Jessica at Feministing notices the BBC reporting on a study that conditions in utero may play a causal role in men’s sexual orientation. But, as the title of this post suggests, I do not care what the biological bases for sexual orientation might be, nor indeed whether there are biological bases for sexual orientation. Jessica makes a comment that starts to capture my own non-interest here:
… naturally the larger question with all these why-are-you-gay studies is why do we have to know? I’m terrified that once someone targets a “reason” they’re just going to try and find a way to do away with it.
Pinning homosexuality on something (abnormal) from genetics or development comes dangerously close to making it a disease for which medical science might be able to provide a “cure”. Sure, not everyone would seek this kind of “practical application” for such research. There are those who look to research on the biological bases of sexual orientation to support the assertion that orientation is more than a mere preference — that homosexuality is part of the normal range of variation among humans, and therefore ought not to be attacked as “sinful”.
My problem with both of these attitudes is that they assume that biology provides good reasons for treating people certain ways — either as “defective” people who ought to be treated, or as “natural” variants worthy of our respect. Not only does it fetishize the “natural” (whatever that might be — and if you’re reading this on your computer screen, we can probably make the case that you have embraced at least certain facets of the “unnatural”), but it also overlooks some of the truly crappy ways of treating each other humans have justified on the basis of “biological facts”.
I don’t think it’s the biologists who are at fault here; non-scientists are good at finding support for acting in ways they already felt like acting, and if they don’t get that support from science there are plenty of other sources of justification available.
It’s a lot harder to just say, regardless of our differences, I will treat other human beings as worthy of respect. Waiting around for science to give you a reason to treat other human beings as worthy of respect is just dumb.