Dean Hamer was born in 1951 in Montclair, New Jersey. He graduated from Trinity College in Connecticut and earned a Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School. Early on in his career, Dean figured out that medical research would be more compelling for him than treating individual patients, and that decision made a big difference to Dean and the LGBTQ community.
For 35 years, Dean was an independent researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In the 1990s, he began to study the relationship between human behavior and genetics, and in 1993, he published the first-ever findings linking homosexuality to a particular region of the X chromosome. In later years, Dean also developed a potential form of HIV prevention which is currently entering preclinical testing. Over the course of his career, Dean’s work has been cited by fellow medical scholars nearly 20,000 times.
Dean’s published his research into the so-called gay gene in The Science of Desire, a NY Times Notable Book of the Year. Dean’s second book, The God Gene, explored the relationship between faith and genetics. Over the years, Dean has appeared on a wide variety of TV programs including Nightline and Oprah.
In the early 2000s, Dean met filmmaker Joe Wilson. Together, they produced the documentary Out in the Silence (2009), which was prompted by the uproar that resulted when the newspaper in Joe’s hometown of Oil City, Pennsylvania published Dean and Joe’s marriage announcement. The film won an Emmy Award, and served as the launch pad for an ongoing campaign for LGBTQ visibility and acceptance.
After Dean’s official retirement from the NIH in 2011, he and Joe moved to Hawaii, and produced the documentary called Kumu Hina, which focuses on gender diversity among Pacific Islander peoples. Dean and Joe’s most recent film Leitis in Waiting (2018) explores gender diversity in Tonga, the last remaining monarchy in the Pacific.
Dean and Joe’s house in Hale’iwa, on O’ahu’s north shore, stares out at the Pacific Ocean. Not surprisingly, they start just about every day by catching a few waves. But don’t think Hawai’i has mellowed Dean. He’s as fiercely intellectual today as ever, especially when it comes to searching for truth, and supporting every individual’s right to enjoy the ancient Hawaiian values of pono (‘doing the right thing’) and aloha (‘living life with love’).
Dean Hamer as a young boy.Dean Hamer family photo at his aunt’s cabin in Colorado, circa 1960. L-R: Holly (Dean’s sister – now an out lesbian), Warren (Dean’s father), Dean, Marilou (Dean’s mother in the door with red hair – came out as a lesbian after her divorce), Dean’s aunt, Faroll (Dean’s sister), and two acquaintances. Photo courtesy of Dean Hamer.Dean in the lab at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Photo courtesy of Dean Hamer.Article about the gay gene featuring Dean Hamer in his lab. Photo courtesy of Dean Hamer.Dean Hamer at the Vaccine Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, October 1995. Photo by Bill Branson.Photo courtesy of Dean Hamer.Dean Hamer photo for Time magazine, 2004. Photo courtesy of Dean Hamer.Dean Hamer photo for Time magazine, 2004. Photo courtesy of Dean Hamer.Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson wedding photo, 2004. Photo courtesy of Dean Hamer.Dean and Joe pose for kissOUT. Photo courtesy of Dean Hamer.Dean Hamer in his lab. Photo courtesy of Dean Hamer.Hina Wong-Kalu and Dean Hamer film at Iolani Palace, January 2015. Photo courtesy of Dean Hamer.Ford Foundation panel discussion celebrating Hina Wong-Kalu, the subject of the film Kumu Hina, with directors Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, 2014. Photo courtesy of Dean Hamer.Dean and Joe traveling in Yunnan, China. Photo courtesy of Dean Hamer.Dean filming on the beach in Hawaii. Photo courtesy of Dean Hamer.
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