Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Soy, the Silent Queerer

Or maybe: Soylent Green is People, Gay People!!!

I wonder how much this has spread in the media, but I found it funny. I’m a habitual reader of World Net Daily (yes, it’s a bad habit, but again “know your enemy” :-)). There I found the following article: “Soy is making kids ‘gay’

“There's a slow poison out there that's severely damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture. The ironic part is, it's a "health food," one of our most popular.”

The culprit? Soy formula and tofu, of course. But how does this “““health food””” threaten out culture?

Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because "I can't remember a time when I wasn't homosexual." No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can't remember a time when excess estrogen wasn't influencing them.”

Ah, it makes us “““““gay”””””.

Where to start :-)? Does he know what “deviant” means?

But it gets better, another article, (here). This one addresses:

“’If soy is so harmful as to potentially alter sexual physiology and behavior, why haven't the Chinese and Japanese all died off or become homosexual centuries ago?’”

It’s full of nonfunctioning links, and generally boring. Notice though how he often writes about “homosexuals” as though no women are included in the category (he could just as easily, with as much evidence claim it’s decimating the lesbian population), and uses “female” and “feminine” as near insults :-).

Next, in what I’m sure will be a series is here. This gay causing substance causes other horrors it seems:

Here this cause of gays is linked to “childhood leukemia [3-6], the failure to prevent heart disease [7-8], infertility [9-10], or thyroid damage, with its symptoms of weight gain, fatigue and depression [11-13].”

It’s useful to link your opponent to ugliness, and childhood leukemia is pretty ugly.

Note “the failure to prevent” there.

Oh, and this gem:

“My larger concern is that the increasing number of less robust 15-year-olds who are already "struggling with their sexual identity" will be shoved over that thin line into homosexuality. No, they won’t wake up some morning with floppy wrists and a nasal lisp, but they may begin to gravitate toward social circles where they feel more comfortable — and less expected to be rowdy or brag about a string of sexual conquests. And once a teen is ensconced in a homosexual milieu, breaking free from it could mean abandoning his best friends. ”

The thin line, huh? :-) Brag about sexual exploits? Homosexual milieu? Best friends? This is all news to me.

Oh, I see, this guy understands little about being gay, and knows a lot about being “gay”.

Finally take a look at his references. I see none that support the original title: “Soy is making kids ‘gay’”.

But okay, I’m sure the estrogen like compounds can have an effect, and maybe I’ve been too dismissive, but surely this man’s style and hostility deserves a similar response.

Nevertheless, one more in my list of supposed “nurture” causes (again, with the inevitable nature basis) to homosexuality that I don’t have in my past. I had the natural stuff as a babe and never had tofu or soy milk until well into my adulthood and soy milk makes my throat itchy. I'm allergic to a cause of gaiety :-).

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I’ll be away from the blogs for a while. Occupied probably in this order:

1. Frantically finishing up one of my gifts to R, a home improvement project involving electricity and water. (Call the authorities if I don’t post again by the New Year.)

2. Helping Santa display his gifts to get maximum eye width out of our children on Christmas morning.

3. Up at 4 in the Christmas morning with a video camera in hand, and making loud, child-waking noises.

4. Playing with my kid’s toys.

So, being impossibly busy, obviously, I thought I’d just post some of the cute Christmas-y items today that have come up out of the mouths of our babes, like:

--“Papa, how do you spell Porsche?” Shocked as to why, I had to ask. Turns out B was writing daddy’s Christmas letter to Santa. Daddy’s a clever advisory that way ;-).

--My little A, in a bold announcement (at 4 years of age) “I don’t think Santa is real.”

I asked who told him that, but he said no one. All I could get out of him was a couple “I just think that”s. But a little bit before he was asking us why the Santas we’d seen all looked and sounded different, and maybe he didn’t buy dad’s answer (I’ve a tough time lying in this arena and so let R do it :-)). So, could he have reasoned that? Of course. That’s my boy! :-)

--In all sincerity, B asked: “Are you Santa, papa?” I responded with a laugh, “No, why would you think that? Is my belly fat?” (I weigh about 160 :-)) “No,” he said, “sometimes you talk like Santa.” (My voice is not near that low, so what’s that about? :-))

--While out trying to make a snowman of too dry snow, A exclaimed “Papa, look, that snow is yellow.” And thus an invaluable lesson was imparted to the next generation.

--The prize for the cutest present I bought goes to the little red ball that Whaley (B’s little whale he takes everywhere) asked for. And yes Whaley was to be my present from B (here), but he and daddy got me another and, with permission, B took Whaley back. I couldn’t really keep the creature; apparently, or so I’m told, the whale has superpowers and I dare not defy or disappoint him on Christmas.

I best stop; some have a low tolerance for cuteness :-). But…

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE (who’s celebrating Christmas)!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday.

(FYI that image up top is of a poinsettia, though very close; I do try to make them somehow relevant. :-))

Friday, December 22, 2006

Second Home In a War Zone

Anyone following this blog would know I’ve been torn on how and why to blog. I’ve given my reasons elsewhere (particularly here), and it seems I’m not alone in this question.

But I think a solution has been found.

That said, I’m taking over this blog. Everybody down, don’t panic, be cool, and no one will get hurt.

In short, this will become, within a month or two of transition, a more personal space, and the stuff like research, and history and, to a great extent, my activist tendencies (and whining ;-)) will be segregated into a new site, a collaborative and more thorough space. And never the two worlds shall meet again, and thus the issue is forever settled, and it will certainly not cause any problems like the last site I had ;-).

That is all; you can all get up now.

I just wanted it out there as to why I’ll not be posting as much here on the stuff that will be on the new site. I’m, for example, saving a review on some of the genetic papers. I also felt I should explain the change in frequency in my postings here and in comments. I’ll split my free time with contributing to the site, and until it’s up I may be occupied pinning down the layout and look (warming it up ;-)).

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Let’s see… Here it is:

ac·tiv·ist [ak-tuh-vist] –noun 1. an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, esp. a political cause.

I do certainly have my causes, political and otherwise. But am I “especially” active? Gosh, I suppose I am.

You see, some people (one of their names starts with an L, for a hint), have called me an activist, and a couple times. Now, I absolutely know it’s meant as a compliment, and clearly it’s used accurately, but something is wrong with me with regards to this word. Each time I’m called an activist, I’m partially hit with something like “Hey, I’m not an activist! How could you insult me with such an epithet?”

Have I heard the word uttered too many times by Rush Limbaugh, in that certain way, that it’s become a subconscious insult to me? Do I associate it with the gay activists with whom I once butted heads in my early gay life? Maybe it’s the idea of a particular sort of activist, so myopically focused on their one issue that they’ll trample over the rights of others? I hope I have and I hope to keep from being such an “activist”, but they are out there on both sides. Could that be it?

Actually, I think a bit of all of those are the problem.

I certainly wasn’t an activist by any definition 6 years ago. Heck, while we lived in California I barely realized we were gay :-). If and when I was any bit “involved” it was in online venues, or in giving advice to the gay kids of family and acquaintances. Then we came here, and the hostile legislation started popping up. Our kids came to be, and they certainly changed me. I became a defender of my home in a way rooted deep in my psychology, and consequently I started to feel that need to do something more.

It was actually my father who brought that first something to light and encouraged us into it. We did one thing, and it was to be a quiet thing, and yet it wasn’t so quiet and it snowballed. Now, yeah, we go to many events, even rallies; we are inarguably in “the community”. We speak up, we lobby, and not only online as I used to :-). I guess I am an activist, and [gulp] I’m okay with that…

I just wish I could get over the nasty aftertaste I find in the word.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Odd Thing Seen

Coming in to work today I was struck by a memory from about 3 years ago. It’s not a gay topic, and may not be interesting (presuming my other posts are :-)), but it’s a strong memory and I want a record of it.

I was in the same place I was this morning, exiting the freeway. It had snowed heavily the night before, and it was very cold.

As I was exiting I saw in front of me a SUV, upside down, tires spinning, in the snow covered dirt of the off ramp. It must have happened no more than a minuet before. I pulled over, joining two other cars that’d got there just before me.

As I hurried up to the vehicle, I could see a person kneeling on the ceiling of the car, obviously panicked though I couldn’t hear her. Oddly, though it seems improbably in a rollover now, as I remember, the windows were cracked but intact. Anyway, one of my fellow passersby was trying to open her door and she was frantically trying to do the same. But there were two other men trying to open up the rear driver’s side door.

There was no need for me on the driver’s side and so I went to the passenger’s side. As I looked in it was clear why there were two men working on the rear door. In the back there were two children, little girls, probably about 3 and 5.

But the oddest thing was how those little girls reacted to such a situation; they were completely still, emotionless. They were strapped there in their car seats, upside-down with their hair dangling to the roof, barely moving, no tears, no screaming. I’ll never forget the image. They didn’t have half the panic of their mother. I couldn’t read any panic at all on them really; it was as though their emotions were on pause and they simply watched us like they were watching fish in an aquarium.

I immediately went between wild tugging on the door and looking in to assure the girls. My adrenaline was going; my heart thumping. Though older than mine at the time, they brought to mind my kids. I was in total fix-it mode. But each time I’d pause from working on the door to look in to assure them, I’d see the same serenity. It was apparent they didn’t care for my assurance. After a minute or so it was clear my door was going nowhere without the Jaws of Life. It was bent and dug too deep into the ground.

Fortunately the back door on the other side was movable, and the men on the other side forced it open, unlatched the girls, and helped them out. The mother followed. Feeling completely unnecessary :-), I walked back to my car and that was the end of one of the oddest things I’ve seen.

I’d still like to know why that happened, how it happened, not the accident, but the children’s response. It was striking, counterintuitive; I hope my kids would be as calm at such a time but have a hard time imagining it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Have Their Quiche and Eat It Too

Before we finished our home and got our own equipment, I used to go to the gym. It was not a gay gym by any means; it was in fact in the midst of a conservative suburb. Still, I’d sometimes see men being affectionate with each other in ways just barely inappropriate, but I was never hit on or anything, or, if I was, I never noticed; I’m kind of oblivious that way and R always has to point it out to me :-).

Eventually, we made friends with a couple of the trainers. They were straight men, but the stories they told about the gay goings on there…

Turns out there were certain hours of the night in which no reasonable man would dare enter the steam room, as it was a meeting place for closeted gay men, men with families. Our friends had walked in on some shocking and, if you could detach from the tragedy, amusing situations.

This notion was nothing new to me; I had been made aware of it early on in coming out in a dramatic way. It’s a sad fact of a segment of gay LDS life in Utah.

One of such men there, we came to learn, was actually somewhat high in the LDS church; trying not to give too much away, his face was out there as a member of the LDS faith. He was married with kids and had a long time boyfriend, who was also married and in the church. This was no closely guarded secret, though. They were amazingly open with their affection, and when the topic came up the man simply explained that his wife was “understanding”. I’d come to learn how “understanding” when I’d see the men together with their wives right there, and other odd interactions you’d simply not anticipate.

I’ll be out with it; this upset me. No, it upsets me.

Why? Am I a hopeless prude looking to be outraged :-)? Maybe, and, though a similar weapon is aimed at me daily, I’ve a hard time not wielding it here.

At first glance, it’s the sense of instability for the family, and a sense of lies and hypocrisy that sets me off. They can’t be telling the truth to their religious leaders, right? Being a member of the LDS church with your face out there as a member, isn’t this blatant duplicity? I mean, with their marriage vows, they knowingly promised to not do exactly what they’re doing in their marriage, right?

Or maybe it’s also my sour grapes, in part, and I’m just upset that I put such a high value on my home and fidelity and resent such a situation being more respected by my surrounding culture. I’ll not pretend to be above that :-).

In the end, I can sympathize with the predicament of these men and their wives, if not fully understand it, but I do think this is at least a dangerous way to handle it, no?

On the other hand, I admittedly do have to pause and wonder: don’t they all believe, for their faith, they’ve found a way, a sort of loophole that’s relatively stable, the best of the worst (to them)? To them, by how they expect the world to work, this is a better life than the one where they just keep with their wives or keep with each other in an open gay relationship. Something is at least precariously in balance, as I know this has been going on for years.

They have their temple marriage, and their innate attraction met, and all four of them, husbands and wives, believe they just have to wait it out, and it’ll soon be fixed. Sure, in the LDS model, there may be some extra torment for all of them, but they’ve all met the minimum requirements for the highest heaven, right? They won’t be trapped with Hitler and me in the Terrestrial :-). By LDS theology, they can all, eventually, become gods, right? (Not rhetorical :-). I’m really wondering, not wanting to rely on my memory LDS theology)

Eh, but this would be nothing new, really, and nothing particular to homosexuality or the LDS faith. The least moral man in any one's idea of heaven rarely seems to be more moral than the most moral man in its Hell, and I doubt that will change anytime soon. It’s just a bother, another bother :-).

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Playing the Odds

To add to that last post, I thought it would be interesting to do a back-o-the-envelope calculation as to how many people have these supposed gay causing events in their history. I mean, it seems like a lot of kids felt alienated at one time or another and many kids are from split families, right? So down the same list:

1. Sexual molestation: It’s not easy to find good numbers on child sexual abuse, as secrecy can be a huge problem, but, when asked as adults, it seems “20% of adult females and 5 to 10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident” (1). I’ve seen numbers reported as high as 38%, but couldn’t find a traceable reference. Let’s just say that’s 10% of the population and ignore the likely substantial underreporting problem.

2. Early consensual homosexual experience. Of course consensual would indicate the orientation was already there, but… The best I could find here was a study of which I’m already dubious for reasons I hope to get to eventually, mainly for the conclusions drawn regarding adult sexual orientation using people as young as 12. But they did ask about the same-sex behavior in this group of 12 to 18 year old kids. About 1.5% report same sex intimacy (which is to be taken with a grain of salt as, at such an age for example, I wouldn’t have reported such but one of my straight friends would have :-)) (2). But there’d likely be significant underreporting by the closeted. Let’s just say 1.5%.

3.The demonization or glorification of sex. Boy, I’ve no idea how one would get numbers on that. Let’s just say 0% of the non-gay population experiences either and generously leave it out.

4. Weak or effeminate males (and I suppose strong and tomboyish girls). Again, how to find the percentage of the general public who fall into this category? Let’s just say 5% of the population are noticeably outside their assigned gender roles when they’re young. Seems more than fair, doesn’t it?

5.Having an older sibling of the same sex on which to fixate. It seems the average male has 0.6 older brothers. How to translate that into the odds that any male would have at least one older brother? Thinking back 7 years to Statistics... Oh my, where’s my text? Let’s just say the average person has a 50% of having an older sibling, and then a 50% chance they’re of the same sex. That’d be 25% and because I fudged it let’s error against my argument and say 15%.

6. Domineering mother and distant father, or vice versa. As I can’t find numbers on it let’s just give it to the other side and say everyone but gays have perfect parents in the minds of conversion therapists. Sad as this is supposedly a big one for them, but they win by forfeit here :-). 0% then.

7. By the age of 15, about 40% of the US population born into a union has experienced that union’s split (3). About 17% of us are born outside of a union, married or cohabitation, and 50% in total will have experienced living outside a home with a parental union by the age of 15. So, to be generous again, let’s just say 40% odds of not having an intact home by age 15.

8. Fitting in with peers of own sex. Again, how to find numbers on this one? I’d say only about 10% of kids go through their teens never feeling substantially left out, the popular elite :-). But lets, for caution’s sake, reverse that and say only 10% feel left out of their peer group, alienated or “different” (Isn’t that how most describe being a teenager? :-) I am a generous man in my statistics.).

In the end we have 10%, 1.5%, 0%, 5%, 15%, 0%, 40%, and 10%. Let’s see… subtract from one… multiply… carry the teen angst… Okay: 61%.

Even with all those concessions I gave, which are substantial :-), the average person, who over 90% of the time ends up straight, would have over a 61% chance of having at least one of these characteristics in their “nurture.” (Note that this has some weak assumptions about the independence of some of these but I did error on the side of caution.)

So, simply, if you’re gay and you’re dad left home at a young age or you didn’t get along well with your peers or you were molested as a child, I’d hesitate before assuming such event as a cause in who you are today. Even assuming some of these events do influence a person’s orientation, gays do exist without such in their past, and so certainly gay men who are gay for reasons having nothing to do with these events may still have them in their past, as most straight people do.

I’d fear if such a man were to go into conversion therapy, the therapist may reflexively seek out, say, the fact that a he was from divorced parents. I’d fear that a therapist in such a business would reflexively (not necessarily out of homophobia mind you) build upon such facts a false, though well-honed psychological narrative that could possibly be convincing to the gay man without any part in reality.

On the other side, for this same reason, you can’t yet claim or know that, for example, having a gay older brother means you're gay by nature. Many people have gay older brothers; just as many spent their youth without their dad in the home. Even for the fraternal birth order effect, it’s calculated by the theory’s major proponents that only 24% of gays with one older brother can attribute their homosexuality to such an effect (4). Thank goodness there’s no cure being sold for the nature side of the fraternal birth order effect, yet :-).

Lastly, instead of making another post of this, I’d like to point out, as many have, how the causality in such nurture arguments may easily be muddled. Choosing homosexual experiences in a young age is said to lead to homosexuality, but to me such behavior, of course, suggests homosexuality in the first place. We’ve already gone over the older brother effect (here and here) and nurture in that one has been significantly undermined. As far as being effeminate goes for men, well, of course. Homosexuality, for men is having a typically female trait in a male mind. It’d be no surprise that whatever mechanism feminizes men or masculinizes women in one way, may also do it in a range of other ways, on other aspects of their personalities. Then, of course, those made with such a noticeable difference from the rest of their peers, don’t fit in as well, and may feel like an outsider, particularly when the strong emotions of attraction tell them they should be much closer to even same-sex peers who do not treat them as different.

Anyway, what a complicated mess, huh? :-)

1. Finkelhor, D. 1994. Current Information on the Scope and Nature of Child Sexual Abuse. The Future of Children, 4(2):31-53. Center for the Future of Children, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
2. Bearman, P. and H. Bruckner (2002). "Opposite-Sex Twins and Adolescent Same-Sex Attraction." American Journal of Sociology 107: 1179-1205.
3. Andersson, G. (2002). "Children's Experience of Family Disruption and Family Formation: Evidence From 16 FFS Countries." Demographic Research 7: 344-364.
4. Blanchard, R. (2004). "Quantitative and theoretical analyses of the relation between older brothers and homosexuality in men." Journal of Theoretical Biology 230: 173-187.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Insufficient, Unnecessary

Can nurture play a role in being gay? I'd bet it can.

When I came out, though, and looked at those telling me I could change my orientation, I was immediately brought to the conclusion that they were all a bunch of charlatans. None of what they were telling me about my gayness or causes thereof was true, and yet they’d be insistent. I’m sure they lose many gays that way, telling them they must be wrong, as though they don’t know their own life :-).

Down the list:

1. I was never molested. I had in fact never heard of such happening until I heard some really obnoxious classmate associate it with gays in a high school class.

2. I had no homosexual experience (other than maybe dreams I can’t remember) until after I realized I was attracted only to men in that way and found imagining the same attraction to women felt aberrant and wrong. In fact I’d only kissed a couple girls, and only ever went to second base after I’d realized my true attraction, in hopes it would change me. Sorry again girls :-).

So, it was not sexual experience, even imagined, creating my attraction (unless it made me less gay than I’d otherwise be :-)). Funny, I was so unclear on what sex was that I couldn’t really imagine it, let alone gay sex. I don’t know how to put this politely, but I never even figured out how to M*beep*bate until well into my 16th year. As I’ve said, I was naive and sheltered and, when you think about it, doing that for fun really isn’t obvious from a dynamics standpoint. Ah, the surprise of discovery :).

3. Despite my freakish innocence, sex was never demonized (nor was it glorified) in my youth. It was simply nothing that had come to mind until after I was marinated in pubescent hormones.

4. I was never weak or effeminate; my early play activities were far from Barbies and dress up. I spent a good deal of my playtime, for example, on the back of a 3-wheeler with a homemade pvc bottle-rocket gun in hand. I’ve the scars to prove such stupidity ;-). Never have I seen the allure of women’s clothing; seems like a lot more work than what men are required to do :-).

5. Though I had older brothers, I was raised without them in the home, a perfect candidate to test the fraternal birth order effect. I was never left out by them or fixated on them as some suggest is the cause of the big brother effect (see more on it here and here). They were more like uncles as the youngest of them was 18 and out of the home by the day I was born.

6. I didn’t have a domineering mother or distant father, or vice versa (odd how I’ve seen opposites claimed to do the same thing). I had and have wonderful parents, and in very traditional male/female roles. Stop insulting them. :-)

7. In the same vein, my home was kept intact and it was far from unstable.

8. I’ve had more than my full measure of male friends and great male friendships throughout my life. I “fit in” far more than the average teen; my house was the house. R was the same. He was, in fact and as I like to brag, prom king :-).

In short, if there was something in my upbringing that made me gay, I'm at a loss as to what it might be, and it seems most conversion therapists are as well. So, yes, I reflexively look at how I experience it, at the natural causes (Which I’ve touched on and will do so some more), just as most straight folks would.

Still, today, I can’t say for sure not having my childhood might help make others gay. Maybe there are gays out there who are so because, along with a predisposition, something happened to them in their youth. [removed the too flippant] I suppose that could be the case, for them.

But one should always keep in mind that all of what we label as the nurture causes of any human characteristic are ultimately based on nature. As I was getting at here, there must be a switch in us to be flipped in the first place. It must be flappable :-), and the wiring that causes a result in the personality must be there and connected. Sometimes even a lock to keep the new state in place may be there and set after the rush of the hormones of puberty, hormones that give most all of us sexual orientation anyway, in a very natural way.

In short, I’d not say with certainty that nurture cause aren’t there for some gays, but I don’t think such causes are near necessary or sufficient for homosexuality in general, nor should one expect them to lead to a more malleable orientation. I bet you could have a childhood the opposite of mine, and still end up immovably straight :-).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I just found this post again and want to put it up around Christmas, as that’s when the purported event was to have occurred, but before Christmas gets too close, for what will be obvious reasons :-).

I went through some gay western history (here, here, and here). This little bit comes in with the inquisition (the last post in that series). I also noted how the Sodom story was transformed into a gay story (here) and used to further the political and theological aims. But Sodom wasn’t enough for some.

Jesus was a problem. He was silent on the subject, strikingly to some of those wanting to act against gays. He also had all that “resist not evil” and “love your enemy” stuff, and backed up the inhospitality angle of Sodom. The best excuses for killing gays were in the Old Testament (along with laws most, even in the Church, were happy to ignore), and in the purported words of Paul, a non-perfect human, who advises against even heterosexual marriage. Something more was needed to justify the actions of the inquisition; Jesus needed to be tweeked.

That sort of extra something may be found in the Diccionario de los inquisidores (Translation from Compton’s Homosexuality and Civilization) (1494):

The day of the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ was prefigured according to Saint Augustine and Saint Jerome by the fire of Sodom, since all the sodomite in the world were annihilated on that night. The light was so potent that it destroyed all those who had engaged in that vice. It was the work of Christ.”

So why didn’t Jesus say anything about gays? Simple, because He killed them all the day of His birth, and there were little to no gays on which to comment. And, of course, now the Church of the time was justified in His example.

Odd no historian mentioned the immolating end of all those gay Romans ;-); even more odd and terribly sad that the inspiring image of the savior Christ child would be used in such a way.

The author, of course, couldn’t rewrite the Bible at this point and so it’s attributed to two revered saints, second best at the time I suppose. But no modern scholarship has found such opinion in the writings of either saint. Yet, this story was used to further justify the killing and torture of gays and was used in theological treatise as late as 1860.

Ugly Christmas story, to be sure, and I apologize for the image, but I think it’s important to remember such past. It's illustrative of how people claiming the moral high ground can make the most vile of sins shine like morality by wrapping them in such imagery. It’s happened in our recent past, and it certainly will happen again.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Where's My Liberal Media?

It's probably gotten to the point where more than a couple of those ‘round here could find me in published articles. For that fact I think it best to describe my encounters with the media.

[Err, decided I best leave this story out for some privacy :-), but:]

I didn’t learn my lesion though. We were out, and I was thinking we should do what most in our shoes can’t for legal or personal reasons, and keep speaking. I’d find a way to control it, right? :-) But there’s not been more than one or two media instances since that hasn’t either left me misquoted, or misattributed. Sure, they get a good deal right, but somehow the story is pushed out of reality and into a more sensational key.

Don’t get me wrong; I know and like some of the people in the press. I’d trust their accuracy. But in general they’re selling a product and, consciously or no, many in that business, in my experience, lean towards what sells. And I’ve had it go both ways: conservative press making me fanatically liberal and liberal press making me fanatically conservative.

In short, expect this if dealing with the media. Expect the most radical thing said to be phrased in the most radical way, in the most radical context (and then attributed to you :-)). That’s what you should be relieved to not see the next day, as that’s what’s significantly possible.

Anyway, if I didn’t type it, ask me about it before it’s attributed to me. More than once I’ve had to call friends and family to tell them the news wasn’t accurate. Heck, even some of what I do type I’d not claim ;-).

Friday, December 08, 2006

I’m Changing

I just wanted to share; I finally have a torso, and my arms no longer come out of the side of my head. Also, I have some impressive ears, don't I?

Maybe I’ll have to change my avatar, but the old version is cute too :-).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Vasopressin and Titillating Lives of Voles

One of the cutest bits of research I’ve collected on sexual behavior and genetics has to be that regarding the vole (1-3).

Seems the typically prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) is a paragon of puritan chastity. They find a mate and that’s it; they’re dedicated husbands and fathers.

Not like that slutty meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus). Seems the meadow vole sleeps around, uh huh. They’re generally neglectful of both the wife and kids. I bet they try to blame it on “selection pressure” due to the "vast" difference between prairie and meadow environments, or the way they were raised. Whatever, we all know they have vole free agency.

But it turns out prarie voles generally have longer microsatellites (“genetic stutters, usually just two or four bases long”) near the encoding region for a receptor for vasopressin, causing them to take in more of the hormone. Researchers have even been able to take the licentious meadow voles and, using a viral vector, alter their genes to increase the number of these receptors. The voles are thus converted into faithful mates.

It’s an injection for mortality ;-). Would you take it?

Studying humans is far more difficult, not to mention controversial; no one will be altering our genes in a double blind study to see if we abandon our illicit trysts. Furthermore, a possible mechanism in humans for such would likely be more complicated. But this same hormone has been found to play a role in autism, which is well known for it’s social limitations, and a similar microsatellite has been found to be far shorter in chimps than in humans, but near the same size for the more social and gregarious bonobos.

No, it’s not highly relevant to homosexuality, not near other studies I could (and have and will :-)) reference. But it’s one of my favorites, something about the cute vole I guess.

It is a striking effect on sexual and familial behavior, though, and it does make one wonder. If your justice involves punishing people for their “free will” choices, instead of controlling already constrained human will by presenting additional consequences, what happens if people are found to make all their choices for a reason?

Also, let me add to this long held post, I’m posting this today as it was brought to mind by the post on monogamy by Mark, here. Personally I feel monogamy is as right for me as homosexuality. I check my innate self and it reports back the same: I’m a gay prairie vole ;-). As I wrote there, I can’t really say monogamy is a righteous thing that I cling to in a noble act of self-sacrifice. It’s not; it’s what I want, something in which I find great value. I’ve no ethical problem with my meadow vole cousins—clearly there’s a pressure to keep both of us in the population. I’ve no problem with sex as long as it’s not used to hurt the other voles :-).

1. Lim, M. M., Z. Wang, et al. (2004). "Enhanced partner preference in a promiscuous species by manipulating the expression of a single gene." Nature 429: 754-757.
2. Hammock, E. A. D. and L. J. Young (2005). "Microsatellite Instability Generates Diversity in Brain and Sociobehavioral Traits." Science 2005(308): 1630-1634.
3. Pennisi, E. (2005). "In Voles, a Little Extra DNA Makes for Faithful Mates." Science 308: 1533.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Unscathed By Lightning Strike

I know, just in the last post, I said Tuesdays we split up to give the kids one on one time, but last night we broke that tradition for another. We went down to see the lights at the temple, as we do every year. They do a beautiful job, I have since I was a kid, and I look forwards to it each year.

Each time, though, I get this tinge of suspicion that just taking my family there may be disrespectful to the owners. Could I dare ask a sister missionary to snap our picture :-)? I get the same little voice of Ms. Manners in my head when were invited to, say, a Baptist wedding, and I’ve turned down an invitation to visit a mosque for a similar reason. Is that even slimly warranted? I supposed it depends on the owners.

As we approached the temple, A didn’t help.

He said, “Ooo, Papa, look at the castle; it’s very big. Can we go in the castle?”

I just laughed and told him, no, it's closed.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Gay Lifestyle

I’ve been holding onto this for a couple weeks but it strikes me as appropriate today.)

Average Weekday:
5:30 AM – Wake up to the sound of door opening and little hands nudging my face.
5:45 AM – Stop imagining A is going to fall back asleep.
5:50 AM – Leave R to sleep and pour three bowls of cereal, two glasses of OJ, and one glass of milk.
6:30 AM – Start getting the kids ready for the day, waking up R who then takes over.
7:30 AM – Kiss and hug all goodbye.
8:00 AM – Arrive at work.
8:00 AM to 4:00 PM – Work, with blogging breaks :-). Beakers, magnetic stirrers, transducers, and so on… many carcinogenic chemicals that keep me alert.
4:30 PM – Arrive at home and take the kids and dog for a walk, or on errands in these winter months.
5:30 PM – Eat a delicious dinner, the sort one would find at the finest restaurant or from the most long-suffering Mormon matriarch.
6:00 PM – Light saber duel/ Monster hunt (playing the role of the monster)
7:00 PM – Read books with very simple vocabulary, wind down. Watch TV or go online.
8:00 PM – A twenty minuet going to bed ritual, involving the brushing of teeth, more reading, the finding of the correct stuffed animal (Note: changes nightly in a seemingly random pattern), and the specially choreographed scratching of the backs.
9:00 PM – back to bed.

Tuesday nights – Leave R and take A or B out alone, as R takes the other (switch each week). Dinner, ice cream. It’s our family-not-home evening :-).

Friday and Saturday nights – Go out? No way. You ever try to wait an hour to get into a crowded restaurant with twin toddlers? Eat at home; in bed at 9.

Sunday – Breakfast out, Costco, family dinner with the grandparents.

Anyway, I just wanted to clear up how one lives the gay lifestyle.

I probably shouldn’t have because I hate it when straight people take on the gay lifestyle too. Don’t they call them metrosexuals or something? Sheesh, get your own lifestyle.

In some seriousness, it always strikes me as odd that the actions of a life may be the same as your neighbors, or 100% boring and more traditional than tradition every was in reality, but the fact of a person’s anatomy, not their actions, not the actual “style”, all the sudden makes it “thee gay lifestyle”. In actuality, gay men married to women are living a gay lifestyle; I’m living a gay lifestyle; the leather-clad lad on Castro is living a gay lifestyle. I’m also living a right-handed lifestyle, and a brunet lifestyle.

Too often “gay lifestyle” is used to paint us with a broad brush. It’s come to mean something--we all know what--but not what the words strictly mean. The words tell you nothing about what the gay person actually does; it’s as descriptive as “right-handed lifestyle”. Instead it often (not always), meant or not, carries a detailed insult, and descriptive pre-judgment of its focus’ imagined actions that can be conveniently denied if pressed. (If it's not meant, then please forgive me if it sets me off)

This brings to mind a public debate I was once in and my opponent kept calling my life “the gay lifestyle”, and I only wish the antipathy with which those words were colored could be conveyed in a font. But she knew nothing about my lifestyle, only our sex. I did know though, as she was quite a public figure, that she had some familial failings in her history, which I must assume is “the straight lifestyle,” right? :-)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Fighting What You Can’t See

I’ve been thinking about depression lately, as this time of year brings it out in someone close to us. Some psychological background may be in order before I post on that though:

As I’ve written, just before coming out I was in quite an awful state. Panicked, nervous, confused, you name it. Sad is an understatement. I’ll not go over that again, but, for the purposes of this post, all I need recall is that it did make me physically ill, and all that was washed away the moment I came out to my parents.

A while after that, my parents approached me wanting to know if I might want to talk to a psychologist. My first thought was they’d changed their mind regarding their acceptance, just as I had begun to give it myself. But, to my great relief, they were simply worried I wasn’t gay enough :-). They were worried I wasn’t seeking out others like me, didn’t talk about being gay, that I may still be feeling some lingering desire to not be gay, and that I was hurt by some of my family and didn’t feel comfortable talking bad about them with my parents.

At that point, my mood was fine; it was great in fact. You should see my journal entries; they still make me smile, but my parents were right in part. I was being very slow and cautious and still needed time to think about being gay, and I was upset at some family. So I went.

I vented my frustrations and sadness at our first meeting regarding some kin, and went though my thinking on homosexuality at our second. But, at our third meeting, we ran out of things to talk about, started to repeat, and awkwardly watched the clock towards the end. The intense internal debate was concluded weeks before. A new and stable mode of living with being a gay man had taken shape, and she could see that. At our fourth and final meeting, we both agreed we were done.

Still, odd how helpful those first 2 meetings were. I must add, though I can’t remember her name, how much I respect her looking back; instead off stating the obvious she could of got a check for at least a couple more months ;-), while we tried to create things to chat about. But no, the therapist called my parents at my request and assured them I had my head on straight (so to speak), and that was that. My parents could relax along with me.

Since then, the only other experience with psychologists I’ve had was in being evaluated before becoming a parent, a necessity for everyone becoming parents in such a way (and maybe not a bad idea for the whole of humanity ;-)). We, of course, passed with flying colors :-).

Now, about 7 years ago, I was in the midst of my Master’s degree and suffered an injury that forced me to take a semester off of near all work. After about a month had ticked by, I began getting sick. It felt like I had a chest cold that wouldn’t go away; it was sometimes difficult to breath and I felt kind of dizzy most the day.

I went into the doctor’s a couple times. Finally, on my third visit, the doctor said something like “Look, we’ve tested everything; I think you need to consider that you might be depressed.” What a Quack, I thought (Maybe I don’t get along well with doctors ;-)). I did not feel sad, or hopeless, or anything like I did when coming out. I didn’t feel what I thought “depressed” felt like at all. I had physical symptoms, right?

I went home, incredulous. When R got home I expected him to back me up, but he instead thought I should consider it too. A doctor’s opinion is one thing, but a husband’s is quite another :-) and so I started to wonder if he could be right. Sure, I’d been worried that my injury would get in the way of my career and the days with nothing fruitful to do were tedious. Recovery feels wasteful, even if it isn’t.

The next day I woke up decidedly against any negative mood and I got myself into a new hobby to take up the hours, as a test, and that was the end of that. All the symptoms were gone, and a couple months later I was physically healed as well and back at work. Was it a coincidence or was it depression? I still don’t really know for sure, but lean towards thinking the doctor was right, to some extent.

And that’s it for anything significant, anything that could be called depression. The last time I remember any sizeable sadness (minus certain Wednesdays in November :-)), was when we had a failed attempt at becoming parents, about 5 years ago. While that hurt more than I let on, it’s a pain most adults will know and we relied on each other and got past it.

But that’s the problem. Mood has been relatively easy for me. Emotional difficulties have been there, but they’ve disappeared with obvious solutions. When I've felt down, or worried, I've almost always known what to do to change that and all I need is the want to do so. I fear though such experiences have made being helpful difficult in the face of other’s depression, entrenched depression.

(Eh, I was going to split this into two posts but I want to get this out at once now)

Today I’ve come to know people who absolutely need psychological help, people who suffer from serious depression. Six years ago, I fear I may have wondered why they didn’t just decide themselves out of it. I did; why don’t they? But six years ago I was a bigger fool than I am today :-). I know depression is often not triggered by explainable events like an injury and even when it is I know enough now to know not all pits of the mind are of the same dimensions. Sometime people can’t just pull themselves up; they physiologically, mentally can’t, and need help, chemical and/or talk therapy.

But help is where I’m still at a loss. I imagine what a colorblind person thinks of my sense of, say, red is kind of how I relate to other’s sense of such depression. I know it’s there, in their mind, but I can’t really understand it. You know: what do you mean you don't want to get out of bed? I could imagine that it’s like an inflated, more intractable form of what it was like just before I came out, just as I could tell a colorblind person red is like a warmer, deeper yellow. But neither can ever convey the qualia accurately, and I just can’t see it.

So, when faced with it, what am I supposed to do? Probably not tell those stories above. You know: Buck up; take control; pull yourself up by your bootstraps; confront your problems :-). Some people just don’t have bootstraps where others have them. Some people are depressed without a problem to confront. I can also imagine that, if, for example, something happened to my family, I may not really care to pull myself back up. So what to do for such folks?

I can't say I understand, but I’ll be with them and take care of them if they want me there. I’ll check up on them if they want to be alone. I’ll call professionals if it seems in the slightest they’d harm themselves. I’d tell them to seek professional help regardless. But I is there more?

That’s what I want to know. Is there a best way to act one-on-one, things to say? Should you be forceful, take them out of their home? Nurturing, but how far? To the point of compliance? It just seems like such an important topic on which to be feeling in the dark.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Two Very Different Lists

-A teddy bear that’s brown and tan.
-Two lizards.
“And that’s enough,” he says.

-A red pair of binoculars
-A silver and blue digital camera (must have lcd screen)
-A black guitar
-An X-Box 360
-The new Star Wars Lego game.
-A telescope
-A microscope (we have one but he’s only allowed to use mine with my attention :-))
-The Cars game
-Star Wars action figures
-A light saber that’s “real”
-A red cell phone (For those who reflexively wonder about our parenting abilities, no worries: he’s near more likely to get a real light saber than a cell phone :-))

(Why must near everything have a color? It makes it so difficult to shop.)

Now, who’s going to be the happiest on Christmas morning? :-)

Ah, aspiration, what a fickle friend you can be.

But I certainly don’t mean put my little B out as some sort of greedy kid here; he’s far from that. He’ll be happy, but he’s very imaginative when it comes to what he wants, while A is more practical (more like his pop :-)).

In fact the only present under the tree for me right now is an emptied cottage cheese tub with B’s favorite toy whale inside, topped by a book (Yes, I peaked, so sue me; I had to know and when I saw how important to him it was, well, all you fathers know what that does to a man). He had asked me to write my name on a piece of paper and put some tape on it; when I went to see what he was up to I found it affixed to my gift.

They really do give the best gifts.

One can only hope to not disappoint (in the very long run, of course, as there’s no real light saber under our tree :-)).

Friday, December 01, 2006

On Moral Tracks

Scenario 1: A trolley is hurrying down the track towards 5 men obliviously working on the rails. You cannot warn the men in time, but, by your side, is a switch that will divert the ill-fated trolley onto another track. BUT, on that track is a single man working on the rails. Flip the switch and the one man dies. If you don't, 5 men will die.

Question 1: Do you flip the switch?

Scenario 2: Same trolley as above but no switch, no second track. You are on a bridge above the track. There is a huge man watching in horror with you and it’s clear to your mind and truthful: if you push him off the bridge into the path of the trolley it will stop it in time to save the 5 men. (No you’re not big enough, yes the physics seem odd, and there’s no arguing with the hypothetical :-))

Question 2: Do you push the man?

Answered both yet?

Are you a normal human :-)?

It seems, in surveys, most all people choose to throw the switch (kill 1 man and save 5), but they will not push 1 man to his death and save 5. Why? Why does it seem right to so many to kill a man by moving one mass buy not by moving another? Five lives are saved in both actions, and you 100% know you’re murdering one man in both.

An interesting radio program on this question and possible reasons for why we take different paths on such moral quandaries is found streaming in mp3 here (the whole program), or here (just the trolley bit). From this radiolab program (I'd recommend the whole program).

Eh, it seemed relevant to some of these topics, but interesting nonetheless.