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Born Gay: The Brother Factor

By JEFFREY KLUGER

Posted Sunday, Jul. 2, 2006
If you grew up as a younger brother in a houseful of boys, you have probably lost count of the ways your big brothers shaped your life. Now a new study suggests that if you're also gay, they may have had a role in that too.

Since the 1990s, many social psychologists have concluded that gays represent about 3% of all males—although that's a much debated figure. Others put it as low as 1% or as high as 10%. Those who subscribe to the 3% figure believe they have documented an interesting wrinkle: among boys with one older brother, the figure goes up to about 4%; two older brothers tick it up to 5%; and with three or more, it tops out at about 6%. What nobody could answer is, Why?

Last week psychologist Anthony Bogaert of Brock University in Ontario, Canada, provided some clues from a study of 944 men. Some were raised with biological brothers or stepbrothers; others had biological brothers but were raised apart. In almost no case did homosexuality seem to correlate with stepbrothers living under the same roof. It was only the existence of older biological brothers—whether or not they were raised together—that influenced younger brothers' sexuality.

Bogaert believes the answer may lie in the mother's immune system. Mothers' bodies naturally recognize boy fetuses as slightly more alien than girl fetuses, since all of us carry sex-specific proteins in our bloodstreams. Some mothers may develop antibodies to those male proteins. In subsequent boy pregnancies, Bogaert theorizes, the antibodies may cross the placenta and affect regions of the fetal brain that determine sexual orientation. From the Jul 10, 2006 issue of TIME magazine

Poll #761261 Bro to Mo?

If you are a gay man, how many biological older brothers do you have?

0
11(68.8%)
1
1(6.2%)
2
1(6.2%)
3
0(0.0%)
4 or more
0(0.0%)
I'm not a gay man
3(18.8%)

Any younger brothers?

I have at least one straight, younger brother
8(80.0%)
I have at least one gay, younger brother
0(0.0%)
I ate my younger brother(s)
1(10.0%)

If you have any gay brothers, say 25-45, please feel free to leave their number, picture, list of their hobbies, just in the name of science. The science of LUUUUUVVV!