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Deciding scientific questions the modern way

The Guardian wished to host a debate on the question ‘Is there a gay gene?’

In the spirit of modern scientific enquiry, the experts to whom the newspaper turned in order to examine this question were Julie Bindel, a freelance journalist and political activist, and Paul Burston a journalist and author of the novel The Gay Divorcee.

I have little knowledge and no very strong opinion on the question. We will find out one day and I suspect the answer will be complex. No strong opinion, but I was gripped by their debate. Not because of their insights into genetics, obviously. Their examination of their own memories and feelings as gay people, though unable to provide an answer to the question of whether there is a gene for homsexuality, did at least provide two “survey responses”, so to speak, to the broad question of whether homosexuality is inborn or acquired, a question which might well be partly answerable by self examination by homosexuals. Correction, one survey response. Julie Bindel just said that people cannot remember being babies. I did not see the relevance of this.

She also seemed to resent any attempt to have the question she was there to debate researched by anyone who might actually be able to answer it, judging by the scare quotes she put around “cause” and “condition” in the second paragraph of her article. (‘And despite the obsession of some scientists to find a “cause” for our “condition”…‘) She felt all that was her gig, I suppose.

No, what really fascinated me about this debate was the the assumption shared by both that the way to determine what is true is to decide which hypothesis best advances their political goals. Even that was interpreted in a narrow, tactical sense, and in a shape determined by their opponents. Bindel writes,

So when people say “If being gay was a choice then why would we choose to live a life where oppression, violence and discrimination are inevitabilities?”, I say to them so is being a feminist in countries where sexism exists, but they still exist and persevere. It is about wanting to be part of creating a better world.

Some gay people might feel that finding a gay gene might diminish prevalent homophobia, but this is naive. Racism has not diminished because we know that blackness or whiteness is genetic.

Burston counters:

What concerns me is that, all too often, people who claim that homosexuality is a choice are the same people who stand in the way of lesbian and gay equality. If it’s a choice, they argue, then we only have ourselves to blame.

Proof by Aspiration. Disproof by Bad Company. Ms Bindel and Mr Burston may oppose each other, but both have understood the spirit of the age.

39 comments to Deciding scientific questions the modern way

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    I have always thought that the speed of light should not stop us going faster than light! Let’s get together and adjust reality to out hopes! Who knew science could be such fun?
    And on the question of genes and gayness- wasn’t there a football player who got struck by lightning, and turned gay because of it? how would that case, if true, be linked to homosexuality? (of course, he could have been suppressing gayness until the shock- any details, anyone?)

  • Great posting.

    I just heard Bindel’s argument in spoken form, on Radio 3 (after a concert I was recording). Minor point: the relevance of her comment about babies not remembering is that someone else, she said, claimed to have known they were gay when three months old. Bindel was throwing doubt on this claim by arguing that nobody remembers things from that early. Bindel: “I was born a baby, not a lesbian. I didn’t fancy the midwife.” (Quoted from memory) But, maybe she did, but doesn’t remember.

    I was rather drowsy when I listened to this talk. This posting admirably summarises what I didn’t like about it. The implication was that nobody with bad or merely odd motives can possibly do good science. But good science is good science, no matter who does it or why.

    She didn’t use the word “problematic”, or not that I heard. But I kept expecting her to. This means: true but we don’t approve. See also the old USSR: “This is not helpful.” Again: true. Again: not serving the cause.

  • RAB

    Have we found any Genes yet that affect cognition, rather than hair, eye and skin colour etc? Things that cannot be altered by thought and persuasion?

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    As to the claim that someone knew she was a lesbian when she was three months old, I wonder if this is just the phase that all kids go through, of identifying with their own gender, and thinking the other gender is weird.

  • Possibly coincidentally, Arts and Letters Daily this morning linked to this piece on very much the same subject, vis Why does homosexuality exist given its seeming evolutionary disadvantages? The article itself is a pretty decent discussion of the various scientific hypotheses. The discussion in the comments at times devolves to the sort of political discussion being referred to here.

  • Tedd

    Some gay people might feel that finding a gay gene might diminish prevalent homophobia, but this is naive. Racism has not diminished because we know that blackness or whiteness is genetic.

    Presumably, we always knew that race was biologically determined, whereas with homosexuality it was in dispute. So, if this argument is true, it means that the idea that homosexuality is biologically determined has become widely enough accepted that actual proof of it would have little further effect on the prevalence of homophobia.

    As strange as I at first found this argument, I think the conclusion (that finding a gay gene won’t reduce homophobia) might actually be true.

  • RAB writes:

    Have we found any Genes yet that affect cognition

    I don’t know if the specific genes have been identified (though they are surely among those enumerated), but as genetic inheritance is what separates us from the apes, I think we might reasonable assume that brain size, gross arrangement and number (and character) of neurons is determined by genes. All these things surely affect cognitive ability (both memory and thought processes).

    Best regards

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Up until the 1970′s homosexuality was defined, as Transgenderism still is, as a mental disorder if it causes distress and disturbance to a person’s every day life.

    It was removed from the DSM-III at the request of gay lobbying groups. Since it was now magically not a disorder, all research on its etiology was stopped.

    Today you are “allowed” to study homosexuality, but only if you know in advance what your conclusions will be. Acceptable conclusions are that gayness is awesome, that it is natural, that it is genetic and that it is unavoidable.

    Not to put too fine a point on it – the whole “gayness is genetic” thing is nothing to do with a search for origins and everything to do with a search for an excuse. “If it is genetic, how can I be held culpable for acting on it?”, the rationale goes.

    Unfortunately this rather misunderstands a rather ancient debate in Psychology – the nature/nurture debate. 1st year Psychology students always fall into the trap of assuming it is a dichotomy – it isn’t. They both contribute to how a person develops.

    For example Schizophrenia has both a genetic and an environmental component. If a person with a Schizophrenia susceptibility encounters high stress life events (usually in their 20s) this can trigger a psychotic break. Equally a person with the genetic component but without the environmental stressors can go their whole life with no problem. Their children may fair differently.

    Likewise, alcoholism seems to have a genetic component. I come from a long line of alcoholics and for this reason I elect not to drink at all. I’m concerned I might like it.

    This rather puts paid to the notion that if its genetic there can be nothing wrong with it. Human beings are not animals and are capable of not acting on things they may feel a compulsion to do. But the gay lobby would seek to reduce themselves and other gays to the level of mere animals who just can’t help it.

    Now none of what I said has any ramifications for the morality of homosexuality, although it does rather imply that the way the science is being abused is itself immoral.

    One fairly fruitful line of enquiry that was outlawed by the “normalisation” of homosexuality in the 1970s was the idea that a common “trigger” event in the life stories of homosexuals was some form of sexual child abuse. Even today first sexual encounters for many gays tend to be pederastic in nature with a much older man. If we assume that homosexuality does indeed have a genetic component then this could be viewed as akin to the environmental stressors which trigger Schizophrenia.

    But we’re not supposed to talk about that.

    As an aside, I also find the notion that a species could develop a genetic prediliction for something that removes them from the gene pool entirely rather amusing. Looked at this way, it could NOT be solely genetic. There’d be no way for it to pass on, and it is hard to see how it could confer any form of evolutionary advantage, The only remaining explanation for a 100% genetic account with no environmental component is the idea that homosexuality is a genetic disease rather like Cystic Fibrosis.

    I’m sure that is not what gay researchers mean to imply….

  • Godarni

    Homosexuality is actually quite common in the animal kingdom; dolphins, bonobos, etc.

    The Mallard drake, notoriously, will literally bang anything, even dead ducks.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Godarni, that isn’t actually true although there are a lot of people such as the quoted Guardianistas who want you to think it is. Bisexuality (if you want to call it that) is quite common in that animals (usually sexually frustrated adolescents) will shag just about anything if there is a shortage of ready and willing females.

    However human beings are the only species who conduct exclusively homosexual relationships.

  • Gareth

    Julie Bindel:

    It is about wanting to be part of creating a better world.

    Perhaps the question should have been ‘Is there a progressive gene?’

  • Brian,
    Thanks for throwing some light onto what Julie Bindel was responding to when she made her seemingly irrelevant remark about babies. She is right to doubt someone who claims to remember their own mental processes at the age of three months. (Whether that is ever possible or testable would itself be an interesting scientific question.) However I’m minded not to insert any sort of update into my post, given that it is perfectly possible to have a gene (or genes, or a particular brain structure) but be unaware of it. Early memories of homosexual feelings are potentially (but not decisively) supportive of the hypothesis of inborn homosexuality, but there is no need for them to stretch back to the instant of birth to provide this support.

    It was an obviously silly argument. I’ve read a fair number of Julie Bindel’s columns in the Guardian and that’s par for the course. She’s far from the worst in terms of ideology but she often appears simply not to process what people who disagree with her say.

    On the other hand I have to give her some credit for not rushing to change her views when they became unfashionable in her peer group. When I was a sixth former reading Spare Rib in WH Smith’s without paying for it, it was quite common for the magazine’s writers to say that they had chosen to be lesbians for political reasons, as Ms Bindel still says. This tendency was less strong in the writing of male homosexuals, but still present, and if I recall correctly some of the original motivation for Gay Pride marches being called Gay Pride marches was to say “we are proud of our decision to be gay”.

    I’m not criticising that, nor am I criticising the change of view that led to more recent marches just being called ‘Pride’ – but I am amused by the way that so many people have attempted to shove the fact that they ever held the old view down the memory hole. Of course party-line behaviour is characteristic of a far wider spectrum of left wing activists than specifically homosexual left wing activists.

    It comes under the same general category of what is ideologically advantageous trumping what actually happened or what is actually true that sparked my post in the first place.

  • A general note:
    I just un-smited three or four comments from this thread. I think several key words likely to come up in this discussion are making the smitebot antsy. It does help to get your smited comment unsmited more quickly if you post a further comment saying “Smited”. Otherwise I won’t know about its existence unless I happen to go into the editing mode. There are Samizdata elves who keep a general eye on comments but their ways are mysterious and they are not on duty all the time.

  • Michael, thanks for that very interesting link to the Arts & Letters Daily piece. Jaded Voluntaryist, that piece looks at some possible reasons why homosexuality could supply (obviously indirect) evolutionary advantage, if you’re interested in that point.

    The speed with which the comments devolve into politics is indeed depressing. Not because I think that commentary on politics is necessarily inferior to commentary on science, but because so many people seem unable to tell the difference.

    As an aside, I don’t even see that it is necessarily true that a perception that homosexuality is inborn will diminish prejudice or persecution. I think I am right in saying that the Nazis promoted the view that it was inborn, since their preferred justification for persecuting all the groups they hated was that they were like a gardener pulling up weeds or farmers eliminating bad stock.

  • Boobah

    Jaded said: “As an aside, I also find the notion that a species could develop a genetic prediliction for something that removes them from the gene pool entirely rather amusing. Looked at this way, it could NOT be solely genetic. ”

    It’s pretty easy to show that if homosexuality were a simple gene expressing itself that it would surely breed itself out of the population in fairly short order; that means, assuming it’s genetic, it’s related to some other traits that ARE desirable, possibly with the desired traits being part of the genetic combination that leads to homosexuality, or it’s a very common mutation of the genes of a desirable trait.

    The desirable trait means you don’t run out of folks carrying the potentially homosexual genes despite the downside, reproductively speaking, of a percentage of their offspring having no interest in reproductive sex.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Natalie, I think this whole subject area is inherently political.

    There are things you aren’t allowed to say, things you are expected to say, attitudes which must not be transgressed and so on.

    Like a lot of identity politics, LGBT studies usually degenerates into self-congratulatory wish fulfilment when conducted by members of the in-group and either an opportunity to display ones liberal credentials or an opportunity to denigrate a hated other when conducted by the outgroup.

    I’d say honest enquiry into this area is basically impossible given the current socio-political climate.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    The smitebot hath smited for I have been smoten…..

  • Snorri Godhi

    “the assumption shared by both that the way to determine what is true is to decide which hypothesis best advances their political goals”

    That nails it! That is why I make it a point of not believing in any consensus that emerges in the social “sciences” (and that includes macroeconomics). If a new consensus emerged that homosexuality is a “choice” in some sense, I would not believe that either.

    Incidentally, genetic inheritance and “choice” are not the only options. There is Greg Cochran’s highly un-PC germ theory of homosexuality, for instance: if it’s true, then gays have no gay genes, but also no choice.
    Also, if you read the section of sexual preference in M. Seligman’s excellent What You Can Change…and What You Can’t, you’ll find that there is a range of plasticity that is lost in early sexual experiences: breasts vs buttocks, for instance, and all sorts of sexual fetishes. Once these fetishes are imprinted, removing them is not just a matter of choice, in fact it seems to be pretty much impossible. (Seligman still thinks that the balance of the evidence is for inheritance of sexual orientation, however.)

    BTW I agree that attitudes to gays have nothing to do with the issue of inheritance. Look at Jews: if it’s a choice to be a Jew, then Jews could convert, and why don’t they? if it’s genetic, then Hitler was at least partially right, wasn’t he? (Looking forward to see whether the H-word will get me smited.)

  • As some of you may be aware from previous postings I am a gay man, albeit not very out-and-proud as that is a bit of a tough crowd for a fat 45-year old balding ginger.

    From my personal experience, I became aware of my preference for certain types of males (as opposed to all males) during puberty. I was not aware of any sense of sexual identity prior to this one way or the other.

    I was never (as mentioned by Jaded Voluntaryist at November 21, 2012 08:18 AM), subject to any form of child abuse or sexual predation at all.

    I grew up in a normal nuclear family and my neither of my parents were either doting nor distant, they were just like every other parent that I knew, working hard to pay the bills and raise the kids, squeaky bedsprings Saturday night / Sunday morning.

    None of my brothers, nephews or nieces are (to the best of my knowledge) gay or lesbian. My ‘Gaydar’ works as well as any.

    There is a problem of normalization for both gays and lesbians, leading them to presume that ‘queer’ is a characteristic of a much larger percentage of the population than it actually is – the often claim 10%. From my personal experience I’d guess that this figure is more like 2-3% of the population as a whole, distorted by clusterings around gay districts, university campuses, large government installations, etc.

    Why the UK’s densest population of lesbians is in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire though is a fucking mystery to me.

    The encounter at about 15 years of age which led to my recognizing that I was predominantly gay was not a matter of “homosexual predation”, but by a boy from the year below in school me had work out that I was probably gay and after some conversations of which I was only aware later, decided to “see if I would play”.

    He nabbed my school bus pass at home time and made me chase him through the school until we ended up in an empty classroom and I ended up retrieving it from his pocket and finding something else there as well…

    Fundamentally I had a preference for that sort of thing and although I was unaware others weren’t.

    Is it genetic? I’ve no idea, but nothing significant seems to show up in twins studies which is the usual guide to genetic issues. For myself, I think that scientific investigation is hampered by the inherent bias towards homosexuality having a genetic or embryological basis (meaning it is hard wired rather than just a preference), this is exacerbated by the higher density of LGBT persons within academia as well as those ‘norms’ who follow the same agenda dogmatically.

    If asked to vote (which is stupid, but nevertheless), I believe that being queer is probably mostly preference although there may be a genetic / embryological element which gives us a fucking big push in that direction – perhaps for some it is a bigger push than others leading to the spectrum from bi-curiosity, bisexuality to utterly and unredeemable queerness.

    Remember, even Steven Fry believes he’s only 90% gay and wanted to date the woman who eventually married Rowan Atkinson.

    Long story short – scientific research needed, but not going to happen due to inherent academic bias on LGBT issues.

  • Smited!

    Help please Natalie…
    :-)

  • RAB

    Well I was smited in the early hours of this morning, but thought it impolite to complain, as it’s hardly an unusual occurance for me…

    Now then… Sex is 99% in the mind; the rest is down to exporing friendly orifices for the physical pleasure thereof, but what weird and wonderful minds we Homo Sapiens have!

    I was born in the 50s and access to anything resembling porn or erotica was severely limited by Law and Custom. For us early sixties adolescents, a glimpse of Health and Beauty if we were lucky, or making do with the Littlewoods catalogue Lingerie section if we wern’t. And that was for us pretty much convinced hetrosexuals, lord knows what it was like for those who felt themselves out of step with the whole of society by mainly having feelings for their own sex.

    In the early 70s I used to share a flat with a very good friend who I sometimes refer to on blogs as The gay Buddhist. It was obvious to me that he was Gay, but it wasn’t to him.

    It is worth remembering that the early 70s was less than a decade since homosexuality was not a criminal offence anymore, and this brings up the nature and nurture aspect. I cannot imagine the turmoil my friend was in having grown up in a society that branded him not just misguided but a criminal for having the feelings and propensities he did. His battle within himself must have been “Am I wrong to feel the way I do, and society right? Or vice versa? Consequently he tried several relationships with women, but they all ended in disaster for him until he finally wised up, saw the light and headed for San Francisco in 1975.

    Now if you visit a porn site, you find every type of sexual preference and pleasure on offer. Many which my adolecent naive self would never have heard of, encountered or thought of as being possible in a million years. Are all these incredible wierd variations on a theme, just down to a Gene and we can’t help it? I doubt it.

    The Mind is an incredibly strong muscle. It can bend twist and torture, but it can also cleanse and clarify. By the power of thought and argument, Left wingers can become Right wingers and vice versa, Muslims become Christians and VV. So to just say I can’t help it cos it’s my genes innit? doesn’t cut it does it? Humans are far to complicated for such simple cause and effect to be the whole story.

  • RAB

    Two posts, two smites… Oyez Oyez!

  • : Jaded Voluntaryists

    Up until the 1970′s homosexuality was defined, as Transgenderism still is, as a mental disorder if it causes distress and disturbance to a person’s every day life. It was removed from the DSM-III at the request of gay lobbying groups. Since it was now magically not a disorder, all research on its etiology was stopped. Today you are “allowed” to study homosexuality, but only if you know in advance what your conclusions will be. Acceptable conclusions are that gayness is awesome, that it is natural, that it is genetic and that it is unavoidable.
    Not to put too fine a point on it – the whole “gayness is genetic” thing is nothing to do with a search for origins and everything to do with a search for an excuse. “If it is genetic, how can I be held culpable for acting on it?”, the rationale goes.

    While agreeing with the facts I have no problem and am indeed happy with the decision. Before the 70′s lobbying we lived in a homophobic society (and afterwards to of course to a degree). Societies reaction to the fact of homosexuality was to consider it a disease to cure. It is good that our tax is not being spent on a attempt to stop people being how they are and try to make them how the majority of society wants them to be (ok as a lurking liberal I really wanted to say that on a Liberian website:).

    I do however agree with your hypothesis that it’s a genetic predisposition with environmental triggers as it would seem that a simple “Gay on” gene would have been found.
    More generally i am fascinated by how the conflicts between the base layer genetic evolution and the “meme” layer woven through and above it. Our species’ cognition is a evolutionary tool that has given us suicide bombers and World trade centre firemen. Genetic predispositions are in that grey area between the two.

  • @RAB:

    So to just say I can’t help it cos it’s my genes innit? doesn’t cut it does it? Humans are far to complicated for such simple cause and effect to be the whole story.

    The right wing minions of faggotry endorse this statement

    [Now unsmited with misgivings. I hope this is a joke - NS]

  • [Now unsmited with misgivings. I hope this is a joke - NS]

    Natalie – I did say I was both gay and right-wing, so why would it be a joke? Amusing and contradictory perhaps, but not a joke…

    Clearly I’ve been spending to much time on 4CHAN /b/

  • Alisa

    Someone actually married Rowan Atkinson?

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    I find it interesting that if the first child of a large family is a girl, she is more likely than average to become a lesbian, and if the last child of a large family is a boy, he is more likely to become a homosexual than average. This suggests that it is behaviour (assertive/submissive), carrying on into adolescence. This was something I read years ago, so I can’t now show you the evidence, but it is interesting- perhaps we could ‘cure’ lesbians by making them obey orders given by men, and we could ‘cure’ gay men by giving them power over women (especially lesbians!).

  • Alisa

    Seriously though, why does it matter whether it is genetic or not? I mean, it surely is very interesting – but why does it matter? Or at least, why does it matter more than any other harmless human preference? After all, as several here have shown, it sure seems to be a case of ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’.

  • we could ‘cure’ gay men by giving them power over women (especially lesbians!).

    Whether it’s genetic, embryological, environmental or just a preference, one thing it certainly IS NOT is a disease that requires either a cure or vaccination.

    I completely understand why some people who are gay, but don’t wish to be (due to societal pressure, family issues, religious conflicts, etc.) would seek or allow a cure to be administered, but I’ve heard of many ‘cures’ and they are all out-and-out quackery, often bordering on the sadistic.

    The only people I’ve known to claim success in these ‘cures’ were people from religious backgrounds who were out / outed and decided to go back in the closet – not a criticism, just an observation.

    Even if it was a purely genetic matter, gene therapy would have to be completed well before puberty, as once the brain starts down the path, I suspect it’s hard wired.

    Equally (not sure how relevant), but I’m the youngest of three boys, with a gap of 8 and 10-years respectively with my elder brothers.

  • Brad

    Seriously though, why does it matter whether it is genetic or not? I mean, it surely is very interesting – but why does it matter? Or at least, why does it matter more than any other harmless human preference? After all, as several here have shown, it sure seems to be a case of ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’.

    Personally I’ve always thought that if children were raised to be properly disinterested it may go a long way to undoing the some of the facets of anti-gay attitudes, so that nature or nurture is irrelevant. But it seems obvious that there is a large portion of people for whom abnormality is to be feared. The question there is how much of that is hardwired or learned. If it’s hardwired to be gay, it may also stand that being offended at the 2-3%, at a rudimentary level, is also hardwired.

    A last thought, one upside as to whether it’s genetic is to test the most vehemently anti-gay people to find whether they actually carry the gene and are massively over compensating. I’ve been comfortable in my heterosexuality for as long as I can remember (the old man’s playboys at five and a nude dream of my kindergarten teacher went a long way on that front) and yet my older brother, a fairly libertarian/minarchic sort, has it in for gays seeing plots and schemes around every corner like they are communists and it’s the 50′s. I’ve often wondered just why it matters to him so much.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Those who argue that if homosexuality has a genetic basis, there must be an indirect benefit for it to persist are mistaken.

    Homosexuality has a very limited effect on reproduction. For instance, in most societies throughout history, a woman having lesbian tendencies wouldn’t interfere at all with her being married to some man and required to hold still while he inseminated her. Want of female sex satisfaction hasn’t killed off the African societies which practice clitoridectomy.

    Many men with homosexual tendencies still manage to father children. Oscar Wilde, for instance.

    So the selection pressure against even a full-on “gay gene” is limited.

    But the odds are that there is no single genetic cause. Rather, homosexual tendencies arise from the interaction of multiple traits, so that no one trait is under all the selection pressure. The genetic conditions may interact with prenatal conditions – which could be affected by entirely separate genetic randomness.

    Furthermore, these conditions may produce actual homosexuality in only a minority of cases, weakening the pressure even more.

    There’s also a question of whether “homosexuality” is a single condition. There’s a huge variety of behavior among both male and female homosexuals. There could be different roots for these different behaviors.

    Then, it appears that a lot of homosexuality can be traced to childhood or teenage experiences. Humans can be very plastic.

    So – if there are genetic elements to homosexuality, it is going to being very hard to pick them out clearly.

  • Dom

    The best predictor of homosexuality is the number of older brothers a man has.

    It seems a woman rebels against bearing boys, as though the womb is being invaded by a foreign substance, the X chromosome. The fetus is washed with feminizing hormones.

    Remember, these are only statistical studies. Galt has two older brothers, I have only one. Go figure.

    None of this works with lesbians. It is not even certain that lesbians are just the female equivalent of gay men.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    If Dom is right, and my earlier study is right, then the optimum strategy for parents who want heterosexual children is to have boys first, and then have girls. That is why it might matter.
    There is also the not-small matter that humans are shaped better for heterosexual coupling, thus causing less wear and tear on body parts.

  • Godarni

    It is wholly logical that homosexuality exists, it is a natural and inevitable variation, as occurs everywhere in nature; everything has offshoots.

    A word about the illogical and fraudulent practice of psychiatry…

    Homosexuality, like ADHD, was included in the DSM III because the DSM is mostly made-up nonsense, and was removed for the same reason.

    90% of mental disorders in the farcical DSM are fictitious. There is no scientific process to prove the existence of said disorders, they literally sit round a table and throw it together.

  • Alisa

    Yes, I see your point, Brad – both of them, in fact.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    90% of mental disorders in the farcical DSM are fictitious. There is no scientific process to prove the existence of said disorders, they literally sit round a table and throw it together.

    Well indeed Godarni. I’m not a Psychiatrist, but I do work in a field that intersects with it. I think the whole notion of “mental health” or “psychiatric disorder” is fraught with problems for exactly the reasons you state. What is normal anyway?

    If we are going to take to labelling people as deviant, then there is a question of where we draw the line. How much deviation is just being eccentric, and how much is being downright unstable?

    I think the point I am trying to make is either everyone and everything should be fair game for study, or nothing should. Refusing to pursue honest lines of enquiry because they are no longer culturally acceptable seems at best intellectual cowardice and at worst social engineering.

    For the record I’m of the (unpopular) view that homosexuality is sometimes caused by a childhood trauma of some sort (not always John!), possibly interacting with a g*entic prediliction. I’ve met enough abused gays or gays with serious mother issues to come to this conclusion.

    But I cannot move beyond simple anecdote because such research, even where it is conducted in the spirit of honest enquiry, is no longer allowed.

    Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to why I consider the OP article in the Guardian to be almost entirely without meaning. It is not that these sorts of questions do not have answers, it is that the human race lacks the mental and emotional equipment to be able to ask the right questions.

    Almost invariably the material being published now boils down to “How can I make gays look good?” just as the research back in “homophobic” days boiled down to “How can I make gays look bad?”

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, once again I have been smited.

    Did you hear the one about a dyslexic pimp? He bought a warehouse…..

    [Your previous comment has been unsmited, and in payment I shall inflict upon you the one about the dyslexic devil worshipper ... he sold his soul to Santa. - NS]

  • Alisa

    I think the whole notion of “mental health” or “psychiatric disorder” is fraught with problems for exactly the reasons you state. What is normal anyway?

    I agree. I get the impression (which I cannot back with facts for lack of proper information) that the mental-health profession came about in the first place as means to “protect society” against various deviations from whatever was considered “normal” by said society – whereas, its proper function should be helping individuals who feel that they need help (for whatever reason). IOW, if someone is gay and it makes them unhappy for whatever reason, it is entirely reasonable for them to seek help, and research into the origins of their sexual orientation is an obvious tool towards that end. But if some other person is gay and content with it, then it’s no one else’s business etc.

  • RAB

    Interesting what you say about your brother’s attitudes Brad. I once read that the Cambridge spies, who were all gay to some degree or another, except Philby, used their gayness as some sort of shield, in that they formed an elite exclusive club. It wasn’t the gayness that mattered most, but the eliteness and separateness it provided them with.