Hair Whorls – Another Sexual Orientation Distinction

Timothy Kincaid

June 18th, 2007

New York Magazine has article which discusses many of the physical differences that are observable between straight and gay people.  While most of this was familiar territory, there was one thing new:

Richard Lippa, a psychologist from California State University at Fullerton, is one of the leading cataloguers of the many ways in which gay people are different. I caught up with him a few weeks ago at a booth at the Long Beach Pride Festival in Southern California, where he was researching another hypothesis—that the hair-whorl patterns on gay heads are more likely to go counterclockwise. If true, it will be one more clue to our biological uniqueness. …

By the end of the two-day festival, Lippa had gathered survey data from more than 50 short-haired men and photographed their pates (women were excluded because their hairstyles, even at the pride festival, were too long for simple determination; crewcuts are the ideal Rorschach, he explains). About 23 percent had counterclockwise hair whorls. In the general population, that figure is 8 percent.

All of the known distinctions, be they finger length ratio, finger-print density, or left-handedness are averages and do not apply to specific individuals.

My hair grows in a clockwise whorl.

Samantha Davis

June 18th, 2007

If this gets into the main stream news I predict that every pre-adolecent boy in the United States is going to suddenly become hyper interested in other kids hair.

I feel that the main problem with most psychological research being done today on homosexuality is that the researchers, by and large, assume that all homosexuals are etymologically the same. The idea is misguided, given the diversity of the non-heterosexual community.

Researchers also need to stop looking at sexual orientation as just a matter of people having different sexual preferences. Given the apparent gender non-conformity in gay children’s behavior as well as in adult’s cognitive ability (Sanders & Ross-Field, 1986; Gladue, Beatty, Larson, & Stanton, 1990; Sanders & Wright, 1997) and brain structure (Allen & Gorsky, 1992; LeVay, 1993; Byne, Tobet, Mattiace, Lasco, Kemether, Edgar, et al. 2001; Swaab & Hofman, 1990; Swaab, Slob, Houtsmuller, Brand, & Zhou, 1995) it may be wise to examine homosexuality, or at least some forms of homosexuality, as a gender nonconformity rather than a sexual nonconformity (which isn’t to say that gay men aren’t real men or gay women aren’t real women). Lately, I just feel that researchers have been shy to approach this muse due to it’s political unpopularity given the history of gay people and political gender normatively.

I’m not trying to say that all gay people are gender atypical, remember that I don’t consider the idea of one global etymological scenario to be valid in the slightest.

Jim Burroway

June 18th, 2007

Actually, I think the researchers are pretty good at avoiding the presumption that all gays are gay because of the same reason. I’ve read a lot of research — perhaps over a hundred papers on the subject — and I can’t think of a single one which believed that there would ever be a single bullet explanation for everyone’s sexuality.

The problem is that when news of the latest research hits the public media, it gets reduced to “the gay gene” or “gay brains”, or handedness or hair whorl.

By the way, it’s been so long, I can’t remember which way my hair whorled.

As you describe gender nonconformity, I think many researchers approach it from that basis. The principal exception that springs to mind is the maternal immune response theory, which is based on the observation that gay men tend to have more older brothers than straight men. But since I’m the first-born in my family, that wouldn’t hold true for me.

Lynn David

June 19th, 2007

No wonder my longer hair always stood up when I tried to give it a right-handed part (on the left side)! And dang, I have the greater left thumb density. A cop even commented on it to me when he fingerprinted me once…. for a demonstration!

I copied France’s article over to my “biological resources pertaining to homosexuality” Word Document…. it’s now grown to over 60 pages (mostly 9pt Verdana), just from articles in the last 3 years.

Homosexuality may come about via several different routes resulting in persons of various temperments, moods, and personalities. It is even likely that the gene expression model could create varying degrees of “gayness.” It seems the gay community is about as diverse as the rest of the world combined, could biology be a reason?

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