Homophobia’s Littlest Victims

Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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  1. There was an interesting piece on NPR yesterday about how researchers have found a genetic link to being prone to violence. It was brought about because a genetic researcher discovered he came from a family that had a startling number of murderers (including the infamous Lizzie Borden). They suggest they are able to look at a brain and predict a genetic tendency towards violence. The researcher tested himself and found he has the same markers. So why isn’t he out hacking people up with a meat cleaver? He said that the key difference is child abuse. People with these markers who are abused as children will almost always become extremely violent adults. The researcher had a good childhood and is a non-violent adult.

    So… What if it works the same way for people who grow up gay? What if the genetic marker is there but it has to be triggered by something? Maybe it’s a over-protective mother. Maybe its hearing one too many show tunes. Maybe it’s having a over-bearing sister. I have an acquaintence who is gay and has two very over-bearing sisters and a family that is very fond of the theater. He swears that he thinks this triggered his genetic inclination towards homosexuality.Report

  2. North says:

    Seems to me, Jason, that what we have here is essentially a race between science and society.

    If science discovers a cause and as a corollary develops the capacity to prevent homosexuality before society evolves into full acceptance of it then yes, homosexuality will disappear one way or another.

    If society reaches the point where homosexuality is accepted as simply another characteristic like being red headed or having a predilection for leggy brunettes then homosexuality will be here to stay.

    Look at downs syndrome for example. In general mothers abort even if there’s a significant chance of downs syndrome, not even a sure thing. Pro life principles be damned, now that downs syndrome babies can be diagnosed in utero they are vanishing like dew in the morning as a population.

    I’m not happy at the prospect but being pro-choice I don’t have any principled way to oppose it. Really it is just one part of the entire Gattica question of genetically tailored babies.Report

    • Rufus in reply to North says:

      @North, This, I think, is the difficulty with the pro-choice position. It treats abortion as a legal question and comes to the, very reasonable, conclusion that the state shouldn’t have this power over people’s reproductive lives. But it makes pro-choicers avoid the ethical questions. So the Chinese “gendercide”, the disappearance of Downs Syndrome, abortions over hair lips, all of these things are uncomfortable. Conversely, pro-lifers focus solely on the ethical question and avoid discussions of whether we should be greatly expanding the powers of the state or addressing abortion in other ways. So it’s sort of like two sides having two different discussions and thinking they’re arguing.

      (None of this is meant as a criticism of you; just my issues with the “debate”.)Report

      • @Rufus, I don’t understand this point:

        “Conversely, pro-lifers focus solely on the ethical question and avoid discussions of whether we should be greatly expanding the powers of the state or addressing abortion in other ways. “

        Can you elaborate?Report

        • @Mike at The Big Stick, Most studies I’ve seen have suggested that abortion rates don’t go up or down very dramatically in regards to the law. Brazil, for example, has a very high abortion rate- all illegal. It’s a fairly easy procedure. A bit like setting a broken bone- you wouldn’t want to do it yourself, but if you had to, you could.

          Secondly, a fairly high percentage of women having the procedure cite as a reason feeling that they can’t afford a child- something like 75% in some surveys. Similarly, studies have shown that women below the poverty line have abortions at a disproportionately high rate, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise. When you’re below the poverty line and perhaps single, it’s harder to raise a child.

          All of this suggests to me that, at least to some extent, abortion is a social issue. But neither side really addresses it as such. Pro-lifers focus on the legal issue and the cultural- society’s imprimatur. Pro-choicers focus on women’s freedoms.

          It seems to me that if anti-abortion groups focused on providing free daycare, prenatal care, raising the minimum wage, maybe even setting up scholarships for the children of mothers who “chose life”, and actually addressed abortion as a social issue, instead of focusing on the legal aspect and, sort of obliquely on the cultural aspect, it could make a huge difference. Otherwise, it seems as if they’d be okay with there being just as many abortions, so long as they ‘re clandestine and society didn’t give them its imprimatur.

          Conversely, pro-choicers, by ignoring the social issue, have forgotten that one can have options without having real choices. If a woman has an abortion because she’s living below the poverty line and has no husband, she’s exercising an option, instead of making a choice. The left, in general, needs to address social issues much more directly than hoping for government beneficence.

          In fact, crazy as it sounds, the left and the right could come together to address abortion as a social issue- the left caring about class and the right caring about reducing abortions- and probably have a greater impact.

          But they’ll probably keep talking past each other.

          (Maybe this should have been a post instead of a comment!)Report

          • @Rufus, All of this makes sense to me. What i will say though is that i am not convinced that adoption programs, child care, etc would make a huge difference. I did some research on the numbers recently and posted them at my blog:


            What’s interesting is that if you look at the top 20 states for teen pregnancy they are split evenly between ‘blue’ and ‘red’ states (based on the 2008 Presidential election). If you then drill down and look at the top 20 states where those pregnancies are carried to term and they are all red states. If you look at the top 20 states where those pregnancies are aborted, they are all blue states. So… if we make the big assumption that social programs that might mitigate the decision to abort are more common in blue states, then why the highter numbers of abortions? I think it all comes down to cultural factors the government cannot control with policy.Report

      • North in reply to Rufus says:

        @Rufus, Yes it’s uncomfortable Rufus, but faced with the opposite: people being forced to carry children they want to term, being turned into prisoners in their own bodies etc I don’t see any alternative.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    I have nothing against people with trait X. Some of my best friends have trait X.

    I just asked myself if I would want my child to grow up with the burdens that trait X would impose and came to the conclusion that trait X is not something that I would want for my child if I had the option between trait X and not trait X.

    If we were living in the dark ages or in the 70’s, sure. I’d have a child with trait X and I would love this child, die for this child, and go to hell for this child.

    But, since I love this child so much… if I had the option of making sure that the burdens of trait X wouldn’t have to be carried… wouldn’t love *DEMAND* that I make sure those burdens won’t be carried?Report

  4. Jason Kuznicki says:

    Mike —

    I know a lot of people who feel this way. But very little of it holds up in my own personal history. For example…

    Child development stuff? My father was deeply involved in my childhood, during which time I played sports. We did masculine things like hunting and fishing together all the time. My mother was very traditional (still is), and I can’t possibly say she was overbearing.

    Also, I hate the fact that I may need to say this, but I was never sexually abused by anyone.

    What about hormones from the birth order effect? I’m the oldest brother. My younger brother is straight and married. (My husband’s also the oldest brother in his family, and his two younger brothers are also both straight and married.)

    Genetics? I have a gay uncle. (Actually, I believe he’s a cousin once removed.) But who doesn’t have a “gay uncle” somewhere in the family?

    I don’t mean to counter your anecdotes with more anecdotes, because I know it can’t prove anything in a general sense. I only bring all this up to say that there are a lot of theories for how men turn out gay. Some have better support than others, but absolutely none of them explain me. Something else is going on that the researchers haven’t found. Of that I’m certain.

    Jaybird —

    Suppose you knew your unborn child would have a very small chance of trait X. Perhaps the chance is 3%.

    Would you give your unborn child a drug to stop it then? The choice is a lot more difficult, I hope, especially if you consider the side effects for both of you, and the fact that you’re probably wasting your money.

    As for my own daughter, I don’t care whether she turns out gay or straight. I only care that she is loved and happy. Also, I really, really hope that she’s uppity. The world needs more uppity women.Report

    • @Jason Kuznicki, I would agree with you Jason. Scientist still haven’t found the answer. The nature vs. nurture debate is an interesting one though.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

        @Mike at The Big Stick,

        Agreed entirely. It’s fascinating to watch. One of my pet speculations is that there may actually be different subtypes of homosexuality based in different causes or origins.

        Logically, no one can rule this out yet, nor can they even plausibly cast doubt on it. (Fevers, after all, have many causes, and so does being tall. To look for one cause for either is a dead end.) Multiple causes could also explain why some gay men are feminine-acting or feminine-identified much more than others, why some have different preferred sexual roles, and so forth. And it seems more likely than not that male and female homosexuality have entirely unrelated causes. After all, in the one, the person is attracted to men, and in the other, to women. How could one thing cause them both?

        But parsimony demands that we keep these ideas on the shelf for a while longer, which I think is fair. No sense needlessly complicating a field that is already tremendously complex.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      @Jason Kuznicki, a few months back, Freddie wrote an article about autism and the comments touched on this.


      For the record, I am *VERY* uncomfortable with the idea of people thinking that they can make the world better by eliminating certain genetic traits.

      I have a visceral, ugly, response when the word “eugenics” flashes in my brain.

      Would I still be here, if it were up to the eugenics folks? Given that the answer is “probably not”, it’s tough for me to make the call that we should start picking and choosing who else does and does not get to show up.

      At the same time, I certainly don’t want to be the person picking and choosing who can and who cannot terminate her pregnancy.

      Other peoples’ liberty totally sucks sometimes.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        (the awaiting moderation thing… I mean, come on! This is a link to this very blog!)Report

      • North in reply to Jaybird says:

        @Jaybird, I remember that one Jay, quite a discussion. Where do you fall on the eugenics/Gatica question? Should people be allowed to engineer their children? Well with a libertarian like you I suppose the more appropriate phrasing would be “Is there any justification for interfering in the ability of people to engineer their children?”
        This isn’t a snark or gotcha or anything incidentally, I’m genuinely curious about what you think about it.Report

      • Sam M in reply to Jaybird says:


        “For the record, I am *VERY* uncomfortable with the idea of people thinking that they can make the world better by eliminating certain genetic traits.”

        Yeah, but then you have those deaf rights people carrying on about how terrible it is to cure your kid of deafness, and things start to get kind of muddy.Report

  5. Austin Bramwell says:

    Is there any difference between choosing a sexual orientation and centrifuging sperm in order to pick a sex? Suppose you could increase a fetus’s IQ with in utero treatments (as some mothers mistakenly thought they could do by piping in mozart) — is that any different? In vitro fertilization already opens up huge eugenic freedoms/possibilities, with parents picking gametes based on large number of traits considered desirable. Abortion is also already used by parents to make sure that they only have children of the “right” kind.
    It seems to me that these distinctions are hard to draw. I don’t see how controlling a child’s orientation is worse than any of the other existing techniques that parents are already free to deploy in order to control what kind of child they have.Report

  6. Austin Bramwell says:

    P.S. Agree though that techniques that endanger the targeted fetus’s health in the hope of producing the right result are potentially unethical. (But, then again, what could endanger a fetus more than an abortion? That technique we tolerate.)Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Austin Bramwell says:

      @Austin Bramwell,

      I would not favor centrifuging sperm in order to pick a sex. I think the consequences there for society as a whole would be negative. We have roughly equal numbers of men and women because almost all of them are going to be heterosexual and want to have equal chances of finding a mate.

      Playing Mozart to a fetus isn’t morally problematic, because it appears to have no negative consequences whatsoever. It’s at best perfectly harmless. The same can’t be said of hormone treatments, which may have serious side effects on both mother and baby.

      As to the permissibility of abortion, I’d like to avoid the subject. I’ll just say though that if we believe that life begins at birth, then things look very different. If so, it may be wrong to injure a fetus and then bring it to term, because this is tantamount to injuring a newborn baby — but at the same time it may be permissible to abort a fetus, as it’s not a person yet, and the procedure never has any effect on any persons at all, except for the mother, who has presumably consented.Report

      • @Jason Kuznicki, there is a preference among Americans for girls and there would be an excess of them in the event that gender-selection became common. The preference in China and Asia is for boys and so there is an excess of them. There may be a solution for world peace in here somewhere…

        More seriously, I am mostly inclined to agree. On the other hand, there have been some scary articles about what happens when women that are dead-set on girls end up with boys (and there are stereotypes of the inverse).

        Imagine you’re a boy and find out that your mom is on a webpage where a bunch of other moms talk about how much they wanted a girl and how much they resent their sons for being a boy. Then again… better than not being born I suppose. Even so, I have to think that such a bias comes through even if the kids don’t find the website.

        So the solution, I think, is to correct humanity {nodnod}.Report

  7. Bob Cheeks says:

    You know, I read this site and I’m getting the idea that if “they” packaged bullshit as a desirable item you guys’ would buy it by the pound, just to be ‘in’ the know.
    Homosexuality is a behavior that is freely and willfully chosen that reflects a lustful rebellion against God’s order. It’s an example of what Augustine referred to as the ‘libido dominandi.’
    My best advice would be for parents to have some understanding of God’s order, His Will for His people, and to get off your ass and try teaching that to your children. Sadly, few of our people do that anymore, and as a result, it’s becoming more and more apparent that our time is at hand.
    For an possible depiction of your future, brought to you by the idiocy of Obama and his radicals, go warch “The Book of Eli.”
    North, I love you, dude!Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      @Bob Cheeks,Oh Bob… the things you say.

      Speaking for myself, God has not been visible to me (and many like me) for as long as I (we) can remember.

      Had Christians done a better job of communicating the Reality of Christ, maybe this would be different.

      As it stands, I can’t tell the difference between commie-dems telling me how to live because of how very important “society” is and commie-reps telling me how to live because of how very important “God” is.

      If there is a God, he is not in the whirlwind, the earthquake, nor the fire. His still small voice? Yeah, the voices I hear tell me about the importance of figuring stuff out for myself. (That’s not the kind of thing that any god I’ve ever heard of would say.)

      “He” seems very much to be a tool used by people who profess to be Christians to get other people to conform.

      Just like the commie-dems use “society”.Report

      • Lyle in reply to Jaybird says:

        @Jaybird, Amen, many ignore inconvient sayings of Jesus because they do “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” . If something is a sin is it not God’s business to judge it at an appropriate time and place, not humans?Report

    • North in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      @Bob Cheeks, Well Bob, the Book of Eli’s story begins with a devastating war that gets blamed on Bible fondlers so I’d guess that it’d probably be on the right that the blame for that would lie. But it’s an amusing movie, I agree. I especially like the part in the end when the archivist takes his printed copy and happily shelves it right between the Quran, Torah and other co-equal religious texts.

      As for the homosexuality being a behavior; well maybe homosexual acts obviously are chosen but the inclination towards doing them is very clearly not as the wretched spectacle of ex-gays so clearly illustrates. It’s odd, though, how obsessed the religious are about the behavior of homosexuals (most of whom long ago discarded their faith). I thought all sins were created pretty much equal. Odd how divorce, avarice, envy and pride get such an easy pass among the religious right. Still I suppose it distracts them from the timbers in their own eyes.

      Of course the traditionalists are pretty much stuck with their whole homosexuality is eeeevul shtick. Happily God is being re-interpreted by moderates to be more in keeping with thoughtful modern understandings of how people think live and love.

      Either way though, I still love you too Bob, in a platonic way of course. My warmest to the missus.Report

  8. Barry says:

    Just when one thinks that the bar can’t get any lower – along come Bob ‘Limbo Master’ Cheeks.

    Jason: “The treatment’s efficacy isn’t even established yet, which says a lot about how eager people are to avoid creating more people like me. Astonishing.”

    Were you surprised? What I expect is is a movement among right-wing fundamentalists/evangelicals for ‘preventitive dosing’.Report

    • North in reply to Barry says:

      @Barry, Every site needs their curmudgeon on the porch shaking a stick at the damn kids on the lawn Barry.

      Bob has his upsides (he’s terrible smart on some subjects for instance and writes some very legible prose). And sometimes he’s funny as hell! Don’t let him get ya mad (he likes to up our collective blood pressures).Report

  9. sidereal says:

    If science discovers a cause and as a corollary develops the capacity to prevent homosexuality before society evolves into full acceptance of it then yes, homosexuality will disappear one way or another.

    This, and related comments, are just nonsense. Anyone who thinks even a 100% provable, reliable method for ‘curing’ sexual orientation would ‘wipe out’ homosexuality are vastly, vastly overestimating the degree to which future parents want to muck around with the uterus. Modern prenatal care consists of taking iron supplements and getting occasional ultrasounds. That’s it. If a very noninvasive test (measuring the thickness of the back of the fetal neck) through an ultrasound indicates a potential problem, there is the option of doing a more invasive test that involves sampling amniotic fluid, and which a large number of parents still don’t perform.

    Future parents have an extremely low tolerance for mucking around with the fetus, and they always will. Nobody is going to be pumping steroids and chemicals into the uterus routinely.Report

    • North in reply to sidereal says:

      @sidereal, I wish you were right sidereal but I have to disagree.

      Look at downs syndrome children for instance. The number of downs syndrome babies being carried to term has plummeted due to the development of pre-natal testing that identifies indicators of downs syndrome in babies. What you have in that example is that almost all women when faced with the possibility that their child will be born with that syndrome opt to terminate the pregnancy.

      Now I agree that hormone flooding and the like is unlikely to occur en masse. But we’re discussing the question of future developments. Maybe it’ll be a pill, perhaps a simple injection, maybe it’ll be neither and women will simply have a test and know ahead of time if their child is at risk of being homosexual. Do we think they’d terminate? Current events suggest that many might well opt to. The desire for a “perfect baby” is a powerful one.

      Now obviously it’s not like gay babies will cease to exist en masse, but if society doesn’t come to accept homosexuals it’s entirely possible that the population would just peter out. Certainly it’s not nonsense like you’re suggesting.Report

      • Trumwill in reply to North says:

        @North, regarding Downs Syndrome, I think it gets worse than that. Mothers today now have reason to fear being judged if they carry a DS baby to term. We saw a little of that with Sarah Palin and I suspect that as time passes it won’t just apply to politicians that half of the public is just itching to hate. People will resent their tax dollars going to someone else’s choice to carry the child to term.

        On the other hand, this could actually be less so when it comes to homosexuality. Most people against homosexuality are also against abortion. So they’ll judge the person and the parents, as they do now.

        However, part of my fear with regard to homosexuality (and being someone that is morally, if not politically, generally opposed to abortion), is that they might find something that *might* be indicative of future homosexuals and abortions will proceed on the basis of a possibility. Sidereal’s point about the imperfection of testing makes me feel worse rather than better about things.Report

        • North in reply to Trumwill says:

          @Trumwill, Quite so on all points Trumwill. Which, in my opinion, makes it important for gays and their activist wings to put huge emphasis in moving society towards acceptance as quickly as possible. In many circumstances this entails -not- forcing things judicially for example when there are slower methods of persuasion. Homosexuals have to convince society to not hate them before science provides the means for society to erase them.Report

      • @North, I would generally agree with your assesment North. Of course all of that is assuming that homosexuality is genetic and can be tested for. If they started genetically motifying kids with a potential for homosexuality it would be interesting to see how many still end up gay.Report

  10. Rob says:

    As long as the government isn’t dictating what is, and isn’t a bad trait then it doesn’t matter.Report

  11. Sam M says:

    “The treatment’s efficacy isn’t even established yet, which says a lot about how eager people are to avoid creating more people like me.”

    This poses a really interesting broader question. To what extent is the notion of people “like you” limited to people of your sexual orientation? That is, does sexual orientation = identity? Can someone who reads the same books as you, listens to the same music, grew up in the same family and hangs out with the same friends “like you” if he has a different orientation? If I took a pill tomorrow that changed my orientation, would I cease to be “me”?

    I ask these questions sincerely.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Sam M says:

      @Sam M,

      And they are difficult questions to answer. On the one hand, I could imagine a heterosexual me. But on the other, I do not like the idea of picturing the last gay or lesbian person in the world, who would live and die alone. I have gained a lot from the gay community, and not at all just sexually.Report

      • greginak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        @Jason Kuznicki, doesn’t this depend on how you define “people like you.” We have many tightly knit communities where people strongly define themselves as part of. I think the most pertinent criticisms of many self-defined groups is that you end up cutting yourself from others. I’m a straight white guy, but as i grew up in the 70’s what i took from looking at society and its changes is not just that sexism, homophobia, etc were all wrong, which they were, but that as long as anybody is The Other we have learned nothing. We’re all human and if we don’t have some commonality then the next pogrom or genocide or hated group is around the corner.

        So anyway, one the best friends i have ever had is a jamacian-american gay woman. The thing is we also had many things in common, she grew up in middle class town not far away from me. she was the same age, had a similar education, liberal values and career path for a while. Depending how you looked at it we were completely different or very much alike. Or more correctly we were both.Report

    • North in reply to Sam M says:

      @Sam M, Certainly for the older homosexuals the oppression and loathing of the communities and families from which they often were brutally driven out of caused them to form a deep sense of community with other homosexuals. For a period of time they only had each other. Certainly for younger gays (I suspect I personally straddle the divide) there is considerably less sense of community and thus you see gay institutions dispersing and integrating back into the general population. But for the older gay people there is a gay community and it was the only place where they found solace in the darkest times of their lives.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to North says:


        And if the tide ever turns in the other direction, we’re going to be really, really sorry that we so cheerfully dismantled the gay community.Report

        • North in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          @Jason Kuznicki, Yes Jason, may it not come to that. But self segregation would only make it easier for gays to become the “other”. I feel pangs of loss for some diminishing of the community but I can’t help but feel that integration is healthy for gays as individuals if not as a distinct community.Report

  12. What about people like me who might be tempted to select for homosexuality? I seriously do hope to have at least one son who is just the fayest little thing ever.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Audrey the Liberal says:

      @Audrey the Liberal,

      Good luck with that. In all probability he will live and die alone.Report

      • @Jason Kuznicki, What makes you think I’m the only one who would do such a thing?Report

        • North in reply to Audrey the Liberal says:

          @Audrey the Liberal, Audrey, if society gets to the point where people are actively choosing to have gay children then obviously the issue goes away. But currently that isn’t the case.Report

          • BSK in reply to North says:

            My fiance has said she partially wishes we had a gay son/daughter. And I can’t say I disagree. However, I think the idea is from the perspective that, if a gay child IS going to come into this world, we’d rather it be in our family than in one that would reject him/her. Then again, that just might be my liberal bleeding heart steering me towards being a patronizing jerk. So I’m just content to let nature take its course, love whatever children we do have, and promote equity and justice for gays whether or not they are in my family.Report

            • North in reply to BSK says:

              @BSK, BSK, bless your liberal heart for it. Your perfectly admirable position aside I’m looking (with gimlet eyes) at society at large. If homosexuality remains a serious problem for a large portion of the population then parents, given the ability, would opt to either not have gay children or to “cure” their gayness if that was available. It’s a combination of “I want a perfect child” and also “I want my child to have as easy time as possible in their life” sentiments that make perfect sense.

              Long story short, if we can make a society where being gay is not a serious issue before people have the ability to choose then people will probably continue to bring gay children into the world. If the choice arrives before society is transformed then there’s a serious chance that people will choose not to bring gay children into the world.Report

          • BSK in reply to North says:

            @North, I agree wholeheartedly. See my post a little further down where I express the same sentiment.Report

  13. Herb says:

    Don’t worry, buddy. I think science is more likely to prove that homosexuality serves some useful evolutionary function than it would be to eliminate it completely.Report

  14. Jacob W says:

    To be completely speculative, if a prenatal means of preventing homosexuality were found that didn’t otherwise negatively effect the health of the mother or fetus (which is still doubtful at the moment), such a ‘therapy’ is unlikely to be approved by the various government agencies and medical associations that would need to. Indeed, such a discovery would perhaps do much to normalize homosexuality to the American public, since it would constitute definitive proof of a biological origin.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jacob W says:

      @Jacob W, except, I suspect, that there are a handful of countries that would make this therapy legal.

      Russia, for example. Turkey for another. Perhaps France. Maybe a handful of Eastern European countries that have Orthodox Christian Churches as part of their traditions.

      And there will be some medical tourism because of this and some pressure on politicians to be more “pro-choice”.

      I see that as equally, if not more, likely.Report

  15. Jacob W says:

    On the other hand, if it were approved and PFLAG-like outreach to prospective parents was ineffective it would mean the death of gay assimilation. As a gay man I could easily see my politics going from the ‘X-men’ type to the ‘Mutant Brotherhood’ type. Faced with extinction as a community, I think many gays and lesbians would attempt what Audrey suggests. And then, of course, we would become an hereditary ethnicity, permanently segregated from straight families and society. I certainly hope it wouldn’t have to come to that.Report

  16. Mason says:

    I’d like to note that the treatment is in response to CAH (congenital adrenal hyperplasia), an adrenal gland disorder. The effects occur in both boys and girls, but for girls there is greater likelihood of ambiguous genitalia and other signs of masculinization. Infant boys may have no visible symptoms other than an enlarged penis — less likely to cause concern in parents, obviously. (And come to think of it, this syndrome may explain the “squirrel in the Speedo” phenomenon referenced by both comic Ron White and TV genius Stephen Merchant — in essence, short skinny men with enormous cocks. See below for further explanation…)

    The typical adult effects include (according to the Mayo Clinic): a. Very early puberty; b. Short final adult height; c. Irregular menstruation in women; d. Infertility in both men and women.

    This isn’t a “gay gene”, it’s a semi-defect just as much as Down’s is, albeit with much less effect on the adult competency of the individual. The fact that females with CAH are more inclined towards lesbianism is a side effect.

    This tangentially relates to the increased risk of polycystic ovaries and other reproductive issues found among homosexual women. More interestingly, some formerly 100% heterosexual women have reported becoming sexually attracted to female friends around the time they were diagnosed with PCOS (as discussed on the website “soulcysters”).

    It also reminds me of the increasing concerns about the estrogenic effects of toxins like bisphenol-A, atrazine, phytoestrogens in certain modern processed foods, etc. and their effect on the normal sexual development of boys (girls are affected as well, but usually in the relatively modest terms of increased risk of breast cancer, in a striking symmetry with CAH). If reducing the prevalence of these toxins leads to decreased incidence of male homosexuality among the population (and this is very speculative, given that men do not seem to have their sexual orientation affected by extreme fluctuations in hormonal levels to the extent that women do) it’s hard for me to to see this as discriminatory.

    None of this excuses those people who want to ensure the heterosexuality of their children, any more than it is ethical to abort a healthy male or female embryo because the parent(s) want a child of the opposite gender.Report

  17. BSK says:


    First good to see you again. It seems as if PL is long gone and I just remembered you post here.

    Anyway, the idea that we should prevent the potential “burden” that faces gay people is a noble one… and the best way to do that is to eliminate the burden, not the people. There will always be homophobia, just like there will always be racism and anti-semetism and hatred. Unfortunately, we will likely never completely eliminate all of this. But suppose our response to the “burden” of racism on black folks (which still exists, mind you) was to simply stop black folks from reproducing. Is that REALLY a better solution than, ya know, ending racism? Clearly not. So I don’t think we should be doing the same thing here. Not by any means. Instead, society needs to change and accept gays.

    Our species has a long history of dividing folks and marginalizing groups. And an even longer history of realizing the errors of these ways. Why don’t we break the cycle this time and be pro-active in promoting equity and justice? Just a thought.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to BSK says:

      @BSK, and if parents could decide to make sure that their kids had lighter skin by going through a simple proceedure… would the argument be that black people were committing genocide if they opted to do such a thing? Maybe not “white” but, you know, go for a little more light-skinned.

      We’re not preventing them from reproducing! We’re just giving them an aesthetic option that they may not have had available before and allowing them to exercise it if they so choose.

      It’s like giving five bucks to the man and getting a star on your belly. Nothing more.

      Or would you force a woman to carry a child to term even if she didn’t want to?Report

      • BSK in reply to Jaybird says:

        @Jaybird, I really don’t get your point here. Your analogy is not apt at all. The procedure here ELIMINATES gay folks. You describe situation where black folks just get lighter. Those things are not the same.

        Furthermore, I said nothing about the legality of this. Only about the nonsense behind the logic driving it. If people irrationally hate X, is the solution to eliminate X? No, it is to denounce and hopefully eliminate the hatred and embrace X.

        As for your last comment, where the F did that come from???Report