Bioethics Blogs

Born this way? Selecting for sexual preference

Doctors Offering ‘Gay Gene’ To Same Sex Couples Wanting Gay Children: apparently Dr. William Strider at the Fertility Center of Chicago suggests that homosexual parents should have the option of increasing the chances of their kid being homosexual:

“When straight couples have children, the majority of them want their children to be straight as well. That is why most straight parents have trouble accepting it when their children announce to them that they are gay,” …  “So it only makes sense that same-sex couples would want children that carried out their same family values of homosexuality.”

The article is likely reporting wrong on what method would be used: germline manipulation sounds like a unproven and risky approach, while PGD is a proven technique that could presumably select based on X-chromosome sequence. And given the topic it is not implausible that Dr. Strider is being misquoted. But let’s take everything at face value: would it be ethical to select for sexual preference?

There are several considerations: first, is it even possible to select for preference? Second, would it be moral? And third, “family values of homosexuality”?!

Fluid genes and preferences

There is no “gay gene”, but like religiosity or political leanings there is a genetic component. There is also very clearly an individual specific environmental component, affecting both what preferences people develop and what partners they actually end up seeking out. Overall, the results suggest a moderate heritability around 0.4 and that the effect is polygenetic. Selecting for a particular preference would hence be probabilistic: parents would merely tilt the probability one way or another.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.