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    Excising the fabulousness gene

    Oh, come on. Michael and Henry Lewis are having a spaz over this statement by James Joyner:

    Is being gay tantamount to being deaf? My instinct is that it is not, since it impacts a much more narrow range of the human experience. At the same time, would I choose for my kids to be gay? Absolutely not. There are plenty of disadvantages that come with it and no obvious upside. If they turned out to be gay, though, they would continue to have my love and support.

    Michael and Henry both say the only downside to being gay stems from other people’s narrow-mindedness. Is that the case for everyone, though? I’ve known a fair number of gay couples who regret that they can’t have a child together. Is it really possible to believe that social pressure alone accounts for the desire to see their combined genetic heritage reflected in their child? You don’t have to be one of those mean-spirited people who think of adopted children as somehow not “real” or who assume every childless person lives a pathetic, unhappy life to recognize the human instinct to procreate and to concede that responding to it is “valid.”

    From a different angle, parents do all sorts of things to ensure happiness by their own definition for their children. The line between encouraging a child to rise to high standards and tamping down his personality isn’t always clear. Still, it’s not uncommon for parents to foist piano lessons on their children, or to pressure them into going to parochial school, or to refuse to pay for college if it’s not Ivy, when the children’s native aptitudes and interests clearly run in different directions. There’s an obvious and direct way in which rejecting an existing child’s core self and trying to substitute another of the parents’ own choosing causes unhappiness.

    Would manipulating genes have a comparable effect? It doesn’t seem to me that it would, though I can only speculate, of course. A child might feel a bit odd if told that Mom underwent some kind of drug regimen to incline him toward engineering rather than painting, but since the only life he would know would (presumably) be that of an inclination toward engineering, I can’t imagine that he’d be haunted by not having been able to live as his “natural” self. Anyway, it’s already natural for people, when they’re feeling down, to wonder whether people living different lives are happy or more productive or what have you.

    And that’s always struck me as what this debate is really about for a lot of gay people: they seem to think that accepting that some people might not want themselves or their children to be gay somehow reflects badly on us. Hence the indignant declarations that we are too happy and that prejudice from hetero-meanies is all that keeps us from being more so. I don’t see why that stance is necessary. Life is about trade-offs for everyone, and part of living in a free society is respecting people who prioritize things differently. Those of us who are out homosexuals should be more aware of that than anyone.

    13 Responses to “Excising the fabulousness gene”

    1. Michael says:

      First of all, I would hardly call my post a “spaz-out”

      Second, I’ve never thought people who don’t want gay kids reflects poorly on us. Quite the opposite. I’ve always thought it reflected quite poorly on those people.

      Thirdly, I’ve never said – or at least I’ve never meant to – the the only thing standing in the way of my complete happiness is the “hetero-meanie.” I’ve got problems that have nothing to do with them. But if we’re talking about gay issues alone, then yes, they are the single biggest factor.

      You know that Sean – even if you do what to misrepresent my post as a spastic to suggest otherwise.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Michael, this is what you wrote, right?

      “The only thing gay people are denied is the right to live their lives as they wish. And regardless of how you feel gayness comes about, what gay people are denied has nothing to do with a biological defect. It has everything to do with the attitudes of straight people towards them.”

      I’ll concede that whether you were spazzing is not something I can produce an objective measure of–a standard spaz assessment tool not being a social science instrument anyone’s bothered to develop to my knowledge–but at the least you were being sententious. You don’t use locutions such as “nothing to do” and “everything to do” if you’re just trying to point out that prejudice from straight people is the “single biggest factor” among many in whether it’s easy to be happily gay (which I would agree with myself, by the way).

      Back to the main point: Parents have all sorts of hopes for their children, many of them related to how easy it’s going to be for them to find a mate and start a family. You don’t have to look down on actors to recognize that acting is difficult to make a success of and to hope that your child chooses a different profession, for example. Similarly, I don’t think you have to harbor any disrespect for gays in order to hope your children will be able to have biological children with their own spouses.

    3. Michael says:

      I wasn’t saying that gay people don’t have normal problems. I was saying that the problems resulting from them being gay are problems caused by straight people.

      And yes, I’ll concede there are probably a lot of gay people who wish they could have a child of their own. Just as there are probably a lot of lesbians who fret over the fact that they have to go through all the trouble to fiddle with a strap on.

    4. Michael says:

      And, by the way, my friends Joey and Logan have twins (my godkids) that are biologically both their children.

    5. Connie says:

      I was saying that the problems resulting from them being gay are problems caused by straight people.

      Heh.

      Oh, you’re serious?

      It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that people in minority groups or with minority traits feel a little out in left field.

      It’s not the fault of the round hole if you’re a square peg and don’t fit. Some things just “are” with no causal.

      You seem to be suggesting that you’d love your child less if it was blind simply because you hope he’s never blind. It isn’t exposing a hatred against blind people. It’s a bias against blindness, in favor of sight. It’s a preference for “healthy.” The fact that others see isn’t what makes life difficult for a blind person. It’s because they CAN’T SEE.

      Parents want their kids to be “normal.” That’s why mothers count their babies fingers and toes after they’re born. It’s a natural instinct to check for “healthy” in whatever form it manifests.

      Everything about sexual attraction in heterosexuals is attraction for the strongest/healthiest. There’s even a formula for an ideal waist:hip:breast ratio that a heterosexual male brain is attracted to (without knowing the actual formula) because it signifies a hip structure that will make for an easier/healthier birth. It is why “pretty” faces are preferred because it involves symmetry, and symmetry denotes good health.

      As Sean said so well, it’s about priorities and a lot of those priorities are hardwired, ie, BORN THAT WAY. The fact that you have to remind gay people of that strays into absurdland.

    6. Sean Kinsell says:

      “I wasn’t saying that gay people don’t have normal problems. I was saying that the problems resulting from them being gay are problems caused by straight people.”

      I know, Michael; that’s what I was disputing.

    7. Dean Esmay says:

      What’s interesting about this discussion is that if you equate gayness with ANY trait generally considered even slightly negative, rarely do some folks fail to take offense.

      What if I didn’t want my child to be a dwarf? Do I hate short people?

      What if I don’t want my child to have Tourette’s Syndrome? Do I hate people with Tourette’s?

      What if I don’t want my child to have two sets of genitalia? Does it mean I want to cut down on their fun at parties?

      What if I don’t want my child to be a Republican?

      Hell, what if I don’t want them to have enormous feet four times larger than normal?

      I also wonder sometimes when the word “queer”–meaning, a little odd, a little unusual, but certainly not awful–suddenly became a bad thing in the gay community. Or did it?

    8. Alice says:

      Scientists have been saying we’ll be able to genetically modify babies all sorts of ways since forever, but so far there is very little evidence indeed that choosing anything more specific than gender or the absence of a disease will ever be possible. My hunch is that the human brain is way more complex and self-evolving than scientists like to believe.

      However: what Sean says :)

    9. Sean Kinsell says:

      Thanks, Connie and Alice.

      Dean, my understanding was that queer had always meant odd in an unfavorable way…as in, “not right in the head” or “unsettling.” And you know what they say about guys with big feet….

    10. dolphin says:

      Where to begin?

      Ok first let’s address this:


      Would manipulating genes have a comparable effect? It doesn’t seem to me that it would, though I can only speculate, of course.

      Ultimately it’s not important whether the child would feel ok about having his (or her) genes manipulated, but whether or not it’s a good idea to be manipulating genes in anyway other than (perhaps) to eliminate disease. Even in a best case scenario manipulating genetic material to produce offspring with favored traits is morally questionable and rationally unpredictable. Human beings are too complex for us to think we can go changing things with predictable results. Look are purebred dogs. We’ve bred dogs to have the traits that we find favorable, yet nearly every breed faces significant health problems (not faced by the mutt population) as a direct result of our tinkering. Whether you’re talking about dogs, or experiments in human eugenics (like the US-based Lynchburg Colony, or NAZI Germany’s “master-race”), we have seen time and time again that nature is far better at determining what traits should be produced in the next generation than we could ever hope to be.

      Even in the hypothetical situation that we become so advanced in our understanding of human genetics as to be able to safely change one trait without unpredictably effecting others, it’s still absurd to think we could efficiently harness such power to better mankind. To use your example of painters versus engineers. The world needs both painters and engineers. If parents get to choose, do you think they will just arbitrarily happen to find the perfect balance of the two. The reality is that we need some engineers, some painters, some doctors, some teachers, some auto mechanics and even some trash collectors. I don’t think we can rely on parents (or the government or any other human institution) to adequately distribute the necessary traits throughout the population.


      It’s a preference for “healthy.”

      The point is that it’s not “unhealthy” to be gay. You’re comparison is apples and oranges.

      As Sean said so well, it’s about priorities and a lot of those priorities are hardwired, ie, BORN THAT WAY. The fact that you have to remind gay people of that strays into absurdland.

      I’ll need more than just your word to suggest there is a hard-wired bias against gay people. Animals have not been observed to show bias towards gay members of their species, and I’ve talked to many people who met gay couples prior to being taught “gay=bad” and they remember no adverse reaction to the experience. Just because you say people are born preferring “straight” doesn’t make it so. I’ve seen NO evidence to support that point of view and a fair amount of evidence that contradicts it.


      What if I didn’t want my child to be a dwarf? Do I hate short people?

      All forms of dwarfism carry with them specific health risks. If you don’t want your child to be a dwarf, it doesn’t mean you hate short people, but it does mean you hate the health risks associated with being unnaturally short. If you don’t want your child to be gay, it doesn’t mean you hate gay people, but it does mean you hate “being gay.”

    11. Connie says:

      Babies without hands or feet, sight or hearing aren’t “unhealthy” either, but it isn’t the ideal parents would choose.

      You need more than my opinion to show that parents have a bias against any abnormality in their children?

      OK: Health Insurance. Hospital births.

      Those are just the two off the top of my head. I can provide more.

    12. dolphin says:


      Babies without hands or feet, sight or hearing aren’t “unhealthy” either, but it isn’t the ideal parents would choose.

      If you think being disabled is a sign of good health, we clearly have different views of health. Are a blind person’s eyes healthy? The ears of a deaf person? The limbs of a crippled person?


      You need more than my opinion to show that parents have a bias against any abnormality in their children?

      I didn’t ask about bias against abnormality. I asked about in-born bias against homosexuality. Despite what you may have been taught by the far-right, gay people suffer no abnormality. Homosexuality is a normal, naturally occurring phenomenon.

      I’d love for you to provide more examples , this time, if you could actually provide ones relevant to the topic that’d be great. If you’re going to come back with more crap like “Health Insurance. Hospital births.” then be ready to defend the notion being gay is a disease. If being gay is not a disease or a disability, then your notions are not only utterly ridiculous, but utterly offensive.

    13. Connie says:

      Great strawman. I didn’t say homosexuality is a disease. Frankly, we don’t know that yet. It could be that it is some form of disease, but it is more likely that it is a result of some sort of condition of the mother or a combination of factors between the mother and the father.

      It is impossible to provide examples when you keep changing the goal posts. You are drawing out homosexuality as different from any of the other “naturally occurring” abnormalities. It isn’t. Parents hope for a normal child and it doesn’t matter what form “normal” takes.

      Since there may be several (or many) causes that result in a homosexual child (or any other abnormality), pregnant mothers are going to reduce their risks of any irregularity by giving birth in the hospital, getting good prenatal care, etc.

      The womb is a hostile place for a male fetus, which is why 75% of miscarriages are male.

      It is believed that some homosexuality is caused in the womb, but the effect on sexual preference (if there is an effect at all) is determined by when it occurs…

      The most promising explanation is that there is something akin to a chemical bath that inhibits or in some way alters the development of a male fetus. This same chemical bath may also explain (or account for) some of the 75% of miscarriages that are male. Finding that cause or trigger, and coming up with a treatment, could dramatically reduce stillbirths and miscarriages. Being someone who has had a miscarriage, I would see that as a good thing, but if you believe that eliminating some or most of homosexual births as a side effect as a bad thing, then it would be a difficult issue for you.

      It is believed to be congenital, carried by the mother. That means that homosexuality isn’t a disease (as some suggest) but a condition. It would also explain why some women are more likely to have serial miscarriages that cannot be explained by physical features (such as a tipped or weak uterus).

      There is also a condition that is another avenue of related investigation. The Rh factor plays a role in the number of offspring a woman may have. If the mother is Rh negative and the father is Rh positive, the mother will have little or no complications with the first birth. By the second birth, however, the body will attack the fetus as it has experience recognizing and responding to it because of the first birth, producing anti-rhesus antibodies that attack the fetus.

      By turning off that memory, with the drug RhoGam, her body is fooled into believing it is her first birth. Without that drug given within 72 hours of the prior birth, her chances of a complication or stillborn with her next pregnancy go up exponentially.

      It is possible that the irregular development, which results in homosexuality, could be a combination of factors with something similar to the Rh factor. That would explain why it isn’t carried solely by the mother (which would make homosexuality a predictable in a family line), but it requires a trigger, combined with something brought by the father.

      Rhesus disease is a naturally occurring phenomenon, too, but one that was believed to be unfavorable, unless, of course, you think it is great for a baby to be born with severe anemia or heart failure.

      “Naturally occurring” doesn’t mean normal or desirable. Downs Syndrome is naturally occurring. Stillbirths are naturally occurring. One in 5 pregnancies result in miscarriage. Those are all “naturally occurring” but they are still devastating to the parents involved. Death is “naturally occurring.”

      Homosexuality is an abnormality. That isn’t a value judgment. It is a statement of fact. IQs above 130 are ALSO an abnormality.

      There are a variety of promising research paths which are determining the causes of homosexuality. Prenatal hormones and sexual orientation.

      What many fail to realize is that nature doesn’t get it the same every single time. Abnormalities can range from mild to severe, to stillborn. They can also be considered “good” depending on your perspective.

      This is painfully similar to the discussions several years ago about the woman who had congenital deafness and felt that her deafness was superior. So much so that she sought out a sperm donor who also had congenital deafness with the purpose of having a child who was deaf. Her arguments for wanting a deaf child sound sadly familiar to yours, Dolphin. She believed that deafness was a “culture” and a superior one at that. Any research into eliminating deafness was viewed as a personal attack against that culture, and her specifically.

      There are always new treatments that eliminate or dramatically reduce abnormalities in birth. Some people see these as advancements for the good. Someday there may be an explanation for some or all of the causes of homosexuality and a treatment to prevent it. You may not see that as good thing. Would you respond like the woman who wanted a deaf child? Would others respond the same way? Don’t know. But we live in interesting times.

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