Monday, March 7, 2011

Does this sound familiar?

“Orientation has a genetic basis, but like other complex traits — height, weight — it is complex,” he said. “It’s not a single gene that leads to it. There’s a strong environmental component, too. It’s a very tricky problem.”

As with other traits that we are tempted to classify as either/or, orientation is probably better viewed as a spectrum encompassing the very strongly gay or straight, and a range of those who prefer one or the other, but have different degrees of comfort....

Orientation has sometimes been treated as pathological. Cesare Lombroso, the infamous 19th-century physician who identified various facial (and racial) features with criminal traits, also saw homosexual orientation as evidence of pathology, primitivism, savagery and criminality. And I was brought up with the story that a generation ago, in the bad old days (and in the old country), foolish unenlightened people tried to force homosexual children to convert and become straight. ...

The percentage of homosexuals in the population seems to be relatively constant, at 10 percent. And this goes back to studies of cave paintings… So though there has been prejudice against gay people, and though there may be some developmental risks, said Dr. Geschwind, “there clearly must be advantages as well. The reason why it maintains that way, nobody knows what it is.”

Dr. Francks said he was “quite happy with the sentiment of reassuring people that homosexuality is not some weird disability.” But, he added, “There’s no reason to go beyond that and say that gay people are even more talented.”
Now, just replace the word "homosexual" with "left-handed" and "orientation" with "handedness". The original article, on handedness, is here.We used to view left-handedness as a pathology and unnatural defect. Now, we recognize it is a normal human variant. Being gay, I argue, is no different.

You may also be interested in this article on the biological origins of homosexuality…including links to handedness.

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