Friday, January 4, 2008

So sexuality is like... a switch?

The wonders of old newspapers... I came across a Dec 19 edition of the free Vancouver 24 Hours newspaper that has a small news item (titled "Nature or Nurture") on page 10. According to the news, a team of University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) neurobiologists have discovered that the sexual orientation of bees can be altered by genetic manipulations or drugs. In other words, as the lead researcher Prof David Featherstone ecstatically points out, homosexuality/heterosexuality can be turned on and off.... I tried to do some online research on this, but the newspaper's website doesn't show the news. (Dropping print material in the online version isn't really uncommon for the media, especially if the company can't afford a proper website. By the way, the Dec 19 spells Wednesday wrong on the cover!) Dr Featherstone is on the UIC website, and his lab has an address as well, but I couldn't find what I was looking for. Do the same neurobiological principles apply for humans? Last term I was teaching students Tomson Highway's Kiss of the Fur Queen, which has a gay character who was sexually abused in residential school. I did a bit of research to prepare for class, and found out that, according to the NARTH website, there is no 'gay gene' in the human body (also checkout Wikipedia). I shared the resources with my students, and asked them what they thought. Surprisingly, most of them believed that the character was not a born homosexual (in Highway's novel); or in other words -- as they argued later in an essay -- homosexuality isn't hardwired or irreversible. Art preceding science, anyone?

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