Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for June, 2012

Well, maybe not ENTIRELY boring

Timothy Kincaid

June 13th, 2012

When you hear “but there’s no gay gene”, it can make you want to pull your hair out. Or, if as in my case you want to keep every last hair that you have, you want to go into excruciating detail as to exactly what science does or doesn’t say, what twin studies reveal, and lesbian auditory evoked potentials.

Instead, just refer them to this amusing and interesting primer from Ma. Isabel Garcia in the Philippine Star. The entire article is a joy, but here is the masterpiece ending paragraph.

Biodiversity is a concept that we are so eager to promote because we recognize that it faithfully reflects nature’s realities. But we cannot seem to readily think “diversity” when it comes to gender. Somehow, we become frugal and intellectually budgeted when we classify human genders that nature gives rise to. Most of us are limited to thinking only in binary gender denominations — male or female. If you want to look for gender, look at the person, inner and outer spaces, and put genitals in the bottom of your clues. The person will tell you rich, scrumptious tales. Genitals are boring.

Study: gay men recognize faces similarly to women

Timothy Kincaid

June 22nd, 2010

There is another study which looks at the interplay between brain use, sexuality, and handedness. (Science Blog)

The study, published in the journal, Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, examined the influence of gender, sexual orientation and whether we’re right-or-left-handed on our ability to recognize faces. It found that when memorizing and discriminating between faces, homosexual men show patterns of bilaterality — the usage of both sides of the brain — similar to heterosexual women. Heterosexual men tend to favour the right hemisphere for such tasks.

But, perhaps not surprisingly, handedness made a difference

Steeves and her colleagues also investigated the influence of hand dominance on such tasks. They found that left-handed heterosexual participants had better face recognition abilities than left-handed homosexuals, and also outperformed right-handed heterosexuals.

Hand dominance is thought to be linked with both hemispheric functioning and sexual orientation; previous studies have shown that homosexual individuals are 39 per cent more likely to be left-handed.

This can be added to the growing pile of studies that identify specific biological differences between heterosexual and gay men (and, to a lesser extent, heterosexual and gay women).

This past weekend I was at a conference where a very well-intentioned man droned on about the causes of sexual attraction. After far too long listening to him read his slides about Freud and Foucault and infant parental relationships (along with Engels’ perspectives thrown in to add credibility), I was ready to scream.

Yes, the way in which we respond to our sexual attractions, the way we think about ourselves as either individuals or members of a group, the limitations we put on ourselves, and the way we talk about our attractions are all impacted to some extent by our culture, its expectations, and our own self-identity. Of course our upbringing assigns roles and expectations that carry with us through our lives.

But you simply cannot overlook the increasing evidence that biology is also at play. All of the Freudian theories or NARTHian models just can’t get around the twin studies, brain measurements, spacial navigation, click response, pheromones, handedness, hair whorls, x-chromosome deactivation, and all the other peculiarities that appear when we decide to stop theorizing and begin measuring.

Gay Brains

Timothy Kincaid

June 16th, 2008

There have been plenty of studies that identified differences between the ways in which males and females process information. And there have been several that found that gay men are similar to straight women and that lesbians are similar to straight men. New Scientist is reporting another one.

Brain scans have provided the most compelling evidence yet that being gay or straight is a biologically fixed trait.

The scans reveal that in gay people, key structures of the brain governing emotion, mood, anxiety and aggressiveness resemble those in straight people of the opposite sex.

But until now, the question has remained as to what came first, the orientation or the brain development.

To get round this, Savic and her colleague, Per Lindström, chose to measure brain parameters likely to have been fixed at birth.

“That was the whole point of the study, to show parameters that differ, but which couldn’t be altered by learning or cognitive processes,” says Savic.

First they used MRI scans to find out the overall volume and shapes of brains in a group of 90 volunteers consisting of 25 heterosexuals and 20 homosexuals of each gender.

The results showed that straight men had asymmetric brains, with the right hemisphere slightly larger – and the gay women also had this asymmetry. Gay men, meanwhile, had symmetrical brains like those of straight women.