Monday, January 07, 2013

I say, OK

If you haven't heard, there's a new study out from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) - how's that for an acronym? - about the genetic component to homosexuality. Check it out. I don't know if further research will bear this out, but it's brought up something I've long kept in the back of my mind.

Obviously, American society has come a long way in terms of acceptance of homosexuality; hell, even I can remember when things were very different. Thirty years ago I would never have imagined that gay characters would be all over television, and if you'd said that nine states would have legalized same sex marriage I would have backed slowly away, avoiding sudden movements. However, I think this (laudable) march towards acceptance has brought along some oversimplification about just what homosexuality is.

I've heard many times, and in many ways, assertions that gay men and women are just like our straight counterparts, except in whom we love. We gays sometimes adopt this mantra ourselves, saying, "My homosexuality is just a small part of who I am." Well, I don't know about anyone else, but my sexual orientation is pretty fundamental to me, affecting my worldview, shaping my opinions and guiding my interactions with both men and women. That "small part" winds its way through nearly every aspect of my personality, which makes it pretty damn large.

Don't get me wrong; I understand and appreciate the reluctance to define gay men merely as feminized men or gay women as just masculine women. That reluctance, in my view, arises from an enlightened perspective that people are complicated and should not be viewed according to simplistic formula. However, it's possible to look so hard for nuance that one misses the basics. No one thinks, for example, that heterosexual men are just like heterosexual women; why would we then insist that heterosexual men are just like homosexual men? I am often puzzled by the behavior of my straight counterparts, and always have been. We have different approaches to conflict resolution (you rarely see a fist-fight in a gay bar) and romantic relationships, and we just interact differently with the world. I'm not just a straight guy who likes men.

And that's why this study pulled my attention. I suppose some are uncomfortable with the idea that gay people might be the result of "feminization of some traits in sons, such as sexual preference, and similarly a partial masculinization of daughters", but not me. If it turns out I am a feminized man...well, I know lots of women. I like them. They're neat. It's no shame to be like a woman. (Although I'll admit I'm not sorry to miss out on the menstruation thing.) Neither should any woman be insulted to have masculine traits. The world is a much more interesting place for having so many different kinds of people, and if these differences sometimes make it difficult for us to connect as human beings...well, we learn much more in the trying. But we're not the same, and that is just fine with me.

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