Tuesday, June 29, 2010

To Have Is to Hold

What's wrong with trying to engineer your child's sexual orientation?

Or more specifically, what's wrong with taking a steroid, while you're pregnant, to try to increase the odds that your female fetus will someday grow up to be a straight woman who gives you grandchildren, and not a lesbian daughter more interested in puppies?

I have a funny feeling I'm about to get hit by various versions of that question, since Ellen Feder of American University, Anne Tamar-Mattis of Advocates for Informed Choice, and I just submitted a new post to Bioethics Forum revealing what we think is the first organized medical "paradigm" for attempting to prevent homosexuality in the womb.

Let me give five answers to that question. Maybe six.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Can You Hear Us Now?

Why is a Cornell doctor vibrating little girls' clitorises . . . and is this really medicine?

In a brief article entitled "Bad Vibrations" just posted at the Hastings Center's Bioethics Forum, my colleague Ellen Feder and I express our shock over the follow-up techniques being used by pediatric urologist Dix Poppas at Weill Medical College of Cornell University on girls whose clitorises Poppas has cut down in size.

There's no point in my repeating here what we say at Bioethics Forum. Instead, I want to use this space to answer some questions I'm already getting from people about this scene.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sugar, Boys, and Sugar Boys

Ok, here goes: I'm going to see how many people I can offend by suggesting that maybe many little gay boys, like many little girls, are made up of sugar and spice and everything nice.

In North America, I suffer from a terrible disease. When the disease flares up, I am virtually incapacitated by the symptoms. But if I go to many other parts of the world-for example, most of Asia, I am miraculously cured. There's something in the North American environment that makes me sick, and that thing is largely absent in Asia. What is it?

Milk. It took me a long time to figure out that my body can't tolerate lactose, the sugar in milk, long enough that I also managed to develop an allergy to the milk protein casein. If I lived in a part of the world where milk was not part of the adult diet, I'd be fine. In fact, that's most of the world; scientists estimate that eighty percent of the world's adult human population is lactose intolerant. Thus, most of the world's cuisines skip milk. Frankly, from an evolutionary perspective, it's rather freaky to keep eating milk past the age of weaning. Y'all are freaks. I'm normal.

Except in North America, that is, where I live in constant fear of accidentally ingesting milk. I've learned the hard way that Americans sometimes hide milk in margarine, Cool Whip, baba ganoush, "vegan" muffins, Tums (Tums!), French fries, and, increasingly--tragically--beer.

Now, as my good friend Paul Vasey, the super sharp Canadian sex researcher, packs to head off for his annual research trip to Samoa, I have been thinking about how my milk problem is analogous to what Paul has been tracing in his work with regard to male androphilia. "Androphilia" refers to being sexually attracted to males. Paul uses the term "male androphilia" where other researchers talk about "male homosexuality" because Paul studies a special population of people in Samoa, the fa'afafine.