“Gay men and lesbians are more likely to be left-handed than heterosexuals. The preference for left-handedness isnt huge. But it’s distinct, and it might have a basis in human biology. “So says Richard Lippa, a veteran Cal State Fullerton psychologist who has been poring over the sex, gender and behavioral data contained in a BBC Internet survey that involved more than 200,000 people. The ‘Beeb’ used the data as part of its highly praised 2005 documentary ‘Secrets of the Sexes.’ And it comes amid growing efforts by scientists to examine everything from the length of a persons fingers to hair patterns for signs of sexual orientation.” [Reference: CSUF study says gays more likely than straights to be left-handed,” article by Gary Robbins, “OC Register,” April 6, 2007.]
In response to the above cited article, I wrote the following when it appeared:
“This is a very well written column. However, although I havent read the original study and checked the methodology, two factors must be addressed:
“1. There is a big difference between correlation and causation. Just because two variables are correlated doesnt necessarily mean that one causes the other.
“2. The author of the study writes, “You have to look at large numbers of people to see statistically significant associations.” Thats the real problem, in that, first of all, there is no indication that this is a random sample. Moreover, “statistical significance” is not necessarily the same as “theoretical significance” or “substantive significance.” Also, statistical significance increases in proportion to sample size. The larger the sample size, the greater the “statistical significance,” if I remember my methodology courses that I took about 45 years ago.
“Moreover, as a sociologist and LGBT rights activist (please see my blog, http://www.christianlgbtrights.org), beyond its academic interest, correlates or causes of being gay or lesbian are irrelevant to vitiating discrimination against LGBT people, as the recent remarks from Albert Mohler, President of a Southern Baptist seminary, attest, when he said that if being Gay was biologically caused, medical intervention on the fetus would be advisable and justified to change that fetus to heterosexual, as homosexuality is a symptom of ‘original sin.’
“More mileage would be gained by studying the causes of homophobia, and what motivates people who obsess over condemning others love and sex lives, than studying the purported causes of sexual orientation.”
I continue to reiterate my objections to such studies, the most recent one appearing in the “Los Angeles Times” Health section entitled, “What does gay look like? Science keeps trying to figure that out.”
The article by Regina Nuzzo briefly reviews some of the studies as to why some people are Gay, and she suggests, “Finding common biological traits — things like hair growth patterns, penis size, family makeup — might one day shed light on the origins of sexual orientation.”
We must again ask why it’s so important, beyond the intellectual issues involved, to seek to establish why some people are Gay? Why not study why some people are Straight? Why not study why some people like meat and others don’t like meat? Why not study why some people love vegetables and others don’t? Why not study why someone’s favorite color is different from another person’s favorite color? Well, you get the point!
The fact that sexual orientation is felt to be deserving of the appropriation of funds and expenditure of time and energy by scientists, as opposed to such questions as the above that any scientist would hardly deem likely to investigate, has far more to do with people’s hang-ups regarding sex and sexual orientation than it has to do with the intrinsic importance of that subject.
I can certainly see the validity of studies as to why some people love war and others love peace; why some people are sadistic and others are not; why some people take advantage of others and others don’t; why some people prey on others and others don’t; why some people are homophobic and others are not, but I can’t understand why studies of the causes of sexual orientation are viewed as being so important.
The only reason that I can see for its perceived importance, beyond the false belief that if one’s sexual orientation can be shown to be beyond one’s control there will be fewer reasons for discriminating against Gay people, it seems to me that many people (and scientists are by no means exempted) like to put people into neat boxes, and have people meet their expectations and their requirements within the parameters that they feel should comprise those boxes, and if a group of people call into question those assumptions, expectations, and perceived requirements by their very existence, there is seen to be a pressing need to study “them” and find out why “they” are different from “normal” people; why “they” don’t conform to “what I expect” and define as “normal.”
A good deal of this interest in why some people are Gay has to do with the fact that being Gay has been considered to be part of one’s core identity, both by homophobes, by many Straight people, and by many Gay people themselves. I fail to see why such need be the case!
Each of us is multidimensional, and our sexuality and emotional/romantic interests make up only a fraction of who we are as people. However, when one is historically and constantly discriminated against because of this one facet of a human being, that human being is virtually forced to see his or her sexual orientation as a core part of him/herself, if for no other reason than because that facet has been imposed on him/her as his/her essential essence as a human being. And, in order to seek to defend oneself from these attacks or potential attacks, a concept of self that affirms oneself amidst lack of affirmation by many, if not most, within the larger society, encourages the person to view that aspect that is the cause of one’s ill treatment to be defended, if not asserted.
And the desire to both defend one’s sexuality and to assert the normality of that sexuality is seemingly bolstered by the desired findings of studies that will “hopefully” show that being LGBT is beyond one’s control, and is a normal variant that does not deserve to be in any way condemned; such findings will eliminate or greatly reduce externalized and internalized homophobia.
Clearly, heterosexuals who are sexually and emotionally intact will not condemn LGBT people, as same-sex love wouldn’t repel them in any way. Why should it? If one is intact and content in his/her sexual life, what would be the motivation to condemn, or even make a veritable career out of condemning, the sexual/affectional life of another?
The fact that it is the sexually and/or emotionally dysfunctional people who condemn another’s sexuality is highlighted by the patently specious and foolish reasons given by these self-styled arbiters of “morality” for their blatant hostility and discrimination against LGBT people.
So, appeal to the Bible, when the Bible does not condemn same-sex love and, actually, affirms it. Or the appeal to “tradition,” where such an appeal could also be used to justify the institutions of slavery and segregation (which, of course, did, in fact, occur). Or the appeal that Gay people will prey on children, when the statistics clearly show that it is heterosexuals who are far more likely to be pedophiles than are Gay people. Or the appeal that same-sex parents will likely have more homosexual children when, in fact, virtually all Gay kids are raised by heterosexuals. Or the appeal that children do better when raised with both a mother and a father in the home when, in fact, what studies we have show that kids raised in loving homes with two mothers or two fathers do just as well as kids raised when both a mother and a father are present. And, of course, the list goes on!
And encouraging studies that seek to find out why some people are Gay is implying that there is something “abnormal” or “against the natural order” about being Gay, and we should find out why Gay people exist so that we can better understand this “strange” phenomenon. The fact is that many people fail to realize that God made His Gay children, just as He made His Straight children, with the capacity to love another person, and that capacity and the love that ensues from it are priceless gifts from God that He has graciously given to us.
What deserves study, on the other hand, is what makes it possible for so many people to be incapable of loving another human being? What makes it possible for a human being to despise and condemn the love life of another person? What is the source of such hate that resides in all too many hearts, be that hate justified in the name of “religion” or not, that makes one incapable of loving and not judging and not discriminating against others because of their capacity to love another person of the same sex?
It is these questions that deserve much study, for it is those who hate, especially those who hate in the name of God, who are the ones who really deserve to be studied. They are the aberration, they are the dangerous forces that wreak havoc on society and in the lives of innumerable LGBT people and their families. They are the ones who are directly responsible for parents kicking their Gay kids out of the house and into the streets and disowning them because their children placed their trust in them and that trust was horribly and sinfully betrayed. They are the ones who pervert the Gospel, if they profess to be “Christians,” and who provide “justification” for those on the fringe to even kill LGBT people and do so thinking that they are doing God a favor by so doing.
It is the religious and other homophobes who deserve study! Far more mileage will be gotten by studying the causes and dynamics of homophobia and homophobic people, especially homophobes who “justify” their homophobia in the name of the Prince of Peace Who makes it crystal clear that to truly be His disciples we must love and not judge others, than will be gotten by studying the causes and dynamics of same-sex love and attraction!
It is especially the clear disconnect, the clear inconsistency, between homophobic professing Christians who spew hateful rhetoric and engage in discriminatory actions on the one hand, and Jesus’ Commandment to those who would be His disciples to love and not judge others on the other hand, that certainly deserves scientific scrutiny for the well-being of society, for the well-being of LGBT people and their families, for the well-being of those who are Christians indeed, and for the well-being of the image of Christianity when seen by many decent, intelligent, and sensitive people!
Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society,” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. Maneker also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.