My sister-in-law thinks her teenage son got my “gay gene” & she’s pissed. How do I handle this?

My sister-in-law thinks her teenage son got my “gay gene” & she’s pissed. How do I handle this?

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Hi Jake,

My sister-in-law is mad at me because her son just came out and she thinks it’s my fault. Let me explain…

I’m gay, and because of this she’s always joked about how there’s a “gay gene” in our family. Maybe there is. Maybe there isn’t. Who knows? (My guess is probably not.) Still, it’s been this running gag with her for years. Until recently when her 16-year-old son came out. Now suddenly the joke is no longer funny to her and she’s mad at me.

This is obviously ridiculous for a number of reasons, the main one being that if such a gene exists (again, who even knows???), her son didn’t get it from me (his uncle). He would have gotten it from his father (my brother), who got it from our parents. So the people she should be upset with are them, not me.

Furthermore, if she’s so convinced this gay gene thing is real and her kid got it from our side of the family, why didn’t she consider this before she decided to make babies with my brother in the first place? If she really, really didn’t want a gay child, she should’ve minimized the risks by marrying someone with no gay relatives. She claims she doesn’t even care that her son is gay, but her behavior says otherwise, because she’s taking this way too hard.

It makes no sense, and the whole thing is absurd, but she is legit upset at me and I don’t know how to deal with it. My brother is useless and just laughs it off. What should I do?

Genetic Agitation

Dear Genetic Agitation,

When it comes to the Karens of the world, a certain phrase comes to mind: “You can’t argue with stupid.”

I’m not saying your sister-in-law is as bad as them, but as you’ve pointed out, there is no logic at all to what she’s saying. She seems, instead, to be reacting emotionally from a place of homophobia and fear, which is coming out as misplaced anger directed at the one person she can possibly find to blame: You.

First off, even if there was a “gay gene”, you point out quite well that the lineage would have nothing to do with you, but would be passed down from your brother, which would then be passed down to your nephew. Or, even more shocking, the gene may have come from her side of the family (cue the Karen gasp!).

However, science has disproven this theory that there is one “gay gene”, so already what she’s spouting is inaccurate. According to a study that was released in 2019, there is no single gene responsible for same-sex sexual behavior.

The Los Angeles Times reported on the outcome, saying, “A new study that analyzed the DNA of nearly half a million people has found that, while genetic differences play a significant role in sexual behavior, there is no single gene responsible.”

“The findings, which looked at behavior and not sexual identity, debunk the notion of a singular ‘gay gene.’ Even when all tested genetic variants were taken into account, they collectively accounted for no more than a quarter of the same-sex behavior reported by the study participants.”

In other words, sexual orientation and behavior is a product of a complex blend of factors that influence human sexuality, including things like the environment, society, and culture.

Aside from the science not supporting her theory, the bigger issue here is the blatant disapproval for her son’s identity, and how she obviously feels about yours as well.

When a person comes out, what they desperately need at that time is someone to accept and love them unconditionally, not be angry and upset about who they are. There’s enough homophobia in our society already, and to have that from one’s own supposedly-loving caretakers is nothing short of damaging.

We all want the approval of our parents, especially when we literally rely on them for our very survival. If we’re being told directly or indirectly that there’s something unlikable or wrong about us, especially something that feels like a core essence of who we are, we begin to internalize these messages, setting the stage for low self-worth, shame, and even self-hatred.

Once your sister-in-law cools down, I might suggest you have a serious talk with her about how her anger and frustration is going to affect her child. You might even suggest she talk to an LGBTQ therapist, or consider a PFLAG meeting, to help her accept this ultimately brave and beautiful revelation from her teenage child.

At the end of the day, if it were so easy to pass on a “gay gene”, wouldn’t every queer person in the world currently be working as fast as possible to find egg donors and surrogates in order to spread it? After all, we’ve been told “world domination” is the goal of our “gay agenda”. Why not make it happen?

Ask Jake is our advice column by Queerty editor and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Jake Myers. If you have a question for Jake, please email [email protected] for consideration.


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