The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Friday Blogging Round-up

I going to try and spend some time today working on a couple of things I’ve wanted to write, but haven’t found time for lately. So, since I’m not sure how much actually blogging will be going on here today, it seems like a good time to post a round-up of some of the more interesting blog posts and news items I’ve seen in the past week or so. (And earlier, since I’m perpetually behind on my blog reading these days.)

I ‘ve often been told that being gay is all in my head. Well, it’s true. Actually, it’s in my brain. Thus, I think like a girl.

Scientists at the Karolinska Institute studied brain scans of 90 gay and straight men and women, and found that the size of the two symmetrical halves of the brains of gay men more closely resembled those of straight women than they did straight men. In heterosexual women, the two halves of the brain are more or less the same size. In heterosexual men, the right hemisphere is slightly larger. Scans of the brains of gay men in the study, however, showed that their hemispheres were relatively symmetrical, like those of straight women, while the brains of homosexual women were asymmetrical like those of straight men. The number of nerves connecting the two sides of the brains of gay men were also more like the number in heterosexual women than in straight men.

Interesting, but while there probably are some ways in which my brain functions a bit differently from my heterosexual brethren, I think there are some traits that gay and non-gay guys still share, as the article points out.

Vilain, who studies the genetic factors behind sexuality and sexual orientation, notes that it may turn out that the brains of gay men possess only some ‘feminized’ structures, while retaining some masculine ones, and this is reflected in how they act on their sexuality. “We know from studies that men, regardless of their sexual orientation, retain masculine characteristics when it comes to their sexual behavior,” he says. Both gay and straight men, for example, tend to prefer younger partners, in contrast to women, who gravitate toward older partners. Most men are also more likely than women to engage in casual sex, and to be aroused by visual stimuli. “So I expect that some regions of the brain will remain masculine even in gay men,” says Vilain.

So, I think like a … oh, I don’t even know anymore.

Kip has a good point though. All the scientific evidence in the world won’t matter to some folks.

To the bigots, all the research in the world won’t make a scrap of difference. If it’s not biological, then it’s a “choice.” If it is biological, then it’s a “disease.” Either way, it’s wrong and deserves no equal treatment (other than in a hospital or asylum). All they’ll do is run a search-and-replace in their talking point documents. But they will definitely not stop talking.

Speaking of gays and brains, here’s something interesting. Apparently, Google is doing its part to piss off the right.

…While it’s usually gospel truth never to mess with the logo, Page, Brin, and Hwang tweak the Google home page several times a year on a lark, partly to advance their company’s distinctiveness, and partly because they just feel like it. They’ve posted Google “doodles” to commemorate the invention of the laser, the launch of Sputnik, the World Cup, and Piet Mondrian’s birthday. The spirit of their doodles, they thought, was pretty clear: Science is cool, art is cool, let’s have a little fun.

But in the last few years, as Google has grown to dominate the world of Internet search, some people have detected a more sinister motive behind its choice of days to commemorate. From the National Review to NewsBusters and InstaPundit, some of the country’s most prominent conservative opinion journals and news sites have published stories and blog posts denouncing Google for subtly pushing a liberal worldview in its doodles while steadfastly refusing to commemorate patriotic or religious holidays.

Few keep a closer watch on Google than the editors of National Review. For years, they have monitored Google’s doodles in search of value judgments about America. When Google ignored Memorial Day in 2006, editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg wrote on NRO’s Corner, “It’s kind of sad. They change their logo for all sorts of holidays and occasions. Just last week they paid tribute to Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday. But Memorial Day doesn’t seem to rate anything at all.” In 2007, online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote, “What, no Easter? I wasn’t expecting a risen Christ, but at least an Easter bunny?” Last June 6, Lopez sniffed, “So today is the D-Day anniversary. Today is the day RFK died 40 years ago. So Google is celebrating Diego Velazquez’s birthday, natch.”

Even when Google commemorates Independence Day, Lopez has looked for hints of a clandestine liberal sensibility. Last year, she printed a comment from a reader who claimed that the American eagle on Google’s logo was clutching olive branches—but not arrows, the symbol of America’s military might: “I think they’ve gone with a remodeled ‘peace is patriotic’ bumper sticker. They just couldn’t bring themselves to do something ‘American’ without making some kind of signal about current policy.”

Mystifying, isn’t it? It’s something of an obsession for the folks at WorldNutDaily.

Not to set any heads exploding (I can just hear the bits of brain matter hitting the walls now), but my guess is they aren’t aware of Google’s little gay “Easter Egg.”

When you search Google for gay, you will see special rainbow colors next to the AdWords ads to the right side. Rainbow colors are a globally recognized gay symbol and there’s Pride Week coming up.

On a related note, Google also sometimes dresses up AdWords for holidays, and they’ve also had their own wagons at gay parades before. Within Google, gay employees call themselves “gayglers.”

Of course, I had to check.

On to other things gay….

Yes, it has kind of bothered me a little that gay actors get no props for playing straight, but when straight actors play gay…

Yet here we are, in 2008, and we hear this very same argument each time a straight actor dares to play gay. They are held up as heroes, pioneers, and not just by the scions of mainstream culture (Oprah, the New York Times, etc), they are even awarded by our very own watchdogs. Can you imagine if the NAACP had given Katharine Houghton an award for being so brave as to portray a woman in love with a black man in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” Or Jane Alexander for playing James Earl Jones’ wife in The Great White Hope? Nevermind that Poitier and Jones had to act as though they loved white woman – I mean how hard could that be – everyone loves a white woman, right?

And so it goes with gay roles: Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal; Charlize Theron; Tom Hanks…all of them, in the hunt for credibility, took on gay roles. And those that didn’t win Oscars for their roles were at least nominated, reflecting the dominating perspective in Hollywood that there is no better way to proclaim your dedication to your craft than to kiss someone/play gay. No wonder Brad Pitt wants to join the club.

So what of gay actors who play straight? Why is their challenge any less noteworthy or meaningful than the other way around? Is it because straight audiences assume there is nothing challenging about it? “I kiss women, so it’s easy for Neil Patrick Harris to kiss a woman.” But if the industry, and our society at large, is going to applaud the Heaths and the Jakes for risking it all and going against their own sexual nature, it would seem only fair to bestow the same accolades on those gay actors who are doing the very same by playing straight. The fact that they’re not exposes Hollywood’s hypocrisy when it comes to recognizing the legitimate work gay actors do.

I posted a bit about gay marriage and gender roles earlier. It’s interesting to hear something similar from a postmodern conservative.

…Traditionalists think it’s a bad idea for long-term romantic relationships to take place outside the limits of marriage, and reinforcing marriage as a norm is more important than any (quickly disappearing) homophobia. Making the marriage norm stronger is great; it’s the changes to what “marriage” means that are objectionable.

I’ve argued before that integrating gay couplehood into the tradition of marriage will necessarily lead to the elimination of gender roles. This was some time a paradox (who cares more about gender roles than butches and femmes?), but now the Times gives it proof:

…Saying that gender is a cultural construct is fine, but there’s a difference between performance (which, like ritual, is both real and unreal) and fiction (which is entirely unreal), and saying that man-woman is equivalent to butch-femme or top-bottom turns gender from a performance to a fiction. This casual attitude is bound to spread—if gender doesn’t matter in your lifelong sexual relationship, where else would it?

There’s another effect of same-sex marriage the right often crows about: a perceived “threat to religious freedom.”

What about the next step: “Could churches in time risk their tax-exempt status by refusing to marry gays?”

…Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to after four-plus years of active participation in the same-sex-marriage debate: Gay marriage is not primarily about marriage. It’s also not about Adam and Steve and their personal practical legal needs. It is about inserting into the law the principle that “gay is the new black” — that sexual orientation should be treated exactly the same way we treat race in law and culture.

Gay-marriage advocates say it all the time: People who think marriage is the union of husband and wife are like bigots who opposed interracial marriage. Believe them. They say it because they mean it.

The architects of this strategy have targeted marriage because it stands in the way of the America they want to create: They hope to use the law to reshape the culture in exactly the same way that the law was used to reshape the culture of the old racist south.

Gay-marriage advocates are willing to use a variety of arguments to allay fears and reduce opposition to getting this new “equality” principle inserted in the law; these voices may even believe what they are saying. But once the principle is in the law, the next step will be to use the law to stigmatize, marginalize, and repress those who disagree with the government’s new views on marriage and sexual orientation.

Many of the harshest legal conflicts could be alleviated with religious-exemption legislation. But gay-marriage advocates will fight those religious exemptions tooth and nail (as they did in Massachusetts when the Catholic Church asked for one for Catholic Charities) because, they will say, it’s the principle of the thing: We wouldn’t give a religious-liberty exemption to a racist, so why should someone who opposes gay marriage get one?

I like what this post at The Bad Idea Blog had to say about it.

First of all, what’s at stake in many of the “horror stories” these and other critics cite are the right of religious groups to discriminate against gay people in situations where the groups are either using government money, or some public assistance, for the relevant function. That’s a rather different matter than religious expression and core worship services themselves being targeted for obliteration or discrimination lawsuits. It’s an issue of a much smaller scope. It’s lame enough when religious organizations generally claim that they should not be taxed, since “taxation is the power to destroy.” But what these critics are essentially arguing that religion is in danger of obliteration unless it receives special, no-strings attached, taxpayer support and legal treatment for their charitable programs.

Also, People for the American Way kindly sorted out the myths about same-sex marriage.

MYTH #1: Churches in California will be forced to perform same-sex marriages, even if they don’t want to.

FACT: No church will ever have to perform any marriage it disapproves of. That’s protected in the First Amendment of the US Constitution and will never change.

MYTH #2: County clerks can pick and choose which marriages they officiate.

FACT: Unlike religious leaders, county clerks are civic officials who are required to administer the law without discriminating. A civil marriage isn’t a religious ceremony — it’s a legal contract. County clerks need to perform their official government duties.

MYTH #3: The Supreme Court shouldn’t have done this!

FACT: The state Constitution requires equality under the law for all Californian, and the justices on the Court had an obligation to stand up for that principle. Throughout American history, courts have stood up for those who couldn’t defend their rights any other way. Those decisions were often unpopular, but now we look back on them proudly.

MYTH #4: This is bad for marriage.

FACT: This is great for marriage! When two people love each other and want to make a lifelong commitment to care for and be responsible for each other, they should be able to get married. Starting today, marriage will be stronger, not weaker. Stopping some people from getting married doesn’t help anyone’s marriage — it only hurts those who are discriminated against and their families.

And this Philadelphia Daily News article provides more food for thought.

The moral argument for or against gay rights is often forged during adolescence and young adulthood.

For instance, as I was running out the door to my first job as a teenager, my mother called me back inside: “Your father and I want you to know that you’re going to meet a waiter at that restaurant who’s been working there for 20 years. Some people may say bad things about him because he’s gay, but there’s nothing wrong with him. Besides, he makes the best cappuccino in town.”

Years later, in college, I served as a resident adviser of a dormitory. My senior year I was called into the dean’s office to talk about one of my residents, who had just attempted suicide. The dean went on to explain how the boy had recently announced his homosexuality to his deeply homophobic parents. They told him not to come home (or expect tuition) unless he agreed to undergo therapy with an alternative-lifestyle intolerant therapist. The young man agreed.

But the therapy didn’t work. Later that summer he hanged himself from a rafter in the basement of his childhood home.

Would he have hanged himself if his parents had spoken kindly of even one gay couple?

A few months after graduation, I took a teaching job at a local public school where I was paired with a master teacher. Her lessons were inspirational, magical at times, and daunting (since I had to follow them with pale versions of my own).

Almost two decades later, I still use some of what I learned from her in my own English classes. Funny, I didn’t find out until recently that she’s been living with the same-sex partner all of her adult life.

Would it have mattered? Would it have mattered either to me or to her students if she were married?

Would it?

I’m not even gonna try and wrap this post up in a nice, tidy bow. One, I have a headache. Two, it’s time for lunch.

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One Comment

  1. On “thinking like a girl” — CNN had a credulous article earlier this week, and Mark Liberman took two swipes at it: sexual pseudoscience at CNN and Innate sex differences: science and public opinion.

    In the first post, Liberman writes: “And it’s crucial to keep in mind that at every age, individual differences among boys and among girls are large compared to the average differences between the groups.”

    In the second post, Liberman writes:

    Scientists mostly understand the dangers of overinterpretation and the importance of replication and triangulation. The public mostly doesn’t. Unfortunately, journalists and editors also mostly don’t understand these issues — or at least they act as if they don’t. As a result, the role of science in the marketplace of opinion is seriously degraded by popular prejudice and by lobbyists for various commercial and ideological interests. I hope that this post, aside from any intrinsic interest that the content may have, will provide some material for discussion of those points.


    I’ve often emphasized the importance of looking at effect size — the difference between group means expressed as a proportion of a measure of within-group variation — and its implications for statements about general properties of groups. Over and over again, we find journalists (and even some scientists) describing small effect sizes of 0.10 to 0.20 with statements like “Xs are better at Foo than Ys are”, although the real prediction is only that on a test of Foo, if you pick a random X and a random Y, the X will score better than the Y.(say) 53 times out of 100, but lower than the Y 47 times out of 100.

    So– not so much evidence for “thinking like a girl” or “thinking like a boy”.