This post is on a topic people usually shun. At least, I think so. Last week, I attended a talk in school by YawningBread blogger Alex Au. The talk was titled “Feminism  & Sexuality? Its Relevance today: Innate? Choice?”

I wasn’t used to his very direct way of describing things..at some points I thought he was going into too much unnecessary detail. At the beginning of his sentence, his mention of ‘my first boyfriend’ caught me by surprise. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s the first time I heard that coming from a guy. Also, I thought some of his ‘jokes’ were not funny. He mentioned things like ‘some men are scared they will have their legs up in the air and get penetrated’ or ‘you check his underwear and it will be wet’, or when asking us to think of the image of our ideal future partner, ‘the image you think of when you masturbate’. Maybe I’m conservative, but I thought it was uncalled for, in a setting like a school talk, and didn’t add value to his talk. But to give him credit, I think he was trying to lighten up the mood, to make it as informal as possible. Anyway, I understood more about sexual orientation, how society views an orientation that differs from the norm (heterosexual), what causes it and so on.

Firstly, there can be many ways of defining a homosexual, and it is very subjective. These are the few ways mentioned, according to my amateurish interpretation:

  1. Having romantic feelings for someone of the same gender, and performing sexual acts
  2. Having romantic feelings but not performing sexual acts with someone of the same gender
  3. Performing sexual acts with someone of the same gender but without romantic feelings (e.g. many call-boys are actually ‘straight’)

Also, within the homosexual community there are different ‘types’. You have the macho alpha male, and the feminine male. It was mentioned that in homosexual relationships, both parties play different gender roles, although both are of the same gender. So there is some question of whether gender roles are predefined by society, or innate?

Anyway, the alpha male is generally viewed to be the ‘stronger’ one. The alpha male homosexual generally shun the other group of feminine males, as the former don’t want to be associated with the latter. But the feminine males view themselves as the stronger ones, because they have broken away from society’s definition of a man, while the alpha male is still restrained by these social views. But what we should know is that being feminine does not equate to gay. This is something which I feel many people understand (maybe I’m seriously mistaken?), but due to herd mentality or plain stupidity, usually see someone feminine and say, “ee, gay!”

Next, there are generally a few reactions to homosexuals.

  1. Some people say. “I don’t give a damn about them because they don’t affect me.”
  2. Some people feel it is wrong, because they are destroying family values, social values etc.
  3. Some people are just homophobic, and are ‘anti-gay’.

I think 2 and 3 have some overlap. Some people are between 2 and 3, just to what extent. Point 1 is in a way, similar to how a Buddhist like me wouldn’t really be concerned with what is going on in the community of another religion. It was mentioned that the attitudes of males and females against homosexuality can be summed up into two kinds.

  1. Males usually are against homosexuality because they are afraid homosexuals will pounce upon them, taking a more individual view.
  2. Females are usually against it because they are worried it will uproot social values, family values, hence more concerned with the general society as a whole.

From what I read in the newspapers (forum letters) and what I hear from the people around me, I find it’s quite true. Several letters I’ve read against homosexuality put forth arguments about social values and traditions etc, and they are mostly written by females. (At least that’s the impression I get)

I think point 1 is an unfounded fear. Maybe they are so confident of themselves that they think every homosexual they meet will pounce on them. But if you think about heterosexual males, we don’t go around pouncing on every girl in the vicinity right? I think this is why I have this feeling that males are generally less receptive of homosexuals than females. (Just a feeling, as I’ve never discussed much with others about this topic)

Anyway. Regarding homophobic males, it is said that usually the people who are most anti-gay, are homosexuals themselves in denial. Two reasons. Firstly, they cannot accept their sexual orientation, so they project their hatred and rejection on others. Another reason would be fear that they would be identified as gay, so by proclaiming loudly against homosexuals, people would think they must be heterosexuals. Homophobia in men is also related to insecurity about masculinity. It was mentioned that homophobic males have a considerably higher chance of showing erectile responses when exposed to homoerotic images, compared to non-homophobic males.

But the most interesting point brought up during the talk, in my opinion, is whether homosexuality can be ‘learnt’. At first, I thought it was a personal choice, but after the talk my view was changed. Apparently scientists have found some genetic trends in homosexuality, but have only managed to come up with theories to explain the reason.

The fraternal birth order effect is the strongest known predictor of homosexuality. This effect means that each older brother increase the chances of a man being homosexual by around 30%. So the youngest brother is most likely to be homosexual.

Having adopted brothers, stepbrothers, or having elder brothers up for adoption does not affect the chances. The same effect has been found in brothers who have not been raised with their biological brothers, so it can be put down to genetic factors, and not so much social factors or family environment (the siblings that a guy grows up with). Strangely, this only applies for males, and the number of sisters in the family does not affect the chances. So a guy with 3 elder sisters has the same chance of being homosexual as a guy who is an only child.

Also, the chances of the maternal uncle being homosexual is the same as that of the nephew. But whether the paternal uncle is homosexual does not have any effect on the nephew’s chances of being homosexual. This may be because the mother and uncle have the same X-chromosome, but i didn’t really understand that part as I haven’t studied biology before and know nuts about it. I vaguely recall having learnt about XY chromosomes in secondary 2, but it feels like eons ago. Anyway, the fraternal bith order effect, according to Wiki, only accounts for 1/7 of homosexuality in men, so..it might not be that big of a deal as of yet. (I’m lazy to find out more)

However, throughout the talk, I felt that he had some sort of agenda (trying to persuade us to accept homosexuals?) but it might just be my warped point of view. So did the talk change my views about homosexuals? Well, before this I firmly believed this was a personal choice, thus we have no right to make judgements, since they are not harming anybody in their choice. But at least now I know genetic factors may be playing a part as well. It gave me a lot more insight into this aspect of humanity though.