Do Ask, Do Tell

This week 23andMe will begin surveying its members to study the biology of sexual orientation.

The survey was prompted in part by customer interest, and fueled by our own scientific curiosity. We’re also launching the survey during “Come Out For Health” week, a nationwide event that has for the last nine years sought to promote health in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

23andMe’s unique approach compares genetic data from customers with data from their responses to surveys. This has led to discoveries of genetic associations with common traits as well as important insights into more serious conditions like Parkinson’s disease.

Our customers have participated enthusiastically in these research efforts submitting more than 35 million responses to surveys with topics as diverse as male fertility, eye color, and reactions to various medications. Customers also have great suggestions for research — and the most common request by far is for 23andMe to look at the genetics behind sexual orientation.

We won’t be the first to look into the topic, but it will be one of the very few genome-wide association studies of sexual orientation ever attempted. In developing the study we worked with multiple Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender organizations to review our survey questions and help ensure that our research is conducted in an informed and sensitive manner.

To date heritability studies of identical and non-identical twins have suggested that sexual orientation is the product of both genetic and environmental factors.  A number of linkage studies have also pointed at a possible role for candidate genes located on the X chromosome. But the strength of that evidence is limited due to conflicting reports and the small sample sizes of those studies. We hope that our work will clarify some of the questions surrounding the possible genetic and biological underpinnings of sexual orientation.

Regardless of your sexual orientation, you can participate by taking this survey here.  You must be 18 years or older to participate. Even if you’ve consented to research with 23andMe in the past you will again have to consent to take this survey. For questions email hpa@23andme.com.


  • Lucas

    When all the results are compiled and the paper published can you please post a link to the pdf?

  • Tom

    I think your link to the survey is broken.

    • http://23andme.com Shwu

      Hi Tom,

      Thank you, this should be fixed shortly!

  • Altorfer

    I say BRAVO!

  • Ponto

    You say that the X chromosome has a role in sexual orientation. Does that mean males with their one X, and females with their two Xs, but one deactivated in each cell, are different in their frequency of homosexual preference? Or are you indicating that the X chromosome is some sort of homologue to sexual differentiation as in the role of the Y chromosome in males?

  • John Gagon

    I’d like to know an estimated time for results to come through. It would be great to receive some of the milestones and preliminary findings (just the parts that become known as they become known and what is left to study) but I am guessing the GWAS (genome wide association study) will have some automation that may result the findings as quickly as findings are obtained.

  • Joni

    Hi,
    I am also happy because you decide to survey about this, this is personally very important to me. :) I am waiting excited what the results will say! :) Please, don´t make us waite any more long time, if possible. I am read from internet than genes called SHH and CALY can have something with sexual orientation, also I´m interested about AR and FMR1. Let´s see does they have anything! :))))))))

  • altorfer

    @Shwu

    Pleas hurry up eith the GWAS of sexual orientation. Because I lose more and more my patience and I guess I am not the only one who wants to know it! Please hurry up!

    • http://23andme.com Shwu

      Hi altorfer,

      Because our analyses depend on how many people take the surveys, we can’t necessarily control the speed with which we can do these studies. However, our web-based platform and many customers who are participating in research does make it so that we are able to conduct such studies much faster than traditional research methods (which often take years). Stay tuned in the next couple months for an update on our research into sexual orientation!

  • Altorfer

    I have an idea: I will sent you the next weak 400 gramms of swiss chocolates and swiss sweets and with a writing that you are finish soon with the GWAS of sexual orientation(homosexuality).

  • M~

    Hi,

    I suspect many people, like myself, initially joined to better understand potential health risks and conditions they might share. The family ancestry features are quite a bonus and the many of aspects of the health risks, medication responses, etc are wonderful.

    I have also created accounts on Patients-like-me https://www.patientslikeme.com/login
    and wonder if collaborative efforts have every been sought or considered because it would seem that there are many shared values and interests, but also because each site offers uniquely different but complimentary information and data that might have synergistic impact if they interacted… and especially, because i might personally benefit by any progress in medical care, treatment, and diagnosis that might occur as a result!

  • Altorfer

    @Shwu

    I’m very glad that you are doing a GWAS on sexual orientation. You are fantastic!

  • Altorfer

    Threre was a study about genetics of homosexuality in USA(gaybros):http://www.gaybro­s.com/faq.html

    And now here are the results: http://www.ashg.org/2012meeting/abstracts/fulltext/f120122263.htm

    You can see that they again saw, taht there is a genetic link in Xq28! As same as Dean Hamer said more than 20 years ago!

    I guess the GWAS of sexual orientation which is done by 23andme is going also to show us a genetic link for homosexuality in xq28!

    • ScottH

      Thank you for your interest in this topic and for posting these links. But I would like to clarify what is in our own abstract: http://www.ashg.org/2012meeting/abstracts/fulltext/f120123120.htm.

      We did not find any associations of genome-wide significance thus far. The current data in our study do not show any direct association for markers within chromosome band Xq28.

      • Altorfer

        Anyway Sir! I will in the next year let sequence my exomes by decodeme or otogenetics! And I will let sequence my whole genome in 2015 by Illumina Inc. I know that I have a genetic error!

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