Friday, January 30, 2009

A Very Sad Day

Today I found out that a friend of mine died. He was barely 12 years old.

One of the things that I find is lacking in my curriculum is talking about death and how to deal with it. That being said...I'm not sure if anything could have prepared me for this.

My heart goes out to his family. I wish there were a way to help alleviate their pain.

I know that I'll always remember him, and I know that his memory will make me a better person.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Born gay?

I have been reading too many articles and comments online about whether a person is born with TEH GAY. Everyone's talking about whether or not there's a gay gene ("No, there's NO gay gene!" "But I've always KNOWN I was gay!" etc...). So please, puh-leeeeeez, allow me to set the record straight (....haha...."straight") and follow it up with my opinion.

People who don't consider a gay medical student with an honours degree in human physiology talking about the nature/nurture hypotheses of homosexuality should tune out. Right about...now.

So, much to your dismay/pleasure/utterly-unphasedness, homosexuality isn't entirely genetic. In fact, genetics explains only about 35% of a person's tendency to turn out gay. But does that really surprise you? So many aspects of your life are goverened by your environment and development; even those that are genetically-based!

For example, you have the genetic potential for a certain height. BUT!!! if you, say are raised in a famine-stricken country for the first 15 years of life, chances are you'll be a little shorter. OR if you eat foods with a bunch of anabolic steroids (no, I can't think of a real life example--so sue me!) you'll be bigger (and "bacne"-er).

The interesting thing you'll notice if you follow the link above is that an additional 64% of homosexuality can be accounted for by environmental factors. Just to be clear, that excludes having an overbearing mother or distant father, being exposed to Madonna rather than Mozart while in the womb, and being born in the Castro in 1980. Oh, right, and also that means...

PEOPLE ARE, INDEED, SOMETIMES BORN GAY.

Of course, "born gay" in the sense that someday they will likely be sexually attracted to the same sex, not in the sense that there are a bunch of baby boys out there who think that JT "is, like, so totally hawt!" That would be too weird...

Maybe someday I'll get around to talking about what those "environmental" factors could be...

But for now, I'll just say this: it doesn't matter anyway. Who cares if it's biological or not? Because then it would be a choice? So what? People are religious (or not) by choice, and we still protect religious minorities with hate crimes laws, we allow people of all religions (and none) to marry, to assemble, to equal treatment under the law. And why? Because a person's religion has no direct negative effect on anyone else. So there's no reason to discriminate against someone for how they identify themselves religiously.

And the same goes for sexual identity.

Science time! Are bisexuals real?

It's been a while since we've looked at some peer-reviewed gay, so let's have at it.

So there's a new paper in Developmental Psychology (produced by the American Psychological Association--oooouuuu, faaaancy) that discusses bisexuality in women; namely, are bisexual women really bisexual, or is it just a transition between being gay and being straight, or is it just an artifact of everyone's ability to..."adapt" to social situations. ;)

So Lisa Diamond, of the University of Utah, got about 80 women who identified as lesbian, bisexual, or unlabeled, and asked them questions about their sexual identities, their past (growing up, socio-economic situation), and their sexual attractions. She then followed up with them every two years for the next ten years. This is UBER-cool, because most studies released up until now haven't followed participants that long.

Her idea was that the womens' identities could fall into 3 patterns:
1. Bisexuality as a "transitional phase": this would be suggested if it were found that women tended to drift from bisexual or unlabeled identities to either lesbian or heterosexual identities as time passed.
2. Bisexuality as a 3rd orientation: this would be suggested by finding that women tended to keep their bisexual/unlabeled identities and their relative attrations to males versus females.
3. Bisexuality as an example of sexual fluidity: would be suggested that as women mature and become more in touch with their sexuality, there would be a shift of participants to the bisexual/unlabled identities.

So, interesting findings? Um, YEAH! So get this: the women's identities did change (quite often actually--67% of the women had changed sexual identities by the end of the 10-year study), but the interesting thing is that the majority of the transitions were to or within the bisexual or unlabeled identities. Further more, the transitions tended to reflect the womens' sexual activity over the past year (i.e. previously "unlabeled" women who were in a long term relationship with a man or a woman tended to change to a heterosexual or lesbian identity).

HOWEVER (and this part is SO cool) despite the women's change in identity, they reported much less actual change in sexual attraction! Basically even those women who initially identified as bisexual/unlabeled and then changed to a lesbian identity STILL reported attraction to men. I think that this is the most important finding of the whole study, because it validates an idea that I have had for a while.

That idea being that people adopt heterosexual or gay identities, despite actually having bisexual orientations or tendencies. Why would anyone do this, you ask? Because our society is less receptive to the idea of bisexuality than it is to homosexuality! And just imagine how un-receptive THAT must be! ;)

I, in fact, do consider myself to have some attraction to women (I must, since I was in a number of long-term heterosexual relationships, none of which were "for show"), but that is outweighed by my attraction to men. However, it's difficult to even explain that to people that I meet, let alone expect them to accept the idea as valid (and not assume that I was just lying or trying to "pass" as straight). So I identify as gay, even though I know that it's not 100% true.

Reading between the lines, this study says a lot about how even now, "sexually liberated" people still have a difficult time being completely honest when presenting their sexuality to other people. There are limitations to the study (the participants were mostly white; can the results be extrapolated to males; are 80 women really a representative population) but all in all it's a great springboard for future studies.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On Prop8


So the fight against Prop8 continues, not only through grassroots protests, but also in the courts. 6 couples are filing suit in Cali, claiming that Prop8 is invalid, because it denies a fundamental right to only a particular group of citizens. Apparently, a whole pile of law experts (SERIOUSLY respected people) have filed "friend of the court" briefs stating their agreement that Prop8 is invalid (or at the very least would have had to be approved through a different process).

And this is why I finally understand what the Chief Justice George was saying about his ruling last May. While it was huge that the court ruled in favour of allowing gay marriage, and established marriage as a fundamental right, it also deemed queers to be a suspect class (and, thus, a group that can be identified and discriminated against). I think that will have an important sway on the decision about Prop8's validity; if gays aren't recognized as an actual class of people, they can't be discriminated against under Cali's Equal Protection clause.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On Obama/Warren


I had a brief discussion with a friend yesterday about Obama's choice to have Rick Warren, the leader of a huge mega-church in California, to deliver the prayer at his inauguration yesterday. Apparently this is a position of prestige and generally considered to be an honour, which miffed the queer community (Warren was a strong advocate for passing Prop8 in November, has said some rather inflammatory things about the nature of queer relationships that he later downplayed, and his church supports programs to help "change" gays).

Some people support Obama's decision to invite Warren as his way of truly being "inclusive." Others point to the invitation of Gene Robinson, an openly gay Anglican Bishop, to give a prayer earlier as a counterpoint to Warren. There are also people who see Robinson's invitation, and the invitation of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association to the parade, as an affront to "family values" folks.

I think that the opposition to Warren and Robinson come from two different angles, and that the opposition to Robinson's presence isn't merited, while opposition to Warren is. This is because Warren himself has said extemely insulting, demeaning things about gays; he, himself, is a person who does NOT accept all Americans as being equal, under the law or in the eyes of "God." On the other hand, opposition to Robinson's presence comes not (necessarily*) from specific things he has said or done, but simply because he is gay. Opposition to this man comes from a stigmatization of all gay people, but opposition to Warren does not come from an opposition to all evangelicals.

There are, of course, exceptions to all these points, but this is by and large how the arguments are going, and I think that valid points are being made to suggest that Warren does not fit the spirit of "inclusion" that was supposed to be the theme of this inauguration.

*Some people do specifically have a problem with comments that Robinson has made in the past about homophobic religious types not being true to their religions.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mapping Your Opponents

Another interesting fallout from the passage of Proposition 8 in California: the group "Yes on 8," who organized support for the Proposition, are suing in State Court to overturn a law that requires all donations of 100$ or more be filed publicly, with the donor's name and address listed. Someone has put together a map of all the people who made donations to Prop 8, so that locals can either send a message of their disagreement, or boycott their businesses.

I'm of two minds on this issue. I do think that it's important that sizable donations be made public, since the outcome affects public policy. I think it's right that everyone be able to see who donated what. However, while I do think that listing business addresses and contact info is important, I don't think that anyone should be required to make their home address known. What does it accomplish? Plus, we do have to consider that some people might misuse the information to target political opponents at home, which is simply unacceptable. Sending a message or boycotting business is a normal and fair way of expressing opposition, but having someone's home address is not necessary for that.

The story, though, gets SO much more interesting. It's easiest to 'splain in bullet form:

Fact 1: "Yes on 8" is suing to change the law such that their donors will not have to be publicly disclosed. They're complaining that they're being discriminated against for their political descisions.

Fact: "Yes on 8" has also claimed that the courts had no right to overturn the "will of the people" by declaring the marriage ban to be unconstitutional in May of last year.

Ironic hilarious hypocrisy #1: "Yes on 8" took the list of people who donated against the passage of Prop 8 and tried to blackmail them into donating to "Yes on 8" instead. (An actual excerpt from that letter: "It is only fair for Proposition 8 supporters to know which companies and organizations oppose traditional marriage." Apparently that doesn't apply the other way around! Hilarity!)

Ironic hilarious hypocrisy #2: The law requiring public disclosure of all donors was passed by popular vote, but "Yes on 8" wants the courts to repeal it--just like the marriage ban!

Some Info On Evolution


I was surprised to find out the other day that one of my friends didn't know that there are actually quite a few examples of transitional forms in the fossil record. We had been discussing the film Expelled, and while my friend was aware that the documentary was full of misinformation, he didn't seem to have a lot of knowledge about evolution in general.

So here, I thought I would post some useful links and info about (the extremely well-tested, thoroughly scientific) theory of evolution.

One of the most useful sites out there is TalkOrigins. This site catalogs tons of info on examples of evolution (as in: yes, we've documented actual instances of evoluationary change. Not just "microevolution" of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, but "macroevolution" of new species.), common creationist claims (for those who are new to controversies about evolution, a lot of people refuse to "believe in" it, and insist on teaching various creation theories, such as Intelligent Design (ID) or a literal interpretation of Genesis), and other ├╝ber-useful information.

The National Center for Science Education also has a lot of useful information, more centred around the teaching of evolution. Teaching evolution has actually generated a number of court cases, one of the most recent (and my personal favourite) being the Dover trial.

If anyone reading this has any questions about the theory of evolution, the teaching of it, or the controversies surrounding it, feel free to let loose in the comments. :)

A New Start


As the world watches Obama step into office, they take one last look backwards to flip the bird to President Bush.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Back at it

Woah.

Monday morning.

And the coffee shop was closed.

CLOSED!

Luckily, the one in the adjacent hospital was open. Crisis averted.

Your regularly scheduled gay science will continue shortly. :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gay Parenting

*Cracks knuckles* Time to get back at this bad boy.
So the break from school was delightful. Full of friends, family, BF, and BF's friends and family. Not much rest but very much fun. But that's neither hardly gay, and not medical at all, so let's get to the good stuff!

A talk that I went to today reminded me of one of my favourite (or least favourite, depending on how you look at it) topics: gay parenting. It's my fave/least fave because there are SO many dreadful misconceptions about gay parenting, but it is a great feeling to set the record straight. Shall we? Let's shall. :)

So, since gay marriage is such a hot topic, some really bright fella (is it "fellette" if it's a woman?) decided to actually, you know, take a look at gay parents to see if they're actually blood-thirsty, neglectful, abusive, Cinderella's-stepmother-like nincompoops, as many anti-gay marriage activists would have us think.

Turns out, that idea is completely false.

Who could've guessed? ;)

Indeed, it seems that lesbian couples are actually slightly better at parenting than heterosexual couples. Isn't that just FABULOUS? ;) Apparently more research has been done on lesbian couples raising children than gay male couples, but from what I've heard they don't seem significantly worse off than lesbians or heterosexual couples.

In fact, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and pretty much everyone who knows a gay person agree that gay couples are just as good at parenting as straight couples.

That's why public policies, like the constitutional amendment banning adoption by unmarried couples (i.e. gay couples) in Arkansas (they couldn't even get married if they wished to), make me so upset. It's not based on any sort of sound reasoning at all. And worse still, it deprives orphaned children of finding stable families to live with long-term.

The frosting on the cake with this case, though, is that single people are still allowed to adopt. Cuz, you know, one person raising a kid on their own is fine--but if their partner moves in (adding additional financial and emotional support) then it's no longer a household fit for a child.

LOVE the logic. ;)