Waldlaw Blog

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Wonders of Modern Science

I opened this morning's San Francisco Chronicle to the following headline: "Boy's odds of being gay traced to womb Study looks anew at puzzling role of brothers' birth order" (for the full story, go to http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/06/27/MNGPHJKU0V1.DTL&hw=Sabin+Russell&sn=001&sc=1000 .) According to this story, by a "medical writer" for the Chronicle, "a boy's chances of growing up gay increase with the number of older brothers he has." The supposed reason for this supposed scientific fact has something to do with mothers producing an antibody during childbirth when we're birthing male babies, which antibody may linger in our bodies and effect the development of future male fetuses. Or something like that. The story reports a study by a Canadian scientist, who has found that boys with more older brothers who are biologically related to them are more likely to be gay, regardless of whether the boys are actually raised together. His finding "is consistent with -- but does not prove -- a theory that some male homosexuality may be caused by exposure in the womb to maternal antibodies created in the mother's blood during previous delivery of male children." See -- male homosexuality IS the fault of the mother -- Freud was right, he just had his reasons wrong. So here's my first question: why are we supposed to care about this??? Why does it merit a front page story in the San Francisco Chronicle??? I have, quite frankly, always found it patronizing when folks opine that it is okay to be gay if and only if sexual orientation is genetic, as opposed to a choice. I like to think that I would choose to be with my partner of 25 years if the odds were even between her and some guy. "I couldn't help myself" seems like a rather disrespectful -- and even offensive -- way to describe our relationship. I know that some people feel very strongly that they have always been gay -- or straight -- and that they have never had anything resembling a choice in the matter. I am sure this is true for some people. I also think that many people could be either straight or gay, depending on the cards that life dealt them. I guess I tend to agree with Kinsey that there is a scale here, a continuum; that as with so many things there are more than just two options. Sort of like the gender spectrum being experienced these days within the transgender community, where some people are clear in their gender identities and others feel they fall somewhere in between "male" and "female" so that neither label fully fits. Anyway, I find it interesting that there is such excitement over "scientific proof" that male homosexuality may be determined in the womb. Is there a lesson we're supposed to learn from this? Does it have any application whatsoever? Will it make anyone's life better? Isn't there something more meaningful these scientists could be focusing on? Oh, and in case you're wondering, the article states clearly that there is "no similar relationship between birth order and the probability that a girl will grow up to be lesbian." However, "the fraternal birth order effect [whereby younger brothers are more likely to be gay] is lmited to younger boys who are righthanded. In other words, if a younger boy has many older brothers but is left-handed, he does not have an elevated chance of being gay." Unless, of course, he's born on a Tuesday when the moon is full....


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