are bits of writing from many sources such as personal correspondence,
posts to on-line discussion groups, notes, and occasionally even some journaling.
All of this is informal in nature, but contains some interesting and/or
I have always been
fascinated by the fact that there is a subpopulation throughout the entire
world that possesses a fundamental difference than the rest of us. Couple
that with the fact that this difference represents a means of understanding
these fundamental qualities about human nature (a la a control/experimental
manipulation), and I think you begin to understand my fascination. I remember
in high school thinking about the commonalties between Marcel Proust and
Oscar Wilde's writings (I can't remember what about them any longer) and
wondering if it was reasonable to correlate any such attribute to their
Gender, and Biology
I'm really interested
in examining how gender relates to personality at the biological level.
That's one of the reasons why I am really fascinated by gay men and women.
Here is a rare circumstance in which a single component of behavior is
"toggled" to the opposite position as one might expect. It is really interesting
because gay men talk about men they are attracted to in exactly the terms
straight men would talk about women they are attracted to (i.e., physical
descriptions abound). The same parallels apply to lesbians as well. For
example, they tend to focus on their partners' talents and mental attributes
(i.e., what they can do, not just how they look).
One of the (many!)
unfortunate things about sweeping homosexuality under the rug and pretending
there's just no such thing is that you're missing out on a huge chunk of
culture that is so marginalized that you don't even know it exists (except
through characteratures on tv). Worse yet, some of the biggest questions
about gender and sexuality could be addressed by a group that is all but
invisible. We would know so much more about ourselves if we knew this other
group existed and how they "worked" on a biological level.
I have no reliable
gaydar, so it's always a surprise to find out who is. Well, sometimes it
isn't much of a surprise, but you know what I mean.
Orientation and Neuroscience
I'm interested in
the biological basis of sexual orientation. Why? Let me try to explain
it: In science, if you can't perform an experiment outright, you tend to
try to find a situation in which everything else is the same except for
this *one* thing. In other words, everything is controlled to the extent
that it exhibits roughly the same variance as everything else. Then you
look at why this difference exists. Homosexuality is like that. While you
certainly have flaming personalities in the gay community, the overwhelming
(or perhaps "underwhelming" in person) numbers of gay people blend into
the str8 world (yeah, like we own it) without calling any attention to
themselves. However, there are lots of little things that emerge from this
one difference in terms of the dynamics of relationship, the role of cultural
influences, etc. It would be a lengthy discussion, but I don't know how
up for it you would be. (At the moment, I'm not. Sorry. Later maybe?)
[Posted to the neuroscience
group on MySpace.com]
One of my favorite
books is a kind of obscure, but still, I'm a little disappointed that no
one has mentioned it:
A Separate Creation:
The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation
by Chandler Burr
This is perhaps
one of the best books I have ever read with respect to scientific research.
The author presents a thorough and compelling account of the science (and
politics) underlying the search for the basis of sexual orientation. Chandler
Burr spent years interviewing and visiting with some of the most prominent
researchers (e.g., Dean Hamer, Simon LeVay, etc.) in their labs and in
the field in order to shed light on the complexities of this (foolishly)
Instead of being
a book that says, "Here's what we know," it focuses instead on why we don't
know the answer to a seemingly straight-forward question. It also examines
the question from multiple angles (e.g., genetics, neuroanatomy, psychology,
animal behavior studies, etc.). There are a lot of parallels between this
subject and a lot the fundamental questions in neuroscience, so I think
you might enjoy it based on that alone, but I happened to be interested
in the topic as well.
There is a great excerpt
from it on the author's site. It is worth reading and may well hook
you on the text. Check it out here.
I never figured
out what women like about guy. I see some of the guys girls go for and
I say, "Huh?!" However, all the gay guys I know are hot, so it's pretty
obvious what it's all about there. The difference is, I'm a guy too, so
I know they're just about the physical. I may not go for guys, but at least
I see what they're looking at.
>There is not much
stigma against women messing around with other women, the way there is
From an evolutionary
perspective, it seems there's a good reason for this. If a guy is fooling
around with another guy, then he is neglecting his female mate(s) and their
mutual offspring. Thus, girls get jealous whether their guy goes after
another woman or a man. By contrast, if two women engage in any sexual
interaction, then so what? If anything, this could mean she's more sexual
than average... and she brought a friend! The result is more offspring
from these female... and less from the gay males.
>Well what kinds
of guys do you think are attractive? Hmmm?
I'm not wired up
to notice "attractive," but guys will notice guys who they think are cool.
I really like that guy who played Van Wilder. He's been in a couple other
things, and he's genuinely funny (I've seen him on a couple talk shows).
He doesn't try to get your attention, yet there's an intelligence there
that's obviously lacking in actors in particular.
Of course, then
there are the gay guys...! They're all just hot. I'm more conscious of
it around them because they all look like fucking models. True story: A
couple years ago, Dani and I went to her friend's b-day party. I swear
you could look around and tell who the straight guys were in half a second.
They were the ones with the gut. They didn't bother to dress up as much
in that there was no real attention to detail; they just put on their "nice"
clothes and figured they were done. Incidentally, I've taken off 20 lbs.
I guess I got pretty
liberal on this particular issue because I had a friend who was gay, and
his whole life was fucked up because of it. He had some serious issues,
and a lot of them came from being verbally abused by his step-father as
a kid because he was somewhat effeminate. Anything where society allows
segregation of rights along these lines (or pretty much any lines!) just
reinforces these attitudes and replicates this tragedy.
[from a letter to
a female friend]
Guys are more attuned
to physicality than girls. When guys are oriented to date other guys, they
create a culture in which you must be absolutely gorgeous if you're going
to get anyone... because all your competition is gorgeous as well. The
only parallel I can think of is in modeling circles where girls go to great
lengths (e.g., anorexia) to be the "best" by the standards of that culture.
Alternatively, think about prom. Who were you dressing up for? Your date
was concerned about how much cleavage you had and maybe how tight the dress
was. He could care less who made it, how your hair looked, or what your
When a friend of
mine had a b-day party at his place last year, you could look around and
guess at about 99% accuracy which guys were str8. They were the ones with
a gut. Even I had one at the time! Also, as Carrie once observed on Sex
and the City: "I wish I had that kind of incentive to go to the gym." I
mean, they're all so neat and buff. I'm jealous.
>They are pretty
brutal when they start making fun of the straight guy's taste [on 'Queer
Yeah, that's one
thing I don't like about some of the guys. They're pretty viscous about
just about anything going on. They're quick to gossip (granted, with the
amount of sex gay guys have, there's a lot of gossip about), and they're
pretty quick to judge, which is really surprising considering they're an
ostracized group, collectively speaking. For instance, another friend of
mine is in kind of an awkward place. He's probably gay, but he's had a
few good str8 relationships, so he ends up going back and forth. Bi-sexuality
is actually pretty rare among males (whereas it's almost the norm among
females... given enough alcohol), so the rest of the guys give him a hard
time about this. To me, that's just cruel. It isn't like this is a funny
quirk about a person. He's genuinely trying to figure things out, and the
rest of the guys are teasing him.
I've tried to rationally
figure out my attitude toward sexual orientations, but I can't. On one
level, I'm absolutely fascinated that there is this population with a 180
orientation in this *one* narrow area. In science, you tend to look for
singular differences because you have a reductionist perspective on a phenomenon.
For something as seemingly complex as sexuality to present itself in essentially
non-overlapping dichotomous forms, that's just weird. Why this hasn't been
more thoroughly studied says a lot about cultural attitudes... none of
it very good.
I've grown increasingly
interested in the social norms within gay culture as well. For example,
which gay jokes are appropriate? It isn't the same as racial humor where
you can say "What's up my nigga?!" I tried to be conscientious of this
when I was writing the captions for, say, the Halloween galleries out in
Oak Lawn. I mean, I'm an outsider, so if I made a joke that addressed sexuality,
I double-check how the guys are going to read it. I threw out a few things
before I posted it, but none of them were funny enough to actually miss.
To that end, I found
this in a blog earlier:
There are some new rules:
1) On the day of
a gay wedding, it's bad luck for the two grooms to see each other at the
suggests that for good luck the couple should have: Something bold, something
flirty, something trashy, Something dirty.
3) It's customary
at gay and lesbian nuptials for the parents to have an open bar during
the entire ceremony.
4) Gay wedding tradition
dictates that both grooms refrain from eating any of the wedding cake because
it's all carbs and sugar.
5) It's considered
bad luck for either of the grooms to have dated the priest.
6) During the first
dance, it's considered unlucky to use glow sticks, flags, whistles or hand
7) For good luck
at the union of a drag queen, the bouquet is always thrown in the face
of a hated rival.
8) The reception
hall must have a disco ball and at least 1 go-go dancer.
9) The wedding singer
is not allowed to play/sing Let's Hear It For the Boy, It's Raining Men
or I Will Survive.
10) The father of
the Bottom pays for everything!
As far as being
around the guys goes... it's funny, all of the above issues away. They're
just guys. Granted, better looking guys for the most part, but still.
I don't know when
my inherent homophobia dissipated (you know, "You fag!" "No, you're a fag.").
I know I didn't have a problem with my old roommate even before he moved
in. I guess that's obvious, since I asked him to move in. I really didn't
know him very well, but, like Jack on "Will & Grace," he was kind of
obvious to everyone... well, except himself. His first clue should have
been the fact that his record collection was Madonna, Mariah, Janet, and
Japanese-only Madonna dance mixes. Yeah, exactly.
For all his problems,
he was a good guy, and it was unfortunate that a lot of his troubles were
exacerbated by his orientation. As a child, his step-father used to verbally
abuse him, calling him a faggot and sexually loaded terms. A lot of his
internal unrest was built around the fact that his self-denial was rooted
in ensuring that this idiot in his past was never proven right on this
point. A lot of my collective empathy for the GBLT community (and, conversely,
my hatred of fundamentalists and other abusive groups) sprung from this
That's like hating
someone for being left-handed. You know, in some parts of the country,
racism could be justified because there's a culture that narrowly defines
itself by it's color and/or national origin and/or religion and hangs on
to a set of counterproductive attitudes and values. You cannot make any
such case against the gay community. Cause we're part of it.
Unless you're at
a gay bar, guys are pretty much ignored by potential partners. I mean,
I caught this one girl checking me out in the grocery store for less than
a full second and it made my week. Actually, a girl I ran into a few days
ago was really flirty with me (who interrupts someone reading to just start
talking to them?), and she was definitely very cute, but I'm kind of off
the market and am *very* conscious that I'm in a relationship I simply
do *not* want to screw up. I have too many bad points to think I can be
When I was in college
and we ended up on Burbon St. near the Pub one night. That area was a lot
more happening since that was the end of the street with all of the gay
bars. I went down there with my roommate who was, well, you know Jack on
"Will & Grace"? Well, imagine him with some Jim Carrey thrown in. One
night I was with him and ran into this guy who I always suspected was gay
but who was completely in the closet. Here I was with this guy who was
obviously gay on the gay end of the block, and he's like, "Ummm... so,
uh, what are you doing here?" What was completely disconcerting to him
was that, not only was he "outted," he was completely confused about whether
I was playing for the same team (especially since he knew I was with this
really wild, hot girl the summer he and I met in college). I didn't bother
to explain to him that, no, Robert, I am still straight... all appearances
to the contrary. He was left to try and balance that equation for the rest
of the night.
Beautiful Mind and distorted movie
John Nash (subject
of the book/film "A Beautiful Mind") had a number of homosexual relationship
with other mathematicians in his department (including while he was married).
Pretty weird. The movie neglects to mention this and the fact that he had
an illegitimate son by an earlier relationship than with his wife and the
fact the he divorced his wife and remarried her along the way and the fact
that one of his sons (I can't remember which) is severely schizophrenic.
Sort of shatters the fairy tale version depicted in the movie, doesn't
[from an email with
he was gay except him. Then he graduated and discovered he was gay and
we all nodded our heads knowingly.
That describes several
guys I went to high school with as well. They're always the last to know.
The unfortunate thing is that they're shamed by society for considering
the possibility. Fifty years ago we were doing the same thing to people
who were left-handed. I only hope we're over the gay thing in another fifty.
Wait a second, we are! It's called Europe, and they couldn't care less
about this bullshit. Canada either, for that matter.
One of my biggest
annoyances with this conservative culture is that humanity isn't viewed
as multiple sexes. Researchers look for differences between men and women,
but don't bother to partition gay men into another group. It is only research
that specifically studies homosexuality (which is a minority compared to
the gender-based research) where you see interesting differences between
gay and straight populations.
I rarely think of
gay guys as feminine. If they were, maybe I would, ironically, be a little
more gay (i.e., attracted to them) myself. If anything, I tend to think
of gay guys as ultra-guys. When you have a genuine (i.e., not "Showtime"
version of a) relationship between two people of the same sex, you've distilled
that interaction into the pure version of sex between members of that gender.
For example, the other day Dani and I were watching this movie where these
guys started kissing really intensely. She said, "That's the way you always
want to kiss me." I said, "No, that's the way *guys* kiss." When a guy
kisses a woman, he has to reign it in, but when guys get together, they
kiss like guys want to kiss.
This is an area
of gender studies I'm really interested in: This idea that a gay man or
a gay man would have a collection of traits that would never be present
in someone at the opposing "straight" ends of the spectrum. For example,
there was this gay couple on Northern Exposure who were doing archeology
at one point. I'm paraphrasing and making up my own examples for the most
part here, but the conservative old guy in town observes that they have
the manly drive to explore, but they're very gentle with the delicate artifacts
the way women might be.
>There are some
basic similarities I can assign to how hetero couples deal with illness.
I could probably break the men into about 4 categories and the women into
3. With gay and lesbian couples it gets confusing.
I wonder if the
variance in the population is largely because they don't have role models.
I remember reading something PFLAG (sp?) or someone put out that addressed
misconceptions about gays and lesbians. One question asked if someone has
to be the "man" and the other the "woman" in the relationship. The author
pointed out that when everyone is closeted, then you pretty much don't
have anyone to look to other than the hetero couples all around you, and
that's what you draw from. However, they acknowledged that there is a lot
of difference now.
This is largely
unrelated, but a fairly indisputable fact is that gay male couples tend
to exaggerate the masculine agenda (e.g., more sexual interaction, more
infidelity/multiple partners, etc.) while a lesbian couple is overall more
committed and is exactly the opposite in many ways. Straight couples appear
to be a compromise between these two extremes.
After a friend and
I went out to a bar the other night, we ended up at a local 24 hour breakfast
place. There was this one table with very country (and for the most part
masculine) lesbians. I was really interested in watching the dynamics of
how they interacted. Society builds things around ideas of gender roles,
such that certain roles are assigned based on your genitals. However, when
you have a same-sex couple, then you have to figure out who (if anyone)
is going to take on that role, and it becomes a lot like a post-feminist
culture in which guys are forever trying to figure out if they're supposed
to hold the door and pick up the check, who asks for/gives the phone number,
who calls firsts, etc.
I really would like
to see some serious research on this instead of having to reply on things
that are naturalistic but largely anecdotal. For example, a while back
I was at a country gay bar (the Roundup in Dallas). A friend of mine and
I were watching the guys (and a few ladies and mixed couples) dancing.
The people there were really good and knew what they were doing, but my
friend looked confused and commented, "How do they know who leads?! I'm
gay, and I can't even figure it out." I guess that's a microcosm of what
I would like to understand.
No, I'm not gay.
I have a lot of empathy for the gay community. I have gay friends now,
but more importantly, my best friend years ago was gay, and he was a tragic
story. He knew deep down he was gay, but hated himself for who he was because
he grew up with an abusive step father who used to tell him he was gay
as an insult. He hated the step father, so he tried to prove this asshole
wrong. As a result, he was incredibly conflicted and had a lot of emotional
problems. He was a very complicated person, and I hated seeing how badly
this general attitude of homophobia could mess someone up. This isn't calling
someone a name, it's about attacking who they are, and that affects every
aspect of their lives.
I wish people spent
more time studying the dynamics of same-sex relationships. I think everyone
could learn a lot about how to function in all sorts of relationships from
examining how things change between individuals based on which role(s)
they adopt with respect to gender.
I've had this on-going
discussion with a friend about how same-sex relationships are qualitatively
different. I mean, it's more than you simply substituted a man for a woman
(or vice versa). Now, as far as the law is concerned, this shouldn't matter.
However, between the two individuals, there's a completely different dynamic.
Whereas hetero couples have two different genders that have to compromise
and balance one another, same-sex ones can push things to a completely
strange and dysfunctional extreme sometimes (e.g., gay males and promiscuity,
On average, the
most stable, monogamous couples are lesbians. On the other hand, gay guys
are the complete opposite. Again, on average.
I love finding how
who's gay. For example, Rob Halford (recently reinstated lead singer of
Judas Priest) came out a few years back. It was awesome because he did
the whole leather thing in the '80s as a way of expressing himself when
he had to be completely closeted. He would run around the edge of the stage
with a whip and guys would run up for him to whack them. There were t-shirts
that said "I got whipped by Rob Halford." These guys thought they were
totally straight, but they were playing into his fantasy in front of thousands.
That's just an awesome degree of irony.
>I found myself
looking at the arms of the passengers on the subway in Montreal and looking
to see if there were similar physical characteristics to the population
there that were different from here.
I do something similar
when I'm around gay people. I used to look for physical differences since
developmentally, if there's a change in one place, very often that results
in a change elsewhere. I hoped maybe I would pick up on something that
people had missed, but not so far. Instead, I'm looking at them more like
an anthropologist would. There are so many interesting things about the
culture that emerges from the shifted dynamics of the gay community, and
it's a shame that it's largely being overlooked by the general population
for the most superficial reasons.
I think a lot of
the gay community's problems stem from two factors:
-1) They don't have
any models for how to act since they are basically marginalized to the
point where they are invisible even from one another. I mean, you and I
are straight. We had straight parents, straight neighbors, watched straight
Bill Cosby and Clair raise their kids, etc. If you're gay you have, what,
"Will & Grace"?
-2) There aren't
any women in the relationship! Women do have their excesses, but they at
least understand moderation. Of course, I'm generalizing, but so's the
issue we're exploring.
>Don't some members
of gay couples assume the male or female role in the relationship? That
gives them role models to look at, sort of.
Yes, but it isn't
their natural inclination. I mean, guys are still guys, regardless of whether
they happen to like guys or not. What I'm curious about and don't know
as much about is when the variation is from "gender norms" (if there really
are any). For example, many guys are totally male (some even more masculine
than average), whereas others are "flaming" and effeminate. I would love
to see what the distribution of these traits are as a percentage of the
gay (and straight?) population and is it is correlated with any other traits.
In general, guys
are rarely bi. In statistics, there are two types of distributions you
see with respect to gender and sexual orientation. With women, it's a "J"
curve. Most women are on the right: A cluster of 99% heterosexuality (I'll
add 1% because women will do anything when there's alcohol involved). On
the far left are women who are essentially lesbians all the way. However,
there's a curve toward either end. Straight women can be a little bit gay
and gay women can be a little bit straight. With men, this is rarely the
case. Although gay men usually go through a period where they're forced
into denial by society, once they come to terms with things, if they're
gay, then that's what they are, and straight men don't seek homosexual
encounters as long as there are women around. The only exceptions seem
to be closeted gay men who force themselves to "play" straight to fit in.
crushing on girls
>I saw a magazine
article once, "Why Girls Crush on Each Other." Either I didn't read it
or it had nothing useful to say cause I don't remember a damn thing other
than the title. It's true tho. For me, at the time I made out with Jenny,
I think it had alot to do with the fact that I was in a relationship with
a guy I had started to hate (but was still trying to make it work) Kissing
her was a way to get that type of affection w/o cheating on him cause he
had no problem with it of course. Anyway, guys just don't 'crush' on each
other that way. A guy would never be at a concert drunk, dancing with another
guy, then suddenly start making out with him. (yeah, that happened to me
once) Is it just an idea society puts in our head? Would we act that way
if there weren't guys watching? I don't know.
There are partial
explanations for some of those questions. For example, women have problems
with men fooling around with either men or other women since that means
the family provider is dividing his attention between partners. However,
men have no problem with a woman fooling around with another woman. After
all, she isn't going to get pregnant, so he doesn't have much to worry
Now the question
as to why a supposedly (or at least predominantly) straight woman *would*
be inclined to make out with another woman? I don't have an explanation
for that... although I can certainly empathize. I don't know why guys don't
fool around with guys either, and even though I have no desire to, it would
make perfect sense since males would find more willing partners on a regular
basis if males were even remotely inclined toward same-sex pairings. The
odd thing is that straight males aren't even remotely interested.
>>Now the question
as to why a supposedly (or at least predominantly) straight woman *would*
be inclined to make out with another woman? I don't have an explanation
>Ah, the double
I don't know that
it's fair to call it a double standard. There's no discrimination going
on; either sex is following what they prefer, and no one is imposing anything
on anyone else. In fact, it seems to work out for the best since guys like
watching girls make out. It isn't something that females find especially
repugnant, whereas straight guys won't do it for just about anything.