Friday, August 24, 2007

The Gay Germ Theory

Several nights ago I was surfing the net and stumbled across "the gay germ theory". I had never heard of it. Yes, there have been movies perhaps implying such a theory, such as "It's in the Water"(1997), a movie where a rumor starts that the town's water is contaminated and it 'turns' people gay.

Wikipedia (WIKI, 24th) is quick to set the record straight, no pun intended ;0), that it can only be a hypothesis, as 'theories' represent well-tested scientific scrutiny. Wikipedia therefore describes it as a pathogenic hypothesis of homosexuality. This hypothesis argues against a genetic component for homosexuality in that evolution would strongly select against it and that there is not a strong twin concordance for homosexuality.

The two gentlemen responsible for this hypothesis are Paul W. Ewald, a biology professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts, and Gregory Cochran, an independent physicist in Albuquerque, New Mexico. According to Wikipedia (WIKI, 24th), Cochran compares this hypothesis to the theories of the cause of narcolepsy, which is that it is an auto-immune disease triggered by a virus.

Wikipedia (WIKI, 24th) reports on the social controversy to Cochran and Ewald:
"William Byne who is a brain researcher at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, suggest that 'Cochran and Ewald are guilty of pathologizing homosexuality' (in the words of Crain, 1999). In contrast, Michael Bailey, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, asks, 'Suppose we found that a form of genius was also cause by a virus. Would that mean that genius is a disease?' (Crain, 1999)"

I have always thought and felt that individuals are born with their sexuality. I have never given it much thought though as to if it is via a genetic component or some other component. After reading up on this topic though I would seriously consider that there is not a genetic component involved in individuals being gay or not. I would seriously not agree though with the 'gay germ theory' either. Could it be that it is a character trait, similar to being introverted or extraverted? I have heard people refer to sexuality as being a spectrum. More at a later date on this 'spectrum' idea.

Island Dyke


WIKI 24th WWW PATHOGENIC Retrieved on August 24, 2007 from,


Matt McIntosh said...

Most variation in personality traits is more genetic than homosexuality, actually. All the best behavior-genetic studies peg the MZ twin concordance for personality traits within the range of about 40-60%, while the best such study for homosexuality (defined operationally as "scoring a 2 or higher on the Kinsey scale") pegs it at about 20%.

Nevertheless, homosexuals really are different neurologically -- read up on Simon LeVay's work:

So it's clearly biological, but not particularly genetic. This is the same thing you see with schizophrenia. Infectious theories make sense of it parsimoniously -- twins have the same immunological profile, but sometimes they both get exposed to a germ and sometimes only one does. Other people with different genetic makeups for immune response could get exposed to the same germ and have nothing happen. It could even be something like polio, where most of the time it's a perfectly benign gut bug but every now and then by sheer luck it hops across the blood-brain barrier and causes some damage. The etiology can get pretty complicated.

Note also that this is a theory about *preferences* -- if someone experiments a few times that's not interesting. What's interesting is *obligate* homosexuality, where someone just has zero sexual interest in the opposite sex. Whether or not sexual orientation can be helpfully characterized by a spectrum is really neither here nor there for the pathogen theory -- what it's trying to explain is why there are so many people at one extreme end.

Cochran's logic is basically airtight from an evolutionary POV, and there really aren't any serious competitors. We could find out pretty quickly by examining gay rams, screening them for every germ we can think of, doing exposure experiments, etc. But nobody wants to do that because they're all too scared of the political consequences if it turns out to be true, which I can understand but am not really sure if that should trump the search for truth.

Island Dyke said...

Thanks for the comments Matt,

Scientifically speaking, the germ theory sounds plausable however there are too many variations to the gay individual to even give it a consideration.

not to mention.....

So would you say for the bisexual individual that it is a different germ that they have been afflicted with?

after all hasn't Cochran stated it is the same germ in humans as in sheep that is making them homosexual....

Ok and what about the difference in gay individuals. You have so many variations. For example in lesbians you have the Butch, Femme, soft-butch, androgynous, just to name a few. Would it be a specific germ for each of those gay individuals that has molded them to make a choice in how to dress, behave and identify as?

I'm sure you could say the same for any heterosexual woman...what makes them decide to be a tomboy, or a girly can see these behaviors early on in childhood.

Oh or what about this. Gay people are the healthy individuals and the heterosexuals are the ones that contracted a hetero-germ. ;0)

As far as the spectrum thing, in my opinion, it is based on....I really do not know. A hunch is that based on individuals environment and their character values that they make choices. For example I was raised very religiously. All of my childhood I heard that gay people are sinners and going to bla bla bla. I had attractions to girls as early as age 12, teenage years when the hormones start kicking in. I never felt comfortable enough to talk with anyone about these biological happenings because I had always heard it is a sin bla bla bla. I therefore would copy my girl-friends in their behaviors, for example make statements like "oh he has a nice ass", and proceed to date boys. So as you can see societal values can place a strain on individuals and therefore those individuals may make unnatural choices to fit in and be accepted.

Now as far as the study that supports this gay germ theory....the finding of people born in large cities tend to marry more likely a same-sexed partner than those born in rural areas....PLEASE who in their right mind, well there are a few BRAVE people, would come out of the closet in some hick rural town only to be gay-bashed?

I do agree with you that the search for truth should go forward despite politial or other consequences.

Thank you for blogging.

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