The Mix

Right-handed gay fetuses

A new study reminds us that not everything is about "choice."
I've never liked the political language of "choice," whether it's applied to sexuality, reproductive rights, or the work world. It's always struck me as too airy and artificial a concept, isolated from the sociological, economical, biological mess of life. And a new study by scientists at Brock University in Ontario finds that, in relation to male homosexuality, "choice" doesn't have that much to do with it.

In 1997, a study showed that whether a man's chance of being gay increases by a third with each elder male brother he has. But the original study didn't speculate whether this was because of social-cultural factors in the house or biological factors. This new study looked specifically at the influence of genetically related male siblings (as opposed to those connected through adoption or marriage) and also looked at whether it mattered if the siblings were raised in the same house. The study found that only biological siblings influence the chances of the younger male sibling being gay, and that they influence it even if they haven't been raised in the same house as the younger sibling. In other words, the gayness starts in the womb, or maybe in the zygote.

There's no similar correlation for homosexuality in women. Also, in an odd related finding the correlation between gayness and elder brothers seems to be true for right-handed males. Other research had previously uncovered that both men and women who are left-handed are slightly more likely to be gay.

Who knows what other factors are yet to be discovered: perhaps a link between a pregnant woman's craving for rice pudding and the chances of her unborn daughter becoming a lesbian? Are pregnant women with cats more likely to have lesbians and pregnant women with dogs more likely to give birth to gay male babies?

And if we really explore it, perhaps other correlations exist. As the first-born Jewish girl, was there some chemical in the womb that predicated I'd fall in love with a goy farm boy?

All I'm saying is, this study is a good opportunity with those many with lingering homophobia to get over it. Will it make a difference? Unlikely. As one anti-gay group said when presented with the new evidence: We don't believe that there's any biological basis for homosexuality. 'We feel the causes are complex but are deeply rooted in early childhood development.''
Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.