A Natural Fit
I once had a roommate who believed that being heterosexual was naturalbecause, as she never tired of saying, "men and women were just built to fittogether." Well, yes, in theory, penises do fit in vaginas, kind of. But genitalia areonly one small area where bodies may fit together, and in fact, it's notalways that simple. Back in my straight days, I once had a boyfriend who wasa full foot taller than me, which resulted in some amusing, if not to saystrenuous, sexual logistics. I can't remember why, but my chin always endedup getting bruised. (We won't even talk about what getting your legs aroundsome men's bodies can do to a woman's thighs.) What I wanted to tell my roommate and never did was that, of course, thereare all kinds of ways bodies do and don't fit together. Two women's bodiesmay fit together differently, and in some ways better, than a heterosexualcouple's, and the same, I presume, holds true for two men. I mean, although I have never had the problem--having been blessed with thechest of a not particularly well-developed twelve-year-old--I always thoughtthat going chest to chest with a man could be rather awkward anduncomfortable for a large-breasted woman. On the other hand, the nestling ofcleavages possible between two women--valley to peak, valley to peak, as itwere--seems quite natural if not downright erotic. And why I was thinking of all this is because of an article I recently sawin a gay newspaper, the Sacramento-based OutNOW! It was one of thosethings you have to read twice, possibly out loud, to fully appreciate thefact that if someone is printing this stuff, it's got to be serious. It seems that researchers in Canada have been counting the little ridges inpeople's fingerprints to see if there is a difference between the number ofridges on the fingers of gay men and straight men. They counted the ridgesof 182 straight men and 66 gay men and found that 30 percent of the gay menhad more ridges on their left hands than their right, compared with only 14percent of the straight men. This is significant, they maintain, becausemost people have more ridges on their right hands than their left. Of course, lesbian finger ridges were not counted. Are you still with me? There's more.These very same researchers have also determined that gay men may heardifferently, and perhaps better, than their heterosexual counterparts.Straights apparently hear better out of their right ears than their left,whereas some gay men hear equally well out of both. The idea that people are actually getting paid to conduct these studies,that someone somewhere is funding them, is nothing short of mind-boggling. It should by now be abundantly clear that the search for the physiologicalcauses of sexual preference has gotten a wee bit out of hand. What will itbe next? The comparative nipple circumference or number of upper lip hairsof lesbians and straight women? The greater likelihood of overbite among gaymen? (Aha! So that's why they lisp.) What are we trying to prove to whom and why?Research into physiological differences between homosexuals andheterosexuals was originally encouraged and supported by lesbians and gaysbecause we thought if we could show straight people that sexual preferencewas a matter of biology, they'd accept us. Well, the evidence, from respectable to ludicrous, has been piling up, andnot very surprisingly, it has had little if any impact on social attitudesor acceptance. In fact, if the rising tide of homophobic violence andantigay legal initiatives is any measure, the effect may be exactly theopposite: See, they really are different from us (read: not normal,perverted, etc.); it's alright to discriminate. The seemingly unquenchable human desire to quantify all natural phenomena,including our own behavior, is rooted in our equally human obsession withimposing meaning and order on--which is to say, power over--the many unrulyaspects of our existence. We don't like feeling vulnerable so we think if wecan understand or find a cause for something, we can control it. Obviously,this is a comforting illusion for many people but, again, has little to dowith reality, scientific or social. Indeed, if all the research has established anything, it is thatsexuality, like other human characteristics from fingerprints to shoe size,is naturally diverse, widely variable and thankfully, way out of ourcontrol. If people could just accept that, well, we might put someresearchers out of business and the newspapers would definitely not be asamusing, but everyone might fit together a whole lot better.