Sunday, January 07, 2007

The origins of homosexual attraction

I'm reading an intriguing column by a gay writer in the Times Online.

On the origins of homosexuality, he says:

All we know is that it appears to be fixed by about the age of three. This lack of precision is partly due to the complexity of the phenomenon. Who knows whether sexual orientation isn’t multi-determined by any number of genetic, environmental or hormonal factors?

Thank You!

Here's the thing that has bothered me about the whole controversy of the genesis of homosexuality.

In the 1980's, when the controversy came to the fore, the general meme was: I know I was born gay because I've always felt that way.

That BY ITSELF was considered enough to lead to the conclusion that homosexuality ONLY had a biological origin.

If you think about that statement logically, you can find all kinds of possible objections with that statement.

* People only remember from the time they're about 2 or 3. Memory cannot account for the environmental factors before that time.

* People can have false memories

* People can re-interpret feelings and ideas as being "gay" through the prism of their present beliefs of homosexuality.

* People can convince themselves they've always felt that way.

* Some people lie (I'm not say everyone's dishonest, a few some might for a cause).

* Some people might repeat what others have said to not go against prevailing orthodoxy.

* They do not present any kind of medical or physiological evidence

And so on and so forth.

Anyone who suggested that it was due to psychological issues, such as relationship with parents, gender identity, self-image, was considered to be a bigot for not accepting the prevailing orthodoxy.

Which is ridiculous.

There's also another possibility: there could be multiple reasons why people have homosexual attractions. Some might be biological; some could be purely psychological. One person might have a pre-disposition because of a hormonal issue and another from a bad gender self-image that leads one to internalize homosexual attractions.

Myself, I think that the psychological issues regarding the origins of homosexual attraction aren't given due credit. There's a reason why there's a stereotype of the gay with an overweening mom. Does that mean all gays have dominant mothers and weak fathers? No, but it could be a factor that explains homosexuality in some men.

The trouble is: whenever science gets closer to figuring out the puzzle, politics intervenes. And so last week, Martina Navratilova and the usual suspects protested against new research on gay sheep being conducted at Oregon State University.

The researchers have been adjusting various hormones in the brains of gay rams to try to see if they can get them to be interested in the opposite sex. The indifference of many rams to otherwise attractive and fertile ewes is a drag on sheep-breeding, it seems. We don’t have any peer-reviewed studies yet, but reports of success in manipulating the sexual behaviour of some rams have led to an outcry.

The gay rams have a right to be what they are, Navratilova complains. She may be a little defensive about the breeding of farm animals — but you can see her broader worry. If you can figure out how to flip the gay switch off in sheep, how long will it be before someone tries to do the same in humans?

I wonder how finding out something can be bad. Why would anyone be opposed to the scientific investigation regarding sexual attraction?

And what happens if an adult WANTS to change his sexual orientation?

A woman can choose an abortion, but she can't choose to have a hormonal therapy to alleviate homosexual attraction?

But it’s not unimaginable to see scientific insight into the origins of animal homosexuality being abused if directed towards human beings in their first months and years. Maybe hormonal manipulation in utero could make homosexuality less likely in a sheep — or a child. Or maybe in the future, research like that being done now on sheep could be used to detect homosexual orientation in foetuses or babies — and prevent it. Why not, if that’s what parents wish?

The answer, of course, is an ethical no-brainer. Experimenting on other human beings crosses a bright moral line — even when that other human being is in your own womb.

In Canada, a pregnant woman can do heroin and harm her baby, that's perfectly legal. But woe if she tries to change her child's sexual orientation?

What about the opposite: some people, to be "trendy" might actually do the opposite-- breed gay kids. If lefties truly feel gays are equal, they might do that, too.

And the potential for all sorts of unintended consequences is huge. Most ethical doctors would abhor such practices. And rightly so. Laws could even be passed, and enforced, to ban them.

Watch the feminists fight such laws tooth and nail. The pro-lifers fight for them.

That'd be an interesting political fight.

But what of the darker scenario in which we merely discover scientific clues to the origins of homosexuality in human embryos and allow the potentially gay ones to be selectively aborted? That, it seems to me, is by far the likelier scenario. In fact, we’d be naive not to expect something like it.

We already have widespread gender-selective abortion, with fewer and fewer girls being born in the developing world. And most parents across the globe are far more hostile to the idea of a gay child than of a daughter. Tests that could infer even a slightly higher probability of homosexuality in foetuses could lead to the equivalent of a “final solution” to the existence of gay people — the dream of bigots for millenniums.

Fetal rights activists are often considered to be the "bigot" par excellence, but fetal rights activists would fight like hell to prevent the abortion of fetuses with a pre-disposition to homosexual behaviour. As it is, we're vocal in denouncing gender-selection abortions.

In such a world, liberals and conservatives would be at sea. America’s religious right would have to make a choice between its goal of ridding the world of homosexuality and its strong opposition to abortion.

No brainer. This guy doesn't understand "the hierarchy of values". Right to life would win out. I, and the vast majority of pro-lifers, don't give a damn who the fetus is or what his issues are, he should be saved.