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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

 

Peter Tatchell: Genetic explanations of homosexuality don't add up

A commenter requested that I have a look at this article by British gay activist, Peter Tatchell. I had seen it before but it is worth reviewing.

I agree with most of it and certainly agree that whether someone is born gay is a separate question from public policy or even whether to suppress or repress feelings. This is a matter of free will.

I do not think the examples he gives for environment fatally discounts the possibility that there might be a very small number of people who find no flexibility in their homosexual desires. However, there is no proof that requires a belief in genetic determinism of sexuality either.

In general, I agree when he says: The truth is that nurture appears to be more important than nature when it comes to the formation of sexual orientation. Most studies indicate that genetic factors, while not unimportant, are of secondary significance compared to social influences, such as the relationship between a child and its parents, formative childhood experiences, cultural mores and peer pressure.

This could have come right out of I Do Exist.

Tatchell places the solidification of sexual orientation at 5 or 6, which might be an influence of psychoanalytic thinking. I would place it later and at varying ages for different people. Further, I think for some, I would say varying degrees of change could occur spontaneously much later in life. In fact, Tatchell describes situations like that.

This article is consistent with my impression that European gays have not banked their political aspirations on the born gay argument as in America.

Comments:
Urgh, umm, I presume you're also not coming from the same place as Peter Tatchell on this? Or, maybe you are -- in a broad way.

He's a old style, hard line, it's a pity the Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore etc leftist. A real leftist that rarely exists in the U.S. It's a religion...

It's been noted before that both communists and conservative religists hold the same views on sexuality. And I suspect for the exact same reason -- they both want to remold people, and both therefore need to start with a "blank slate" view of social and personal development. Why this view also needs to extend to sexuality, I really have no idea.

(Everything must align, or cognitive dissonance occurs???)

Evidence? Don't see any mentioned -- but that's not important, right? Not when we have a religion to promote. We do see the blurred confusion -- again -- between behaviour and orientation. The use of "queer" should be a dead giveaway for you...

BTW: Tatchell grew up in a rather grotty Melbourne suburb in a strict Pentecostal family -- the type that thought uncovered buttons were a vanity (let alone music, or that unmentionable vice of the Greeks).

Let this be a warning to strict Pentecostal parents hahaha...
 
PS I assume you are aware of your slip with the use of "political aspirations"?...

You meant "social aspirations", right? :)

European gay men and women are (largely) beginning to realise those now -- thanks to the lack of a political religious movement. The question of "why" isn't such a big deal (except as an academic question), because equal social and personal access isn't being made dependent on the answer.
 
How does Peter being a hardline leftist have anything to do with his arguments, specifically?

Oh by the way, how is the "church of grantdale" doing?

after all, it can be said that we all promote our own "religions".

anoon
 
He's right about the irrelevance of origins to questions of equal rights, and that there's no proof of a genetic origin, but he still makes a number of overreaching, unsupported assumptions:

"There is, however, one very serious practical problem with this idea. If heterosexuality and homosexuality are, indeed, genetically predetermined (and therefore mutually exclusive and unchangeable), how do we explain bisexuality or people who, suddenly in mid-life, switch from heterosexuality to homosexuality (or vice versa)? We can't."

Apparently the idea that genes could determine sexuality on a continuum from heterosexual to homosexual just blows his mind. Applying his kind of thinking, genes obviously have nothing to do with height, because while genes might make someone tall or short, how would we explain someone of medium height? We can't.

"Some years later, the Kinsey researchers famously reported the case of a happily married young woman who, ten years into her marriage, unexpectedly fell in love with a female friend. Divorcing her husband, she set up house with this woman. Many years later, despite a fulfilling on-going lesbian relationship, she had an equally satisfying affair with a man. Examples of sexual flexibility, like that of this woman, don't square with genetic theories of rigid erotic predestination.

It is, of course, quite possible that genetic factors might predispose an individual towards a particular sexuality. A predisposition is not, however, the same as a causation. This is acknowledged by one of the main proponents of gay gene theory, Dr Dean Hamer. Even he concedes that it is totally implausible that something as complex as human sexuality can be explained solely in terms of genetic inheritance."

Translation: like Exodus and NARTHm he doesn't distinguish between orientation and behavior.

"Most studies indicate that genetic factors, while not unimportant, are of secondary significance compared to social influences, such as the relationship between a child and its parents, formative childhood experiences, cultural mores and peer pressure."

But he can't give us the names of any of these studies, because they're, um, a secret.

"What certainly can change as people grow older is their ability to accept and express formerly repressed queer desires. A person who is ostensibly heterosexual might, in their mid-30s, become aware of a previously unrecognised same-sex attraction that had been dormant and unconscious since childhood. Society's positive affirmation of homosexuality might help such a person discover and explore those latent, hidden feelings."

Here contradicting his earlier claim that people "switch" from heterosexuality to homosexuality.
 
How does Peter being a hardline leftist have anything to do with his arguments, specifically?

Obviously you have difficulty reading. So I'll repeat myself.

/QUOTE ...they both want to remold people, and both therefore need to start with a "blank slate" view of social and personal development. Why this view also needs to extend to sexuality, I really have no idea.

(Everything must align, or cognitive dissonance occurs???)

Evidence? Don't see any mentioned -- but that's not important, right? Not when we have a religion to promote. We do see the blurred confusion -- again -- between behaviour and orientation. The use of "queer" should be a dead giveaway for you... /UNQUOTE

And I have no idea what church you are referring to. I'm unchurched. Very.

(Although I am a Bishop. Got that online. For zip. So feel free to ask me about God - I'm an expert. With a title to prove it.)
 
Grantdale,

Either I can't read, or your just a really bad writer. Personally I think its a little bit of the former, and a lot of the latter.

You didn't bother to engage any of his arguments specifically, and instead went off on your own notions about him as a person.

Oh, and making fun of his upbringing, again, without engaging his specific arguments (you know, like quoting from the essay he wrote?)is pretty bitchy.

Take a lesson from Boo, buddy, and learn to write.
 
Anon, how do you know Boo and grantdale aren't one and the same? I'm not sure you are even the same anon. Whatever.

Tatchell presented no arguments about sexual orientation. He confused sexual behaviour with any underlying attractions. The claim about bisexuality indicating it (therefore) cannot be genetic makes utterly no sense; genetic influence for opposite sex attraction is the mirror image of that for same sex and there is no reason both are not at work in an individual.

I also made no comments about him as a person -- I made comments about his belief system. That framework is essential to understanding a great deal about Peter and all that he has been involved in for 30+ years, including that essay. As a true 1960s/70s lefty, he does not like the idea that anyone is constrained by anything from becoming anyone they chose.

This is of course a philosophical stance, rather than a reality. Maybe you don't ever ponder why someone would present their causes in the way that they do, but I always find it interesting. It all adds to the understanding.

And perhaps you are unaware... but we live in Melbourne and know people that "grew up" with Peter during the early days of Gay Liberation etc. That aside was for Warren's benefit: we often tease him about GCC's own behaviour codes. Just goes to show even the extremely religious are not immune when it comes to raising children... I'm not even going to mention what I really think about Seddon, the suburb he grew up in. "Grotty" will suffice.

Most assume Thatchell is English. He is not. But he is, to put it mildly, a rather unique individual. An "outsider", and often difficult to interpret. Thankfully.
 
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