Lesbian scientist Emily Drabant wants to find out whether genes can explain sexual orientation. She's working with the DNA analysis company 23andMe to survey participants:
The company initiated its sexual orientation project about six months ago, and researchers are hoping that tens of thousands of LGBT folks take the genetic test and fill out the accompanying survey — the information from which allows 23andMe to see patterns among, for example, gay men or transgender women. They don’t know what they’ll find around gender identity yet, says Drabant, but “those are exactly the questions that we’re studying. We asked people about how they identify, including transgender male-to-female, female-to-male, and I think we kind of ask a question more broadly about identity, in terms of masculine and feminine.” Several thousand people have participated in the survey so far, though few identify as transgender.
As soon as the company has a big enough sample, it plans to make those results public, regardless of where they lead. “It’s a hot, sensitive topic,” Drabant says, “and I think that, no matter what comes of it, if we find genetic associations or if we don’t, [reaction] will be pretty heated. Our objective is to be objective. We feel that this is research that needs to be conducted, that’s neglected, that’s important to do. And that we’re in a position to do it.”