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    Friday, March 17, 2006

    60 Minutes on The "Science" of Sexual Orientation

    I've been fuming about this for days. Here we go with some excerpts from last Sunday's 60 Minutes: The Science [sic] of Sexual Orientation:

    Leslie Stahl: Homosexuality involves more than just sexual behavior; it's physiological.

    ...This research is controversial, reinforcing the stereotypes, some say. But to Bailey, the stereotypes suggest that there's a feminizing of the brain in gay men and masculinizing in lesbians. Ironically though, when it comes to their sex lives, he says gay and straight men actually have a lot in common. Now that surprises me!


    I'm not at all surprised. After all, women of all sexual orientations are really just making themselves have sex for the love of men.

    Michael Bailey: Straight men tend to be shallow in terms of focusing on looks. Gay men are shallow too. Straight men are more interested than straight women in having casual, uncommitted sex. Gay men are like that too.

    Got that? Men are allowed to be shallow and have no-strings-attached-sex - it's like being gay- they're born that way! They can't help it!

    Lesley Stahl: One has the impression that gay men are much more inclined toward casual sex than straight men.

    One does, doesn't one? I mean, I heard there's these places called "bathhouses" which is really just fag, excuse me "gay", code for sex club and people just go in there and infect each other with AIDS. But they like that sort of thing!

    Bailey: They're just more successful at it because the people they're trying to have sex with are also interested in it.

    Lesley stahl: So the straight men can't find enough women to go along. But don't you find this interesting that the big area where gay men are more like straight men is in sex? I mean, that is both amusing and odd.

    Bailey: And it suggests that whatever causes a man to be gay doesn't make him feminine in every respect. There must be parts of the brain that can be feminized independent of each other. ...


    Mmmm. There must be. Otherwise, how could we ever explain this?

    LS: [The home life] is environment.
    B: But that's not the only environment. The other environment is what happens to us when we're in the womb.


    The "other environment is what happens to us when we're in the womb"? And that other-other environment, you know, called life.

    Other bloggers commented. Here are some of their thoughts:

    The Malcontent:

    I am a straight man and have been for all of my 39 years. I too grew up with all boys, father away, raised by my mother, and still turned out to be okay.
    When I was little I played with Barbies, wore my mother's shoes, dresses, liptstick, etc. I grew up, got married, became a makeup artist, and am still fine. Oh, and still straight.
    I think people, male or female, should be able to grow up however is comfortable for them. My parents didn't exactly support the way I grew up, but that was then. We have the ability to change now. Look toward the future and don't live in the past. Embrace children and teach them to be themselves.
    I applaud the mother of those two twin boys. She teaches them that the way they are is normal and nothing to be ashamed about. She teaches them love and acceptance and this world is a better place because of it.
    Posted by: open to all people | March 14, 2006 at 02:31 PM

    Hi. When I was a little boy, I liked playing tag, soccer, power rangers, toy trucks, action figures, Transformers, pretending to be a knight and fighting other kids with sticks. I loved drawing monsters, I collected bugs. When I was a young teen I got into martial arts, track & field, I liked KoRn and moshpits, action movies, Bruce Lee, my favorite activities were snowmobiling and ATV riding. Oh, and I'm 100% gay.
    Not all of us had effeminate characteristics as kids/not all of us have them now. Maybe that section makes sense to a large number of you, but just realize, it doesn't at all to some of us. That clip conveniently seemed to leave any mention of that out...do the people who are studying this realize that not all gays are effeminate? I have to wonder when they didn't even take into account that that boy might be transgender, not necessarily "gay".
    Posted by: Zach | March 14, 2006 at 04:43 PM


    Zach and open to all people are nice to have around because they bring up two points:

    1. gay man = effeminate and vice versa is no longer an equation we make in society like 2 +2. And, if we do, we should remember other equations that we make that are a bit unseemly ... think on that, you'll come up with some. (BTW, is it bad that some gay men are effeminate - no, no, no!)

    2. Ummm, this kid they're talking about, Adam, says he wants to be a girl. Even regular-ole-straight viewers of 60 Minutes have heard the Brandon Teena story.

    Mr. Mike Lawson and I basically disagree on everything except this:

    It’s nice to know that some parents will realize that children with gender nonconformity can be taken seriously, and not balked at. It’s nice to know that some children will grow up in a world where they don’t feel like the only ones on the planet that have feelings toward the other boys on the playground, and they aren’t freaks.

    True. I'm glad Adam is allowed to wear his nail polish to school, etc. I do, however, question the parents' choice to put their kids on television in the way they did.

    Thought Press had this to say:

    Andy otto: 60 Minutes has just had a fascinating report on the science of being gay. I have gay friends that have told me it’s not a choice, that they wouldn’t choose it if they had a choice.

    Hey Andy, congratulations on your "gay friends"! And, like, say "blacks" or "women", gays have an Agenda and agree on everything. I'm glad to see your "gay friends" got their Official Agendas in the mail upon coming out (or hell, being born?).

    Sue of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspodents was more on my side:

    I was somewhat disturbed by how close Stahl danced to the line of stereotyping, such as when she tried to identify gay mannerisms in an attempt to understand how gay men are "feminized" physiologically.

    I was also somewhat disappointed that Stahl neglected to clarify sexual orientation from gender identity. One of the younger male twins is very "girly" and clearly said he is like a girl, even that he thought he was a girl in the womb but became a boy b/c his mother preferred boys.

    Lesley, wanting to be a girl is not the same thing as being gay.

    Other nuggets ...

    * Sexual orientation may be more closely connected with hormones than genetics.

    * The more older brothers a man has, the greater his chance of being gay.

    * Well, only for man who are right handed.


    Oh yeah. I forgot to tell y'all about the right-handed part. Needless to say, doesn't apply to lesbians because we kinda forgot about them. Next time mention cheerleaders and it'll come back.

    With enemies like this ...

    However, what Stahl conveniently left out of her piece and failed to tell the viewing public, is that her “expert” J. Michael Bailey has been exposed and charged for “research misconduct” concerning the research he is best known for on transexuality. Turns out Bailey received many complaints from the transsexual women he interviewed for his book The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender Bending and Transsexualism, saying that they didn’t know he was using them as research subjects and that he distorted versions of their case histories that appeared in his book.

    As a result of this, Bailey was under investigation for researcher misconduct in 2004, and ultimately resigned from his position as chairman of the Northwestern University department of psychology after being sanctioned. To this day, controversy surrounds Bailey and his associates that Stahl interviewed for her piece. With that knowledge, let’s now look at what CBS presented concerning the science of sexual orientation.

    Using Bailey as their expert, Stahl looked at studies with twins. The highlighted twins were Adam and Jared who are nine years old. Adam displays what Bailey calls childhood gender nonconformity, while Jared appears to conform to normal behaviors and likes of boys and Adam prefers things girls like.

    There's no indication that this mother is prone to raise very feminine boys because his twin is not that way," says Michael Bailey, a psychology professor at Northwestern University and a leading researcher in the field of sexual orientation.

    Bailey says he doesn't think nurture is a plausible explanation.

    Psychologists used to believe homosexuality was caused by nurture — namely overbearing mothers and distant fathers — but that theory has been disproved. Today, scientists are looking at genes, environment, brain structure and hormones. There is one area of consensus: that homosexuality involves more than just sexual behavior; it’s physiological.

    Ironically, or maybe telling is that Stahl and Bailey fail to mention anything about the father of these twins. They also fail to recognize that the environment that the mother of Adam and Jared provide is indeed part of their nurturing.

    Bailey also seems to forget that the idea of nurture being disproved is not a fact. There are many psychologists today that believe that nurture plays a part in the development of the child. Sadly, Stahl did not have on an opposing view, not because there aren’t researchers out there who don’t believe differently than Bailey, but because Stahl wasn’t apparently interested in showing both sides of the story. ...

    Afterall, if being gay is simply genetic and nurture plays no part, then once a cure is found no one will have an excuse for being gay. On the other hand, if the cause of homosexuality can be traced to nurture, environment and choice than we have an issue of morality which some are too "non-judgmental" to face.


    Who needs friends?
    California Greening for another example:

    If it is really determined by what happens in the womb, then there is no blame for being ones self.

    But being "one's self" is a terrible, horrible thing if it happens after you leave the womb.

    Nate Romano brings up the all-important point that finding a gay gene or a manner by which hormones in the womb determine sexual orientation, selective abortion and/or genetic/hormonal modifications might occur to make a child straight or gay. Which brings me to the point I always make to queers who jump on the gay-gene bandwagon: what do we do with the people having sex with people of their own sex who don't have the "gay gene"? Is it only okay for genetically gay people to have sex with people of their own sex? Does this mean bisexuals or pansexuals no longer exist? (In other words, recruitment would be way down!) Are we really cool with things only being allowed as long as they're forced upon us by nature? And is very much actually forced upon us by nature? Do we really want to say that there's no way to resist one's sexual urges? Or do we want to say that, when it's consensual, it's disgusting to make people resist these urges if they don't want to? Do we want to say that the ability of science to prove that something is "natural" is the point at which we authorize sexual (or other) conduct?

    The point I'm trying to make is that, whether or not there is some major genetic or biological component to sexual orientation (and I'm not trying to say we choose who we're attracted to), let's please think of the strategy: what do we gain by returning queerness basically back into a pathology (this time not psychological, but biological)? And do we lose some agency?

    First heard about it on my beloved Daily Dose of Queer.

    1 Comments:

    Blogger Mike Lawson said...

    Took me a while to find this post, but I came across it through technorati...

    I don't think that we disagree on EVERYTHING. I wasn't supporting the kid wearing nailpolish or his mom putting him in a dress.

    My support was for the science that will hopefully lead to acceptance and understanding.

    Love the blog.

    8:25 PM  

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