Tufts OpenCourseware
Author: Ross S. Feldberg

1. Assignments: Biology and Homosexuality

Homosexuality has always presented something of a problem for biologists. If homosexuality is genetically determined, then how can we explain it from the standpoint of natural selection? We might think that an individual who was only attracted to members of his/her own sex would be unlikely to leave many offspring (and thus pass on his or her genes). To what extent do our prior beliefs and assumptions influence research agendas and outcomes? We will look at some of the main lines of research on homosexuality for insight into this question.

We will begin this section of the course by reading material on the history of homosexuality to understand that our approach to this condition is different from that of previous societies. We will then look at detail at two scientific studies that attempted to find a biological origin for male homosexuality.

1.1. Readings

  1. Background to the topic (R. Feldberg)

  2. A Natural History of Homosexuality by F.M. Mondimore, Johns Hopkins University press 1996 Chapter 1 (Before Homosexuality) and Chapter 2 (Sodomites and Urnings)

  3. “A Difference in Hypothalamic Structure between Heterosexual and Homosexual Men” LeVay, S. Science 253: 1034 (1991)

  4. An Introduction to LOD score analysis by R. Feldberg. This is a challenging topic. Don’t worry if you don’t understand it in detail as long as you get a sense of how it is done.

  5. “A Linkage between DNA Markers on the X chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation” Hamer, D.H., Hu, S., Magnuson, V.L., Hu, N. and Pattatuci, A.M. Science 261: 32 (1993)