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Gay Gene or Broken Family?

The existence of a “gay gene” that causes homosexuality is the pet theory of the gay movement and its public advocates. And they have succeeded phenomenally well in selling the idea to the general public despite a total lack of supporting evidence. A gay gene, of course, enables gay advocates to claim that same-sex behavior is “natural,” and therefore beyond moral criticism. These are two distinct claims, however, since there may be genes that incline us towards different sorts of behavior, for example towards violence, that we do not think excuses anyone from indulging them.

Be that as it may, the smart money will start to shift towards betting that gay advocates will change their story over the next few years when they realize the implications of various data that are now widely available – and that we have just released in accessible form at the Family Research Council, a group often at odds with organized gay lobbies.

The new data show that the more marriage breaks down, the greater the likelihood that girls will later engage in lesbian conduct. This month Mapping America [1], a project that uses federal surveys to describe Americans as they may be viewed through the lens of family structure and religious practice, focuses on homosexual behavior of women in the year preceding the survey.

The lowest rate of lesbian behavior (4 percent) occurred among women who grew up in an intact married family. For those who grew up in married-stepfamilies, divorced-single-parent, or always-single-parent households, the rates were significantly higher (6 and 6.6 percent), while it was highest by far (9.6 percent) amongst those who grew up in households where the girl’s mother cohabited with a man who was not her father.

When women are divided into two groups: those raised in an intact family (both biological parents) vs. those raised in any other family grouping, the difference becomes clearer still. The incidence of lesbian behavior is three times higher amongst those raised in families without both biological parents in the home.

Classical psychological theory and earlier research focused on the important role that attachment to the same-sex parent plays in the sexual development of children. These data further indicate that whether the man in the house is the girl’s father or not also plays a crucial role in the positive or negative development of the girl’s sexuality. Sexual competence and proper orientation are more likely to happen when there is affection between both parents and between the parents and the child.

From other research, we know that when a mother cohabits with a man who is not the father of her children, the rates of sexual abuse of those children skyrocket. Though the present study does not delve into this problem, it is likely that there is a linkage between these two phenomena.

Given continued breakdown in the family, we can expect a rise in homosexual behavior among women. Attachment of girls to their mothers and identification with them at the deepest level of sexual identity are more likely to be knocked off their normal course. This non-identification with the mother’s gender is likely further confounded by the presence of a man in the home who is not the father, and particularly a man in the home who is not dedicated to the welfare of the family through marriage.

Results of surveys like these further undermine the claim that homosexuality is largely genetic or biological in origin. Clearly social experiences have a huge impact on whether a woman chooses to engage in homosexual relationships. Let us repeat, even if it were shown that there is some genetic component of homosexual orientation, that does not clinch the argument about whether any genetic predisposition should be acted on.

The social order built on the sacred order (best known through the Church’s doctrine) provides the natural environment in which the sexuality of children is most likely to blossom normally and lead to sexual competence as adults. The less the social order is built on that sacred order, the more likely sexual dysfunction will flourish – and the more persons with homosexual attractions we will have amongst us. There is no need for a “gay gene” to explain a lot of this.

If we look at real social science – instead of what many people are selling as science, but is really political advocacy – we may discover a lot of similarly surprising truths about ourselves.

Patrick Fagan, Ph.D. is a Washington policy analyst and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Social Services Policy at the Department of Health and Human Services.