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Sunday 15 July 2007

The Science of Gaydar

Gay men are more likely than straight men to have a counterclockwise whorl.

New York Magazine has a fascinating feature by David France about The Science of Gaydar.

France details all the traits which, according to research, distinguish gay men and lesbians. Very odd things like finger-length and hair swirl and even penis thickness.

He quotes Simon LeVay, one of the originators of the gay gene theory:
“These are all part and parcel of the idea that being gay is different—that we are different animals to some extent. Hirschfeld was right. I support the idea that we’re a third sex—or a third sex and a fourth sex, gay men and lesbians. Today, there’s scientific documentation behind this.”
France says that research is pointing at biological causes with immunology currently the favourite:
We know from a string of surveys that in any family, the second-born son is 33 percent more likely than the first to be gay, and the third is 33 percent more likely than the second, and so on, as though there is some sort of “maternal memory,”
Because many of these newly identified “gay” traits and characteristics are known to be influenced in utero, researchers think they may be narrowing in on when gayness is set—and identifying its possible triggers. They believe that homosexuality may be the result of some interaction between a pregnant mother and her fetus. Several hypothetical mechanisms have been identified, most pointing to an alteration in the flow of male hormones in the formation of boys and female hormones in the gestation of girls. What causes this? Nobody has any direct evidence one way or another, but a list of suspects includes germs, genes, maternal stress, and even allergy—maybe the mother mounts some immunological response to the fetal hormones.
There has also been a lot of research into homosexual behaviour in animals, which is finding it extremely prevalent.

Many societies, such as Polynesia's, accept gay sons and lesbian daughters and there are theories about the role homosexuality plays in evolution — throughout history priests and shamans have often been 'gay'. Richard Lippa, a psychologist from California State University, has found cross-cultural confirmation that gay men and lesbians tend to job and other stereotype.

But many other societies have not accepted. Of course the scary outcome could be biological interventions aimed at prevention — and in a world whose [sci-fi] imaginations of the future don't tend to include lesbians and gay men, it is indeed scary.

  • Village Voice: Born to be gay (about gay kids)
    Nothing about Joseph seems notably feminine, until he holds up a doll dressed in a bright pink dress. "See my Barbie?" he says, proudly.

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