Out in Print
Some things just canâ€™t be tolerated.
Take, for instance, when food touches other food on your plate. Or when socks donâ€™t match up. Or if, like, somebody, like, repeatedly uses a catch-phrase without, like, thinking.
We all have our individual likes, traits, and dislikes. But are our selves shaped by outside influence, or did we enter the world this way? Was our behavior learned or innate? In the new book â€śGay, Straight, and the Reason Whyâ€ť by Simon LeVay, youâ€™ll find answers to similar questions of a more intimate sort.
Nearly two decades ago, Simon LeVay published a scientific paper asserting that gay men differed from straight men in brain structure; specifically, a cluster of nerve cells controlling sex drive were, in gay men, of the size that LeVay observed in straight womenâ€™s brains.
Since the publication of his paper, vast amounts of further research have been done concerning same-sex attraction and the nature / nurture debate. In this book, LeVay takes a deeper look at new findings.
While some gays and lesbians are â€śsurprisedâ€ť later in life by feelings of same-sex attraction, LeVay says that sexual identity, while not always immediately apparent, is present at birth (although women, throughout life, appear to be more â€śfluidâ€ť and cannot always be categorized). As small proof, he points to several cases in which male infants were, for one reason or another, â€śassignedâ€ť to live as the opposite sex. In most cases, upon adulthood, the â€śassignmentâ€ť turned out to be wrong.
Childhood abuse has been theorized to be an influence on gayness, but survivors deny it as a factor. Some theories claim that older siblings hold sway. And as for â€śchoice,â€ť LeVay cites several quasi-claims of â€śconversions,â€ť in which therapy reportedly changed sexual preference.
Overall, LeVay says, nothing is â€ścut and driedâ€ť but the probable reason that someone is gay has to do with genetics, hormones, and stress that individuals receive in utero. Studies show, for instance, that mice are influenced by chemicals secreted by their mothers and by littermates. Humans, likewise, are affected in similar ways, which could lay to rest so many questions.
And one of the hints may â€” literally â€” be at your fingertips.
While there is no doubt that â€śGay, Straight, and the Reason Whyâ€ť is an intriguing book that makes sense on several levels, thereâ€™s one big problem with it: you almost need a PhD to follow much of what author Simon LeVay says. Yes, itâ€™s steeped in medical lingo. Yes, LeVay includes a glossary and heavy-duty notes to explain the scientific terms and acronyms. Still, this book is a challenge.
If youâ€™re up for that challenge, though, youâ€™ll be rewarded with a pondering and thought-provoking examination of a private subject that has a very public focus. LeVay leaves no hypothesis unexamined, which leaves readers satisfied that every corner of this argument has been thoroughly dusted off.
Give yourself some time if you decide to tackle this book, because itâ€™s nowhere near light reading. Still, â€śGay, Straight, and the Reason Whyâ€ť is surely food for tolerance. : :
â€” Terri Schlichenmeyer is â€śThe Bookworm.â€ť Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.
â€śGay, Straight, and the Reason Whyâ€ť
by Simon LeVay
c.2010, Oxford University Press
$27.95. 412 pages, includes notes.