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Queer Science
July 9, 2010 11:58 PM   Subscribe

Less than two weeks after a controversial paper came to light advocating the pre-natal treatment of some female fetuses with a hormone to make their behavior more stereotypically female (previously discussed here) comes news of actual animal research on causing the opposite inclination. By knocking out the fucose mutarotase gene, scientists in South Korea have apparently created "Lesbian mice" who prefer other female mice and who resist the attempts of male mice to mate with them. Article abstract, and coverage by The Telegraph.
posted by Asparagirl (19 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
First of all it's been possible to induce homosexuality, or at least make it more likely in various animals for a long time. I remember reading in a textbook about an experiment where pregnant mice were put under a lot of stress, the male mice were more likely to be homosexual.

Second of all this:
Less than two weeks after a controversial paper came to light advocating the pre-natal treatment of some female fetuses with a hormone to make their behavior more stereotypically female
Is totally false as far as I can tell. No one was advocating anything to do with changing anyone's behavior. Rather, the paper described how hormone treatment could help alleviate some of the lifelong symptoms of Congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Which include:
* Ambiguous genitalia in girls,
* Enlarged penis in boys,
* Very early puberty,
* Irregular menstrual cycles in women,
* Infertility in women and men
and in "Non classical" cases:
*Severe acne, Nausea
*Fatigue, Low blood pressure
*Low bone density
*High blood cholesterol
*Obesity and
*Slow recovery from infections, such as colds
Presenting this as a "cure for homosexuality" is insane. A) it would only affect the individuals with CAH, which can be screened for in-utero. Not everyone. mr_roboto posted excerpt of the actual paper in the other thread. The paper did point out that women would probably be less likely to have 'masculine' behavior as an effect, but it in no way advocated treating women in order to prevent their daughters from becoming lesbians in general.

mr_roboto also posted this comment talking about how it was well established that the treatment prevented birth defects associated with CAH.
posted by delmoi at 12:18 AM on July 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Coming soon: dyke mice on bikes.
posted by orthogonality at 1:10 AM on July 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


One thought that comes to mind.... if scientists ever actually do prove that homosexuality is genetic, I wonder how the fundamentalists will react? How are they going to reconcile "Man shouldn't play God!" with "The homos are eeeevil!" Are they going to advocate for using genetic manipulation to 'cure' homosexuality in the womb? Or are they going to accept that some humans are homosexual and that God made them that way?

Being cynical, and expecting maximum evil from that crowd, I can easily imagine them resolving the dilemma by calling homosexuals genetic defectives, and advocating for eugenics to remove them from the population.
posted by Malor at 3:09 AM on July 10, 2010


...if scientists ever actually do prove that homosexuality is genetic, I wonder how the fundamentalists will react?

When God initially created humanity, it was perfect, but the many sins of mankind have since caused even its very DNA to become adulterated!

I grew up with many of these people; I know them well.
posted by belvidere at 4:17 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


if scientists ever actually do prove that homosexuality is genetic, I wonder how the fundamentalists will react?

Fundamentalists would just refuse to accept the science, even if it was irrefutable. Then they'd cite a little passage from some old book and pretend it was relevant to the situation.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:57 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


There wouldn't be any need to change the existing line for many, including the official Catholic Church line: no matter how you're born, your way of life is something you can choose or not choose. The idea is that may not be a sin to be homosexual, but engaging in homosexual acts is forbidden in the holy texts.
posted by Miko at 6:22 AM on July 10, 2010


Mike is right -- I've had Christians flat out tell me that, yes they expect homosexuals to either be a. celibate or b. get cured and get married :( They see nothing wrong with requiring an entire population to be celibate.
posted by Librarygeek at 7:11 AM on July 10, 2010


Coming soon: dyke mice on bikes

They could open for Gaye Bykers on Acid*.

They also played gigs (dressed in women's clothing) under the name 'Lesbian Dopeheads on Mopeds', supporting themselves, and thus getting paid twice.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:05 AM on July 10, 2010


I, for one, would like to welcome our new lesbian overladies.

Don't geld me! I'm a big Alison Bechdel fan!
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:14 AM on July 10, 2010


Guess that plan backfired, huh. Science: Religion's archnemesis since 300 BC.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:17 AM on July 10, 2010


First of all it's been possible to induce homosexuality, or at least make it more likely in various animals for a long time.

But this is the first time it's been done through gene expression, rather than induced stress or artificial hormonal changes, isn't it?

No one [in the CAH paper kerfuffle] was advocating anything to do with changing anyone's behavior. Rather, the paper described how hormone treatment could help alleviate some of the lifelong symptoms of Congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Did we read two different stories? The expressed behaviors of the girls with CAH (and later, the adult women with CAH) were definitely being discussed as things to coincidentally "fix" through the pre-natal hormone treatment, not just the actual medical problems. Playing with trucks as a child and not wanting to get married and raise a family as an adult are not items that scientists should be looking to "fix". But hose behaviors are being discussed anyway, and medicalized, as potentially deleterious side effects of CAH, rather than perfectly acceptable human behaviors.

There were a number of people arguing with you in that previous thread, delmoi, over the obvious implications of that paper, not to mention the fact that the treatment is already being carried out on some patients without fully informed consent (of their parents). Chalk me up as another one who is saying you're being pretty naive here. Preventing genital abnormalities and lifelong medical problems is a grand idea; "treating" lesbianism and atypical gender behaviors is not.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:01 AM on July 10, 2010


This obviously means that when they set up the Island-no, make that Planet of the Lesbians, the mothers will have a means to ensure that their daughters will turn out to be lesbians as well, up until the time their stocks of frozen sperm run out, and I coincidentally wash-up- no make that crashland- there just in time to save their civilization.

No I'm not influenced by bad SF novels at all, why do you ask?
posted by happyroach at 10:33 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


According to good science fiction, happyroach (Houston Houston Do You Read?, When It Changed, The Temple at Landfall, etc.) you, er, probably wouldn't actually be all that welcome there. I guess you'll have to hope for a poorly-written future.
posted by kyrademon at 2:10 PM on July 10, 2010


"They see nothing wrong with requiring an entire population to be celibate."

And my holy book sees nothing wrong with slapping them around until they shut the hell up.
posted by Twang at 6:48 PM on July 10, 2010


f scientists ever actually do prove that homosexuality is genetic, I wonder how the fundamentalists will react?

You wonder how religious fundamentalists would respond to scientific facts? Is this your first visit to Earth?
posted by Plutor at 10:53 AM on July 11, 2010


It surprises me that no one sees the obvious possibility that, instead of "lesbians", these mice might be Transgendered. We have no way to peer into the consciousness of these mice, but the human analogue of this treatment might be Transgenderism...
posted by PigAlien at 6:42 AM on July 12, 2010


Good point, PigAlien, but I'm wondering exactly how one could tell if a mouse is trans? Do they groom their fur differently?
posted by QIbHom at 11:37 AM on July 12, 2010


I'm having a hard time coming up with what non-sentient transgenderism would be. Mice don't have a concept of self, so there's no difference between sex and gender identity.
posted by Plutor at 12:14 PM on July 12, 2010


Interestingly enough, although we don't know exactly what causes Transgenderism in humans (just like we don't know exactly what causes homosexuality), some studies have shown that some physical parts of the brain match those of the opposite sex in Transgendered people. I wonder if there are similar parts of mice brains that could be analyzed for differences?
posted by PigAlien at 1:33 PM on July 12, 2010


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