August 27, 2006

Here we go again: gender, t3h gay, and why science and the media don't seem to know the difference

This is probably old news to the rest of the blogsphere, but old news is what you get when you watch reruns of "60 Minutes." Which is what I was doing this evening, when I caught this gem, apparently originally aired on March 12, 2006.

The Science of Sexual Orientation: Researchers Focus on Twins

[To psychologist Michael] Bailey, the stereotypes suggest there's a feminizing of the brain in gay men, and masculinizing in lesbians. ... But how and when does this feminizing occur? If the differences were already apparent in childhood, that would point to an early, perhaps even genetic origin — and that's what Bailey and Rieger are testing in a new study using childhood home movies.

In the study, volunteers were asked to rate each child's femininity or masculinity. Stahl took the test and rated two girls highly feminine.

When shown video of a toddler girl running a truck off of a table, Stahl observed, "She's really not girly. Isn't that interesting? She’s not girly." [A voice-over later reports that this girl grew up to be a lesbian. - M.E.]

She also observed differences in two boys, one of whom would grow up to be straight, while the other is now gay.

quiz: spot the queers by their "masculinized/feminized brains"
(images from and, respectively)

Intrepid reporter Lesley Stahl then got a "crash course in rat sex," and discovered that female rats exposed to testosterone immediately at birth were "profoundly indifferent" to the sexual advances of male rats - behaving, in effect, like just another red-blooded American boy rat. Castrated male rats, on the other hand, threw their plump little rat behinds into the air the moment they were mounted, just like a wanton temptress girl rat.

Stahl's conclusion? "So you created a gay rat?"

The rat sex scientist, the aptly-named Dr. Marc Breedlove, carefully corrected her: "I wouldn't say that these are gay rats. But I will say that these are genetic male rats who are showing much more feminine behavior."

The online version of the story, in the very next sentence, sums up the results with "profound indifference" to Dr. Breedlove's explanation. "So the answer may be," says 60 Minutes, "that it's not genes but hormones" which cause the gay.

now you, too, can be an expert in rat sex: the bottom rat's position is called "lordosis" and is only displayed when the bottom rat (usually female) wants to have sex with the top rat (male)

Interspersed between these helpful forays into toddler gaydar and rodentian copulation is the story of young Adam and Jared, fraternal twins and photogenic research darlings.
The bedrooms of 9-year-old twins Adam and Jared couldn't be more different. Jared's room is decked out with camouflage, airplanes, and military toys, while Adam's room sports a pastel canopy, stuffed animals, and white horses.

When Stahl came for a visit, Jared was eager to show her his G.I. Joe collection. "I have ones that say like Marine and SWAT. And then that's where I keep all the guns for 'em," he explained.

Adam was also proud to show off his toys. "This is one of my dolls. Bratz baby," he said.

Adam wears pinkish-purple nail polish, adorned with stars and diamonds.
Asked how he would describe himself to a stranger, Jared says, "I'm a kid who likes G.I. Joes and games and TV."

"I would say like a girl," Adam replied to the same question. When asked why he thinks that is, Adam shrugged.
I can't answer Stahl's question for Adam, but I'm skeptical of the insinuation all through the piece that Adam's self-described "like a girl" nature means he's going to grow up and perform lordosis with other Barbie-loving boys in the back alleys of the Castro. I wouldn't be at all surprised, my own self, to see Adam grow up into a loving, pearl-and-heels-wearing suburban wife and mother. I wouldn't even be surprised to see Adam grow up into the first hot femme transdyke to get into MWMF fair and square. (Ok, maybe I'd be a bit surprised to finally see them letting in a hot femme transdyke.)

Quick primer, once again, for you reporters in the back who were dozing:
  • not everyone who is feminine likes to have sex with boys. (See: lesbian femmes, metrosexuals.)
  • not everyone who likes to have sex with boys is feminine. (See: bears, em0's sister.)
  • not everyone born a boy grows up to be a man. (See: transwomen.)
  • not everyone born a girl who grow up to be men are ever ball-scratching manlimen at any point in their lives. (See: my darling femme transguys, you know who you are.)
  • sex, gender, and sexual orientation are not the same thing. (See: intersex people who aren't bisexual, bisexuals who aren't androgynous, etc.)
  • "gay" and "straight" aren't the only options out there; neither are "boy" and "girl." An ability to mix, match, blend, and start over as necessary may make your results a little more informative and a lot more credible.
Not that I really care why I'm a big old queer; but I'm just a little sick of hearing "gay manhood means acting like a woman" and "lesbians just want to be men" repeated as if it were science.


bvbgb said...

Doctor Breedlove? Please.

maudite entendante said...

Yeah, a name like that is too good to make up.