Since it's Pride month, I've been looking for some cool, queer science to report. I gave up on any chance of finding the magical trifeckta of queer ocean science as tantamount to chasing rainbows (pun intended).
But sure enough, New York magazine has a feature story on The Science of Gaydar that has left me feeling mixed. Are sexual orientation and the physical traits that make people seem gay biological? The essay seeks to explore this question through some novel approaches. First of all, who knew that there is a small yet committed cadre of researchers out there who are cataloging the traits and characteristics that, though more pronounced in some than in others, not only make some of us gay but also make us appear gay.
Take the image above, for instance. From new data collected, gay men are allegedly more likely than straight men to have a counterclockwise whorl of hair. I'm about 20 years too late to perform this test on my shiny dome, and sadly I have very few hair whorl pics laying around the house so I can't verify this claim.
You'll have to read the full story to learn about other phenotypes that have been documented as new evidence of sexual orientation. I must admit leaving with a bad taste in my mouth after reading through the whole essay. I generally treat with suspicion studies that seek to declare a biological mandate for the diversity of human behavior. I hold a similar distrust for studies that attempt to demonstrate a biological basis for intelligence across races. What social agenda is behind such studies and to what end will the findings be used?
If a biological basis for sexual orientation is identified, isn't that just the first step for haters to seek ways of preventing same-sex attraction at the genetic level and begin treating homosexuality like a birth defect? Particularly if sexual orientation is determined to be set in utero.
At the same time, a biological basis for sexual orientation would perhaps put an end to pernicious programs (Exodus International, NARTH, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, Love in Action, Courage UK, Courage International, and True Freedom Trust) that in the name of religion seek to brainwash individuals into "giving-up their gay lifestyle choices" and join the ranks of "ex-gays."
And what about this whole business of appearing gay? As a queer man, I'm not even quite sure what that's supposed to mean. Of course there is the stereotype of the masculine lesbian and feminine gay man, but what does masculine and feminine mean really? Why is it so vital to quantify behavior as being indicative of "types" instead of celebrating the remarkable diversity of behavioral expression on our rather un-diverse branch of primates?
Where I agree with the essay (and something I've embraced for some time now) is that instead of picturing gender and orientation along a line or continuum, with straight men and women on either end and gay people in the middle, perhaps a matrix might be a more accurate way to map the possibilities. I wouldn't mind hearing from readers, of all orientations and genders, to share their thoughts on the article.