COMMENT: “Gay brain” study makes sweeping generalisations

Mark Umbach June 21, 2008
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Many of you have probably read about the recent study that says the brain makeup of gay males is similar to that of straight women, and that holds true for gay women and straight men.

Now, I’m all for science and trying to figure things out, but in this matter, I’m trying dig a little bit deeper and figure out what exactly all this means.

From science’s standpoint, it would seem like the researchers are drawing comparisons between the sexual attractions of the subjects.

Gay men and straight women are both attracted to men, and gay women and straight men are both attracted to women.

And I don’t think it would be a giant leap to infer that people reading the study are going to deduce that gay men tend to act more like women and gay women tend to act more like … playing into the biggest stereotype faced by the gay community.

(Funny timing, too, that the study was put out during this momentous week for gay rights in California).

The latter part of that comparison is where we’ll have to draw the proverbial line. The problem with a study such as this is that it makes such a sweeping generalisation.

I know a lot of gay men. I also know a lot of gay women.

Part of the reason I’ve managed to become good friends with so many gay people is because I’m part of a community.

More importantly, I’ve been able to meet so many different folks because in LA, I’ve been a part of three different sports organisations, all with different interests.

It is this last point that I would like to drive home.

Despite the fact that we may have similar brain structures, or what have you, the LGBT community is so non-homogenous, that I just cannot come to terms with this study.

Is the study saying that the brain shape dictates sexual attraction?

If that is the case, then, sure, there may be something to it.

But it cannot be ignored that people are going to read this article and draw from it that gay men are all feminine and dainty and that’s all.

Over the past six or seven years of being a gay man, I’ve had to come to terms with a lot of things.

Over the past two years, however, I’ve come to terms with one bigger issue, and that’s the fact that we’re not all the same.

I know gay men who like to play baseball and football.

I know gay men who like to ice skate or swim.

And I know gay men who like to decorate and sew.

And I personally think that all of these things are fantastic. I think everyone should be who they want to be.

On the flip side, I certainly know straight women who like to play lacrosse or field hockey.

I know gay women who wouldn’t pick up a tennis racquet if Anna Kournikova were itching for a game of doubles.

I have to admit most of the straight men I know would, but not because of the tennis racquet. Some straight men would rather sit in the corner crocheting.

I’m sure this new study will stir even more debate; let’s just hope it’s not used to reinforce stereotypes.

The real issue is that you cannot stereotype and place the entire LGBT community into one group.

We are as diverse as the population itself, and while this study certainly has its merits, the way it is being presented doesn’t sit well with me.

© 2008; All Rights Reserved

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