himself, as best as an innocent (and unguided) little boy knows how.


Little does he know that all of these perfectly understandable and innocent choices, in combination, and without intervention, can lead to horrendous unintended consequences. These choices can ultimately cause him to fail to discover his innate masculinity, fail to bond with his gender, and fail to develop a healthy gender identity as a man among men. And unable to find his own masculinity within, he can begin to seek it outside of himself, to envy it in other boys and men, and finally to lust for it sexually. His choices can have the

very unintended consequence of causing him to see himself as the opposite of men -- to see other men as the opposite sex. And so, being their opposite, he naturally feels drawn to them sexually to give himself that sense of completeness, wholeness, balance and

oneness that sexuality is designed to provide.


The problem is, many (perhaps most or even all?) men never really find in homosexual relationships that sense of completeness and balance that they long for, because in homosexuality they give away their masculinity to their partner. They turn to another man to fill the masculine emptiness within themselves. And though they may feel maleness for a moment outside of themselves, and revel in being able to touch it externally for a moment, they are left feeling even more detached from their own inner masculinity and void of a sense of maleness they have been craving all their lives.


The question to the now-grown man becomes, what will you do with this history of choices and their unintended but inextricably attached consequences? No one I have ever heard of has been able to simply choose to stop feeling homosexual desires -- after all, the desires

aren't chosen, they are the result of a web of other, more primal choices. You can't unchoose the consequences while continuing to make the same original choices.


Nor can you change past choices you have already made. That is your history and must be accepted. But that doesn't limit you to make the same choices now, in the present. This is the terrifying, thrilling, exciting and satisfying part of homosexual recovery -- learning to

make all-new choices about the kind of man you will be now, the way you see yourself as a man, the way you see other men, the way you relate to men in your life, the way you relate to the world of men, and the way you see women and relate to women.


Today, as a grown man with much greater understanding about choices and their consequence, as a grown man with many resources for support to turn to, and not as a hurt and needy little boy, you can make different choices. Healthy choices. Constructive choices. Empowering choices.


Perhaps you will choose to work on no longer rejecting your father outright and instead to find the good in him that you can embrace and, yes, even accept as a role model. Perhaps you will choose to work on no longer seeing heterosexual men as destructive and

frightening, or no longer rejecting the entire masculine realm out of hurt and spite. Perhaps you will choose to work on overcoming defensive detachment, or no longer running from meaningful relationships with heterosexual men. Perhaps you will choose to begin to focus on your similarities with other men instead of your differences.


These new attitudes and beliefs and ways of relating will take time to learn and to develop. This is a chosen path of careful and deliberate reconstruction of the inner self. You will be ridding yourself of the long-established and familiar attitudes and beliefs and character traits and ways of being with others that have had negative consequences in your life, or the outcomes you don't want, and instead embracing and developing those that have positive consequences in your life, or the outcomes you do want.


(By emphasizing that these things can be chosen, I don't mean to suggest that change is a moment in time. The decision to pursue change might be, but the change itself -- as anyone who has ever pursued personal growth or enlightenment knows -- can take months or years or a lifetime.)


Then, as real change begins to take effect, the consequences will inevitably follow: You will discover a sense of inner male power and innate masculinity you previously only saw in others. Men will eventually stop appearing to be the opposite sex from you. You will

begin to see heterosexual men as your peers and will begin to identify with them in a bond of brotherhood as you never have before. And as your masculine identity develops, your desire to connect sexually and romantically with your opposite will gradually, quietly begin to turn from the men you once saw as the opposite sex to the women (or a woman) that you, as a firmly grounded man, now recognize as your true opposite.


So as a man among men, what new choices will you begin to make today?