Wednesday, December 6

Sexual orientation, nature or nurture?


SEVERAL weeks ago, some groups of people got together to introduce guidelines that eventually earned Malaysia some very degrading names.

These guidelines, introduced by non-governmental organisations comprising of Yayasan Guru Malaysia Bhd and Putrajaya Consultative Council of Parents and Teachers Association were supposedly to help parents detect symptoms of homosexuality among their young children.

The way these guidelines were issued was as if these NGOs were experts and authorities on sexual orientation.

Luckily, many sensible Malaysians rallied together and found that the guidelines were ludicrous and a big joke. Among items in the guidelines were stereotypes of how homosexual people tend to dress.

Among the more ridiculous guidelines was that men who like to show off their nice physiques and wear tight fitting V-necked T-shirts are gay. The Eye just found this beyond comprehension.

How can one judge a person’s sexual orientation just because the guy works out in the gym and takes pride in his efforts to have a nice and healthy physique by wearing nice fitting clothes?

These NGOs believe that they can nip the problem in the bud by setting the young “straight”. How can they be so sure when there is still debate on whether sexual orientation is determined by nature or nurture.

While developed countries are finding more evidence that sexual orientation could result more from biological factors rather than peer influence or surroundings, these jokers are dangerously taking a step back in time in suggesting that a gay person can be “set straight” from young.

Between the 1930s and 1950s, homosexual orientation was considered a mental illness. Many believed that it was due to peer influence and surroundings.

The first test to see if there was a biological explanation for sexual orientation was carried out by Karen Hooker in 1957. She concluded that sexuality was not based on environmental factors and following this conclusion, the American Psychiatric Association in 1975 released a public statement that homosexuality was not a mental disorder.

Since then, there have been many studies designed and conducted to determine if sexual orientation has a genetic cause.

In 1990, DF Swaab conducted a noteworthy experiment. Swaab was the first scientist to find that there was, in fact, a physiological difference in the anatomical structure of a gay man’s brain, where the hypothalamus of the brain was structurally different than that of a heterosexual brain.

Another scientist, Laura S Allen made a similar discovery where she found that the hypothalamus was also significantly larger in the homosexual subjects than for those who are “straight”.

Since then, other studies have gone further to find out if sexual orientation is determined by the early levels (probably prenatal) of androgen on relevant neural structures in a person. Other studies have also found that the tendency of homosexuality runs in the family.

Scientific findings aside, the Eye has friends that society classifies as LGBT from different religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. There is nothing wrong with them. They are not nutcases, and they are not bizarre people.

In fact, they are, to the Eye, normal human beings who are like everyone else and who go about their daily lives in a normal manner. They laugh, love, eat, live like everyone else. Many of them work in professional capacities. Many of them also perform their religious duties without fail.

The father of evolution, Charles Darwin had said “… we do not even in the least know the final cause of sexuality. The whole subject is hidden in darkness”.

So, as human beings, we have no right to judge, nor do we have the right to try and “set them straight from young”.

There have been instances where there were gay men who tried very hard to live a “straight” life by even getting married and having kids. At the end of the day, they found themselves depressed and were tormented internally because they could not be who they really are. Cases like these usually lead to even more complications within their family and social circles.

A close friend who finds the guidelines a waste of time said the focus should be on identifying more prevalent and urgent conditions in young children including learning disabilities such as dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), autism, mild autism and the like. These conditions, if not properly identified and treated could cause even more problems later in life than the sexual orientation of a person.