Tuesday, January 01, 2008

It's Natural

The evidence that homosexuality is a natural phenomenon comes from all quarters. Rachel Hertz, author of The Scent of Desire in a Nerve interview:
One study found that gay men gravitate towards the smell of gay men. What does this tell us?

I think it points to the fact there is reasonably good evidence that there is a biological underpinning to male homosexuality.
Seeing that quote reminded me of this excellent New York article I read several months ago which explains how gay men were more likely to express certain specific physical characteristics - characteristics entirely beyond their control. For example, they're more likely to have an index finger that is close in size to their ring finger and their hair is even more likely to grow (or whorl) in the opposite direction than straight men's. The argument that "it just ain't natural" won't wash anymore - unless you avoid all evidence to the contrary.

Additional biological indicators mentioned in the New York article:
  • Gay men and straight women have an increased density of fingerprint ridges on the thumb and pinkie of the left hand.
  • Overall their arms, legs, and hands are smaller relative to stature (among whites but not blacks)
  • There are technical differences in the way most men and most women hear, except among lesbians, whose ears function more like men’s.
  • There are gender-based cognitive differences in which gay men appear more like women. One involves mentally rotating a 3-D object, something males tend to do better than females—except gay men score more like straight women and lesbians function more like straight men.
  • In navigational tasks and verbal-fluency tests, gay men and lesbians tend to have sex-atypical scores.
  • In any family, the second-born son is 33 percent more likely than the first to be gay, and the third is 33 percent more likely than the second, and so on.
  • Gay men and lesbians have a 50 percent greater chance of being left-handed or ambidextrous than their straight counterparts.
  • In (presumably straight) men, a cell cluster in the hypothalamus called INAH3 is more than twice the size of the cluster in (presumably straight) women. ... In gay men, INAH3 is similar in size to straight women’s.
Hopefully, it's obvious that these are statistical averages. Having a counter-clockwise hair whorl, for example, doesn't prove that someone is gay. On the other hand, if this information contributes to an understanding among more of us that there is variation among human beings - and that homosexuality is one of those variations - well, that'd be an improvement on the current situation.

The article also mentions that there are over 500 species of animal where homosexuality has been documented. A good number to remember the next time someone tells you that homosexuality can't be found elsewhere in nature or that it's "unnatural."

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