Tuesday, June 27, 2006

You can't say "Gay is OK"...

...without saying "Gay is".
In their language and attitudes, I sense the homophobes don't think there really is such a thing as being gay. They speak as if the millions who are hounded for not showing the biblically ordained preferences are all just putting us on. I will try to refrain from amateur psychoanalysis of the bizarre delusion that millions of people would choose to suffer undeserved denigration for the sake of a kind of joke persona. I will fail. And it will take me a longish post to achieve this failure.

But long post or not, it is an auspicious day to lay out the cards on homosexuality as I happen to have read them.

I apologize for hooking the post title that way but it is at the heart of a matter I will not be able to dispatch with my preferred brevity. All I really have to remark here is that gay is ok but what matters more, once you get to that perspective, is that it can be stated as an affirmation but it cannot be a judgment. It looks to me like all god's creatures roll eggs about the same.

There is a hazard of rationalism I have touched on in other posts but I will found the point heavily here and build on it later:
If you need to explain some fact or phenomenon take care that you are not trying to explain it away.
Rationalism may be the perfect tool in the perfectly rational mind but most of us would do well to make sure we have picked it up by the handle and not by the blade. The hair I am splitting here is determining the source of statements that sound like acceptance, the better to weigh what is truly acceptance and what falls short.

I started this post months ago when egg rolling was an issue. The title and a one sentence insight struck me. I had to start with the attitudes I was raised with and move from them to what may be a more complete insight and acceptance. Fortunately, I did not have as far to travel as some do. Homosexuality has not been an emotionally charged topic in all eras and societies but it is massively so wherever the Abrahamic religions have cast their shadow. I won't waste your time with my guesses as to why that observation holds. The point is that, exactly like race hatreds, homophobia is not a naturally fated behavior in spite of it seeming natural in the way that dogs and cats naturally fight. The truth is, not all cats and dogs fight and for humans, race hatred is a learned attitude, even if deeply held once learned. That is why we boast of our human status when we add an "e" to the end of our species' name. Now we just have to live up to it. I was not raised to hate people just because they are different and have long since read enough studies to understand homosexuality is not a choice but is natural, which meant I at least could say to myself "its not their fault".

It is from that point that I had to move forward.

Its not fair to just say "I read some studies". I have read all kinds of science literature I since got out of college in the 70's. It is my fortunate habit that things which do not add up given the facts and understandings I possess recurringly irk or nag me. Its not a pit bull of a curiosity but at least a terrier.

I am about to go off on a considerable tangent of summaries of studies and findings. If you want, you could skip it. The sum of it all is that what turns people on sexually is wiring no culture can touch. I like to explain things, as I have said, but no amount of explanation can do more than amplify what you should already know: homosexuality is a natural variation in the range of human sexual behavior. If you still have doubts, get your reading glasses and come along. I will unfold the findings for you in roughly the chronological order of their publication. Just don't be blinded by the science: knowing a widely accepted scientific theory based on uncontroverted data showing that sexual orientation is inborn, organic and largely determined by genes and in-utero conditions is not as important as having an attitude toward each person that respects the reality of their reported feelings. By "not as important", I mean, "has less effect on" what happens in courts, legislatures and churches to ruin lives, marginalize people and deny the validity of a key piece of the core of their being.

I note, but reserve for treatment in a later post, that what determines a host of other behaviors you might lump into the category "sexually related behavior" or "instinctive behavior" [of which many fond examples like "mothering instincts" and "male bonding" are trumpeted as the exclusive norm by conservatives and hosed with bile by a few others] are fair game for the same scrutiny that homosexuality will get here. Let me define a term organic behavior as the category of all those appetites, reflexive responses such as the particularity of arousal cues and so on that cannot be culturally determined and for which physiological and genetic evidence of origination is compelling or at least plausible. We are just animals and the cultural programming a harness roughly bound to some vehicle collected of tropisms and sensitivities we still barely know. Numerous theories proposing some kind of biological basis for sexual orientation have been written up in the studies I will be citing, quite a variety of them. The science is not settled but, as you will read, the good bets are on some combination of genes and in-utero hormonal or maternal imprinting effects. I will just use the term "organic behavior" for the instinctual and innate aspects of ones sexuality. No one who is straight has to apologize or name a cause or even mention that they are straight. It a perfect world, all of us would be recognized as having a character we each built on top of natural proclivities. The only justifiable segregation would be to identify the antisocial and truly harmful proclivities. We ALL work with and from our organic behavior.

Now for the review of the science

I can't recall exactly when questions began to pop up but it would have been after I "got" Darwin's basic idea. And that could have been the 6th grade since I had a plan at that point to be a paleontologist when I grew up and could already recite the sketchy tree of evolving life that was known back in the 60's. So the first question was pretty basic: why wouldn't homosexuality self-extinguish from any population if it precluded or reduced reproductive success? Note that I got zero education about sex, any kind of sex, until long after it was old news. Specifically, in my upbringing on an isolated farm, no people and none of my of the science books I read said any thing about gay people and I was spared any of the Leviticus stuff. And there was nothing particularly enlightened about the playground conversations or the hour long ride home on the school bus: any kid with ears would know they didn't want to be a "fag" long before they had much of an idea of what homosexuality was. So I can't account for why I did NOT assume sexual orientation was a choice rather than an organic behavior. Anyway, I don't have much of an attention span and, lacking data, I put the question aside. If a teenager who never took a class in biology can tumble to it, we'd have to assume that my rediscovery of the "Darwinian Paradox" is routinely repeated by others.

My 1968 college text book on Intro. to Psych. said up front that homosexuality was one of the "taboo topics" and managed to nearly avoid the word for its entire 900 pages. But the move to seek the biological bases of any human capacity or behavior that might have such basis was already afoot. No data, no questions. I never heard about Stonewall Inn until the 80's
The 70's and 80's saw a few studies that indirectly attacked the question of whether sexual orientation had a genetically determined component by surveying twins to see if identical [monozygotic, "MZ"] were more likely to have the same sexual orientation than fraternal twins [dizygotic, "DZ"]. While not overwhelmingly convincing, both for confounding factors cited and sample sizes, these studies gave a weak boost to the probability that for some fraction of homosexuals, there was a genetic disposition. These studies mostly went on outside of my attention and in retrospect they did little to change the minds of people, even of "scientists" who had a biblical viewpoint with which all findings must agree.

to be continued...and probably spell checked too:( its getting late and I have had a long strange week.)

No comments: