Is your child destined to become a homosexual? Perhaps! Researchers looking into the onset of sexuality in children have come up with a checklist (okay, that’s a serious oversimplification) to determine if your wee one is a “pre-homosexual.” And it’s not just whether little Billy prefers to play with Barbies.
Scientific American points us to research from J. Michael Bailey, a psychologist from Northwestern University, and Canadian psychiatrist Kenneth Zucker.
So on the basis of some earlier, shakier research, along with a good dose of common sense, Bailey and Zucker hypothesized that homosexuals would show an inverted pattern of sex-typed childhood behaviors (little boys preferring girls as playmates and infatuated with their mothers’ make-up kits; little girls strangely enamoured by field hockey or professional wrestling…that sort of thing). Empirically, explain the authors, there are two ways to investigate the relation between sex-typed behaviors and later sexual orientation. The first of these is to use a prospective method, in which young children displaying sex-atypical patterns are followed longitudinally into adolescence and early adulthood, such that the individual’s sexual orientation can be assessed at reproductive maturity. Usually this is done by using something like the famous Kinsey Scale, which involves a semistructured clinical interview about sexual behavior and sexual fantasies to rate people on a scale of 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual). I’m a solid 6; I often say that I wanted to get out of a vagina at one point in my life, but ever since then I’ve never had the slightest interest in going back into one.
The research is actually somewhat old (1995) but has been expounded upon by further studies. Which are slightly uncomfortable to read!
Another caveat is that researchers in this area readily concede that there are probably multiple—and no doubt very complicated—developmental routes to adult homosexuality. Heritable, biological factors interact with environmental experiences to produce phenotypic outcomes, and this is no less true for sexual orientation than it is for any other within-population variable. Since the prospective and retrospective data discussed in the foregoing studies often reveal very early emerging traits in prehomosexuals, however, those children who show pronounced sex-atypical behaviors may have “more” of a genetic loading to their homosexuality, whereas gay adults who were sex-typical as children might trace their homosexuality more directly to particular childhood experiences. For example, in a rather stunning case of what I’ll call “say-it-isn’t-so science”—science that produces data that rebel against popular, politically correct, or emotionally appealing sentiments—controversial new findings published earlier this year in the Archives of Sexual Behavior hint intriguingly that men—but not women—who were sexually abused as children are significantly more likely than non-abused males to have had homosexual relationships as adults.
Part of me wants to think “Oh god, tell me that Richard Cohen isn’t right.” And the other part of me thinks, “If all these bigots really don’t want their sons to turn out gay, they’ll actually work harder to keep their kids safe from pedophiles. Like those in the Catholic Church.”