“There Is No Gay Gene”...oh yeh?

The Living Church, whose efforts have at times in recent months become a bit pretentious, outdid itself today by the headline, "Dr. Paul McHugh: “There Is No Gay Gene”.

Little did we know that relief from the terrors of a gay bishop, The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, could be overcome by a simple declarative sentence, "There is no Gay Gene."

The mind boggles. Perhaps someone could declare, "There is no Straight Gene." Then all us straight guys who don't measure up to being macho-straight could relax. There is no Straight Gene, so we don't have to be, well, you know, muscular about it all.

So there is no Gay Gene. Is there a Straight One?

Wait, wait.... I really don't care. There are gay people. That's a fact, Jack. Life is short, and arguments are long. Everyone is sexually expressive by circumstance, and how we are plumbed and why is only part of the variants to be dealt with.

At least that's my take on a tired Tuesday night after a funeral and preparations for the death of a friend and the profound knowledge that love is not the prisoner of any genetic propensity, plumbing or predilections.

I love who I will well or badly, and am loved in return with similar limitations. I am convinced that Jesus loves me, for the bible tells me so. That's enough for me. What do I know from genes?

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.


  1. Prayers for you as you prepare for celebrating the life of and mourning the death of your friend. Friendship and love surpasses whatever genes there are out there.

  2. Thanks for your story and good on you for sticking to it, Mark.

    Good bless you.

    Prayers ascend.

  3.      Really, well said. I can only testify to my own life. The only choice I ever made over and over again in my youth was to try and be straight and fall in love with what I was told was the correct gender. If anyone could have prayed or been counseled out of it, it would have been me. Peace only came when I truly accepted that God made me as I am, and God does not make mistakes.

  4. Isn't that the core matter,the bone-and-marrow, whether we love well or ill? How, not who. That's more work than I, at least, can handle on a minute-to-minute, day-to-day basis. As usual, Mark, you get to the ground of the issue, gracefully and clearly.


  5. "No gay gene" seems an odd thing for a medical professional to focus on. The more we work with genetic predispositions to various conditions (some we would call diseases and some we wouldn't), the more we come to realize that no single gene seems to do much of anything. There is no single gene for predisposition to addiction, but there are clearly physical, non-environmental predispositions. Extensive muscle development and endurance come from exercise, but non-environmental, genetic predispositions still mean some will be larger or stronger or more resilient, even if no one gene is identified.

    "No gay gene?" That thought may comfort Dr. McHugh the psychiatrist; but don't think any geneticist would suggest so categorically that here is no genetic component to sex, gender behavior, or gender identity.

  6. I wrote a long post on genetics, that being what I do for a living, and it seems to have disappeared....oh well. Short version: genetics is not an absolute, yes there is a strong genetic component, but environment, epigenetis, and even chance also play a role.

  7. You got it, sweetie. It's Christopher thinking he's been smart and cute. He's neither.

    He's also showing his "RC" preference with an article on Bonnie Prince Charlie. Not to worry. Nigel the Nitpicker is on the case. Watch for his response in the next issue.

  8.      That was a really excellent point about genes, Marshall.

  9. I am no geneticist, but I recall reading some time ago that there was also no "tall" gene. People who study such thing have been unsuccessful in isolating a gene (or genes) controlling height. Yet, is there anyone who would dispute that height is (at least, in part) inherited? Geneticists use all sorts of technique to determine what traits have genetic components, and one of them is statistics. I believe the statistical evidence on the "gay" issue is pretty compelling.

  10. Prayers for you Mark.
    Is there a gene for those who pray?

  11. Mary Clara28/1/10 1:23 AM

    It is interesting that the interview opens with a discussion of Dr. McHugh’s dealings with the once highly influential Dr. John Money. McHugh seems to be talking here about sex-reassignment surgery for adults; however, the really notorious work Money did was with children. He was convinced that if a baby's gender was ambiguous, medical professionals could just assign it a gender, make surgical modifications, and bring the child up accordingly, and all would be well. Some of these children grew up knowing clearly that they had been assigned the wrong gender, and suffered greatly. Many lives were ruined before Money was finally stopped. What was learned from the failure of Dr. Money’s “experiment”, which ran on unhindered at Johns Hopkins for decades, was precisely that sexuality can’t just be imposed culturally; it is to a significant degree innate.

    Of course there is no “gay gene”, but this doesn’t mean genes don’t play a significant role in setting gender identity. Of course the expression of sexuality differs according to the cultural context and has a lot to do with opportunity; this says nothing about an individual’s inner sense of gender identity.

    McHugh’s ‘biblical’ traditionalism is amazing. Though a Roman Catholic, he is not known for his spiritual approach to psychiatry! If I am not mistaken, it was under McHugh that psychiatry at Hopkins went ape for drugs at the expense of psychotherapy. He is also very controversial for his open attacks on Dr. George Tiller, the abortion doctor who was later murdered, and for his defense and sheltering of RC priests who were abusers of children. Not someone I would ever invite to address a church conference.

    I think it’s important to push back against the dreary accusations of ‘permissiveness’ leveled by such ‘traditionalists’. McHugh says:

    “Anyone who wants to stick with the tradition is accused of being a biblical literalist or a homophobic racist, because, in part, of the more fundamental change in our society towards permissiveness, that is, easy divorce, cohabitation and concubinage, abortion, pornography … and euthanasia. The issue of the homosexual is not separate … it’s all part and parcel of the pandemonium that the permissive movement has brought. We have just licensed all kinds of behavior.”

    No, we have not. We have stopped licensing all sorts of bad things that used to be accepted by the ‘permissive’ society McHugh would like to return to: homophobia, hate crimes, violence against women, racial oppression, sexual hypocrisy, sexual abuse of children by clergy (and institutional cover-ups thereof), and patriarchal control over women’s lives and bodies. Just to name a few.

  12. Prayers for you, Mark, and for those who have died and those who are dying. And praise and thanks for your post. Life is short. Bon Dieu bon.

  13. When Boone Porter was editor, TLC had integrity and its articles could be trusted. I'm not sure we can say that about the current version.

  14. Please, Bishop Robinson is the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. He is gay, he is also not very tall, he is also very smart. I'm not sure what one single characteristic he would use to define himself might be. If we always identified him as the smart bishop some other bishops might take offense and if we always identified him as as the short, smart, gay, ... bishop that would be unwieldy.

  15. I repeat my post to The Living Church, since they ignore paragraphing:

    In responding to "How do you view the popular assumption that science has somehow proven that sexual orientation is determined early in childhood, if not before birth," Dr. McHugh completely avoids answering the question.

    The question does not ask if there is a "gay gene". Genes code for proteins and cellular processes, and no one protein has ever been said to determine sexual orientation. Saying "there are factors more influential than biology" just shows ignorance of biology.

    His assertion that that growing up in a rural environment means you'll have fewer homosexual relationships is meaningless: You'll run into fewer people than in the city, mores may keep you in the closet, and anyway you'll be more likely than the metros to have had relationships with sheep. It says nothing about sexual orientation. And maybe lesbians are more likely to be college-educated because they are less likely to drop out because of unintended pregnancy.

    And he derives this from a heart study?

    Dr. McHugh clearly puts more stock in Old Testament "scriptural law" and warped Roman Catholic theology ("erroneous desire") than any aspect of biological science.

    Does Johns Hopkins still let this guy teach future doctors?

  16. it's margaret asks, "Is there a gene for those who pray?"

    I did a funeral on Tuesday and in the homily I said that we Christians need to be clear that eternal life is not like just going on and on and on... with death like a bump in the road. When we die, we are really dead. But those of us who remain have a spiritual itch in the back of the brain that leads us to think that it is not over - that the love shared and the things said and not said somehow will find their fulfillment later. So we live in hope that we will indeed take up again the joys of life in common with those we love, perhaps in one of those rooms Jesus talks about, and that we will indeed eat together at a great feast of delight.

    Well, that's more or less what I said.

    Now suppose that "spiritual itch" is a genetic propensity to see beyond this life to the gathering of all the saints, etc, and that that leads to prayer?

    Or that the "spiritual itch" is a genetically wired apprehension of that which will indeed come, and we then pray for the reality of what we "see."

    Or maybe that the "spritual itch" is a genetically wired hope when there is no hope? And it causes us to pray?

    Probably none of the above, but if so, it may be that there is no gene for those who pray, but that there are genetic itches that cause us to pray for that which we believe will be the reality.

    Thanks Margaret for the jab and question.


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