Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Making Gay Rams Straight

I was going to put this in my speedlinks for tomorrow, but it pissed me off and scared me enough to want to devote a whole post to it.

From New Scientist: Should scientists be turning gay sheep straight?
An ongoing US experiment to turn “homosexual” rams straight by altering their hormone levels has sparked the ire of both gay activists and animal rights groups. The work is reportedly being carried out at Oregon State University in the city of Corvallis and at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. New Scientist wrote about research on gay sheep in Oregon back in 2002.

If one out of every 10 rams prefers to mount other rams than ewes, we are not talking about an uncommon trait.

By altering the brain hormone levels, scientists have stemmed this homosexual tendency in the rams and made them prefer females. Researchers say that the project aims to explore ways of increasing herd productivity – they stress it does not seek to cure the animals of homosexual tendencies.

This is not the first study to explore the biology of homosexuality. Scientists have looked at hormone levels in rats that prefer their own sex and, more recently, at how temperature can affect the sexual orientation of flies.

Some people worry that the sheep research will eventually give rise to pre-natal tests that enable couples to determine the likely sexual orientation of their offspring.

But I think that a perhaps more obvious outcome of this type of research might be hormone treatments for homosexual individuals who feel desperate to become heterosexual. To me, however, the idea of a hormone patch for homosexuality sounds unhealthy, unnecessary and truly queer. What do you think?
I think this is going to give fuel to the rightwing Christian nutjobs who think that gay and lesbian people can be "deprogrammed." The last thing we need is some science to suggest that they can chemically manipulate who people love.

If this were to prove possible in humans, the Christian homophobes would be opening clinics to administer hormone shots (and as long as the Bushites are in power, or some variation of them, the government would likely sanction this use of hormones, while keeping them illegal for legitimate purposes like building muscle).

I also think these studies could lead to a reclassification of homosexuality as a disease. That would be horrible. If I were a full-on gay man, I would rather work for full acceptance of who I am (with family, friends, and the culture) than get regular injections to be someone else.

Really, what we need is a redefinition of sexuality and sexual preference as forms of expression rather than as types of people. If we could do that, and make it a culture-wide idea, stupid ass studies like these would only be relevant to raising meat animals and not to how humans relate to each other.


~C4Chaos said...

well said. allow me to take a slightly different perspective than yours. first of all, you're right, the right-wing homophobic people out there would probably use this to impose their ideas of sexuality. reminds me of the X-Men: The Last Stand movie :)

"I also think these studies could lead to a reclassification of homosexuality as a disease."

that's also a big possibility. but i think this information is a double-edged sword. it has its good, and it has its bad. it would all depend on how we as a society would treat the science/technology that will come out of this. if you totally oppose this research, then do you also oppose homosexual males who undergo hormone treatment and surgical procedures to transform themselves into females? how about those homosexual males/females who want to be heterosexuals? shouldn't they be given a chance to make a choice too?

there's no clear cut answers to these questions. we just deal with them as society and culture move forward.

but looking at it from a scientific vantage point i don't think scientists are out to prove that homosexuality is a "disease." what i think this proves is that our biochemical compositions can be modified at will and impact our psychological makeup--even our sexuality. that our psyches are intertwined with our physiology. that our physiology can affect our consciousness, our choices, our preferences. and that consciousness is not separate from the vessel, and vice-versa. i think that's a more interesting angle in the grander scheme of things.

my two cents.


Unknown said...

I think that you and C4 are making a Green argument, at best.

Please don't try to preempt what the Right might say or think, as correct as your prognosis may be. Forget the Right and concentrate on what's right.

One question for me is Would a baby whose hormone level had been tinkered with of any less worth than one whose has not?

If we are not thinking tribally, if we recognize that there is no such thing as race, that sentience itself does not become degraded [or upgraded], even as there are people in the world who have mental and physical challenges [and there are people in the world who glide along without obstacles], then we cannot reject a world that doesn't have homosexuality any more than we can fail to embrace a world that does.

There is a similar question with respect to the deaf community. If we use skills in medicine that now exist, we can end deaf culture. Is it right to do so? Does it make any difference that deafness is more easily viewed as a "flaw?"

I am not persuaded by the idea of preservation of culture, though preservation of diversity seems worthy to me, so long as we are not attempting to keep something that is a troubled, backwater society. [For example, we preserve Amazon tribes who live myth-steeped, short lives that seem miserable and diseased.]

Gay people [and deaf people] aren't an alien tribe. If human life were to go forward almost-fully heterosexual and almost all able to hear, it would be THEIR progeny, THEIR species continuing into the future as much so as anybody's.

william harryman said...

Hey ~C,

I tend to agree with you that the science on its own is neutral -- the issue for me is what people will do with it. I fear the worst in this case/


You make some good points here. I'm not sure at what point we draw the line on any of the issues you present. But in this case there is a clear and integral solution: We need to redefine sexuality and sexual preference as forms of expression rather than as types of people. That would solves the whole damn issue.

Ain't gonna happen, though, as far as I can.


Jim Newman said...

Jim Newman here from the university that is actually conducting the research.

In regards to the Sunday Times article which is the source of all these wild conspiracy theories, it was filled with errors and false statements. In some cases the paper even reported the exact opposite of what actually occurred. In reality – the research was conducted five years ago. When announced in 2002, several gay and lesbian groups appreciated the findings as the data supports the belief that homosexuality has biological roots and is not merely a matter of choice.

I am pleased that a writer has thoroughly investigated the article. As he reports, the Sunday Times article basically a piece of science fiction made up by PETA, yes the animal rights people.

His analysis also raises important questions about the timing of the article which again comes almost five years after the research was actually conducted.

Here’s a link to that analysis that anyone who is interested in this topic should read:

A wolf in gay sheep's clothing: Corruption at the London Times

Also the press is beginning to print stories on how this science research was hijacked by PETA, the left and the right for political gain.

Here’s one story:
If only British press would say, 'My baa-d'

william harryman said...

Thanks Jim,

For stopping by to set the record straight.