June 20, 2005

"People can't just decide to be lesbians. It just doesn't work that way. Right?"

Tonya asks.

58 comments:

Dave said...

The show sounds like it parroted society's stereotype of lesbians--highly masculinized women.

Never mind that there are many well-known "femme" lesbians: Portia Di Rossi, for example.

Odd, that.

Ann Althouse said...

A wisecrack answer to Tonya's question is: it sure doesn't work that way if you're a man.

Dave: I think the woman being interviewed was relying on stereotype, but the show itself seems to have been about how people delude themselves. The woman realized in the end that what she was doing didn't make sense. So wasn't the show busting stereotypes rather than parroting them?

I didn't hear this one, but I love "This American Life." It's a great, great show.

Dave said...

Perhaps you're right about the show and stereotypes...the whole thing seems like an odd endeavor.

CM said...

After living in several places with strong gay communities, I can understand that desire to be part of the community. Some gay social circles are pretty exclusive. They don't want to include anyone who isn't gay or doesn't strongly identify with the queer community.

Tonya said...

There's an episode of Sex and the City in which Charlotte insinuates herself into a Power Lesbian social circle. For her, it provides the sisterhood that she misses from her college sorority days. But, they boot her out of the group because she just can't make love to a woman.

Dave said...

Charlotte would have made an unusual lesbian, what with that whole WASPyish, Upper East Side thing.

lindsey said...

There was an article on Salon.com on this issue once. The woman lived as a lesbian for many years including sexual relationships, but eventually came to the conclusion that she was not a lesbian. She obviously had issues and, from what I remember, was terrified of being intimate with a guy. Hell, she seemed terrified of men period.

Anthony said...

I tried to comment on Tonya's blog but it kept crashing Firefox. . . . .

There was a story arc of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on this very topic, which kind of made me irritated with the show afterwards. Seems one of the characters (Willow the witch) was het het het all through about Season 5 I believe, even having a long story arc about her passionate relationship with a man (who turned out to be a werewolf) which then ended terribly. You know, the usual.

Then all of a sudden she decided she was a lesbian and had that whole story arc about her passionate relationship with a woman (who turned out to be a so-so witch herself) which then ended terribly.

I never bought the idea except as a load of PC-ness brought on by the show's fans screaming about how there weren't any gay characters on it. Plus there's the stereotype issue which worked in that case on many levels, especially the one where all lesbians are supposed to be mother-goddess worshipping Wiccans deeply in touch with Gaia.

And, um, I probably also would have minded less if the characters had been, you know, hotter.

chuck_b said...

Ahem! Willow's relationship w/ Tara commenced in Season 4. Me, I found it all very credible, but several friends and fans I know did not. What made it credible was Tara's relative lack of heterosexual hot-ness.

As for the stereotype of the lesbian witch, that's all part of the clich├ęs the show toyed with right from the start.

(How you type the accent mark over the e in cliche? In Word, it's Ctrl+apostrophe+letter, but that doesn't work in the Blogger comments field. I cut and paste, but there must be an easier way.)

Simon Kenton said...

So far as I know or have encountered, a man may get some personal or erotic pressure to become gay, or at least to have some gay experience. The pressure is personal. But I've known a couple of women who were pressured to become lesbians for political reasons. "You can't really be a board member of the women's coop if you're straight." "You're not really a feminist unless you choose women on every level." As a member of the sex which is celebrated in many savage jokes for its willingness to lie any lie and drive any drivel to get laid, I had a connoisseur's interest in these specimen statements. They would not have worked on me, but on their intended targets? (The reporting parties claimed these lines were ineffective.)

One of my friends did try a lesbian affair. This got her into the lesbian crowd at law achool. At one get-together, they all said, "You've never felt like this before, have you? The intensity...?"

"Yes, I have, with some of my boyfriends." (Not the right answer.)

She told me that comparatively speaking the breakup of her lesbian affair was a lot messier and more full of tawdry social misbehaviors and tacky loud scenes than her hetero breakups.

Ann Althouse said...

Leland: Just type option-e then e.

"Six Feet Under" also uses this plotline (with Claire).

Anthony said...

So, basically, mainstream TV is finally getting around to adopting the basic premise of 90% of porn movies. . . . .

Ann Althouse said...

Anthony: Thanks for sharing your expertise!

chuck_b said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Renee said...

Remember that sex research that made the news a few years ago because federal money was being used to watch women watch homo- & hetero- porn?

The researchers had started out with observing men, and had discovered that they were target specific, meaning nearly all men were either turned on by images of women or of images of men. There were virtually no men who reacted to images of both women and men. There also weren't any half measures, so to speak. The men were either turned on or not. They even concluded that the idea of male bisexuality was pretty much a myth.

When they got around to studying women, the results were quite the opposite. Most women responded to both male & female porn.

Slac said...

Do not hesitate to lambast me if this is confounded or inappropriate:

Isn't Tonya's question similar if we replace "be lesbian" with any of a host of other sexual behaviors?

For example,

"People can't just decide to like sadomasochism. It just doesn't work that way. Right?"

Kathy Herrmann said...

Rita Mae Brown wrote an interesting idea about homosexuality in several of her fiction books. Imagine if everyone had a blue dot on their head to show their degree of homosexuality. Some folks would have no blue, just a white dot. Those are the folks that are 100% het. On the opposite side are those with a navy, almost black dot and they're the 100% homo folks.

The darker the blue, the more homosexual the person. Folks with a pale blue dot would be the folks that entertain an occasional homosexual thought but that's all it is. A stray, no-action thought. At some point, though, the dot gets true blue and those are the folk with a homosexual orientation.

The thing is, though, you don't "choose" your dot color but are born with it, although sometimes it takes a while to wake up to your identity (she says from experience -- and which is also why I can buy the Willow story line).

Ann Althouse said...

Slac: I don't see a problem with your question. And note that the fundamental point here is do people choose their sexual preferences? It is in the interest of the gay rights movement to answer this question "no."

chuck_b said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave said...

I can see some women choosing lesbianism, at least briefly, as a sort of au courant, hip behavior. (If that statement strikes you as an odd statement, hang around some of the more, ahem, avant garde neighborhoods of Brooklyn.)

The real question: are such decisions intrinsic to their indentity, or are they a function of some sort of political expression?

chuck_b said...

Ann Althouse said, "It is in the interest of the gay rights movement to answer this question 'no.'"


***

I'd say it's in the gay rights movement's interest to convince people that the answer doesn't matter. That, however, may not be pratical considering the contemporary American mind. Perhaps it's a long-term interest.

Ann Althouse said...

Leland: Right. I think it is in the short run in the interest of the movement, in the legal/political context, to portray sexual orientation as not a choice. Opponents of gay rights rely heavily on portraying homosexuality as a "lifestyle choice." In the long run, it would be better to reach the same answer whether or not it's a choice. By the way, years ago, in the late 80s, some gay rights proponents feared that a biological level cause for homosexuality would hurt the movement because it would confirm the perception that homosexuality is a disease. There was a very strong belief that portraying homosexualty as a matter of choice would bring more respect. That view is rarely heard anymore, but I vividly remember having my head bitten off by a well-known lefty lawprof for saying that finding a biological basis for homosexuality would help the cause of gay rights! Apparently, I was a terrible person for thinking such a thing!

brian said...

I still cannot understand how anyone could think that it is a choice. For the heterosexuals out there, did you choose to be heterosexual?

When you see Brad Pitt or Cindy Crawford (or, for some of you, your spouse), do you have to consciously decide that you feel sexual arousal? I'm a heterosexual male, and I must say that my physiological sexual response to a beautiful woman occurs regardless of what I'm consciously thinking. Looking at things that way, I can't see how sexuality is a choice.

knoxgirl said...

Anthony: Thanks for sharing your expertise!

LOL!

chuck_b said...

Brian, I totally hear where you're coming from! Just to be light-hearted about it, I think we've all met people who are so gay or so straight, we think it's got to be powerfully genetically determined!

But not everyone experiences their sexuality as a powerful, motivating force like that. For some people it's just, ho-hum. Ann had a post recently from the New York Times about self-proclaimed asexuals (a terrible word, because it calls to mind a creature with no genitals) who feel nothing sexual for anyone at all. And we all go through periods where our desires wax and wane.

So, i don't know, it seems reasonable to me that people can be different.

Kathleen B. said...

I personally always viewed Willow's love affair with Tara in the same way as I viewed her love affair with Seth Green - she fell in love. the fact that her two love interests were different genders was just how it was. She fell in love with the person, not the gender

That seems to be the best and most simple way to view these "life style choices" in general. If you fall in love, you fall in love. It's not a political statement. It's not a "choice".
and I guess that is why I just don't care if homosexuality is a "choice". so what. not my business.
(obviously this is simplified, but I think the principal in general holds.)

Renee said...

Heterosexuals often engage in homosexual activity when opposite sex partners are in short supply, such as in prison, and also when they have been culturally conditioned to, like in ancient Greece.

chuck_b said...

Kathleen, Well put. I agree and that's pretty much how Willow herself described it to herself, Tara, Oz, and the group.

circdrop said...

In one of my other Internet guises, I've been digging up, scanning and selling retro erotica/porn/smut/dirty dirty dirty books from the late 1960s and early '70s (nsfw).

I started out with smut from the '50s, but I've already gotten most of those, and you wouldn't believe how many people asked for the later materials.

Anyway, what's odd about these (ahem), much-beloved works from '65 on ("The Ophelias")--is how much boy-boy action exists, even in what are ostensibly hetero texts for a hetero market (dirty books by the Olympia Press were peddled primarily to sailors and army grunts, from '51 on).

Seems to me that research about men expressing aversion to boy-boy action is as much a function of the times and culture as anything; I'm quite certain the authors of the '60s were going forward with Kinsey studies and so forth.

These books did... and do... sell... though there are issues with my global nature that complicate matters.

And the Olympia Press is also responsible for publishing 10 of the Modern Library top 100, so shut up.

/Started site on a bet.
//Agree very much with the Bret Ellis line: "The Women Are All Sleeping With Each Other This Year." from his underrated Rules of Attraction about life at Benington that discusses this same phenonmenon.
///Bret Ellis still owes me a refund for The Informers

Geoff said...

" I still cannot understand how anyone could think that it is a choice. "

You've got a few cultures where homosexuality was the norm. Sparta, parts of Celtic-culture, some Polynesian cultures. Socialising sexual norms, and how we react to the socialising, are important aspects.

And, we all make choices that lead to behaviors. No one makes an explicit choice to be an addict, but the behavior we engage in (ie, smoke a pack of ciggerettes each day, or drink 5 cups of coffee a day) can result in addiction.

For example, the recent encouragement for experimenting with sexuality. Sex feels good, and if you've got an open-enough mind, gay sex will feel good.

Which led me to conclude that gay people just have really open minds.

homocon said...

"Which led me to conclude that gay people just have really open minds."

That's really the way to view it, IMHO. I have an identical twin -- I'm gay, he's not. All my life, I was more the rebel, trying new things, experimenting, wanting new flavors, looking for different things to do. Him -- eh, he just liked it straight (pun intended). So, to me, yeah, it's a choice. Not an epiphany, but I was open to it -- no kids, counter-cultural, left-of-center was a better fit in the long run, and made it worth putting up with the temporary trauma of "coming out" . . .

Gem said...

Homocon, this has always intrigued me about the idea that sexual preference is genetically inevitable. If that were strictly so, wouldn't both identical twins be gay, always?

Richard said...

Gem,
The cause could be biological without being genetic. Or not purely genetic -- being latent until some trigger kicks it in.
Pre-natal hormone fluctuations?
There are even some therories by serious scientist that the cause could be an *infection* -- many traditional diseases are increasingly recognized as being viral related.

All of which does bring up the serious issue: if a genetic marker for homosexuality is identified, and some sort of hormonal or gene therapy before brain circuitry is fully hardwired (either in utero or before puberty) -- should hetero parents be allowed to have their children treated? The window for intervention would be so early the child could not be allowed to reach maturity in order to make the decision himself.

I think the parents should have that right given that, from an evolutionary perspective homosexuality is clearly a defect ie no offspring.

Yet I imagine the G/L groups would be screaming "genocide", sort of like the opposition of many deaf groups to cochlear implants for children even though early implantation yields the best results in terms of speecvh and hearing development, brain-wise.

Mr. I said...

Richard: You said, "[F]rom an evolutionary perspective homosexuality is clearly a defect ie no offspring."

I think this is a misunderstanding of evolution. What about the fact that gay people actually help the human race by not producing offspring? That way, they do not produce another mouth to feed and they can help to care for others in society.

Evolution is generally about perpetuating the species, but that does not always mean producing the most offspring.

Personally, I think there is a strong argument to support an evolutionary backing for being gay.

Kin said...

As it is said about open minds...

"Don't be so open minded your brain falls out"

Richard said...

Mr. I,
Clearly there has to be some sort of explanation how homosexuality would propagate if it was in whole or in part genetic. One hypothesis is that there is an as yet undiscovered connection between homosexuality and some more clearly beneficial trait, analgous to the sickle cell/malaria immunity tradeoff.
If you are unfamiliar with that one -- one copy of the gene gives immunity to malaria, but two copies (which is rarer) causes sickle cell anemia. The gene persists because more individuals are helped (or they have more offspring) than hurt by it.
So the gene may be a net success in big picture evolutionary terms, but that doesn't stop us from recognizing sickle cell anemia as being deleterious to individuals (their quality of life, survival, and procreation)--in other words a "defect".
One explanation proposed for women's greater longevity is the "grandmother effect" -- since human children in prehistoric times required so much care, grandma lingering past her reproductive years was a benefit, whereas old men, while useful for their knowledge, weren't much use in the hunt or in a fight.

Perhaps there is a "gay rich uncle" effect, but in the case of the grandmother -- she is directly contributing to the success of her own descendants, who would share her "grandma" genes in turn.
The genetic connection between an an uncle and his sister's children is more dilute. It is clearly present, and in evolutionary terms supporting a niece/nephew is better than nothing in propellin ght eextended family's shared genes in to the future -- but it is clearly second fiddle to propagating ones *own* genes directly.

If you're wondering about ant colonies wherein most individuals do not reproduce -- the difference is that all the worker ants are genetically identical so one-for-all and all-for-one actually works.

chuck_b said...

Richard said, "I think the parents should have that right [reversing homosexuality in utero] given that, from an evolutionary perspective homosexuality is clearly a defect ie no offspring."

Wow--It's hard to imagine humanity at a desperate enough point that prospective parents could legitimately invoke the "survival of the species" as rationale to tinker with their kid's sexuality.

Isn't it more intellectually honest to argue that parents should have that right because they might be deeply uncomfortable producing a homosexual? Isn't that what people would really be doing?

Richard said...

I'll also add that I personally believe there are multiple causes of homosexuality (or perhaps more properly homosexual behavior).
And that's NOT even counting the well known temporary prisoner effect caused by isolation form women.

Just look at the various manifestations:
--gay men:
stereotypically artistic/creative effeminate types
outright queens
"straight-acting"
ultra-male leather bar and "bear" types
--lesbian women:
the rough looking hard butches (a secondary observation -- seem to be some common body types)
femmes/ lipstick lesbians
bi/bi-curious women who have a male partner
the LUG college phenomenon "Lesbian Until Graduation"

The orientation for many is so strong it clearly seems to have a bilogical cause, particularly for some of the effeminate-looking men and the masculine-looking women.
But given the various manifestations -- why even presume that there is only *one* biological cause for men versus women, or even within each gender?
But I am equally convinced that some homosexuality is NOT biological. It seems that in puberty and adolescence when sexual identity is being grown into (or being finalized) things are in flux -- and to a certain extent "sex is sex" in an exploratory phase... read parts of Kinsey. So an experience (or a few) may in fact just be experimentation, the much derided "phase". I some sort of "imprinting" possible? Throw in a dose of guilt-shame-humiliation and the flipside of true homosexuals being repressed might be, at the margin, some people who might have otherwise "settled down" adopting or feeling stuck with the homosexual label
That is one reason I am cautious on the whole project of G/L counselors in highschool -- the pressure to identify, the clubbiness, etc might have an unwanted impact, again at the margins.
The there is the whole controversial issue of trauma, particularly with women. My older sister is a social worker. Purely anecdotally, she finds that a LOT of the lesbians she deals with did in fact suffer sexual abuse from a male at a younger age.
In those cases, where it appears a woman has turned to women because she has been scarred into being unable to have a normal relationship with a man -- is that "just the way she is"? or should she be helped.
FWIW I'm very skeptical of the claimed long temr successes of the various Christian re-orientation efforts, but I would be just as skeptical as claims that they are totally bunk.

Richard said...

You can translate
"I want my kids to be 'normal' and have families of their own in the usual fashion, as well as avoid the various difficulties/drawbacks of life as a homosexual (which are worse for gay men in obvious ways)"
as "hatred" or "homophobia" if you wish.

If my son who is about to turn 7 turned out to be gay I would love him just as much -- but there is nothing immoral or irrational or retrograde about preferring that he be straight if I had my druthers.

To make a point bluntly -- I find it interesting that gay men who might be somewhat repelled by the thought of performing oral sex on a woman are never ever described as hate-filled "gynophobes".

Kathleen B. said...

um, I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure that men always had longer life span rates until the 20th century. not really seeing the historical justification for "grandmother effect".

Richard said...

More explicitly, the nod to evolutionary fitnes supports the point that heterosexuals desiring heterosexual offspring is NOT irrational, not merely a "phobia".

Those kinds of labels are a sort of smear for painting dissenters from the PC conventioanl wisdom as irrational, and who can therfore be dismissed out of hand instead of treated as an intellectually serious viewpoint different from ones own that must actually be debate with the merits.

Richard said...

Hmmm... I've read quite a bit on evoltuion and evolutionary psychology and have never seen a claim of *shorter* lifespans for women in the past.
Perhaps once child-birth related eaths are factored in?
But then that would make the ones who survived multiple childbirths more valuable after all, right?

Mr. I said...

Richard: You said, "If my son who is about to turn 7 turned out to be gay I would love him just as much -- but there is nothing immoral or irrational or retrograde about preferring that he be straight if I had my druthers.
"

No, there is nothing wrong with feeling that way, but you advocated allowing the parents to somehow change this (I presume through genetic therapy or even an abortion). This is where it becomes immoral and irrational. Why should a parent be allowed to genetically change their offspring because they don't like they way the baby will turn out? Don't you think this is turning to extremes?

And why wouldn't you call genetic therapy on a baby to "turn" it straight homophobic? If it weren't homophobic why would you not leave the baby alone?

Richard said...

Leland,

I know you didn't actually use the term "homophobia" -- but its the most common counterargument (or rather the charge often made instead of an actual counterargument).

And rightly or wrongly I took your phrase "deeply uncomfortable" as euphemistic code for it.

chuck_b said...

Richard said, "To make a point bluntly -- I find it interesting that gay men who might be somewhat repelled by the thought of performing oral sex on a woman are never ever described as hate-filled 'gynophobes'."

"Never ever", huh? Too funny.

And where exactly would this obstensibly absent discourse about hate-filled vagina-repelled gay men be held if it were to happen?

In personal conversations with other gay men over the years, I have heard some say they are indeed gynophobic--and they did indeed use that exact word.

In fact, most gay men are wholly indifferent to the idea of the vagina. Nothing personal to the lovely ladies, but gay men just aren't that into you(r vagina). It's not that we hate it, it just doesn't turn us on.

So where does that leave us?

People in polite society wouldn't use "gynophobic" to describe someone else because it's, ahem, rude, just as it would be rude to tell a lesbian that she's a hate-filled androphobe for being "somewhat repelled" by the idea of fellatio. She can say for herself how she feels.

On a different note, make no mistake: there are gay men, as there are straight men, who "hate" women in general. The most appropriate word for such people is misogynist, not gynophobic.

Richard said...

Mr. I,

Parents want to correct all sorts of biological flaws in their children. Wanting the "best" for them is a human quality.
But where does one draw the line? The ethical can of worms is why I brought up the point in the first place.

FWIW, on a related note I actually take very seriously the arguments of those who oppose "corrective" surgeries babies with ambiguous genitalia which may make them look more "normal" but sexually crippled. They say let it wait until the children are teens and can help decide for themselves.

My point here was different because based on what we know of sexuality and brain development
and the interventions which seem at least plausible, the *parents* would HAVE to make a decision because of the window.

BTW, your unwarranted and HIGHLY offensive presumption about me supporting using abortion Nazi eugenics-style makes me really, REALLY, *REALLY* want to use some harsh language, but I don't want to disappoint our gracious hostess.

Richard said...

You made my point for me. Thank you.
So why is the common use of "homophobe" as a slur perfectly acceptable?

chuck_b said...

Personally, I don't like the word homophobia. When I want to describe someone w/ an irrational fear and loathing of gay people, I use the word bigot.

Feeling repelled or fearful or indifferent (or many other things) toward gay sex (as opposed to gay people) does not make you a bigot or a homophobe. It probably makes you a heterosexual. And that's fine. Some of my best friends are heterosexuals.

If a gay person ever called anyone homophobic for not being turned on by ideations of gay sex, I apologize to you on behalf of my people.

In their (weak) defense, perhaps they did so because you fist attempted to slur their sexuality by calling it a disease.

Mr. I said...

Richard: I certainly didn't mean that you yourself support abortion, nor was I saying that you advocate it. I was merely stating it as a generality of what other people might do to "fix" their child's gayness. I apologize if it offended you.

You ask, "So why is the common use of 'homophobe' as a slur perfectly acceptable?"

I suppose it depends on how and when it's used. As in your example of thinking/feeling that your child deserves the "best" and wanting them to be hetero is not homophobic per se. But taking action to prevent the child from being gay is certainly homophobic by the very fact that you have now taken physical steps to preventing your child from being gay. There is a HUGE difference between feeling something and actually doing it. And with regard to the example of genetic therapy/hormone therapy on a child to prevent them from being gay, this is quite drastic and homophobic to me.

There is one more point that seems to be the underlying problem with this debate: you seem to think homosexuality is a genetic/evolutionary/biological disorder or defect. I don't. So equating being gay to say a deformed limb or sickle cell anemia is inappropriate to me because they are completely different. The deformed limb or sickle cell may warrent being fixed, being gay is NOT a reason for genetic/hormone therapy.

Richard said...

Assuming there is a biolgical basis at all, if it is not a "flaw" (is that a more neutral word) then what is it?
Some kind of positive adaptation for the individual, increasing their fitness?
As a biological flaw for th e individual, the reason for thinking that is self-evident. I think the burden is upon you to more specifically propose *how* it is positive rather than a maladaptation.

On the question of intervening or not...
No one would hesitate to have surgery on their male infant if there was a more obvious "mechanical" flaw affecting his chances for reproducing some day such as an undescended testicle or a goof in the vas or urethra.

If homosexuality is biological, just because the underpinnings in the brain are less overtly mechanical, I fail to see why improving/"fixing" the childs chances of reproducing normally would be fundamentally different.

P.S. just as the person with sickle cell anemia is no less a *person* or having the disease, my points here should not be taken to lessen the humanity or worth of any homosexual person because of their possible biological flaw (if that is what it is). The way defect is being twisted into "defective" or "diseased" as dergatory to the individuals as human beings -- well that is trying to set up your own straw man as a distraction -- I didn't say or suggest any or those things.

Mr. I said...

Richard: You ask why "defect is being twisted into 'defective' or 'diseased' as dergatory to the individuals as human beings?" Um, because defect is by its very definition meaning not perfect or normal. I fail to see how you wouldn't think people would take this as a personal attack on them as a human being? Maybe you truly don't mean it that way, but you have to understand that being gay for most people is a large part of who they are. The struggles with coming to terms with your sexuality as well as constantly being told you are less than your hetero counterparts leaves deep wounds on a person. Then to have someone theorize that you are defected without any proof - can you blame them for being upset or taking it as a personal attack?

You want an example of a benefit of being gay, ok here's one:

Per the NYT: "The risk of STDs is lowest among lesbian women."

You further seem to think that evolution is about the individual. I disagree. Evolution is about the survival of dominant traits within a species that allow the species to survive. Evolution should not be viewed as an individualistic thing, rather viewed in the context of the species as a whole. In this context I think gay people truly do provide a benefit to society as per my example of being able to aid in child rearing, food gathering (in more historical times of course), and simply by NOT procreating. Think of it this way, gay people are possibly nature's way of population control.

chuck_b said...

I don't think people want to think of their children as "population control". Besides, many gay people have and/or desire to have children (happily, not me, no way, no sirree) and many straight people do not--and don't.

That doesn't mean you aren't correct, Mr. I. Who's to say? Regardless, I don't think this particular argument would win over hearts and minds.

Richard said, "Assuming there is a biolgical basis at all, if it is not a "flaw" (is that a more neutral word) then what is it?"

It's a variation. Like a lot of other variations, but this one is sexual. And therefore, it makes many people, as I said, *deeply uncomfortable*.

Mr. I said...

Leland: I agree that people don't want to think of themselves or their children as population control, but in the context of evolution and biology (which is what Richard was asking about) I think that is a plausible reason for the existence of gay people.

Mr. I said...

Note: When I said "dominant traits," I meant traits that give a species some advantage in their natural environment.

Richard said...

Mr. I said,

"You further seem to think that evolution is about the individual. I disagree. Evolution is about the survival of dominant traits within a species that allow the species to survive. Evolution should not be viewed as an individualistic thing, rather viewed in the context of the species as a whole. "

Actually I a have read Richard Dawkins and am familiar -and agree with- his concept of the selfish gene. It is precisely because we do value people as individuals that we might care -- back to sickle cell, just because the gene is a net positive at the population level doesn't mean that we don't care about the individual's "health" and success.

This may appear contradictory, but while I think our human nature and origins need to be considered (and we ignore it to our detriment in formulating policy), I don't simplistically equate "natural" with "normal" or "ideal". After all "nature" is full of imperfections and not fully optimized, though perhaps "good enough", designs.
Sickness is "natural" but that that does not invalidate the concept of health -- yet a definition of "health" itself must look to nature.

You might not believe it, but I'm more small-l libertarian than anything else in terms of political orientation. Or perhaps "classical liberal" -- or possibly libertarian-conservative.

Also, I am not a "Christian". Raised Catholic, I'm admittedly somewhat paradoxically an atheist who has however come to realize that some sprirtuality or even traditional religious belief has some value even if it is not literally true.

Stephen M. St. Onge said...

Mr. I said...

"Richard: You said, '[F]rom an evolutionary perspective homosexuality is clearly a defect ie no offspring.'

"I think this is a misunderstanding of evolution. What about the fact that gay people actually help the human race by not producing offspring? That way, they do not produce another mouth to feed and they can help to care for others in society.

"Evolution is generally about perpetuating the species, but that does not always mean producing the most offspring."

      Sorry, wrong.

      Evolution is not a god, with foresight and intention.  Or, if it is, then present theory is so wrong we might as well scrap it and start over.

      Evolutionary theory says that if possessors of gene A have more viable, fertile offspring that reach breeding age than possessors of gene B, then gene A will gradually displace gene B, till the frequency of those with gene B equals the frequency of spontaneous mutations causing gene B.

      If homosexuality is genetic (unproven), and if homosexuals have, historically, had fewer children than heterosexuals (unproven), then evolutionary theory says they will be inevitably bred down to the sponateous mutation rate, unless those carrying the (hypothetical) gay genes somehow increase the number of offspring of other members of their family who also carry the genes, or unless the gene(s) do not always result in a person being homosexual (if for instance, one needed genes C, and D together to cause homosexuality, while C or D only increased fertility, then there would be no selection pressure against genes C and D).

      I don't know of any studies that even begin to address these questions in any rigorous manner.

      As for Richard's question: "if a genetic marker for homosexuality is identified, and some sort of hormonal or gene therapy before brain circuitry is fully hardwired (either in utero or before puberty) -- should hetero parents be allowed to have their children treated?"

      Question, how would you stop it?  We already have legal abortion for sex selection, and to eliminate fetuses that will be born with a genetic disease, such as Down's syndrome.  What arguments could possibly be made, and stand, saying "You don't have to have children with trait G, but do have to have children with trait H"? Especially when the parents, if denied the right to "fix" the child, can abort it?

      If there's a genetic basis for homosexuality, then the only way I can see it surviving is by homosexuals deliberately breeding 'their own kind.'

      And btw, is there such a thing as "homosexuality?"  The concept seems to assume that men attracted to men are in some fundamental way the same as women attracted to women.  Evidence?

THE SAUDS MUST BE DESTROYED!

Mr. I said...

Stephen M. St. Onge: You said, “If there's a genetic basis for homosexuality, then the only way I can see it surviving is by homosexuals deliberately breeding 'their own kind.’” This is not how hereditary genetics works. Let’s assume that homosexuality is genetic (and has been proven) and is clearly a recessive trait. This means that even though a person may be heterosexual (dominant trait), they still may carry the gene for homosexuality. And if this person has children with another person with the recessive gay gene, then there is the possibility of the recessive trait (being gay) manifesting itself. This is classic hereditary genetics. You would not have to be gay to carry the gay gene nor would you have to be gay to have gay offspring. It is akin to people with brown eyes who carry the blue eye recessive gene but nonetheless have brown eyes. Just because they have brown eyes doesn’t mean they won’t produce offspring that will have blue eyes. This too would also explain why gay people are not “breed out,” i.e. why they still exist, and have for many centuries. It is a recessive trait. If you want more info on hereditary genetics click here.

I think it’s important to note that although there hasn’t been a smoking gun to prove homosexuality is genetic, there is far more evidence pointing to this conclusion than there is debunking it. In fact I’m not sure if I know of any reputable studies that debunk the gay gene theory.

Stephen M. St. Onge said...

      I'm sorry, Mr. I, but you're still wrong.

      Assume for the sake of argument, as you suggest, that "gayness" is a result of genetic recessives.  So what?

      Well, the selection pressure on it won't be as high, but it will still be there.  If homosexuals have, historically, had fewer children than heterosexuals, than the proportion of the population carrying the recessive "homosexual" gene will decline, untill the the incidence is equal to the spontaneous mutation rate. This is classic population genetics, spelled out in any textbook on the subject.

This is one of these questions I find impossible to get really concerned about, because in a few years we'll be able to do genetic scans on anyone, quickly, and soon after that we will KNOW.  If there is a genetic basis for "homosexuality," which I am not convinced is a single entity, it will show up in the data very quickly.

      But as things stand, there are strong, but uncertain, arguments against genetic homosexuality.  What there isn't is data that would let us test the hypothesis.

THE SAUDS MUST BE DESTROYED!