Monday, July 5, 2010

Fixing What Isn't Broken...Homosexuality and Eugenics

Why do we always mess with that big shiny button that says "DO NOT PUSH!"? Is there something genetic within the human species that sees something that looks like a bad idea and absolutely feels compelled to be mess with it?

I read a post recenty, via queerty, siting an article in the Bioethics Forum concerning one Dr. Maria New and her use of Drug she believes will reduce the "masculinazation" of female fetus's in the womb. The drug, dexamethasone, was origially used as a way to treat Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia(CAH) which causes female fetuses to have ambiguous genitalia. Other symptoms may appear later in life such as:
  • Abnormal menstrual periods
  • Genitals that look both male and female (ambiguous genitalia), often appearing more male than female
  • Deep voice
  • Early appearance of pubic and armpit hair
  • Excessive hair growth and facial hair
  • Failure to menstruate
Dr. New believes that an excess of Androgens in the womb is what accounts for the condition...The Problem? She also believes that the drug used to treat CAH can also potentialy be used to treat other forms of "masculinization" in the womb. The assertion has been made that this could eventually be put to use as a way to prevent lesbianism in the womb. Although Dr. New has made no such  DIRECT claim..what she does say certainly leads us in that direction...and the ramifications for future use of this drug a more than a little scary.

Even though Dr. New has never directly suggested that Dexamethasone be used as a way to curb potential gay fetus's, their attention to the link between Androgens and sexual identity and its control by Dexamethasone is coming far too close to leading others in that diriction, in my opinion. In a research paper Dr. New and Psychologist Heino F. L. Meyer-Bahlburg, of Columbia University had this to say:
"Most women were heterosexual, but the rates of bisexual and homosexual orientation were increased above controls . . . and correlated with the degree of prenatal androgenization.”

“That this may apply also to sexual orientation in at least a subgroup of women is suggested by the fact that earlier research has repeatedly shown that about one-third of homosexual women have (modestly) increased levels of androgens.”

I'd really like to know how they explain the other two thirds and how exactly "modestly" elevated androgens in only one third of their study group is enough to go on. But then...I'm not the doctor.

In a separate Paper Meyer-Bahlburg had this to say about the possible effects of Dexamethasone treatment on those with elevated exposure to androgens(aka gay and bisexual women):

"Long term follow-up studies of the behavioral outcome will show whether dexamethasone treatment also prevents the effects of prenatal androgens on brain and behavior.
In otherwords...those behaviors which would define them as gay.  thus we have the smoking gun...Even if they aren't selling Dexamethasone as a cure for female homosexuality, they are heavily hinting at it.

This is a bit frighting to me and Ironic all at once. I fully believe that if they could somehow, detect gayness in the magic many people who were "right to lifers" would be signing up and any babies found to have a tendency to homosexuality would be aborted. I don't know that...but it is my cynical suspicion. Two of the oldest tenents of the "profamily movement has been opposition to abortion...and opposition to gay rights. I believe those tenets would utterly dissolve with the ability to tell whether their children would gay.

Additionally, Those who appose gays often do so under the assumption that we are not born gay...This often flies in the face of very credible scientific research. We are constatly accused of "chosing the gay lifestyle". Yet, with the ability to detect a potentialy gay or intersexed baby...and the ability to DO something about it...what happens to their argument then?

However...if the language used in the statements above was too ambiguous to point to a eugenicist attitude to homosexuality, then perhaps Dr. News words to the New York Acadamy of Sciences will put a finer point on it in this quote taken from the Bioethics write up:(emphasis mine)
In a paper published just this year in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, New and her colleague, pediatric endocrinologist Saroj Nimkarn of Weill Cornell Medical College, go further, constructing low interest in babies and men – and even interest in what they consider to be men’s occupations and games – as “abnormal,” and potentially preventable with prenatal dex:

“Gender-related behaviors, namely childhood play, peer association, career and leisure time preferences in adolescence and adulthood, maternalism, aggression, and sexual orientation become masculinized in 46,XX girls and women with 21OHD deficiency [CAH]. These abnormalities have been attributed to the effects of excessive prenatal androgen levels on the sexual differentiation of the brain and later on behavior.” Nimkarn and New continue: “We anticipate that prenatal dexamethasone therapy will reduce the well-documented behavioral masculinization . . .”

But wait...she's not done selling its anti-homosexualizing properties. This time at a presentation at the CARES foundation...

The challenge here is . . . to see what could be done to restore this baby to the normal female appearance which would be compatible with her parents presenting her as a girl, with her eventually becoming somebody’s wife, and having normal sexual development, and becoming a mother. And she has all the machinery for motherhood, and therefore nothing should stop that, if we can repair her surgically and help her psychologically to continue to grow and develop as a girl.”

 and by now to get this handy carrying case!... AND...we'll double your order for three easy payments of only $19.95....(plus shipping and handling)

I admit...sometimes I CAN be chicken little claiming that the sky is falling. However, news like this is chilling. When it comes to certain genetic practices the public sets a very clear tone with waht they are not comfortable with. Such was the case with Dolly cloned Sheep. At that time there was alot of discussion about cloning humans and a great deal of public outcry against the notion. Ethics were sited. What is humane in the world of cloningand ethics was discussed ad nauseum. Hell...I even saw on 60 minutes last night that their are a team of paleontologists who think they can combine recovered dinosaur dna and combine it with what remains of Dino dna in birds...specifically order to further study the evolutionary link between the two...with the possibility of recloning an original dinosaur.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Oh great....Dino chickens....chicken sized animals with teeth and claws. Hmmm...Why does this not sound like a good idea?.../sarcasm off.

But when it comes to selecting homosexuality out of the populace, who will stand up and say no? How much public outcry do you expect if this really becomes a viable treatment? All the squeemishness we feel when confronted with the idea of cloning human beings ...or making dinochickens may evaporate in the public at large when those same concepts are applied to gays and lesbians. The point missed in that circumstance would be...who's next? the developmentaly disabled? The obese? Left handed people? If you put up with it for one group of people, you open the door for it to happen to ALL people. How finely can we split the hair of what is acceptable and "normal" until we create a nightmare?

Why do we feel it neccesary to tamper with life on this level? This is not curing a disease that hampers ones ability to enjoy life. This is selecting out a group of people you don't like bacause they don't fit the "norm". While this "treatment" may not kill the individual in question...I still consider it a crime against them. And since this study was not carried out under the supervision of any medical governing body how do we know that there will not be negative long term effects?

All things considered, this made me very concerned. Let me know what you think...

We are not broken. Stop trying to fix us...


  1. This is very scary, in my opinion. First of all, as I read the research you have not only potentially prevents "lesbianism" (as if being lesbian were a disease!) but also potentially prevents transgenderism.

    Secondly, I have long held the belief that parents absolutely should NOT know about non-life threatening differences in their children prior to birth because it will encourage some parents to abort perfectly healthy children just because they are different. As someone who is both non-heterosexual and autistic, I find this idea particularly scary. Both communities face parents who believe that a child who exhibits these characteristics is a tragedy and parents who believe such children are better off dead.

    Thirdly, Temple Grandin points out in her book about autism, "The Way I See It" that you can NOT just tamper with one gene without unintended side effects. Funny you should mention chickens...her example was that scientists genetically engineered larger chickens for their meat value and found that it messed with the chickens' bone structure. So if scientists mess with the "LGBT gene," G-d only knows what else will happen to the child.

    Bottom line: if there IS a gay gene, there should NOT be tests for it prior to birth. Just as people with certain conditions (i.e. autism, Downs syndrome, etc.) were routinely institutionalized in the previous century, LGBT people will be routinely aborted by the ignorant. And I think that is disgusting.

  2. I would agree that this is very scary. To be totally honest, I'm pretty sure that the studies Dr. New would have to hold in order to get her drug on the market, would be considered unethical.

  3. For every advancement of medical science, there seems to be a dark and ugly underbelly where the unethical lurk. People with an agenda to fulfill, and ax to grind, something to prove.

    If science actually found the "gay gene" then that would finally put to rest the whole stupid "choosing the gay LIFESTYLE" argument. You though are completely on the mark when you said that these very people who fight against abortion would do a 180 and would fight to keep Roe v. Wade viable. You know without a doubt that they would preach abortion from the same pulpits used to rail against abortion as a "cure" for ridding their world of lgbt people. And the very people who have been fighting to keep abortions legal would be faced with the prospects of fighting to end them.

    I feel that lgb people are a natural variety of the human species. I believe we are coded that way from conception. However, I feel that being transgendered, like myself, is a birth defect that falls under the intersex umbrella. We are not "whole" and that is why so many of us can only be happy with surgery to align our genders with our genitals. Would I advocate aborting people like me? Hellz no! Do I think that administering unproven medicines in the womb the proper way to address this issue? FFS no!

    There needs to be a mass repudiation with doctors and scientists who are advocating anything that reduces the wonderful variety that we humans come in. We might not all be perfect, but we live and are worthy of respect.

  4. Don't take it personally, Bryan. It's not just homosexual orientation that they will "fix". You can be sure that if there is a miracle drug to make a baby a certain gender, or a little taller, or a little stronger, or a little smarter, or whatever...people will use it, trust in the other people who peddle the miracle drug.

    The problem is not just homophobia, but the arrogance of some scientists who think they have control, total control, of their work, that they can find a way to do what their pet theories say they can do...without any side effects. Like the significance of the 1/3 that you pointed out. Scientists are people too and they can be blinded by their own wishful thinking.

    It is not only arrogance, but also ignorance.

    What else will happen to the fetus with this treatment? They don't know. Any scientist who tells you they do, is either lying or fooling himself or herself.

    The problem here is the implicit trust people place on other people who call themselves expert. Put on a lab coat and tell people to use lethal level of electric shock on others "for their own good"? Yup. It's been done.

    You are not chicken little. Other people just don't see the big picture.

  5. Interesting and scary at the same time. On the topic of eugenics my friends is in the education field and as we were rolling into the city this morning we had the following conversation.

    He said that pretty soon schools will be 24/7 enterprises, that they'll essentially be reduced to babysitters.

    And I said that the flip side of that, we'd need to start licensing parents.

  6. I hate when people play God or better yet, think they know better than God!

    Psalms 139:13-16 says: "For you created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

    He know's us and he created us....just the way he wanted us to be! In my own life when I wish things were different, I remind myself of this scripture and I know that I am perfect in his sight!

    Thanks again Bryan, Tabatha

  7. The trouble with people who try to medically "cure" homosexuality is that they fundamentally do not understand nature and evolution.

  8. This reminds me, too, of the horrific problems caused by the undertested drug Thalidomide, given to pregnant women to ease pain. Unfortunately, in addition to reducing pain, it also reduced fetal limb growth, producing a frightening number of babies with no limbs or flippers where their legs should've been or short stumps where one would expect arms.

  9. Re. Stephanie Silberstein's comment, I'm in the same position (I'm gay/genderqueer and have Asperger Syndrome) so I understand precisely where she's coming from.

    However there's a serious side to the suggestion that all infants at risk of developing some form of autism should be subjected to in-utero treatments to prevent it, and it comes in the form of a list - a list of some of people in history believed to have had some form of autism:

    Hans Christian Andersen, Bela Bartok, Lewis Carroll, Charles Darwin, Emily Dickinson, Eamon de Valera, Paul Dirac, Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, James Joyce, Stanley Kubrick, Michelangelo, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Isaac Newton, George Orwell, Charles Richter, Jonathan Swift, Nikola Tesla, Alan Turing, Andy Warhol, Ludwig Wittgenstein, W. B. Yeats, Ludwig van Beethoven, Arthur Conan Doyle, Herman Melville, Immanuel Kant, Vincent van Gogh and Samuel Beckett.

    It reads like a who's who of humanity's greatest thinkers - artists, philosophers, composers, authors, scientists, politicians. In most cases, their exceptional abilities are/were due to their autism - if their natural God-given autism was eliminated they would never have achived what they did. In each case their exceptional ability was due, in large part, to their autism. Try to imagine a world without them - without the things they achieved: our understanding of Newtonian physics; ditto for special relativity; the Sistine Chapel; the American Declaration of Independence; "Animal Farm" and "Nineteen Eighty-Four"; "Gulliver's Travels"; "Moby Dick"; the Turing Test; allied victory in WWII (Turing, Einstein and Tesla get joint credit); our understanding of quantum mechanics, quantum electrodynamics and antimatter; "Critique of Pure Reason"; and "On the Origin of Species" and "The Descent of Man".

  10. This is a question that Geneticists have mulled and pondered over ever since they started decoding the Human Genome: What happens if we succeed? Is it morally justified, by sheer whim of the parents, that we allow genetic alteration of an unwitting child? Regardless of whether I agree with Tavdy' or Silberstein's posts, neither I nor anyone else can truly understand the ramifications of alteration. If my mother had been privy to my sexual orientation before I was born, she would have done all that she could to "fix" it: she loves me that much (no sarcasm intended). Just as race in previous centuries, for many Homosexuality is considered a deleterious attribute. What if the public perception of Autism changes and it too becomes "different" as opposed to "wrong"? Luckily, MANY attributes are far too complicated to just fix, as a change in one gene could affect a multitude of different attributes. I believe this new drug will produce unwanted side-effects and be discarded quickly.

    Furthermore, Eugenics was abandoned because of the daunting amount of uncertainty involved in Genetics. If people started selecting positive attributes, the species as a whole might improve, but positive anomalies (such as Albert Einstein, Michael Phelps, and other gifted persons) would be far more scarce. This is due to the fact that it is nearly impossible to fully understand all the different outcomes of different combinations of genes.

    ...However, if such a treatment were possible, both safe and accurate, even eliminating an attribute universally seen as bad could have disastrous consequences. Some people who are born at a disadvantage, such as without an arm or leg, are able to persevere and become all the stronger for it: they gain a mental fortitude and are all the better for it. Many say that if Stephen Hawking had not contracted his illness (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), he would have never been as driven to publish and discover as he has. The fact of the matter is, we've already started selecting positive attributes. Many who go to Sperm Banks find that a lot of information about the donor is provided, including education all the way down to hair color!

    Now to the specifics: one cannot wipe out non-Heterosexuals from the gene pool, no matter how hard they may try. It is a random mutation which occurs, as statistics will tell us, mostly with straight breeding pairs. Therefore, the idea that they could cleanse the entire gene pool of these types of people is fallacious.

    I hate to say it, but I disagree with the idea that once a person can test for non-heterosexuality, they would automatically think of abortion, even those who are very conservative. Even after throwing all the current information at them, they still believe sexuality is a choice, and so more scientific proof would hardly turn them away from their denial. Also the ideology in this group of people relies on the evil non-heterosexual being an outside force, and not one that can invade from the womb. Perhaps I am naive in believing this, but the bond between a parent and their child is one that could not be so easily swept away from an outside professional opinion, especially one that would already be under heavy scrutiny in this context.

    The other thing that doesn't sit right with this is the ludicrous belief that a woman who acts "Masculine" is not a Heterosexual, or even worse yet, socially unacceptable. Personal experiences alone (along with MANY certified Psychologists) have taught me that women who act masculine, and also men who act Feminine, are not inherently Homosexual or non-Heterosexual.

    So I'll make my personal opinion nice and clear: I think it's wrong morally, ethically, and scientifically.

    HOWEVER... I look forward to the first dinochicken!