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Gay Science – Telegraph July 1, 2006

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Sexuality & Gender.

Telegraph Editorial – (Aveek Sen)
They are born that way. They have become that way. They have chosen to be that way. Nature, nurture and choice � these are three ‘explanations’ of homosexuality that the modern world throws up every now and then. Most often, they are regarded as mutually exclusive alternatives, and might be released into the public domain as the result of genetic, psychiatric or sociological research, or as politicized convictions. These theories, and the various guises in which they become part of ‘common knowledge’, determine not only perceptions of and attitudes to homosexuality, but also how homosexuals make sense of and live out their own lives. So, when a Canadian psychologist’s research suggests that having one or more older brothers boosts the likelihood of a boy growing up to be gay, it is important to be able to put such a ‘finding’ in its place and think about
what is going on behind and around the research. Why is it that, every now and then, the ’causes’ of homosexuality have to be located in the genes, or in some form of biological determinism, and linked to left-handedness or red-headedness, or to similar behaviour in mice, fruit-flies, monkeys or penguins? Are these explanations actually justifications (“We/They can’t help it”) or are they something more mischievous and sinister (“If it’s
genetic, then maybe something can be done about it”)?

First, similar explanations are never sought for heterosexuality, which is the ‘order of nature’, and hence beyond enquiry. Behind most such investigations into homosexuality is profoundly normative thinking. It is deviancy from the norm that requires scientific explanation, and in civilized societies some deviancies need empirically grounded justification. Second, the focus is always on male homosexuality. Lesbians complicate most hypotheses and inferences regarding sexuality, and women come into the picture only as wombs in which the drama of sexual destinies is played out. Third, biological sex, gender-roles, sexual identity and sexual behaviour are distinct but variously overlapping elements within human sexuality. They combine among one another to form complex and shifting configurations most of which cannot be reduced to simple binaries like gay and straight, active and passive, masculine and feminine. Between being absolutely heterosexual and absolutely homosexual, human sexual identity and behaviour show
innumerable gradations, variations and changes, some culturally inflected, that defy fixed definitions and categories.

Most research into why homosexuals are homosexuals fails to take into account these essential complexities and variations, and is therefore premised on a limitedness that renders dubious its claims to scientific ‘truth’. In the liberal West, where most battles against sexual injustice seem to have been won, the persistence of such research could only point to a deep discomfort with what the Indian Penal Code still deems, more
unabashedly, to be “against the order of nature”.



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