Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Ending Eugenics for Sexual Orientation Before It Begins

You may have seen the article in Newsweek about using medications in utero to decrease the likelihood that a girl fetus will be born a lesbian or reject tightly prescribed female sex roles.

The article behind the article was developed by the Hastings Center and you can read it here: http://www.thehastingscenter.org/Bioethicsforum/Post.aspx?id=4754&blogid=140

My reaction to the articles were mixed. Based on my own readings and discussions with scientists over the year, I do think that prenatal hormones and genetics play a role in both sexual orientation and gender identity. I think there is much that will be learned in the future about how much, and I support high quality, carefully reviewed, given consent for research -- apparently not what has been going on according to the Hastings Center.

However, the possibility that such research could be used for genetic engineering is appalling. I believe as a sexologist that sexual diversity is not "abnormal" but expected, and that we should support diversity not try to eliminate it. And as a minister, I believe that sexual and gender diversity is part of the blessing of God's creation. We need to name any attempt to use medications to change sexual orientation as eugenics, and work to oppose it before it even begins.

As our Open Letter on Sexual and Gender Diversity says,

"Loving, just communities embrace everyone; they are strengthened when all people are able to live fully and express their gender and sexuality with holiness and integrity. We celebrate sexual and gender diversity as a blessing that enriches all."


Bill Baar said...

I believe that sexual and gender diversity is part of the blessing of God's creation.

Dare we abort a blessing of God's creation then? What does God think of that?

I'm too humanist and pragmatic to speculate much on who God blesses; his/her business, not mine, but I do wonder about your logic here.

Please explain.

Steve Caldwell said...


You may want to check out Jen McCreight's commentary on this on her blog:

"On 'fixing the gays' and science used for evil"

Jen was the college student responsible for the recent "boobquake" experimental response to the Iranian cleric who said that female immodesty was responsible for increased earthquakes.

Desmond Ravenstone said...

Debra, I share your concern about treating sexual and gender identities as pathology rather than natural variations. Worse, I wonder how exploiting the fears of some prospective parents could lead to bad medicine.

I have a severe allergy to dairy protein, as did my mother and her father; this also means that any children I might have could become allergic, too. It's certainly makes it tricky eating at restaurants and potlucks, but I've learned to manage.

Now, let's say some doctor came along with a pill which could allow me to eat dairy products without a negative reaction. Or, more apropose to this case, prevent a fetus from developing the allergy. Wouldn't I jump at the chance?

Hardly. I'd be asking some tough questions about success rates, side effects, and above all how medically necessary it would be. It's one thing when the choice is to take and experimental drug or undergo a risky procedure to save a life, and quite another to put overall health at risk for a chance to be "normal."

Nicholas Barnard said...

I have mixed feelings about this. Back in my college days in southwest Ohio, about 10 years ago, I ran a thought experiment among my GLBTQA friends, it went like this:

(Most of them got pretty close to this exact experiment but, I varied it a bit to refine the experiment.)

If you had a child approaching puberty, and you had to choose if they were gay or straight, or they would cease to exist which would you choose?

Of the 15 or so people I asked, all but one said they would chose for their child to be straight. (The one dissenter refused to answer the question, asserting that it was immoral to choose someone's orientation, I think he was the one I added the "cease to exist" clause on for.)

I'm still not sure how I'd answer that question. If I was living where I am now, i'd choose gay. If I was back in Ohio, I'd probably choose straight. If I were in some parts of Africa or the Middle East, I'd choose straight without a doubt.

The question comes down to: would I subject my child to discrimination, and the hardships I went through, or witnessed my friends going through? There is a certain kindness in desiring to spare your child those hardships.

I fully realize most people pursuing these approaches aren't thinking about sparing their child pain and hardship, but I still find the results of this thought experiment insightful.