The Straight Dope | The Straight Dope | Chicago Reader

# The Straight Dope

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There is a numerology system for the English language that succeeds in linking the word "Hitler" to the famous number of the Beast, 666. If you take A as equal to 100, B to 101, etc, then the letters for HITLER equal 666.

Bill Clinton was born Billy Blythe and adopted his stepfather's name Clinton as a teenager. You can therefore say that his real name is Blythe. This is interesting because using the same method as above BLYTHE = 666. How unusual is it for a leader's name to total 666? --Thomas Fox, Baltimore

Pretty unusual, I'd venture to say, for any leader whose name doesn't have six letters in it. But you're missing the boat by focusing on government leaders. If you've ever spent any time with computer nerds, you know the real Antichrist is Bill Gates, the head of Microsoft. Gates's full name is William Henry Gates III. According to one theory floating around the Net, if you take BILL GATES 3 and convert to ASCII values, you get 66 + 73 + 76 + 76 + 71 + 65 + 84 + 69 + 83 + 3 = 666. As folklorist Bill Ellis points out, the only problem is that neither 3 nor III has the ASCII value 3. But when you're talking about a guy who seeks world domination and invented the 640K limit, why sweat the small stuff?

More and more often I have been coming across claims that homosexuality is genetic and not learned. Who proved this? Did they really isolate a gene that predisposes one to develop homosexual interests, or did they just find a pair of identical twins separated at birth who were later discovered to have developed into homosexual adults? Are there similar genes for pedophiles, necrophiles, or foot fetish-- [question truncated] --Homo Phobe

Sometimes you just have to know when to shut up, chum. Despite what you may have seen, nobody except headline writers seriously thinks there's a "gay gene," i.e., if you've got it you're gay and if you don't you're not. However, there may be some genetic basis for homosexuality, as shown by the following research:

Brother studies. Dean Hamer et al collected data on 76 gay men and more than 1,000 of their male relatives. Homosexuality among maternal uncles and sons of maternal aunts was four to six times more common than in the general population. Paternal relatives showed much less difference. This suggests a genetic mechanism involving the X chromosome, the sex chromosome men inherit from their mothers. Hamer then studied 40 pairs of gay brothers. In 33 cases they found the brothers had the same five DNA markers in a region of the X chromosome called Xq28. The odds of this occurring by chance are less than 1 in 100.

Brain studies. Having examined the brains of 19 gay men who'd died of AIDS plus those of 16 heterosexual men, Simon LeVay found that a brain region known as INAH 3 was much smaller in the gays than in the straights. INAH 3 is located in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain thought to be associated with sexual behavior. The difference wasn't just due to AIDS; six of the heterosexual men had died of AIDS too. This research has yet to be replicated, and even if it is we won't know whether a small INAH 3 is the cause or effect of gayness.

Bug studies. As recently reported in Time, S.D. Zhang and W.F. Odenwald found that by tweaking the genes of fruit flies they could induce, how shall I say, gay group gropes--five or more male flies would link together in chains or circles and lick each other's naughty bits. Very interesting, although it's a long reach from the sexual behavior of fruit flies to that of humans.

So OK, maybe your genes have some influence on your sexual preference. But how you get from DNA markers to Castro Street--that is, how genes affect that rat's nest of thoughts and behavior we call sexual identity--we're still a long way from finding out.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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