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Brought to you by Curio , an Aeon partner. Edited by Sam Haselby. Last month, the US Supreme Court affirmed the rights of same-sex couples to marry. The decision was a major achievement for a liberation movement that began nearly half a century ago. Throughout the struggle for marriage equality, supporters drew parallels with the oppression of African Americans, be that anti-miscegenation laws or legalised segregation. Yet one stark difference between these civil rights movements has escaped notice.
African-American activists aggressively called out arguments about genetic and biological differences as legacies of racist, Nazi science. By contrast, the marriage-equality movement has embraced biological determinism. Gay and lesbian activists have led the way popularising the idea that identity is biologically determined. The proffered perspective is that sexuality is not a choice, but a way we are born.
Getting Americans to believe this was a struggle. In , according to the first Gallup poll on the question, only 13 per cent of Americans believed people were born gay. Yet since support has spiked, and today just under half of Americans think that the sexuality of gays and lesbians is determined at birth. The battle for gay marriage has been won, and other, even more challenging battles lie before the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender LGBT movement. To succeed in them, activists and scholars must abandon the fundamental fiction they have propagated.
The false belief in biological determinism does considerable damage. It marginalises some of the most precarious members of the gay community, such as the transgendered; it limits our capacity to discuss what makes a good and just community; and it leads many of us to misunderstand ourselves and society. Biological determinism has had a long career of serving oppressive and deadly cases; to the millions who have been subject to its horrors, its sudden emancipatory role would come as a shock. It was only a few decades ago that genetic difference was a way to identify and exterminate.
But both share the presupposition of biological determinism: that genetics determine identity; such genes must result in either elimination or embrace. This suggests why the activist alliance with genetic determinism yielded such successful results.
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M oving people to understand sexuality as being genetically determined took not just activism, but scholarly research. The first major step came in when the neurobiologist Simon LeVay, then at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, autopsied 41 individuals: 19 self-identified gay men, 16 straight men, and nine women.
LeVay dug deep into the brain. Earlier research had shown the brain cell group INAH3, the third interstitial nucleus of the hypothalamus, to be associated with sexual attraction among rats. For males, this area is considerably larger than it is for females because male rat foetuses are exposed to higher levels of testosterone than females.
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If its size explained attraction, LeVay reasoned, then we might expect gay men to have smaller INAH3 than straight men. Some of this research explored the social life of gay communities, and activists were worried about shining a light upon what happened in the dark corners of bath houses. The broader American population overwhelmingly viewed gay sex as unnatural, and sexual licentiousness as perverse. Calling attention to the sexual freedom that characterised gay urban communities would do no good for the sick and dying.
But if gayness was a biologically-determined identity, then blaming the dying would be a lot more difficult.
It was a major step toward a biological understanding of sexuality. LeVay, however, was cautious in his findings, and warned against a strong interpretation of his work. In , the geneticist Dean Hamer and his colleagues at the US National Institutes of Health published findings in Science suggesting the presence of a gay gene. Noting that maternal relatives of gay men were more likely to have same-sex attraction than paternal relatives, Hamer posited that something on the X chromosome must be driving same-sex attraction.
Hamer found that gay brothers were likely to share DNA markers on Xq Caution fell away. Gay men, demonised as moral degenerates and ravaged by the AIDS crisis, had a rallying cry. Eventually, the phrase would even have an anthem all of its own, working its way from scientific journals to movements around the world. For genes are not solely determinate of outcomes. My genetic material determined my height only in conversation with the context of my upbringing.
Whereas my parents grew up in developing nations, I was raised in New York, where food was plentiful and diseases largely managed. Because of such conditions, I stand a full nine inches taller than my parents. Desire might be biologically driven, but it moves on tracks laid forth by human culture. One of the simplest truisms of biology, taught in its earliest introductory courses, is that genes interact with environmental and social conditions to generate outcomes. Scientists and social scientists alike know this well, and have shown it time and again, even in relationship to sexuality.
It is notable, then, that biologists, social activists and scholars have not just tolerated a fiction, but in many instances propagated it. The likely reason is that undermining the genetic determinism of sexuality is seen as terribly dangerous. For if sexuality is not determined, then what is it? In addition too, gay rights should be legalized because everyone should have equal rights. According to the 14th amendment, "No state shall Dating people with the same-sex is wrong for many people out here.
They are afraid it infringes on their straight rights.
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Essay Gay Marriage Should Be Legally Recognized Gay marriage has been an issue discussed for many years and is a hot topic in the current presidential election, so I chose an article concerning whether gay marriage should be legally recognized. Words: - Pages: 7. Words: - Pages:. Essay Same Sex Marriage Should Be Legal Same sex marriage have been complicated for many years, gay marriage was a discriminatory and unconstitutional that same-sex couples should not have access or the right to all the benefits enjoyed by different-sex couples.
Words: - Pages: 3. Discourse Analysis and the Media Essay example Introduction The same-sex marriage movement deals with what is arguably a leading social issue in the United States today. Words: - Pages: Popular Essays. Ready To Get Started? Create Flashcards. Every professional writer has the expertise to format and style a document as required. They have websites that provide direct contacts between writers and customers and enable them to discuss details and achieve the best result.
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