Dare to Ask: So, are we really born this way?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Could sexual orientation be genetically pushed by excessive male or female
hormones during pregnancy?
Rod, 50, straight, Jacksonville
It could be hormonal, but we've had homosexual people around since history
began to be written down and kept track of. There are also gay animal groups
that don't eat anything in order to alter their hormones. It could be an
in-utero hormonal issue, but not one caused by the pill (or only by the pill). .
. . I also read about a study that said hormones produced during pregnancy could
cause homosexuality if there is too much or too little. The study was on humans,
but the experimenting was on rats.
Dina Marie, 19, bisexual, Chicago
Possibly. A person's sexual orientation is normally determined at or before
birth. Hormonal conditions in the mother may determine this. The theory for gay
men is that male fetuses who develop in the presence of higher-than-average
levels of male hormones like androgen are more likely to be gay. They are, in a
Gordon, Salt Lake City, Utah
If that were the case, then the population of gays should have skyrocketed
after the pill was introduced given the number of women who used the pill. Also,
it wouldn't explain why there were gays before the pill was introduced or
explain why there are gays like me who are children of good Catholic parents who
didn't use birth control pills.
Shelly, 49, bisexual, Pennsylvania
No. Not sure what else to say. What, did your preacher use that line to
justify his Neanderthal stance on birth control or something?
Ann, 38, straight, Kansas City, Mo.
In recent years, folks who find stuff out about folks who are queer as folk
(and since it's a premium cable channel show reference, you don't know if we're
culturally literate, homophobic or both) have been finding out yet more stuff
that points to biological contributors to sexual orientation:
- Men who have several older biological brothers are a bit more likely to be
gay than men who don't, according to a study reported in 2006 in Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences by human sexuality researcher Anthony F.
Bogaert of Brock University in Canada. It could be because the boys' mom
develops some type of immune response to succeeding male fetuses, though another
theory is that the youngest brother might get exposed to more androgens like
testosterone while in the womb.
- Men's index fingers are generally shorter than their ring fingers, while
women's are usually about the same length. This likely has to do with higher
testosterone levels in males, which affects the length of their extremities in
different ways (keep this in mind as you read further down). But lesbians' index
fingers also tend to be shorter than their ring fingers - unlike straight women
- and that may mean lesbians are hit with more prenatal androgens, too,
according to research by Michigan State University neuroscience professor Marc
Breedlove and colleagues.
A different study found that gay men's index fingers are a lot more shorter
(did we just write that?) than their ring fingers - even more shorter (again
with that?) than straight men's are, write researchers Glenn Wilson and Qazi
Rahman in their book, Born Gay. Again, the "more prenatal testosterone" thing
might be at work.
- Testosterone in the womb may affect a different extremity in men as well.
That particular extremity was found to average about 1/3 inch longer in gay men
(6.32 inches) than straight men, researcher Bogaert found, when he and Scott
Hershberger of California State University-Long Beach looked at archived data
collected in the Kinsey Report from 1938-1963.
Scientists don't know why there's a difference, but according to an article
in the Los Angeles Times in June, some speculate that gay men might be exposed
to more testosterone early on in the womb, leading to that certain enhanced
extremity, but then they receive lower levels later in the womb, possibly
causing more feminine characteristics such as attraction to men.
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his