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You get the gay from your brothers
June 26, 2006 6:00 PM   Subscribe

You get the gay from your brothers. Or maybe not.
posted by NortonDC (48 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
My younger brother will be overjoyed at the news. :)
posted by Mr. Six at 6:13 PM on June 26, 2006


The Science Of Sexual Orientation
"Psychologists used to believe homosexuality was caused by nurture — namely overbearing mothers and distant fathers — but that theory has been disproved. Today, scientists are looking at genes, environment, brain structure and hormones. There is one area of consensus: that homosexuality involves more than just sexual behavior; it’s physiological."

[CBS News | March 12, 2006]
posted by ericb at 6:13 PM on June 26, 2006


In the Age of Blog, I thought the correct phrasing and spelling was "you get teh ghey..."

I just can't keep up with all of this new nomenclature.
posted by illiad at 6:19 PM on June 26, 2006


This theory is nothing surprising. If it's not genetics, and it's not development, then it has to be the area in between... TEH WOMB.
posted by mek at 6:35 PM on June 26, 2006


So by the fourth kid they are 120% gay? I can think of a lot of things that are explained by that extra 20%.

I actually teach calculus
posted by 517 at 6:39 PM on June 26, 2006


So if you get the gay from your brothers, where do people get the straight from?
posted by Nelson at 6:49 PM on June 26, 2006


I don't have any brothers, but I have a gay cousin on my mother's side. This makes me bi I guess.
posted by jonmc at 6:56 PM on June 26, 2006


Sexuality is most likely a synthesis between genes and embryonic development - some evidence arises from body odour preference as dictacted by how the brain is hooked up.

It's an interesting hypothesis, though, that a female bearing a succession of male children may influence later offspring to be homosexual. Evolution/natural selection isn't selecting for individuals, it's selecting for genes. Having younger brothers help you raise your children (as opposed to competing against you for a mate - a competition that could result in death/decreased fecundity for both you and the sib) could be a positive thing.
posted by porpoise at 6:59 PM on June 26, 2006


So if I followed twin males I should have been gay? Even though they died at childbirth? Damn, I've been cheating the odds since birth.
posted by ?! at 7:02 PM on June 26, 2006


so, you wanna come back to my place?
posted by jonmc at 7:09 PM on June 26, 2006


I always thought you got gay with kids.

posted by Smedleyman at 7:10 PM on June 26, 2006


jonmc: Only if I get to keep the toaster.
posted by ?! at 7:12 PM on June 26, 2006


No siblings here, I'm a homo, and my cousin is too. So, how does that work?
posted by moonbird at 7:19 PM on June 26, 2006


So, when I was growing up and dickheadedly calling my younger brothers "gay" for, like, hogging the Nintendo and stuff... there might have been some validity to that? I'm gonna call them right now and gloat.
posted by the_bone at 7:21 PM on June 26, 2006


I only have a toaster oven. Well, we'll always have paris.
posted by jonmc at 7:33 PM on June 26, 2006


The only gay men I know have no brothers to speak of, older or otherwise.

Their experience would suggest that being dressed up like a girl by your older sister, if not making you gay, at least makes you neurotic.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:38 PM on June 26, 2006


mek: This theory is nothing surprising. If it's not genetics, and it's not development, then it has to be the area in between... TEH WOMB.

porpoise: Sexuality is most likely a synthesis between genes and embryonic development - some evidence arises from body odour preference as dictacted by how the brain is hooked up.

Most theories of biological development suggest that just about everything in nature is a synthesis between genes and environment. The pre-natal environment just happens to be a special case due the rather rapid development of placental mammals in a short period of time.

As a result, most of these studies are not trying to prove this or that, but attempting to put some numbers on how much variance is due to genetics, and how much variance is due to environmental factors at certain stages of development.

So it could both be true that genetics is significant, and true that birth order and pre-natal factors are significant. "Nature vs. nurture" is beloved by writers who dislike talking about statistics, but not a very good description of the current state of developmental biology or psychology.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:39 PM on June 26, 2006


The linked article doesn't mention it, but I read another article about the same research pointing out that the increased tendency towards being gay is something like 5% chance of being gay rather than the usual 3%. So all this talk of "beating the odds" or having a good reason to assume that some family member ought to be gay is pretty silly.
posted by Farengast at 7:42 PM on June 26, 2006


oldest of 4 boys and i'm gay. my cousin is oldest of 4 boys and he's gay. splain.
posted by brandz at 8:03 PM on June 26, 2006




I am white and have two older sisters. Is this a new study? (It would be just about as valid...)

My favorite color is plaid and I hate accounting - more data points for the enlightened - hope this helps.

Oh, sorry. I don't have the gay, but do have gay-dar, but poor fashion sense. I like Babs, but don't own a pug.

Now I am confused.
posted by fluffycreature at 8:09 PM on June 26, 2006


brandz: oldest of 4 boys and i'm gay. my cousin is oldest of 4 boys and he's gay. splain.

Ok. What this research says is that yonger male siblings are more likely to be gay than older siblings. It does not say that elder siblings are going to be straight, or that younger siblings are going to be gay. It only says that there is a significant birth order effect that can't be explained in terms of random chance reassortment of genes.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:13 PM on June 26, 2006


i don't see the significant birth order effect in my family, that's what i'm saying.
posted by brandz at 8:33 PM on June 26, 2006


SAMPLE SIZE PEOPLE!!!
posted by gorgor_balabala at 8:37 PM on June 26, 2006


i don't see the significant birth order effect in my family, that's what i'm saying.

That's because the effect isn't significant. It's statistically significant, which is another way of saying it's a real phenomenon and not an anomolous variance in the data. That doesn't mean that it's significant in the vernacular definition of the word. I'd say 3% chances increased to 5% is pretty insignificant when it comes to actually picking who is or is not gay.
posted by Farengast at 8:46 PM on June 26, 2006


farengast: Actually, it was "cheating the odds" and was intended to be silly.

The article quoted: "The “fraternal birth order effect” - the finding that each additional older brother increases your chances of being homosexual by about 30%... " but they never mentioned the baseline chance of being a breeder or gay.

Do you remember where you got the 3% figure? I'd like to read that study.
posted by ?! at 9:24 PM on June 26, 2006


Farengast: Excellent, concise synopsis of statistical significance. Put another way -- if X bites you in the ass, it may not have been an accident.

The other thing here is the scale -- there's a lot of us humans wandering around.

If you have two populations of 1,000,000 and one population has a 3% chance of being gay and the other a 5% chance, then that's ~30k in the first population and ~50k in the second, which doesn't seem so insignificant anymore.
posted by davideads at 9:27 PM on June 26, 2006


I got that figure from the MSNBC.com article on the research.

I figured that you were being fecicious. But you weren't the only one asserting the fallacy. Although another research study found that people's ability to interpret the tone of typed correspondence (like MeFi posts) is actually no better than chance. So don't be surprised if your sarcasm is lost on people, everything else about your tone which seems so obvious to you is not even close to being that for everyone else. That one was from months ago, however, so I'm not even going to try and dig up a link for you about that.
posted by Farengast at 9:33 PM on June 26, 2006


Help...I've caught teh straight!!!
posted by rollbiz at 9:36 PM on June 26, 2006


davideads, thanks. I know what you mean about sample size. I'm a scientist so I couldn't escape the concept if I wanted to. And what you pointed out is exactly my point. Your "significance" is due to the statistical significance and the fact that you have a statistically viable sample size. Thus in your case, the vernacular and statistical significances mean pretty much the same thing. But for a single person, an extra 2% is not even close to significant, not even statistically significant if that one person is your whole sample size. People get confused when you talk about both cases at the same time. The study found that the small difference was significant because they studied lots of people, even though the result they speak of is actually pretty insignificant for each person. That's why statistics can be so misleading when quoted out of context and fed to an audience that doesn't know about how these things work.
posted by Farengast at 9:41 PM on June 26, 2006


Farengast are you taking the piss? If so it's way too dry for textual communications. Funny either way though.
posted by econous at 11:50 PM on June 26, 2006


Doesn't anybody remember? Eating quiche makes you gay! Sheesh.
posted by Radio7 at 1:04 AM on June 27, 2006


Oh my god, another study blaming mothers.
posted by Twang at 2:55 AM on June 27, 2006


Farengast: Excellent, concise synopsis of statistical significance.

Seconded. It's never ceased to amaze me how terrible people are at grasping statistics and probability; our brains just aren't wired that way. We descend immediately to individual cases (preferably our own); we love telling stories and hate P values.
posted by languagehat at 5:48 AM on June 27, 2006


I have a younger brother and I'm gay, so that bows this theory all to hell! Oh wait, I'm female, and no one cares about studying us. Never mind.
posted by arcticwoman at 5:55 AM on June 27, 2006


econous: He was -- my shoes are wet.

Explanation aside: The above comment does not mean the commenter actually believed "a piss" was taken. The term "taking the piss" is well understood by said commenter. The comment immediately above is an example of irony. For more information please see The Humor Reference Guide by Warren Shibles.
posted by ?! at 6:14 AM on June 27, 2006


Farengast: "But you weren't the only one asserting the fallacy"

The problem is I was making light in face of the very thin article, not asserting a fallacy. I guess I don't treat off-hand remarks with the same zeal as serious comments. I trust Metafilter users to easily spot the difference between "I got teh gay!" and ".03, .03, .03, .039, .039, .0507, bingo! " (Examples used as merely as examples. YMMV, not applicable in Louisville, KY, Omaha, NB, and Foley, AL)

However, I shall endeavor to show my work henceforth. I can only hope we all do so as I know it will lead to a Metafilter filled with precise, factual, and logical comments. A Metafilter that makes us proud.

davideads: As the percentages increase only with families of multiple brothers your numbers would be true only if Population Two has many more such families.
posted by ?! at 6:39 AM on June 27, 2006


So the seventh son of a seventh son is not only going to have supernatural powers, he's also going to be incredibly gay?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:37 AM on June 27, 2006


That's why statistics can be so misleading when quoted out of context and fed to an audience that doesn't know about how these things work.

Maybe there's a reason that (generally speaking) people "don't know about how these things work." Statistics aren't all that frequently presented in a way that the general public would see as interesting, understandable, or compelling (unless you already have a strong affinity for math or science). I took stats in college, twice, and dropped out both times after a week of misery and incomprehension. I found an interest in statistics later in life, but that interest is at best amateur. I still don't understand much beyond the most rudimentary basics. I don't think I'm alone in this level of understanding (or lack thereof). I do think that not having that understanding puts me at a disadvantage.

When statistics are presented, usually by the news media (as in the case of this gay-brother study), they're presented as out-of-context numbers that can be manipulated to hold almost any meaning. There are some exceptional writers and reporters who strive to make statistics both understandable and compelling, but generally, as the immortal Mark Twain put it, there are "statistics, damn statistics, and lies."
posted by blucevalo at 8:14 AM on June 27, 2006


as the immortal Mark Twain put it, there are "statistics, damn statistics, and lies."

That's not the quote, and it wasn't by Twain. From Ralph Keyes' (excellent) "Nice Guys Finish Seventh":
In his autobiography, Mark Twain attributed the remark "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics" to Disraeli. This famous line now appears often in quote collections under Disraeli's name (and Twain's too, on occasion). "Lies, damned lies..." has also been attributed to Henry Labouchère, Abram Hewitt, and others. No one other than Twain is known to have credited Disraeli with making the comment. British statistician John Bibby once appealed to his colleagues for a reliable source of the saying. The best anyone could come up with was this 1896 comment by a member of the Royal Statistical Society: "We may quote to one another with a chuckle the words of the Wise Statesman, lies, damned lies, statistics..." After consulting a Disraeli biographer, Bibby concluded that he probably wasn't this Wise Statesman. Bibby is still trying to determine who was."
(The Keyes book is copyright 1992.)
posted by languagehat at 8:46 AM on June 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Okay, I stand corrected. It's not yet 9 in the morning where I am and I'm half-asleep — I definitely muddled the quote. As for the attribution, I didn't know that, and it's interesting to find out the background. I guess it's one of those lost quotes with attribution that will never be determined. In any case, leaving Twain and "damn lies" out of the discussion, my broader point stands.
posted by blucevalo at 8:58 AM on June 27, 2006


This was a Canadian study, therefore worthless.
posted by tadellin at 10:37 AM on June 27, 2006


blucevalo: What I've found is that people are so hideously socialized to the expect the poor uses of statistics that it's hard to get past all the cruft, even when people are bright, educated, etc.

The whole thing with stats is depressing. Last year, I did some work on the side for a big museum in Chicago on some survey stats for a project involving researching an impoverished community where the museum ran a "cultural outreach" program. They rejected everything I did for them and instead decided on focusing on certain raw numbers that did not stand up to any sort of scrutiny to basically feed funders an incredible line of bull about how sad-sack and disconnected these poor black folks were. In fact, even assuming some significant variance because the questions were worded so poorly, the population in question was almost doubling the city-wide average indicators for "community involvement" (i.e. how many neighbors you know, how many you regularly spend time with, how many community-related events you attend, etc). It was baldly racist, classist: classic mushy headed academic pandering to the poor. When I reported to the higher ups at the museum, I was shrugged off, so I quit without taking pay.

Similarly, I proposed to the Legal Services Corporation that rather than invest a lot of money in developing a SurveyMonkey knock-off for legal services programs, creating a free question bank for legal services programs using questions taken from things like the General Social Survey and spending the remainder on a couple of real studies done by a real survey firm would be beneficial. Of course, they opted to create a tool that a) nobody uses and b) nobody in the legal services community knows how to use.

Bummer.
posted by davideads at 11:01 AM on June 27, 2006


?!: I wasn't using the family example -- I was just taking two populations of 1 million each -- one has a 3% chance of being teh ghey, the other has a 5% chance. Just an offhand example, nothing more.
posted by davideads at 11:03 AM on June 27, 2006


"Oh my god, another study blaming mothers."

Yeah, that will give the fundies more ammo to oppress women, huh? Just like how if a woman is barren it's her fault too. Can't you just hear it?

"Our son is gay, woman! I raised him in our Christian home, but he's still an abomination! This is YOUR FAULT!!!"
posted by zoogleplex at 11:09 AM on June 27, 2006


On the other hand, it could be good reason for fundies not to have so many kids.
posted by occhiblu at 11:52 AM on June 27, 2006


From your mouth to God's ears! :D
posted by zoogleplex at 1:53 PM on June 27, 2006


Anecdotes have the singular and now strangely unappreciated virtue of describing a situation which could exist in the physical world; normalized statistical portraits usually require you to eat several impossible things before breakfast (2.5 children, anyone?).
posted by jamjam at 2:30 PM on June 27, 2006


arcticwoman : "Oh wait, I'm female, and no one cares about studying us. Never mind."

I can't speak for everyone here, but I can personally attest to hours and hours of 'study'.
posted by graventy at 7:33 PM on June 27, 2006


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