The life of the gay gene: from hypothetical genetic marker to social reality

J Sex Res. 2012;49(4):362-8. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2012.663420.


The gay gene was first identified in 1993 as a correlation between the genetic marker Xq28 and gay male sexuality. The results of this original study were never replicated, and the biological reality of such an entity remains hypothetical. However, despite such tenuous provenance, the gay gene has persisted as a reference in science news, popular science writings, and in press releases and editorials about biomedical research. An examination of the life of the gay gene in U.K. news media demonstrates that the gay gene has become an assumed back-story to genetic sexuality research over time, and that the critique of its very existence has been diminished. Latterly, the gay gene has entered into the online biomedical databases of the 21st century with the same pattern of persistence and diminishing critique. This article draws on an analysis of the U.K. press and online databases to represent the process through which the address of the gay gene has shifted and become an index of biomedicalization. The consequent unmooring of the gay gene from accountability and accuracy demonstrates that the organization of biomedical databases could benefit from greater cross-disciplinary attention.

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Genetic Markers*
  • Genetic Research
  • Homosexuality, Male / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media
  • United Kingdom


  • Genetic Markers