Bio rhetoric, background beliefs and the biology of homosexuality
• Bio-Rhetoric, Background Beliefs and the Biology of Homosexuality• Journal article by Robert Alan Brookey; Argumentation and Advocacy, Vol. 37, 2001 BIO-RHETORIC, BACKGROUND BELIEFS AND THE BIOLOGY OF HOMOSEXUALITY. by Robert Alan Brookey In the past few years the media have given great attention to scientific research which indicates that homosexuality may have some biological cause. Contrary to the current hype, the scientific study of homosexuality is hardly a new phenomenon. In fact, theories about a biological basis for sexuality can be traced back to the nineteenth century. What distinguishes this old research from the new is the untested belief that contemporary findings will somehow ease the social pressures put upon gays and lesbians. For example, Hamers (Hamer, Hu, Magnuson, Hu, & Pattatucci, 1993) research on the "gay gene" has been hailed as a valuable tool in the on going battle for gay rights. Hamer reported that he had isolated a genetic market on the Xq28 chromosome that correlates with male homosexuality. Shortly after Hamers study was published, the Human Rights Campaign Fund released a special press packet suggesting that the biological research on homosexuality will provide a powerful argument for gay rights (Watney, 199 5). Specifically, advocates of gay rights maintain that this research proves that sexual orientation is not chosen, and therefore gays should not suffer from discrimination because of their sexuality. Gay rights advocates believe the biological research on homosexuality will establish homosexuality as an immutable characteristic, and thus extend to homosexuals the constitutional protections of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although this argument may seem compelling, it is based on a simplistic, and not wholly accurate reading of the Fourteenth Amendment (Stein, 1994). Furthermore, if this argument is taken at face value, some troubling problems emerge. For example, most of the biological research (Hamers study in particular) does not include lesbians as subjects. In fact, Hamer has gone on record as saying that lesbianism is not genetic, but socially and culturally produced (Gallagher, 1998). In addition, most of this research (again, Hamers study in particular) argues that bisexuality is not biologically based. Given that the biological argument assumes that rights should be extended to sexual minorities whose sexuality is biologically based, and given that the biological research excludes specific sexual minorities, it would seem that the biological research would only benefit a specific group: male homosexuals (Zita, 1994). Of equal concern, however, is how the dependence on biological research places the gay rights movement in a precarious position. After all, if the argument for rights is based on specific research, what happens to the argument when the research is rendered obsolete? For example, a recent study published in Science casts doubt on Hamers genetic research. The authors (Rice, Anderson, Risch & Ebers, 1999) concluded their report by observing: It is unclear why our results are so discrepant from Homers original study. Because our study was larger than that of Hamer et al., we certainly had adequate power to detect a genetic effect as large as was reported in that study. Nonetheless, our data do not support the presence of a gene of large effect influencing sexual orientation. (p.