Biology and gay identity


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Biology and gay identity

  1. 1. • Biology and Gay Identity• Journal article by David Fernbach; New Left Review, Vol. a, 1998 David Fernbach Biology and Gay Identity The last two decades have seen accelerated progress in the life sciences, especially molecular biology. On the back of this advance in knowledge, a wave of ideologists have hitched a free ride, claiming that social phenomena from alcoholism to homelessness can be explained in biological, even genetic, terms. The most stubborn proponents of these overweening claims are scientists themselves, when they step outside the laboratory and appear on the public stage. It is scarcely surprising that as part of this reductionist wave, notions of the gay brain and gay gene have been bruited in recent years, with immense attendant publicity. What appears paradoxical, however, is that the biologists most associated with these purported discoveries are themselves gay men, and have met such an enthusiastic reception in the gay community. Havent claims of natural difference been generally associated with a reactionary purpose, from Platos souls of gold, bronze and iron through to supposed differences in iq between ethnic groups today? The paradox continues in the stark alternative commonly assumed in public discussion, especially in the United States, that if -47- homosexuality is not biologically innate, it must be a freely chosen lifestyle. And the polarization of debate is such that the biological notion is ipso facto labelled pro-gay by the media, while free choice is the antigay position. 1 The modern gay movement has in fact had a special relationship with biology throughout its first hundred years. A biological definition of gay identity, in the sense of an ideology that presses biology into its service, presided over the very naming of homosexuals as a social group in modern society, and after a period of retreat in the mid twentieth century, this has re-emerged once again in surprisingly similar form. In this article I explore the biological gay identity at a number of levels, from a preideological spontaneous consciousness, through its social function as ideology, to the implications of contemporary scientific research. I then discuss two alternative identities that have competed with it for homosexual allegiance, and some broader implications of this contention. The Ideological Nexus The slogan that sums up the biological gay identity is we were born that way. This translates into the public discourse of ideology a spontaneous consciousness that is widespread among gay men, but is voiced first of all as a private and individual sentiment. Unlike most other groups facing a structural oppression in modern society, gay people have spent their formative years isolated from one another in the very cell of heterosexual hegemony. It is here in earliest childhood that the norms of the gender system are inculcated. And a common experience of many children who grow up to be gay is an awkwardness with their ascribed gender at a stage long before any notion of
  2. 2. sexual orientation might be applied. This difference, the sense of not being a properboy, being girlish, sissy, or in some way effeminate, can be felt at five, four, eventhree years of age, before the words to articulate it become available, and it is on thisspontaneous consciousness that the ideological notion of being born homosexualsubsequently supervenes. 2Even among those who experience this consciousness most strongly, however, thebiological identity that appeals to it does a double violence to their feeling. First, thedifference spontaneously perceived is unambiguously psychological, a difference inmentality, no matter that it goes back to the very origins of memory. However integralthe difference may be to ones subjective being, it is only ideological interpretation thatpresents this as biology. Second, the biological identity elides childhood genderdifference and adult sexual orientation. Yet it is the former not the latter that the senseof being born that way refers to. There is certainly no one-to-one correspondencebetween the two things, though the ideology of biological identity seeks to maintainthis, and wins much support by doing so.____________________ 1 I write here of course as a gay man, and my subject is gay male identity. Some themes discussed will bear also on the lesbian situation, but most inevitably will not. 2 Richard Green, The Sissy-Boy Syndrome and the Development of Homosexuality, New Haven 1987, reports that some two-thirds of gay men recall being perceived in childhood as sissies, while around four-fifths of markedly effeminate boys grow up as homosexual or bisexual. -48-The background against which the gay movement was formed in Western society is thebiblical proscription against sodomy as a particularly heinous form of non-procreativesex, enforced by the Christian state. At least from the Renaissance, individual thinkersbegan to oppose religious doctrine with reason and science, but only in the nineteenthcentury did it become possible to challenge the taboo on homosexuality in the publicarena. Still today, it is the zealots of religion who especially perceive homosexuality aswilful misconduct, and while their influence in Europe continues to decline, in theUnited States they are still a major adversary for the gay movement and otherprogressive forces. It is unsurprising that the biological identity is asserted mostdogmatically where religion is still a power in the land. 3 Yet even a secularizedbourgeois society based on the heterosexual family offers no legitimate place forhomosexuality unless such a place is carved out by gay people themselves. This is theparticular function of the biological identity, as a means to accommodate the needs ofthe gay minority into an otherwise unchanged social order. If homosexuality isrestricted to a small and identifiable group, it presents no further challenge to the statusquo. Gay people can be schoolteachers, without the danger of their students beingcorrupted. They can even be parents. As a biological difference, the threat posed bygayness is defused, and it can take its place as a minor disability, alongside left-handedness, dyslexia, albinism, and other conditions that a pluralistic society canhappily live with, though it might still rather live without.This ideological nexus between a biological gay identity and the claim for civil rightswas first made in the 1860s by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, who coined the term Urning
  3. 3. (English Uranian, after Platos eros uranos) as the first word to denote the modern gayminority. From 1864 to 1879 Ulrichs published a series of booklets under the generaltitle: Forschungen iiber das Rätsel der wanmännlichen Liebe (Investigations on thePuzzle of Love Between Men), at first under the pseudonym Numa Numantius, butfrom 1868 under his own name. The first of these, with the short title Vindex, alreadysets out the cornerstone of his argument: the Urning has a distinct inborn nature; despitehaving the body of a man, he has the soul of a woman. 4 This inborn nature, Ulrichsargues, does not apply only to feelings of sexual love; the Urning is feminine in hisentire non-physical organism, and makes up a special sexual class of people, a third sexcoordinate with that of men and that of women. 5 Being thus innate, homosexuality is asnatural to the gay minority as is heterosexuality to the majority, and its social and legalcondemnation is accordingly unjust.Ulrichss assertion of a biologically distinct third sex, though drawing on thespontaneous consciousness described above, was not yet supported by any positivescience. Yet it has been so influential that Simon LeVay, the biologist who became aleading light in the American gay movement on____________________ 3 Ninety per cent of gay men surveyed by the Advocate in 1994 claimed to have been born gay, and only four per cent believed that choice came into the equation at all. Simon LeVay , Queer Science, Cambridge, Mass. 1996 , p. 6. Of the lesbians surveyed, only half believed they were born that way. 4 Anima muliebris in corpore virile inclusa—often cited in Ulrichss Latin tag. 5 Numa Numantius [Karl Heinrich Ulrichs], Vindex.Social-juristische Studien über mannmännliche Geschlechtsliebe, Leipzig 1864. Cited after Hubert Kennedy, The Life and Works of Karl Heinrich Wrichs, Boston 1988 , p. 57. -49-the strength of his research on the gay brain, can write: Ulrichss ideas have formed thebasis for most subsequent thinking and biological research on the topic. 6 Certainly, theaccount of the gay condition Ulrichs offered appealed sufficiently to large numbers ofgay men to serve as the rallying point for a political movement. Like many pioneers,Ulrichs generalized too hastily from his own boldness when he wrote in 1864: Theclass of Urnings is perhaps strong enough now to assert its right to equality and equaltreatment ... Fortified with the shield of the justice of their cause, they must bravely dareto come out of their previous reserve and isolation. 7 Himself isolated and disheartened,Ulrichs spent his last years in poverty in Italy. Yet within two years of his death in1895, the modern gay movement came into being on the explicit basis of Ulrichssdoctrines.Sexual Science and Social DemocracyBy this time, scholarly discussion of homosexuality had broadened significantly, andwhile there was still no relevant biological science to draw on, a wide range ofethnographic material was becoming available, and attempts at a scientific psychologywere growing apace. Above all, the advance of secularization made it possible to breachthe taboo that had previously forbidden any discussion of the subject. English writerssuch as Edward Carpenter and John Addington Symonds also published in the 1890s,
  4. 4. but German conditions proved more conducive to a public campaign for homosexualrights, and the first such organization, the Wissenschaftliches-Humanitäres Komitee,was founded by Magnus Hirschfeld in 1897.Hirschfeld was well known to be homosexual himself, though he preferred to conducthis agitation on behalf of the third sex in the name of an impartial science. Acharismatic figure of immense energies, he personified the German gay movement untilthe rise of Hitler put a sudden end to it in 1933, and the activities of his Komitee andassociated bodies did not just reflect a growing gay community, but significantly helpedto foster its development. Hirschfelds early notions were at best proto-scientific. Heheld that a number of sex-related traits, including gonadal and genital anatomy,personality and sexual orientation, could vary independently between male-like andfemale-like, and came to pay particular attention to the distribution of body fat, whichtoday seems rather ridiculous. It was not long, however, before the Vienneseendocrinologist Eugen Steinach showed how testes and ovaries secrete chemicals intothe bloodstream, influencing animals physical development and sexual behaviour.Influenced by Hirschfeld, Steinach went on to publish in 1917 the results oftransplanting a testicle from a heterosexual man into an effeminate, passive homosexualman, who thereupon underwent a dramatic change of sexual orientation. Thisexperiment was never successfully replicated, but Hirschfeld was convinced bySteinachs work that the decisive factor in contrary sexual feeling is not, as Ulrichsbelieved, in the mind or soul (anima inclusa), but in the glands (glandula inclusa). 8 Forthe first time,____________________ 6 Simon LeVay, The Sexual Brain, Cambridge, Mass. 1993 , p. 109. 7 Ulrichs, Vindex. 8 Magnus Hirschfeld, Die Homosexualität des Mannes und des Weibes, Berlin 1920. Cited after Simon LeVay, Queer Science, p. 32. -50-biological gay identity was able to appeal not just to spontaneous consciousness, nor tometaphysical assertions of a female soul, but to experimental science.It is interesting to note that Hirschfelds campaign enjoyed right from the start thesupport of the spd. Eduard Bernstein had written in 1895 a vigorous defence of OscarWilde for the spdsNeue Zeit. August Bebel and Karl Kautsky were quick to rally insupport of Hirschfelds Komitee, and in January 1898 Bebel introduced the first petitionfor homosexual law reform in the Reichstag. If this is compared with the prevaricationsof the British Labour Party up to a century later, it can appear a very. advanced position.Yet the attitude of the German Social-Democrats towards homosexuality is betterdescribed as tolerance than acceptance, and it was never uniform or unambiguous evenat this level. In 1884 Bebel had written in his classic Woman and Socialism of theunnatural practices of Greek days, 9 and speaking in 1907 on the Eulenburg scandal, hecould reiterate that what we today are witnessing to an increasing extent, and deplore,was once also widespread in Greece and elsewhere ... We now have Greek and Lesbianlove in the German Reich, but ours is not a Periclean age. 10 The spd press, for its part,was quite prepared to exploit the anti-homosexual prejudice of its readers, from itsrevelations on the cannon king Alfred Krupp, precipitating his suicide in November
  5. 5. 1902, through the anti-homosexual hysteria following the Eulenburg case, to itsexposure of Nazi leader Ernst Röhm in 1931.The spds position on homosexuality was bolted in a specific way on to the partysstrong commitment to the rights of women. Womens oppression was seen as resultingsimply from economic dependence on men, while the primary division of labour thatallocates childcare to women, and hunting and warfare to men, was taken for granted asimplicitly innate. There were of course bourgeois feminists who sought access to theprofessions monopolized by men, but these were countered with a socialist feminismfocusing on the needs of working-class women for childcare support. In thisperspective, the heterosexual bond appeared as a natural connection between the twosexes which socialism would free from its present distortions, and the homosexualminority as a harmless biological anomaly which an enlightened society could tolerate.But support for homosexual rights based on a biological identity is not the only positionto be found in historical Marxism. Marx and Engels, in their day, had seen Ulrichs assimply an apologist for sodomy, and failed entirely to appreciate his novel proclamationof the homosexual-as-species. 11 And I shall____________________ 10 Jahrhuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen, ix, 1908 , p. 636; cited after Jim Steakley, The Homosexual Emancipation Movement in Germany, New York 1975 , p. 64. 11 In 1869 Marx obtained and sent to Engels for comment one Of Ulrichss pamphlets, which elicited the following response on 22 June: That is a quite curious "Urning" which you sent me. Here arc the most unnatural revelations. The pederasts are beginning to count themselves and find that they make up a power in the state. Only the organization is lacking, but according to this it already exists in secret. And since they count such significant men, in all the old and even the new parties, from Rösing to Schweitzer, they cannot fail to succeed. "Guerre aux cons, paix aux trous-de-cul" will be the call now. It is only 9 August Bebel, Woman and Socialism, trans. De Leon, New York 1904 , p. 164. Engels elaborates in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State [ 1883 ] that the men of Greek antiquity fell into the distasteful practice of boy-love and degraded alike their gods and themselves with the myth of Ganymede (London1972, p. 133). -51-suggest below how the Leninist phase of making the revolution came to viewhomosexuality under a still different aspect.The New Gay ScienceAs the various sexual hormones were isolated in the following decades, and more waslearned of their operation, the belief that sexual orientation was governed by bodychemistry enjoyed widespread currency in the medical profession, and gave rise topersistent attempts to normalize gay men by some kind of hormonal fix. This wasespecially prevalent in Germany (both during and after the Nazi era), in the UnitedStates, and to a lesser degree in Britain—its most well-known victim here, as late as1953, being the scientist Alan Turing. But though the idea of influencing adults in thisway was finally discredited, Steinach had noted that the most dramatic effects of his
  6. 6. animal experiments were when the transplants were performed soon after birth, andfrom the 1950s onwards research on the effects of hormone variations on foetaldevelopment led to a theoretical model of how sexual differentiation of the brain takesplace in the embryo.This is the direct ancestry of Simon LeVays work, which led the way with the new gayscience in 1991. The hypothalamus, an organ of the lower brain that is common to allmammals, is closely linked to the pituitary gland, and has a key function in controllingthe release of hormones, including those governing the oestrus cycle. Experiments onrhesus monkeys isolated a certain microstructure in the hypothalamus—named theSexually Dimorphic Nucleus—that differed markedly in size between the sexes andsignificantly influenced sexual behaviour. Though damage to this region did not reducethe male monkeys sexual drive—as measured by masturbation intervals—it wasobserved to reduce the frequency with which they mounted females and achievedintromission.The hunt was then on for similar dimorphic nuclei in the human hypothalamus, andcame to focus on certain Interstitial Nuclei of the Anterior Hypothalamus, labelled inah-1, -2, -3 and -4. The sexual dimorphism was most successfully established with inah-3,its average size in the male being two or three times that in the female. The biologistsinterpret this as a substrate for human heterosexuality, even though there is widevariation within each sex—by a factor of more than ten—as well as substantial overlap.12 The publication of these results in the late 1980s was the immediate inspiration forLeVays work on the gay brain.____________________ luck that we are personally too old to have to fear that on the victory of this party well have to pay the victors bodily tribute. But the young generation! Moreover, only in Germany is it possible for such a fellow to appear, transform filthiness into a theory, and solicit... ( Marx-Engels-Werke, vol. 32, pp. 324-5. Trans. in Kennedy, Ulrichs, pp. 134-5.) 12 Two-thirds of the women, compared with 19 per cent of the men, ranged between 0.01mm3 and 0.05mm3, while the other third fell between 0.10mm3 and 0.16mm3, compared with 62.5 per cent of the men. The remaining three males (19 per cent) had nuclei falling between 0.16mm3 and 0.21mm3. Anne Fausto-Sterling, Myths of Gender, 2nd edn, New York 1992 , p. 244, reviewing Laua S. Allen, Melissa Hines, James E. Shryne and Roger A. Gorski, "Two Sexually Dimorphic Cell Groups in the Human Brain", Developmental Brain Research, vol. 44, pp. 314-18. -52-The hypothesis LeVay set out to confirm was that there are separate centres within thehypothalamus for the generation of male-typical and female-typical sexual behaviourand feelings. 13 He managed for the first time to indicate both a sex difference and asexual-preference difference in inah-3. As with the earlier male/female results, those forsexual preference again show an average, with a wide overlap. 14 In the professionalpresentation of his results, LeVay had to acknowledge that sexual orientation...may notbe the sole determinant of inah-3 size, 15 but he was committed in advance to aruthlessly reductionist interpretation, and the ideological attraction of his work was clearenough that Science magazines press releases encouraged the global media to resound
  7. 7. with stories presenting this unreplicated experiment as equivalent to the sighting of anew comet or the synthesis of a chemical compound. Outside the laboratory, bothscientist and media happily collude in the simplification that a reliable biologicalindicator of homosexuality has been found. Yet, even assuming that LeVays findingsare replicated, and an average difference in inah-3 is confirmed between gay andstraight men as between males and females, the question remains whether socialexperience, which differs already at a formative age, does not feed back onto suchmicroanatomic differentiations. The general trend of research, in this Decade of theBrain, has in fact been to shift biological opinion towards a more plastic model ofneural anatomy, in which even adult animal experience can have significant effects onthe brains organization and function. And gay men, LeVay himself stresses, havecommonly been sissy boys with different experience of life at an early age.The Gay GeneThis feedback problem is one reason why the publication of Dean Hamers paper on thegay gene, in July 1993, immediately put LeVay into the shade. If the new gay scienceis to demonstrate what ideology already knows—that homosexual orientation is innate—then the ideal result is an identifiable gene (technically, an allele, that is, one among aset of possible alternatives found at a particular locus on the genome), as regularlycorrelated with a confirmed homosexual as a certain gene is with eye colour. In goodgenetic fashion, Hamers theoretical baby has two acknowledged parents. One of theseis the particular function of the x chromosome, of which the male has only one, derivedfrom the mothers xx pair and coupled with the much smaller y chromosome inheriteddown the male line. Several abnormalities that occur on the x chromosome are shieldedfrom expression in the female by the presence of a normal counterpart at the____________________ 13 LeVay, The Sexual Brain, p. 71. 14 Simon LeVay, "A Difference in Hypothalamic Structure Between Heterosexual and Homosexual Men", Science, vol. 253, 30 August 1991 , p. 1036, Fig. 2. As Anne FaustoSterling summarizes LeVays data, 19 per cent of his "straight" sample had inah-3 volumes ranging from 0.02mm3 to 0.05mm3, while 74 per cent of his gay men fell into this range. The other 81 per cent of his "straight" sample had inah-3 volumes ranging from 0.11mm3 to 0.22mm3, while the range for the remaining (26 per cent) gay sample was 0.07mm3 to 0.19mm3. Myths of Gender, p. 252. 15 LeVay, "A Difference in Hypothalamic Structure", p. 1036. -53-genomic locus in question, but manifest themselves in their male bearer who lacks thisback-up: the classic case of this being haernophilia. The x chromosome is thus thenatural place to seek a gene governing variations found only in the male, such as agenefor male homosexuality.The other parent of Hamers work is population studies showing a certain tendency forhomosexuality to run in families. A family study of 1991 by Michael Bailey andRichard Pillard (a veteran gay psychiatrist), found that if a male identical twin was gay,in 52 per cent of cases so was his brother; fraternal twins showed a concordance rate of22 per cent, while non-twin brothers had a rate of 9 per cent and non-related adoptive
  8. 8. brothers a rate of 11per cent. 16 Though Hamers was a sophisticated biologicalexperiment, he prefaced his paper with results of a family study his own team hadconducted. The distinctive feature was that Hamer analyzed independently theconcordance for homosexuality between maternal and non-maternal cousins, likewiseuncles and nephews. While the concordance he found between brothers was 13.5 percent, the maternal cousins and uncle/nephew pairs also concorded by 7 to 8 per cent, asagainst a concordance for other relatives, including non-maternal cousins anduncles/nephews, that was no higher than chance. 17 This was interpreted as indicationthat the genetic factor predisposing for male homosexuality is transmitted from motherto son on the x chromosome.Hamer accordingly went on to analyze stretches of the x chromosome, selecting for thispurpose pairs of gay brothers. Whilst it is not yet possible to pinpoint individual genes,characteristic markers have been established at many points on the genome. Using thistechnique, Hamer found that in the 40 pairs of gay brothers he studied, a marker in theq28 region of the x chromosome was shared by both brothers in 33 cases, that is 83 percent as against the 50 per cent that would be expected if the gene had no bearing ontheir common gayness. With Hamers work, the claim is made for the first time to havelocated homosexuality at the genetic bedrock. If Hamers results are repeated, andattempts so far have been less than successful, 18 then the correlation they allege willhave more substantial implications than LeVays results from brain tissue. For there canbe no question here of feedback from environmental sources, even at the embryonicstage.Hamers work thus enjoyed a still more successful reception than LeVays, in the gaycommunity as well as the wider society. 19 T-shirts soon proclaimed Thanks for thegenes, Mom or just Xq28. Yet even assuming his work is corroborated, the questions itraises still indicate____________________ 16 J. M. Bailey and R. C. Pillard, "A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation", Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 50, 1993 , pp. 217-23. 17 Dean H. Hamer et al., "A Linkage Between dna Markers on the x Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation", Science, vol. 261, 16 July 1993 , p. 326. Several critics have drawn attention to the surprisingly low background rate of gayness, 2 per cent, that Hamer assumed in the general population and found among non-maternal relatives. 18 Not only was the first attempt to replicate Hamers results a failure; a junior member of his own lab raised methodological questions with the Office of Research Integrity, responsible to the us Department of Health and Human Services. Science, vol. 268, 30 June 1995 , p. 1841. 19 Unlike LeVay, Hamer only came out as gay in the wake of the publicity his work generated. -54-the unbridgeable gap that remains between the new gay science, and the ideology of abiological identity. Because Hamer studied only pairs of gay brothers, his work has noimplications on how frequent the supposed gay-1 gene might be in gay men in general.He is quite frank in admitting, in his published paper, that the hypothetical genetic
  9. 9. difference could account for as little as 10 per cent of total variance between gay andstraight men, which would mean that the genes male bearers would in the main beheterosexual. 20 The gay gene is at most a gene giving some men a higher chance ofgrowing up gay. Hamer has been considerably more modest than LeVay in theimplications he claims for his results, and no more than LeVays work on thehypothalamus does the gay gene supply any reliable indicator for homosexuality.Long before Hamer appeared on the scene, the concept of a gay gene was already afamiliar conundrum in the debates of sociobiologists. How could a gene maintain itselfin the human population if its effect on its bearers was to reduce their procreativepropensity—the very definition of Darwinian fitness? The speculations of sociobiologyare best viewed as abstract model-building, with little necessary connection to the realworld. Assuming that homosexuality in both sexes was a genetic trait, it was argued thathomosexual individuals might maintain genetic transmission by aiding theirheterosexual siblings in raising the next generation. This model clearly showed thebackground of sociobiology guru E.O. Wilson in insect studies, and corresponds tonothing at all in human society. But if there is a genetic factor in homosexuality, thequestion has still to be answered. And given that gay men are not to be found rearingtheir siblings children after the fashion of the social insects, the supposed gay genemust somehow encourage either its women bearers, or its male heterosexual ones, tohave more children than average to make up for the deficit in gay parents. If there is noevidence to support this, it reflects back on the unlikelihood of the gay gene in general.A further difference in brain organization has also been associated with homosexuality,the modification of the normal lateralization between left and right cerebral hemispheresthat gives rise to left-handedness. Only in a small minority of cases does this trait appearto be genetically transmitted. The more common form is commonly ascribed to factorssuch as high testosterone in the foetal environment, possibly resulting from stress,which inhibits the left hemisphere—controlling the right side of the body—fromdeveloping its normal dominance. As opposed to the recondite measurements of braintissue or dna, no special expertise is required to observe the more frequent occurrence ofleft-handedness in both gay men and lesbians in the everyday environment. Studieshave shown that gay men are around twice as likely to be left-handed as their straightcounterparts, and lesbians up to four times. 21 Compared with____________________ 20 Dean H. Hamer et al., "A Linkage", n. 29. Of the total bearers of any gene on the x chromosome, approximately two-thirds will anyway be women, since they have two x chromosomes against one in the male. 21 Stanley Coren, The Lefthander Syndrome, London 1992 , pp. 200-1. When I first took an interest in this question, I found myself in a gay-male work situation where five of nine staff were left-handed. -55-the immense publicity accorded to the gay hypothalamus and gay gene theories,however, the question of hemispheric dominance remains little discussed in the new gayscience. It is somewhat unpopular with champions of a biological homosexuality, as itacutely embarrasses the conventional gay brain argument. For if lesbians left-handedness is due to their brains being masculinized by foetal testosterone, then the
  10. 10. same must apply to supposedly feminine gay men. There is to date no satisfactorytheoretical explanation. 22To sum up the results of the new gay science, there is a spectacular gap between a ratherfew experiments, which remain largely unreplicated, and the ideological claims that aremade on this basis. We have some general theories, which are interesting but at thisstage still hypothetical; we have particular correlations, which if corroborated arestatistically significant; but at the individual level the evidence contradicts rather thansupports the notion of a one-to-one fit between any of these supposed biologicalindicators and a homosexual orientation.The Voluntarist AlternativeDespite its appeal to biology, from Ulrichss metaphysics through to the HumanGenome Project, the gay identity of born that way remains ideology and not science.As I have shown, this biological identity draws on a widespread spontaneousconsciousness, and the ideological nexus it constructs still operates to justify the claimof gay men for equal treatment in a pluralistic society. Yet biological identity has notbeen unchallenged in the homosexual movement. Its apparent antithesis, the notion ofwilful behaviour that is more commonly associated with the bigots of religion, has alsobeen adopted on occasion as an alternative homosexual identity, with the specificdifference seen not as a fate imposed by nature, but as a voluntarily chosen culture orlifestyle.To understand this, we must step back to the conditions in the late nineteenth centurythat led to the appearance on the historical scene of the homosexual-as-species. Ratherthan a pre-existing gay minority coming out and voicing its demands, the minoritymight be better seen as squeezed out of the mainstream by changes in society andculture that no longer afforded it any refuge. As the development of bourgeois societydissolved relations of same-sex dependence and intimacy, individuals prepared to breakwith convention and adopt the new role of homosexual would be drawndisproportionately from those who experienced greatest difficulty with the masculinenorm—Ulrichss anima muliebris. Many other men, however, must also have beenfrustrated by the taboos imposed on male intimacy, without being at all prepared to seethemselves as a special social category, let alone an effeminate natural kind.____________________ 22 The corpus callosum and anterior commissure, bundles of fibres joining the two hemispheres, are thicker in the female brain, suggesting that women more readily combine the resources of both. Laura Allen and R. A. Gorski, "Sexual Orientation and the Size of the Anterior Commissure", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, vol. 7, 1992 , pp. 2697-702, also report that gay mens brains exhibit a greater thickness of the anterior commissure. Simon LeVay comments, It is possible that differences in the size of the commissure are related to differences in the lateralization of brain functions, ( Queer Science, p. 145), that is, to the high proportion of left-handers among gay men. -56-
  11. 11. Once homosexuality came into the public arena, an alternative strategy becamepossible: to appeal to past traditions of male friendship, from antiquity through to themodern Romantics, and propose a new validation of this that would not deny its eroticcomponent. By taking this course, men might avoid the stigma of a deviant minority,and present themselves as champions of a new and superior normality.In Germany, where the Romantic era was described by later historians as a century offriendship, and the developing bourgeois society was still overlaid by a dense layer offeudal culture, this alternative homosexual strategy was especially appealing. 23 WhenMagnus Hirschfeld launched his pioneering new movement on the basis of a biologicalgay identity, there were many who preferred to look back to an idealized past. A cartoonfrom 1907 in the Munich weekly magazine Jugend nicely captures the spirit of the time.It shows the celebrated Doppelbildstand in front of the Weimar town hall, which depictsGoethe and Schiller holding hands. Coming into view from the left is a small man witha top hat and a large nose. This leads Schiller to say to Goethe: Wolfgang, let go of myhand! Here comes Magnus Hirschfeld. 24 Among the social trends reflected in thiscartoon is that the mainstream gay movement was itself complicit with the redrawing ofboundaries that made all intimacy between men a mark of sexual anomaly.Adolf Brands periodical Der Eigene [The Self-Owner], founded in 1896, was originallyinspired by the philosophical anarchist Max Stirner, but two years later turned into aspecifically homosexual journal. In 1903 Brand founded an organization around thejournal, Die Gesellschaft der Eigenen, which continued until the Hitler coup. Theseself-owners were men who defined their sexuality for themselves, uninhibited bybourgeois morality. Brand appealed to men who thirst for a revival of Greek times andHellenic standards of beauty after centuries of Christian barbarism. 25 From this point ofview, the idea that homosexuality was the unwanted fate of an innate minority wascomplete anathema. For the Eigenen, as for the Romantic poets, friendship and lovewere shoots from the same stem, and an erotic aspect in friendship between men washealthy and normal, complementing rather than contradicting the heterosexual bond.This reclamation of erotic friendship, however, could only have a reactionarysignificance in Wilhelmine con-____________________ 23 There were other very different parts of Western society where male intimacy could be promoted as a social value, with varying degrees of erotic charge. Some of this energy flowed into progressive politics and the beginnings of socialism; in the special conditions of North America, Walt Whitman was its most eminent representative. The physical comradeship that he preached could mesh in with the open frontier and Civil War; it was quashed as Whitmans democratic utopia grew into the purest form of capitalism. From todays vantage-point, it is difficult not to claim Whitman for the homosexual tradition, yet in his time Whitmans poetry found a wide resonance among normal men, both in his own country and in Europe, while simultaneously striking a special chord in the embryonic gay minority. Like his more gracile disciple Edward Carpenter, Whitmans robust comrade-love had a continuing influence on English socialism, the Bolton Whitmanites surviving as late as the 1980s. 24 Reproduced in Jim Steakley, The Homosexual Emancipation Movement in Germany, New York 1975 , p. 39. 25 See Harry Oosterhuis and Hubert Kennedy, eds, Homosexuality and Male Bonding in PreNazi Germany, New York 1991 , pp. 3-4.
  12. 12. -57-ditions. Right from the start, the Eigenen provided a ready cover for misogyny and malesupremacism. Women were explicitly excluded, and an anti-feminist tone waspervasively voiced. Most contributors to Der Eigene, though not Brand himself,abhorred the socialist and Jewish connections of Hirschfelds Komitee. Brandsalternative version of homosexual identity was all too well attuned to the reactionaryculture prevalent among Germans educated classes, with its elitism, racism andclassical nostalgia.Homosexuality and FascismThe Nazi attitude towards homosexuality was made clear enough in their response to aquestionnaire Brand sent to all German political parties in 1928: Anyone who eventhinks of homosexual love is our enemy. We reject anything which emasculates ourpeople and makes it a plaything for our enemies, for we know that life is a fight and itsmadness to think that men will ever embrace fraternally. Natural history teaches us theopposite. Might makes right. And the stronger will always win over the weak. 26 Thedeath of many thousands of gay men in Nazi concentration camps is today anacknowledged fact. Yet both before and after their seizure of power, the Nazi assault onhomosexuality was differentiated according to the degree and kind of deviance thisrepresented. The combination in the Hirschfeld movement of Jewish leadership and theclaim of innate effeminacy made this especially abhorrent to the Nazis. HirschfeldsInstitute of Sexual Science, with its world-famous library, was the first target of Nazibook-burning in May 1933, and it was the visible queens of the boulevard Himmler hadparticularly in his sights when he proclaimed the moral idea of eliminating thedegenerate in a notorious speech three years later. 27 The biologism that Hirschfeld hadchampioned for so long as a defence of gay people in a liberal society had the oppositeeffect under fascism, when the crudest theories of Social Darwinism were integratedinto a totalitarian ideology.The voluntarist wing of the German gay movement, on the other hand, found its destinyuncomfortably entwined with fascism in the Weimar years. Despite the homophobia ofofficial Nazi policy, the male-bonding aspect of the Nazi movement, centredparticularly in its left, anti-bourgeois wing, could still have a certain homoeroticappeal. And in the burgeoning nationalist mood of the 1920s, when the camaraderie ofthe trenches was recycled into the Freikorps and NaziSturmabteilungen, themasculinism of the self-owners drew them increasingly into the camp of reaction.From 1925 on Die Eigene published anti-Semitic and nationalist articles and booklets,such as Männerheldentum und Kameradenliebe im Krieg which argued the militarybenefits of homoeroticism as an asset for the German state. As the threat of fascismintensified in 1931-32, both Socialists and Communists used the homosexuality ofRöhm and other____________________ 26 Cited after Steakley, The Homosexual Emancipation Movement, p. 84. 27 Though gay men of all kinds were sent to concentration camps, Nazi policy was not averse to a rough-and-ready distinction between those ostensibly born that way and thus fit only to be eliminated, and those whose deviation was supposedly acquired. As manpower became scarce during the war, gay prisoners who could demonstrate
  13. 13. their heterosexual adequacy often managed to exchange the death camp for a suicide battalion on the Eastern Front. -58-sa leaders as a weapon against the Nazis, and the Night of Long Knives in 1934confirmed the equation of homosexuality with fascism as a staple of Left propaganda,with a resonance echoing on for decades. 28 It is scarcely coincidental that the same yearalso saw the recriminalizing of homosexuality in the Soviet Union, making it that muchharder for gay people to join the anti-fascist cause.The voluntarist identity proposed by the Eigenen thus had implications not only for theorigin of homosexual difference, but also for the gender position of homosexual men. Inthe biological identity, gay men are fundamentally effeminate, women in male bodies,despite the difficulty of accounting for those who do not immediately seem so. In thevoluntarist identity, men who choose homosexuality are as masculine as other men.Undoubtedly the biological identity, other things being equal, is more attractive to thosegay men who have always sensed their difference from the gender norm, whilst thevoluntarist identity appeals more readily to those who either do not feel, or activelyrepress, such deviation. But taken together, these competing identities ultimatelyexpress the pressure of the gender system with its two normative poles, and thedifficulty of relaxing or transcending this in favour of a more unisex humanity. Thefeeling of intermediacy that is so common a feature of gay experience is forciblyresolved in favour of choosing to be either really a woman or a proper man like theothers. 29The Post-Gay WorldThe situation in the advanced countries today is certainly very different from Germanybefore the First World War. We have behind us the experience of fascism, theconsolidation of liberal democracy, and mass gay communities in the metropolitancentres which have made substantial progress in civil rights. But just as the biologicalidentity of Hirschfelds time was countered by the voluntarist identity of the Eigenen, sothe resurgence of biology in recent years has been coupled with the expression of a newvoluntarist identity, dissimilar in its superficial appearance, but with significantcharacteristics in common. The ground for this was in part prepared by a gaypostmodernism, which views the pre-ironic lesbian or gay man as quaintly old-fashioned. Thus Ken Plummer writes: In the late modern world, the very idea of "beinggay" will get transformed into the idea of a multiplicity of sexual/gendered/relational/emotional, etc., beings in the world. In the wake of poststructuralism, postfeminism,postmodernism, we now have the time of the post-gay and the post-lesbian: Ratherthan seeing homosexuality as a tribal and universal group or seeing it as evolving to amore advanced state of being____________________ 28 This is discussed by J. Meve in Homosexuelle Nazis.Ein Stereotyp in Politik und Literatur des Exils, Hamburg 1990, and by Harry Oosterhuis in "The Guilty Conscience of the Left", European Gay Review, vol. 4, 1989 , pp. 72-80. 29 The more rigid the enforcement of gender, the more polarized is homosexual experience. At one end of the scale is the berdache, allowed same-sex relations only
  14. 14. by crossing permanently to a womans role. In the Mediterranean world until not so far back, homosexuality meant a queen having sex with a straight man. In 1960 London, new arrivals on the gay scene were still offered a choice between butch and bitch. The nub of any distinction made between homosexual and gay is that the deviant minority have learned to enjoy sexual relations with one another, relatively free from the grip of gender stereotypes. -59-gay, same-sex experience moves in fits and starts along diverse paths to disparatebecomings. 30Against this background, the Queer label was reclaimed in the 1980s, its in-your-facerhetoric serving the bitter struggles in Britain and America against the Thatcher andReagan-Bush regimes, and proving a useful abbreviation for the bureaucratese lesbian-and-gay. With the resurgence of biological identity, it went on to provide a newvoluntarist alternative for those unwilling to stomach the crude determinism of the gaymajority. The following leaflet, circulated in 1992 at the London night-club Heaven, isnot untypical:For years weve been fed the lie that our sexuality is based on the gender of the personwe steep with. Weve trapped ourselves into a ghetto of our own making. Its time toturn on our oppressors, gay & straight, who try to control us ... queer means to fuck withgender. Our sexuality is unique. Its not about whether you fuck with boys or girls. Areyou into tall or Short, black or white, old or young, fisting or fucking, thin or fat, drugs,SM or vanilla? ...liberate your mindsqueer is not about gay or lesbian—its about sexThere are straight Queers, bi Queers, tranny Queers, lez Queers, fag Queers, sm Queers,fisting Queers in every single street in this apathetic country of ours. We areeverywhere. Its time to take it into the streets ... 31Though it does not acknowledge its ancestry in the misogynist classicism of theGesellschaft der Eigenen, the common ground of a voluntarist identity generates certainbasic structural features. Like the Eigenen, Queer rejects any specific gay psychology;like the Eigenen, Queer combines same-sex and cross-sex relations; and like theEigenen, Queer defines its bearers as special people, a form of homo superior. As sooften in the postmodern world, a Nietzschean strain echoes down from the past.The Ambiguities of PsychologyToday just as a hundred years ago, discourse on homosexuality is governed by thealternative between voluntary behaviour and innate biology. One reduces homosexualdifference to nature, the other to human will. One sees gay men as essentially women inmale bodies, the other as men like anyone else. What is missing would seem to be anyconcept of the autonomous psyche, as mediator between the promptings of nature on the
  15. 15. one hand, and the experience of society on the other. Psychology, however, has playedan ambiguous role in relation to the gay movement,____________________ 30 Ken Plummer, ed., Modern Homosexualities:Fragments of Lesbian and Gay Experience, London 1992 , pp. 14-16. 31 Appendix to Derek Jarman, At Your Own Risk, London 1992. Jarman reproduced this as part of a miscellany of texts he was sent while completing his last book. -60-and a psychological notion of gay identity has been at best a tacit and implicit presence,rather than a vigorous competitor to its biological and voluntarist rivals.The formative phase of the gay movement just predated the impact of Freud, but even atthis time there were stirrings of discontent with the crude choice between female natureand masculine will. Edward Carpenter, though titling his 1895 essay The IntermediateSex, particularly championed a rapprochement of male and female, seeing this as thecontext in which the contrast between same-sex and cross-sex relationships would loseits salience. He was satisfied neither with the masculinist comrade-love of WaltWhitman, nor the third sex theories of Ulrichs and his followers, seeing rather a rangeof individual variation in relation to gender, and a gradual shading between erotic loveand friendship. But he had not even the rudiments of a psychological theory that mightaccount for this. 32 The Freudian framework then suggested a more coherent way totranscend the opposition between biological determinism and voluntary choice, and atfirst interested Hirschfeld enough for him to join the Berlin Psychoanalytic Associationas a founder member. Soon, however, Hirschfeld became a consistent opponent of theFreudian claim that sexual orientation was the product of family circumstance ratherthan inborn biology. He feared, with good grounds, that a psychological explanation ofhomosexuality would reinforce intolerance and precipitate new efforts to cure the gayminority. Yet the threat presented by psychoanalysis—as the first theory to propose aplausible psychological explanation of sexual variation—ran deeper than this, touchingwhat might be called the honour of a gay identity. In traditional, that is, pre-Freudian,terms, it is an honourable course to accept the hand that nature has dealt, and make thebest of it. It is equally honourable to go against the tide on the basis of firm conviction.But an identity framed in terms of psychological difference carries the stigma attachingto mental illness, and more generally, reluctance to accept the power of unconsciousideas, which took many decades to break down.The two competing schools of analytic and behaviourist psychology both had theirheyday in the middle part of the century, from the 1920s through to the 1960s.Whatever their philosophical roots, as they came to contribute to ideas of social reformtheir application was indeed as Hirschfeld had feared. Behaviourism for its part wasever in thrall to prevailing ideology, and had nothing to offer gay people except thereprehensible follies of aversion therapy. The conceptual field opened up bypsychoanalysis, on the other hand, made it possible to recognize in gay people aparticular psychology not dependent on any biological difference, continuous with thatconsidered normal, yet constraining____________________
  16. 16. 32 For Carpenter, the emergence of the intermediate type as a social phenomenon was evidence of a biological development under way on a historical timescale: Though these gradations of human type have always ... been more or less known and recognized, yet their frequency today, or even the concentration of attention on them, may be the indication of some important change actually in progress. ( Selected Writings Vol. 1:Sex, London 1984 , p. 189.) It made sense in terms of the rather extreme Lamarckianism that Carpenter espoused. It only fell into disrepute after August Weismann presented in the 1890s his decisive evidence against the inheritance of acquired characteristics, which Darwin himself had maintained till his death in 1883. -61-conscious choice as the Freudian unconscious invariably must. In practice, however, thepromise of psychoanalysis was never fulfilled. As an institution, it too proposed to thehomosexual a quasi-medical cure. And by the time the gay movement had acquired thesophistication that might seek to rescue the Freudian legacy from the psychonazis, thescientific claims of psychoanalysis were already on the wane.The practices of the Left in this period betray a remarkably similar commitment tonormalization based on psychology. Thus the legalization of homosexuality came to beseen not as a context in which sexual variance could thrive, but rather as an enlightenedway of controlling homosexuality. The abolition of repressive legislation in SovietRussia was explicitly justified as helping gay people to come forward voluntarily forpsychiatric treatment, and the World League for Sexual Reform established in 1921ambiguously sheltered both gay campaigners and champions of the heterosexual norm.In sponsoring Wilhelm Reichs Sex-Pol efforts in Vienna and Berlin, the CommunistParty broke decisively with the biological perspective of the spd in which sexualvariance had been accepted as part of the natural order, in favour of a prescriptive normthat was among other things explicitly anti-homosexual.In the wake of Hitlers victory and the Röhm purge, the Lefts propaganda equation ofhomosexuality and fascism justified its new commitment to straightening gay peopleout. Biological theories of human difference, moreover, were now associated withSocial Darwinism and correspondingly discredited. On the Left, the retreat frombiologism that had begun in the 1920s led to a new and unambiguously psychologicalorthodoxy. While Engels had seen Ulrichs as an apologist for sodomy, and the spd hadsupported rights for a biological anomaly, the Leninist phase of making the revolutionwith its new socialist man implied the conversion, by whatever means wereappropriate, of those who did not fit the gender definitions. The recriminalization ofhomosexuality in the Soviet Union in 1934 was a repressive choice of means, not achange of ends. The Lefts use of homophobia in anti-fascist propaganda fitted therevolutionary paradigm, which can be found even in sections far removed fromStalinism.The Moment of LiberationIn the United States after the Second World War, the metropolitan cities attractedunprecedented numbers of gay migrants. By the 1950s, a ramified institutional structureof bars, clubs and restaurants, personal services and publications, cultural and sporting
  17. 17. activities, had come into being, despite the persistence of repressive legislation andpolice harassment. Yet attempts to mobilize the gay population in quest of even minimalcivil rights remained disproportionately weak, whereas in Germany fifty years earlierthe political campaign had actually stimulated the development of the gay subculture. Inthis era, when American psychology of all schools was enlisted as a means of enforcingsocial conformity, it is reasonable to suppose that the gay movement was held back bythe dishonourable connotation of an implicitly psychological identity. This wouldexplain why the first organizational initiatives had to shelter behind such euphemisticbanners: Bachelors for Wallace, the Mattachine -62-Society, One, the Society for Individual Responsibility. Gay was still a ghetto term,and homosexual was considered unbearably bold. Through to the late 1960s the pallidhomophile was discreetly used, deliberately coined to insist on a difference that waspsychological, rather than one of either biology or behaviour.The birth of Gay Liberation in June 1969, following the Stonewall riots in New York,seemed to herald a historic new chapter for the gay movement. glf proclaimed itsmilitancy by borrowing its name from the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam.Its influences included the new wave of feminism just gathering momentum, and theutopian communism associated with the cultural revolution of the 1960s. glf developeda novel and distinctive character, in its emphasis on coming out and gay pride; its searchfor a personal androgyny through consciousnessraising and lsd; its media-oriented zapsusing gender fuck and street theatre; its experiments with communal living. In Americaespecially, glf was closely involved with the anti-war movement—the slogan suckcock, beat the draft contrasting nicely with the demands of the civil-rights movementtoday to serve our country. The gay and proud image flaunted by glf seemed a worldaway from the timorous respectability sought unsuccessfully by the homophilemovement. But the one could so spectacularly give way to the other because both tacitlyshared an underlying identity that defined gayness as a psychological characteristic,opposed equally to the biological and voluntarist identities of the past. The rhetoric ofglf dismissed the question of aetiology, throwing it back into the face of the questioners.What Exactly is Heterosexuality? And What Causes It? ran a celebrated poster, goingon to give a parody of the usual psychological hotchpotch. But beneath the rhetoric,gayness was seen not as a natural kind, yet rooted deep in the personality, andassociated at least frequently with a deviance of gender. It was on this basis that GayLiberation could link up with the radical wing of the womens movement, and throughthis with the left utopianism of the time.The radical dynamic of Gay Liberation could not sustain itself for more than a very fewyears. Its practical impact was to break down the most immediate wall that hemmed inthe gay ghetto; outside lay a fertile ground for colonization, by cultural initiatives,community self-help groups, and business investment. The goal of gay politics—the artof the possible—came to focus on law reform: equal citizenship in bourgeois society.This purpose was better served by defining the new proud identity once more back tobiological terms, presenting gay people as a small minority different by nature, ratherthan as one end of a continuum; this especially applied in those countries wherereligious bigotry still loomed large. There are certainly many among the gayintelligentsia who reject both the reductionism of biological identity, and its voluntarist
  18. 18. antagonist, as both do such blatant violence to the range of human experience. But feware prepared to come forward and proclaim a psychological identity as the basis for thegay movement.To explain this hesitation, we need to consider some further implications of apsychological gay identity. As ideologies, the competing variants of gay identity shouldbe clearly distinguished from any objective -63-explanatory function, and seen rather as constitutive of social relations. If the RainbowNation is like other nations an imagined community, then the biological identityimagines a homosexual community of nature, and the voluntarist identity a communityof mind. To belong to the former, you must have a certain biological indicator(currently, the supposed gay gene); to belong to the latter, you must practise a certainway of life (currently, have sex in a Queer fashion). The community imagined by thepsychological identity, for its part, is a community of desire: to be gay is to experiencesame-sex attraction. 33 This might seem closer to the material reality of the existing gaycommunity, with its network of social and sexual relations. But whereas both biologicaland voluntarist identities exclude from their respective imagined communities manywho live their lives as gay men, the psychological identity includes in its imaginedcommunity many men unwilling or unable, in current conditions, to live an open gaylife.The unwilling ones are the many men who have sex with men but still opt for thesecurity of the family; outreach work for hiv prevention confirms the high numbersthere still are in this category. As long as homosexuality remains stigmatized, moreover,there will be many more who do not feel free to act on their desire, let alone come out asgay. Those unable to join the gay community today are, in particular, that mosttraditional of homosexual types, men attracted to adolescent boys. Whereas GayLiberation saw boy-love as an integral strand in the gay rainbow, the organized gaymovement of today proves its respectable credentials by joining in the witch-huntagainst paedophiles—a term deliberately recycled to equate the tender feelings towardsadolescents so commonly acknowledged in the past with a small number of violentabusers. 34 The psychological gay identity that would embrace all those who experiencesame-sex desire is therefore a rather dangerous option. What seemed reasonable enoughto the utopians of Gay Liberation may lead to serious trouble in the grey 1990s. It isunlikely to regain popularity unless a new prospect of radical change appears on thehorizon, and fundamental structures can again be put in question. For the immediatefuture, a biological identity is likely to remain dominant in the gay community, suited asit is to a period of stability, the steady development of a bourgeois society in which eventhe previously marginal may be integrated into social reproduction. The voluntaristidentity, shrill as it may be, is little more than an alternating counterpoint to biologicaldominance.The New EugenicsIf the London Daily Mail gave a typically toxic spin to the gay gene story, its AbortionHope on Gay Gene Finding was echoed in a milder
  19. 19. ____________________ 33 This was well expressed in the second of the Demands of the London Gay Liberation Front adopted in November 1970: That all people who feel attracted to a member of their own sex be taught that such feelings are perfectly normal (cited after A. Walter, ed., Come Together, London 1980 , p. 49). It was distinctive of glf, based on an implicit psychological notion of gay identity, that it sought to validate same- sex desire as such, not simply improve the conditions of the existing gay minority. 34 In 1994 the International Lesbian and Gay Association formally expelled organizations that defended boy-love, such as the North American Man-Boy Love Association. This was its acceptance ticket for consultative status with un organizations. -64-key elsewhere in public debate. It continues the paradox with which I began this articlethat this eugenic aspect has also enjoyed the favours of gay biologists. Simon LeVaysimmediate comment on Dean Hamers claim was, I support the right of a woman toabort a lesbian or gay fetus (politically correct in both substance and vocabulary).While Chandler Burr, who subtitled his popular presentation "How Biology Makes UsGay", ends his book prospecting a future in which adult gay men, unhappy at theirexclusion from the family, choose to be straightened out by a genetic spritzer. 35This indicates a radical breakdown of the traditional ideological nexus betweenbiological gay identity and social tolerance. The whole enterprise of giving thespontaneous sense of being born that way an up-todate scientific backing isundermined by the very advance of biology; the forces of patriarchy and oppressionsimply prepare to do battle on the new ground of genetic technology. Indeed, becausethe entire research programme that the gay biologists adhere to is premised on theassumption that homosexuality is a social problem, Hamer and LeVay are drawn fromtheir original purpose of justifying the gay minority into scenarios remarkably similar tothose of their homophobic colleagues.It is easy from the left tradition to reject any hint of eugenics as unwholesome. Howtypical of an oppressive social order to seek a technical fix rather than acceptemancipation and change; to aim whether realistically or not at ever more conformistand manipulable subjects. If genes that favour schizophrenia, alcoholism, and otherdamaging conditions can be bred out of the population, this will attractively decreasesocial overheads. And there is no shortage of opinion, even in secular Britain, thatwould still love the sinner but hate the sin as far as homosexuality is concerned. Thediscourse of mainstream biology, for its part, increasingly assumes that humanity haseffectively entered the eugenic age. We may well argue that biological difference isalways fissured by manifold social determinants; but unlike the situation in the socialsciences, biology offers a practical handle for changing human beings, and the potentialapplication of genetic knowledge to filtering the gene pool is already a spur to currentresearch. Unless we believe with the ecofeminists that it is still possible to stifle thisdevelopment, the only option is an attempt to harness it to truly humane purposes.As far as the gay gene is concerned, if Hamers research is corroborated the gay-1 genewould somehow act to increase the chances of its male bearers growing up gay. Boththe frequent combination of gayness with a less masculine character, and the standard
  20. 20. model of sexual differentiation in the brain, suggest that such a biological effect wouldpromote a gay development either through an incomplete masculinization or at least inparallel with this. This is the grain of truth in Ulrichss anima muliebris. From thehomophobes perspective this is perfectly reasonable, since male effeminacy is asrepugnant to them as the sexual practices they revel in depicting. It is not crediblehowever that women in the advanced countries will be persuaded en masse to abort alesbian or gay fetus, though there clearly are parts of the planet where the unevendevelop-____________________ 35 Chandler Burr, A Separate Creation, New York 1996 , p. 305. -65-ment of technology and culture may well combine into this repressive project. (Alreadyin China and India, females are identified quite early in pregnancy and aborted on ademographic scale.) But if womens control over procreation steadily extends to thechoice of which fertilized ovum to gestate, after a battery of tests on potentialcandidates, we may see before too long an evolutionary branch that puts a premium on areduced degree of differentiation in the male, as much as one with the oppositevaluation. 36 A gay gene might prove quite successful in the harsh conditions of thenew millennium.____________________ 36 Lee M. Silver, a geneticist at Princeton University, foresees in his Remaking Eden (New York 1997 ) the splitting of the species into a genetically enriched minority and a natural majority, which after a few generations may no longer be able to interbreed. The genetic enrichment he focuses on is informed by the present concerns of the American upper class: enhanced athletic prowess, scientific ability, and resistance to hiv. Already today, in-vitro fertilization accounts for upward of 100,000 births per year. -66-