Despite a recent study that analyzed the genetic makeup of more than 500,000 people and determined there is no singular “gay gene” that can predict a person’s sexuality, there’s a new app out there claiming to be able to do just that.
Using the results from commercial DNA tests from companies like 23andMe and MyHeritage, the “How gay are you” app (yes, it’s actually called that) will place your sexual preference on a spectrum based on your genetics. But there is no scientific evidence this is possible. In fact, as far as we know at this point, it’s absolutely not possible. The company that made the app even admits that.
In the app description, Insolent.AI states “this App does NOT predict same sex attraction” and a disclaimer states, “this application is not a diagnosis, a prediction, or a predisposition score”. So if they know the analysis can’t possible be accurate, why make this app at all? They seem to be suggesting that finding out how gay an algorithm thinks you are is… fun.
It’s true that younger generations are more open about their sexuality and less willing to put themselves in a box. Maybe Insolent.AI thought their target audience might take the app as more of a joke than anything else. Kind of like those BuzzFeed quizzes that tell you what Disney princess you are, or what your ‘true’ age is based mostly arbitrary questions.
The app doesn’t actually pinpoint a certain ‘gay gene’ in your DNA (because, again, it can’t). Instead, it will compare your genetic profile to that of people whose sexual identity is known. Basically, it’s telling you how likely you are to be gay based on the sexuality of a bunch of other people. That comparison data was collected from the aforementioned study, which actually concluded that genetics only account for about 25% of a person’s sexuality.
“How gay are you?” is hosted on GenePlaza, an online marketplace that allows people to use their commercial DNA results to predict a number of different characteristics and dispositions. It’s possible GenePlaza and Insolent.AI just thought sexual orientation was no different than finding out whether you’re more prone to be competitive or having high blood pressure. It might even seem harmless at first, even if the $5.50 price tag is a bit steep for a one-time use app. Unfortunately, the app reinforces stereotypes about sexuality and could be potentially dangerous for some people.
Futurism reported that the app is connected to a developer named Joel Bellenson who is based in Uganda, a country with a history of trying to repress and even eradicate its gay population. The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act, which makes same-sex relations punishable by life in prison, was passed just five years ago. Although the act was struck down, legislation requiring gay people to be sentenced to death was proposed just last week. Uganda isn’t the only country that criminalizes same-sex relations either. According to the Human Rights Watch, there are still 68 countries with similar laws.
Even if the app wasn’t created with nefarious intentions, it’s obvious that in the wrong hands, any kind of system that claims to predict sexuality could be a problem. The possibility of the government using DNA to identify and suppress people based on sexuality sounds like a dystopian sci-fi novel but who’s to say it can’t happen—even when the science doesn’t exactly check out.