Do “Gay Brains” Shift Culture War?

We gays have had brain on the mind.

A study out of Sweden showed this week that gay men and straight women share brain make up, while straight men and lesbians also show similarities. That’s good and bad.

Good: pretty solid proof that being gay is not a “choice,” as some foes would like you to believe. Bad: the possibility of a queer cleansing.

Certainly staunch homophobes would cheer the latter development, and that’s exactly what worries journo William Saletan, who says the culture war has gone “chemical.”

If the idea of chemically suppressing homosexuality in the womb horrifies you, I have bad news: You won’t be in the room when it happens. Parents control medical decisions, and surveys indicate that the vast majority of them would be upset to learn that their child was gay. Already, millions are screening embryos and fetuses to eliminate those of the “wrong” sex. Do you think they won’t screen for the “wrong” sexual orientation, too?

Liberals are slow to see what’s coming. They’re still fighting the culture war… The reduction of homosexuality to neurobiology doesn’t mean your sexual orientation can’t be controlled. It just means the person controlling it won’t be you.

Is Saletan trying to scare the shit out of us? Because it’s working.

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  • Michael

    Never underestimate the power of homophobia, but I’m willing to bet MRIs to measure brain volume and PET scans to measure amygdala activity in a fetus will not be happening. So until they come up with some other mostly inaccurate screening procedure in the distant future (say, the year 2000, if you’re a Conchords fan), I think you can relax.

  • fredo777



    No he’s telling the truth and sadly we as a ommunity won’t have any say in it. Because as he said it “You won’t be in the room when it happens. Parents control medical decisions”.

  • Sean

    Screening for things like gender or Down’s Syndrome can be done at the in vitro stage since these are determined by clear chromosomal links. Until someone can point to the DNA specifically to say where the gay or lesbian “genes” are, they won’t be able to “sort us out”, so to speak.


    Given that culturally homosexuality is seen as illness, something less and something that is desired to be cured and rid off I think those genes are not so far from being pointed out by researches.

  • hisurfer

    Freaky and scary? Try stupid. Unless Saletan thinks that doctors are going to pull out fetuses give then cat scans, and then put them back in the womb.

  • andy

    I seem to get the impression that sexuality is influenced more by fetal development while in the womb and less by simple DNA makeup so this sort of designer baby stuff might give sexuality a miss…and a romantic part of me hopes that whatever makes us gay would triumph over any sort of silly cleansing attempt like this…and what about trans babies? maybe you can control body sex but what determines brain sex? isn’t sexuality somewhat analogous in this?

  • Kid A

    Agreeing w/ Churchilly, it doesn’t matter what the diagnostic technique is now, in the future, if it is possible to accurately determine potential gayness in a child, it will be something that a great majority of parents will want to eliminate.

  • Meeg

    Saletan’s a dumb ass; you should check out his series of Slate articles about racial disparties in IQ scores.

  • Mojave66

    You’d have to measure testosterone and other androsteroidal levels in uteri, and know exactly how much each contributes to things like gender identity and sexual orientation– we’re a far, far ways away from that, and even then, it will neither be a cheap nor easy test. Even if it did happen, all that it would ultimately do is shift sexual orientation variability down economic demographics, not that that is a very good idea, either.

    I think it was Carl Sagan who said something along the lines that he’d hate to see sexual orientation eliminated as a variation, that it would be akin to sticking your hand into a very complex computer we don’t understand and pulling out a bunch of wires because we don’t like their color. I would hope this kind of insight would prevail. I won’t hold my breath, though. :-/

  • Rus

    This has been a concern of many people for a number of years. It is kind of ironic that it’s just now being brought up on a larger scale. There have long been people concerned that directly linking sexual orientation to a specific biological marker would cause the question of “can it be controlled?” or outright “can it be eliminated?” The fact remains that gay rights *needs* to be argued from the standpoint of “choice” or “free will.” Ideally it shouldn’t matter if it is a choice or if it is natural, the rights should be protected. Placing all your hopes on the their being a specific biological component just invites “cures” or “selective breading” (read: abortion).

    Certainly I believe that sexual-orientation is not a choice. But I believe that it needs to be argued from the standpoint that it is a choice as that affords the greater protection even if the argument, in the near term, is more difficult.


    Mojave66: Although the detest for our sexual orientation has been somewhat tempered down compared to say a decade ago the undesirables for it is still there even by people who are supportive of us as humans, though subtle, given the choice they would not give it a second thought of providing their child with what they deemed to be full potential as a human being and not a disability which is how they see our sexuality. I hope you are the one who’s right though. I like your Carl Sagan quote.

  • Trenton

    Designer babies are a long, long way off from being feasible, and even wen they become possible, they won’t exactly be affordable. And may I add that the very people who are most morally opposed to creating desiner babies are also the ones that demonize homosexuality. If this sort of tampering ever becomes a reality, it will likely be in a time when homosexuality is no longer viewed as a social ill and sexuality in general will be regarded as something with greater fluidity and thus not worth controlling. Parents will probably be more inclined to spend their money to give their kids better brains, higher cheekbones, and a teflon coating for easier clean up before they waste money on controlling the kid’s sexuality. There really seems to be nothing to worry about here…

  • Super Cat

    These studies are not 100%. I mean I am sure you will find some gay people with brains similar to straight people of the same sex. And this doesn’t even begin to explain bisexuality.
    In the end though, messing around with chemicals and an unborn child does sound wrong to me, whatever you are trying to do. There are just too many possible side affects.

  • Konrad

    It may be interesting to find gays most raised by parents who are anti-abortion or too low income to bother with screening. 2025 and to be gay means to have been raised in a trailer park!!

  • Tina

    I agree that we are far from this becoming a reality… But that does’t mean it’s not possible in the future. I actually can see the day when there will be an effort by some to destroy all possibility of a child being gay. And if it boils down to something biological, it just might be possible. Brings whole new meaning to the words Pro-Choice!

  • RPCV

    Given how flaky, weird, and just downright queer most gays are, I sure hope the science produces some results…….

  • reversion

    “Already, millions are screening embryos and fetuses to eliminate those of the ‘wrong’ sex. Do you think they won’t screen for the ‘wrong’ sexual orientation, too?”

    I just think this whole thing is absurd. If anything, the (bio)conservatives would be against the likes of this, else it would be hypocrisy of the highest order.

    There is no right nor wrong in sexual orientation, and if it were up to me, I’d just make everyone bisexual: that way, there would be a “choice” left to the individual.

    BTW: I’m going to start studying for my PhD in molecular biology/genetics in September. ;)

  • staygoldenponyboy

    Who is this RPCV and why is he/she on our playground?

  • crazylove

    people are making lot of assumptions here. one of which is tht when this becomes possible- we are talking decades from now, not only about the financial ability to do so, but the social morals of the time. how do you know how people will think of sexuality decades from now. stop reading shit through your lense. for example, a lot of people of the younger generations are more accepting of sexual orientation- of all economic brackets- so why would they select that out? unless you think homphobia is genetic as well, it will not be the case.

  • crazylove

    by the way- you bitches need to stop being so damn pessmisitic. what’st rue now isn’t necessarily going to be true later. that’s not pollyanna- that’s the reality that just this week despite the fight- there is gay marriage in several states now. yes these things are hard fought, but that should tell you that depsite how bad it is- things are slowly improving.

  • RPCV

    Crazylove: These battles are not “hard fought” by the gay community. The reality is that activist judges who have chosen to make law from the bench are usurping the public’s right to decide these issues. Gays are getting this “right” handed to them, erroneously, on a plate. Think about it.

  • Mike

    This is absolutely dumb. There is no use worrying about something that is impossible. In vitro screening is based on genetics, and there has never been any link to genetics and homosexuality. The study they’re referencing is based on CAT scans

  • hisurfer

    Wait, so RPCV, you’re not only racist, but phobic as well? Why are you here – did Michelle Malkin kick you off of her site or something?

  • eagledancer4444

    When I was presenting at a conference in Amsterdam on how to conceptualize homosexuality after the World Health Organization had finally removed it as a mental illness category,there was a lot of discussion at efforts made at that time (1990) to identify bio markers of “gayness.” One of the Dutch endocrinologists (a gay man) said, “The doors of research are never too far away from the doors of the gas chamber.”

    I mention this because the “search for the gay/lesbian gene” has been going on a long time, along with studying hormone levels in the womb, and other factors. I don’t want to simply dismiss this concern because of a narrow focus on how you can’t currently do brain scans on a fetus…there are certainly other efforts being made that may well prove successful.

    I recall a short story set in the not so distant future…a “callboy” was waiting for a “john” in a hotel, and as a “signal” he was wearing a t-shirt with the Virgin Mary on it–the idea was that after the “gay gene” had been identified, the people who wouldn’t abort their gay/lesbian children were the Catholics, who considered abortion a greater sin than homosexuality. Ever since then, I always smile when I see a t-shirt with the Virgin Mary.

    And I concur it’s difficult to predict the future–certainly younger people are more accepting of sexual and gender orientation variations than the previous generations, but I also remember being really optimistic about gay rights and a liberation of society back in the early 90s before the current administration took over…

    I like the suggestion of “hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”

  • crazylove

    from the 1990s until now has only been 13 to 18 years depending what you mean by early 1990s. That is nothing in the span of social history. The gay movement has moved at an incredible versus other movements in history. I don’t think many of you get that. For example, it took from the early 1910s when the NAACP first came up with the strategy to dismantle Jim Crow until Brown v Board to fully dismantle it. That occured in 1955. On the other hand, Bowers v. Hardwick happened in 1985 (give oe take a year because I can’t remember the exact date) but the overturning of it happened less than 20 years later. The S Ct simply doesn’t do that. It took over a hundred years to dismantle Plessy v Ferguson. My point in saying all of this is that structurally things are happening at an accerlated pace for gays. Indeed, the polling data reflects that. THere is a huge amount of work that has to be done, but this pessimism is a little over the top. Bush was possible because of demographics, a weakened left and multiple other reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with being gay. We don’t enter into most people’s minds when they are voting. The vote was also primarily the product of older, not younger voters, and therefore, not represent of the point that I am making here about trying to gauge the future by the past. If anything is further illustrates the problem with what people are arguing here. You are in the middle of a cultural and civil rights revolution about sexuality. Saying “well there will definitely be x or y” is difficult if any impossible to determine. WIll it happen? probably to some degree somewhere. Will it happen enough to get rid of all gays? I don’t think so.

  • Trenton

    Crazylove, I do agree with you almost 100%, but you are coming off as a bit tweeky. Relax a bit, won’t you?

  • The Banania Blogger

    Rus is right. That is all.

    And PS to RCPV (and, y’all, I know this isn’t worth my breath, but…):

    The “public,” whoever the hell that is, doesn’t have the right to execute what was called by the founders of our government a “tyranny of the majority.” This is why, for example, there are court rulings that say things like, “You can’t make racial purity acts to keep interracial marriage from happening.” The majority of people, no matter how loud, just doesn’t have the right to oppress a minority.

    In fact, the only way that even the perception of oppression can be justified in a court is when there is a “compelling state interest” and a reason – for any “suspect class.” Suspect classes have been defined as racial and religious minorities until very recently. Women and homosexuals/people who have homosexual sex are in what’s called a “semi-suspect class,” meaning states or the state must have only a reason.

    Homosexuals and people how have homosexual sex are moving into the suspect class as conceptions of privacy and sexual freedom – mostly due to decisions about straight people being able to do things like sodomize each other and use condoms. In fact, nearly every “gay rights” case has been won when the state’s or states’ reasonings for trying to outlaw private behavior among mixed-gender couples have fallen short.

    That’s not judicial activism – it’s the justices’ job to protect minorities and their civil liberties from the majoritarian, hateful whims just like it’s their job to protect everyone from the government when the government tries to violate their rights.

    Think about that.

  • RPCV

    The Banania Blogger: I’d love to think about that. But, your writing and thought process is so scrambled it’s nearly impossible to comprehend what you’re writing. And your rationale, in those few parts that make some sense, is flawed. Re-read what you wrote, take a few deep breaths and calm down, outline your thoughts, write clearly, and then perhaps we’ll all be able to soak up your pearls of wisdom.

  • The Banania Blogger

    RPCV, I’m sure you’re the only person here who would have trouble understanding things like tyranny of the majority, the implied right to privacy, and equal protection.

    Buzz words like “activist judge” just show that their users don’t really understand the legal questions involved.

    But I’ll help, if only because a little clarity never hurt anyone:

    1) In order for a minority to be oppressed legally, there are a couple conditions:
    a) If the minority is in a suspect class – such as a racial or religious group – the state has to prove it has a compelling interest and a reason. For example, keeping it illegal for Native American tribes in the West to use peyote (a natural form of mescaline), the state had to prove that it had a compelling interest in controlling illegal drug use and a reason for doing so. That’s it.
    b) If the minority is in a semi-suspect class – such as women and, until some very recent cases, homosexuals/people who have gay sex – then the state only has to provide a reason. It doesn’t have to provide even evidence that the reason is valid, just the reason. For example, with gay adoption, states that have postulated that gay couples don’t raise “normal” children have been allowed to keep those laws, even if they can’t point to any evidence to support that claim.

    2) Those are the only ways in which a minority can be limited legally. Using these standards, justices whom I’m sure you would call activists ruled in favor of integration in Brown v Board and in favor of freedom to marry between races in Loving v Virginia.

    3) Gay rights cases have been moving gays slowly into the suspect class status as laws that limit private sexual behaviors among straight people are being overturned. For example, states were first ruled not to be able to keep married couples from getting contraceptives; then, this expanded to unmarried couples. Such cases established that physical intimacy among couples is a perfectly acceptable form of bonding that doesn’t need to result in conception as a compelling state interest. This has established a freedom of sexual intimacy that allowed straight couples being charged with sodomy to have those laws deemed inapplicable to them. When equal protection is thrown into the mix, this privacy/bonding argument was used in Lawrence v Texas to overturn anti-sodomy laws and in Massachusetts to overturn mixed-gender exclusive marriage.

    4) Equal protection is the constitutional right of Americans not to suffer from laws that others aren’t suffering from. For example, no one can be charged for sodomy if only a specific type of sexual act (that between men or women instead of men and women) is being targeted by the state. After all, wouldn’t it seem unfair if everyone driving a sedan didn’t get pulled over for speeding but anyone in a van did? The rules have to apply to everyone – that’s equal protection.

    5) Safeguarding equal protection and making sure that minorities don’t have their rights infringed on unjustly are the tasks of justices. It is their role in the government to overturn legislation, lower court decisions, and executive orders and policies that openly and actively oppress minorities without meeting the proper scrutiny.

    6) Saying these things aren’t “fought hard” by the gay community but instead happen against the “will” of the people by “activist judges” shows that you:
    1) don’t understand the proper function of justices as the anti-majoritarian mechanisms to protect minorities and fairly uphold the constitutional principles that are supposed to supercede and underlie all laws made by the people or their representatives;
    2) don’t fully understand how the courts decided what they did how they did, the complexity of the legal history, or the stakes of not upholding the constitutional rights of all, even if they’re not popular ones;
    3) aren’t very well equipped to do anything but troll gay message boards and regurgitate hackneyed and currently failing right-wing talking points that in about five years will seem completely laughable if not downright disgusting, and;
    4) don’t really understand that historically many important civil rights injustices have be righted in ways other than legislative action (for example, executive order integrated the armed services) and that that doesn’t make the strides any less important for the affected communities.

    There, RPCV, I really hope those thoughts were more cogently laid out for you.

  • RPCV

    The Banania Blogger: Your writing lately is similar to Noah’s. 10,000 word diatribes must be very therapeutic for you.

    In summary, I disagree almost entirely with your somewhat more clearly-written arguments. Activist judges are the bane of society – they MAKE laws instead of INTERPRETING them, as provided for in the Constitution. And, activist judges are the ones who have brought gay “marriage” into effect. They have not done so to overturn the “tyranny of the majority,” a concept even a beginner law student knows doesn’t apply to this instant example. If you have a law degree, is it from a correspondence school? Regardless, if I were you, I’d request a refund……

  • The Banania Blogger

    Ah, to call a diatribe that which one does not understand. Trolling is beautiful.

  • crazylove

    trenton–uhm- okay.


    Assuming that such a test becomes possible and reasonably affordable, AND that this does not happen until most or all people homosexuality as inferior, people would still rather have heterosexual babies because most parents want grandchildren!


    Sorry, that should read “…until most or all people *stop seeing* homosexuality as inferior…”

  • Esther

    It would be interesting to see the number of Christian pro-lifers who would re-consider abortion in the event they found out the baby “might be *gasp*… gay”… Haha.

  • JD

    I actually heard Sweden’s most respected brain-scientist on the radio the other day and I can tell you this much: The research is very well made and all the statements surrounding it are very carefully constructed.

    The scientist really pushed for the fact that this completely denies anyone the scientific right to say that homosexuality is a choice of any sorts. And he also strongly said that the brain patterns discovered or mapped, have no characteristics of being a defect.

    I hope this research doesnt get a homophobic spin since that is so far from what the scientists hoped for.

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