Progressive steps were taken this year for the LGBT community — studies of genetics found that being gay is in your genes; the FDA lifted a 30-year ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, and we are now up to 35 states with legalized same-sex marriage. All great news but …
What does the Republican Senate takeover in 2015 mean for these advancements? Will these forward strides get snuffed out? Will LGBT bills like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act be shot down by the new right-wing Congress?
I must stay in the moment, or I’m going to panic. I’m already freaked out about the religious right’s insidious push to strip women of their rights, and I know that conservatives don’t like making things easier for gays (or immigrants or people of color or lower-income families, etc.).
First, Let’s Celebrate Advancements
Dr. Alan Sanders of Northwestern University conducted a study this year that strongly supports the theory that there is a genetic link in males that can effect sexual preferences. The DNA of 409 independent pairs of homosexual brothers (908 analyzed individuals in 384 families, including identical and fraternal twins) were used for the study, and Dr. Sanders concluded that there is a genetic link to homosexuality.
Sanders’ findings confirmed a smaller 1983 study by molecular biologist Dr. Dean Hamer. Sanders’ study supported Hamer’s findings that the X chromosome called Xq28 holds a gene or genes that predispose males to homosexuality. “Twenty years is a long time to wait for validation, but now it’s clear the original results were right. It’s very nice to see it confirmed,” Dr. Hamer said.
Dr. Marc Breedlove, a Rosenberg Professor of Neuroscience at Michigan State University, backs up that theory: “The example I like to use is to talk about height,” he began. “The estimates are there are 150 different genes that influence height. So, is there a gene for being tall and if you get that gene you will be tall no matter what? No, there probably isn’t a gene for being tall. But, does that mean there is no genetic influence on height? Of course not, that would be silly. Of course, there is a genetic influence on height. Of course there is a genetic influence on sexual orientation. The data are really completely firm.”
Watch these videos by the doctors:
Homophobic Ban Lifted for Blood Donors
In 1983, the FDA enacted a ban against gay and bisexual men donating blood. It was early in the AIDS crisis, but now, three decades later, scientists know much more. We even have blood tests now that can detect the HIV virus in nine days. As we chip away at the stigma associated with homosexuality, we can memorialize Dec. 23, 2014 as the day the FDA threw out the ban.
Estimates for the increase in pints of blood that will be donated annually in the U.S. are at 317,000 (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). There’s one caveat though, and the GMHC does not approve of it: The FDA will continue to block blood donations from men who have had sex with other men within a year. This blocks even gay men with only one partner, who practice safe sex and don’t have HIV. The hypocrisy of the 1-year rule is that heterosexuals are still allowed to donate blood even if they practice high-risk behaviors like multiple partners, unprotected sex or use intravenous drugs. Clearly, there’s more work that needs to be done to get rid of homophobia.
But Is the Sky Falling?
As much as we’ve made advances in recent years, will the new Republican-controlled House and Senate undo everything? It just kills me that the religious right preaches on about pro-life yet it tries to ruin the lives of so many women, gays, people of color and immigrants.
With the blood ban lifted and the new DNA findings, will the far right try to abort babies from families with homosexual genes? Or will it go on with its plan to make abortion illegal? Questions bring to mind that Dickens quote from “A Tale of Two Cities,” but let’s title it “A Tale of Two Political Parties:”
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Now, let’s hope for the best in 2015. Happy New Year to us all.
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.