GaybiesI was over on Talking Points Memo and I saw an ad in the sidebar there. It was something about genetic predeterminism, and it showed a picture of an adorable little baby, with a big red GAY label stamped on its forehead.
I doubt we've isolated a sexual orientation gene, and personally, I doubt we'll ever be able to, since I suspect sexual orientation derives at least in part from environment and conditioning. I could be wrong, though; I don't claim to know much about this stuff. My degree was in... oh, wait. I don't have a degree. Well, my areas of expertise are Silver Age superhero comics and the writing of Robert A. Heinlein. So I claim no special insights here.
Still, the image made me speculate. How much, and how well or poorly, would the world be changed, if it was possible to determine, before birth, or shortly after, what your child's adult sexual orientation would be?
The first thing that comes to mind is that hard core conservatives might do an abrupt 180 on the abortion issue, if it became possible for them to determine that the fetus in Mrs. Cleaver's tummy is going to grow up to be a goddam worthless hellbound deviant civilization destroying indecent faggot.
Then other stuff crowds in. How fast would laws be passed regarding the privacy of this kind of information? What kind of laws would they be? Conservatives would want sexual orientation determined and then publicly trumpeted as early as possible.
Even if this wasn't made mandatory, I'll bet you anything that any conservative couple with a heterosexual child would publish the results of that kid's sexual orientation test in the papers and on billboards. Hell, I have little doubt that conservative parents would organize focus groups to do this; there would be national publications doing little more than listing the names of straight toddlers... and a presumption would quickly spring up that if your kid's name isn't in this month's NORMAL BABY, then your kid must be some kind of deviant.
Imagine the cottage industries that would condense out of the very ether to service the new, sudden need for parents everywhere to accredit their kids as heterosexual. We Can Make Your Baby Straight. We'll Help Your Child Get Past The Sexual Orientation Test. Reorientation Courses For YOUR Budget (With Church Tax Credit!). Don't let your child be denied the best opportunies due to their orientation!
I mean, fuck.
Worse... how many of us can honestly claim we'd look at our own children the same way if we knew their sexual orientation from early infancy? For myself, I sincerely couldn't care less that Super Drama Teen has a girlfriend, I'm just happy she seems happy with her current relationship... but if my 17 year old soon to be stepdaughter were a soon to be stepson instead, and dating another guy, well, I know myself well enough to understand that it would be an emotional issue for me. I'd do everything I could to keep that from being an issue for the kids in question, or anyone else... but it would still bother me. I'd be annoyed with myself for it, but I know it's true.
How much worse would it be, if I had a son and knew from infancy onward that he was going to grow up gay? Would I try harder to make him straight? Or would I just give up on him, and concentrate on his straight little brother?
How different would the pictures my mom just sent of my adorable nephew Ben seem to me, if I knew Ben was going to grow up homosexual? How differently would his parents treat him? His grandparents? His other uncles, and his aunts, and his cousins?
Lastly, as another odd note, when I first started typing this, I automatically wrote the first sentence of the second paragraph as "I doubt THEY've isolated a sexual orientation gene, and personally, I doubt THEY'll be able to". I saw that, and went back and changed it. I like the way the sentence reads much better now... instead of treating the educated, intellectual folks who actually do scientific research in the field of genetics and human behavior as some isolated, and no doubt, suspicious if not subversive elite, well... anyway. I like it better.
Mind you, I'm not trying to in any way say that I, myself, have the necessary qualifications to undertake this kind of inquiry. I'm just, you know, trying to avoid treating the egghead class as some sort of inhuman outsider category.
I guess I'd just have to make the same effort with kids whose sexual orientation I was aware of from a very early age.