In 2019 a “genetic app” titled “How Gay Are You?” was published on GenePlaza (Maxmen 2019), immediately following the publication of a headline-making genetics study on same-sex sexual behavior (Ganna et al. 2019; Belluck 2019). In response to widespread outrage, the app was quickly discontinued (Bellenson 2019). But, rather than a rogue misapplication of responsible science—as the study's authors and others decried it—this debacle is emblematic of the pitfalls inherent in the new era of sexual genetics. In this essay we introduce the central methods, concepts, and key terms in the field of sociogenomics and related genetic sciences. We then review high-profile claims from this field that posit genetic theories of gender and sexuality, or that analyze gender and sexuality as variables in the characterization of brain, psychiatric, and medical conditions. Last, we characterize the conceptual, methodological, social, and ethical questions opened by this new frontier...
The New Genetics of Sexuality
Alexander Borsa are the first coauthors, and they contributed equally to the work.
Alexander Borsa is a PhD candidate in sociomedical sciences at Columbia University and a member of the GenderSci Lab. Alex's research addresses entanglements of gender, sexuality, and health, and his dissertation work focuses on the financialization of fertility. A medical sociologist and LGBTQ activist by training, Alex has had work appear in biomedical and social science journals such as Science, JAMA Internal Medicine, the British Medical Journal, Socius, and LGBT Health.
Miriam Miyagi are the first coauthors, and they contributed equally to the work.
Miriam Miyagi is a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Computational Molecular Biology at Brown University and a member of the GenderSci Lab. An evolutionary geneticist by training, her research interests include investigating the assumptions underlying genetic sex difference claims as well as in developing applications of theoretical population genetics to demographic inference.
Kelsey Ichikawa is the lab manager of the Harvard GenderSci Lab. With a background in neurobiology and philosophy, her research interests include science and technology studies and the politics of the brain and behavioral sciences.
Marion Boulicault is a feminist philosopher of science and technology and a lecturer (assistant professor) at the University of Edinburgh, as well as the director of interdisciplinary research at the Harvard GenderSci Lab. Her research analyzes the normative dimensions of data measurement and collection practices.
Sarah S. Richardson is Aramont Professor of the History of Science and a professor of studies of women, gender, and sexuality at Harvard University who directs the Harvard GenderSci Lab. A historian and philosopher of science, Richardson is a leading scholar of gender and science whose work argues for conceptual rigor and social responsibility in scientific research on sex, gender, sexuality, and reproduction. Richardson is the author of The Maternal Imprint: The Contested Science of Maternal-Fetal Effects and Sex Itself: The Search for Male and Female in the Human Genome.
Alexander Borsa, Miriam Miyagi, Kelsey Ichikawa, Kai De Jesus, Kai Jillson, Marion Boulicault, Sarah S. Richardson; The New Genetics of Sexuality. GLQ 1 January 2024; 30 (1): 119–140. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-10938512
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