The New Atlantis’ Contentious Report on LGBT Issues

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Jon Rowe

Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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103 Responses

  1. Avatar J_A says:

    “The data seem clear that for 2% of the population, we don’t have fluidity. Rather we have something probably immutable (or so intractable it appears immutable….)”

    Isn’t it more accurate to say that for 90% of the population (2% gay/lesbian, 88% straight) we don’t have fluidity?

    Shouldn’t a proper study about the fluidity of sexual orientation include what you need to convince a straight person to change?

    Seems to me there’s a fish don’t know they are wet effect going on in hereReport

    • Avatar Guy in reply to J_A says:

      Well said. I wonder of we can fix the aparently fluid group a little more tightly – how many of them are straight people who nevertheless spend a lot of time in LGB positive spaces? If it’s a lot, I expect we’re underestimating the fluid proportion of the population, due to many people in that segment never noticing their fluidity. Same with the men vs women comparison: women are encouraged to be fluid in some parts of our culture; mostly straight men are usually encouraged to stick to straightness.Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I think part of the difficulty is how we define things.

    Is sexual orientation about sex? Or about emotion? Both? If so, how much of each? Is it about desire? Or action?

    If a guy who identifies as straight enjoys the physical sensation of anal stimulation by his female partner… What’s that make him? I know some segment of the population that’d consider that a pretty gay thing to be into.

    What if someone enjoys the idea of fantasizing about different sexual acts but never partakes in them? Where do we categorize that person.

    It is my sense and belief that things like attraction, desire, and emotional connection are beyond our conscious control. I can’t will myself into wanting or not wanting to be with someone, physically or emotionally. I can choose what feelings and desires I act on, but that isn’t limited to sexual orientation. I don’t pursue a sexual relationship with every woman I’m attracted to. That doesn’t mean I’m not attracted to them or that I’m somehow not straight or asexual during these long periods of not having (or even trying to!) have sex with women.

    So what causes these feelings, urges, and desires? Heck if I know. I think it is a combination of many things, all of them beyond conscious control and therefore for all intents and purposes, we should consider them immutable and inherent to the person… Even if they change over time OR the person chooses to change how they respond to them.Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I think David French linked to this in a column in NRO for typical right-wing reasons.

    Ultimately I think it is irrelevant whether sexual and gender identity are innate at birth or a choice that someone makes. So what if someone chooses to be gay or change their gender identity via medical treatment? Why is nature or choice important in terms of government policy?

    This is an argument about whether we have religiously oriented laws (for particular religions) or are a secular society. If we are a society that truly believes in adult freedom and choice, then we need to allow consenting adults have sex with any other adult who consents to the same. Gender identity is a similar issue.Report

    • The law treats some characteristics as immutable when, in fact, they are malleable. Consider the inclusion of religion in anti-discrimination law. For some people, religious belief will never change. For others religious belief is an evolution, a journey, one which alters over the course of one’s life.

      There are subtleties in difference between the way Law treats religion and Duane bought treats something seemingly more permanent, like race.

      Our culture has long labored under the assumption that things like sex, sexual orientation, and sexual identity are both binary and immutable. Our law concerning those facets of human existence have been crafted based on that cultural understanding.

      So to the extent that our cultural understanding turns out to be incongruent with observed facts, correctives to our culture, and by extension our law, may be necessary.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

        What I think Saul meant was that rightists might use this new scientific information to argue for a policy where government enforces heterosexuality and cis-genderism like they used to do in the past. If sexual orientation and gender identity are generally not innate than there is nothing wrong or immoral to making sure people end up as cis-gendered heterosexuals in some cosmologies.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I really don’t think a traits mutability does or should play such a key role in whether we should tolerate discrimination based on it. Religion is, as you note, not fixed at birth at all, but it was also the first trait where we started to see pressure against discrimination. In the US, we got the First Amendment and the Constitution’s bar against religious tests for office long before any notion of equality between members of different races or between the sexes. For that matter, it was well before there was anything resembling the modern understanding of sexual orientation as part of people’s identities.

        In all cases, the deciding factor seems to have more to do with the effects of discrimination being sufficiently awful as to provoke an understanding that perpetuating that kind of discrimination is unjust, after a long, painful political struggle on the part of activists. Often, this was accompanied by a growing understanding that the underlying motivations for such discrimination are stupid or vicious.

        All of these seem to apply in the case of discrimination based on sexual orientation. It’s just that David French and their ilk, in order to justify their preposterous rear-guard action in defense of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, are forced to gloss over the actual injustices that drove and continue to drive the fight against that discrimination. The decades of activism spurred by state and private violence, the arbitrary petty cruelty of denying live-long partners visitation rights in hospitals during the AIDS crisis, and the malign neglect of the government during that same crisis at the insistence of French’s ideological forebears–all has to be hand-waved away in order to make it all just a passing fad.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

        @burt-likko

        I think non-discrimination law should treat gender identity and sexuality like they treat religion. Discrimination on all three grounds should be verboten.

        Now there are always some interesting law school fact patterns that you can create but I see this as a largely academic exercise.

        It seems to me that the right-wing is using malleability as a reason on why we should just enforce heterosexuality and I don’t think there is any good reason for a secular, civil government to do so. Liberal neutrality means that the government has no right to say what a consenting adults sexuality or gender identity is or should be.Report

        • Well, I see nothing in this digest of this study that suggests to me that anyone is talking about “enforc[ing] heterosexuality.” I do see how this study might be used to apologize for sexual orientation reassignment therapy or whatever else you want to call it. That doesn’t mean that is the only sort of policy use to which this study might be put. And a better understanding of sexuality-related issues has the potential to also be deployed in the service of increasing happiness and well-being and getting the culture to grow beyond the discrimination that mars our past and present. We may adjust the way we think about people who “experiment” and then orient towards one of the polar identification points, or and broaden our definition of bisexuality.

          For instance, @maribou writes above of great misunderstanding of bisexuality, and I’m like to take her lived experience and the mass of experiences she’s come across as a member of that community, as at least as important as what some social scientist says. The idea that there might be some misunderstanding on the part of people whose behavior suggests bisexuality while they identify as strict hetero- or homosexuals raises possibilities in my mind of 1) self-doubt or anxiety about orientation, which we can alleviate, 2) widespread misunderstanding about the nature of bisexuality (which itself has serious policy consequences) perhaps even among people that we might define as “bisexuals” themselves, and 3) potentially standing as a call to greater tolerance and acceptance of multi-sexual behavior in the culture generally.

          So yes, be mindful of the source, and yes, be critical in your evaluation of the scholarship (especially since Jon’s description of it sounds like it’s more of a survey of actual studies rather than original research), and yes yes yes, be wary of what’s motivating policy proposals that are based on this. Because what I see here only underlines the need to relax prevailing cultural norms and accept people not just on the basis of self-chosen labels but also their behaviors.Report

        • Avatar Brent F in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          I think the malleability argument matters a lot in certain circumstances, like for underaged transgendered persons.

          If being transgendered is some kind of choice, then there is some merit to parents dictating to their children what they do and what choices they make. That’s the function of parents as guardians of the underaged to decided what’s best for them until they are adults.

          If transgenderism isn’t malleable and more or less hard set some point around or prior to puberty though, then you could make a pretty good argument that parents that refuse to accomodate their transgendered children are being abusive.

          If all humans were autonomous individuals, than pure individual choice is pretty workable. At any one time, a decent fraction of individuals have their choices made by somebody else, at which point a well established understanding of the underlying dynamics of the condition are pretty important for evaluating whether those making choices for somebody else are doing so in a reasonable manner.Report

  4. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Regardless of whether sexual or gender identity is innate or not is irrelevant. Both seem rather hard to change once they get settled and any attempt to enforce heterosexuality and cis-genderism cause nothing but harm and misery on the people being policed and forced into the heterosexual/cis-gendered box.Report

  5. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    The article does seem to be a pretty thinly veiled attempt to engineer a sciencey-sounding rationale for compulsory enforcement of straight sexuality.
    But even if their science were accepted without question, they have lost the larger battle.

    The traditional enforcement was never based on science, but an intuited morality that saw homosexuality as a threat to the dominant majority. And even that was fluid and mutated over the centuries.

    The morality of sexuality has changed, irrevocably so far as I can see.

    Suppose sexual orientation turns out to be rather fluid after all, like religion or political identity?

    For most modern people, straight sexuality doesn’t have any superior claim to morality that would lead one to accept its enforcement.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    When reading this essay, all I could think about was the Time Magazine article about how babies are racist.Report

  7. Avatar Maribou says:

    As one of a very few bisexuals active on this board, I would just like to emphasize that for many of us our bisexuality is not experienced as changeable, or an experiment. No amount of conversion therapy would turn me straight, or homosexual.

    The OP acknowledges this but I’m not sure it fully engages with it.

    FWIW, the number of people identifying as bisexual (or pan, or queer, or etc.) generally rises with each new study that’s done, so the stats on this piece are perhaps a bit out of date. Seeing it as something that can be put aside as a youthful experiment vs something that it is, still, dangerous to claim (and dangerous to be) and thus which people are less likely to acknowledge being… well, that’s a matter of which lens you’re using I guess. Much like how studies showing bisexuals having poorer mental health can be blamed on their bisexuality, or on living in a society that generally has low tolerance for anyone identifying that way.

    I just don’t think seeing it as inconvenient, or something to be put aside, accurately identifies what it’s actually like to NOT put it aside. Or really digs into why that might be with any amount of empathy.Report

  8. Avatar trizzlor says:

    >>Studies of identical twins suggest sexual orientation is not genetic like eye color or hair color.

    I don’t understand this claim. Homosexuality is estimated to have a heritability of 0.34-0.39 in men (that is, all genetic effects together explain at least one third of the phenotype). Hair color is 0.61, eye color is 0.80, height is 0.80, depression is 0.37. All of these traits have a significant environmental component. All of them cannot be causally explained by a single gene. What metric are you using to distinguish them?Report

    • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to trizzlor says:

      If I am not mistaken, identical twins have the same hair color and eye color (100% concordance). The way in which nurture might affect hair color would be if you dye your hair. With eye color, if you have colored contact lenses.

      On the other hand, with both sexual orientation and handedness, there is discordance with identical twins. You might have one twin lefty, one righty, one gay, one straight. That’s what I meant.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Jon Rowe says:

        >>If I am not mistaken, identical twins have the same hair color and eye color (100% concordance).

        I see, this is a common misconception. The twin studies of hair/eye color are fairly old [ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/623434 ] but MZ concordance for hair color is 76% and for eye color is 96%, both of which are inflated by shared environment (thus the lower population-based numbers I listed above).Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to trizzlor says:

          76% sounds really low, and may be depressed due to self-reporting via both lying (yes, of course I’m a natural blonde!) and measurement error (two twins have hair somewhere in between blonde and brown, and one says blonde and the other says brown).Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Identical twins should, as far as I know, should be *born* with identical hair color, or somewhere around 96% seems reasonable. 76% does seem too low…except…

            Some people have hair color that changes based on *circumstances*. I.e., if they are out in the sun a lot, it get lighter, and other such things.

            Likewise, many people have hair color that just seems to permanently change over their lifetime for no reason (I had red hair until I was about three, now I have brown hair.)…or *is* there no reason?

            So I’m wondering if identical twins are demonstrating that the reason that hair color permanently change isn’t genetics, like we usually assume, but is instead based on outside factors, and we just haven’t really noticed that yet. Like one twin trips up some light-sensitivity thing, her hair turns *and stays* lighter than the other twin for the rest of her life.

            EDIT: And, of course, nothing would stop this change from happening in the womb.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to DavidTC says:

              According to this study (very old, abstract-only, and no numbers), the change in hair color that occurs in young children has strong genetic influences.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Well, yes, but ‘strong genetic influences’ is well with the bounds of 76%.

                Even if each change is like 90% likely to happen, that means a 10% chance that it won’t happen in one twin, and a 10% chance it won’t happen in the other. (And a 1% chance it won’t happen in either.)

                That’s only a 81% rate of the same hair color right there, and that’s assuming *one* genetically-programmed hair color change.

                And that’s not including weird things like…maybe it doesn’t happen at the same time. Perhaps both twin’s hair are going to get ‘lighter’, but one gets lighter at age 4, and the other at age 6, and those changes results in different hair color because the 4 year old’s gets *much* lighter, and the 6 only a little, because they’re different ages and it works differently at different ages.

                You know, when I first started watching Orphan Black, I was thinking ‘Man, these clones are all so different, they really came down *hard* on the side of nurture in the nature vs. nurture debate.’.

                It’s a bit weird to think they might not have come down hard *enough*, considering all the clones seem to have identical hair colors without dyeing them.Report

              • Avatar trizzlor in reply to DavidTC says:

                >>That’s what some people claim, and what I have just disagreed with.

                I continue to be puzzled by your claim in light of the published heritability estimates. What makes you not trust these studies?Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to trizzlor says:

                I continue to be puzzled by your claim in light of the published heritability estimates. What makes you not trust these studies?

                This was clearly in the wrong place, and when you put it in the right place, I would like to request more elaboration on what you’re talking about.Report

            • Avatar Murali in reply to DavidTC says:

              When I was young (say about 4-6 ish) most of my body hair (arms and legs mostly) was blond. Now, its all black, though some of the finer ones may be brownReport

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Murali says:

                That’s fairly typical among white people, but I thought it was specific to white people. I didn’t realize people of other races could have light-colored hair anywhere, except due to aging or albinism.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I thought Murali was Indian in ethnic origin… Indians are Caucasian, aren’t they?

                Vitiligo (Michael Jackson’s disease) is much more common than albinism. Makes people look like a Pinto pony.Report

          • Avatar Blomster in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            In this subthread, some posts refer to ‘twins’, others to ‘identical twins’. Is this perhaps the reason for your misunderstanding each other?

            From a quick google it seems like the cases where identical twins have different eye colour is very very rare, not close to 25%, and this could easily be because of de novo somatic mutations. Which still makes it 100% genetic, no?Report

            • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Blomster says:

              You have to use both MZ and DZ twins. The basic idea is:

              (1) MZ concordance = 100% shared genetics * G + 100% shared whomb environment * E
              (2) DZ concordance = 50% shared genetics * G + 100% shared whomb environment * E

              Collect enough data so you can solve for G, E. MZ twin concordance will tell you how much of a “born this way” effect there is, but only the MZ/DZ comparison will tell you how much of a genetic effect there is. Alternatively you can do the same thing within families with a more complex set of equations.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jon Rowe says:

        I think one problem with discussions on genetics is too many people (non-specialists, clearly) think of genetics as being akin to the strict single Dominant/recessive gene example, as clearly outlined in most high school science classes, and are not aware of such things as environmental triggers, gene penetrance, etc.

        The idea that identical twins can have identical genes but only one of whom actually expresses that gene can be a bit mind-boggling.

        And penetrance is far simpler to explain than a lot of other fun things genes can get up to in terms of triggers.

        So you can have something that is solely genetic, but not express in both twins. Or something genetic that doesn’t express in either twin, but one of their kids, but fully from the twins side of the equation.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Morat20 says:

          The idea that identical twins can have identical genes but only one of whom actually expresses that gene can be a bit mind-boggling.

          It’s not that surprising, when you consider that genetic expression is always due to environmental triggers. Of course, that’s the cellular environment, which is highly regulated, but it shouldn’t be too surprising that influences from the person’s environment find their way in. The real surprise, IMO, is how little shared environment matters. Shared environment is assumed in the popular imagination to have a huge influence, but for many if not most traits it’s a distant third behind genes and non-shared environment, AKA random stuff we can’t explain.Report

  9. Avatar DavidTC says:

    Way back in the mists of time, when people starting claiming being gay was genetic, and thus everyone should accept them for it, I started trying to gently move them away from that narrative.

    I mean, look, I get it, it gave it the moral standing of racism, and even *now* there’s plenty of people who go along with it because ‘That’s the way they were born and they should be able to be happen’, but I have the suspicion it’s not actually *true*.

    Firstly, genetic was the wrong level to start with. Sexual orientation, if it is programmed into the bodies, would have to be at the *hormonal* level. Hell, *gender* is barely related to genetics…your genes tell your body what sort of hormone production you get, and from then on, it’s entirely up to the hormones, not the genes. A minor quibble.

    Secondly, more importantly…and I know I’ll get pushback for this, but I’m not convinced that sexuality is as unchangable as most people think, even in adults. Almost every other aspect of sexual attraction seems to be a) changable, and b) defined by society to start with.

    If people can change their sexual attraction to furries (Which cannot possibly be an option anywhere in our genes, and people cannot possibly be born with an attraction to.), then I suspect sexual attraction can be changed in other ways.

    It seems very odd that we can say ‘Culture defines that an attractive woman is slender, and has certain proportions, and all sorts of things, and we all admit that those are fully what the *culture* has made up, and that is the sole reason we consider those people attractive, and that in other cultures beautiful women were something else entirely…but it’s not possible that sexuality orientation is also this’.

    This despite the fact there have literally been cultures where men *were* supposed to be attracted to *other men*, and that seemed to work fine! Like ancient Rome. I know everyone says don’t compare that with modern homosexual relationships in modern time…those boys were all victims…but it doesn’t change the fact that *all of adult male society seemed to be attracted to them*.

    Who made all men of Rome gay? What, did Rome just have something in the water? No, wait, who made everyone bi, because they were also busy having sex with their wives? Don’t that culture existing basically *prove* that *all* sexual attraction is programmed by society? A culture told men that they should be attracted to teenage boys, and they *were*. And it wasn’t the only one. We can’t just handwave that fact away.

    And, no, before anyone mentions it, I know conversion therapy doesn’t work, but that’s because those idiots have, almost surreally, seem to have chose to try to alter someone’s sexual orientation without involving *sex* of any sort, which is, uh, really idiotic. I’m pretty sure that deliberately changing sexual orientation would, at the very least, involve some masturbation involving images of the ‘correct’ gender, and probably some actual sex. The sort of people running those places seem to have no idea how sexual attraction even works. Additionally, I’m not sure you can *remove* an attraction, as opposed to *adding* one.

    And, I mean, I’m willing to go with the idea that this, despite coming from culture, gets set in stone at some point, and can’t be changed after that. It is possible. But the burden of proof is sorta on the people who assert it works that way, in stark contrast to every single other form of attraction. Swapping or adding a gender is probably a bigger *jump* than liking women with slightly wider hips or focusing more and more on feet, but a bigger jump is not insurmountable.

    And let me finish up by stating, again, I am 100% pro-gay rights, and have pretty much always been so. I just think the foundation of that is sorta built on lies, and it makes me a bit nervous.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to DavidTC says:

      If people can change their sexual attraction to furries (Which cannot possibly be an option anywhere in our genes, and people cannot possibly be born with an attraction to.), then I suspect sexual attraction can be changed in other ways.

      You’re confusing fetishes with sexual orientation. “Furry” isn’t a sexual orientation, it’s a fetish. (You know how I know this? Go poll a bunch of furries and ask them if they care what gender their furry partner is. Tip: They’re gonna care. A LOT.).

      Fetishes tend to develop during puberty, whereas sexual orientation appears to be set no later than early infancy, and most likely before. Gender appears the same way.

      Clouding sexual orientation is the fact that orientation isn’t binary (or even trinary), but a continiuum — the Kinsey scale is somewhat useful for visualizing this phenomenon, even if it’s not terribly accurate. (And this doesn’t even bring in asexuals).

      You have people who are strictly hetero, strictly gay, or somewhere in the mushy middle — some who find both genders equally attractive, some who lean more one way than the other, etc. And that mushy middle of attractiveness is where you find a great deal of the confusion over sexual orientation — if you take a straight-leaning bisexual and place him or her in a society that frowns on homosexuality, he or she isn’t likely to acknowledge their bisexual tendencies. If society is more open to such, they’re more likely to do so.

      So society can shape your expression of your sexual orientation to some degree, even your acknowledgement of it for some, but it doesn’t actually change your underlying orientation.Report

      • Avatar Joe Sal in reply to Morat20 says:

        “if you take a straight-leaning bisexual and place him or her in a society that frowns on homosexuality, he or she isn’t likely to acknowledge their bisexual tendencies. If society is more open to such, they’re more likely to do so.”

        There is, I think a possibility, that if the person gives more authority to individual constructs than social constructs, their bending to the cultural norm may be less, if any at all. Maybe.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Morat20 says:

        You’re confusing fetishes with sexual orientation. “Furry” isn’t a sexual orientation, it’s a fetish. (You know how I know this? Go poll a bunch of furries and ask them if they care what gender their furry partner is. Tip: They’re gonna care. A LOT.).

        Yes, if you divide the classification of ‘attracted to women in furry outfits’ into the classifications of ‘attracted to women’ and and ‘attracted to people in furry outfits’, and then *call* the first a sexual orientation and the second one a sexual fetish, you can, indeed, make statements about how those two things are entirely different, because you have labelled them differently.

        However, what I say is: Please prove those two things are different in *quality*, as opposed to degree. Prove to me that sexual orientation isn’t just a sexual super-fetish.

        Fetishes tend to develop during puberty, whereas sexual orientation appears to be set no later than early infancy, and most likely before.

        Um…I’d like to see what your evidence is of the statement ‘sexual orientation appears to be set no later than early infancy’ is. Cause I don’t think *any* study agrees with you on that!

        In fact, I’d like an explanation of how children before puberty even *have* a sexual orientation. Sexual orientation requires the ability to be sexually attracted to someone. People without sexuality do not have a sexual orientation.

        It’s one thing to claim that children have some hidden variable set that means they *will* have a specific orientation, based on their genes or hormones. That they’re programmed to go a certain way. That’s what some people claim, and what I have just disagreed with.

        It’s another thing to claim they’ve *always* had that orientation, even as infants. That’s just weird. (I know Freud said *something* like that, but a) their supposed sexuality had nothing to do with gender, and b) Freud is wrong about everything anyway.)

        Gender appears the same way.

        I am not, in any manner, talking about gender.

        So society can shape your expression of your sexual orientation to some degree, even your acknowledgement of it for some, but it doesn’t actually change your underlying orientation.

        …you say, completely ignoring my point that it is well-documentated that societies existed where adult men were expected to be attracted to teenage boys, and it appears that the vast majority of them *were*.

        Unless your assertion is that almost the entire population is basically bi, with maybe a fringe of straight and gay, but the expression of that inbuilt sexual orientation is entirely defined by culture. If that’s what you’re saying, you realize that’s basically what I am saying, and is actually a bit *past* what I am saying?

        And, while I didn’t say this before: I have no objection to the idea there actually is an unchangeable fringe, that there might actually be unchangeable parameters on a few people that even culture cannot overcome…but that fact is sorta drowned in the fact that not everyone responses the same to start with! So it’s kinda hard to know, and not really much reason to care.Report

        • Avatar trizzlor in reply to DavidTC says:

          @davidtc : For some reason my comment was posted below. This is what I was responding to:

          It’s one thing to claim that children have some hidden variable set that means they *will* have a specific orientation, based on their genes or hormones. That they’re programmed to go a certain way. That’s what some people claim, and what I have just disagreed with.

          The literature shows that adult sexual orientation is significantly heritable, which means that inherited genetic effects are associated with sexual orientation later in life. Since we know that environment cannot change your inherited genetics (for the most part), the mechanism must be that the genetics “programs” the person to go a certain way. What about this model or the evidence in support of it do you disagree with?Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to trizzlor says:

            The literature shows that adult sexual orientation is significantly heritable, which means that inherited genetic effects are associated with sexual orientation later in life.

            No, actually, the literature shows a *correlation* of adult sexual orientation with genetics.

            And even then, it’s not a particularly strong one.

            There was a huge study of *all* identical twins in Iceland in 2010 (Removing the self-selection effect of previous studies.) that found that ‘Biometric modeling revealed that, in men, genetic effects explained .34–.39 of the variance [of sexual orientation], the shared environment .00, and the individual-specific environment .61–.66 of the variance. Corresponding estimates among women were .18–.19 for genetic factors, .16–.17 for shared environmental, and .64–.66 for unique environmental factors.’

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biology_and_sexual_orientation#Twin_studies

            In other words, when determining if a man is gay, random chance (inexplicably called ‘the individual-specific environment’) is almost twice as important as genetics in men. Or twice as important in woman as genetics *and* home environment added together in women, which are equally important.

            But wait. Now we’ve got a *really* strange model. In a third of the gay people, a switch is flipped via genes, but in the rest, something happened in the environment?

            Well, that can’t be how it works. The most likely explanation here is that certain genes can cause a *tendency* towards homosexuality, an increase in probability.

            Except, back to correlation not equaling causality…do we have any evidence that the probability here is *homosexuality*, or could the probability be ‘not being forced to follow social norms’?

            But, again, to recap the huge problem I brought up: There are societies where male homosexual behavior was the norm, and it actually *was* the norm. Probably female, too, but it’s mostly *male* homosexuality that’s asserted to be genetic, so that’s the important one.

            I notice that, of all the people who have responded to me, literally none of you guys have quoted or said *anything* about that and the problems those societies cause for the theory that ‘It’s genetic/hormonal’.Report

            • Avatar trizzlor in reply to DavidTC says:

              No, actually, the literature shows a *correlation* of adult sexual orientation with genetics.

              And even then, it’s not a particularly strong one.

              I don’t understand what the “No” is about, since the word “association” is a synonym for “correlation” and heritability is the amount of phenotype that’s correlated with genotype. “Particularly strong” also doesn’t mean anything when you don’t present a point of comparison. Here are traits that are comparably heritable: balding, BMI, heart disease, T2D [source]. All traits that are culturally considered to “run in the family”, that your doctor asks about family history for, and that we recognize to be a mix of genetic switches and environmental effects.

              The most likely explanation here is that certain genes can cause a *tendency* towards homosexuality, an increase in probability.

              Yes, this is the most likely explanation for all but the rarest of monogenic traits. Hair color, which we discussed above and which folks seem to think is some kind of Mendelian disorder, is driven by multiple genetic switches which prime your pigment biology, which then – in concert with environment – results in the observable phenotype. Height, which is highly heritable, is estimated to be accounted for by ~10,000 different genetic switches, each of very very small effect on bone structure and morphology. Parents with brown hair have kids with a *tendency* towards brown hair. Tall parents have kids with a *tendency* towards increased length. This is how common phenotypes work.

              Except, back to correlation not equaling causality…do we have any evidence that the probability here is *homosexuality*, or could the probability be ‘not being forced to follow social norms’?

              Why does this matter? It’s always going to be [GENETICS] -> X -> Y -> Z -> [HOMOSEXUALITY] . The X/Y/Z could be biological pathways turning on in your cells, they could be synaptic pruning in your brain, or they could be ‘not being forced to follow social norms’, or anything else. That doesn’t change the fact that a GENETIC trigger sets off a cascade that increases your tendency towards behavior. Indirect causality is still causality. The only way this correlation would NOT be causality is if you could show that [HOMOSEXUALITY] -> [GENETICS]. Is that what you’re proposing? Because I recommend you quit the OT comments section and go publish your Nature paper on the death of the central dogma of biology.

              I notice that, of all the people who have responded to me, literally none of you guys have quoted or said *anything* about that and the problems those societies cause for the theory that ‘It’s genetic/hormonal’.

              What giant problem does this pose? HERITABILITY = GENETICS / (GENETICS + ENVIRONMENT). You can get this number to change by either increasing the impact of genetics (say through selection) or by decreasing the impact of environment (say through cultural changes). The fact that the heritability differs in different populations says nothing about the total genetic contribution, but about the *ratio* of genetic and environmental contributions. The classic example is eyesight, which has a strong genetic component but can have zero heritability in an environment where everyone gets glasses. Pointing to a place where everyone gets glasses and sees fine would not nullify the genetic predisposition to poor eyesight. And OF COURSE, genetic traits can have different *prevalence* due to the environment, which doesn’t really have anything to do with heritability (which describes variance) but with the mean value. So the fact that Crohn’s Disease is really common in Ashkenazi Jews does nothing to disprove the theory that Crohn’s is genetic. It’s entirely possible that Crohn’s causing variants drifted to higher frequency in Jews (so Crohn’s is more genetic), or that the Jewish diet increases the chance of an autoimmune response (so Crohn’s is less genetic). And we don’t have to speculate about what’s going on in Western societies because you cited a paper which directly estimated a substantial genetic component and multiple studies have backed it up.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to trizzlor says:

                What giant problem does this pose? HERITABILITY = GENETICS / (GENETICS + ENVIRONMENT). You can get this number to change by either increasing the impact of genetics (say through selection) or by decreasing the impact of environment (say through cultural changes).

                Since you seem to be missing it, I am asserting that most (maybe not all) people are *straight* because of environment. Which, uh, makes heritability a minor factor.

                All those other things you mentioned are not influenced by culture at all! Whereas we *know* sexuality is.

                Hell, everyone agrees sexual attraction isn’t biological in literally every other aspect *except* gender. I wouldn’t be having this argument if I was arguing that people being attracted to thin people, or people with paler skin, was cultural. Everyone would just agree with me! But somehow we’ve decided otherwise with sexual orientation, despite having *no* evidence that it’s influenced *more* by genes than those other things. Literally no evidence at all.

                Oh, sure, it *is* maybe slightly influenced by genes…but where’s the study showing that attraction to thin people or red heads or furries *isn’t* slightly influenced by genes? Oh, right, there’s no evidence at all. So why are people insisting orientation gets some sort of special position as ‘born that way’?

                If 90% of the male population will change their orientation from straight to bi if they live in ancient Rome and that is the culture, than it seems like we should acknowledge that it seems somewhat probable that the *remaining* 10%’s sexual orientation is somewhat determined by culture also. (Especially since gay men are still influenced by culture to mostly pick *culturally attractive* men.)

                Which means that, if it’s a cultural thing, the statement that ‘gay men are programmed to be more likely to be attracted to men’ is rather inaccurate, and it’s more ‘what parts of culture people latch their sexuality onto can be swayed slightly by genetics in some currently unknown manner…and this probably applies to all parts of sexuality, not just orientation’.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

                And, again, to be clear, I am not pointing this out as a dumb argument because I think gay people should have lesser rights….I’m pointing it out as a weakness because I’d prefer gay rights not be built on a claim that literally might be proven wrong.

                People should be able to do whatever they want, with anyone else who wants to do it with them. Not because they ‘were made that way’, but because, fuck that, I don’t even need to say a reason, people *opposing* freedom in relationships need a good reason, and they literally have not thought of one in the last two decades.

                And, yeah, I get why it was an appealing argument in the 90s, and I even get why people keep making it today. But building stuff on unproven suppositions that don’t really make sense based on how we know the rest of sexuality works is dangerous.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to DavidTC says:

          However, what I say is: Please prove those two things are different in *quality*, as opposed to degree. Prove to me that sexual orientation isn’t just a sexual super-fetish.

          If it’s a “super fetish” how on earth did virtually every species of mammal, and quite a few birds, develop it? Including species that mate for life? They all hang out at the right places when they were prepubescent?

          I realize you seem disinclined to believe the actual experts in the field, but please explain to me how homosexuality can be anything other than rooted in biology (whether genetics, womb environment, etc) given it’s widespread presence among vertebrates?

          Humans have kinky sex, certain species of chimps even have prostitution, but I’m at a loss on how the only kink the rest of the animal kingdom seems to have is gayness.Report

          • Avatar veronica d in reply to Morat20 says:

            What problem are we trying to solve here?

            For many animals, intimacy and sex (it seems) feel really nice. It certainly is that way for us. Actually, for social animals this is easy to understand. After all, so much of our reality is (in a sense) socially constructed.

            Which look, there isn’t good language to talk about this stuff. But the point, we’re social. We relate and exchange. Intimacy is a powerful way to relate and exchange.

            The post-Dawkins set wants to reduce literally every aspect of natural life to reproductive fitness, and thus every aspect of our behavior as some result of selection. But why should we care about this? I don’t care if I reproduce, nor do I care much about my genes.

            Perhaps you do. That’s fine. Whatever. But there is no essential value there.

            Kissing feels really nice. So yeah.

            It’s obvious that we are a sexual species, and thus one is not surprised to find most males are attracted to females, and vice versa. Sure. But so what? Sometimes a person (or other animal) comes around who is “gay” or “bi” or whatever. Perhaps they will not “pass on their genes,” as if anyone should care about that.

            People will argue over if this is “natural” or not. Whatevs. As if they have some non-problematic definition for “natural.”

            What problem are we trying to solve again?Report

            • Avatar Morat20 in reply to veronica d says:

              What problem are we trying to solve here?

              Mostly DavidTC’s weird insistence that sexual orientation can’t be biological in nature.

              Which seems odd, given a lot of species show it. I mean if it was JUST humans and bonobo chimps, I could say there’s a social cause — bonobos are pretty close to humans in terms of sexual motivations.

              But penguins and sheep? They don’t mate for fun, they don’t pair bond out of love.

              What reason, other than biology, could there be for gay penguins and sheep? And if it’s biology for them, why are humans exempt among the vertebrates? Did we evolve out of having homosexuals, only to dance right back in socially?Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to veronica d says:

              FTR, I’m old enough to remember people claiming homosexuality was “unnatural” and therefore disapproved because it would not produce babies, well before Richard Dawkins became an academic celebrity.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Morat20 says:

            I realize you seem disinclined to believe the actual experts in the field, but please explain to me how homosexuality can be anything other than rooted in biology (whether genetics, womb environment, etc) given it’s widespread presence among vertebrates?

            Heh. If we’re playing that game, please explain to me how it can rooted in womb environment when it’s observed in *birds* and *worms*.

            But actually, animal homosexuality is where it all breaks down. Take bonono’s, for example, the mammals that, as far as I know, have the closest thing to human sexuality. They engage in homosexual behavior…but none of them are *gay*. They all just sorta do it. Some more than others, yes, but clearly they derive enjoyment from sex, and play with each other.

            So here’s a fun quest for you: Try to find *any* animal species that acts like humans claim sexuality works. A species where there are multiple partners, and some percentage of animals *always*, or at least almost always, pair off with the same sex, and everyone else pairs off with the other sex.

            And to rule out transgender animals, which do exist, note that *both* partners would need to be existing mostly homosexual relationships. There are species where there are some male animals that act female, and mate *as if* they are female, with multiple males who are ‘otherwise’ straight, and vis versa for female…but that’s an entirely different thing.

            And, no, animals that mate for life don’t count either. It’s easy, when animals mate for life, to find a same sex pair and go ‘Well, they must both be gay’. But what is *equally* likely in those circumstances is that they’re all bi, and that sometimes they just *happen* to pair with someone the same gender. You cannot make a statistic statement from a single instance.

            Find me a single species of animals where there is the heterosexual mating pool, and a different male homosexual mating pool (Or a female version, of course.), and animals can be classified as in one pool or the other.

            Humans have kinky sex, certain species of chimps even have prostitution, but I’m at a loss on how the only kink the rest of the animal kingdom seems to have is gayness.

            Why do you think that? There are *all sorts* of traits that different species are attracted to. Do you think peacock feathers have some sort of actual advantage?Report

            • Avatar J_A in reply to DavidTC says:

              @davidtc

              It is very difficult to know how much of the current “quite monogamous but not really, really” human pairing and mating strategy is evolutionary dictated, and how much is a successful social arrangement. We know It’s not the mating strategy of our closest mammal relatives, so if it is indeed inbred, it’s a fairly recent change. We don’t know when this strategy evolved, but 10,000 or 20,000 years is not enough for that behaviour to be selected into our genes.

              So if you are looking for examples of animals that enter into long-term homosexual pairing, birds are your best bet. Birds pair for a long term, at least until the chicks mature, and it’s quite common for them to pair again with the same individual the next breeding season (*). We also know homosexual birds in the wild might try to hatch stones, and that they will raise an orphaned chicken, if the opportunity arises (see Tango the penguin).

              These pairs are not just one individual “acting female” and somehow hoodwinking otherwise straight male individuals (this would probably be more akin to transgenderism) into five minutes of coupling. These are couples that, for some reason, have chosen a same sex pairing,for a whole season or for life, and are investing valuable energy in building a nest and feeding a stone hatching partner or, much more rarely, an adopted chick. Many of these species have noticeable secondary sexual characteristics, they perfectly know the difference between males and females. Whatever the reason, at least during that mating season, they are not interested in otherwise available opposite sex partners.

              And it’s a behaviour that evolution has not rooted out, present in species that separated hundreds of millions of years ago. It’s either a very old and useful trait, species wise if not individual wise, or is an example of converging evolution, a good (even if we do not understand how) response to some set of similar circumstances that appeared independently in many different environments.

              (*) City pigeons stay in long term pairings, but some seasons they change mates, and sometimes they will revert to previous partners.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to J_A says:

                It’s either a very old and useful trait, species wise if not individual wise, or is an example of converging evolution

                I can’t possibly see convergent. Too wide spread among mammals.

                And that leads into what feels like special pleading: “Virtually all mammals have this, but somewhere in the last few million years,hominids lost it even though we have no evidence for that, but then either regained it or decided to do it socially.”

                The simplest explanation is that homosexuality is, as noted, useful in some way and has been preserved — and that we have it for the same biological reasons that chimps and sheep have it.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Morat20 says:

                It’s simply this: who fucking cares?

                Let us imagine that there is no selective pressure toward homosexuality. So fucking what!? Who cares!?

                Mammals are incredibly complex little machines, and sexual reproduction is an incredibly complex set of behaviors, and our human values have literally nothing to do with “selfish genes” or whatever the fuck.

                Gay-ness might just be something that kinda accidentally comes along with being a human with a brain and growing in a womb, while we’re bathed in hormones, and then with a complex social life, similar but quite a bit more elaborate than apes, and some of us are gay or trans or whatever. So yeah. Brains are really complicated. Gender and sexuality is really complicated. The social forces are really complicated.

                The word “natural” HAS NO FUCKING STABLE DEFINITION THAT DOES NOT MERELY REVEAL YOUR PRECONCEPTIONS — she shouts across the vast, empty gulf of the forum.

                Blah.

                People act like the terms “selected for” has any meaning beyond “whateverthefuck.” It does not.

                The answer to the question, “Is gay-ness the result of selective pressure in humans?” is, “probably not, but I dunno. Who cares?”Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to veronica d says:

                It’s simply this: who fucking cares?

                Well, the guy I was talking to?

                The answer to the question, “Is gay-ness the result of selective pressure in humans?” is, “probably not, but I dunno. Who cares?”

                Actually, the question is “is homosexuality the result of evolutionary pressure” and the answer is “probably, since we see it throughout vertebrates and even in avians. Which means it’s been around a very long time, and it’s highly unlikely given the obvious counter-pressures, to have been conserved in so many places even if it was neutral to survival.

                Although mostly I think you’re having an argument with something I’m not saying.

                David’s stating there’s no real evidence for a biological basis for sexual orientation. I’m not sure if he’s arguing it’s mutable or not, but at the least he’s implying it’s socially conditioned (whether it’s mutable or not). So in that case, pointing it out throughout the animal kingdom is a pretty solid indication it’s got a heavy biological basis.

                Something I really only care about as a matter of fact and accuracy. As to why it matters? People study lots of things that don’t really matter to most people. A lot of science is, bluntly, people prodding at little things and learning facts about them that are, almost entirely, kind of useless.

                But as to gayness — it’s not something special humans do. It’s not something unique to homo sapiens. Just like tool use isn’t unique to us, or prostitution for that matter. Just a fact.

                Does it mean much? I suppose it depends on what you’re talking about.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to Morat20 says:

                @morat20 @j_a I can’t believe I’m stepping into this on the side I am (it’s not a side I particularly AGREE with, mind) but –

                It seems to me that @davidtc is arguing that the default sexual orientation is “whatever is on tap” and that environmental pressures (in human case, mostly social, in other animals, other things) are what lead to the “fringe” cases of straight or gay. That other creatures don’t have an “orientation” but rather a full range of options which for fairly obvious reasons frequently but may not always work out to what looks like “heterosexual” to us, and less frequently work out to looking like “homosexual” to us. When really the animal kingdom (including humans) does not, he appears to be claiming, default to straight OR gay. He’s not arguing against animals being of fluid / open sexuaity, he’s arguing that almost ALL animals (including most humans) are of fluid/open sexuality.

                A long-term monogamous relationship with another individual is not determinative of “orientation” in any animals, any more than it is in people (try to tell me I can’t be bisexual because I’m married to Jaybird, and I might just start using fighting words). So all the long-term homosexual relationships in the world (and there are a billion of them) don’t prove jack squat about animal’s orientation, EXCEPT (!!!! very important) it definitely proves that animals are not all heterosexual.

                It falsifies the hypothesis of normative 100 percent heterosexuality, and also the hypothesis that the only reason people have homosexual relationships is because we’re “fallen” or “sinful” or “corrupt” – or at least it does so for most believing Christians, since the idea of sinful animals – of morally good animals and morally bad animals within a single wild species – is … nonsensical by orthodox theological terms.

                I have some sympathy for his argument (though not for all the ways he’s tried to argue it – the worm thing was particularly painful), partly because there is a fair amount of historical evidence in support of it, but more because when I was a newly out baby dyke, the idea that nearly everyone was Just Like Me (ie bisexual) and most people were just in denial about being Just Like Me, was extremely comforting. These days I am extremely skeptical and wary of any intellectual hypothesis that I find very comforting (particularly when I have so often seen people using this exact hypothesis to justify all kinds of abusive bullshit in the name of “resisting normative culture” and whatnot), so I’ve stepped away from it.

                I am pretty much an agnostic as to how things would shake out in a society where we didn’t have to deal with all the crap we do have to deal with around gender and sexuality, and I agree that there is compelling genetic evidence that SOME constraints on orientation are in fact predetermined (and that’s before even getting into epigenetics, womb hormones, etc etc etc.)

                Still, if someone is arguing that the default is “I don’t care about the gender of my sexual partner”, getting frustrated that they don’t get that all the examples of homosexuality in the animal kingdom PROVE that animals care about the gender of their sexual partner (for whatever definition of “care” doesn’t require consciousness) is… intellectually not as strong as it could be.

                You’d be better off proving that lots of animals actively reject either same or different sex partners under ALL conditions, or at least that there are, say, birds who never mate except with EITHER same OR different gendered partners, than pointing to long-term relationships…

                And whatever you’re doing, @j_a, if you could avoid claiming that a single long-term homosexual pairing means a homosexual (as opposed to “non-heterosexual”) individual, that would be much appreciated. Bisexuality does exist. It would also be great if you could avoid responding to someone claiming “they could all be bi” with “it’s not like one bird is somehow acting female and has tricked the other bird” type descriptions of your opponent’s claim. Because I have to work real hard not to see that as indicative of weird stereotypes you have about bisexual people. (I’m pretty sure you just weren’t following David’s argument, but he did say “they could all be bi” in so many words, so I’m pretty puzzled as to how you got from that statement to what you were arguing against in your follow up comment.)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:

                @maribou

                This relates to what I argue above.

                I remember an eye-opening conversation I had with a bisexual man about 7 years ago. It was at a week-long institute related to matters of diversity so these topics were floating in the air. He explained how people assumed he was “done” being bisexual when he entered into a long-term committed relationship with a woman. He talked about how he enjoyed being penetrated anally by his girlfriend and how such acts can be as much about power, control, and empathy (in positive, healthy ways) as it can be about “sexual orientation”.

                It made me really consider how we use these terms. What sexual orientation is the guy who has had romantic relationships exclusively with women but was curious about being anally penetrated and one time explored this with a man? Is he gay? Bisexual? What if he explored it with a woman instead? Does that change things? What if he never explored it but masturbates to gay porn?

                We keep trying to squeeze people into neat little boxes based on really limited information and it just never seems to work.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

                @kazzy Overall, I think the healthiest thing is to let people choose their own boxes and tell them to f off if they start trying to mess with other people’s (unless those other people are actively working against the first people’s civil rights and even then it’s awkward).

                As for the specific act of anal penetration, I think people’s opinions about it are so heavily weighted by society’s feelings about masculinity and feminity, and the overall social estimation of the former above the latter, such that it gets really mixed up and confusing to even try to discuss it.

                Given that lots of women enjoy anal penetration, as a woman, I find it kind of frustrating that men enjoying it must in some social sense be pushed to question their straightness. It’s about as logical as a societal belief that if women enjoy receiving cunnilingus, they must question their straightness. (Pretty sure such a thing did historically exist but these days it’s baffling.) Not to mention that plenty of gay men really don’t enjoy it at all.

                It’s all wrapped up in this huge amount of fear and judgment and kyriarchy that makes my head hurt. And makes me say “HOW IS THIS EVEN A QUESTION??? WHY ARE WE GOING TO JUDGE SOMEONE ELSE’S SEXUAL IDENTITY???”

                Which is not me yelling at you, because the society we live in IS the society we live in and so these questions do get asked and are part of the environment.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:

                I concur.

                Generally speaking, I really don’t care what folks do in their relationships (provided they are voluntary and consensual and all that). I mean, I care insofar as for many (most?) of us our sexual orientation (and identity) are important parts of who we are so I seek to honor whoever people are… but otherwise I really try to embody a “you do you” mentality.

                I’ve had well-intentioned folks ask things like, “I heard so-and-so experimented in college. Doesn’t that make him gay/bisexual/whatever?” I just don’t understand this type of thinking. It doesn’t *make* him anything… other than someone who once upon a time experimented in college.

                And this thinking isn’t even limited to trying to define others. Because this mindset is so pervasive, many folks are left wondering, “Well, hmmm… I think I’m straight but I also am kinda curious about blah. So what does that make me?” Or other version of such questions. And these questions can really torment people, especially when coupled with the various pressures you describe.Report

              • Avatar J_A in reply to Maribou says:

                @maribou

                Because there is really nothing I disagree with you on what you just said, I won’t say much. Except to vouch to you that in no way I was intending to belittle the existence nce or experience of bisexuals.

                For using words that somehow could be interpreted that way, and hurt good people, I apologize. I’ll do my best to express myself better in the future

                CheersReport

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Maribou says:

                Wow, I’m really glad someone else is following my argument, because for a while I thought I might be talking gibberish or something.

                @maribou
                It seems to me that @DavidTC is arguing that the default sexual orientation is “whatever is on tap” and that environmental pressures (in human case, mostly social, in other animals, other things) are what lead to the “fringe” cases of straight or gay.

                Yes, basically. Although a better way to say it might be that everyone can *develop* an attraction to anything, and social cues cause humans to mostly develop specific ones, or sometimes not.

                I have some sympathy for his argument (though not for all the ways he’s tried to argue it – the worm thing was particularly painful)

                Well, the way I said the worm thing was poor, perhaps, but the point remains….worm hormones and development aren’t *anything* like our own, so it seems rather dubious that somehow ‘X% of the population is homosexual’ got built to life *way back then*, and exists to this day, despite everything about sexual development changing since then.

                Likewise, all this talk about how it might be hormones in the womb…and then using birds as examples. Huh?

                Inveterates, bird, and mammals cannot be operating by anything close to the same mechanism in producing ‘some percentage of gay members’.

                partly because there is a fair amount of historical evidence in support of it

                The historic evidence is the real key. I find it interesting that no one seems to have tackled my ‘Almost all men in ancient Rome appear to somehow be bisexual’ point, or explain how that could possibly happen under our current ideas of how homosexuality is ‘sprinkled’ in the population via some biological cause.

                Everyone instead wants to point out gay animals exist, although what they actually end up pointing out is that homosexual sex exists in animals.

                These days I am extremely skeptical and wary of any intellectual hypothesis that I find very comforting (particularly when I have so often seen people using this exact hypothesis to justify all kinds of abusive bullshit in the name of “resisting normative culture” and whatnot), so I’ve stepped away from it.

                Ah…see, the thing is, the reason I brought this up, is I think the *current* theory is the same sort of comforting hypothesis.

                Especially since the theory was invented with basically no evidence and then decades have been spent searching for evidence, and the closest we can find is ‘Some genes are apparently slightly more likely to make you gay’.

                It’s not like we said ‘I wonder why people are gay? Let’s track it down’. Nope…we leap right to ‘It must be genetic’, to short circuit it to being like race, and thus people opposed to it are like racists.

                The fact that, apparently, we *need* to justify people having the right to have a relationship with who they want to live is pretty screwed up, though, and I see how it’s a *comforting* theory. And there’s a reason I’m talking about how it’s not a great theory *here* instead of somewhere that gay rights aren’t generally respected.

                You’d be better off proving that lots of animals actively reject either same or different sex partners under ALL conditions, or at least that there are, say, birds who never mate except with EITHER same OR different gendered partners, than pointing to long-term relationships…

                I didn’t realize the single pairing problem of being unable to tell that from ‘everyone is bisexual with a slight tendency towards straight’ vs. ‘some gay, some straight’, and how we needed to find a ‘gay individuals’ in a species that mated multiple times, until I was literally typing the post where I pointed that out! So I had to do a lot of checking to see if we *did* had that, which would produce an interesting counter-example.

                There actually *is* a counter-example species. I keep waiting for someone to mention it. There are some problems with using it…especially since not a particularly close relative, and the behavior is only seen in under domestication and might be due to selective breeding. I wasn’t going to mention it until people arguing with me grasped the point that homosexual behavior in animals is not sort of disproof of what I’m saying. But it’s sheep. Domestic sheep can have gay males.

                Anyway, barring that single weird example where there do seem to be *some* gay male members of an otherwise entirely straight species, almost all homosexual behavior in animals seems to be explained as every species have *all* members basically at the same location on the Kinsey scale. That number can vary between species, sure, that seems logical (I would also suggest it changes based on environment.), but it seems to be the same thing for the whole species.

                And, although I haven’t mentioned it, this also solves the ‘How on earth would this be a trait that evolved?’ question. If all animals are just bi, then all that actually means is that population growth is slowed. I.e., it’s the same reason that animals often can only have offspring at certain times of the year.Report

              • Avatar J_A in reply to DavidTC says:

                @davidtc

                I don’t understand your argument.

                It seems to be something like “every vertebrate is a five and whether they pair with same or opposite sex is almost random, except humans, because”

                And I know you are not making this argument, hence I’m lost.

                I am aware of gay rams (not sure about lesbian ewes, one way or the other). But sheep do not long-term pair like most birds do. Hence birds’ paring behaviour (opposite and same sex) seems to me closer to human pairings.

                Like humans, same sex pairing birds do switch, they can have an opposite sex mate the following season. Or they may stay with their same sex mate, and spend energy again hatching a stone.

                The (current) human pairing and mating strategy is fairly uncommon among mammals. Long-term paired couples staying together and supporting each other and their progeny exclusively for several mating seasons is rare (though necessary given the abnormally slow human maturing process). Most mammals mate through on night stands and the female cares for the progeny alone. Some species forms harems with one dominant male only. Some species have mostly female groups, where males can be accepted temporarily for mating purposes and then thrown out again. But the (mostly) monogamous long-term pairing strategy is rare in mammals.

                But it’s fairly common in birds

                We tend to think that because birds are further away from us in the evolution tree they must be dumber than closer animals. But the Top of the Pops in the planet’s intelligence chart includes several species of birds (an extremely interesting subject in itself). The fact that (relatively) intelligent creatures with a pairing (not just mating) strategy very similar to humans (both parents mutually supporting each other while the chicks hatch and grow, and staying with the same partner for several seasons) make them a good comparison with human behaviour, at least when pairing is involved.

                I keep using the word pairing as opposed to mating. Mating is Tab A in Slot B (or slot C). And then everyone involved goes it’s merry way to what they were doing before. Pairing involves both members of the couple investing energy and resources building a refuge for the progeny, taking turns feeding themselves, bringing food to each other. And when the chicks leave the nest, the couple parts away until the next breeding season, when many of them will look for their former partner to repeat the process with, in preference to a new one. Humans do this, many birds do this. Most birds (most of the time) do this with an opposite sex partner. Some birds, sometimes, do this with a same sex partner. The birds that do this, same sex pairing, at least in captivity, are few and far between If we want to try to understand the mechanism that triggers this behavior, in humans and in other vertebrates, looking at birds might be a good place to start.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to J_A says:

                @j_a
                It seems to be something like “every vertebrate is a five and whether they pair with same or opposite sex is almost random, except humans, because”

                And I know you are not making this argument, hence I’m lost.

                That *is* what I am asserting! I don’t know why it’s hard to believe me.

                Except not *five*.

                Actually, the Kinsey scale goes from 0 to 6, so 5 means ‘mostly homosexual’, but I assume you meant ‘in the middle’. I am not asserting exactly in the middle. Most species seem to have mostly heterosexual behavior. I am asserting that different species fall into difference places, and might even vary based on external things. (I don’t know why I’m ‘asserting’ that, it’s pretty well accepted as far.)

                The point I am making is that no species, or at least almost no species, behave the way that humans supposedly are programmed to. Specifically that in that a majority are straight, and a minority are gay, and another minority are bi.

                That pattern simply is not found in nature. Maybe some male sheep, and that certainly warrants more study!(1) But the pattern in nature is, basically, is that *some* sexual activity behavior, of varying amounts is homosexual But this behavior is, in almost all circumstances, *equally distributed across the population*.

                Which is information that should *disprove* how the ‘some people are born with a switch flipped to gay’ theory about how it works in human. It certainly doesn’t *help* that theory!

                I mean, there could be some sort of unique-to-sheep-and-human switch, yes, but people asserting that idea have to, basically, *overcome* the fact that all bonobos and gorillas and all our closest relatives do not seem to have any gay members…they just seem to enjoy homosexual sex along with heterosexual sex, mostly all of them.

                1) Although I will *also* point out that sheep are, weirdly, one of the more socialized animals, they’re very herd based. Maybe male sheep are *also* socialized into being gay or straight, in some unknown manner.

                Like humans, same sex pairing birds do switch, they can have an opposite sex mate the following season. Or they may stay with their same sex mate, and spend energy again hatching a stone.

                You do realize this means they actually *aren’t* gay, right?

                It’s like everyone saw that ‘Hey, DavidTC is claiming homosexuality isn’t genetic, everyone run to the armory and grab the gay-animal weapons to shoot that down’, without actually checking what my actual claim was.

                But homosexual behavior in animals points towards my theory much more than the currently accepted theory!Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to J_A says:

                So if you are looking for examples of animals that enter into long-term homosexual pairing, birds are your best bet.

                I think you read what I said exactly backwards. Long term pairs is exactly what I *wasn’t* looking for. Long term cannot tell us anything.

                Assume an animal that pairs off exactly once. If 90% of them are straight, and 10% of them are gay, you will get 90% opposite sex couples and 10% same sex couples.

                And now assume that every single animal is, instead, a 2 on the Kinsey scale. Let’s say they’re all 80% attraction towards the opposite gender, and 20% towards their own. You will get…hey, look, 90% opposite sex couples and 10% same sex couples!

                You literally cannot tell which of these is true. You can’t use ‘permanently paired off’ animals to tell you *anything at all* except the odds of individual events. You can’t say ‘That animal is gay’ with sample size of a *single* relationship!

                The only way to tell if there are actually specific *homosexual* animals in an otherwise heterosexual population is find an animal that pairs off *multiple times*, and point to some animals that *only* seem to want to pair off with animals of their own gender, as opposed to everyone else who wants to pair off with the opposite gender.

                But in reality, all examples of gay animals *either* appears to be that animals sometimes pair bond with the opposite gender, or they’re a species that doesn’t do that and they all seem *bisexual*…and considering the first thing can *also* be explained by bisexuality, I think the studies *actually* show that basically a lot of animal species are bisexual, not that they have specific gay members.

                Before accepting evidence of gay animals as genetic anything, I demand someone actually provide an example of a species where there are specific animals that appears to be attracted to *multiple* animals of their own gender and *not* animals of the opposite gender.(1)

                You know, like *humans* are supposed to work?

                1) And it is in the context of *that* that I mention transgender animals, and point out the setup should *actually* be ‘in addition to the opposite sex mating pool, there should be a different mating pool of animals of a single gender’ instead of ‘some percentage of the population appears to be on the wrong side of the opposite sex mating pool’. But we can worry about that after someone actually *points out* an animal that qualifies for my first condition.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 in reply to DavidTC says:

              Heh. If we’re playing that game, please explain to me how it can rooted in womb environment when it’s observed in *birds* and *worms*.

              Seriously? This isn’t obvious? I think you need to take a step back for a second, because that’s a pretty bad response.

              While neither birds nor worms have wombs, they have equivalent — environmental effects on eggs for birds. I believe most worms are hermaphrodites, which makes “sexual orientation” a bit moot, and also aren’t vertebrates which I was talking about.

              The point about bringing up birds is because, as noted, they often pair bond — even for life — and are distant enough from primates to point to a sizeable evolutionary pressure to keep sexual orientation as a ‘thing’ and that, given it’s in birds, is pretty clearly biological.

              Unless you think birds, sheep, human, and chimp societies are so clearly alike as to lead to it spontaneously happening as some weird ‘fetish’.

              I’m not sure why you’re so determined to think it isn’t biologically rooted. You are not only dismissing quite a bit of really varied research, but simple facts like the existence of homosexuality across the vertebrate kingdom. Facts that pretty thoroughly demonstrate some very sizable, if not total, biological component.

              So much so that you don’t really need to say it’s a gene, or birth order, or womb environment — or all of that PLUS magic space rays, to point out that it’s biological in origin (and apparently useful towards gene survival). Otherwise you wouldn’t find gay sheep, penguins, and chimps.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Morat20 says:

                You are not only dismissing quite a bit of really varied research, but simple facts like the existence of homosexuality across the vertebrate kingdom.

                Why on earth do you think the existence of homosexuality across the the vertebrate kingdom would *disprove* anything I’m saying?

                And I have, at this point, *repeatedly* explained that ‘homosexuality’ in other animals looks *nothing like* how human homosexuality supposedly works.

                There are exactly three things see in the animal kingdom, only one of which *could* be the same as ‘some animals might be genetically predisposed towards homosexuality’, but it might not be.

                1) There are animals that take opposite gender roles, and are treated as such. This…isn’t homosexuality.
                2) There are species that have homosexual sex. As in, the *species* does that. The entire species appears to actually be bisexual.
                3) There are animals that pair bond with the same gender…except that this could easily be the same as (2), and that pair bond just happened to come up ‘same gender’ on the dice roll.

                Whenever people point to ‘This specific animal is gay.’, they are *always* pointing to (3). But, as I said, there’s absolutely no evidence that specific animal *is* gay, vs just the entire species having a X% chance of ending up in same sex pair bonds. You can’t prove that via a single instance.

                And, oddly, while there are a lot of species that mates with multiple partners…no one seems to have found any ‘gay’ members of those species. Like, at all.

                Odd, that.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Morat20 says:

        Heh. Once I took some silly online test that was supposed to guess your Kinsey number, and I came back “error, we cannot compute your Kinsey number.”

        I doubt they had many sapphic trans gals in their training data.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Morat20 says:

        “Fetishes tend to develop during puberty”
        … or slightly before. Ages 9 on up, really. (well, with improved nutrition, maybe down to 7 or so).Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to DavidTC says:

      “If people can change their sexual attraction to furries (Which cannot possibly be an option anywhere in our genes, and people cannot possibly be born with an attraction to.), ”

      American furries are simply gay people who don’t want to admit they’re gay, and don’t want to admit that being a furry is remotely a sexual thing for them.

      Please remember that fetishes are different from “things I like.” Fetishes are things that people require.

      And if you’re going to go with a fetish, why not go with the snuff fetish of “I have to have sex with someone that I then murder”? I mean, that’s REALLY not a good idea, biologically speaking.Report

    • “I’m pretty sure that deliberately changing sexual orientation would, at the very least, involve some masturbation involving images of the ‘correct’ gender, and probably some actual sex.”

      I’m curious whether you’ve actually tried this yourself. I can assure you that virtually every adult gay man did try at least the masturbation part during adolescence, and many went on to try actual sex.

      So far as I’ve heard, it hasn’t worked for any of us. If you didn’t spontaneously have the desire beforehand, the experience won’t help you out.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        It must be accompanied by the administration of powerful drugs and random, short, sharp, electric shocks.Report

        • You might program an aversion to sex entirely that way, or even an aversion to certain kinds of sexual behavior, using the Clockwork Orange method. But I can’t conceive of that “teaching” someone to find pleasure in a sexual act which they didn’t find appealing before this cruel conditioning.

          In other words, maybe you could make me “a-,” but I don’t think you can make me gay.Report

      • Oh man, I’m sorry, @jason-kuznicki . That sounds like a very sad and forlorn and lonely experience. Maybe that’s a rite of passage that pretty much most gay teenagers sort of had to get through to realize, you might be able to fake out others socially, but you can never fake out your own libido.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        I’m curious whether you’ve actually tried this yourself. I can assure you that virtually every adult gay man did try at least the masturbation part during adolescence, and many went on to try actual sex.

        I didn’t say it *could* be changed, I just said I’m not sure it *can’t*.

        And, incidentally, if I actually did manage to try that, to become attracted to men that way, then wouldn’t the assertions just be that I was actually bi the entire time? Saying ‘every adult gay man tried and failed’ did try is ignoring the possibility that adult *bisexual* men tried too…and succeeded!

        But unlike the rest of my theory, there’s really no evidence to support my doubt there, I will admit. And there certainly are things that end up so deep in the psyche they cannot be changed, and sexual orientation could be that thing.

        What I was really just trying to say that, as far as I know, there’s never been any actual, *non-stupid* studies of trying to broaden someone’s sexual orientation.

        There’s one side that has, as an article of Faith, that homosexuality is entirely genetic and nothing anyone does can possible change it.

        And then the complete morons who run around talking about how it’s evil, who don’t understand it at all, and think it can be changed by doing manly things at Man Camp, which is certainly *not* any sort of logical way to try to change it. This is basically akin to trying to build a cold fusion reactor out of grass and mystical handwaving. It doesn’t work, but that’s not really evidence that cold fusion doesn’t work.

        Perhaps there have been actual scientific studies, measuring arousal responses to different things before, and after, different things that could *plausibly* alter human attraction. If so, I’m unaware of them. If not, I’d like to see some.

        But mostly…under my theory of how sexual orientation works, it could *hypothetically* be mutable later in life. It still might *not be* in practice, because the human brain is weird.Report

        • I don’t claim to know the origin of homosexuality; for all I know, it might have multiple origins, each of which leads to a condition that to us appears more or less identical. This ought not to be a strange hypothesis; lots of things may cause people to be tall, for example, or to be intelligent.

          Why are there, as you say, no non-stupid studies of how to change sexual orientation? I suspect it is because, at least in the modern world, non-stupid and basically decent people aren’t terribly interested in pursuing this research.

          The attempt to manage and control the sexual orientation of others is wrong not because science says it’s doomed to failure, but because that attempt is unseemly. And it is unseemly because it proposes to treat as either children or disease cases a group of adults who otherwise might live happy, well-adjusted lives.

          You can be bisexual if you feel like it. Or not. Your choice. I don’t propose to tell you how to live your life. As for me, maybe I’ll change. It’s true that I can’t rule it out. But I’ll tell you this: If something — a pill, say, or a series of videos, or whatever — were capable of making me change, I would avoid it like it was poison. I would much prefer to remain the way that I am.Report

          • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            Like, if you had a pill that would make me not-trans — I mean fuck that. What would it even mean? I was still born in that body. I still grew up that person. Now I am this person.

            I mean, what would you do to me? You could kill me and replace me with someone “veronica-like,” but that does not sound enticing.

            If you had a pill that would make me “basically like a cis woman, except I’d have my memories,” sure I guess I’d take it. I suppose. It would be nice to avoid all the transphobia.

            But I dunno. Honestly, even with all the bullshit, being trans is kinda cool. I don’t know how to explain it. There is nothing wrong with being trans. Changing your gender and physical sex is really not such a big deal. It’s just, a thing. I did it. Yay me.

            There is room in the world for weird bodies.

            So do I have regrets? Sure. One big one: there are no do-overs, that I waited so long. No pill will fix that. All I can do it work to help others see sooner.

            (Which is why I share so many stories. Which is why I’m pretty open about my feelings. Others who feel as I felt need to know they ain’t alone.)Report

          • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            Why are there, as you say, no non-stupid studies of how to change sexual orientation?

            There haven’t been many “non-stupid” studies (although I suspect if you look back into the 50s or so you might find some), but there sure have been a LOT of attempts at changing it.

            Many that processed hundreds of people, utilized abusive methods more akin to brainwashing, and often had very willing participants who wanted to change.

            They were…not successful.

            Now maybe a scalpel would work where a hammer failed, but like I said before — this is a world where “homosexuality = torture or death” in a lot of places, and that still doesn’t stop it.

            That’s pretty hard evidence it’s not a social construction. (Again, bisexuality may be a lot more widespread than we understand — and that’s stomped down by social methods).Report

          • “If something — a pill, say, or a series of videos, or whatever — were capable of making me change, I would avoid it like it was poison. I would much prefer to remain the way that I am.”

            This. This whole comment really but especially the quoted part.Report

        • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to DavidTC says:

          There are many different kinds of bisexuals. One kind may say, like the gay or the straight, “I’ve always known this.” Or since puberty when sexual feelings start to come strongly.

          But there are others who have always known they are attracted to only one gender and then find themselves surprised to be attracted to the other. It just happens. And it also doesn’t negate their earlier attractions.

          David Geffen, Clive Davis and Harris Wofford all tell life tales that fit this pattern.Report

  10. Avatar veronica d says:

    Oh gawd not this again.

    Look, most of the studies on gender-non-conforming children are using the older DSM definitions of gender identity disorder. The new standards are more strict. Likewise, children are not eligible for HRT until age 16. They are eligible for puberty blockers at the onset of puberty, but these are reversible.

    Granted, starting puberty later than one’s peers does not come at zero cost, but neither does puberty itself. Taking the wrong-sex hormones is horror, whether they are produced by your own gonads or if you take them as a pill.

    The studies that show widespread “desistance” are looking at GNC kids as young as six. That is, if a six-year-old natal boy wants to wear skirts, he can be entered into this study. If he later turns out gay, he counts as non-trans. However, please understand, this is not measuring the population of (for example) twelve-year-olds begging for hormone therapy.

    We have no real studies on the latter group. Nor do we have any studies using the new DSM definitions, which require a persistent cross-gender identity. In other words, in the new definition, a natal male must say directly “I am a girl” or “I wish I was a girl” or something similar. The older definitions did not require this.

    Of course, our critics are happy to use the older data without comment. Cuz duh.

    Serano talks about this stuff here, responding to a different article, but it’s the same garbage: https://medium.com/@juliaserano/detransition-desistance-and-disinformation-a-guide-for-understanding-transgender-children-993b7342946e#.xzi6v91tm

    You can google “serano desistance” and read much more, if you care to.

    I have no idea why I am trans. I just know I am. I honestly don’t care why. Like seriously what difference does it make? I know this, taking hormones changed my body in ways that profoundly change how I feel, like I cannot describe. I am a different person now. I feel awake and alive. That old me was smothering. There are no words. I cannot even. It is beyond.

    No one can prove they are depressed. There is no test. You can deny depression exists, but to do would be monstrous. So it goes for gender dysphoria.

    Of course, we face massive social prejudice, which is so easy to measure and reveal. And so that goes.

    But it is worth it. It is literally worth being hated by 40% of people in this country to have these changes.

    The mystery is, why do I want both the physical changes and the social changes. One can understand the idea of “body mapping,” that my brain thinks my body was supposed to be a certain way. One can also understand social gender roles, that I want to be “she.” But then, I’m hardly a typical woman when it comes to force of personality. So what does it all mean?

    I don’t know. But people like me are common enough. So, there is a correlation. Where there is correlation, there is some kind causality at work, some link, or else some underlying cause.

    No one knows how gender works.

    Personally I suspect the pre-natal hormones thing is the most promising. Can we ever prove it?

    Maybe. Until then, hormone therapy works. GRS works. Orchi works. etc. These things change our lives, to something so much better.

    This is how we won over the medical community, despite a few despicable holdouts. It is not “foundational science,” cuz no has any foundations either way. But while doctors would prefer to have foundational science before they have a cure, they’ll take the cure if they have it. For trans people, they have the cure.

    There is really no serious debate in the medical community, that for trans people, gender transition is miraculous. If anti-depressants worked half as well as HRT does — how great that would be.

    But the haters, they gonna hate. They gonna lie. They gonna spin.

    They’re fucking monsters and they’re trying to kill us. They are equivalent to Nazis.Report

  11. Avatar Fortytwo says:

    That link is hilarious. I thought it was real for a minute.Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to Fortytwo says:

      I assume you mean the RTN link? OMG yes! I laughed my ass off at that.

      My favorite part, besides the “multiples” bit (“but without the mess”!), was this:

      Autumn: If he pays. It’s nice to be treated well. I get to be bitch, nasty–whatever–and then–well, look, I only ‘date’ betas. Those guys will roll over for anything. If I don’t feel in the mood for anything, I just get harsh and they [ go limp ]. Really you don’t have to put out with those guys if you don’t want to. Just string ’em along.

      Whoever is writing that fucking site is a genius. Like, they just nail it.Report

  12. Avatar trizzlor says:

    This report does a really nasty thing that hasn’t been mentioned. They have a section discussing the incontrovertible evidence that LGBT individuals are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and self-harm. One of way of analyzing this kind of outcome is the “social stress model” and the authors document various studies that lend support to this model for LGBT mental health. They conclude the section with the following caveat:

    Assuming that a single model can explain all of the mental health risks faced by non-heterosexuals can mislead clinicians and therapists charged with helping this vulnerable subpopulation. The social stress model deserves further research, but should not be assumed to offer a complete explanation of the causes of mental health disparities if clinicians and policymakers want to adequately address the mental health challenges faced by the LGBT community. More research is needed to explore the causes of, and solutions to, these important public health challenges.

    So far so fine. Of course a no single analytical model is going to explain all of the complex mental health behaviors. The question is *how much* of the effect can be explained by various simple models, and it seems like the social stress research is still too young to quantify that. Importantly, the authors don’t present any evidence to discount this model, just warn that it may not be sufficient. Fine. Now let’s see how this gets covered in the popular science article at The Signal:

    But they argue that the evidence suggests that this theory “does not seem to offer a complete explanation for the disparities in the outcomes.” It appears that social stigma and stress alone cannot account for the poor physical and mental health outcomes that LGBT-identified people face.

    Hmmm. So the quote is taken out of context and massaged from a caveat (we don’t know how much this explains) into a conclusion (we know this doesn’t explain everything). This is then massaged further in the next sentence to claim that stigma and stress cannot account for mental health outcomes – not just that the analytical model may be a poor fit, but that the actual experiences themselves do not account for the outcome. And just to make it really clear, here’s the heading of that section:

    Stigma, Prejudice Don’t Explain Tragic Outcomes

    So the report, and especially the coverage is shit. This example is particularly nasty because it is a clear attempt to normalize gay bashing and it will get more LGBT folks hurt. But it crosses multiple lines that should disqualify it from any academic consideration:

    * No peer review : Look I get that it can be hard to get controversial work published, but there are things you can do to demonstrate the spirit of peer review. If you’re worried about editorial pressure, you can set up a peer reviewed journal with open-minded editors. Worried about biased reviewers? Publish the reviews with the report so readers can see the bias for themselves. Solicit open feedback from others in the field. Push for coverage in critical venues. etc. etc. Publishing it in your glam journal with no peer review (which is edited by non-scientist political pundits) and then getting your buddy at Heritage to do the coverage without asking for a single external opinion is decidedly NOT how you demonstrate faithful intent.

    * No gene = non-genetic : This is a classic. Geneticists are very good at quantifying the total contribution of genes on on trait, you just have to get enough twins with the phenotype and do some simple math. But identifying the actual causal mechanisms is extremely hard and requires years if not decades of biological work to figure out the mechanism. Tons of traits that we *know for sure* are highly heritable – like height – have zero causally validated genes. Anytime you see a criticism along the lines of “but there’s no gene for X” you know you’re being taken for a ride. And this report starts the very first preamble with that criticism.

    * Suggestive in the study becomes conclusive in the press : The above example is pretty egregious but the whole report is filled with evidence-free hand wringing over highly significant results, which then get summarized in the coverage as “no consensus” I guess we should at least take heart that the pseudo-science has moved from “gays are definitely all pedophiles” to “gosh, sexuality is so complicated we just can’t conclude anything”.

    I’m glad Jon wrote about this topic and I appreciate the skepticism in the OP, but, man, this is really just a big con job slapped together with academic formatting and jargon.Report

    • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to trizzlor says:

      This is something to keep in mind regarding the is and the ought being presented here: The authors, both of whom are doctrinaire Roman Catholics, following Thomism, and incorporating Aristotle’s eudaimonia, believe it’s not possible to flourish — that is experience true happiness — in a sexual relationship that violates the natural law. Their understanding of such, of course is sexual acts that are in principle procreative. They also have to be unitive and you have to be married too; but I’m not sure if those parts come from the natural law alone like the procreative part does. You may experience pleasure; but it’s the kind of pleasure an addictive substance gives you; it doesn’t make you happy when the effect wears off. You feel worse the next day.

      This is a hidden premise that drives their research. No amount of facts in the world they encounter would convince them otherwise.

      I’m fairly convinced that the stress model explains the majority of negative mental health outcomes. It’s interesting that gays appear (I know the data is questioned) to have disproportionate talent and anecdotes abound of gay success. Yet, you still have scenarios of mental wounds inflicted in the coming out process because you experience being a minority in your own family, often with hostile parents, or at least parents who are disappointed.

      That taxes mental health even if your parents end up coming around (Jason K. wrote at length on this). Or think of someone as successful as Peter Thiel. He comes from a more traditional Christian background and is in some sense, still a Christian. And is close with his family. He was out to a smaller circle of people but may not have been out to his family (?) when Gawker outed him. He was hurt. I think his vindictive actions against them were driven by these demons.

      The only non-stigma factor that resonates with me is because gays have fewer kids and, tend to be better educated and have decent jobs, there is more time to party and with that more opportunities to drink and do recreational drugs, whereas marriage and child rearing tends to cause folks to settle down. Excessive partying alone can lead to negative mental health and addiction issues.

      But we are also dealing with a crop of people who have been harmed by stigma.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to Jon Rowe says:

        Hey Jon, I notice that you don’t actually mention wealth, just fewer kids / better educated / decent jobs – but were you aware that LGBTQ people are also more likely to be poor than their heterosexual counterparts? I think poverty is at least as likely to be contributing to poor mental health as partying / excess leisure time. This coming from someone who both has been poor, and has had excess leisure time some of which was devoted to partying (though I never did any illegal drugs other than 2nd-hand) … both of those things are pretty far off for me now, but the poverty was infinitely more dangerous and soul-crushing. (Not to blow off the other problem, just saying if I had to pick between them, I wouldn’t leave poverty off my list…)Report

        • Avatar Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

          Oh, if you (or any of our readers) would like something less Atlantic-y, there’s also the Williams Institute report.Report

          • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to Maribou says:

            Look at what else the Williams Institute found. The problem isn’t with them; I think they do good work overall. The problem is with M.V. Lee Badgett who plays games with numbers. She’s operating according to faulty premises and that is unpopular stigmatize groups should by their nature be economically disenfranchised because of their unpopular status.

            That’s not the way our market oriented system works. No doubt, unpopular stigmatized groups can be victimized in some way. But you can have a good job and education while suffering some kind of grievance.Report

        • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to Maribou says:

          I don’t have the time or interest to go through the Atlantic article; but gay affluence is no myth.

          It could be that LGBT are likely to be both richer and poorer (on both ends). But gays are better educated and more productive on the higher ends. I’ve seen conflicting data; but that which tries to debunk gay over-achievement usually plays funny games with controls.

          Every single gay enclave I can think of ranges from the slightly more expensive than average to the unaffordable.Report

          • Avatar Maribou in reply to Jon Rowe says:

            @jon-rowe So does that mean you read the Williams Institute report then? Because “there are some LGBTQ people who are affluent, perhaps proportionally more than straight people” is very different from “gays are affluent and I will form hypotheses about the gay population as a whole based on that premise.”

            The LGBTQ people who are in poverty are also extremely unlikely to live in gay enclaves. And from studies I can’t find at the moment but have seen frequently, they are also more likely to be people of color (but poorer than straight-identifying people of color), and more likely to be among the LGBTQ people who are struggling with mental health issues.

            The effect of poverty on mental health (and vice versa) is so well-known as to be banal by now, but I could probably dig up some cites if anyone needs them.Report

            • Avatar Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

              (sorry, my comment and your comment crossed, so my comment does not respond to your most recent comment. i think it still pretty much stands though.)Report

            • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to Maribou says:

              There are distributions in every social group. It’s absurd to think if someone is gay they must be rich, educated, etc. I’m assuming the people who observe gays tend to be better off, economically, in order to argue against antidiscrimination laws aren’t that stupid (maybe they are). Rather it makes gays more like Jews and Asians who also have their share of poorer and lesser educated types, are discriminated against and marginalized, but on average will do better on certain measures.

              [I edited this comment as I noticed the way I originally wrote it didn’t make sense.]Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to Jon Rowe says:

                @jon-rowe But what the Williams group (and other) data is saying is that gay people are proportionately more likely to be poor than straight people.

                And what I’m saying is that one data point right there, IF one must look for explanations in addition to stress and stigma, is a pretty good extra explanation. And that the segment of LGBTQ people who live in poverty are equally relevant to the conversation as the richer element, the types of folk who have lots of disposable income to party are.

                And that if we’re looking for explanations about a mental health gap, a poverty gap is a lot more plausible (given other research into poverty and mental health) than a partying gap is.

                That’s all.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jon Rowe says:

            @jon-rowe

            “While LGBT persons tend to have more education on average than the general population, evidence suggests that they make less money than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts (Factor and Rothblum, 2007; Fassinger, 2007; Egan, Edelman, & Sherrill, 2008). Studies on income differences for LGBT persons indicate that:
            Gay men earn up to 32 percent less than similarly qualified heterosexual men.
            Up to 64 percent of transgender people report incomes below $25,000.
            While 5.9 percent of the general population makes less than $10,000, 14 percent of LGBT individuals are within this income bracket.”
            Source: http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/lgbt.aspxReport

            • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to Kazzy says:

              “Gay men earn up to 32 percent less than similarly qualified heterosexual men.”

              The big picture is extremely complicated. That figure looks like it’s exaggerated. I don’t doubt if you have a handsome, Harvard educated openly straight man, competing with a handsome Harvard educated openly gay man, all other things being equal the gay man is likelier to be discriminated against and not get the job.

              But according to their populations — their baskets, if you will — the gay basket is likelier to have handsome ivy league educated types. In other words, it’s likelier to contain a “better” (more qualified) crop of apples. And that has positive effects. If you are discriminated against, you can take your talent elsewhere and make the firm that hires you better off, competitively and comparatively speaking.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jon Rowe says:

                “But according to their populations — their baskets, if you will — the gay basket is likelier to have handsome ivy league educated types.”

                Do you have any stats? Did you click the link? It also discussed the rates of homelessness that gay teens face.

                Is there a segment of the population that is gay and successful? Sure. Gay DINKs exist. But for a host of reasons, LGBTQ folks are overrepresented among the poor and homeless.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jon Rowe says:

                That seems limited to couples.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                Also I didn’t see any data on handsomeness.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jon Rowe says:

                Oh gawd, once you start looking at “census data” and “gay households” you’ve already lost the most vulnerable people, who are exactly the people we are talking about here. This is so obvious.

                Social science is hard. Of course we want solid numbers. We want good statistics, but we must also look at anecdotes — cuz often those are the only windows into parts of the world we’d never think to measure, which often are the parts of the world that are fundamentally difficult to measure.

                We’ve all read Seeing Like a State, yes?

                My friend, who I mentioned in the other post, the 18-year-old sex worker and rape survivor — let us call her Q. Okay, so Q still lives at home. Does Q show up in any census data? When she moves out, gets her own place, begins camming, is she going to respond to the census? Is she going to report her income, or why she earns that kind of income, or why she didn’t stay in school, etc?

                My friend Q is beautiful, but what if she was not? How many young women like her struggle with similar issues, but cannot turn to sex work? What do they do?

                I know quite a few. Basically, they suffer. They just suffer so fucking hard.

                Do they show up in your nice little measure of “gay households”?

                OMFG

                #####

                It’s hard for me to explain why I didn’t stay in school, but that decision certainly cost me a great deal. I cannot draw a simple line and say, “Oh it was all trans stuff,” cuz it was a lot of things. But I’ll say straight-up, being trans did not help. I mean, puberty shredded me. I cannot explain why or how much, it’s just — I was carrying such a weight.

                If only I had knows what trans was, that there were other people like me. I knew that “sex changes” existed, but what I saw in the media was so weird and alienating. I couldn’t.

                I didn’t know what hormones did. They never talked about that on the “My girlfriend is really a man” style tabloid shows.

                Blah. So I quit school and got stoned every day.

                I pulled myself out of it, but it took decades. During that time, I so seldom felt anything like real joy. I didn’t get to feel that until estrogen.

                #####

                Statistics are nice, but you cannot really measure the cost of all of this. You can find the LGBT success stories, those who make it into the “nice” middle class, and who respond to your surveys. Sure. Have fun with that.

                There is a reason Jesus walked among the lepers.Report

        • Avatar veronica d in reply to Maribou says:

          Yeah, the “affluent gay” is the “safe for television” gay. Such people exist. No doubt I count among their number (although I’m not a gay man). That said, tons of urban gays eek by doing service jobs. In fact, they in a sense do service jobs for me, inasmuch as I eat at the restaurants and drink at the clubs where they work. I tip well. It’s a thing.

          But I know so many stories, and most of my friends are not like me.

          Okay, obvious selection bias is obvious, but then, why should I, a well-salaried trans, necessarily have such a huge number of friends who are poor-as-fuck?

          Look, okay so I’m thinking of a girl I know. She’s eighteen. Last night she performed full service sex work, which I know because she messaged me to talk about it. This is not her first experience, although she is hardly a “veteran.”

          Will she become a “veteran”? What will that cost her?

          She is doing sex work to get money fast. She needs money fast because her uncle just moved back into the house, and he told her that if she ever tells anyone about the times he raped her, then he will kill her. She believes him. She is not sure if he will rape her again. She won’t tell anyone, ’cept people like me with a record of respecting privacy. She needs cash fast.

          (I’ve changed a few details, to protect her, but the important facts are basically true.)

          This is happening right now.

          The thing is, this is kinda normal. I mean, it’s a worse-than-average story among my friend circle, but not outlandishly so.

          She refuses to take money from me, which — I have complicated feelings about this. Honestly, I’d be hesitant to send it. I only have so much to give, and if I give to her, why not every other trans woman in a dire situation?

          There are so many. So so so many. I could list a dozen right now in some kind of desperate need.

          For example, a friend in a crappy southern state just had her hormones cut off, cuz her doctor moved, and the new doctors are assholes.

          This story repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats. I cannot express the full measure.

          She is poor in a shitty part of the country with little LGBT support. She cannot just bop over to a nice city with a nice LGBT clinic and sign some “informed consent” form and get back on ’mones.

          She is also young and quite pretty. She has fucked for money before, when she tried to make it in a better city. Will she do so again now, to get $$$ for gray market hormones? To move again?

          The first woman I mentioned, once she gets a nice chunk of cash, she’s gonna move out, get a place in a nearby LGBT-supportive city, and try to get into cam work. I hope that works out. Of all the sex work you can do, that seems the safest. The next safest, I guess, is porn. I’m not sure. I know at least five porn performers. I’m not sure what to think. Cam girls seem to have it easiest, if they can get a break.

          My friend has little education. She’s all fucked in the head cuz of drugs and rape. So yeah.

          Ten years ago I was a fat nerd guy. Back then I knew zero porn performers, zero full service sex workers. Since I transitioned I cannot count how many I know. Heck, both of my last two g/f’s were at one point or another full service girls.

          I’m almost certainly in the upper 1% of trans women, regarding income and circumstances. That bottom 20%, it’s a really fucked up world, with kids desperate to make it to the city, their families a nightmare to escape, living often five to an apartment, with all of our baggage and rapes and BPD and PTSD and FUCK IT ALL OMG YOU HAVE NO IDEA. If they are lucky they catch the attention of a decent social worker. Most are not that lucky.

          The HIV rate among trans women is like 26% or something. Gee I wonder why.

          #####

          I went on a date Saturday, with a really cool person. Basically, ze is a trans woman, but is doing the “non-binary” thing, hence the “ze” pronouns stuff. (It’s annoying, but whatevs.)

          Ze is near my age. Like me, ze transitioned later in life. We have much in common. So we talked about it, the long years, the lingering sadness that grew and grew, the wrongness, the suicidal thinking, etc. Hir story was my story.

          There is something broken inside me that will never get fixed. It ain‘t cuz I’m trans. It’s cuz I literally missed two decades of my life. They are a hole.

          I cannot explain it. I cannot put it into words.

          #####

          In today’s world, were I a teen today, I kinda think I would have figured out I was trans about age 16-18 — which is a guess that combines my recollection of my gender-feels back then with my sense of today’s media environment. Would my parents support me? Would my school? Could I make it work?

          There is a clear and fucking obvious correlation between supportive families and institutions and which of my friends seem to thrive and which seem to live desperate lives. I mean, you can dig up data about this (it exists), but I don’t need to see it. I see it with my eyes.

          #####

          This article will kill people. People will die in misery because someone will behave different, because they read this article, and some precious beautiful trans person will die.

          My friend, the first one I mentioned, she cannot form intimate bonds with people. That part of her broke. She craves validation, which she gets because she is beautiful. But it’s all “outside” validation. You cannot get inside. Like, this one time I complimented her smile, told her all the beauty I saw behind it. This triggered her hard. She broke down, cuz, she said, that smile is fake. Behind it is nothing but a drug addict and a sex worker and a rape victim.

          That is not what I see when I look at her smile. But she’s telling the truth. She lives in that head. I do not.

          She is very pretty. Lots of folks wanna piece of her. She gives it to them.

          I give her a 60/40 chance of making it. If the cam work works out, I give her 80/20, that she can rebuild herself enough to get some real relationships, to get some real support, to get her butt in gear. If the cam work does not work out, if she gets trapped in full service work — I don’t wanna type those numbers.

          #####

          Last night some wealthy “gay-ish” man paid $900 dollars to fuck my friend.

          Yes, gay affluence exists.Report

          • Avatar Maribou in reply to veronica d says:

            “There is a clear and fucking obvious correlation between supportive families and institutions and which of my friends seem to thrive and which seem to live desperate lives. I mean, you can dig up data about this (it exists), but I don’t need to see it. I see it with my eyes.”

            Yeah. It’s not a 1:1 correlation but it is really strong and really meaningful.

            I really wonder where I would’ve ended up if my siblings had responded to my sexuality (and several years later, my non-binary gender stuff, which I never even bothered to discuss with my parents, just the sibs) the way my dad did. Or even the much less worse but pretty upsetting (if loving) way my mom did. They thought there was something really WRONG with me. My best friend thought she OUGHT to think there was something really wrong with me. I’m really lucky my siblings didn’t feel that way. They were my anchor, my point of reality that said “Actually you are overall awesome and more people should be like you, rather than you being more like other people.”

            Also somewhat lucky that I went to a church where I could Pointedly leave books about bisexuality in the vestibule (it was the 90s) and no one gave me shit about it, so I could be out without being out, instead of a church where I’d be shamed or outcast.

            ******

            I’m telling peaceful stories because I know a lot of stories as awful as the ones above, and I don’t really want to share them tonight. Or even think about them really. But I’m glad you are sharing yours, even though it makes me want to break things that there are so many of them, that any recitation would take years.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Maribou says:

          Gah, this entire discussion is wandering around a very obvious fact that I think @jon-rowe has missed and no one is explaining.

          Being gay and/or trans can lead to ostracization. Sometimes by everyone, sometimes by just a few. People almost always lose some social status, although the amount varies.

          This is why something like 40% (I forget the exact number) of underage homeless people are LGBT. When they were outed, either involuntary or voluntary, they were kicked out of their house. And…it’s kinda hard to recover from being homeless and alone at age 15, so a lot of them still are there in their 20s…and a lot of them are drug addicts and sex workers, because that’s what happens on the street. And a lot of them have mental health issues, but at this point I’m probably being a bit redundant, because, really, ‘homeless’ should sorta imply all that as a result.

          Likewise, the *exact same fact* results in the self-selection of *wealthier* gays being more likely to be out. When you have an income of $500,000 a year because you’re a named partner at a law firm, you’re probably not getting harmed at all if you come out, at least not enough to notice.

          This is not some sort of either/or thing, this is literally two sides of the exact same thing. Poor people’s lives can become much worse by any stigma. Rich people, meanwhile, will do *exactly* the stigma-causing activity without any worries.Report

  13. Almost Everything the Media Tell You About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Is Wrong.

    If I click on that, will it make my jaw drop?Report

  14. I think the proper conclusion is that among gay rams, it’s not true that one size fits all, but eventually, they can all experience fluidity.Report

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