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Reinventing the Male Homosexual

Race, Gender, and Science

Anne Fausto-Sterling, General Editor

Feminism and Science / Nancy Tuana, Editor

The “Racial” Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future / Sandra

Harding, Editor

The Less Noble Sex: Scienti¤c, Religious, and Philosophical Conceptions of

Woman’s Nature / Nancy Tuana

Love, Power, and Knowledge: Towards a Feminist Transformation of the

Sciences / Hillary Rose

Women’s Health—Missing from U.S. Medicine / Sue V. Rosser

Deviant Bodies: Critical Perspectives on Difference in Science and Popu-

lar Culture / Jennifer Terry and Jacqueline Urla, Editors

Im/partial Science: Gender Ideology in Molecular Biology / Bonnie B.


Reinventing Biology: Respect for Life and the Creation of Knowledge /

Lynda Birke and Ruth Hubbard, Editors

Reinventing the Sexes: The Biomedical Construction of Femininity and

Masculinity / Marianne van den Wijngaart

Women in Mathematics: The Addition of Difference / Claudia Henrion

Is Science Multicultural? Postcolonialisms, Feminisms, and Epistemolo-

gies / Sandra Harding

Common Science? Women, Minorities, and Science / Jean Barr and

Lynda Birke

Toward a Global Science: Mining Civilizational Knowledge / Susantha


Gender and Boyle’s Law of Gases / Elizabeth Potter

Reinventing the Male Homosexual

The Rhetoric and Power of the Gay Gene

Robert Alan Brookey

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Brookey, Robert Alan, date

Reinventing the male homosexual : the rhetoric and power of the gay
gene / Robert Alan Brookey.
p. cm. — (Race, gender, and science)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-253-34057-8 (alk. paper) — ISBN 0-253-21512-9 (pbk. : alk. paper)
1. Homosexuality, Male—Physiological aspects—Research—Social aspects.
2. Homosexuality, Male—Genetic aspects—Research—Social aspects.
3. Behavior genetics. 4. Genetic psychology. 5. Gay rights. I. Title. II. Series.
QP81.6 .B76 2002

1 2 3 4 5 07 06 05 04 03 02
I dedicate this book to my parents.
They taught me to think for myself.
They now imagine this to be their greatest mistake.

Acknowledgments ix

ONE Rights, Choice, and the Appeal of

Biology 1

TWO The Sociopsychological Theories

of Male Homosexuality 24

THREE Behavioral Genetics 46

FOUR Neuroendocrinology 70

FIVE Sociobiology/Evolutionary
Psychology 96

SIX Beyond the Gay Gene 118

References 149
Index 161

I thought that writing the acknowledgments would be easy.

I was wrong. Taking stock of one’s intellectual debts is a daunt-
ing task, and the fact that the debts are often linked to strong
emotional attachments makes the task even more daunting. I
worry that I will come across as one of those gushing starlets on
one of those questionable awards programs. I hope I do not.
This book ¤nds its origins in the dissertation I began while
working on my Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota. I was
most fortunate to have two extraordinary scholars co-directing
my dissertation: Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Jacquelyn N. Zita.
These women spent a great deal of time reading drafts and pro-
viding valuable insights. Karlyn also provided guidance as I pre-
pared the manuscript for this book. As I mentioned, my intellec-
tual debts have emotional attachments, and it is dif¤cult for me
to express my gratitude. Perhaps it is best to put it simply: they
molded me into a scholar, and they made this book possible.
This is not to suggest that others did not contribute. Edward
Schiappa served on my dissertation committee and provided
useful feedback. He also gave me professional guidance in navi-
gating the publication process. In fact, Ed has always provided
Acknowledgments great advice on many professional issues and has proven to be a
valued mentor and friend.
Gary Thomas was an early inspiration during my time at
Minnesota. He took time to talk to me about opportunities in
gay and lesbian studies and was always available to answer ques-
tions or address concerns.
If it were not for Kirt Wilson, my future might have been
in limbo. He stepped into a thankless job at the last minute and
saved the day. I will always be grateful to him.
Although Robert L. Scott did not serve on my committee,
I owe him my thanks because if it were not for his work, I would
not have had the theoretical grounding necessary to proceed
with this project. In fact, I should begin every day with a word
of thanks to Scott for allowing me to investigate the world in
the manner that I do.
Janice Rushing and Thomas Rosteck did not contribute to
this book directly, but they should be mentioned as well. In the
early years of my graduate education, Janice and Tom gave me a
great deal of encouragement and helped me to ¤nd my voice.
They also nurtured my ¤rst ventures into the study of sexuality,
and I was lucky to have their support.
Others I wish to thank include Bea Dehler and Joan Lund
for solving all of my problems; John Lyne for his encouragement;
Diane Helene Miller for all her advice; Joshua Gunn for the beer
and the darts; the Publication Assistance Of¤ce on the Arizona
State University campus; and the Dissertation Fellowship com-
mittee at the University of Minnesota for partially funding this
project. I also thank Anne Fausto-Sterling, Joan Capatano,
Michael Lundell, and the staff at Indiana University Press.
Finally, I thank Nathan Stormer for being a supportive
friend. Our conversations helped me through some very dif¤cult
times. He inspired me, challenged me, and made me laugh when
I needed it most.
Reinventing the Male Homosexual
Rights, Choice, and the Appeal
of Biology


During the last few years,

the debate over gay rights has taken a distinctive direction. The
central question is no longer equality or individual liberty;
rather, it concerns whether homosexuality is, or is not, a choice.
If homosexuality is a choice, then homosexuals do not deserve
equal rights; if homosexuality is not a choice, then they do.
Within the context of this argument, the reasoning that sup-
ports these conclusions is seldom examined. In other words, the
participants on both sides of the debate seldom question why
gays and lesbians should not have rights if sexuality is chosen, or
why they should have rights if it is not. Furthermore, they sel-
dom question why choice is at the center of the debate; it just is.
This focus on choice is partly the result of conservative ef-
forts to roll back advances in gay rights. These efforts have been
led by religious organizations that have argued that the “gay life-
style” undermines “family values.” Speci¤cally, these religious
Reinventing the Male Homosexual groups have maintained that homosexuality is a behavioral
choice, and according to Judeo-Christian beliefs, it is a sinful
one. Thus, the arguments produced by organizations such as the
Ramsey Colloquium, a self-identi¤ed group of Christian and
Jewish scholars, maintain that homosexuality should be viewed
not as an intrinsic orientation but as a type of sexual behavior. In
an issue of the Wall Street Journal, the Ramsey Colloquium pre-
sented their position on homosexuality: “Homosexual behavior
is a phenomenon with a long history, to which there have been
various cultural and moral responses. But today in our public life
there is something new that demands our attention and deserves
a careful moral response” (1994, 18). The moral response the
Ramsey Colloquium suggests carefully avoids addressing reli-
gious concerns and couches the issue of gay rights in the larger
context of social norms. Although the authors acknowledge the
possibility of a sexual predisposition, they dismiss the idea that
such a predisposition should be a factor in judging personal be-
havior: “We cannot utterly change the hand we have been dealt
by inheritance and family circumstances, but we are responsible
for how we play that hand” (p. 18). In other words, the Ramsey
Colloquium does not consider sexual orientation a justi¤cation
for homosexual practice. Homosexuality remains an immoral
behavior that responsible people contain and reject.
In an article published in Christianity Today, Stanton L.
Jones offers a more explicit religious position on homosexual
identity: “If a sexual desire de¤nes a person, then acting on that
desire is essential to personhood. If we buy this logic, then to
suggest that God does not want them to engage in homosexual
acts is to insult their innermost beings. The Christian response
is to deny the legitimacy of de¤ning a person by his or her sexual
desires—or by any other fallen element of one’s nature” (1993,
24). Jones not only denies the existence of a homosexual orien-
tation; he also outlines what he sees as the correct Christian po-
sition, which identi¤es homosexuality as not just a behavior but
a sin. He argues that the attempt to identify homosexual orien-
tation as personhood is a misguided effort to “build an identity
on shifting sand” (p. 24). Jones allies himself with the Ramsey
Colloquium, maintaining that homosexuality is not an intrinsic

Rights, Choice, and the Appeal of Biology

part of a person’s identity but merely a behavior that must be
The conservative effort to portray homosexuality as a be-
havioral choice entails a political agenda. The opposition to gay
rights takes the question of identity into the arena of constitu-
tional law. A video produced by the Traditional Values Founda-
tion (1993), titled Gay Rights/Special Rights, argues that homo-
sexuals do not constitute an “insular and discrete group” and are
therefore ineligible for minority status. The video maintains
that the gay rights effort is founded on several myths. Among
these are two that deal speci¤cally with the issue of identity:
(1) people are born homosexual; and (2) homosexuals cannot
change. The video argues that because homosexual orientation is
not an intrinsic aspect of the psyche and can be changed, homo-
sexuals are neither an insular nor a discrete group. In other

words, because homosexuality is merely a pattern of behavior,
not an identity, homosexuals do not deserve constitutional pro-
The Traditional Values Foundation, however, is not content
to let the debate rest on constitutional issues. In their effort to
de¤ne homosexuality as behavior, the producers of Gay Rights/
Special Rights outline what kind of activities such behavior en-
tails. Cathy Kay, a registered nurse and director of the National
Healthcare Advocacy, lists several sexual practices that she
equates with a homosexual lifestyle. She states, “the gay agenda
is to have sex anyway you please” (Traditional Values Foundation
1993), suggesting that the effort to contain homosexual behavior
is also an effort to contain desire. Homosexuality now becomes
a practice of pursuing sexual desire, a choice that is dangerously
seductive. The need to contain homosexual behavior stems from
the threat it poses to heterosexuals. As David Nobel (president
of Summit Ministries) argues, if homosexuality is not con-
tained, “we are going to lose thousands of good heterosexuals”
(Traditional Values Foundation 1993).
The anti–gay rights arguments and strategy of these con-
servative organizations can be outlined this way: First, homo-
sexuality is not an identity; it is a behavioral choice. Second, be-
cause homosexuality is a choice, it should not be protected by
Reinventing the Male Homosexual law. Third, because homosexuality is a choice, its validation
through legal means will lead to the spread of homosexual be-
havior. In other words, the more legal protections gay people
have, the more gays there will be, and the fewer heterosexuals.
This is how conservatives have constructed the gay rights debate
as a zero-sum game: every gain for gays and lesbians is a loss for
heterosexual families. Furthermore, because these groups have
characterized gay rights as helping only homosexuals, they have
then been able to argue that gays and lesbians are seeking “spe-
cial rights.”
The success of this argumentation strategy has been mixed.
Most of the anti–gay rights state initiatives introduced in the
1990s ultimately failed. The most visible example is Colorado’s
ill-fated Amendment 2, which was struck down by the U.S. Su-
preme Court in 1996 in Romer v. Evans (1996). Antigay forces
have successfully lobbied for passage of the federal Defense of
Marriage Act, however, and currently they are working to out-
law same-sex marriage and reverse efforts to extend partnership
bene¤ts to gay and lesbian couples. Therefore, the anti–gay
rights efforts that began in the early nineties have not abated.
Given this political climate, it is understandable that there
has been a renewed interest in biological research on homosexu-
ality. Speci¤cally, two studies emerged in the early nineties that
gained the attention of gay rights advocates. First, in 1991 Si-
mon LeVay published a study reporting that he had isolated a
nucleus in the preoptic area of the hypothalamus that is smaller
in homosexual men than it is in heterosexual men. Second, in
1993 Dean Hamer published a study in which he correlated ho-
mosexuality with a genetic marker on the Xq28 chromosome
(Hamer et al. 1993). The publication of these studies attracted
media coverage and turned Hamer and LeVay into minor media
stars. Both expressed surprise at the media attention their re-
search received and the political debate that ensued, and both
claimed that their interests were purely scienti¤c. But as Debo-
rah Tannen (1998) has noted, the media are concerned with po-
litical issues to the extent that they are useful for stirring up con-
troversy and debate. If an issue cannot be framed as a standoff,
then it is unlikely to receive airtime. When these studies were

Rights, Choice, and the Appeal of Biology

released, some of the media gatekeepers saw them as a ripe op-
portunity to stir up the gay rights versus family values debate.
This desire by members of the media to stir up political con®ict
is well documented by Chandler Burr’s account (1996a) of a
Nightline broadcast that had Hamer going head to head with
Robert Knight of the Family Research Council (a prominent
anti–gay rights organization). As Burr recounts, Ted Koppel in-
cessantly attempted to rein in scienti¤c discussion in order to
engage the more politically loaded question: Is homosexuality, or
is it not, a choice?
With the question of choice so central to the debate, it is no
surprise that gay rights advocates also embraced this research. In
fact, shortly after Hamer’s study was published, the Human
Rights Campaign Fund released a special press packet suggest-
ing that the biological research on homosexuality would provide

a powerful argument for gay rights (Watney 1995). Speci¤cally,
advocates of gay rights maintain that this research proves that
sexual orientation is not chosen; therefore, gays and lesbians
should not suffer discrimination because of their sexuality. Gay
rights advocates believe that biological research will help their
cause in important ways. First, it would establish homosexuality
as an immutable characteristic and thus extend to homosexuals
the constitutional protections included in the Fourteenth
Amendment. Second, it would silence the religious groups who
argue that homosexuality is against the law of God. After all, if
God created homosexuality as a part of nature, then it is unrea-
sonable to assume that God would reject His own creation. Fi-
nally, it would settle the question of choice once and for all and
refute the argument that gays and lesbians are seeking special
protection for their chosen lifestyle.
Apart from these political appeals, the biological research
on homosexuality holds another attraction. Many lesbians and
gays do not believe that their sexuality is a choice; in fact, many
believe that they were born with their sexual orientation. This
belief in a cradle-to-grave homosexuality was buttressed by re-
ports of Hamer’s genetic research and LeVay’s work in neuroen-
docrinology. Hamer has gone on record to suggest that his re-
search does not resolve the choice issue (Burr 1996a), but in spite
Reinventing the Male Homosexual of his protests, biological research often is offered as proof that
homosexuality is not a choice. Gays and lesbians are not the only
ones to embrace these ¤ndings. Although the statistics vary, re-
cent studies show that a signi¤cant portion of the population
believes that homosexuality is innate (Leland and Miller 1998;
“Polls show Americans disagree with Lott” 1998). In fact, that
view has become so accepted that even the opponents of gay
rights have adopted new strategies to accommodate the belief in
biological homosexuality. In addition to the position articulated
by the Ramsey Colloquium, religious groups such as Exodus and
organizations such as the National Association for Research and
Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) argue that in spite of any
biological predisposition, actual homosexual behaviors can be
resisted with the proper therapy (Leland and Miller 1998).
That the biological argument can so easily be co-opted by
anti–gay rights organizations demonstrates the problems of us-
ing scienti¤c research in the arena of public policy and calls into
question its adoption by the Human Rights Campaign Fund and
other gay rights groups. As John Dewey (1946) observed in the
early half of the twentieth century, scienti¤c argument often has
been used to legitimize oppression. It is not unreasonable to
imagine that biological research on homosexuality could also be
used for oppressive purposes; in fact, the biological sciences have
had a prominent role in the history of gay and lesbian oppression
(Terry 1999). Gay rights advocates who have embraced the bio-
logical argument may have forgotten this history. More to the
point, some gay rights advocates are not worried about the nega-
tive implications of the biological research on homosexuality be-
cause they believe that once homosexuality is understood to be a
biological predisposition, only positive results will follow. Un-
fortunately, data do not enter into contentious public policy de-
bates free from interpretation. As Anne Larason Schneider and
Helen Ingram (2000) have noted:

Facts are important, and have a central role in policy arguments

and analysis; but the social construction of facts is as much a part
of understanding the issues, policy, and context as are “bare
facts.” Further, “bare facts” exist only to the extent that people
who are confronted with the same empirical information and ex-
periences agree that these are “bare facts.” Knowledge about

Rights, Choice, and the Appeal of Biology

policy can be cumulated but will always remain contingent upon
such a wide array of contextual conditions that fundamental
truths (across all times and all places) are dif¤cult to ¤nd and
probably do not exist. (P. 2)

Although many gay rights advocates may believe that the cur-
rent political climate makes the biological argument necessary,
that belief assumes a single bene¤cial interpretation of the bio-
logical research on homosexuality that will lead to speci¤c pub-
lic policies. Unfortunately, gay rights advocates can guarantee
neither the interpretation nor the outcome.
My purpose is to challenge the belief that the biological ar-
gument is an effective and unproblematic argumentation strategy
for the gay rights movement. I believe that the argument needs
to be thoroughly investigated and that such an investigation re-
quires an examination of the evidence on which the argument is

based. To be speci¤c, it is necessary to investigate the biological
research to determine exactly what it has to say about homo-
sexuality. The studies of LeVay and Hamer, for example, which
often are associated with the biological argument, were limited
in scope and never have been satisfactorily replicated (Crewdson
1995). In addition, both studies used only male subjects; there-
fore, the data only support the biological argument as applied to
male homosexuals. Finally, both LeVay’s and Hamer’s studies
draw on a wide variety of scienti¤c studies that contain varying
theories of male homosexuality, many of which conceptualize
male homosexuality as pathology. If this research is to be used
as part of a positive political strategy, the absence of lesbians in
these studies raises dif¤cult questions about political solidarity.1
Even more disturbing, however, is the way in which the broader
biological research literature conceptualizes male homosexu-
Because I see the results of this research extending into the
political realm, I am concerned with which data scientists use to
support the claim that male homosexuality is a biological state
and how they argue their case. In other words, I am interested in

1. In fact, Hamer has gone on record as saying that lesbianism is not genetic
but socially and culturally produced (Gallagher 1998).
how the belief in a biological homosexuality is argumentatively
Reinventing the Male Homosexual and rhetorically produced. I choose this approach because the
arguments that emerge out of this research have been imported
into the political discussion on gay rights. To understand the full
implications of the biological research in the context of the gay
rights debate, one must ¤rst understand what this research says
about homosexuality.
As Schneider and Ingram have noted, scienti¤c research is
not introduced into the political arena free of interpretation. The
political arena only recognizes scienti¤c discoveries that can be
used to move political agendas forward. Therefore, the conclu-
sion that homosexuality is biological does not necessarily mean
that the research in question supports a gay-af¤rmative agenda.
The political outcome of the biological argument will be pro-
duced through the interpretation of scienti¤c research, not by the
wholesale adoption of speci¤c conclusions. When gay rights ad-
vocates assume that biological research will settle the question
of choice, they are ignoring a more important question: If male
homosexuality is biological, then what is the biological state of
male homosexuality? Unfortunately, the answer to this question
may not bene¤t gay rights advocates, and the answer that my
analysis exposes may not be what some gay rights advocates have


The belief in the biological argument for gay rights re®ects

some of the same liberal assumptions that have linked scienti¤c
research to political agendas over the last few centuries. In fact,
the Enlightenment can be characterized as an attempt to pro-
mote liberal causes with the “objective” evidence of scienti¤c in-
quiry. Today, the liberal cause of gay rights appears to be pro-
moted by such objective research. Unfortunately, appearances
can be deceiving.
Michel Foucault understood just how deceiving appearances
could be, and he spent much of his career exposing the ways in
which the adoption of scienti¤c practices to promote liberal
causes could produce conservative results. In Discipline and Pun-
ish (1975), for example, Foucault shows that the institutionaliza-
tion of penal reforms, designed to improve human character and

Rights, Choice, and the Appeal of Biology

rehabilitate criminals, expanded the use of disciplinary practices
to such a degree that they have become inescapable in modern
life. Today, most institutions are designed to observe and correct
behavior; a penal reform movement that was intended to be lib-
erating has resulted in more powerful and pervasive forms of
social control. Considering Foucault’s scathing critiques of liber-
alism’s crowning achievements, it is not surprising that he was
once considered a conservative (Eribon 1991).
The scienti¤c study of sexuality was among the liberal
achievements challenged by Foucault. In volume 1 of The History
of Sexuality, Foucault (1978) argues that the study of human
sexuality complemented the emergence of the nuclear family
in the eighteenth century as the predominant economic unit.
Foucault concludes that the study of sexuality served a political
purpose because it produced sexual norms that facilitated the ex-

pansion of capitalistic economies; this facilitation he calls “bio-
power.” As Foucault (1978) describes it, bio-power was obtained
through the disciplinary practices that emerged to study and ul-
timately to sanction speci¤c types of sexual behaviors, homo-
sexuality being one such type. Although Foucault relates bio-
power to the disciplining of sexuality in a much earlier period,
the use of power to organize, contain, and direct sexual practice
according to the model of the heterosexual nuclear family cer-
tainly re®ects the efforts of conservatives today. Indeed, the con-
temporary argument that homosexuality harms the family could
have been lifted from the eighteenth-century discourse that
Foucault examines.
The bio-power that Foucault describes also resembles con-
temporary efforts to contain homosexuality; in both cases, po-
litical or economic contingencies are obfuscated by a liberal
appeal to the improvement of human character. The study of
sexuality emerged as a ¤eld intended to improve sexual hygiene
and eliminate the human suffering associated with sexual per-
versity. Although many would question whether contemporary
efforts to contain homosexuality could be considered liberal, our
cultural memory is short, and we may forget that gay rights has
not always been part of the liberal agenda. In fact, the pre-
Stonewall liberal answer to homosexuality was one of compas-
sion and cure. In his book Cures, historian Martin Duberman
Reinventing the Male Homosexual (1991) gives a devastating account of how psychiatrists in the
1950s and 1960s approached this “compassionate” cure. Simi-
larly, in The History of Sexuality, Foucault demonstrates that the
scienti¤c study of sexuality does not work in the best interests of
the homosexual; rather, it re-creates him/her as a species of de-
viant, void of subjectivity and exhausted by perversity. Again,
the liberal project of improvement results in greater oppression.
As Foucault points out, the study of sexuality has resulted in a
social panopticism in which everyone’s sexuality is under scru-
tiny and everyone’s sexual behavior is subject to discipline. As he
writes, “there was an explosion of numerous and diverse tech-
niques for achieving the subjugation of bodies and the control of
populations, marking the beginning of an era of ‘bio-power’ ”
(1978, 140).
In his critique of the study of sexuality, Foucault is inter-
ested primarily in the practices of psychologists and psychoana-
lysts. He argues, for example, that the deployment of power
through sexuality is facilitated by the repression hypothesis, the
belief that our sexuality is somehow rooted in our deepest psy-
che. Contemporary gay and lesbian scholars in®uenced by Fou-
cault have extended his critique to challenge the current biologi-
cal research that has emerged. After all, the biological research
on male homosexuality shifts the location of sexuality to a new
depth—to the DNA. For example, Jacquelyn Zita (1998) has ex-
posed how Hamer and his coauthor Peter Copeland discursively
contain human desire by forcing it into a dichotomous model of
heterosexuality/homosexuality. Zita’s analysis is not apolitical,
but her focus is primarily on the epistemology of the body and
how that epistemology is framed by cultural and social beliefs
about sexuality. Martha McCaughey (1996) “queers” evolution-
ary theory to deconstruct sociobiological attempts to rewrite
male heterosexism as natural law. In contrast to Zita, McCaughey
relates her conclusion more directly to the issue of gay rights
when she questions the political potential of the biological re-
search on homosexuality:

The “gay brain” approach, while it promises to mess with the

minds of many homophobes who have justi¤ed their discrimina-
tion on biological grounds, fails to loosen heterosexuality from

Rights, Choice, and the Appeal of Biology

its privileged places as natural and inevitable. That approach also
fails to challenge the position of science as an authoritative arbi-
ter of political con®icts. After all, what counts as “perversion” is
a matter of politics, not nature. The attempt to ground homo-
sexuality in nature therefore holds less promise than a queer the-
ory approach that undermines the naturalized sex binarism, the
mythic naturalness of heterosexuality, and the authority of sci-
ence altogether. (1996, 281)

Although I agree with McCaughey on several points, her cri-

tique ignores the political climate that has made this research
attractive to gay rights advocates. I too would like to see “per-
version” exposed as a political device. I too would like to see our
society ¤nally recognize that sexual desire constantly spills over
the categories of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Unlike
McCaughey, however, I do not believe that decentering scienti¤c
authority is a practical solution. Scientists have no motive to

question their own epistemic centrality or forfeit their authority,
and there is little reason to believe that society will ever reject
scienti¤c theories of sexuality. Instead, gay rights advocates must
carefully determine what types of scienti¤c theories work to
their political advantage, and what types do not. Recently, for
example, the leaders of the Republican Party have compared ho-
mosexuality with criminality and social disease (Ireland 1998).
This disease metaphor is yet another example of the ways in
which the biological argument can be co-opted and reversed by
anti–gay rights forces. Indeed, the greatest danger that the bio-
logical research on homosexuality presents is the ability of poli-
ticians to interpret the research as proof of pathology. Gay rights
advocates need to determine how likely such an interpretation
might be, what political force it might have, and how it might be
resisted. These determinations not only require an examination
of the biological research on homosexuality but an inquiry that
considers how scienti¤c arguments enter political arenas.

Rhetorical scholars have been aware of the argumentative
nature of science for some time, and the Rhetoric of Inquiry
school has emerged out of rhetorical studies. This particular
school includes scholars working within and outside the tradi-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual tional boundaries of rhetorical studies. John Nelson and Allan
Megill (1986), in an extensive review of the literature, identify
many scholars and theorists from a variety of ¤elds who have
contributed to the rhetorical approach to science (including, but
not limited to, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Dewey, Wittgenstein, Der-
rida, Foucault, Rorty, and Geertz). As Dilip Gaonkar (1993) has
pointed out, the interdisciplinary nature of the Rhetoric of In-
quiry school has generated a fairly promiscuous view of rhetoric,
so that some rhetoricians view all scienti¤c practice as rhetorical.
In a more recent work, John Lyne (1998) has attempted to nar-
row this view, suggesting that rhetoricians should limit them-
selves to the argumentation practices of scientists, particularly if
the Rhetoric of Inquiry school is to survive as a distinct and
valuable contribution to the study of science.
Lyne’s observations have been useful to me in my analysis
of the argumentation practices of those engaged in biological
research on male homosexuality. Lyne too understands that the
arguments generated in scienti¤c projects can subsequently be
introduced into the political sphere and that the success of these
arguments may depend on how well they re®ect the current po-
litical climate. In his analysis of Soviet scientist T. D. Lysenko’s
theory of vernalization, for example, Lyne (1987) argues that
Lysenko’s theories enjoyed wide acceptance in the Soviet Union
not because they were scienti¤cally sound (in fact, they were
later proved false) but because they offered a view of heritability
that supported Soviet ideology. In this analysis Lyne introduces
the concept of bio-rhetoric; he writes, “The discursive structure
in question here is what I would call a bio-rhetoric, a systematic
strategy for mediating between the life sciences and social life,
and also for mediating between Lysenko the phenomenon and
Lysenko the bearer of lessons” (1987, 512). Lyne argues for the
use of bio-rhetoric as a way of imagining the political contin-
gencies of scienti¤c discourse. In a later essay, he expands his
conception of bio-rhetoric and offers this explanation: “A special
instance of this is what might be called a bio-rhetoric, a strategy
for inventing and organizing discourses about biology in such a
way that they mesh with the discourses of social, political, or
moral life. . . . A bio-rhetoric is thus talk ‘on its way’ from an ‘is’

Rights, Choice, and the Appeal of Biology

to an ‘ought,’ making that connection only in the play of lan-
guage. Like the motion of an arrow, it will seem to dissolve un-
der an analytic stare” (1990, 38). The introduction of biological
research into the gay rights debate illustrates the way in which
science can enter into political debates. Indeed, the biological ar-
gument that is offered in support of gay rights follows the gram-
mar of a bio-rhetoric as it is de¤ned by Lyne: homosexuality “is”
biological; therefore, homosexuals “ought” to have their rights
In a related article, Lyne (1993) isolates a speci¤c form of
bio-rhetoric he calls gene talk, and he discusses the impact of
gene talk on the public discourses surrounding the Baby Jessica
and gay gene controversies. Lyne argues that gene talk does not
resolve the nature/nurture debate but introduces the concept of
choice as a point of argumentative con®ict. As he suggests, new

¤ndings in biology have translated public debates on sexuality
and parenting into questions of moral responsibility and choice.
Lyne describes how the question of choice has been used to
frame the scienti¤c and political discussions of homosexuality.
He warns that reducing homosexuality to a level of biological
determinism may lead to some negative consequences. Claims
about biological homosexuality can be reworked, for example,
and the scienti¤c evidence offered as proof of disease. Indeed,
my critique shows that biological research and the frame of
choice may not be advantageous for gay rights advocates.

Background Beliefs and Assumptions

Arguments can take numerous forms, but not all of these

forms are germane to science, nor are all forms relevant to this
study. Some forms of argument more readily facilitate the im-
portation of scienti¤c discoveries into the political and social
realms and of social and political values into the practices of
scienti¤c inquiry. In her book Science as Social Knowledge, Helen
Longino (1990) describes science as a social activity and helps
to isolate the types of argumentation that are worthy of investi-
gation. She argues that science is often held to unreasonable
standards of objectivity, and that when a project is thought to
Reinventing the Male Homosexual have been in®uenced by social factors, it is dismissed as bad sci-
ence. Longino claims that all scienti¤c practices are subject to
some degree of social in®uence. Therefore, absolute objectivity is
seldom, if ever, achieved and consequently should not be the
standard for “good” science. Instead, she suggests that we judge
science according to the degree of social in®uence, and she offers
the standard of “background beliefs or assumptions” as a means
of gauging this in®uence. Longino explains: “Background be-
liefs or assumptions, then, are expressed in statements that are
required in order to demonstrate the evidential import of a set of
data to a hypothesis. As such, they both facilitate and constrain
reasoning from one category of phenomena to another” (1990,
59). She argues that by identifying these background beliefs or
assumptions, we can judge to what degree a scienti¤c project has
been subject to social in®uence.
Longino illustrates her point in an analysis of biological re-
search on sex differences. She points out that evidentiary gaps in
the research record often escape critical scrutiny because patri-
archal values and attendant beliefs about sexual dimorphism and
essentialism are assumed. In other words, our society is already
invested in the beliefs that there are only two sexes and that all
of the differences between these two sexes can be biologically
explained. Therefore, when biological evidence contradicts these
beliefs, it is either dismissed or reinterpreted to bring it into line
with accepted thought. Longino suggests that by tracing back-
ground beliefs or assumptions in the manner of a Foucauldian
genealogy, the critic can identify ideologies that are cloaked
by scienti¤c objectivity. As Longino maintains, however, the va-
lidity of a scienti¤c claim is not based on the presence of ide-
ology but the degree to which ideology overrides alternate and
logical interpretations of data.
Although she claims to use the terms “assumptions” and
“beliefs” interchangeably, Longino makes a distinction between
them. She sees beliefs as being explicitly stated in scienti¤c ar-
gument, whereas assumptions operate on a more implicit level.
In my investigation, this distinction is important. Seen this way,
background beliefs and assumptions have the same functions as
warrants and backing in Toulmin’s model (1958) of argument, a

Rights, Choice, and the Appeal of Biology

model that not only has had great in®uence on the study of ar-
gument generally but also on the study of scienti¤c argument
speci¤cally. Background beliefs, as Longino describes them, op-
erate as warrants. In the Toulmin model, warrants link evidence
to claims or, in the context of scienti¤c research, data to a hy-
pothesis. Background assumptions, on the other hand, operate as
argumentation backing, that is, backing includes information
that allows us to perceive a particular warrant as a valid means
of interpreting evidence. Sometimes this information is not di-
rectly stated because it passes for common knowledge. For ex-
ample, when it is assumed that there are only two sexes, and that
all of the differences between the two sexes are biological, then
the interpretation of evidence from biological investigations of
gender and sexuality is likely to accommodate these cultural as-
sumptions. Longino’s analysis of sex differences illustrates this

Using a Foucauldian genealogy, I trace the way the argu-
ments about homosexuality are produced in the biological re-
search on male homosexuality (Foucault 1978). Some scholars
might argue that a genealogy cannot accommodate the argu-
mentation analysis that I propose, but I disagree and so does
Longino (1990). She argues that Foucault’s critique of discursive
formations illustrates the processes by which dominant ideology
passes for reason. Although Longino takes exception to Fou-
cault’s “monolithic” views of science and power, she suggests that
background beliefs and assumptions can help explain the ways in
which ideology facilitates the production of objects of knowl-
edge. Given her own critical projects, Longino would aver that
an examination of scienti¤c research on gender and sexuality
should engage questions of power and politics.
Although Lyne’s theory of bio-rhetoric offers an explana-
tion of the process by which scienti¤c arguments enter political
discourse, Longino’s theory about the ways in which background
beliefs and assumptions inform scienti¤c inquiry is a tool that
allows the critic to identify the types of scienti¤c arguments that
might become bio-rhetorics and to predict their possible politi-
cal implications. The ability of a scienti¤c discourse to be inte-
grated into political and social discourses is, in some cases, con-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual tingent on the presence of background beliefs and assumptions.
In other words, the way scienti¤c evidence can be used to in-
®uence policy may be constrained by the cultural beliefs repro-
duced by the scienti¤c studies in question. The gay gene dis-
course is a case in point. Before I investigate that case, however,
I want to explain how the different forms of biological research
on male homosexuality interact to create a scienti¤c discourse, a
gay gene discourse, and what the speci¤c beliefs and assumptions
are that underlie this discourse.

Beliefs, Assumptions, and the Gay Gene Discourse

The work of Hamer and LeVay does not stand alone; it is
part of a larger body of research that includes the ¤elds of be-
havioral genetics, neuroendocrinology, sociobiology, and evolu-
tionary psychology. I refer to this body of research as the gay
gene discourse, and I have chosen that name not only as a matter
of convenience but also because it signi¤es the political aspects
of this research: isolating a gay gene corresponds to the desire
to establish homosexuality as a predetermined and immutable
characteristic. Although the ¤elds of the gay gene discourse are
distinct disciplines, the theories of homosexuality they offer are
often complementary, yet each ¤eld attempts to explain the phe-
nomenon of homosexuality on a different biological level.
In the gay gene discourse, the gene is the most fundamental
biological level of male homosexuality. Consequently, some in-
itial studies of the biology of homosexuality emerged out of the
¤eld of behavioral genetics and attempted to prove that homo-
sexuality was inherited. Some earlier genetic studies (Eckert
et al. 1986), for example, determined that sexually concordant
identity (exhibiting homosexual or heterosexual preferences) is
greater among monozygotic twins than it is among dizygotic
twins.2 Because monozygotic twins share more genetic material
than do dizygotic twins, their sexual concordance supports the
claim that sexual orientation may be genetically determined. In

2. “Monozygotic” refers to twins who have developed from the same egg;
“dizygotic” refers to twins who have developed from different eggs.
his own study, Hamer (Hamer et al. 1993) considered the heri-

Rights, Choice, and the Appeal of Biology

tability of sexual orientation in a broader context, speci¤cally,
the sexual concordance of all male relatives. After measuring his
subjects’ sexual orientation and sampling their blood for DNA,
he found that maternally related males had a higher rate of sex-
ual concordance than did the population at large. This led him
to conclude that a gay gene must be located on the X chromo-
some because this is the one chromosome all males inherit from
their mothers. Subsequently, Hamer isolated a gene marker on
the Xq28 chromosome that he correlated with homosexuality.
In his book (Hamer and Copeland 1994), Hamer refers to
LeVay’s ¤ndings (1991) regarding the hypothalamus. Although
Hamer is careful to point out that there is no link between his
¤ndings and LeVay’s, and although LeVay expresses the same
caution when he refers to Hamer’s ¤ndings, their work is related
in an important way. Whereas Hamer attempts to locate the ori-

gins of sexuality at the level of the gene, LeVay attempts to iden-
tify the tissues and organs that produce a homosexual orienta-
tion.3 These related goals re®ect the complementary character of
the gay gene discourse. More to the point, although Hamer may
have found the DNA for sexuality, LeVay may have found the
tissues that this DNA may produce.
LeVay’s research (1993) re®ects the second ¤eld that con-
tributes to the gay gene discourse: neuroendocrinology. He be-
gins his research by referring to work that suggests that the hy-
pothalamus is central to the determination of sexual behavior.
He draws on theories that suggest that men’s and women’s brains
are physically different, a difference related to hormone produc-
tion. LeVay isolated a nucleus in the preoptic area of the hypo-
thalamus that is smaller in women than it is in men. He also
found that this same region is smaller in homosexual men than
it is in heterosexual men. He concludes that this similarity be-
tween the hypothalamus of women and gay men offers an ex-
planation for homosexuality: the brains of women and gay men
are similar; therefore, their sexual behavior is similar.

3. As Hamer points out, the genetic marker that he discovered is a strip of

DNA that is larger than a single gene. Hamer also suggests that it is unlikely that
homosexuality can be attributed to a single gene.
Together the work of Hamer and LeVay may explain how
Reinventing the Male Homosexual sexuality develops from gene to tissue and then into sexual be-
havior, but it does not provide a biological rationale for male ho-
mosexuality. This rationale is provided by the third ¤eld in the
gay gene discourse: sociobiology or, as it is sometimes called,
evolutionary psychology. Both Hamer and LeVay refer in pass-
ing to certain kin-selection theories that have been offered to
explain homosexual behavior. One of these theories suggests
that homosexuality is an altruistic behavior in which one sibling
foregoes reproduction in order to better the survival odds for the
offspring of other siblings. Parental manipulation is another the-
ory related to altruism that suggests parents will direct one of
their children toward non-procreative behavior in order to better
the survival odds for the offspring of their other children. Some
sociobiological theorists have suggested that this altruistic be-
havior is manifest in the effeminacy expressed by male homo-
sexuals (Weinrich 1976).
The assertion that homosexuality is part of the process of
evolutionary advancement often is linked to the work of Richard
Dawkins, a noted scholar in the ¤eld of sociobiology. Dawkins
(1976) argues that competition for survival does not take place
on the level of the species or the individual; rather, the struggle
is between genes. Animals, including humans, are merely ma-
chines that protect genes and ¤ght for their survival. Accord-
ingly, any social or psychological behavior that can be de¤ned as
a survival tactic can also be theorized as the expression of ge-
netic material. Consequently, Dawkins (1976, 1982) developed
the concepts of the sel¤sh gene, which ¤ghts for its own sur-
vival, and the extended phenotype, or the expression of a genetic
structure that is manifest in survival behaviors. Homosexuality,
according to related sociobiological theories, is an expression of
genetics (Weinrich 1976). By foregoing reproduction, homo-
sexuals contribute to the survival of their own genes because
they better the odds that those genes will survive in the off-
spring of their siblings.
The theories of the gay gene discourse are interrelated as
follows: Behavioral genetics establishes the role of heredity, and
Hamer’s work supports this role by suggesting that homosexuality
is inscribed in the DNA structures that determine protein rep-

Rights, Choice, and the Appeal of Biology

lication and organ development. Neuroendocrinology studies at-
tempt to isolate the physical structures that are assumed to be
the physical expression of the gay gene. LeVay, for example, lo-
cates these structures in the hypothalamus. Finally, sociobiology
and evolutionary psychology provide the evolutionary explana-
tion for the gay gene, and Dawkins’s theories permit the argu-
ment that male homosexuality is an adaptive behavior that pro-
tects and propagates genes. These three ¤elds in the gay gene
discourse combine to provide support for the biological argument.
Two background beliefs permeate the different ¤elds con-
tributing to the gay gene discourse. These beliefs are that (1)
male homosexuality is a state of effeminacy and (2) male homo-
sexuality is pathological. By effeminacy, I mean the cultural be-
lief that male homosexuals express feminine qualities and dis-
play a delicacy and weakness that is thought to be unmasculine.4

The belief about effeminacy appears in the different scienti¤c
experiments in a variety of ways. Effeminacy is sometimes used
to demonstrate that the subjects of the experiments are, indeed,
homosexual, for example. In other words, the belief that male
homosexuals are effeminate is used as evidence to identify ex-
perimental subjects. By the pathological, I refer to a state of dis-
ease, abnormality, and deviance.5 My investigation shows that
scientists look for genetic, physical, and behavioral deviance in
order to identify subjects. In many cases, the male homosexual’s
deviance is manifest in a physical feminization, an undeveloped
neural nuclei, or an inappropriate response to estrogen. In the
context of the gay gene discourse, beliefs about effeminacy and
pathology are complementary: effeminacy is used to infer pa-
thology, and pathology can be inferred from effeminacy.6

4. For example, Webster’s Tenth Collegiate Dictionary de¤nes “effeminate” as

“having feminine qualities untypical of a man; not manly in appearance or manner.”
5. Turning to Webster’s Tenth again, “pathology” is de¤ned as: “something ab-
normal . . . the structural and functional deviations from the normal that consti-
tute disease or characterize a particular disease.”
6. William Byne (1996) provides a similar analysis when he isolates the
“intersex assumption” and “defect assumption” in his critique of neuroendocrin-
ology. Because my critique also considers the ¤elds of behavioral genetics and
sociobiology, I needed a critical framework that would allow me to analyze
the behavioral evidence produced in these ¤elds. The concepts of effeminacy
As Longino has observed, assumptions operate on an im-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual plicit level, and as I have suggested, they provide backing for
argumentation. To use Toulmin’s explanation (1958), the back-
ing is the information, or “common knowledge,” on which the
warrant rests. Although I see beliefs about effeminacy and pa-
thology operating explicitly as warrants in the gay gene dis-
course, both of these beliefs rest on two assumptions. First, the
belief about effeminacy presupposes that there are two discrete
and dichotomous sexes: male and female. Because there are only
two sexes, and because they are discrete categories, any depar-
ture from one sex is a ®ight to the other, or more to the point,
any departure from the male is a ®ight to the female. In terms
of male homosexuality, the forfeiture of sexual intercourse with
women is a departure from male sexual function; therefore, the
male homosexual is effeminate. Second, the belief about path-
ology presupposes that there are two discrete and dichotomous
sexual orientations: heterosexuality and homosexuality. Hetero-
sexuality is the standard for normality, and because it is a dis-
crete category, any departure from heterosexual practice is a
®ight to the abnormal. Therefore, within the context of the gay
gene discourse, homosexuality remains an abnormal expression
of sexuality.
Several recently published books address the scienti¤c study
of human sexuality. Anne Fausto-Sterling’s Sexing the Body
(2000) illustrates how carefully the dualistic categories of sex,
gender, and sexuality are policed by biological scientists and
medical professionals. In An American Obsession, Jennifer Terry
(1999) gives a detailed historical account of how various scien-
ti¤c studies have produced homosexuality as a form of physical
and/or psychological deviance. Finally, Edward Stein’s The Mis-
measure of Desire (1999) engages both the biological research on
homosexuality and its ethical implications. My own investiga-
tion agrees with and is informed by the work of these authors.

and pathology readily identify behaviors, but they can also be used to refer to
“feminized” physiology and physical disease. Therefore, these particular back-
ground beliefs allow me to cross ¤elds and make comparisons between research
that records physical data and research that indexes behaviors.
My interest, however, is in the political pragmatism of the bio-

Rights, Choice, and the Appeal of Biology

logical argument for gay rights. Given the way the gay gene dis-
course conceptualizes male homosexuality, I want to determine
how the research could be interpreted to deploy power in a way
that works against the interests of gay men and lesbian women.
I also want to suggest how gay rights advocates might resist this
deployment of power.

The Investigation

As I have mentioned, the gay gene discourse comprises

three ¤elds: behavioral genetics, neuroendocrinology, and socio-
biology/evolutionary psychology. I have devoted a chapter to
each in which I trace the background beliefs about effeminacy
and pathology through these different ¤elds. Before I engage the
gay gene discourse, however, I examine the sociopsychologi-

cal theories of male homosexuality. I use the ¤eld of sociopsy-
chology as a point of comparison. The gay gene discourse is de-
signed to offer a new explanation of male homosexuality;
however, it conceptualizes male homosexuality in a manner that
is similar to earlier psychoanalytic theories of sexuality.7 I trace
the development of sociopsychological theories of homosexuality
to illustrate how theory has advanced in this ¤eld and how these
advances have contributed to the gay rights movement.
In chapter 2 I offer a history of the study of sexuality in the
¤eld of sociopsychology. I trace the emergence of male homo-
sexuality as an object of study through the work of Magnus
Hirschfeld, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Sigmund Freud, and the
post-Freudian psychoanalysts. I show how these early theorists
constructed a male homosexual with an effeminate and hence
pathological psyche. I then show that by challenging psychoana-
lytic theories and questioning the background beliefs of path-
ology and effeminacy, Alfred Kinsey’s research led to the de-
velopment of diffuse models of sexuality. Indeed, the ¤eld of

7. In fact, LeVay (1993) admits that his work was motivated by a desire to
disprove the psychoanalytic theories of homosexuality, which he considers un-
sociopsychology has gradually moved away from the beliefs
Reinventing the Male Homosexual about male homosexual pathology and effeminacy by calling
into question the assumption about discrete sexuality.
In chapter 3 I show that the beliefs about effeminacy and
pathology reemerge in the research of behavioral geneticists.
Several studies maintain that male homosexuals express effemi-
nate behaviors, even when this belief con®icts with their own
¤ndings (Pillard and Weinrich 1986; Bailey and Pillard 1991;
Buhrich, Bailey, and Martin 1991). With regard to pathology,
Hamer mentions that his study was funded only after he argued
for the economy of “using a single group of volunteers, in this
case gay men and their families, to study sexual orientation, HIV
and Kaposi’s [sarcoma], and alcoholism” (Hamer and Copeland
1994, 44). In other words, Hamer represents male homosexuals
as a convenient population in which a variety of diseases and
disorders can be studied. Although Hamer does not classify
homosexuality as pathology, the easy association of homosexu-
ality and disease re®ects the belief about pathology.
In chapter 4 I analyze the ¤eld of neuroendocrinology. Ear-
lier I mentioned LeVay’s argument that the brains of male homo-
sexuals are feminized. Although LeVay is careful to avoid the
question of pathology, other scientists conducting research simi-
lar to LeVay’s have not exercised the same caution. Some of
these scientists classi¤ed subjects as homosexual if they had con-
tracted AIDS from same-sex sexual contact. Not only do these
scientists con®ate sexual practice with sexual orientation, but
they also identify the transmission of disease as an effective way
to identify male homosexuality.
I devote chapter 5 to the ¤elds of sociobiology and evolu-
tionary psychology. Earlier I mentioned that some scientists
have associated altruism with effeminacy. Some sociobiologists
have rejected the theory of altruism and have argued instead
that male homosexuality is maladaptive, while arguing that
homophobia is a proper evolutionary adjustment. These sociobi-
ologists display a belief in male homosexual pathology and claim
that homophobia is a natural reaction to this sexual pathology.
Finally, in chapter 6 I show how the gay gene discourse fa-
cilitates the deployment of bio-power and how the biological ar-
gument operates as a bio-rhetoric in the debate on gay rights. I

Rights, Choice, and the Appeal of Biology

review the ways that the different ¤elds of the gay gene discourse
conceptualize male homosexuality, and how those conceptuali-
zations facilitate conservative political agendas in regard to gay
rights speci¤cally and social justice generally. Furthermore, I ar-
gue that the legal advantages of the biological argument have
not been realized and that the 1996 U.S. Supreme Court deci-
sion Romer v. Evans has signi¤cantly limited the legal potential
of the argument (Romer v. Evans 1996). Although the biological
argument may address the question of choice, I argue that issues
of choice put gay rights advocates at a disadvantage. I conclude
that gay rights advocates should abandon the biological argu-
ment and distance themselves from biological research on male
homosexuality, and I offer suggestions about how this might be

The Sociopsychological Theories
of Male Homosexuality


The idea that science might

ease the social burdens of homosexuals is not new. In the nine-
teenth century, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs’ and Magnus Hirschfeld’s
theories of homosexuality, for example, were designed to force
social reconsideration of sexuality and sexual deviance. Since
then the study of homosexuality has never been far removed
from the political arena. Although Ulrichs’ and Hirschfeld’s
theories were part of their political efforts, the emerging ¤eld of
psychology quickly absorbed their work. Accordingly, theories
that portrayed homosexuals positively were reinterpreted to con-
struct homosexuality as pathological, a process particularly evi-
dent in the work of psychoanalysts writing in the post–World
War II period. Because this period was marked by a rise in social
and political conservatism, psychoanalytic theories were used in
antigay efforts in the 1940s and 1950s. The belief in homosexual
pathology persisted in the sociopsychological literature until the

The Sociopsychological Theories of Male Homosexuality

publication of Alfred Kinsey’s studies, which indicated that
homosexual behavior was more pervasive than had been sup-
posed. In the early 1970s, gay rights advocates began to use Kin-
sey’s work in their efforts to remove homosexuality from the
American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental diseases.
The history of male homosexuality in the ¤eld of sociopsy-
chology is characterized by shifting paradigms in®uenced by
changes in the social climate. What follows is not an exhaustive
review of the sociopsychological literature; rather, I examine some
of its de¤ning movements in regard to male homosexuality.
Over the years, the study of male homosexuality by sociopsy-
chologists has undergone many changes. Some studies have been
methodological; some have been conceptual; some studies have
been useful to the gay rights movement, and some have been
used to oppress gay people.
Just how a particular theory affects political advocacy de-
pends primarily on how the theory conceptualizes homosexual-
ity. The value of a theory for gay rights advocacy depends on the
presence of the background beliefs about gender and pathology
and the background assumptions about sex and sexuality out-
lined in chapter 1. Although these beliefs and assumptions are

only a small part of the sociopsychological literature, the more
the literature moves away from these beliefs and assumptions,
the more positively it conceptualizes homosexuality. The resur-
gence of these beliefs and assumptions in the gay gene discourse
reveals that in some important respects, the biological sciences
have not changed the ways in which male homosexuality is
studied; it also suggests that this discourse continues to pose
political dangers for gay rights advocates. A review of the socio-
psychological literature reveals how beliefs about homosexual ef-
feminacy and pathology enter into political discourse. The his-
tory of this literature also reveals that climates of opinion are as
important as background beliefs and assumptions in determin-
ing how research on homosexuality is used in political advocacy.
Common sense suggests that theories of homosexuality that
problematize the concepts of disease and pathology could be po-
litically useful to the gay rights movement, and in certain politi-
cal contexts, they have been. When these theories are considered
Reinventing the Male Homosexual in the current political climate, however, the reasons that gay
rights advocates have embraced the gay gene discourse, and dis-
tanced themselves from contemporary sociopsychological theo-
ries, become clear.

Ulrichs, Hirschfeld, and Early Gay Rights Efforts

Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, a German jurist living in the mid-

nineteenth century, was one of the ¤rst individuals who attempted
to theorize male homosexuality. Although Ulrichs assumed the
persona of a scientist—in his work he makes references to em-
bryos and “germs”—he was neither a biologist nor a psychiatrist.
As a jurist, his primary concern was to secure the civil rights of
homosexuals. Consequently, one of his most noted works, The
Riddle of “Man-Manly” Love (1994), reads less like a book on
sexuality and more like a political manifesto. For example, he
writes, “we Urnings form a small minority. But, by God, we
have the same rights as you, who are a powerful majority. You
have no authority to take away or encroach upon our equal
rights” (p. 39).1 This passage reveals that Ulrichs’ theories were
an attempt to come to grips with his own sexual identity. In
addition, he tried to use his work to in®uence legal reform. Dur-
ing the 1860s, when the emerging German nation was making
signi¤cant attempts to unify its legal codes, Ulrichs attended a
Congress of German Jurists to propose that the legal sanctions
against homosexuality be abolished. Although Ulrichs was al-
lowed to speak, the reaction to his proposal was so hostile that
he was not allowed to ¤nish and the laws against homosexuality
remained intact (Kennedy 1988).
Ulrichs believed homosexuals (that is, Urnings, the term he
used) were “individuals among us whose body is built like a
male, and at the same time, whose sexual drive is directed to-
ward men, who are sexually not aroused by women, i.e., are
horri¤ed by any sexual contact with women” (1994, 34). He be-

1. Ulrichs culled the term “Urnings” from a passage in Plato’s Symposium.

The speci¤c passage refers to the daughter of Uranus, whose children are des-
tined to love men (Mondimore 1996).
lieved that the embryo contained female and male “germs” and

The Sociopsychological Theories of Male Homosexuality

that as the embryo developed, one of the germs became domi-
nant, producing either male or female sex organs. According to
Ulrichs, these sexed germs also produced the sex drive, and it
was possible for a male body to possess a female sex drive. He
also believed that these embryonic conditions of dominance
were inherited.
Although his theory points to a biological cause, Ulrichs
also believed that male homosexuality was a psychological con-
dition. For example, he argued that the Urning’s female sex drive
is complemented by a feminine psyche: “Distinct from the femi-
nine persuasion of our sexual drive, we Urnings have still an-
other feminine trait in us which, so it seems to me, offers the
most positive proof that nature developed the physical male
germ in us, yet mentally, the feminine one. We have carried this
other feminine element in us from earliest childhood. Our char-
acter, the way in which we feel, our entire mood, is not mascu-
line; it is decidedly feminine. This inner feminine trait may be
observed in us by the obvious way in which we appear feminine”
(1994, 58). Here Ulrichs claims that the Urning is not just a
male who desires sex with other males but a male who has many
other feminine characteristics as well. Hurbert Kennedy (1980–

1981) argues that Ulrichs’ theory may have been in®uenced by
the rigid gender roles of his time. In any event, his theory imag-
ined the male homosexual to be behaviorally and biologically
Like Ulrichs, Magnus Hirschfeld pursued the study of sexu-
ality to secure rights for homosexuals. His motto was Per Scien-
tiam ad Justitiam or “through science to justice” (Haumann
1995, 72). Hirschfeld also worked in Germany, but his efforts to
study homosexuality and promote rights for homosexuals began
in the last part of the nineteenth century and continued until the
rise of Nazism. Hirschfeld succeeded in opening an Institute for
Sexual Research in Berlin and was able to express his views in
public forums. When the Nazis took control of the German
government, however, the institute was destroyed, as was Hirsch-
feld’s hope of eliminating the social and institutional persecu-
tion of homosexuals.
Hirschfeld, like Ulrichs, also failed to gain civil rights for
Reinventing the Male Homosexual homosexuals, but his efforts increased the visibility of the rights
movement in Germany, and his theories of sexuality were in-
®uential. He believed that male homosexuals were physically
different from male heterosexuals and that these differences
were the products of hormones secreted by the gonads (Hirsch-
feld 1944). These hormones not only in®uenced sexual orienta-
tion but also were responsible for gender differences between
heterosexuals and homosexuals. He imagined homosexuality to
be an intermediate gender between the feminine and the mascu-
line. Although male homosexuals had the physical bodies of
men, Hirschfeld argued, they had the sex drive and emotions of
the opposite sex. Hirschfeld also believed that hormones altered
the physical bodies of homosexuals so that their secondary sex
characteristics were feminine. He maintained that because male
homosexuals are biologically feminized, they are psychologically
and sexually effeminate as well.
Although Hirschfeld theorized homosexuality as an inter-
mediate gender, his de¤nition of homosexuality did not com-
fortably ¤t his gendered model. He argued that “genuine homo-
sexuality only exists where the physical acts are an outcome of
homosexual mentality” (Hirschfeld 1944, 227); sexual acts not
motivated by desire cannot be attributed to homosexual orienta-
tion. Therefore, it was possible for someone to participate in ho-
mosexual acts without being homosexual. However, Hirschfeld
did not believe in a gender division between active and passive
homosexual acts. He held that both partners in a homosexual act
are, indeed, homosexual if both were acting on their desire.
Like Ulrichs’ theories, those of Hirschfeld seem to represent
male homosexuality as a departure from masculine heterosexual
normality, particularly in their portrayal of the male homosexual
as innately effeminate. Consequently, this portrayal may have
undermined their political agendas. Although their work is
separated by more than ¤fty years, they both wrote under cul-
tural conditions hostile to their theories. Given the rigid gender
roles of Ulrichs’ time and the emergence of Nazism during
Hirschfeld’s life, it is easy to understand that the portrayal of an
effeminate male homosexual, even as a form of biological devi-
ance, could be regarded as evidence of pathology.
The Sociopsychological Theories of Male Homosexuality
Krafft-Ebing, Freud, and Psychoanalysis

Shortly after Ulrichs introduced his theories, they were in-

corporated into the work of Richard von Krafft-Ebing (Green-
berg 1988). A German neurologist, Krafft-Ebing originally
published Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886, which became one of
the most important studies of sexuality of the time. Krafft-
Ebing de¤ned homosexuality not as a set of sexual acts but as
“the determination of feeling for the same sex” (Krafft-Ebing
1922, 286), a determination brought about by either genetic
or situational factors. Situational homosexuality, according to
Krafft-Ebing, occurred when men were precluded from sexual
intercourse with women or when they practiced masturbation.
He was particularly troubled by the situational homosexuality
that he believed was caused by adolescent masturbation. He
wrote: “Nothing is so prone to contaminate—under certain cir-
cumstances, even to exhaust—the source of all noble and ideal
sentiments, which arise of themselves from a normally develop-
ing sexual instinct, as the practice of masturbation in early years”
(p. 286). Krafft-Ebing believed this condition could be reversed,
as long as the patient ceased masturbating and directed his sex-

ual impulses into heterosexual channels. If the patient failed to
follow this regime, he would develop “a deep change of charac-
ter, particularly in his feelings and inclinations, which thus be-
come those of a female” (p. 297).
Krafft-Ebing contrasted situational homosexuality with a
more innate form that he described as abnormal congenital
manifestation. He outlined these homosexual manifestations as

1. Traces of heterosexual, with predominating homosexual in-

stinct (psychosexual hermaphroditism).
2. There exists inclination only toward the same sex (homo-
3. The entire mental existence is altered to correspond with the
abnormal sexual instinct (effemination and viraginity [sic]).
4. The form of the body approaches that which corresponds to
the abnormal sexual instinct. However, actual transitions to
hermaphrodites never occur, but on the contrary, completely
differentiated genitals; so that just as in all pathological per-
versions of the sexual life, the cause must be sought in the

brain (androgyne and gyandry). (1922, 336–337)
Reinventing the Male Homosexual
Although he entertained several causes of congenital homosexu-
ality, Krafft-Ebing favored a Darwinian model. He imagined
homosexuality to be the lingering residue of an animalistic bi-
sexuality that would slowly die in the process of evolutionary
advance. In other words, Krafft-Ebing saw homosexuality as a
degenerative condition.2
Although Krafft-Ebing was not a gay rights advocate, his
theories of homosexuality are similar to those of Hirschfeld and
Ulrichs. He imagines that homosexuality is both a biological
and psychological manifestation. He also maintains that in both
situational and congenital cases, male homosexuality is indica-
tive of effeminacy. Krafft-Ebing departs from Hirschfeld and
Ulrichs when he explicitly de¤nes homosexuality as a debilitat-
ing pathology—a view of homosexuality that dominated psy-
chological theory for some time. In particular, his theories set
the stage for those that would emerge in the ¤eld of psycho-
Freud’s theories of sexuality take several forms, but certain
elements remain fairly constant. He argued that the child is born
into a state of bisexuality, an innate sexual instinct that he re-
ferred to as “polymorphous perversity” (Freud 1949, 111). The
child’s bisexual energy originally is directed toward the mother,
who is the ¤rst sexual object for the child. This attraction creates
psychological obstacles that differ for the male and the female
child; however, Freud’s theories were primarily concerned with
male sexual development. He believed that the male child enters
a pre-Oedipal stage in which the child’s sexual energy becomes
channeled into a competition with the father for the mother’s
attention and affection. If this stage is resolved correctly, the
child’s sexual development proceeds into heterosexuality. If the
child is not able to reconcile his relationship with his mother,

2. Oosterhuis (1997) has argued that Krafft-Ebing’s work actually provided

homosexuals of the period with a needed sense of identity and that Krafft-Ebing
himself took a more compassionate view of homosexuals as his career progressed.
Oosterhuis may be right, but Krafft-Ebing’s theories clearly imagined male
homosexuality to be a pathological state.
then the child’s development will be arrested, and his sex drive

The Sociopsychological Theories of Male Homosexuality

will be directed toward a homosexual object-choice.
Freud theorizes male homosexuality in several ways, but
he often imagines the child adopting a feminine identity. In
“Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood” (1955b;
¤rst published in 1910) and “Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-
Year-Old Boy” (1955a; ¤rst published in 1909), for example,
Freud offers evidence to prove that both da Vinci and “little
Hans” had strong emotional attachments to their mothers that
were indicative of the type of sexual investment that leads to
male homosexuality. As Freud writes in his analysis of da Vinci,
“the boy represses his love for his mother: he puts himself in her
place, identi¤es himself with her, and takes his own person as a
model in whose likeness he chooses the new objects of his love.
In this way he has become a homosexual” (1955b, 100). This
direction of sexual energy illustrates the feminine component of
male homosexuality: the boy takes his own person as the object-
choice to replace his mother because he sees himself as feminine.
Although Freud offers alternate theories, they all play off
the male child’s disrupted relationship with the mother. In many
cases, these theories suggest that the male homosexual adopts a
feminine sexual identity, and in this process he enters a state of

arrested sexual development. In spite of this arrested state, Freud
observes, there are some “inverts” who appear to be normal in
every way except for their sexuality. He suggests that this form
of homosexuality is innate and may be biological (1949). In
other words, Freud did not maintain that homosexuality is al-
ways the product of psychological pathology. Kenneth Lewes
(1988) argues this point well in The Psychoanalytic Theory of
Male Homosexuality. Lewes claims that Freud’s original theories
regarding male homosexuality were actually quite sympathetic
and that the negative view of male homosexuality attributed to
psychoanalytic theory emerged out of the works of psychoana-
lytic theorists who followed Freud. This development is illus-
trated by the assessment of male homosexuality by Edmund
Bergler and William Kroger (1954), both champions of Freu-
dian psychoanalysis: “The man who is suffering from the dis-
ease-entity, ‘perversion homosexuality,’ has regressed to the oral
stage, the ¤rst level of psychic development. It is in this stage
Reinventing the Male Homosexual that every child must cope with the inevitable wrench of being
weaned from breast or bottle. . . . Homosexuals are the result
of one of the many abnormal solutions to this early con®ict.
Homosexuals are so furious with the disappointing breast (or
bottle) that they discard the sex responsible for their disappoint-
ment” (pp. 123–124). Although Lewes’s assessment may be cor-
rect, it would be dif¤cult to argue that Freud regarded male
homosexuality as a normal expression of sexual development.
Freud’s own views may have been humane, but the ¤eld of psy-
choanalysis generally imagined male homosexuality to be a state
of effeminate pathology.
I am not completely convinced by his defense of Freud, but
Lewes’s case against the other psychoanalysts is compelling. His
extensive review of the literature demonstrates that psychoana-
lysts have systematically denigrated homosexuality for more
than sixty years. What intrigues me most about these theoretical
developments is how Freud’s original belief in innate bisexuality
has been written out of the discipline.3 This theoretical move
allowed the ¤eld of psychoanalysis to de¤ne heterosexuality and
homosexuality as discrete, dichotomous categories and to regard
heterosexuality as biologically normal and homosexuality as a
psychological dysfunction. Lewes maintains that this theoretical
move indicates how psychoanalysis responded to social, cultural,
and political pressures.
External pressures may have been in®uential, but disciplinary
advantages accrued from these theoretical moves. By eliminating
the possibility of bisexuality and establishing homosexuality as
a discrete category, psychoanalysts isolated male homosexuality
as an object of study. By denying the possibility of a biological
cause and determining male homosexuality to be a psychological
pathology, psychoanalysts were able to claim authority over the
study of homosexuality. In fact, Lewes’s book is a testament to
the ways in which psychoanalysis dominated and policed this
research. To maintain their authority, however, psychoanalysts

3. Some of the work that contributed to the erasure of bisexuality included

that of Kardiner, Karush, and Ovesey (1959) and Rado (1940).
also had to frame male homosexuality as a pathology that they

The Sociopsychological Theories of Male Homosexuality

could cure. In other words, by eschewing any biological factors,
psychoanalysts were able to locate the origins of homosexuality
in the psyche and to argue for the ef¤cacy of a psychoanalytic
cure. The claim of pathology, therefore, supported the view that
male homosexuality was a problem that psychoanalysts could
identify and eliminate.
In their effort to eliminate homosexuality, some psychoana-
lysts contributed to public policy discussions on homosexuality,
and their contributions often abetted antihomosexual political
moves. Edmund Bergler, for example, was both a prominent ad-
vocate of psychoanalytic treatment of homosexuality and an
avid opponent of early gay rights efforts. In 1951 Bergler pub-
lished Neurotic Counterfeit-Sex, a book whose second edition
was retitled Counterfeit-Sex: Homosexuality, Impotence, Frigidity
(1958). In the preface to the second edition, Bergler explains the
need to specify homosexuality in the title. Between the publica-
tion of the ¤rst and second editions, the early gay rights efforts
of the homophile movement began to gain some visibility; for
example, the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis
expanded their efforts during this period (D’Emilio 1989). Ber-
gler believed that the emergence of the homophile movement

could be attributed to Alfred Kinsey’s work (for reasons that be-
come clear later in this chapter), and he dismissed its efforts to
change public attitudes. In the second edition, Bergler wrote:
“Kinsey claimed that every third man one meets on the street
has had some homosexual experiences, as an adult. Armed with
these misleading and faulty statistics, homosexuals started to ask
for parity with heterosexuals” (1958, viii–ix).
In the second edition’s chapter on homosexuality, Bergler
explains why such parity is unreasonable by outlining all that is
defective in the homosexual psyche. His motive for opposing the
gay rights effort may be conveyed, albeit indirectly, by the con-
cluding paragraph of the chapter: “There is no longer any
justi¤cation for the homosexual’s claim that his problems entitle
him to pity—and acceptance of the status quo. His unconscious
make-up is now scienti¤cally understood, and the problem of
therapy has been solved. I am proud of having contributed a
good deal to the solution” (1958, 222). Here Bergler is advocat-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual ing the use of therapy to cure homosexuality, and he is position-
ing himself as the primary authority on this form of therapy. If,
however, gay rights advocates were to successfully establish so-
cial and political equality with heterosexuals, then the need for
therapy would evaporate, and with it Bergler’s authority. Ber-
gler’s research may or may not have been informed by political
motives, but to protect his work, Bergler had to oppose the early
gay rights efforts of the 1950s.
Bergler was not the only psychoanalyst to hold these views.
Charles Socarides (1996), for example, remains an ardent de-
fender of the position that homosexuality is a mental disease,
and he is still publishing work on the pathology of homosexual-
ity. He also has been a vocal opponent of the contemporary gay
rights movement and is the founder and past president of the
National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexu-
ality (NARTH). Although this organization claims that its pri-
mary purpose is to defend the rights of gays and lesbians who
want to change their sexuality, the organization’s statement of
purpose reveals its stand on gay rights advocacy. According to
the NARTH web page, “When gay advocates reframed the pub-
lic debate as a discussion about ‘who one is’ rather than ‘what one
does,’ they successfully intimidated dissenters by casting them as
personally bigoted and hateful. As a result, most people who de-
fend the reality of male–female design have been embarrassed
into public silence. NARTH stands ready to advise government,
educational, and mental-health agencies as well as the media
and religious groups on issues pertaining to homosexuality”
(National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexu-
ality 1999). Again, advocating therapy for homosexuality entails
opposition to gay rights. For some psychoanalysts, such opposi-
tion is also a defense of their authority and expertise; it is no
accident that psychoanalysts hold leadership roles in NARTH.

Kinsey and the Post-Kinsey Models

The position of psychoanalysts as authorities in the study of

sexuality remained unchallenged until Alfred Kinsey published
Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948. The Kinsey scale,

The Sociopsychological Theories of Male Homosexuality

which placed sexual orientation on a graduated continuum, was
the most in®uential product of this research. This scale reintro-
duced the concept of bisexuality and provided a model for quan-
titative data collection. The impact on the psychoanalytic ap-
proach to homosexuality was twofold. First, psychoanalysts’
systematic dismissal of bisexuality was challenged by Kinsey’s
empirical ¤ndings, which indicated that a signi¤cant number of
adult males had experienced sexual intercourse with both sexes.
Second, the quantitative methodology that Kinsey adopted to
collect data was deemed more scienti¤cally rigorous and gener-
alizable than was the collection of anecdotal case studies that
constituted the psychoanalytic data. As Lewes (1988) notes, the
psychoanalytic response to these challenges was either to dismiss
Kinsey or to ignore his work.
The Kinsey model suggests that human sexuality can be
mapped on a seven-point scale that ranges from absolute hetero-
sexuality (a score of 0) to absolute homosexuality (a score of 6)
(Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin 1948). The debate about whether
the range between these poles indicates homosexuality, hetero-
sexuality, or bisexuality has yet to be resolved (Haynes 1995). It
is important, however, that Kinsey’s scale acknowledges the ex-

istence of bisexuality. Kinsey rejected the use of the terms “ho-
mosexuality” and “heterosexuality” as discrete categories of sex-
ual orientation; his data did not support such dichotomization.
Kinsey demanded that sexual theory be based on empirical data,
a demand that stemmed from his own scienti¤c training as a
biologist (Weinrich 1990). Consequently, Kinsey’s work sig-
naled a paradigm shift in the study of sexuality. No longer
would homosexuality be the sole domain of psychoanalysts
whose data were drawn from case histories. This new paradigm
would reconstitute homosexuality as an object of study for the
empirical social sciences (Coleman 1990).
Kinsey’s work also is signi¤cant because it began to chal-
lenge the beliefs about pathology and effeminacy. For example,
Kinsey (Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin 1948) acknowledged that
male homosexuals are often regarded as physically weak and in-
clined to engage in feminine behaviors and artistic occupations,
but he also observed that the belief about effeminacy feeds the
Reinventing the Male Homosexual supposition that male homosexuals are distinct from male het-
erosexuals. Kinsey questioned the belief about effeminacy and
the assumption of clear distinctions between heterosexual and
homosexual men:
It should be pointed out that scienti¤c judgments on this point
[effeminacy] have been based on little more than the same sort
of impression which the general public has had concerning ho-
mosexual persons. . . . Males do not represent two discrete popu-
lations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be di-
vided into sheep and goats. Not all things are black nor all things
white. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals
with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents catego-
ries and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The liv-
ing world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.
The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior the
sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of
sex. (1948, 638–639)

I have argued that beliefs about effeminacy and pathology

are inferentially linked; here Kinsey illustrates that linkage, al-
beit in critical terms. By challenging the belief about effeminacy,
he also called into question the pathology of homosexuality and
the assumption about sexual orientation that backs this belief.
First, he rejects sexual orientation as a discrete pair of categories.
Accordingly, effeminacy cannot be a marker to identify homo-
sexuality, because homosexuality is not a discrete category. Sec-
ond, he argues that the diffuse nature of sexual behavior calls
into question assumptions about the abnormality of homosexu-
Social reactions to the homosexual have obviously been based on
the general belief that the deviant individual is unique and as
such needs special consideration. When it is recognized that the
particular boy who is discovered in homosexual relations in
school, the business man who is having such activity, and the
institutional inmate with a homosexual record, are involved in
behavior that is not fundamentally different from that had by a
fourth to a third of all of the rest of the population, the activity
of the single individual acquires a somewhat different social
signi¤cance. (1948, 663)
Indeed, once homosexual behavior is recognized as frequently

The Sociopsychological Theories of Male Homosexuality

practiced by a variety of individuals, it becomes dif¤cult to
imagine homosexuals as a distinct or deviant class. Furthermore,
Kinsey suggests that it is inappropriate to call for the isolation
and treatment of homosexuals when “at least one third of the
male population would have to be isolated from the rest of the
community, if all those with any homosexual capacities were to
be so treated” (1948, 665).
Kinsey’s challenge to homosexual pathology threatened the
¤eld of psychoanalysis to such a degree that Bergler and Kroger
were moved to rebut Kinsey’s claims. In Kinsey’s Myth of Female
Sexuality: The Medical Facts (1954), the authors devote a signi¤-
cant amount of text to attacking Kinsey’s work. Bergler and
Kroger warn that Kinsey “put heterosexuality and homosexuality
on an equal level as normal manifestations of the sex drive” (p. 117;
their italics). They suggest that Kinsey has reached this conclu-
sion because he simply does not understand Freud. Bergler and
Kroger then review psychoanalytic theory extensively in an at-
tempt to prove scienti¤cally that homosexuality is a disease,
while deriding what they perceive as Kinsey’s ignorance. They
write, “It is the opinion of the authors that Kinsey’s conclusions
on homosexuality are doing damage, and have in no way fur-

thered the cause of scienti¤c truth” (p. 141).
As Bergler and Kroger recognized, Kinsey’s conclusions
were damaging to the ¤eld of psychoanalysis. In 1973, the
American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexu-
ality from its list of mental diseases. The decision did not include
ego-dystonic homosexuality, a condition experienced by homo-
sexuals who wanted to change their sexual orientation (Morin
and Rothblum 1991). Even this exception was rendered imma-
terial in 1997, however, when the APA concluded that psycho-
logical therapies could not cure homosexuality (“Psychologists
vote” 1997). In other words, Kinsey’s work was the beginning of
the end for psychoanalytic theories of homosexuality, including
the claim that these theories were curative.
Kinsey’s legacy lives on in the work of others who have ex-
panded his model. Eli Coleman describes this expansion as a
third paradigm in the study of sexuality, which views sexual
Reinventing the Male Homosexual identity and orientation as multidimensional. One of the ¤rst
post-Kinsey models was developed by Michael Shively and John
De Cecco (1977). This model divided sexual identity into four
categories and considered such factors as gender and sex roles.
The Klein Sexual Orientation Grid expanded the categories of
sexuality further (Klein 1985). In addition to considering vari-
ables such as sexual attraction, behavior, and fantasy, this model
asks respondents to indicate their past, present, and future sexual
identity. Coleman has even developed his own model for the
“clinical assessment of sexual orientation” (1990, 271). In this
model, the subject is asked to respond to nine different dimen-
sions of sexual orientation and to indicate a present and future
(“ideal”) sexual identity. Finally, Vivienne Cass (1990) has ar-
gued that in addition to sexual identity, scholars of sexuality
need to study the progression of identity formation. To facilitate
this type of study, Cass outlined six stages that can be used to
assess how far a subject has progressed in identifying and accept-
ing a gay or lesbian sexual orientation.
Sexual theory in the ¤eld of sociopsychology has progressed
to a stage in which sexual orientation is regarded as much more
diffuse than was formerly thought. These models go well beyond
the unidimensional Kinsey scale and are a far cry from the ho-
mosexual/heterosexual dichotomy offered by the psychoanalysts.
I see this theoretical progression as positive because as sexuality
is understood to be more diffuse, the categories of normal and
abnormal sexual behavior become untenable, even obsolete.
In addition, the diffusion of sexuality is a scienti¤c advance
that bodes well for gays and lesbians because it challenges the
stigma of pathology. It would be naïve, however, to assume that
the diffusion model is solely the result of theoretical develop-
ments. Breaking down sexual orientation into multidimensional
models also serves the interests of those working in the social
sciences. These models are designed for empirical data gathering,
and their complexity requires speci¤c methods. To the extent
that they are offered up as more exacting tools for measuring
sexuality, they also are offered as proof that sexuality should be
studied in a certain way. In other words, these models have a
disciplinary function because they fortify the belief that the

The Sociopsychological Theories of Male Homosexuality

study of sexuality should be an empirical, social scienti¤c pur-
suit. Although Kinsey’s followers take a more liberal view of ho-
mosexuality, they, like the psychoanalysts, are still conservative
when it comes to policing their intellectual terrain, a terrain that
has been challenged by the gay gene discourse.
When the American Psychiatric Association determined
that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness and that it
could not be cured by psychoanalysis, the authority of the ¤eld
of sociopsychology was weakened (“Psychologists vote,” 1997).
Sociopsychologists could no longer claim to know the origins of
homosexuality, nor could they claim to effect a cure. The author-
ity to speak about an object of knowledge is contingent on the
unities of scienti¤c discourse: if scientists in a particular ¤eld
cannot theorize the origins of an object or the cause-and-effect
relations associated with it, then those scientists are not in a se-
cure position to claim knowledge of the object (Foucault 1972).
In fact, the emergence of the gay gene discourse has been moti-
vated in part by a perceived weakness in the ¤eld of sociopsy-
chology. Ironically, the abandonment of the belief about path-
ology, a theoretical move that allowed Kinsey’s theories to gain
prominence, may be the same theoretical move that leaves the

post-Kinsey theorists vulnerable to the challenge of the gay gene

Michel Foucault

If Kinsey forced a paradigm shift in the study of sexuality,

Michel Foucault started a revolution. Foucault’s theories recon-
¤gured sexuality as a social construct and were the precursor to
the emergence of lesbian and gay studies and the development of
queer theory (Halperin 1995). Although Foucault is concerned
with understanding homosexuality, his approach is distinctive
because he focuses primarily on the construction of sexuality as
an object of study. He argues that the concept of the homosexual
as a distinct individual emerged in psychological thought during
the nineteenth century. Prior to this time, sodomy laws existed
to codify behaviors that today would be deemed homosexual,
but the notion that certain individuals were predisposed to these
Reinventing the Male Homosexual behaviors did not exist. Although sodomy laws have survived,
the idea that all members of a society are equally capable of ho-
mosexual acts has been replaced by a “repression hypothesis.” In-
formed by nineteenth-century theorists (including Hirschfeld,
Ulrichs, Krafft-Ebing, and Freud), this hypothesis maintains
that sexuality is an essential part of an individual’s psychological
makeup—a psychological characteristic that has been repressed
by social mores. Foucault counters the repression hypothesis by
arguing that sexuality is not something society has repressed but
a system of beliefs society has created to discipline or control the
individual (1978). By locating sexuality in the “soul” (psyche) of
the individual, society can regulate behavior by condemning sex-
ual practices and thereby exercise power over individuals.
This bio-power, as Foucault calls it, is exercised in three
ways. First, power comes into being and is exercised through the
disciplinary practices of studying sexuality. Foucault’s indict-
ment of the repression hypothesis, although developed through
a criticism of nineteenth-century sexual theory and psycho-
analysis, can also be applied to the Kinsey scale and the post-
Kinsey models. Regardless of how diffuse these models imagine
sexuality to be, the models still conceive of a sexuality hidden in
the psyche. Foucault, however, imagined the repression hypothe-
sis to be the means to a disciplinary end. In other words, once
sexuality is located in the individual, the individual then be-
comes an object of study for sex researchers. More to the point,
in the ¤eld of homosexual research, the object of study is the
homosexual, not the actual sexual practices that determine sexu-
ality. In other words, sexuality is not something that someone
does, but something that someone is.
Constructing the homosexual as an object of study gives
the sex theorist authority over the homosexual. The investigator
is in a position to say what homosexuality means for the individ-
ual and, consequently, to generalize from ¤ndings about the in-
dividual to the population at large. This disciplinary move is ex-
empli¤ed by psychoanalysis: one case history would disclose that
a homosexual patient suffered from a particular psychosis, and
working from this single case, psychoanalysts would conclude
that all homosexuals suffered from the same psychosis. In this

The Sociopsychological Theories of Male Homosexuality

way, homosexuals have been silenced and rendered incapable of
understanding or explaining their own experience. By rendering
the homosexual a passive object of study, sexuality researchers
are able to claim and maintain authority over their intellectual
or disciplinary domain. Indeed, the passivity of the homosexual
subject is maintained by the belief in his pathology.
The homosexual who de¤ed scienti¤c authority or chal-
lenged the psychoanalytic claim of pathology was held up as an
example of the severity of homosexual neurotic delusion. For ex-
ample, in the chapter on homosexuality that appears in Counter-
feit-Sex, Bergler relates a session with a homosexual patient in
which the patient argued with Bergler about the pathology of
homosexuality, an argument that, according to his own account,
Bergler won. In the passage that follows the debate, Bergler ar-
ticulates the psychoanalytic position on de¤ant homosexuals:
“This discussion with a patient has been quoted in detail to serve
as a general approach to the complex problem of male homo-
sexuality, and to show the chronic technique of defense among
these sick people [his italics]: high-pitched narcissism, combined
with ‘injustice collecting.’ They are the opposite of good losers”
(1958, 191). In a more recent account, Duberman (1991) writes

about his experiences with numerous psychoanalysts who at-
tempted to “cure” him of his homosexuality. These analysts de-
manded Duberman’s complete cooperation and subordination.
His accounts demonstrate the ways in which psychoanalysis
maintains authority over the study of homosexuality generally
and the homosexual patient speci¤cally.
The second exercise of power through the repression hy-
pothesis involves economic conditions. As capitalism expanded
in the Western world and populations became more transient,
the nuclear family became the main economic unit. This new
economic unit, the nuclear family, had the responsibility of en-
forcing sexual mores. As Foucault observes, “the family was the
crystal in the deployment of sexuality: it seemed to be the source
of a sexuality which it actually only re®ected and diffracted”
(1978, 111). Although this control of sexuality was represented
as a moral concern, it actually had an economic function. As
Foucault suggests, sexual discipline was ¤rst embraced by eco-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual nomically and politically privileged families who saw their
moral conduct as evidence of their natural superiority over the
lower classes. As Foucault writes, “The bourgeoisie began by
considering that its own sex was something important, a fragile
treasure, a secret that had to be discovered at all costs” (1978,
120–121). Although sexuality was represented as a product of
morality, the rules governing sexual practice actually reinforced
power relations by validating the superiority of the bourgeoisie.
Finally, the repression hypothesis facilitated the dispersion
of power in such a manner that individuals began to police their
sexual behavior. To avoid being classi¤ed as deviant, individuals
avoided certain behaviors. As noted, the bourgeoisie embraced
the control and de¤nition of sexuality to evade the stigma of
deviance and to display their moral superiority. As Foucault ex-
plains in Discipline and Punish (1975), the statistical determina-
tion of normality and abnormality is a disciplining force that
demands that individuals control their behavior. In the context
of sexuality, individuals avoid homosexuality in order to evade
the stigma of deviance; or, more accurately, individuals do not
engage in homosexual acts because they do not want to be
thought of as homosexual. In fact, the belief in homosexual pa-
thology that I have traced through the sociopsychological theo-
ries is part of the disciplining force of the control of sexuality.
As long as homosexuality is thought of as an expression of men-
tal illness, then social pressures will dissuade individuals from
homosexual acts. Remove the stigma of deviance and there is no
longer any rationale for social pressures that censure homosexual
Foucault’s work has been troubling for many sex theorists
because Foucault is not a sex theorist in the usual sense. Foucault
makes no attempt to speculate on the causes of homosexuality,
for example, nor does he offer a de¤nition. Instead, he is more
interested in the political conditions of those labeled as homo-
sexuals and in the ways that the scienti¤c study of homosexual-
ity precipitated these conditions. Foucault’s political interests be-
come more apparent toward the end of volume 1 of The History
of Sexuality (1978), where he sets forth his ideas about resisting

The Sociopsychological Theories of Male Homosexuality

the exercise of bio-power:

We must not think that by saying yes to sex, one says no to

power; on the contrary, one tracks along the course laid out by
the general deployment of sexuality. It is the agency of sex that
we must break away from, if we aim—through a tactical reversal
of the various mechanisms of sexuality—to counter the grips of
power with the claims of bodies, pleasures, and knowledges, in
their multiplicity and their possibility to resistance. The rallying
point for the counterattack against the deployment of sexuality
ought not to be sex-desire, but bodies and pleasure. (P. 157)

Here Foucault challenges individuals to take control of their

sexual practices and to recognize that those practices merely in-
dex the ways in which their bodies experience pleasure. Of
course, to mount this counterattack, gays and lesbians must
challenge the authority of scientists, and that is exactly what gay
rights activists did when they campaigned to have homosexual-
ity removed from the APA’s list of mental disorders. In fact,
those activists argued that homosexuality is not a disease but a
lifestyle choice. Although that argument was successful in the
early 1970s, the political climate has changed in such a way that
gay rights advocates no longer want homosexuality to be consid-

ered a choice. Instead, they want homosexuality to be thought of
as an immutable characteristic, and the gay gene discourse helps
them in this effort.

Enter the Gay Gene

The scienti¤c study of homosexuality has seldom been

separated from the political considerations. As noted, some of
the earliest theories were developed to eliminate legal and social
sanctions against homosexuality. When homosexuality became
an object of study for psychoanalysts, it was considered a severe
form of mental pathology. The passionate defense of this view
abets disciplinary interests, but psychoanalytic discourse has be-
come part of political debates. Bergler’s writings on homosexu-
ality were used in the late forties and early ¤fties to remove ho-
mosexuals from government positions for reasons of national se-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual curity (Terry 1999). The highly neurotic individuals that Bergler
describes in his work could hardly be counted on to protect the
nation’s interests. The lesson for gay rights advocates is clear: the
political implications of a scienti¤c theory of homosexuality are
linked to the ways in which that theory de¤nes or categorizes
homosexuality. If homosexuality is seen as pathological, then
scienti¤c theory and research can easily be used in support of
policies that limit the rights of gays and lesbians.
Kinsey’s theory is the exception that proves the rule. The
diffusion of sexuality in contemporary sociopsychological theory
has had a positive political impact because it was a departure
from the notion of pathology that informed psychoanalysis.
Kinsey’s rejection of psychoanalytic theory created a rupture in
the ¤eld of sociopsychology that allowed gay activists to suc-
cessfully challenge the classi¤cation of homosexuality as a men-
tal disorder and to argue that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice.
However, the diffusion of sexual orientation in contemporary
theories creates a problem for advocates in the current debate.
As noted in the chapter 1, the current gay rights debate
turns on the question of choice. Anti–gay rights forces have
maintained that homosexuality is a sexual choice, the wrong
choice, a choice that undermines “family values.” In other words,
the discourse that Foucault analyzed and the contemporary anti–
gay rights discourse are almost indistinguishable. The nuclear
family is still the moral center for discourses about sexuality, and
the individual is still held accountable for his/her sexual behavior.
The arguments of the anti–gay rights forces portray the homo-
sexual as someone who willfully evades accountability; homo-
sexuals choose not to police their sexual behavior. Unfortunately,
because contemporary sociopsychological theories imagine sexu-
ality to be multidimensional and ®uid, these theories imply that
sexuality is, at least to some degree, chosen. If there are several
different sexual orientations, and if these orientations can change
over time, then individuals appear to have some agency in deter-
mining their sexuality. This was the point that gay rights advo-
cates were making in the seventies when they maintained that
homosexuality was not a mental disorder. In today’s gay rights
debate, when homosexuality is represented as a bad choice, the

The Sociopsychological Theories of Male Homosexuality

claim of sexual agency does not have the same appeal as an ar-
The gay gene discourse appeals to contemporary gay rights
advocates because it suggests that gays and lesbians have no
agency in determining their sexual orientation. The gay gene dis-
course relocates homosexuality in the body, as did psychoanaly-
sis, but it does so by locating sexual orientation in the physical
body rather than in the psyche. Ironically, this discourse also
rests on the assumptions and beliefs that informed psychoana-
lytic theory. In other words, the gay gene discourse imagines
male homosexuality as a biological state of effeminate pathol-
ogy; accordingly, it reintroduces the dualistic notions of sex and
sexual orientation that predominated prior to Kinsey. That the
gay gene discourse resembles the theories of psychoanalysis should
give gay rights advocates pause, particularly given the history of
psychoanalytic resistance to gay rights.

Behavioral Genetics


Scientists whose research is

represented in the gay gene discourse are claiming scienti¤c
authority over the study of homosexuality. Scienti¤c authority,
however, follows the development of scienti¤c theory. When
new theories are embraced and old ones abandoned, the authors
of the new theories are credited with advancing scienti¤c knowl-
edge. The gay gene discourse is no exception, and some of the
scientists whose work contributes to this discourse express their
aspirations quite clearly. LeVay (1993), for example, claims that
biological theories of sexual orientation will replace sociopsy-
chological theories. He also argues that the study of psychologi-
cal phenomena, including human sexuality, might be better un-
derstood from the perspective of biology. In other words, he
claims that a biological theory of sexual orientation would be
more scienti¤c than those propounded in the ¤eld of sociopsy-

Behavioral Genetics
Sociopsychological theories of male homosexuality have
advanced from a single dichotomous model of sexual orientation
to models that conceptualize sexual orientation as a diffuse and
®uid phenomenon. In addition, psychoanalytic theories that char-
acterize male homosexuality as pathological have been replaced
by more contemporary theories that challenge classi¤cations of
deviance. Because biological theories are intended to supplant

sociopsychological theories, one expects biological theories to
postulate different conceptions of male homosexuality. The gay
gene discourse, however, returns to the beliefs and assumptions
characteristic of early sociopsychological research and psycho-
analytic theory.
As noted in chapter 1, there are three levels of the gay gene
discourse: behavioral genetics, neuroendocrinology, and socio-
biology/evolutionary psychology. In this chapter, I focus on behav-
ioral genetics, a ¤eld in which scientists attempt to demonstrate
that sexual orientation is an expression of the characteristics em-
bedded in DNA. Very few of the scientists working in this ¤eld
run DNA tests; most of them infer genetic similarity from in-
heritance. Most of these studies use twins and other siblings to
illustrate the heritability of homosexuality. These studies of
twins operate under the premise that twins share DNA, so any
shared behavior could be genetically predisposed. In fact, some
of the earliest behavioral genetic studies involved twins. My in-
vestigation of the behavioral genetic literature begins with these
early studies; I then consider contemporary studies of twins and
conclude with Hamer’s research on the Xq28 chromosome.

Kallman’s Studies

Franz Kallman (1952a, 1952b) was one of the ¤rst scientists

to investigate the heritability of male homosexuality. Operating
on the hypothesis that homosexuality was a genetic aberration in
human development, Kallman studied the sexual practices of
twins. Kallman claimed to have discovered concordance for
homosexual orientation among all of his identical or monozygo-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual tic twin subjects; he found a lower level of concordance among
fraternal or dizygotic twins. He made these observations about
monozygotic twins: “The majority of one-egg pairs not only are
fully concordant as to the overt practice and quantitative rating
of the aberrant sex pattern, but they even tend to be very similar
in both the part taken in their individual sex activities and the
visible extent of feminized appearance and behavior displayed by
some of them” (1952b, 291). Kallman did not specify what he
meant by sex activities, but by associating these activities with a
feminized appearance, he implied that these subjects played a
passive role in their sexual relations.
Although Kallman reported full sexual concordance for
monozygotic twins, his dizygotic twins registered a rate of con-
cordance that was comparable to the at-large male population.
He explained these ¤ndings as follows:
If our concordance rates for DZ [dizygotic] index pairs and Kin-
sey’s homosexuality ratings for the total male population are sta-
tistically comparable, their rather close correspondence weakens
the signi¤cance of some popular etiologic concepts of male ho-
mosexuality. Apart from militating against the probability of a
special genetic factor, capable of turning the psychosexual inte-
gration of the adult male into an overt homosexual pattern, the
observation of an only moderately increased concordance rate of
overt homosexuality in genetically dissimilar twin brothers
raised together plainly diminishes the plausibility of explana-
tions, which overstress the importance of such precipitating or
perpetuating factors as social ostracism, incompetence of a par-
ticular parent, or other potentially traumatizing experiences aris-
ing from the effect of uncontrolled imperfections in the struc-
ture of modern human societies. (1952b, 285)

In this passage, Kallman attempts to argue that the in®uence of

genes on sexual orientation may be greater than the in®uence of
social conditions, which at the time were thought to produce
homosexuality. Obviously, the popular etiologies that Kallman
questioned were psychoanalytic. The reference to the incompe-
tent parent re®ects Freud’s theoretical explanation of male homo-
sexuality. The reference to social ostracism mirrors psychoana-
lytic theories that maintain that homosexuality is symptomatic
of acute psychological dysfunction. Kallman acknowledged that

Behavioral Genetics
psychodynamic in®uences can produce homosexual behavior, but
he claimed that these in®uences only affect a “limited number of
persons” (1952b, 295).
To replace the psychoanalytic etiology, Kallman offered
what he called an “intersexuality theory,” which construes homo-
sexuality as the result of an imbalance in the sex chromosomes.
In the case of male homosexuality, the female X chromosome
overrides the in®uence of the male Y chromosome. Although

Kallman admitted that this theory was not well supported, he
attempted to argue its validity:

The principle of a disturbed balance between male and female

genetic tendencies in these cases would not even be invalidated
by the observations that some homosexual men may have both
an Y-chromosome and children who are boys. It is conceivable
that phenotypically male homosexuals, who may be the product
of an intersexual imbalance, are generally the ones distinguished
by infertility. In view of some observed but statistically still
questionable deviations in the sex ratio of affected index sibships,
it is even more likely that the underlying disturbance is hormonal
in nature, in the sense of a genetically controlled disarrangement
in the male–female sex hormone balance, rather than the result
of a chromosomal (mutational) aberration or of an incomplete
process of a sex-reversal. (1952a, 145)

In this passage, Kallman responds to possible objections by

showing that his theory could accommodate established theories
about the contribution of chromosomes and hormones. Al-
though he acknowledged that some male homosexuals have a Y
chromosome and are biologically capable of producing male off-
spring, he offered his intersexuality theory as an explanation of
supposed homosexual infertility. Kallman imagined male homo-
sexuals to be hormonally female and male homosexuality to be
the product of a genetic imbalance that reverses men’s sexual de-
sire. His hypothesis that the genetic imbalance creates a hormo-
nal imbalance was based on the assumption that homosexual
men suffer from either an excess of female hormones or a de-
¤ciency in male hormones. In other words, male homosexuals
are genetically and hormonally aberrant.
Although Kallman presented his intersexuality theory as a
Reinventing the Male Homosexual substitute for the “popular etiologic concepts” of psychoanalysts,
his conceptualization of male homosexuality did not differ sig-
ni¤cantly from that of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysts aban-
doned Freud’s earlier suggestions that sexuality might be bio-
logically based in order to de¤ne male homosexuality as a
psychological pathology. Kallman embraced the notion of pa-
thology and the possibility that male homosexuality is a psycho-
logical dysfunction. Indeed, he routinely associated male homo-
sexuality with schizophrenia, suicide, and alcoholism. As an
illustration, consider the comments he made about a pair of sub-
jects in his study: “The K twins . . . earned their living as mod-
els and entertainers until their careers were ended by excessive
alcoholism” (1952b, 293). Nonetheless, he located the origin of
pathology in the chromosomes, not the psyche. Kallman did not
dispute the conceptions of male homosexuality found in psycho-
analytic theory; he merely reconstituted them as the products of
a genetic imbalance.
Kallman’s view of male homosexuality as a feminized condi-
tion follows a similar path. He claimed that male homosexuality
could be attributed to an imbalance in the sex chromosomes,
which creates a hormonal imbalance. Therefore, he believed the
X chromosome to be dominant in the homosexual male. Al-
though all men and women have at least one, the X chromosome
is considered to be female because it is contributed by the mother.
Kallman’s intersexuality theory posits that homosexuality occurs
in men when the female chromosome dominates the male chro-
mosome or, to put the argument in terms of heredity, when the
mother’s genes dominate the father’s. Kallman’s theory replicates
the Freudian paradigm of the dominant mother and the ineffec-
tual father; he just mapped dominance onto the male homosex-
ual’s genes. Implicit in Kallman’s theory is the background as-
sumption that biological sex is dichotomous. Because the male
homosexual departs from normal male sexuality, he also departs
from his true physical sex. Because there are only two sexes,
these departures can only be understood as a ®ight to the fe-
The results of Kallman’s research, speci¤cally the ¤nding of
full sexual concordance for monozygotic twins, have raised seri-

Behavioral Genetics
ous methodological questions. David Rosenthal (1970) argues
that Kallman failed to recognize discordant pairs—twins who
did not share sexual orientation—and that his theory of in-
tersexuality is not supported by the data he used as evidence for
his theories.1 For example, Kallman made claims about his sub-
jects’ chromosomal makeup, but he did not perform the neces-
sary medical investigation to verify these assertions. In other
words, he did not perform DNA tests on his subjects. To be fair,

he did not have today’s technology at his disposal. Although
these failings are acknowledged widely (Bailey and Pillard 1991),
Kallman’s work is cited in current literature, and his in®uence is
still apparent. Experimental methods and designs have advanced
signi¤cantly since Kallman, but the general conception of male
homosexuality has remained constant.

Contemporary Studies
Most of the contemporary studies reviewed in this chapter
were conducted more than thirty years after Kallman’s work was
published, but the belief that male homosexuality is manifested
in effeminate behavior still dominates the behavioral genetic re-
search. Richard Pillard and James Weinrich (1986), for example,
begin their research with the presupposition that male homo-
sexuality is gender-atypical behavior. They cite previous studies
in which adult homosexuals have self-reported behaviors in early
childhood that were considered gender atypical; for example, the
subjects reported that as children they preferred girls’ games and
toys and eschewed more masculine play. Pillard and Weinrich
offer these studies as preliminary evidence that homosexuality
may have a biological basis: if the gender-atypical behavior asso-
ciated with male homosexuality can be traced back to the early
years of childhood, then sexuality is not entirely a matter of en-
vironmental conditioning. The ¤ndings to which Pillard and

1. Rosenthal’s criticism (1970) of Kallman reaf¤rms the disciplinary authority

of psychology. He argues that homosexuality is a secondary condition that is
symptomatic of various forms of psychosis. By claiming that homosexuality is
symptomatic of other psychological conditions, Rosenthal eliminates the possi-
bility of a biological cause and reasserts the primacy of psychological theory.
Weinrich refer are not conclusive; these studies have found that
Reinventing the Male Homosexual there are masculine boys who grow up to be homosexual men
and effeminate boys who grow up heterosexual.
Pillard and Weinrich also present sociobiological theories as
an evolutionary rationale for homosexuality: “sociobiologists
have shown that a homosexual orientation could, given certain
assumptions, contribute to inclusive ¤tness and therefore be ge-
netically transmitted” (1986, 809).2 They also discuss endocri-
nological research that indicates hormones in®uence the gen-
dered behavior of animals and humans. Weinrich (1976) has
theorized a sociobiological link between homosexuality and
gender-atypical behavior, a connection explored in chapter 5. For
now, it should be clear that Pillard and Weinrich are interested
in male homosexuality as a genetic trait and that they believe it
to be a sexual condition manifested in effeminate behavior.
The subjects of Pillard and Weinrich’s study (1986) con-
sisted of volunteers who responded to advertisements, placed in
gay and general interest newspapers, that announced a study on
sexual behavior. The inclusion criteria required that subjects be
male, twenty-¤ve to thirty-¤ve years old, and unmarried. Be-
cause Pillard and Weinrich were interested in investigating
homosexual heritability along family lines, subjects had to have
at least one sibling over the age of twenty. Index subjects (those
originally solicited for the study) were tested for sexual orienta-
tion using the Kinsey scale, and 51 homosexual and 50 hetero-
sexual men were included in the study. These subjects were then
asked to speculate on the sexual orientation of their male and
female siblings. When possible, Pillard and Weinrich followed
up these reports by either phoning the siblings or interviewing
them in person. Of the 238 siblings in the study, direct reports
of sexual orientation were obtained from 176. The results re-
vealed that 20 to 22 percent of the brothers of the original ho-
mosexual index subjects were either homosexual or bisexual. Pil-
lard and Weinrich point out that this rate of homosexual
orientation exceeds that found in the population at large. Conse-

2. Inclusive ¤tness is an evolutionary concept that suggests the value of a ge-

netic trait can be determined by how that trait improves the survival of an entire
quently, they conclude that male homosexuality is as much a

Behavioral Genetics
product of biology as environment.
Pillard and Weinrich (1986) acknowledge that their study
raises certain methodological questions, which they attempt to
answer. For example, they note that their recruiting methods
may have encouraged the participation of homosexual siblings,
but they dismiss this possibility because their recruiting materi-
als did not mention sexual orientation. The study excluded mar-
ried men, however, which may have discouraged many hetero-

sexual men from participating. Although their study associates
male homosexuality with gender-atypical behavior, the research
they cite correlates this behavior with sexual orientation and not
with sexual practice.3 There are married men who participate in
homosexual acts but do not identify themselves as homosexual.
How these men have been accounted for in the studies of child-
hood gender-atypical behavior is not clear.
Pillard and Weinrich (1986) address another possible bias
in the reports of the index subjects. They suggest that homosex-
ual subjects may be more aware of, and more willing to report,
their siblings’ sexual orientation. They argue that their results
refute this possibility, but their speculation suggests that the
male homosexual subjects might be unusually interested in the
sexual exploits of their siblings. Furthermore, the suggestion
that homosexual men are more likely to report their siblings to
be homosexual evokes an effeminate stereotype: gay men love to
gossip. This speculation and the comment regarding sampling
bias demonstrate that the background belief about effeminacy
informs Pillard and Weinrich’s concept of male homosexuality,
and in their defense of their methods, they do not entertain the
possibility that this assumption might be suspect.

3. In one of the studies cited (Green 1985), 30 of the 44 subjects who re-
ported gender-atypical behavior were deemed to be either bisexual or homosex-
ual according to the Kinsey scale. However, fewer than half of the 44 subjects
(19) could be categorized as homosexual. In two of the studies cited (Saghir and
Robins 1973; Zuger 1978), a Kinsey scale was not used, and sexual orientation
was assessed through self-identi¤cation. In one of these studies (Zuger 1978),
homosexual orientation and gender-atypical behavior are associated in a circu-
lar argument. For some of the subjects who were deemed to have demonstrated
gender-atypical behavior, their effeminate behavior was offered as evidence of
their homosexuality.
A related study by Elke Eckert and colleagues (Eckert et al.
Reinventing the Male Homosexual 1986) investigated the theory of homosexual heritability by
studying pairs of monozygotic twins who were raised apart.
Several studies have tested the in®uence of environment by ana-
lyzing the similarities between twins who have been separated
and raised by different families. Most of this research is anecdo-
tal, and the work of Eckert et al. is no exception. The study
analyzed six sets of monozygotic twins, four female and two
male pairs. One of the male pairs was concordant for homosexu-
ality, whereas the other was identi¤ed as “problematic.” Of the
four female pairs, no single pair was sexually concordant. These
results led Eckert et al. to conclude that female homosexuality
probably is acquired rather than biologically determined. Al-
though this conclusion is dif¤cult to evaluate, it re®ects the ex-
clusion of female homosexuality from the gay gene discourse.
Although this study hypothesized the heritability of male
homosexuality in order to dismiss the environmental factors of
psychological development, Eckert et al. (1986) still associated
homosexuality with psychological pathology. The twins who
were concordant for homosexuality are described as “emotion-
ally labile,” suffering from depression and anxiety. The study
also reports on the twins’ promiscuity: one twin had 25 to 30
sexual partners; the other had 500. For reasons that are unclear,
the study also mentions that once this pair was introduced to
each other, they began a sexual relationship. By mentioning the
subjects’ promiscuity and incest, the study reproduces psycho-
analytic views of male homosexuality. The charge of incest also
invokes the Freudian theory of homosexual narcissism, in which
the male child seeks a sex partner who resembles himself. What
could be more narcissistic than making love to a physically iden-
tical partner?
As I noted, the study did not ¤nd full sexual concordance
between the second pair of twins: one twin had been exclusively
homosexual for sixteen years; the other had been exclusively het-
erosexual for ¤fteen years. Therefore, it would not be unreason-
able to identify the problematic pair as sexually discordant. Yet
Eckert et al. (1986) were reluctant to make this classi¤cation
because both twins displayed bisexual behavior for short periods
during their teenage years. Some of the post-Kinsey theories

Behavioral Genetics
discussed in the previous chapter would provide a reasonable ex-
planation for this bisexual behavior. Coleman’s model (1990), for
example, demonstrates that an individual’s sexuality can change
over time. Recognizing the ®uid qualities of human sexuality,
however, would challenge the hypothesis that male homosexu-
ality is a ¤xed, biological trait. Here the ambiguous label of
“problematic” concordance rede¤nes sexual behavior that runs
counter to the biological hypothesis. But this relabeling intro-

duces another more important issue: Eckert et al. indicate that
studies of twins often encounter problems in classifying the sex-
ual orientation of their subjects. If sexual orientation cannot be
classi¤ed clearly in twin studies, then there may be a problem
with how these studies conceptualize sexual orientation. Perhaps
part of the problem resides in the implicit assumption that there
are only two discrete categories of sexual orientation: homosexu-
ality and heterosexuality. Finding a biological basis for these dis-
crete categories may be a problem because, as Kinsey has argued,
these categories may not be a biological reality. In spite of these
problems, Eckert et al. express con¤dence that their study accu-
rately measured sexual orientation: “Overall, the male pairs tend
to con¤rm earlier studies of twin families: the concordance rate
for sexual orientation among MZ [monozygotic] pairs is consis-
tently above that of DZ [dizygotic] pairs, and despite all prob-
lems of ascertainment and diagnosis, it is hard to deny genetic
factors an aetiological role” (1986, 424).
There are two reasons to be cautious of drawing a conclu-
sion about genetic factors from this research. First, the studies of
twins raised apart operate under certain assumptions about en-
vironment and upbringing. They assume that because the twins
were raised in different households, they had been exposed to
different environments. Richard Lewontin, Steven Rose, and
Leon Kamin (1984) show that studies of intelligence often fail
to account for similarities in environment. Some of these studies,
for example, include pairs of twins who were separated but were
raised by different members of the same biological family. The
subjects included in the Eckert study appear to have been raised
by unrelated families, but important environmental similarities
still exist. The twins concordant for homosexuality were both
Reinventing the Male Homosexual adopted by middle-class families and raised in suburban com-
munities in the same city. The twins whose sexual concordance
was labeled problematic experienced very different environments:
one was raised by a family in a large city in the eastern United
States; the other was raised in the rural South. Considering that
these pairs’ sexual concordance is correlated with environmental
similarities and dissimilarities, it is dif¤cult to understand why
the results are interpreted as demonstrating a genetic rather than
an environmental etiology for homosexuality.
Second, Eckert et al. used an anecdotal method, and only
two pairs of male twins participated in the study. The authors
suggest that the results con¤rm earlier experiments on the sexual
concordance of monozygotic twins, but speci¤c studies are not
cited. Perhaps the authors were alluding to a literature review
conducted by Pillard, Poumadere, and Carretta (1981), which
found a 50 percent sexual concordance rate across several studies.
However, many of the studies in this review analyzed only two
pairs of twins, and in some cases, only one pair. Thus, Eckert et
al. con¤rm anecdotal case studies with another anecdotal case
study. Because their study included only two pairs of twins, the
50 percent concordance rate reported by Eckert et al. does not
exceed the probability of a casual coin toss.
A related study by Fredrick Whitam, Milton Diamond, and
James Martin (1993) illustrates the ways in which background
beliefs about homosexual pathology and effeminacy are associ-
ated. This study included 61 pairs of twins and three sets of
triplets. Again, the researchers hypothesized a biological basis
for sexual orientation, and the subject population included males
and females.4 Of the twin pairs included in the study, only 12
pairs were interviewed directly. In most cases, one or both of the
twins were interviewed over the phone or surveyed with mailed
questionnaires. The subjects’ sexual orientation was determined
by use of the Kinsey scale, and pairs were coded as concordant,

4. Although this study included both sexes, it focused primarily on homosex-

ual men. Of the 38 pairs of monozygotic twins who were subjects, only 4 pairs
were female.
partially concordant, or discordant for sexual orientation.5 Of

Behavioral Genetics
the pairs tested, Whitam, Diamond, and Martin found a 64.7
percent concordance rate for the monozygotic twins and a 28.6
percent rate for the dizygotic twins; they suggest that these
¤ndings corroborate previous research.
In the discussion of their results, Whitam, Diamond, and
Martin provide information about the twins included in their
study. One pair of male homosexual twins is characterized by
the following account: “As children of 7 or 8 they played a self-

invented sex game which they called ‘chase the rabbits.’ Living
near a garbage dump, they disrobed completely in a nearby
wooded area and exhibited themselves to garbage men unload-
ing their trucks. Some of the drivers co-operated in the game
by chasing the nude boys and taking them into their trucks to
fondle them. Each of the twins perceived this as ‘good fun’ and
report they enjoyed the ‘game’ until discovered by their mother
who forced them to stop” (1993, 195). This story is offered to
demonstrate the similarity in sexual practices reported by the
sexually concordant monozygotic twins, but the view of male
homosexuality that it provides is disturbing. First, a pedophilic
experience is represented, with young children playing sexual
games with adult men. In addition, the children are portrayed as
precocious and sexually predatory: it is the adult men who “co-
operate” in the sexual games initiated by the boys. Finally, the
sexual activity takes place at a site where waste is deposited, a
scene fraught with scatological implications.
To advance their claim about monozygotic twins’ concor-
dant behavior, Whitam, Diamond, and Martin offer this de-
scription of another pair of homosexual twins’ effeminate be-
havior: “They lived together, aspired to be entertainers, and had
put together a twin night club act consisting of skits, singing,
dancing and identical costumes” (1993, 195). At a point in the
article at which sexual behavior is being discussed, the authors

5. The category “partial concordance” is unique to this study. When a pair of

twins scored within three points on the Kinsey scale, they were deemed partially
concordant. Whitam, Diamond, and Martin admit that this classi¤cation is arbi-
trary (1993, 190).
offer as evidence behaviors that are nonsexual. That this pair of
Reinventing the Male Homosexual twins likes to sing, dance, and wear matching costumes does not
provide information about their sexual preferences or practices.
The authors’ observation reveals that effeminate behaviors ster-
eotypically associated with male homosexuality can be offered
as evidence of homosexuality.
When Whitam, Diamond, and Martin discuss the discor-
dant pairs in their study, they observe that the differences in the
pairs are not limited to sexual orientation but are displayed as
well in other behaviors and interests: “The main behavioral dif-
ferences between the homosexual and heterosexual male twins
of the MZ [monozygotic] type seem to lie in those areas re-
garded by Whitam and Mathy (1986) as classic behavioral dif-
ferences between homosexual and heterosexual men—athletic
interest and interest in entertainment and arts. . . . This suggests
that the athletic–entertainment interests are so closely linked
to sexual orientation that they follow sexual orientation more
closely than zygosity alone” (1993, 196). This observation is
confusing considering how the authors conceptualize homo-
sexuality. They maintain that their ¤ndings demonstrate that
male homosexuality is genetic because of a correlation to zygo-
sity. They also conceptualize male homosexuality as effeminate
behavior. It should follow that effeminate behavior would corre-
late to zygosity in the same manner as does homosexuality;
however, their ¤ndings do not demonstrate such a correlation. In
fact, the gendered behavior correlation exceeded zygosity, which
would suggest that gendered behavior cannot be conclusively at-
tributed to genetics. At this point it would be reasonable for the
authors to reassess their conception of homosexuality or ac-
knowledge that their criteria for this classi¤cation may be cul-
turally determined. Instead, the authors conclude by offering
several alternate explanations that address the heritability of sex-
ual orientation.
This study illustrates some of the ways in which back-
ground beliefs affect the interpretation of data. When gendered
behavior becomes a problematic variable, as in this study, the
authors argue for its validity. Two other studies had similar prob-
lems correlating male homosexuality, effeminate behavior, and
heritability. Although the data in these studies suggest that cul-

Behavioral Genetics
tural conceptions of male homosexuality confound claims about
the heritability of sexual orientation, the authors do not draw
conclusions about gendered behavior but instead offer hypothe-
ses about genetic determination.
On the surface, Michael Bailey and Richard Pillard’s re-
search (1991) appears to be concerned primarily with homo-
sexuality. In the introduction to their report, they argue that a
biological basis for homosexuality would overcome questions of

morality and pathology. To support their point, they cite a study
that has correlated the acceptance of homosexuality with the be-
lief that sexuality is biological. Bailey and Pillard imply that a
causal relationship exists between people’s attitudes about ho-
mosexuality and genetic research. Speci¤cally, they maintain
that social and political questions regarding homosexuality have
stimulated interest in biological research, and they suggest that
proof of biological homosexuality will create more tolerant atti-
tudes. Unfortunately, the correlation they describe does not sup-
port this causal inference. In fact, all that it may demonstrate is
that people who are already tolerant of homosexuality are more
willing to believe that it is biological. In chapter 1, I noted that
advocacy of the biological argument is based on some naïve as-
sumptions about how scienti¤c arguments enter into political
debates; Bailey and Pillard’s arguments illustrate my point.
Bailey and Pillard’s study (1991) cites research linking ho-
mosexuality to childhood gender nonconformity. As in similar
experiments, the authors argue that because this nonconformity
is manifested so early in the lives of most homosexuals, homo-
sexuality must precede social conditioning. Consequently, Bailey
and Pillard hypothesize that childhood gender nonconformity
will be highly correlated with heritability, indicating genetic
in®uence on homosexuality. Although they avoid using the label
of pathology, Bailey and Pillard conceptualize homosexuality in
a manner that suggests abnormality. They write, “in childhood
male homosexuals are frequently perceived as ‘sissies,’ and female
homosexuals are frequently perceived as ‘tomboys’ ” (p. 1090).
The concept of childhood gender nonconformity requires that
male homosexuality be regarded as a deviation from normal
masculine behavior. Although Bailey and Pillard wisely acknow-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual ledge that many homosexuals do not report childhood gender
nonconformity, they operationalize this behavior as the manifes-
tation of genetically determined male homosexuality.
The subjects for Bailey and Pillard’s study were recruited
through advertisements in gay publications. The inclusion crite-
ria required that subjects be gay or bisexual, with either a male
twin or a genetically unrelated, adopted brother. Their volunteer
subjects were questioned about sexual orientation and childhood
gender nonconformity, and then they were asked to report the
sexual orientation of their siblings. Subsequently, their siblings
were contacted in an attempt to corroborate the index subjects’
reports. The siblings who cooperated were also questioned about
sexual orientation and childhood gender nonconformity. In those
cases in which the siblings refused to cooperate with the study,
Bailey and Pillard relied on the uncorroborated reports of the
index subjects. They justi¤ed their inclusion of this data by re-
ferring to the 97.5 percent accuracy rates of the corroborated
reports. The results indicated that 52 percent of the monozygo-
tic twins included in the study were concordant for homosexu-
ality; 22 percent of the dizygotic twins were concordant as were
11 percent of the adopted brothers.6 Bailey and Pillard are cau-
tious about these ¤ndings and indicate that sampling bias may
affect their results. In regard to childhood gender nonconformity,
Bailey and Pillard’s reported data did not support their hypothe-
sis that childhood gender nonconformity is inherited. Bailey and
Pillard (1991) conclude that their ¤ndings corroborate previous
research, which demonstrates a signi¤cant level of heritability
for homosexuality. They argue that sexuality is not solely the
product of environment but is in®uenced by genetics. They also
suggest that their research demonstrates the existence of homo-
sexual genes, despite the evolutionary argument that such genes
would be selected out of the human population. However, these
6. These results assume that the accuracy rate associated with the cooperative
siblings can be applied to the reports of the index subjects with uncooperative sib-
lings. The refusal to cooperate with the study may indicate alienation between
siblings. In that event, it is not reasonable to assume that alienated siblings would
provide accurate reports on sexual orientation. In any event, the sexual orientation
of some of Bailey and Pillard’s subjects was never veri¤ed.
arguments are designed to demonstrate the contribution of ge-

Behavioral Genetics
netic science to the study of human behavior. Bailey and Pillard
emphasize the genetic implications of their ¤ndings, thereby
shifting the focus away from the more dif¤cult issue of gendered
By focusing on genetic implications, Bailey and Pillard
(1991) forego an opportunity to dispute cultural beliefs about
male homosexual effeminacy. The childhood gender noncon-
formity model reproduces the belief that male homosexuals be-

have effeminately. Yet Bailey and Pillard’s ¤ndings indicate that
the heritability of homosexuality cannot be reconciled fully with
childhood gender nonconformity. In other words, their data sug-
gest that in order to demonstrate a genetic basis for male homo-
sexuality, the concept of gendered behavior may need to be re-
thought or perhaps abandoned. Bailey and Pillard do not address
this possibility and instead suggest that future experiments should
attempt to reconcile homosexual heritability with the childhood
gender nonconformity model. Because they have argued that the
childhood gender nonconformity studies offer evidence of the
genetic determination of homosexuality, Bailey and Pillard are
not inclined to abandon the model. Their investment in child-
hood gender nonconformity requires them to interpret their data
in a way that reasserts the importance of gendered behavior. Ac-
cordingly, they do not pursue conclusions that potentially could
recon¤gure the way in which male homosexuality is conceptu-
Bailey collaborated with Neil Buhrich and Nicholas Martin
(Buhrich, Bailey, and Martin 1991) on a similar study that was
published in the same year as that done with Pillard. In this
study, the authors begin by offering two criticisms of the exist-
ing literature on the genetic bases of male homosexuality. First,
they argue that previous studies fail to measure sexual orienta-
tion in relation to “opposite sex–dimorphic behavior.”7 Second,
7. From the way the variable is described, there is little that distinguishes
“opposite sex–dimorphic behavior” from the childhood gender nonconformity
model used in Bailey’s collaboration with Pillard. Speci¤cally, Buhrich, Bailey,
and Martin de¤ne opposite sex–dimorphic behaviors as “those characteristically
seen in females and not males, the extreme of which is recognized as ‘sissy’ be-
havior” (1991, 77).
they observe that previous studies have measured only zygosity
Reinventing the Male Homosexual as a causal factor in sexual orientation. Buhrich, Bailey, and
Martin offer a multivariate model that attempts to measure the
in®uence of genes as compared with that of environmental fac-
tors. The study included 161 pairs of male twins who responded
to mailed questionnaires. These questionnaires contained items
that measured childhood and adult sex-dimorphic behavior, sex-
ual identity, and sexual orientation.
As a point of clari¤cation, the study conceptualized sexual
identity and sexual orientation as discrete variables. Sexual iden-
tity referred to the subjects’ comfort with their gender identity.
Sexual orientation was determined through questions concern-
ing sexual attraction. The majority of the survey questions dealt
with sex-dimorphic behaviors that are considered atypical for
the subjects’ biological sex. For example, the subjects were asked
to indicate if in childhood they were ever accused of being a
“sissy,” if they enjoyed playing with girls, and if they avoided
physical harm. Questions designed to gauge masculine behavior
asked the subjects to report whether or not they enjoyed outdoor
activities and contact sports. The authors of the Buhrich study
(1991) acknowledge that the reliability of these survey questions
has not been veri¤ed. Furthermore, the questions seem to be
bound by temporal conceptions of gendered behavior. Because
they use a measurement developed twelve years prior to their
study (McConaghy et al. 1979), Buhrich, Bailey, and Martin es-
sentially assume that gender roles remained constant from 1979
to 1991.
The extent to which these problems affected Buhrich,
Bailey, and Martin’s study (1991) is not clear, but their results
re®ect a tension between sex-dimorphic behavior and male
homosexuality. The authors attribute a signi¤cant level of vari-
ance in sexual orientation to genetic factors. In contrast, variance
in sex-dimorphic behavior is attributed to environmental factors.
The Buhrich study avers that gendered behavior is primarily a
product of conditioning within the family environment, but this
observation runs counter to the authors’ claim that sexual orien-
tation is related to this behavior. As in his collaboration with
Pillard (1991), Bailey and his colleagues do not allow their
¤ndings to dissuade them from conceptualizing male homo-

Behavioral Genetics
sexuality as effeminate behavior. Instead, the authors argue that
the sex-dimorphic scale may not properly measure the Sissy Boy
Syndrome that they claim signi¤es male homosexuality. In fact,
they conclude that more research must be conducted to “elabo-
rate speci¤cation of the core traits of the Sissy Boy Syndrome”
(Buhrich, Bailey, and Martin 1991, 93).

Hamer and Xq28

Whereas previous studies assumed that subjects shared ge-

netic material because of relational heritability (i.e., twins,
brothers, cousins), Hamer et al. (1993) actually sampled their
subjects’ DNA. In total, they studied 114 families, although not
all of the subjects participated in every aspect of the study. Sub-
jects were recruited through outpatient HIV clinics and homo-
phile organizations in the Washington, D.C., area. Some of the
subjects were included in a “pedigree analysis” to determine how
homosexuality might have been inherited through family lines.
The sexual orientation of the subjects was assessed; then, at-
tempts were made to assess the sexual orientation of the subjects’
male relatives. Through this analysis, Hamer concluded that
male homosexuality followed a line of maternal inheritance. He
then proceeded to search for a genetic marker in an X chromo-
some linkage analysis of 40 pairs of homosexual brothers. Of
these 40 pairs, 33 displayed a similar genetic marker in the Xq28
region. In spite of the media blitz that accompanied the publica-
tion of Hamer’s ¤ndings, his work was not conclusive. Hamer
then attempted to reproduce his results in a subsequent experi-
ment. Although the study was published, the results were not
convincing (Hamer et al. 1995). As one of Hamer’s colleagues
observed (Crewdson 1995), the results of the second study were
not signi¤cant, and it would not have been published if it had
not had the support of Hamer’s original study.
In The Science of Desire, coauthored with Copeland, Hamer
(1994) gives a detailed account of how he conducted his experi-
ments. When he discusses his choice of the Kinsey scale, Hamer
acknowledges that more advanced models were available but jus-
ti¤es his choice by saying, “the scale Kinsey developed is still
Reinventing the Male Homosexual regarded as valid” (p. 58); however, other methodological choices
raise questions about his use of it. After administering the Kin-
sey scale, Hamer determined that none of his subjects fell into
category 3—the category for bisexuality—and that only 3 per-
cent fell into categories 2 and 4.8 These results are not surprising,
considering that Hamer only recruited subjects who self-iden-
ti¤ed as homosexuals. Although the Kinsey scale considers fac-
tors other than self-identi¤cation (attraction, fantasy, and behav-
ior also are measured), Hamer’s results might have been quite
different had he recruited self-identi¤ed bisexuals. Furthermore,
bisexuality is not limited to the categories that Hamer mentions.
Haynes (1995) has acknowledged that Kinsey scale categories 1
and 5 are thought to indicate bisexual behavior. If Hamer had
acknowledged these categories, he would have had more subjects
who were coded as bisexual. In any event, Hamer argues that his
results demonstrate that bisexuality is not a signi¤cant phenome-
non, and he eliminates it as a possible sexual orientation in his
Hamer’s elimination of bisexuality creates a methodological
tension. With one hand, he embraces the Kinsey scale as a valid
measure of sexuality; with the other, he collapses the continuum
into two distinct categories. When Hamer argues that bisexual-
ity is not an inherent sexual orientation, he adopts a position that
is conceptually antithetical to the Kinsey scale; it is also a posi-
tion that has been challenged by the ¤ndings of empirical stud-
ies that human sexual orientation is diffuse and ®uid (Cass
1990). This methodological tension exposes Hamer’s effort to
af¤rm the authority of behavioral genetics as the proper ¤eld in
which to study sexual orientation. As Dawkins (1995) has ar-
gued, genes are digital; either a particular gene is present, or it is
not. Hamer needed a way of conceptualizing male homosexual-
ity that ¤t a digital model.9 This is especially true given Hamer’s

8. As noted earlier, the Kinsey scale maps human sexuality onto a seven-point
scale that ranges from absolute heterosexuality (a score of 0) to absolute homo-
sexuality (a score of 6).
9. Zita (1998) provides a more detailed critique of Hamer’s efforts to contain
choice of the X chromosome as the location of the gay gene.

Behavioral Genetics
Males inherit only one X chromosome from their mothers, so
either they have the gay gene or they do not. Therefore, Hamer
needed a way to conceptualize male sexual orientation as either
homosexual or heterosexual. This exigency explains why Hamer
resisted the possibility of bisexuality inherent in the Kinsey scale
and why he chose to dichotomize sexual orientation. This choice
illustrates the implicit assumption that there are two types of
sexual orientation and two sexes: a male is heterosexual or homo-

sexual, a real man or a girl.
The issue of gendered behavior is subtle in Hamer’s re-
search. Whereas other studies were concerned with correlating
gendered behaviors with male homosexuality, Hamer focused on
the correlation to genetic material. Hamer did not overlook the
question of gender; he asked subjects to report childhood gender-
atypical behavior, but testing the gender hypothesis was not his
primary concern. In fact, Hamer’s ¤ndings indicate that homo-
sexual brothers concordant for Xq28 are more likely to display
masculine behavior than discordant brothers are. As in the pre-
vious studies, Hamer’s data call into question the belief that
male homosexuality is marked by effeminate behavior. And like
the other contemporary behavioral genetic scientists, Hamer
failed to interpret his data in a way that would question that
belief; instead, he called for more research to correlate Xq28
with gender-atypical behavior.
More research has been conducted, but two recent studies
did not produce results that support Hamer’s ¤ndings. One
study involving twins (Bailey, Dunne, and Martin 2000) at-
tempted to demonstrate the heritability of sexual orientation,
childhood gender nonconformity, and gender identity. Although
they successfully correlated childhood gender nonconformity to
homosexuality, Bailey, Dunne, and Martin did not report that

sexuality as a phenotype. She sees Hamer as appealing to numerous modernist

assumptions. Although the assumptions Zita identi¤es are epistemic whereas
mine are primarily cultural, there is an important similarity: Zita also sees the
dichotomization of sexual orientation as a means of reintroducing the belief
about homosexual pathology.
an X-linked gene for homosexuality was likely. In another study
Reinventing the Male Homosexual led by Bailey, the results yielded “no evidence that male sexual
orientation is in®uenced by an X-linked gene” (Bailey et al.
1999, 84).
By focusing on the X chromosome, Hamer has theorized
the gay gene as a female gene. In fact, the accepted model for
determining genetic sex argues that only individuals with the Y
chromosome are males (LeVay 1993).10 According to Hamer,
the gay gene resides on a female chromosome that is passed to
the homosexual male by the mother. Like Kallman, Hamer be-
lieves that male homosexuality is a product of the X chromo-
some. Kallman assumed that the X chromosome dominated the
Y chromosome and created the male homosexual by polluting
the male body with female hormones. Hamer is more practical;
he leaves most of the theorizing about hormones to the neuroen-
docrinologists. If Hamer’s claim that the gay gene resides on the
X chromosome is to be believed, however, then it is logical to
conclude that in the male homosexual, the mother’s genetic con-
tribution is dominant over the father’s, at least where sexual ori-
entation is concerned. In other words, Hamer’s theory, like Kall-
man’s, draws on the cultural stereotype of the dominant mother
and the effeminate son.11
Identifying this cultural stereotype in Hamer’s work might
seem unfair until one notes that Hamer makes the connection
himself. Hamer conducted several interviews in which his sub-
jects speculated on the sexual orientation of their relatives. In
cases in which subjects indicated that a relative was “possibly
homosexual,” Hamer would follow up by interviewing the per-
son in question. In one instance, two homosexual brothers both
indicated that they thought one of their cousins was homosexual.
Hamer interviewed this cousin, and his assessment is worth
quoting: “Although in his 30s, Martin still lived with his mother,
which immediately made me suspect he was indeed gay. At least
10. LeVay makes the distinction in decidedly Freudian terms: “thus it seemed
likely that there was a gene (or genes) causing maleness on the Y chromosomes,
and that individuals lacking this gene developed by default as females” (1993, 20).
11. Admittedly, the mother’s genes are dominant because the zygote always
contributes more genetic material than the sperm; for example, the mitochondria
DNA is contributed by the mother.
until I saw him: He was big and beefy, crewcut and ®orid faced,

Behavioral Genetics
with a potbelly that stretched a T-shirt out over a big leather belt
holding up a pair of dusty jeans” (Hamer and Copeland 1994, 87).
Later, when Hamer learns that Martin lied about his his-
tory of alcoholism, he questions the subject’s self-reported hetero-
sexual identity. Hamer wisely dropped this subject from his data;
however, his account indicates the importance of the mother–
son relationship in his identi¤cation of homosexuality. Not only
does Hamer operationalize the gay gene in such a way that men

inherit their homosexuality from their mothers, but he also
holds that male homosexuality, as a behavior, is manifest when a
son bonds too closely with his mother. Like the psychoanalysts
before him, Hamer treats male homosexuality as the product of
female in®uence, although the in®uence is thought to be biologi-
cal rather than psychological. One of his female colleagues also
made this observation. After he showed her data that indicate
that male homosexuality follows lines of maternal inheritance,
she remarked, “That’s right. Blame it on the mothers again”
(Hamer and Copeland 1994, 94). Hamer dismisses the com-
ment as a “snide remark,” but according to his research, mothers
are responsible for their sons’ homosexuality.
Hamer’s work is consistent with Kallman’s concept of male
homosexuality as the product of female pollution. The mother
introduces the gay gene into the male body by passing it along
on a female sex chromosome, which then feminizes the male
body to produce homosexual behavior. Consequently, male homo-
sexuality occurs when masculinity is corrupted by femininity.
The issue of gender is distinctive in this context. Hamer does
not conceptualize male homosexuality as effeminate behavior
per se, but he does conceptualize it as a feminized condition.
The overriding in®uence of the mother is once again rendered in
pathological terms. Like Kallman, Hamer maps the old psycho-
analytic paradigm of the domineering mother onto the chromo-
somes. Hamer may not have intended to associate male homo-
sexuality with pathology, but his model of inheritance re®ects
the psychoanalytic theory that male homosexuality is produced
through an abnormal mother–son relationship.
The issue of pathology in Hamer’s work does not end here,
however. Originally, the study was supposed to determine if
Reinventing the Male Homosexual homosexuals were genetically predisposed to alcoholism and an
AIDS-related skin cancer, Kaposi’s sarcoma.12 Hamer’s ¤ndings
(Hamer and Copeland 1994) did not support these linkages.
In his study of HIV-positive brothers with Kaposi’s sarcoma,
Hamer was not able to establish a signi¤cant genetic correlation.
Considering that one of the main goals of the study was to iden-
tify genes related to the progression of AIDS (38 percent of the
study’s male subjects were HIV positive), the research project, in
this regard, was unsuccessful. As Hamer correctly observes,
however, AIDS is a complex disease not easily conveyed by the
experimental simplicity of genetic studies. For his study of alco-
holism, Hamer had many available subjects; at least 29 percent
of the gay male subjects suffered from some form of substance
abuse. He attempted an analysis to determine if a genetic marker
in the vicinity of the D2 receptor gene might correlate with ho-
mosexuality. Again, Hamer was not able to establish a signi¤-
cant correlation. He concluded that any causal association be-
tween substance abuse and homosexual orientation is probably
Although Hamer’s interpretation seems to distance homo-
sexuality from physical and mental pathologies, his data demon-
strate high rates of AIDS and substance abuse among his subject
population. Hamer indicates that he was worried that his pro-
posal would not be approved by National Institutes of Health
director Dr. Bernadine Healy, whom he identi¤es as “a conser-
vative political appointee of the Bush White House,” because of
its focus on homosexuality (Hamer and Copeland 1994, 44). He
reports that he was surprised Healy did not make an issue of
sexual orientation. Later, when the study was questioned, the
concern was not sexual orientation but the number of different
conditions Hamer planned to consider. In his response, Hamer
argued for the economy of “using a single group of volunteers, in
this case gay men and their families, to study sexual orientation,

12. Hamer’s study also considered the incidence of depression among gay
men. Although he mentions other genetic studies of depression, he does not pro-
vide a detailed discussion of his own results.
HIV and Kaposi’s, and alcoholism” (p. 44). As Hamer notes, his

Behavioral Genetics
explanation was satisfactory because the study was funded.
Hamer’s study may have been approved because its design
associated male homosexuality with pathology. The powers that
be at the NIH were concerned with how the study would handle
the variables of AIDS and alcoholism, and they seemed unaware
that its primary purpose was to test the heritability of homo-
sexuality. In fact, Hamer suggests that the political climate at
the NIH would have prohibited such research. In other words,

the search for the gay gene was approved because it was expected
to yield results that would link homosexuality to pathological
conditions. Any misgivings that Healy and others may have had
about a genetic study of homosexuality may have been allayed
by the focus on different diseases. In this way, the belief about
homosexual pathology functioned not only to secure funding for
Hamer’s project but also to reassure certain members of the
medical community that their beliefs about homosexuals were
Hamer’s study is still quoted today, not for what he says
about homosexuals but for what he says about homosexuality.
When advocates of gay rights want to evoke the biological argu-
ment, they invariably point to Hamer’s work. In this sense,
Hamer’s study seems to be progressive, but the speci¤cs of his
research reveal a retrograde theory of sexuality. In fact, in the
context of the gay gene discourse, conceptions of male homo-
sexuality have hardly changed in the last forty years. Although
the gay gene discourse attempts to offer an alternative to the
sociopsychological explanations of male homosexuality, apart
from the question of biological etiology, the scientists in the ¤eld
of behavioral genetics have done little to reconceptualize male
homosexuality. Whereas sociopsychological theories have moved
away from beliefs about effeminacy and pathology, in the forty
years that separate Kallman’s study from Hamer’s, male homo-
sexuality as an object of genetic study has remained a condition
characterized by effeminate pathology.


In their work on sexual ori-

entation, behavioral geneticists are interested primarily in dem-
onstrating that homosexuality is an inherited trait. Thus, their
contribution to the gay gene discourse and to theories of biologi-
cal homosexuality is their ability to show that sexual orienta-
tion can be correlated with genetic structures: genotypes express
phenotypes. Although behavioral geneticists de¤ne homosexu-
ality as a phenotype, they do not identify the physical struc-
tures that mediate between genetic and behavioral expression. If
homosexuality is genetic, then biological differences should pre-
dispose certain individuals to homosexuality. The ¤eld of neuro-
endocrinology attempts to identify these biological differences.
Yet the theories of homosexuality that neuroendocrinologists
advance need to be considered in relation to a larger theoreti-
cal interest in explaining how differences in biological sex or-
ganize or structure the human brain. That larger theory usually

is referred to as the organizational/activation model, which rests
on the assumption that the brain is sexually dimorphic, mean-
ing that the brains of women and men are physically distinct.
Many feminist scholars of science have challenged this model
(Bleier 1984; Condit 1996; Fausto-Sterling 2000; Longino and
Doell 1983). Marianne van den Wijngaard’s analysis of the
model’s historical development summarizes the feminist cri-

Dualistic thought about masculinity and femininity has led to
the belief that male and female brains are essentially different—
probably as a response to the need for a biological theory ex-
plaining the differences in the social functioning of men and
women. Prior to the organization theory, no valid “scienti¤c”
theory existed that based these differences on biological aspects
of the brain. Scientists believed that the variations in behavior
between men and women were caused by androgens that resulted
in sexual initiative, activity, aggression, and intelligence in males.
These characteristics were considered underdeveloped (or far less
developed) in females because of the absence of androgens before
birth. Nature was thought to predestine females to a lifetime of
caring and social and sexual submission. In this context, the
“hormonal” explanation provided by science for these features en-
dowed the dualistic images of masculinity and femininity that
existed in society with a scienti¤c truth. (1997, 45–46)

The organizational/activation model is important to the

gay gene discourse because it lays the groundwork for theories
that posit that the neural systems of male homosexuals have
been feminized; for example, the model has been the basis for a
series of experiments on positive estrogen feedback that attempt
to prove that male homosexuals have a feminized brain. Other
studies have attempted to demonstrate that a feminized brain
produces homosexual behavior. The in®uence of the organiza-
tional/activation model is perhaps most pronounced in the re-
search of scientists who argue that the brains of male homosexu-
als are physically similar to the brains of women. In an effort to
identify the male homosexual body biologically, researchers once

1. Van den Wijngaard refers to the organizational/activation model as the

organization theory.
again have rendered the male homosexual effeminate and patho-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual logical.

The Organizational/Activation Model

The organizational/activation model, introduced by William

Young (Phoenix et al. 1959), theorizes that hormones in®uence
behavior in two ways. First, hormones organize the neural sys-
tem during early stages of development. Second, hormones acti-
vate the neural system to produce behavior. In the original study,
Young and his associates (Phoenix et al. 1959) claimed to have
permanently changed the mating behavior of female guinea pigs
by injecting them with testosterone during the prenatal stage.
The authors concluded that this change in behavior indicates
that although the activating effects of hormones are transitory,
their organizational effects are enduring. Subsequently, addi-
tional experiments have attempted to determine the speci¤c
point in prenatal and/or neonatal development at which this
neural organization occurs.
In addition to introducing the organizational/activation
model, this study is cited as one of the ¤rst to demonstrate that
sexual orientation is biologically determined. Young and his as-
sociates (Phoenix et al. 1959) observed mating behavior; in turn,
these observations were treated as evidence of neural organiza-
tion. When female guinea pigs attempted to mate with other
females, for example, these sexual behaviors were interpreted as
manifestations of a masculine neural development. Subsequent
studies have operationalized sexual orientation as a variable that
signi¤es the structural development and sexual dimorphism of
the brain. Claims about the biological determination of sexual
orientation are the experimental by-products of a larger research
project that attempts to prove that the brain is sexually differen-
tiated. In a related article, for example, Young, Goy, and Phoenix
(1964) begin with a discussion of biology and sexual behavior,
but they conclude that the organizational/activation model is the
primary product of their research.
In addition to its feminist critics, the organizational/activa-
tion model has prompted criticism from the researchers within
the ¤eld of neuroendocrinology. Some scientists have questioned

whether the effects of hormones can be divided neatly into or-
ganizational and activation effects. After an extensive review of
the research, Arthur Arnold and S. Marc Breedlove (1985)
reached the following conclusion:

We have viewed the literature on steroid effects from two per-

spectives. The ¤rst indicated that there are exceptions to the
rules which discriminate organizational and activational effects,

implying that we can no longer adhere to strict two-process the-
ory of steroid in®uences. The second part of the analysis asked
if we can ¤nd evidence that speci¤c morphological or functional
actions of steroids are limited to the neo-natal or adult periods,
or are singularly permanent or impermanent. In general, the evi-
dence suggests the opposite, that various neural processes (e.g.,
growth, synaptogenesis, and regulation of receptors, perhaps
even neurogenesis) are in®uenced by steroids throughout life.
Thus, the second analysis also argues against a strict division
into two classes of action. (P. 489)

The organizational/activation model maintains that the brains

of men and women are structurally different, and Young and
associates (Phoenix et al. 1959) suggest that this gendered devel-
opment of the neural system is similar to the differentiation of the
genitalia. Harvey Feder (1981) has argued that this analogy not
only is inaccurate but also unduly limits the study of neural or-
ganization; for example, the organizational/activation model theo-
rizes that neural organization occurs prior to the intervention of
environmental factors. As Anne Fausto-Sterling (1995) notes,
some animal research indicates that neural adaptation to hormo-
nal changes can occur later in life; consequently, environmental
in®uences on gendered social behaviors cannot be ruled out.
The organizational/activation model seems to be informed
by the assumption that there are two discrete sexes, but the as-
sumption of dichotomous sexual orientation is also present. When
an animal’s neural system has developed properly, its sexual be-
havior is deemed appropriate for its biological sex. As Young,
Goy, and Phoenix have observed, however, hormonal disruption
results in abnormal behavior: “On the one hand, females treated
with androgen during the appropriate period show a regression
inhibition of feminine behavior and an accentuation of mascu-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual line behavioral traits. Males deprived of the principal source of
endogenous androgen during the comparable period show accen-
tuated feminine behavior and the absence of, or a greatly dimin-
ished capacity for, masculine behavior” (1964, 215). Such gen-
der-atypical behavior is interpreted as homosexuality and is
considered as signifying improper development. Young and asso-
ciates (Phoenix et al. 1959), for example, claim that when female
guinea pigs demonstrated masculine mating behaviors, these be-
haviors indicated a masculinized brain. In contrast to heterosex-
ual behavior, which is viewed as an indicator of normal develop-
ment, homosexuality is conceptualized as a product of abnormal
neural development.
The organizational/activation model seems to reproduce
the same background beliefs and assumptions that infuse the be-
havioral genetic research. Moreover, those beliefs and assump-
tions become more pronounced in the neuroendocrinological re-
search that speci¤cally addresses homosexuality. This research
can be divided into three general categories. First, experiments
on positive estrogen feedback attempt to prove that homosexual
men have abnormal, feminized brains. Second, animal behavior
experiments attempt to prove that a feminized brain actually
produces the effeminate sexual behaviors that are associated with
male homosexuality. Finally, additional research attempts to iso-
late the speci¤c area of the male homosexual brain that is
thought to be feminized.

Luteinizing Hormone and Positive Estrogen Feedback

A signi¤cant amount of research has attempted to demon-

strate a relationship between positive estrogen feedback and
male homosexuality. Positive estrogen feedback is indicated by
an increase in luteinizing hormone, which occurs when estrogen
is introduced into the endocrine system. Luteinizing hormone
(LH) is a pituitary hormone that stimulates the production of
estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries. The estrogen produced
in the ovaries inhibits the release of LH, creating a negative
feedback loop that maintains stable levels of estrogen. When fe-
males experience high levels of estrogen in the menstrual cycle,

however, the pituitary gland produces a surge of LH, which
triggers ovulation. This LH surge is thought to be a unique re-
sponse of the female endocrine system. Consequently, positive
estrogen feedback has been operationalized as a variable signi-
fying female neural organization.2
Günter Dörner, Franziska Götz, and Wolfgang Rohde
(1975) measured the LH surge in male rats that had been cas-
trated and treated with estrogen. These rats experienced a slight

surge in LH, but their reaction was signi¤cantly greater than
that experienced by control male rats treated with testosterone.
Dörner, Götz, and Rohde conclude that positive estrogen feed-
back indicates a sexually differentiated hypothalamus produced
by the introduction of female hormones. Another study publish-
ed that year found positive estrogen feedback in homosexual
men (Dörner et al. 1975). In this study, Dörner and colleagues
argued that previous experiments suggested that homosexual be-
havior in male rats indicates a “predominantly female brain or-
ganization” and that this type of organization is a “possible
pathogenesis for inborn homosexuality” (1975, 2).
These comments illustrate that background beliefs about
gender and pathology become intertwined and demonstrate that
the methodology of this study is informed by these beliefs.
Dörner et al. (1975) tested 21 homosexual, 20 heterosexual, and
5 bisexual men for positive estrogen feedback. The mean score
of the homosexual subjects indicated a surge in LH after an es-
trogen treatment (20 mg of Presomen), whereas the mean score
of the heterosexual and bisexual subjects did not. Dörner et al.
concluded that “the elicitation of a positive estrogen feedback
effect in the majority of intact homosexual men in contrast to
intact heterosexual men suggests that homosexual men may
possess, at least in part, a predominantly female-differentiated
brain” (p. 6). In other words, male homosexuals may be neuro-
logically feminine, and this biological effeminacy is contrasted
to “normal” heterosexual male neurology.

2. LH as well as other hormones related to ovulation regulate the endocrine

systems of both men and women.
There is a problem with the way this study reconciles sexual
Reinventing the Male Homosexual orientation and desire with the LH data. The ¤ndings suggest
that homosexual men are neurally distinct from heterosexual
and bisexual men, and that this neural difference is manifest in
a homosexual orientation. If homosexual orientation is imagined
to be an active desire for a member of the same sex, however,
then the study’s conclusions are problematic. Although the bi-
sexual subjects in the study were married, they all actively
sought out homosexual encounters, yet they did not experience
the LH surge that indicated a “female-differentiated brain.” Al-
though the study attempts to locate homosexual desire in the
neural systems of the homosexual subjects, it cannot explain this
desire when it is reported by bisexuals. In their discussion, Dörner
et al. acknowledge that any biological explanation of sexual ori-
entation must account for bisexuality, and they suggest that pre-
vious animal experiments have succeeded in this endeavor; how-
ever, they do not reconcile bisexuality with their own ¤ndings on
human subjects.
Dörner et al. interpret their data as indicating that homo-
sexual men are neurally distinct from heterosexuals and bisexu-
als in that they have a feminized brain. Although their study
includes a small number of bisexual subjects, Dörner et al. do
not account for the biological possibility of bisexuality. Their
conclusion postulates that, biologically speaking, there are only
homosexual and heterosexual males, and that a bisexual is really
a heterosexual who occasionally has sex with men. This dichoto-
mous model of sexual orientation can be maintained only when
the mean scores of the different groups are considered. When
the scores of individual subjects are taken into account, the divi-
sion breaks down. Seven of the 20 heterosexual subjects experi-
enced a surge in LH, and 2 of the 21 homosexual subjects expe-
rienced a decrease, for example. Taken individually, these subjects’
scores run counter to the conclusion that homosexual men are
biologically distinct; obviously, there are exceptions. Dörner et
al. do not account for these exceptions. In their conclusion, only
the mean scores are considered; the individual scores become in-
visible. Consequently, the contrast between male homosexual
neurological effeminacy and male heterosexual normality is
problematic. If positive estrogen feedback is an indication of a

feminized brain and 7 out of 20 (or approximately one-third) of
the heterosexual subjects in this experiment experienced in-
creases in LH, then there is no signi¤cant correlation between
male homosexuality and a feminized neural system, and the bio-
logical line between heterosexuality and homosexuality is less
well de¤ned than has been supposed.
Admittedly, it is almost impossible for any experiment in-
volving human subjects to achieve an absolute division between

two sets of subjects. In fact, the whole process of statistical com-
parison is designed to allow for variance within sets of subjects.
This particular experiment, however, shows the problems that
can occur when biological research attempts to account for hu-
man sexual behavior. The statistical mean for the sample popu-
lation of homosexuals becomes the standard for the entire popu-
lation of homosexuals, and the scienti¤c conclusions that are
drawn from that standard ignore the variations in the popula-
tion. Sometimes a correlation is mistaken for causation, and the
results of this confusion can be disastrous. The variance in the
LH experiment on human subjects, for example, is signi¤cant
enough to make it dif¤cult to classify any individual subject as
homosexual merely because of positive estrogen feedback, par-
ticularly because the two highest positive estrogen feedback re-
sponses in the Dörner et al. study were registered by heterosexual
subjects. Furthermore, given this variance, it would be dif¤cult
to suggest any corrective medical intervention to cure homo-
sexuality. Yet that is exactly what Dörner et al. propose: “Theo-
retically, a preventive therapy of sexual differentiation distur-
bances could be accomplished during these critical prenatal
organizational periods” (1975, 7). A year after making this sug-
gestion, Dörner (1976) argued that homosexuality in adult males
could be corrected through brain surgery. As Rainer Herrn ob-
serves, Dörner’s research was the basis for a surgical procedure
that “burned out the alleged sexual center of homosexual men”
(1995, 42). Herrn adds that this surgery was performed on 70
homosexual men before it was ¤nally abandoned; the surgeries
resulted in severe mental impairment. Although Dörner et al.
may have isolated a correlated “symptom” of male homosexual-
ity, the variance in their subject population should have been a
Reinventing the Male Homosexual warning that they had not isolated the cause of homosexuality.
Similar problems arise in other positive estrogen feedback
experiments. Brian Glaude, Richard Green, and Ronald Hell-
man (1984) compared the LH responses of homosexual men
with those of heterosexual men and women. They determined
that the LH response of male homosexuals was “intermediate
between that of the heterosexual men and that of the women”
(p. 1496). Like Dörner and his colleagues, Glaude, Green, and
Hellman conceptualized male homosexuality as a state of neural
effeminacy; however, their data raise questions about this as-
sumption. Using the Kinsey scale as a measure, the authors pur-
posefully selected subjects who were “such that they represented
the opposite ends of the spectrum of sexual orientation” (p.
1498). Although this method may have produced discrete popu-
lations of homosexuals and heterosexuals, this group does not
represent the general population. The selection of polarized sub-
jects is designed to produce results that would reveal clear dis-
tinctions between the LH responses of the homosexual and the
heterosexual subjects. The subjects’ positive estrogen feedback
responses should have been as distinct as their sexual orientation;
however, this was not the case. Although a signi¤cant number of
male homosexuals did show an LH response, some did not. Like
Dörner and his colleagues, Glaude, Green, and Hellman pre-
suppose a dichotomous view of sexual orientation that is not
supported by their data.

Transsexuality or Stress

Additional research on the LH response theory has taken

two directions. One line of research has attempted to investigate
the LH response in transsexuals. In a study conducted by Rohde,
Uebelhack, and Dörner (1986), positive estrogen feedback was
produced in homosexual, but not in bisexual or heterosexual,
male-to-female pre-operative transsexuals. In a related article,
Dörner (1988) argues that these differences indicate that the
“gender role centers” and the “mating centers” of the brain are
organized by different hormones (p. 69). Describing these as
centers is misleading because the term suggests that there are

speci¤c physical locations for gender and mating, even though
such locations were never isolated. In any case, although these
studies may indicate that homosexuality and transsexuality are
discrete, the experiments associate the two conditions as gender-
atypical behavior. In other words, transsexuality, like homosexu-
ality, is viewed as signifying an abnormal development of the
brain that is manifested in effeminate behavior.
A second line of research argues that male homosexuality is

caused by maternal stress. As I have mentioned, the purpose of
the LH experiments is to prove that the human brain is sexually
dimorphic. Animal experiments suggest that homosexuality oc-
curs in animals when hormonal imbalances disrupt the develop-
ment of the brain. Some of these experiments indicate that the
hormonal imbalances occur in the womb, affecting prenatal de-
velopment and sexual orientation. Drawing on other research
that suggests that maternal stress may produce homosexual be-
havior in rats, Dörner et al. (1980) argued that male homosexu-
ality in humans can also be explained by prenatal stress. In this
study, Dörner et al. looked at the birth dates of 865 German
male homosexual subjects registered with venerologists (physi-
cians who treat and report venereal diseases). Dörner et al. posit
that because so many of these homosexuals were born in the
years during and immediately following World War II, and be-
cause these years were a stressful period for the German people,
it follows that male homosexuality is the product of maternal
Understandably, Dörner et al.’s theory has many critics.
J. Michael Bailey, Lee Willerman, and Carlton Parks (1991)
give the theory the bene¤t of the doubt when they attempt to
apply it to contemporary American society. Their ¤ndings, how-
ever, indicate that maternal stress cannot explain variance in
sexual orientation. Other scientists are not as conciliatory. In an
essay satirically titled “Does Peace Prevent Homosexuality?”
Gunter Schmidt and Ulrich Clement (1995) attempt to replicate
the ¤ndings of Dörner and his colleagues. They fail, and their
conclusion provides a refreshing critique of the scienti¤c study of
To sum up: Our data do not reveal the slightest evidence that

wartime stress during the prenatal period increases the incidence
Reinventing the Male Homosexual of homosexual behavior. There are two conclusions to be drawn:
1. Homosexual men can go on loving peace and getting in-
volved in the peace movement.
2. This paper is a good example of how research often involves
nothing more than dealing with our self-produced problems.
As soon as someone’s idea attains a certain status by being
printed in a serious journal, dozens of researchers seize on the
idea and try to con¤rm, disprove, or modify it. We cram
¤gures into computers and wade through mountains of data
in paying our respects to each other’s ®ights of fancy. Any
attempt to change the state of affairs would be like jousting
with windmills. Nevertheless, we propose to make a begin-
ning with the necessary Don Quixotry and state: On the
question of homosexuality and war, no further research is
needed. (P. 274)

Before they dismiss the study entirely, Schmidt and Clement

speculate that even if the ¤ndings were accurate, the occurrence
of homosexuality during periods of war could be explained by
factors other than prenatal stress. They argue that the absence of
the father in times of war would require the son to bond closely
with the mother. Therefore, Dörner and his colleagues’ study
(1980) may actually support the psychoanalytic model of male
homosexuality. Either way, this study replicates the same Freu-
dian theories of etiology that inform Hamer’s genetic theories: a
male’s homosexuality is, in some way, attributable to his mother.
Dörner et al., however, go one step further; their theory of the
hysterical, distressed mother is a Freudian stereotype.
Although I ¤nd these observations valuable, they do not
consider an equally important omission: Dörner et al. (1980)
made no attempt to measure the sexual orientation of any of the
subjects in this study. Instead, homosexuality was inferred from
the transmission of venereal disease. Although the reports of the
venerologists probably veri¤ed that the subjects were infected
through homosexual intercourse, this information is not a reli-
able indicator of the subjects’ sexual orientation. And use of this
information in this way ensures that the method of transmission
for venereal disease becomes the marker for homosexual orienta-
tion. In other words, homosexuality is assumed from reports of
homosexual behavior, but these medical reports do not measure

sexual desire or sexual orientation. Dörner et al. (1980) consider
homosexual behavior, particularly when it passes on a sexually
transmitted disease, to be suf¤cient evidence of sexual orienta-
tion. Later in this chapter, I show that this method of identifying
homosexuality surfaces in other neuroendocrinological studies.
In addition to the maternal stress study, critics also have
challenged the LH experiments. Louis Gooren has raised meth-
odological questions about how sexual orientation, transsexual-

ism, and neural dimorphism are inferred from the LH data. In
one study, Gooren (1986a) tested for positive estrogen feedback
in both male and female subjects who were divided into hetero-
sexual, homosexual, and transsexual subgroups. Gooren was not
able to detect any difference in positive estrogen feedback in the
female subgroups. He did detect positive estrogen feedback dif-
ferences in the male subjects but was unable to isolate the differ-
ences according to gender identity or sexual orientation. Instead,
Gooren discovered that the positive estrogen feedback in men
was linked to reduced levels of testosterone. As he explains, “the
results suggest that the quality of testicular steriodogenesis, but
not sexual orientation or gender identity, can be regarded as a
clue in regard to the estrogen response in the male” (p. 587).
Although a biological marker is still being used to measure mas-
culinity, Gooren’s study suggests that male homosexuals cannot
be identi¤ed as neurally feminine. Gooren points out that differ-
ences between his ¤ndings and those of previous studies can be
attributed to a large subject population “and more rigorous en-
docrine testing procedures” (p. 586).3
In another study, Gooren (1986b) measured the LH re-
sponse in both male and female transsexuals before and after sex
reassignment surgery. He observed that before sex reassignment,
both males and females had positive estrogen feedback appro-
priate to their biological sex. After surgery, however, the subjects’
positive estrogen feedback reversed, and they displayed LH re-
sponses that were appropriate for their reassigned sex. If LH re-

3. To be fair, these methodological distinctions may be debatable. For example,

Gooren’s study had more total subjects than did that of Rohde, Uebelhack, and
Dörner (1986), but the latter study included more transsexual subjects.
sponse were attributable to the sexual organization of the brain,
Reinventing the Male Homosexual then the responses of the transsexual subjects would not have
changed after sex reassignment. Gooren suggests that his ¤nd-
ings demonstrate that LH secretion is stimulated by circulating
hormones rather than by an immutable sex assignment that is
neurally structured. Consequently, he argues that “studies relat-
ing homosexuality and/or transsexuality to the type of LH re-
sponse to estrogen stimulus should be regarded with caution”
(p. 592).
Gooren (1995) makes the strongest case against the LH ex-
periments when he argues that the wrong hormones were meas-
ured. Because these studies measured LH response to estro-
gen treatments, an important part in the endocrine system was
overlooked. Estrogen actually stimulates the production of LH-
releasing hormone, which in turn stimulates the production of
LH. Gooren argues that scientists need to test for LH response
to LH-releasing hormone if they want to measure actual posi-
tive estrogen feedback. He argues that when these procedures
are followed, as in his own studies, LH response in homosexual
men can be attributed only to circulating testosterone levels, not
to a sexually differentiated neural system.
Although the purpose of the LH research may be to prove
the sexual dimorphism of the brain, it does so by demonstrat-
ing that homosexual men experience an estrogen effect that
causes an LH surge similar to that found in females. In addition,
use of the organizational/activation model requires that male
homosexuality be regarded as abnormal neural development.
This abnormality is operationalized when, in experiments, male
homosexuals are compared with male heterosexuals. Male hetero-
sexuals do not display positive estrogen feedback and are consid-
ered neurally masculine and physically normal; male homosexu-
als are contrasted with this standard of heterosexual normality.

Behavioral Research

The LH experiments were concerned primarily with hor-

monal reactions of the body; behavioral research, on the other
hand, relies on observed sexual conduct. These experiments use
animals, and like the LH studies, the theoretical basis for these

experiments is the organizational/activation model. The experi-
ments I analyze are designed to prove that sexual behavior is
produced by the hormonal organization of the brain. The re-
search is concerned primarily with determining the point at
which the brain, in its development, becomes either masculine or
feminine. For my purposes, it is important to note how these
experiments produce male homosexuality in the laboratory, and
how these procedures re®ect beliefs about gender and pathology.

William Luttge and Nicholas Hall (1973), for example,
conducted a study to determine the effects of androgens on the
sexual behavior of two strains of mice. In this experiment, 32-
day-old mice were castrated and treated with a variety of hor-
mones, including testosterone. Mice that were treated with tes-
tosterone displayed the greatest levels of male sexual behavior,
which was measured when three different actions were observed:
“mounts with palpations, mounts with pelvic thrusts, and mounts
with intromissions” (p. 34). Although Luttge and Hall point out
that the hormones used in the experiment occur naturally in the
bodies of male mice, their study manipulated synthetic hor-
mones to produce sexual behavior. The mice were castrated and
injected with progressively increased doses of a particular hor-
mone. This is not the way mice naturally experience hormonal
development; rather, it is an experience produced by scienti¤c in-
tervention, which purposefully disrupts normal sexual develop-
ment. The mice that had been treated with hormones other than
testosterone, for example, displayed limited amounts of mount-
ing with palpations but no pelvic thrusts or intromissions. Al-
though this study does not directly consider male homosexuality,
it illustrates how sexual dysfunction is attributed to biological
abnormality, and how sexual deviation is considered to be physi-
cal pathology.
In a similar study, J. Vega Matuszczyk, A. Fernandez-
Guasti, and K. Larsson (1988) examined the sexual orientation
of male rats. Part of the experiment determined orientation by
analyzing the sexual preferences of the experimental animals,
that is, researchers observed whether the subjects chose either a
sexually active male or an estrous female (a female in heat). Sex-
ual preference was recorded using the following measures: “(a)
Reinventing the Male Homosexual time spent near the stimulus male; (b) number of visits to the
male; (c) time spent near the stimulus female; and (d) the num-
ber of visits to the estrous female” (p. 366). Female sexual behav-
ior was demonstrated by lordosis (a receptive posture facilitating
the mounting by another male), hop/darting (“a short leap with
the animal landing on all four paws followed by the assumption
of a crouching posture”), and ear wiggling (“a rapid lateral shak-
ing of the head that produces the appearance of distinctive vi-
brations of the ears”) (p. 366). Male homosexual behavior was
operationalized to re®ect both the preferences for a male partner
and the expression of female sexual behavior according to the
listed criteria.
The purpose of this experiment was to determine the point
at which hormones organized the brain in the neonatal period.
Different groups of animals were castrated at different times and
then treated with different hormones. Male homosexuality was
operationalized as behaviors that indicated a disruption of nor-
mal neural development. The rats castrated on the day of birth
and treated with estrogen and progesterone (an ovarian steroid),
for example, displayed a greater preference for male sex partners
and performed more female sexual behaviors than did rats cas-
trated and treated at a later period of development. Matuszczyk,
Fernandez-Guasti, and Larsson conclude that hormonal “secre-
tions in the newborn male in®uence adult sexual orientation”
(p. 363); however, male homosexuality was experimentally pro-
duced by castrating the subjects and injecting them with female
hormones. As Roger Gorski (Burr 1996a) has noted, this type
of experimental design actually creates a transsexual rather than
a homosexual subject; after all, castration and hormone therapy
are necessary elements in sex reassignment surgery. Furthermore,
human male homosexuals do not lack gonads, and studies on the
hormonal differences between homosexual and heterosexual
men have been contradictory (Brodie et al. 1974; Friedman et al.
1977). In spite of these problems, the results of this study have
been reviewed, published, and cited as part of the literature on
the biology of male homosexuality.
If the Matuszczyk, Fernandez-Guasti, and Larsson study is

accepted as an accurate representation of human sexual develop-
ment, then a male homosexual is neurologically and physiologi-
cally female (or at least more female than male), and this femini-
zation is a result of a hormonal imbalance. The male homosexual
body is seen as unable to produce the hormones necessary for
masculine development. Instead, the male homosexual body is
thought to signify a testicular failure that produces a feminized
brain manifested in effeminate sexual behavior. In this experi-

ment, the male homosexual body was not naturally produced but
was invented in the laboratory. Even if this type of body oc-
curred without intervention, it would be dif¤cult to imagine the
male homosexual as anything but an aberration of the male
body. Therefore, it is easy for the scientists to offer up a trans-
sexualized subject (a castrated rat treated with estrogen) as a
homosexual subject; after all, a male homosexual cannot be a
real man.
In a related study, E. R. Stockman, R. S. Callaghan, and
M. J. Baum (1985) attempted to isolate the temporal point of
neural organization by subjecting newborn ferrets to castration
and hormonal treatments. The ferrets were divided into three
groups, each of which was castrated and treated on a different
date. The sexual orientation of each ferret was then determined
by use of partner preferences for “a sexually vigorous, gonadally
intact male and an ovariectomized female brought into genital
and behavioral estrus” (p. 411). These methods were designed to
determine at what point after birth the ferret’s neural systems
were either masculinized or feminized. The study revealed that
“all of the male groups chose stimulus males signi¤cantly less
often than the control females did, in response to EB [estradiol
benzoate] administration, but the MGX5 subjects chose stimu-
lus males signi¤cantly more than the MGX20 or MGX35 sub-
jects did” (p. 412). To put it more simply, those ferrets castrated
on the ¤fth day of life demonstrated a greater frequency of
homosexual behavior than did the other test animals. The re-
searchers acknowledge that even this subject group did not ex-
perience a “complete reversal of sex preference,” leading them to
conclude that “exposure to androgen prior to Day 5 is necessary
Reinventing the Male Homosexual for complete differentiation of masculine sociosexual preference
in the ferret” (p. 412). Stockman, Callaghan, and Baum have
attempted to isolate the temporal frame for the sexual differen-
tiation of the brain, and homosexuality becomes the variable
that marks differentiation. In other words, homosexuality is pre-
sent when normal development is disrupted, and thus the brain
develops in a gendered manner opposite that of the biological sex
of the subject. Again, male homosexuality signi¤es a feminized
neural system, and the production of male homosexuality is de-
pendent on manipulative intervention: the subjects are castrated
and treated with estrogen.
A study conducted by Brand et al. (1991) differs from pre-
vious studies in that the animal subjects were not castrated. In-
stead, the scientists inhibited the animals’ ability to convert tes-
tosterone to estrogen, a process theorized as necessary for the
masculinization of the brain in early stages of development. The
stimulus animals that were used to measure sexual preference
were either placed behind a wire screen or tethered with a leather
harness. The conclusion of the study re®ects previous research:
“This study, carried out with intact male rats, clearly shows that
adult partner preference behavior can be added to the list of be-
haviors in the male rat that are (at least partially) ‘organized’
during a critical period” (p. 337). Although the subjects in this
study were not castrated, the hormone treatments were designed
to produce a feminized brain, and male homosexual behavior
was still the marker for neural feminization.
Because homosexual behavior serves this function in these
experiments, it is important to note how this sexual behavior was
coded. The male animals that allowed themselves to be mounted
were coded as displaying homosexual behavior; the male animals
that did the mounting were coded as heterosexual.4 Both sets of
animals were engaging in same-sex intercourse, but only those
animals that adopted the feminized sexual posture were iden-

4. For speci¤c references to the coding of sexual behaviors, see Brand et al.
1991, 325; and Matuszczyk, Fernandez-Guasti, and Larsson 1988, 370. Stock-
man et al. 1985 measured sexual preference by coding partner selection; speci¤c
sexual behaviors were not coded.
ti¤ed as homosexual. In her review of the neuroendocrinology

literature, Lynda Birke (1981) explains this problem: “This is in
accord with the stereotypes of gay men and lesbians in our soci-
ety. Lesbians are supposed to be ‘masculine’ and assertive, while
gay men are supposedly effeminate. Accordingly, it is not the
‘feminine’ female rat showing lordosis to the mounts of the mas-
culinized female who is deemed homosexual, nor is it the mas-
culine male who mounts the arti¤cially feminized male” (pp.
42–43). Although this view of homosexuality is incongruent

with the way in which human homosexuality is generally de-
¤ned, it is consistent with the background belief that male ho-
mosexuals behave as women. In this case, the belief about male
homosexual behavior becomes biologically essentialized in the
tissues of the brain. In contrast, the normality of heterosexual
men operates as an uncontested and incontestable given. The be-
haviors of the untreated male animals were never coded as femi-
nine or abnormal, even though they participated in homosexual
sex. Because these animals displayed supposedly masculine be-
havior, their normality and heterosexuality were never ques-

Neural Structures

Both the LH and the animal behavior experiments have

been designed to support the theory of neural sexual dimor-
phism, which underlies the organizational/activation model.
Consequently, these experiments have operated from the suppo-
sitions that the brain is sexually dimorphic and that sexual ori-
entation is one way to demonstrate this dimorphism. The LH
experiments attempted to demonstrate neural feminization in
homosexual men by proving that they have a hormonal response
similar to ovulation. The animal experiments attempted to prove
that early intervention could change neural development in ways
that produce what is de¤ned as homosexual behavior. I now turn
my attention to research that attempts to demonstrate sexual di-
morphism by isolating areas of the brain that differ in heterosex-
ual and homosexual men.
D. F. Swaab and E. Fliers (1985) determined that a particu-
lar cell group in the brain, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of
Reinventing the Male Homosexual the hypothalamus, was larger in men than in women. This study
supported the theory of sexual dimorphism by producing evi-
dence of an actual physical difference in the brain. Swaab and
Fliers were unable to determine what this difference meant in
terms of the actual functioning of the brain. Instead, they specu-
lated about the possible purpose of the nucleus given the func-
tions commonly associated with its location in the hypothala-
mus. D. F. Swaab and M. A. Hofman (1990) conducted a related
study to see if similar differences in the SCN could be found in
homosexual men. They also tested to see if differences could be
found in the sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN), a cell group
often referred to as INAH 1 that is located near the SCN in the
hypothalamus. Of the 34 cadavers used for this study, the sub-
jects were divided into three groups: 10 homosexual men who
had died of AIDS, 6 heterosexual men and women who had
died of AIDS, and a control group of 18 subjects of unspeci¤ed
sexual orientation who had not died of AIDS.
Considering that this experiment operationalizes sexual
orientation as a variable, there are problems with the way in
which sexual orientation was determined. One of the purposes
of the experiment was to determine the extent to which AIDS-
related dementia affected the SCN. For this part of the study it
was not necessary to indicate the sexual orientation of the refer-
ence group because the subjects were used only to control for the
effects of AIDS. For the subjects identi¤ed as heterosexual and
homosexual, however, the method of determining sexual orien-
tation is unclear. Swaab and Hofman claim that sexual prefer-
ence was indicated in the clinical records of the subjects. The
speci¤c data used to determine sexual orientation were not dis-
cussed. Perhaps the records re®ected the same methods as those
used by the venerologists who inferred sexual orientation from
the transmission of venereal disease. If this is the case, then sex-
ual orientation was inferred from the transmission of the AIDS
virus. Granted, this conclusion is speculative; unfortunately, the
lack of explicit information in this study invites speculation. In
any event, AIDS was used to identify sexual orientation in the
same way that venereal disease was used in Dörner’s work. More

important, AIDS signi¤es homosexuality; the disease becomes a
means of identifying homosexuals and facilitating the biological
study of homosexuality. This point becomes more apparent in
LeVay’s experiments.
Although Swaab and Hofman were able to determine dif-
ferences in SCN correlated to sexual orientation, they were not
able to ¤nd differences in the SDN. They argue that their study
“refutes the more global formulation of Dörner’s hypothesis that

male homosexuals have a ‘female brain’ ” (1990, 145). Swaab and
Hofman may have been unable to ¤nd a difference in the SDN,
but by correlating the SCN to sexual orientation, and thereby
contrasting heterosexual male subjects to homosexual males,
they weaken their refutation of the “female brain” hypothesis.
Swaab and Hofman still argue that heterosexual men are dis-
tinct from homosexuals, and this distinction relies on the belief
that male homosexuals are different because they have brains
that are physically similar to female brains.
This same distinction is supported by Laura Allen and
R. A. Gorski (1992), who argue that homosexual men not only
are neurologically different from heterosexual men but also are
similar to heterosexual women. In their study, Allen and Gorski
measured the size of the anterior commissure, a structure that
links the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Tissue samples
were taken from the brains of 256 subjects. Sexual preference
was determined by using medical records, and “male and female
subjects were classi¤ed as heterosexual when medical records did
not indicate homosexual orientation” (p. 7199). After eliminat-
ing certain subjects, Allen and Gorski isolated three experimen-
tal groups: “34 homosexual men, 84 heterosexual women, and 75
heterosexual men” (p. 7199). They concluded that the “midsagit-
tal plane of the anterior commissure in homosexual men was
18% larger than in heterosexual women and 34% larger than in
heterosexual men” (p. 7199). In other words, for this particular
part of the brain, homosexual men, neurologically speaking, are
more similar to heterosexual women than they are to heterosex-
ual men.
The method Allen and Gorski used to determine sexual
Reinventing the Male Homosexual preference is unclear. Except for the following passage, no expla-
nation is offered: “Although medical records were used to deter-
mine sexual orientation, heterosexual orientation was only as-
sumed, rather than speci¤ed, in men and women who did not die
of AIDS, hepatitis, or a disease associated with immunocom-
promise in young and middle-aged people” (p. 7201). Again, the
speci¤cs of these medical records are not revealed. One thing is
certain: the records would contain information about how the
AIDS virus was contracted by the patient. Therefore, Allen and
Gorski may be operationalizing homosexuality as the transmis-
sion of a sexual disease. Again, that conclusion is speculative, but
Allen and Gorski’s ambiguity invites speculation. As for the
heterosexual subjects, Allen and Gorski seem unconcerned
about actual sexual orientation; as long as the subject had not
contracted a sexually transmitted disease, they saw little reason
to investigate. In other words, they assumed the absence of sexu-
ally transmitted disease to be adequate proof of heterosexuality.
Allen and Gorski acknowledge that their methods for de-
termining sexual orientation are problematic, but they argue that
these problems do not diminish their ¤ndings on the differences
among the anterior commissures of their subjects: “erroneous
classi¤cation of subjects is likely to decrease chances of observ-
ing signi¤cant differences rather than resulting in apparent dif-
ferences that do not exist” (p. 7201). In theory, this observation
is correct, but it reveals the authors’ concern: ultimately, sexual
orientation is only important to the extent that it can be offered
as evidence for a larger theoretical project:
The present report of a correlation between sexual orientation
and the midsagittal area of the AC [anterior commissure], a
structure that is both sexually dimorphic and not believed to be
related to reproductive function, when combined with reports of
similar correlations with hypothalamic nuclei, clearly argues
against the notion that a single brain structure causes or results
from a homosexual orientation. Rather, this correlation supports
the hypothesis that factors operating early in development differ-
entiate sexually dimorphic structures and functions of the brain
in a global fashion. (P. 7202)
Here Allen and Gorski argue that they have not determined the

speci¤c biological cause for homosexuality. Instead, they suggest
that the results only support the hypothesis of sexual dimor-
phism. Their purpose is to prove that the brain is sexually di-
morphic, and for them, studying homosexuality is merely a
means to this end.
LeVay, on the other hand, claims that homosexuality is his
primary concern. He believes that a more tenable explanation for
homosexuality can be found in the biological sciences, and his

study of the hypothalamus was meant to spur further investiga-
tion. In this 1991 study, LeVay determined that one of the in-
terstitial nuclei of the anterior hypothalamus (INAH 3) was
twice as large in heterosexual men than in either heterosexual
women or homosexual men.5 Tissue samples were taken from
the brains of 41 subjects: 19 homosexual men who had died of
AIDS; 16 presumed heterosexual men, 6 of whom had died of
AIDS; and 6 presumed heterosexual women, 1 of whom had
died of AIDS. After examining the tissue samples of these sub-
jects, LeVay concluded that differences in the size of the INAH
3 were correlated to sexual orientation and biological sex. He
concluded that the brain is sexually dimorphic and that the
brains of homosexual men have been feminized. LeVay acknow-
ledges that AIDS patients do not properly represent the gay
male population. He also acknowledges that there are exceptions
to his sample: some heterosexual men will have a small INAH
3, and some homosexual men will not. LeVay offers his results
as a starting point for future research on homosexuality and not
as the ¤nal word.
Unfortunately, because LeVay is an openly gay man, his ob-
jectivity has been questioned (Marshall 1992). LeVay has been
quite candid about his own political interests, but he maintains
that these interests do not interfere with his scienti¤c standards.
Charges of self-interest are particularly important given the
methods LeVay used in his study. The nuclei of the brain are not

5. The INAH 3 refers to the location of the nucleus in the hypothalamus.

The INAH 3 is not the same nucleus as the SCN or the SDN mentioned earlier.
distinct objects. The same cells that make up the nuclei are
Reinventing the Male Homosexual found in the surrounding tissues of the brain; nuclei are concen-
trations of these cells. Imagine a sheet of paper ¤lled with ink
dots from a felt-tipped pen. It would be easy to see where the
dots were highly concentrated, but drawing circles around these
concentrations in order to de¤ne their boundaries would not be
easy. Consequently, determining the size of a brain nucleus is
subjective. When Swaab was interviewed in Science, he noted
that the study of human brains de¤es the standards of objectivity
(Marshall 1992). Because LeVay performed the analysis of the
tissue samples himself, the question of objectivity becomes more
If LeVay’s research was motivated by an interest in the so-
cial conditions of gay men, then he made some disturbing deci-
sions in his study; for example, all of his homosexual subjects
were AIDS patients. Although LeVay acknowledges the prob-
lems with this population sample, the use of clinical AIDS re-
cords, particularly when heterosexuality is merely presumed in
the absence of the disease, displays indifference to the actual
sexual orientation of the subjects involved. Admittedly, LeVay’s
study includes heterosexual subjects with AIDS; however, he did
not make an effort to measure the sexual orientation of his sub-
jects, and given his interest in offering a scienti¤c explanation for
homosexuality, this oversight is confusing. LeVay has argued
that the requirements of biological research demand a simpli¤ed
view of human sexuality (Burr 1996a). When this simpli¤cation
requires scientists to dispense with measuring sexual orientation
altogether, however, the demands of biological research have
overridden interest in the human sexual condition.
LeVay has a valid excuse: all of his subjects were already
dead; unfortunately, this fact has some negative implications.
LeVay (1991) makes an observation that brings the belief about
homosexual pathology into sharp relief. He states that the “brain
tissue from individuals known to be homosexual has only be-
come available as the result of the AIDS epidemic” (p. 1036). In
this passage, AIDS is characterized as an opportunity for the
biological study of homosexuality. AIDS not only provides hu-
man tissues by killing its victims, but it conveniently marks

these tissues with homosexuality. In the neuroendocrinological
research, the belief about pathology allows disease to signify and
produce the homosexual subject.
In addition to these operational problems, there are concep-
tual problems. LeVay discusses the developmental difference be-
tween males and females as a matter of absence and presence.
For example, LeVay (1993) de¤nes the female sex genetically
as the absence of the Y chromosome. Speci¤cally, he suggests

that when individuals lack the Y chromosome, they develop as
women by default. When he explains how hormones participate
in the development of the human body, he again refers to ab-
sence: “the important point is that in fetal development, the
pathway taken in the absence of sex-speci¤c hormones is the fe-
male pathway” (p. 22). Thus, female development is de¤ned as
an absence and male development as produced by a presence.
When this model of absence and presence is used to explain
the differences between males and females, these differences are
mapped onto a developmental hierarchy. The development of the
human physiology becomes a progression that is dependent on
the presence of certain necessary elements. In the ¤eld of genet-
ics, these elements are thought to be the DNA present in the
chromosomes. If the necessary DNA is absent, or if a chromo-
some is absent, then proper development is arrested. When the
female sex is de¤ned as a form of development that occurs be-
cause of the absence of chromosomes, then the female sex be-
comes a state of arrested development. This idea is not new;
feminist scientists, such as Ruth Hubbard (1990), have already
noted that the female sex is de¤ned as abnormal in relation to
the male sex. LeVay shows that research in neuroendocrinology
uses the same concept of arrested development to describe male
homosexuals in a way that associates them with women. The
research I have reviewed shows that male homosexual neurology
is theorized as an intermediate developmental stage between the
male and female. Therefore, LeVay treats male homosexuality as
a state of arrested development and reproduces the psychoana-
lytic model that he ostensibly has rejected. The neuroendocri-
nological research, like the theories of psychoanalysis, imagines
Reinventing the Male Homosexual male homosexuals to be arrested in a developmental stage that
prevents them from becoming real men.

Fear of “Disease”

In his book A Separate Creation, Burr (1996a) devotes a

chapter to the neuroendocrinological research on homosexuality.
The chapter includes a long passage in which various scientists
wrestle with the concept of disease. Burr quotes psychiatrist
Robert Spitzer as claiming that for a condition to be de¤ned as
a disease, “there has to be some objective mark, maybe that the
thing impairs a person’s ability to perform a job. By virtually any
de¤nition, homosexuality doesn’t ¤t. Physical or mental impair-
ment, suffering (other than from outside prejudice), deterioration
of function—none applies” (Burr 1996a, 84). Unfortunately,
both Spitzer and Burr have failed to recognize the “task” that is
required of males in the study of sexuality. This task is clearly
outlined in the animal experiments: a male’s function is to
mount females. Putting this into human terms, a male’s function
is to have intercourse with women.
In the neuroendocrinological research that I have consid-
ered, it appears that the male homosexual is not capable of ful-
¤lling the functions of a man because he is too much like a
woman. In the effort to isolate the physical structures that may
produce male homosexuality, the research theorizes the male
homosexual in physically feminine terms. The LH experiments
attempt to prove that homosexual men have a feminized neur-
ology that produces a hormonal response similar to that of
women. The animal experiments conceptualize male homosexu-
ality as feminine behavior, and the experiments on brain tissues
attempt to prove that the brains of homosexual men are physi-
cally similar to those of women.
This feminization is articulated in terms of pathology. The
research contrasts homosexual men to a standard of male het-
erosexual normality, a contrast facilitated by the assumptions
that dichotomize biological sex and sexual orientation. In the
¤nal analysis, however, what makes the male homosexual patho-
logical is the mark of sexual dysfunction. The male homosexual,

because of hormones or a nucleus in the hypothalamus, is im-
paired in his ability to do the work of a man. This sexual im-
pairment certainly raises some questions about the function of
the homosexual in an evolutionary framework. Indeed, if a male
homosexual does not have sex with women, then what is his bio-
logical function? If this question cannot be answered satisfacto-
rily, then the classi¤cation of homosexuality as a disease seems
to be more than a question of semantics. This question is ad-

dressed in the ¤elds of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology,
which attempt to explain the evolutionary role of male homo-


Two aspects of the gay gene

discourse have been explored thus far. Discourse surrounding re-
search in behavioral genetics theorizes about male homosexu-
ality on the level of DNA, whereas the discourse generated by
research in neuroendocrinology attempts to locate homosexu-
ality in speci¤c parts of the brain. Although research ¤ndings in
these two ¤elds offer biological causes for male homosexuality,
they do not explain its purpose. If male homosexuality is a bio-
logically based sexual behavior, then what is its function and
why does it occur? What is its role in the evolutionary process?
Theories developed by those in the ¤elds of sociobiology
and evolutionary psychology attempt to offer evolutionary expla-
nations for social behaviors. Sexual behaviors ¤gure prominently
in evolutionary theory because procreation is, of course, an im-
portant part of evolutionary development. Homosexuality is not
a procreative behavior, so it does not ¤t neatly into an evolution-

Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology
ary frame. Accordingly, the explanations offered by evolutionary
theorists are varied and, in some cases, contradictory. In addition,
all scientists who hypothesize about sexuality from this per-
spective do not identify their work under the same rubric. The
term “sociobiology,” as it applies to human behavior, has been
abandoned for the most part and a new label, “evolutionary psy-
chology,” has replaced it. I discuss the shift below, but I use both
terms in this chapter because both have been used by these sci-
entists to describe their work.
Sociobiologists, like evolutionary psychologists, believe that
human behavior is genetically determined and governed by the
evolutionary pressures of natural selection. E. O. Wilson is one
of the more prominent scholars in the ¤eld, and his book Socio-
biology (1975) is considered a seminal work. Wilson has argued

that even moral behavior is an expression of genetics, and he
extends this argument in his latest work, Consilience: The Unity
of Knowledge (1998). Richard Dawkins has been credited with
popularizing sociobiology by introducing his theory of the sel¤sh
gene. Hamer, in fact, used Dawkins’s work as an evolutionary
rationale to undergird his work on the gay gene. According to
Dawkins (1976), evolutionary competition does not occur be-
tween species or even individuals; instead, the competition for
survival occurs on the level of the gene but is manifested in kin-
ship behaviors. In Dawkins’s view, genes adapt or die; animals,
including humans, are merely gene-¤ghting and gene-protecting
machines. From this perspective, social behaviors are deter-
mined and motivated genetically. Consequently, behaviors can
be regarded as adaptive or maladaptive, depending on how they
propagate and protect genetic material in relation to evolution-
ary pressures. Although not all of the evolutionary theorists dis-
cussed in this chapter cite Dawkins’s work directly, his theories
re®ect the ways that the discipline conceptualizes the relation-
ship between behavior and biology.
In sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, as in the ¤elds
of behavioral genetics and neuroendocrinology, male homosexu-
ality often is conceptualized in research as a counter-gendered
behavior. Most scientists working in evolutionary theory treat
male homosexuality as an effeminate behavior that either facili-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual tates or disrupts evolutionary progress. Consequently, beliefs
about pathology are more equivocal in sociobiology and evolu-
tionary psychology than they are in the other ¤elds of the gay
gene discourse. Some theorists suggest that male homosexuality
is an adaptive means of limiting populations as a response to
limited resources, whereas others maintain that it is a maladap-
tive behavior that threatens the perpetuation of genetic material.
This equivocation can be attributed to the way that sexual evo-
lutionary theory is generated. Although sociobiologists and evo-
lutionary psychologists maintain that their theories of homo-
sexuality are scienti¤c, many of their claims are not supported by
empirical data. Because these theories lack empirical support or
are underdetermined, they evade tests of replication and falsi¤-
cation; thus, there are contradictory evolutionary theories of
homosexuality.1 Theoretical con®icts are not unique to these
¤elds, but con®icts among these theories illustrate the ways that
the gay gene discourse can support divergent political stances
toward homosexuality.

Gender Generally
In contrast to the views of social constructionists, socio-
biologists believe that gender roles and gendered behaviors are
the products of biology. In The Sel¤sh Gene, for example, Daw-
kins (1976) claims that men are more promiscuous than women,
and that this difference in sexual behavior is the result of the
two sexes’ different levels of investment in procreation:
Sperms and eggs too contribute equal numbers of genes, but eggs
contribute far more in the way of food reserves: indeed, sperms
make no contribution at all and are simply concerned with trans-
porting their genes as fast as possible to an egg. At the moment
of conception, therefore, the father has invested less than his fair
share (i.e., 50 percent) of resources in the offspring. Since each
sperm is so tiny, a male can afford to make many millions of

1. My use of the word “underdetermined” is borrowed from Longino (1990),

who uses the term to refer to theories that are insuf¤ciently supported by empiri-
cal evidence.
them every day. This means he is potentially able to beget a very

Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology
large number of children in a very short period of time, using
different females. This is only possible because each new embryo
is endowed with adequate food by the mother in each case. This
therefore places a limit on the number of children a female can
have, but the number of children a male can have is virtually
unlimited. Female exploitation begins here. (Pp. 141–142)

Dawkins argues that male promiscuity is not only biologically

motivated but also necessary for evolution: “we must expect that
there will normally be some evolutionary pressure on males to
invest a little bit less in each child, and to try to have more chil-
dren by different wives” (p. 147). Although women may wonder
why men stray, Dawkins believes he has the ¤nal answer: men
cheat because biology drives them to it.
Dawkins believes that women’s greater physical investment

in their offspring manifests itself in greater social investment.
Women are more maternal than are men because they have more
biological resources invested in their children than men do; more
to the point, women care for and nurture children because they
have more to lose. Men, on the other hand, have fewer biological
resources invested in their children and thus are relatively indif-
ferent to the responsibilities of child-rearing. As Dawkins ar-
gues, a man can never be completely sure that a child is his own.
With so many promiscuous men about, there is always a chance
that a child may be another man’s progeny. Thus, it would be
unwise for a man to waste time rearing a child that might not be
his; his time would be better spent trying to produce more chil-
dren. From Dawkins’s perspective, the evolutionary task of a
man is to have sex with as many women as he can. Obviously,
Dawkins’s theories are informed by the assumptions that bio-
logical sex is divided into two discrete categories and that an
individual’s biological sex determines his or her sexuality.
Dawkins’s theories exist on a level of abstraction that is far
removed from the speci¤c contexts that many believe are likely
in®uences on sex and gender roles. To be fair, not all evolutionary
theorists invest genetics with the same deterministic power as
Dawkins does. As Mary McDonald Pavelka (1995) points out,
efforts to justify men’s violent actions toward women as biologi-
100 cally inevitable ignore the importance of social values to the hu-
man condition.
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

Nevertheless, Dawkins’s arguments illustrate the ways in

which evolutionary theorists conceive the relationship between
gender and biology. Eggs are limited and precious; hence, women
are the vessels of a scarce commodity that must be protected, so
their behaviors also must be protective. Sperm are plentiful and
cheap; hence, men can afford to expend their resources indis-
criminately, so they are promiscuous. Donald Symons and Bruce
Ellis (1989), for example, have argued that the differences in
biological investment explain why men are more likely than
women to pursue sexual intercourse with strangers and numer-
ous partners. If women and their eggs are limited, however, and
men are always hoping to procreate with more than one woman,
then some men will lose the genetic competition. This failure is
what some sociobiologists identify as the key to the role of the
male homosexual.

Heterosexual Frustration = Homosexuality

Gordon Gallup and Susan Suarez (1983) postulate that ho-

mosexuality is a product of “heterosexual frustration” (p. 315)
and that “because the reproductive interests of males and fe-
males are often at odds with one another, heterosexuals almost
invariably have to compromise their sexuality” (p. 318). Because
males are biologically destined to be promiscuous, whereas fe-
males are destined to be selective, some males have to ¤nd sexual
opportunities that are not heterosexual. Gallup and Suarez sug-
gest that high rates of promiscuity among male homosexuals are
evidence of the frustration of unrealized heterosexual inter-
course. They suggest that homosexual behavior not only is a
product of heterosexual frustration but also signi¤es masculine
defeat. The male who adopts homosexuality has failed in the
masculine competition for female partners; thus, homosexuality
is an emasculated and desperate sexual recourse. As Gallup and
Suarez argue, male heterosexual failure may be attributed to the
childhood counter-gendered behaviors that homosexuals often
report. In other words, because some men are effeminate, they

Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology
are unable to perform the masculine behaviors necessary for suc-
cess in the heterosexual competition.
Gallup and Suarez are not claiming that homosexuality is a
direct biological expression of genetics. On the contrary, they are
arguing that all humans, including homosexuals, “are unwit-
tingly bound by a biological imperative that derives from the
evolution of different reproductive strategies for males and fe-
males” (1983, 317). In other words, heterosexuality is a biologi-
cal imperative, and homosexuality only occurs when this im-
perative cannot be realized or is frustrated. Gallup and Suarez
argue that homosexuality exists as an evolutionary irony in
which the basic heterosexual drive for reproduction is thwarted,
which results in maladaptive behavior. They suggest that homo-
phobia is the consequence of this dynamic because homosexu-

ality signals the failure of evolutionary competition: homosexu-
ality occurs when a male cannot successfully compete with other
men for a female partner. This male also will be unable to pass
on his genes, so he loses the evolutionary battle. For reasons of
survival, evolutionary failure must be discouraged; therefore, so-
cial pressures seek to ensure that everyone behave as heterosexu-
als, even if some inevitably fail.
Gallup and Suarez’s attempt to reconcile homophobia with
their frustration thesis assumes that social intolerance of homo-
sexual behavior is universal, without cultural or temporal bounda-
ries. Different cultures treat homosexuality differently, however,
and even the prohibitions in Western culture have changed over
time.2 The only example of homophobia that Gallup and Suarez
offer is Anita Bryant’s short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful
Save Our Children campaign, which is hardly evidence of an
evolutionary pressure. Even if homophobia transcended the
boundaries of time and culture, it is dif¤cult to conceive of it as
an evolutionary phenomenon, particularly in light of Gallup and

2. The anthology Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past
(Duberman, Vicinus, and Chauncey 1989) includes several essays that document
how the treatment of homosexuals has varied over time and across cultures. In
the next section I present Ruse’s (1981) refutation of the claim that homophobia
in Western culture is an expression of an evolutionary imperative.
Suarez’s frustration thesis. If heterosexual frustration is inevi-
102 table and homosexuality is the product of this frustration, then
it would seem that homosexuality relieves this frustration. In
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

other words, if it were not for the presence of effeminate males

who forego the male heterosexual competition, frustration would
escalate. If heterosexuality is the product of successful masculine
aggression, as Gallup and Suarez conceptualize it, then the ab-
sence of homosexual release could produce destructive and mala-
daptive social violence. A more plausible hypothesis, given Gal-
lup and Suarez’s argument, would be that homosexuality is a
biological safety valve that defuses the potentially destructive
frustration produced by the drive toward heterosexual reproduc-
tion. Some sociobiologists proffer such a hypothesis and explain
homosexuality as a behavior that facilitates evolutionary success.
In other words, in such theorizing, the function of the male
homosexual is seen in more positive terms.

Ruse and Friends

In 1981, Michael Ruse published an extensive review and

critique of the existent sociobiological theories of homosexuality.
His purpose was to assess the tenability of the various theories,
and he did so by extending and expanding each author’s theoreti-
cal claims. Consequently, his essay is more that a review of pub-
lished research; it has ¤gured prominently in the sociobiology
literature on homosexuality and needs to be considered along
with the works of the theorists he discusses. In his review, for
example, Ruse discusses the Ph.D. dissertation of James Wein-
rich (1976) in which the author attempted to explain homosexu-
ality from the perspective of kin selection. Kin selection sug-
gests that evolutionary pressures are such that relatives have a
shared interest in their family’s procreative success; hence, the
persistence of homosexuality can be explained as altruistic be-
havior. Homosexual altruism, in sociobiological terms, means
that by foregoing procreation, homosexuals improve the chances
that their siblings’ offspring will survive. According to Wein-
rich, homosexuals ensure that a signi¤cant amount of their own
genetic material will survive by facilitating the reproduction of
relatives who carry similar genes. Of course, this theory assumes

Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology
limited resources that, in turn, would necessitate limiting off-
spring. Weinrich also proposes that the altruistic bene¤ts of ho-
mosexual behavior extend beyond actual procreation. He points
to primitive cultures in which homosexual men assumed wom-
en’s roles and infers that these homosexuals improved their sib-
lings’ procreative success by assisting in the care of children. In
this case, the adaptability of the male homosexual is contingent
on effeminate behavior.3
Ruse attempts to augment Weinrich’s theorizing by refram-
ing a common view of homosexual physicality. He argues that
studies of the bodies of homosexual men indicate that in general
they are lighter and weaker than are those of heterosexual men,
and that this empirical evidence supports the view that male
homosexuals’ altruism is realized in their effeminacy. Ruse ac-

knowledges that this argument may offend homosexuals because
it perpetuates a stereotype that homosexuals are “sickly, reedy
little runts,” but he offers this explanation: “In reply to this ob-
jection, two points can be made. First, thanks to modern medi-
cine, in our society, someone who has had a childhood disease
can be as perfectly physically ¤t as an adult. Second, there is
nothing vilifying of homosexual men and women in the fact just
related. If heterosexual men are indeed heavier and stronger than
homosexual men, that is simply a fact” (1981, 22). Ruse is pro-
moting the adaptive altruism of homosexuality, but that altru-
ism is a product of effeminate behavior, as he sees it. Unfortu-
nately, he represents effeminacy as physical frailty, suggesting
once again that homosexual men are physically inferior to het-
erosexual men or, more to the point, that homosexual men are
physically similar to women. Put differently, Ruse claims that
effeminacy makes male homosexuality adaptive because it brings
about altruistic behavior, but paradoxically, he characterizes ef-
feminacy as a maladaptive weakness, a physical in¤rmity. Per-
haps this pathologizing explains why Ruse compares homosexu-
ality to childhood disease.

3. Evolutionary theories of homosexuality, like many of the other theories

addressed in this project, claim to include lesbianism, but the theories often ad-
dress only male homosexuality. Weinrich’s work is no exception.
The overtones of pathology become even more evident
104 when Ruse cites Weinrich’s theory of parental manipulation.
Weinrich (1976) argues that homosexual altruism may be a
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

product of parental management. If a child’s homosexuality

bene¤ts the reproductive potential of its siblings, then the child’s
sexuality advances the evolutionary interests of its parents. In
other words, parents may maneuver their children into nonre-
productive behavior because resources are too limited to support
the offspring of all of their children. Again, Weinrich draws on
examples from cultures in which parents direct their male chil-
dren to adopt female roles. Of course, behavior supporting this
theory is dif¤cult to observe in our own society, in which homo-
phobia pressures parents to preserve their children’s heterosexu-
ality at all costs. Ruse, however, thinks he has an explanation:
“Apart from the fact that our society may be atypical and incon-
sequential to long-range evolutionary considerations, it must be
remembered that conscious manipulation is not demanded by
sociobiology; indeed, control may be more effective if it occurs
unrecognized. It is certainly tempting to speculate that when
faced with a child who suffers some illness, parents become ex-
traordinarily protective, thus triggering or aiding a switch in fu-
ture sexual orientation” (1981, 26). Weinrich’s kin-selection
theories lead to suppositions about effeminacy when he presumes
that altruism is contingent on counter-gendered behavior. Un-
fortunately, as Ruse’s analysis demonstrates, the belief about pa-
thology follows from the belief about effeminacy because the ef-
feminate male is also presumed to be weak and in¤rm.
Ruse also extends G. Evelyn Hutchinson’s Balanced Supe-
rior Heterozygote Fitness theory. In this theory, Hutchinson
(1959) postulated that homosexuality persists in the population
as a by-product of an advantageous genotype. Hutchinson’s the-
ory was based on the rudimentary genetic work of Gregor Men-
del and used Mendel’s model to theorize homosexuality as a re-
cessive trait.4 In other words, homosexuality may occur when a

4. Mendel (1950) argued that some genetic characteristics are expressed in

alternate pairs of alleles. A particular species of vegetation, for example, may
produce plants with either long or short stems. If the short-stemmed plants are
in the minority, then the genetic expression of long stems is the dominant expres-
human possesses two recessive alleles. Heterosexuality, on the

Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology
other hand, would occur when an individual has two dominant
alleles, or one dominant and one recessive allele. To put Hut-
chinson’s theory of sexuality in Mendelian terms, a homosexual
is homozygous recessive, and a heterosexual is either homozy-
gous dominant or heterozygous. This theory would explain why
homosexuality persists even though it is a recessive trait; hetero-
sexuals who are heterozygous would continue to pass the reces-
sive gene on to their offspring; however, this explanation does
not reconcile the existence of homosexuality with evolutionary
pressures. Sociobiologists are not satis¤ed with the parasitic ex-
istence of homosexuality; the recessive allele must make some
evolutionary contribution.
Elaborating Hutchinson’s theory, Ruse offers an explanation
for the homosexual allele. He posits that heterozygous heterosexu-

als enjoy some adaptive advantage over homozygous heterosexu-
als—hence, the name of the theory, balanced superior heterozy-
gote ¤tness, which attributes ¤tness to heterozygosity (1981, 6).
To prove his point, Ruse draws an analogy to sickle-cell anemia.
This disease develops when an individual has two recessive al-
leles for sickle-cell anemia; however, individuals who are homo-
zygous dominant or heterozygous do not develop the disease.
The recessive allele persists because those individuals who are
heterozygous have immunity to malaria. Therefore, individuals
with at least one allele for sickle-cell anemia enjoy an adaptive
evolutionary advantage. Ruse argues that the same holds true for
homosexuality: “Let us also suppose, however, that heterozy-
gotes, possessors of one ‘homosexual gene’ and one ‘heterosexual
gene,’ were ¤tter than homozygotes for ‘heterosexual genes’; in
other words, that by one means or another, heterozygotes repro-
duce more than heterosexual-gene homozygotes. It then follows
naturally that the existence and persistence of homosexuality is

sion. Therefore, this particular species has alleles for both long and short stems,
but the allele for long stems is dominant. Each plant in this species has two
alleles. If a plant has two dominant alleles, or if a plant has one dominant and
one recessive allele, then the plant will have a long stem. But if the plant has two
recessive alleles, it will have a short stem. Plants that have two identical alleles,
either dominant or recessive, are called homozygous; plants that possess one of
each allele are called heterozygous.
a function of superior heterozygote ¤tness” (p. 9). Unfortunately,
106 Ruse, like Hutchinson, does not provide a reason that heterozy-
gotes would be more successful in reproduction, which is where
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

the analogy to sickle-cell anemia breaks down.

The evolutionary advantages for sickle-cell heterozygotes
are twofold. First, these individuals have an advantage over ho-
mozygous recessive individuals because they do not succumb to
sickle-cell anemia. Second, heterozygotes have an advantage
over homozygous dominant individuals because they are less
likely to develop malaria. Ruse is correct in asserting that these
heterozygotes enjoy a reproductive advantage because death and
disease limit procreation. The resistance to malaria is an advan-
tage enjoyed by heterozygotes but not by dominant homozy-
gotes. For the analogy to explain the homosexual allele, hetero-
zygote heterosexuals must enjoy some advantage not only over
homosexuals but also over heterosexual homozygotes. The only
reproductive advantage that Ruse offers is that heterozygotes do
not express the non-procreative behaviors of homosexuals, but
this advantage also would be enjoyed by homozygous hetero-
sexuals. For the theory of superior heterozygous ¤tness to be
tenable, it must identify a reproductive advantage of heterozy-
gosity other than heterosexuality itself. Neither Hutchinson nor
Ruse is able to isolate such an advantage.
Ruse seems more concerned about responding to moral ob-
jections to homosexuality than with identifying an advantage
arising out of heterozygous heterosexuality. He argues that
questions of biological ¤tness do not support negative moral
judgments of homosexual behavior. As he writes, “what is moral
and what is biologically ¤t are two different notions; the biologi-
cal un¤tness of homosexual persons has no implication for the
moral desirability of a heterosexual life-style over that of a ho-
mosexual, or vice versa. Indeed, given the present population ex-
plosion, it is easy to argue for the moral acceptability of homo-
sexuality” (1981, 8). Ruse’s argument is contradictory. On the
one hand, evolutionary pressures do not provide a moral ground-
work from which to judge homosexuality; on the other hand,
moral acceptance of homosexuals is based on the evolutionary
pressures of overpopulation. Setting aside that contradiction,
Ruse’s use of the superior ¤tness hypothesis offers a disparaging

Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology
portrayal of homosexuality. He conceives of homosexuals as
sterile for all practical purposes. This presumed sterility renders
homosexuals impotent men and infertile women; in either case,
the homosexual is incapable of ful¤lling the ultimate gender role
of reproduction. Furthermore, in support, Ruse compares homo-
sexuality with sickle-cell anemia; thus, any reproductive advan-
tage for heterozygous heterosexuals is enjoyed at the expense of
those individuals who have inherited the reproductively debili-
tating “disease” of homosexuality.
For Ruse, the comparison to disease is not entirely meta-
phorical; he apparently deems homosexual effeminacy to be a
product of childhood pathology. As in the ¤eld of behavioral
genetics and neuroendocrinology, in evolutionary theory too be-
liefs about gender and pathology are complementary. Further-

more, the sense of ¤tness, as Ruse describes it, does not account
for the biological possibility of bisexuality. Heterozygosity
equals heterosexuality; thus, the assumption of two discrete sex-
ual orientations underlies the theory.

Weinrich, Marriage, and Cheating

Perhaps Weinrich was concerned about the easy association

of effeminacy and pathology; later he expressed concern about
the counter-gendered hypothesis of effeminate altruism. In con-
trast to his traditional kin-selection theories, Weinrich intro-
duced an alternate theory that does not conceptualize homo-
sexuality as an expression of “cross-gendered wishes” (1987, 40).
He observed that although homosexuals may express cross-gen-
dered behavior, many homosexuals marry and have children, “so
my model begins by asking the following question: what does it
mean to ‘be’ homosexual in a society in which everyone mar-
ries?” (p. 41). His answer requires a reformation of the sociobio-
logical concept of limerance—the immediate feelings of intense
love that are thought to bond human relationships. Weinrich
suggests that limerance not only facilitates marital relationships
but also motivates extramarital affairs. He writes, “heterosexuals
have extramarital affairs with members of the other sex, whereas
homosexuals have them with the members of their own sex”
108 (p. 41). Because homosexuals’ extramarital affairs are non-pro-
creative, their affairs are, in effect, acts of reproductive altruism.
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

Weinrich’s theory is based on two tenuous assumptions:

¤rst, that everyone enters into heterosexual marriages, including
homosexuals; and second, that everyone is adulterous (or at least
men are), the difference being that homosexual affairs do not
produce children. To his credit, Weinrich acknowledges that his
theory is purely speculative, but he asserts that speculation is
necessary: “I cannot pretend to have proven that this theory is
true, or even to have made a direct empirical case for it. How-
ever, data-gathering must be motivated by good theory; it is
hard to prove or disprove a theory using only data gathered be-
fore the theory was proposed” (p. 45). Here Weinrich is on weak
ground because in many cases data collection has preceded the-
ory building.
I respect Weinrich’s attempt to theorize homosexuality in-
dependent of a belief about effeminacy, but his efforts ultimately
are unsatisfactory and highly speculative. The speculative char-
acter of his claims is not idiosyncratic; speculation is rather com-
mon in evolutionary theories of human sexuality. At this point,
a distinction needs to be made between evolutionary theorists
who study animal and insect behavior and those who study hu-
man behavior. Those who study animal and insect behavior, for
the most part, continue to identify themselves as sociobiologists.
In fact, the journal Sociobiology is devoted primarily to studies of
animal and insect behavior. Furthermore, these scientists con-
duct longitudinal studies that more readily support claims about
the evolution of behaviors. Those who study human behavior
must work under the constraints that review boards impose on
research with human subjects. Consequently, they do not con-
duct the type of longitudinal analyses that would trace the
evolutionary development of behaviors. From a methodological
standpoint, such empirical proof would be impossible to gather
because it would require monitoring behaviors for thousands of
years. Therefore, evolutionary theory regarding homosexuality
seldom, if ever, rises above the speculative.
Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology
The Old Model T

Although Henry Howe and John Lyne (1992) did not set
out to demonstrate the underdetermination of evolutionary the-
ory, their critique of the discipline brings this problem into sharp
relief. Howe and Lyne argue that sociobiologists appropriate
terms from other genetic disciplines, speci¤cally from popula-
tion, biometrical, and molecular genetics. Their critique is not
concerned with the intersection of sociobiology and social policy;
rather, they are interested in the ways that the use of genetic
terminology by sociobiologists creates problems of communica-
tion between biological subdisciplines. Howe and Lyne main-
tain that miscommunication and distortion occur because socio-
biologists do not use the same rigorous quantitative methods

common to the disciplines from which they appropriate terms.
For example, they write: “Prominent sociobiologists freely use
such genetic terms as ‘gene,’ ‘allele,’ ‘selection,’ ‘¤tness’ and ‘ge-
netic evolution’ in interpreting genetic self-interest in animal and
human behavior. The explicit algebraic de¤nitions of such terms
are common knowledge to practicing geneticists but, as we will
show, their quantitative implications are demonstrably unclear to
many sociobiologists” (p. 116). Although Howe and Lyne limit
themselves to the question of terminology and interdisciplinary
communication, another issue is inherent in their critique: socio-
biologists do not conduct the experimental research that would
lend their theories rigorous scienti¤c support. In spite of their
critical caution, Howe and Lyne conclude their essay with a
metaphor that dramatizes this problem: “To the geneticists
whose words have been co-opted but whose methods and rigor
have been spurned, sociobiologists are careening down the space-
age highway in a Model T Ford, hawking antiquated and often
dangerously obsolete wares. It is not a pretty sight” (p. 150).
Indeed, the underdetermined theories of sociobiologists can
be dangerous, a point I explore in the next chapter. For now,
I stress that although evolutionary theorists have made claims
about the genetic determination of homosexuality, they have not
attempted to isolate the speci¤c gene that might produce it. Al-
110 though Hamer’s research could be held up as support for socio-
biological theories, Dawkins (1993), paradoxically, has expressed
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

skepticism about Hamer’s ¤ndings, arguing that homosexuality

is not a simple or singular genetic expression. Given the sociobio-
logical premises linking genes and human behavior, Dawkins’s
position is confusing, but it illustrates a larger problem that
stems from the underdetermination of evolutionary theories. Be-
cause these theories operate at a high level of abstraction, scien-
ti¤c standards of replication and falsi¤cation cannot be applied.
Where evolutionary theory is concerned, at least in regard to
homosexuality, there are no empirical data to reproduce or dis-
prove; new theories can be introduced without the felt need to
reconcile them with the established literature. Consequently,
theorists can claim that homosexuality does not offer an evolu-
tionary advantage, indirect or otherwise, and they need never
engage those theorists who take a contrary position. This situa-
tion is not unique to sociobiology or evolutionary psychology,
but it raises doubts about the claim that evolutionary theories
can be used to reconsider the morality of homosexuality.

Gallup and Homophobia

Although I argue that sociobiological theories are underde-

termined, sociobiological theorists sometimes use empirical data.
Gallup (1995), for example, conducted several surveys to assess
negative reactions to homosexuals. Gallup’s work is relevant be-
cause it illustrates that the collection of data in a sociobiological
study does not necessarily lead to a fully supported thesis. In one
of his surveys, Gallup determined that subjects registered dis-
comfort when homosexuals held occupations that allowed them
to be in contact with children. In another, he determined that
homophobia was greater among parents than nonparents. In yet
another survey, Gallup found that subjects registered discomfort
when asked to imagine their own child’s interaction with a homo-
sexual adult. This discomfort was higher when the child was
eight years old or younger, when the child was a male, and when
the homosexual adult was a male. Gallup concluded that because
homophobia is strongest when subjects imagine homosexuals in-

Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology
teracting with children, it is a reaction shaped by “natural selec-
tion,” designed to protect the “emerging sexuality” of children
(1995, 65). Accordingly, he claims that homophobia, in certain
contexts, is an adaptive behavior.
Gallup concedes that his data offer only tentative support
for his theory. Indeed, his data do not prove that homophobia is
a selected evolutionary trait, nor does he demonstrate that homo-
phobia is genetically determined. Instead, his study indicates
that homophobia is fueled by the cultural misapprehension that
homosexuals are pedophiles, an assumption that he uses to his
Gallup admits that his theory is contingent on certain sup-
positions. He assumes, for example, that a “person’s sexual orien-
tation can be affected by modeling and/or seduction effects”

(1995, 67). He supports this claim by citing studies that argue
that homosexual orientation is developed in adolescence and not
infancy, including a study by Paul Van Wyk and Chrisann Geist
(1984) that concludes that the development of sexual orientation
occurs in the postpuberty period, an observation Gallup con-
¤rms. Gallup’s survey results, however, indicate that heterosexu-
als registered the highest levels of homophobia when eight-year-
old children were imagined having contact with homosexual
adults. In other words, expression of homophobia was greatest
for contact with children who were well below the age at which
sexual contact would shape their sexual orientation. In fact, Van
Wyk and Geist suggest that for those in the prepubescent age
group, sexual contact with other children had more impact on
their sexual orientation than did sexual contact with adults. Be-
cause Gallup did not test to determine if his subjects had the
same level of fear for children who had passed puberty, his
¤ndings do not support his claim that homophobia functions to
“protect” children’s sexual orientation. If anything, Gallup’s data
show that his subjects’ homophobia was misdirected, because it
was not speci¤c to the relevant contexts that he identi¤es.
Gallup’s subjects also showed a greater concern for male
children than female; given the accepted wisdom in the ¤eld,
this concern also was misdirected. If, as Gallup himself has ar-
gued (Gallup and Suarez 1983), male sexual resources are plen-
112 tiful whereas female resources are limited, then evolutionary
pressure would motivate parents to be more protective of their
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

daughters’ sexuality. If, as Gallup also has argued, male sexual

resources are destined to be wasted because of heterosexual frus-
tration, then fears for a son’s sexuality also were misdirected. In-
deed, if parents protected their sons’ sexuality at the expense of
their daughters’, then homophobia, as Gallup and Suarez (1983)
have described it, would be an evolutionary blunder. In any case,
if homophobia is misdirected, it cannot be an adaptive behavior.
In addition, Gallup assumes that homosexuals actually se-
duce children. To support this assumption, he cites a study by
Erich Goode and Richard Troiden (1980) in which they found
that “in a survey of promiscuous homosexual males, . . . over 80
percent of the respondents admitted to having had sex with mi-
nors” (Gallup 1995, 67). Gallup observes that this ¤gure may
re®ect sexual relations between minors because “Goode and
Troiden did not partition their data on minors into different age
categories” (p. 67). Gallup is mistaken; a close examination of
the study reveals that Goode and Troiden’s question on sexual
conduct with “minors” reads: “Since you reached the age at
which you were legally de¤ned as an adult, age 21, have you had
sexual relations with any persons who were minors?” (1980, 53).
Thus, the ¤gure of 80 percent re®ects relations between adults
and minors; however, 80 percent also includes sexual relations
involving minors who were well past the adolescent period that
Gallup identi¤es as crucial in sexual development.
There are other problems with Gallup’s interpretation of
this study. Although he mentions that the 80 percent ¤gure re-
fers to promiscuous homosexuals, he fails to report that this sub-
group made up only 23 percent of Goode and Troiden’s entire
subject population. Furthermore, when Goode and Troiden
asked all of their 150 subjects the age of their youngest sex part-
ner, they found that only 9 percent had had sex with a partner
under the age of sixteen. Why Gallup ignored this ¤gure is un-
clear; it certainly is relevant to his theory because it not only
represents a broader homosexual population but it also partitions
out the post-adolescent minors who were over the age of sixteen.
Instead, Gallup reports a ¤gure that feeds into the myth that the

Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology
majority of homosexuals are pedophiles, whereas the study he
cites proves otherwise. The reason is simple: Gallup’s theory is
contingent on whether heterosexuals’ fears of homosexuals are
grounded in fact. If these fears are unfounded, then homophobia
would not be an adaptation to evolutionary pressures, nor would
it be selected and maintained in the human population. Gallup
clearly believes that homophobia is adaptive: “Thus a strong ver-
sion of this model would hold that most people should exhibit
homophobic reactions under certain conditions. Indeed, one
would predict that even homosexuals, given an appropriate hy-
pothetical parenthood instructional set, should respond in much
the same way as their heterosexual counterparts” (1995, 69).
A larger con®ict exists between Gallup’s theory and the
more established sociobiological literature on homosexuality.

Whereas previous theories have treated homosexuality as an
adaptive behavior with a genetic basis, Gallup assumes that
homosexuality is socially produced through behavior modeling,
and speci¤cally through pedophilic seduction. Gallup makes no
attempt to reconcile this con®ict; in fact, he ignores other evolu-
tionary theories of homosexuality. This oversight illustrates the
underdetermination of research on the evolution of sexuality.
Because they lack an empirical basis, evolutionary theories of
homosexuality need not be reconciled; there are no concrete data
to reconcile or refute. This point is brought into sharp relief by
John Archer’s (1996) criticism of Gallup’s theory. Archer does
not criticize Gallup for overlooking previous theories on homo-
sexuality; rather, he commends him for offering “a welcome
change from earlier attempts to view homosexuality as possess-
ing some hidden ¤tness-enhancing characteristics” (p. 276).
Archer does not provide a rationale for his obvious dissatisfac-
tion with these theories; instead, he dismisses them without fur-
ther discussion, illustrating once again that evolutionary theories
on homosexuality can be embraced or dismissed without sus-
tained intellectual engagement. In Archer’s case, the dismissal of
existing theory is supported only by his personal opinion.
In Gallup’s case, his theory seems to be supported by his
belief that homosexual men are pedophiles. When Archer ques-
tioned Gallup’s use of the Goode and Troiden study, Gallup
114 (1996) responded by citing several other studies and statistics.
Included in his evidence is the work of Paul Cameron, an oppo-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

nent of gay rights who has been cited by the American Psycho-
logical Association for ethical violations and whose work has
been discredited (Brown and Cole 1985). He also repeated the
¤nding that more than 80 percent of promiscuous homosexual
males had sex with minors, but he again failed to acknowledge
the limitations of that statistic. Instead, he quoted ¤gures indi-
cating that homosexual pedophiles have had more victims than
have heterosexual pedophiles and that homosexual teachers are
twice as likely to seduce students than are heterosexual ones.
Gallup offered these studies as evidence that the homosexual se-
duction of children is a common occurrence, when in fact none
of the additional data he cited offered any information about the
percentage of homosexuals who actually molest children. He of-
fered this cautious summation: “Not all homosexuals are pedo-
philes, and seduction can also occur among peers. But it should
be clear from data such as these that both the incidence and pu-
tative role of seduction by adult homosexuals are not entirely an
artifact of media exaggeration as Archer implies” (1996, 283).
Although Gallup conceded that not all homosexuals are pedo-
philes, he failed to mention that the study he cited (Goode and
Troiden 1980) indicated that the vast majority of them are not;
his theory requires the assumption that male homosexuals are
Like other evolutionary theories, Gallup’s theory is informed
by the background belief about pathology, but in this case the
political implications are more apparent. Although some socio-
biologists have offered genetic theories that might be politically
advantageous for homosexuals, these theories can be dismissed
by other sociobiologists. Gallup, by contrast, claims that his the-
ory is not designed to condemn homosexuality, but his published
work claims that people’s hatred of homosexuals is both justi¤ed
and bene¤cial. What other purpose could be served by Gallup’s
theory if not to limit the rights of homosexuals and to exclude
them from certain types of employment? Given that Gallup
supports his theory by drawing on the work of gay rights oppo-
nents, condemnation of gays seems a likely political by-product.
Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology
The Politics of Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary psychology and sociobiology generally are

distinguished as follows: the former studies human behavior
whereas the later studies animals—but not all evolutionary psy-
chologists would agree with this distinction. In his book The
Moral Animal, Robert Wright (1994) suggests that the change
in labels had more to do with a desire to avoid the political
charges leveled against sociobiology than to distinguish studies
of humans from those of animals and insects. Wright charac-
terizes the name change this way: “Though bound by allegiance
to a compact and coherent set of doctrines, they go by different
names: behavioral ecologists, Darwinian anthropologists, evolu-
tionary psychologists, evolutionary psychiatrists. People some-

times ask: What ever happened to sociobiology? The answer is
that it went underground, where it has been eating away at the
foundations of academic orthodoxy” (pp. 6–7). Wright’s book
attempts to answer some of the political charges made against
sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. Because these ¤elds
often advance theories that defend traditional views of gender
(that men are by nature dominant and women passive), feminist
scholars have been extremely critical of both sociobiology and
evolutionary psychology. Wright claims that feminists do not
understand science generally, and Darwinian theory speci¤cally,
so their criticism is driven purely by political interests.
In a recent work, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Patricia Gowaty,
and Marlene Zuk (1997) responded to Wright’s charges, argu-
ing that the objections many feminists have raised about evolu-
tionary theories have everything to do with science and Darwin.
They point out that evolutionary psychologists oversimplify gen-
der and overgeneralize their conclusions in ways that ignore hu-
man variance. Moreover, they note, Darwin believed that natu-
ral selection worked because of the abundance of biological
variety found in nature. As they write, “A genetically uniform
population cannot evolve because there are no varieties to choose
among, none better suited than others to succeed in the game of
life. Indeed, humans themselves come in many varieties—both
physical and cultural. One great difference between Darwin and
Wright’s favorite modern evolutionists is that all too often
116 the latter present human females and males as invariant” (pp.
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

A similar objection was raised by Frank Muscarella (1999)

in his review of published work on evolutionary theories of
homosexuality. Muscarella traces the beginnings of these theo-
ries back to Donald Symons’s (1979) The Evolution of Human
Sexuality. In this book, Symons uses male and female homo-
sexuals to illustrate what happens when gender is unconstrained
by social norms. He argues that lesbians pursue monogamy
whereas gay men are promiscuous. He maintains that if hetero-
sexual men were not limited by the monogamous behaviors of
women (protecting their precious eggs), they would be just as
promiscuous as gay men are. From this perspective, male homo-
sexuality could be viewed as expressing hypermasculinity, except
that Symons does not argue that male homosexuality is an evo-
lutionary expression. Instead, he only offers male homosexuals as
an example of what heterosexual men might do if given the
Muscarella observes that although Symons does not offer a
real theory of homosexuality, his claims about homosexuality
have in®uenced other evolutionary theorists. For example, David
Buss (1994), in his book The Evolution of Desire, suggests that
male homosexuals provide an “acid test” for the evolutionary
function of male heterosexual desire. Buss argues that because
both male homosexuals and heterosexuals desire young and at-
tractive partners, the male desire for these types of partners
serves an evolutionary function. Like Symons, Buss does not of-
fer this observation to make a claim about homosexuality as an
evolved trait; instead, he only uses homosexuality to prove a
point about the evolutionary function of heterosexuality.
Finally, Muscarella addresses Wright’s book and points out
that the discussion of homosexuality is relegated to an appendix,
in which Wright claims that it is impossible for homosexuality
to be an adaptive behavior. Muscarella suggests that the evolu-
tionary psychologists are unable to theorize homosexuality con-
sistently because these theorists envision human sexuality as
dichotomous, with homosexuality negatively compared to hetero-
sexuality. He argues that for evolutionary psychologists to un-

Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology
derstand homosexuality, they must understand that sexual orien-
tation can be manifested in a variety of ways. In addition, he
claims that evolutionary psychology must experience a paradigm
shift that moves the discipline away from the negative stereo-
types that are often associated with homosexuality, associations
that Muscarella believes have driven sexual evolutionary theory.
In other words, Muscarella draws a conclusion similar to that
drawn by Kinsey: when sexual orientation is understood to be a
diffuse phenomenon, it is less likely that one speci¤c orientation
will be considered deviant.
Even if we were to accept Wright’s claim that evolutionary
theorists are politically disinterested scientists, it does not fol-
low that evolutionary theory is without political implications,
as Gallup’s research illustrates. Yet even those who claim that

homosexuality is adaptive offer theories that have political dan-
gers. If the male homosexual performs an evolutionary function,
it would seem to be strictly women’s work. As was the case in the
other facets of the gay gene discourse, in sexual evolutionary the-
ory, too, effeminacy usually signi¤es pathology. Because socio-
biology and evolutionary psychology attempt to offer a global
explanation for homosexuality, these theoretical constructs should
be a warning to those who hope that positive political outcomes
will follow from the gay gene research. Furthermore, the under-
determination of evolutionary theories demonstrates that no
theory enjoys the kind of empirical support that would privilege
it over others. Whether or not homosexuality is adaptive may be
more a matter of personal opinion and political interest than of
empirical ¤nding. Thus, Wright, who holds that homosexuality
is maladaptive, has been senior editor of The New Republic, an
indication that he is not without political interests, but just how
those interests inform his own views of homosexuality is un-
known. When evolutionary theories are considered in the larger
context of the gay gene discourse, however, it is possible to pre-
dict the kinds of political interests these theories might serve.
Beyond the Gay Gene


This project was begun with

one goal in mind: to examine the evidence on which the biologi-
cal arguments constituting the gay gene discourse are based.
Now that they have been examined and the evidence is on the
table, a clearer picture of biological homosexuality emerges. The
gay gene discourse reproduces the belief that male homosexuals
are effeminate, and it elaborates this view when it attempts to
prove that male homosexuals are physically feminized as well.
Underlying the belief in effeminacy are general beliefs and as-
sumptions about sex, gender, and biology. As other feminist
scholars have noted, biological research on gender and sex differ-
ences adopts a dualistic view: there are only two sexes (Condit
1996; Longino 1990; van den Wijngaard 1997). Accordingly,
any deviation from proscribed gender roles signi¤es a deviation
from biological sex: the male homosexual represents a behavioral
departure from gender norms and a biological departure from

Beyond the Gay Gene

the male reproductive imperative, departures seen as a ®ight to
the feminine.
Furthermore, the normality of heterosexual male behavior
operates as an uncontested, and incontestable, given. That bio-
logical research on male homosexuality presupposes effeminacy
illustrates the ways in which this research can be used to argue
that homosexuality is pathological. Because male homosexuality
is a genetic, physical, and behavioral departure from masculine

normality, deviance becomes the biological basis for distinguish-
ing between the male heterosexual and the male homosexual.
At every level of the gay gene discourse, scientists from dif-
ferent ¤elds, using different methods, operate from the same set
of beliefs and assumptions about male homosexuality, beliefs
and assumptions that re®ect cultural and social in®uences. When
these cultural and social in®uences enter into scienti¤c inquiry,
they distort the research. As van den Wijngaard (1997) has ar-
gued, dualistic thinking about masculinity and femininity has
acted as a gatekeeper in neuroendocrinological theory, limiting
research that might question the basic belief that men’s and
women’s brains are physically distinct. In relation to studies of
homosexuality, Byne has observed that similar cultural in®u-
ences have “required 25 studies to convince some that testoster-
one levels in adulthood do not reveal sexual orientation” (1996,
336). Both Byne and van den Wijngaard imply that cultural
in®uences can affect the quality of scienti¤c research, thus call-
ing its ¤ndings into question, particularly when these in®uences
introduce or perpetuate conceptual ®aws. As I have shown, crit-
ics have called attention to conceptual ®aws in every area of the
gay gene discourse, ®aws that seem directly related to the per-
sistence of stereotypes about gay men. Of greater signi¤cance is
the impact of the gay gene discourse and the related biological
arguments when they enter social and political arenas.
After all, the idea that homosexuality is a disease has been,
and continues to be, one of the most powerful arguments of gay
rights opponents (Leland and Miller 1998). Lyne (1993), in
fact, has expressed concern that the biological determination of
homosexuality may have negative consequences. Given the ways
that male homosexuals are represented in the gay gene discourse,
120 Lyne’s concerns are justi¤ed. Statements by political conserva-
tives provide further justi¤cation. Republican senator Trent Lott,
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

for instance, has called homosexuality a disease and compared it

with alcoholism (“Polls show Americans disagree with Lott”
1998). Perhaps the best example of the ways that biological ar-
guments have been used by political conservatives can be found
in the remarks of radio commentator “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger,
who has suggested that gays and lesbians are biological “errors”
(Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation 1998). Obvi-
ously, the gay gene discourse contains evidence that could be in-
terpreted to support these conservative claims; it also offers con-
servatives less obvious but signi¤cant advantages in arguing their
In chapter 1, I reviewed Foucault’s argument that early dis-
course on sexuality had conservative implications and potential.
Similarly, the gay gene discourse offers economic advantages to
the biological sciences and political advantages to conservative
interests. Because the biological argument that emerges out of
the gay gene discourse is thought to have a pro–gay rights ap-
peal, these conservative possibilities present a conundrum. As I
mentioned in the ¤rst chapter, the liberatory appeal can be ar-
ticulated as a bio-rhetoric because from the “is” of scienti¤c dis-
covery, a speci¤c “ought” of public policy follows: homosexuality
is biological; therefore, homosexual rights ought to be protected.
As a bio-rhetoric, this argument fails the gay rights movement.
The biological argument not only has proved ineffective in legal
arenas, but it has allowed opponents to frame the gay rights de-
bate in a way that puts gay rights advocates at a disadvantage.
In fact, the biological argument may be leading the gay rights
movement to adopt a political strategy that is fundamentally
®awed and that ultimately may fail.

Turf Wars

In chapter 2 I discussed Kinsey’s challenges to received no-

tions about homosexuality, which led to the removal of homo-
sexuality from the APA’s list of mental disorders. Kinsey chal-
lenged the assumption that sexual orientation was dualistic,

Beyond the Gay Gene

thereby raising doubts that homosexuality was pathological. Fur-
thermore, the multidimensional models generated by contempo-
rary theorists in®uenced by Kinsey no longer require that male
homosexuality be considered a state of effeminacy. In other
words, sociopsychological theories have been moving in a direc-
tion that no longer sustains the beliefs and assumptions that in-
formed earlier theorizing. Unfortunately, the abandonment of
these culturally in®uenced beliefs and assumptions has rendered

sociopsychology theories of homosexuality vulnerable to the
challenges of the biological sciences.
In an interview with Burr (1996a), LeVay confessed his
general disregard for sociopsychology theory: “To be frank, psy-
chology as an isolated discipline is threatening to reach a dead
end. It ignores a whole way of looking at the mind that is much
more ahead of it. Psychology is not suf¤ciently constrained, and
it is too easy to build theories that are impossible to validate,
either for or against” (p. 228). LeVay’s solution to the psycholo-
gists’ troubles is that they should defer to the biologists: “Ideally,
psychology would provide a description on a mental level of
what needs to be explained by the biologists. The word ‘psy-
chology’ is coming to be used as what it really means, ‘biology’ ”
(p. 229). LeVay’s comments frame the gay gene discourse as part
of a larger battle over intellectual turf. LeVay and other biolo-
gists want to claim homosexuality as an object of study, and to
do so, they hope to demonstrate that their theories are more
valid than those in competing ¤elds.
How can biologists successfully lay claim to the study of
sexual orientation? One way to establish the validity and priority
of their disciplinary perspective is to appeal to what much of
society already believes to be true about homosexuality. The gay
gene discourse has such rhetorical force because it reproduces
cultural beliefs about homosexuality and forti¤es the assump-
tions about both biological sex and sexual orientation. The sissy
boy, the homosexual alcoholic, and the predatory pedophile are
common stereotypes that the gay gene discourse rearticulates
as scienti¤c fact. Given the popularity of oversimpli¤ed notions
of gender, the credibility of the gay gene discourse is enhanced
when its conclusions about male homosexuality are based on re-
122 search that locates gender differences in the brain. Biological re-
search on male homosexuality seems plausible because the studies
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

reaf¤rm what is already believed to be true—that male homo-

sexuals are effeminate and sick. Imagine how biological research
on male homosexuality would have been received had these cul-
tural beliefs been undermined. Would Dörner’s work have been
accepted so readily if he had discovered that male homosexuality
was a state of hormonal hypermasculinity? Would Hamer’s
¤ndings have been accepted and publicized had he discovered
the gay gene on the Y chromosome and announced that it was
fathers, not mothers, who cause their sons to be homosexual?
The gay gene discourse does not take such risks. Unlike
Kinsey and post-Kinsey sociopsychological theory, biological re-
search does not challenge assumptions about sex and sexual ori-
entation, nor does it question established beliefs about gender
and normalcy. Biological scientists can and do exploit the vul-
nerability of sociopsychologists because they have abandoned
these beliefs and assumptions.
The battle over homosexuality as an object of study is a
struggle over etiology. Identifying the etiology of homosexuality
is vital because to claim authority over homosexuality, the gay
gene discourse must identify its origins. Etiology is central to the
question of cause and effect, and cause and effect is an essential
question for the biomedical sciences. When the gay gene dis-
course isolates the origins of male homosexuality, scientists in
the biomedical ¤elds are empowered to identify homosexuals
and potentially to “cure” homosexual “pathology.” The question
of etiology can be traced to the APA’s decisions to declassify
homosexuality as mental illness and dismiss reparative therapies.
These decisions limited sociopsychologists’ authority over homo-
sexuality, meaning that they could not isolate a cause and their
methods could not effect a “cure.” Although these moves to de-
classify homosexuality can be seen as positive advances for the
gay and lesbian community, they also can be identi¤ed as mo-
ments at which the authority of sociopsychologists was eroded.
The emergence of the gay gene discourse was facilitated
by the APA decision to declassify homosexuality. Indeed, the
weakened authority of sociopsychologists has allowed those in

Beyond the Gay Gene

biomedical ¤elds to lay claim to male homosexuality as an object
of study. What is disturbing is that the very conclusions that
proved bene¤cial to gays and lesbians (the determination that
homosexuality was not a psychological pathology, nor should it
be “cured”) have proved detrimental to the sociopsychologists.
Consider how LeVay supports his argument that psychology is
a “dead end” discipline. He maintains that psychology can only
describe, whereas biology can explain. In other words, although

psychologists may be able to chronicle and describe behaviors,
only biologists can tell us why the behaviors occur.
Although the scientists represented in the gay gene dis-
course believe that their work signi¤cantly advances the study of
sexual orientation, analysis shows that it recapitulates the same
concepts of male homosexuality found in psychoanalytic theo-
ries. The gay gene discourse recycles these concepts and uses
them in arguments that support a biological etiology for male
homosexuality. The biological research reinstates pathology as a
de¤ning belief about homosexuality, and in so doing it inserts
itself into a gap opened by Kinsey and widened by sociopsy-
chological theories. The authority biologists command over ho-
mosexuality is contingent on their ability to explain, on a bio-
logical level, the ways that the homosexual deviates from a
heterosexual norm in both a genetic and physical sense. By iden-
tifying a biological cause for homosexuality, the gay gene dis-
course implies the possibility of correction.
Some of the scientists working in the gay gene discourse
have suggested that using biological research to change a per-
son’s sexual orientation would be unethical; however, these ethi-
cal scruples do not preclude the possibility of medical treatments
for homosexuality, and Dörner’s (1976) advocacy of corrective
brain surgery illustrates that the possibility is real. Regardless of
how much certain scientists may want to distance their research
from such possibilities, two facts remain. First, the authority of
those who participate in the gay gene discourse to claim homo-
sexuality as an object of study is contingent on isolating a bio-
logical origin for homosexuality. Second, isolating this origin is
facilitated by a return to the beliefs about effeminacy and path-
ology and the dualistic assumptions about sex and sexual orien-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual tation.

Biomedical Impact

The claim of the gay gene discourse, that it identi¤es the

etiology of homosexuality, invests the biomedical disciplines
with the authority to diagnose and to treat homosexuals. Be-
cause the biomedical disciplines claim to have isolated the ori-
gins of male homosexuality, they are in a position to determine
who is homosexual and who is not. Hamer’s research, for exam-
ple, could provide a genetic test for homosexuality; Dörner’s
work could be used to develop a hormonal test. Burr (1996b) has
argued that with DNA therapy, the biomedical profession could
treat male homosexuality as a genetic disorder not unlike cancer
and Huntington’s disease, and Burr, who is gay, claims that if the
treatments were available, he would consider “genetic surgery”
(p. 22).
Tests and treatments have always haunted scientists partici-
pating in the ¤elds that make up the gay gene discourse. As I
mentioned earlier, some scientists, including LeVay (1993) and
Hamer (Hamer and Copeland 1994), have argued that using
their research to “cure” homosexuality would be highly unethi-
cal. Hamer also has claimed his work as intellectual property
and has promised to ¤ght any effort to use his ¤ndings to de-
velop tests or treatments. Although Hamer and LeVay ¤gure
prominently in the gay gene discourse, there are a number of
scientists studying the biology of male homosexuality, and not
all of them share these ethical concerns. In fact, some bio-
ethicists have argued that these moral concerns are unfounded.
Timothy F. Murphy (1997), for example, has suggested that any
attempt to constrain the use of research ¤ndings on sexual ori-
entation cannot be justi¤ed by the assertion that the research
might be used to eliminate homosexuality. Furthermore, LeVay
and Hamer cannot enforce their ethical standards in the public
sphere. When Hamer’s research was announced, some religious
leaders argued that it would be ethical to use science to eliminate
homosexuality (Schoofs 1997). When some gay men compare
their sexuality with mortal diseases and yearn to be “cured” (Burr

Beyond the Gay Gene

argues that other gay men share his desire to change sexual ori-
entation), then LeVay and Hamer’s ethical stance is eroded.
The ethical debate surrounding the gay gene discourse can
obscure the capitalistic dimensions of the biomedical industry.
The industry is driven by demand, and it has often been argued
that withholding treatments from ailing patients is unethical. In
the context of the gay gene discourse, the same question could be
raised: Is it ethical to deny treatment to an individual who wants

to change his sexuality? The ethical debate assumes that the
testing, treatment, and ultimate elimination of homosexuality
are ideologically motivated; however, the motivation to develop
tests and treatments is more likely to be commercial.1 In other
words, the biomedical industry will develop these products if
there is suf¤cient demand. Admittedly, homosexuals may be a
comparatively small market, but a likely possibility is that the
gay gene discourse will produce products that will be used by
heterosexuals more often than homosexuals.
When the gay gene discourse asserts biological authority
over male homosexuality, it does so in a manner that can relieve
heterosexual fears. Contemporary sociopsychological theories
have claimed that sexual orientation is ®uid; although certain
people are homosexuals, if the psychological factors were right,
anyone could become homosexual. Of course, the belief that
homosexuality is a developmental psychosis is culturally mani-
fest in the fear that homosexuals are capable of recruiting het-
erosexuals; recall Gallup’s theory about the adaptive value of ho-
mophobia. The gay gene discourse, however, comforts fearful
heterosexuals because homosexuality now becomes a question of
genetic predisposition rather than a matter of psychological con-
ditioning. Homosexuals may still attempt to recruit, but true
heterosexuals have biological immunity.
Another by-product of the gay gene discourse that is often
overlooked is the emergence of the heterosexual gene. Because
Hamer has produced his ¤ndings assuming a bipolar model of

1. Hubbard and Wald (1993) provide a thorough discussion of the economic

pressures that in®uence the biomedical industry.
sexual orientation, those who do not have the homosexual ge-
126 netic marker may be deemed biologically heterosexual. The gay
gene discourse demonstrates the biological essentiality of male
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

homosexuality, but it also generates the biological normality of

male heterosexuality. The male heterosexual is distinct from the
male homosexual because of genetic differences and because he
manifests true physical masculinity. Furthermore, the gay gene
discourse eliminates bisexuality as a biological possibility and
erases any gray area that might call into question the line be-
tween normality and abnormality. According to the gay gene
discourse, the heterosexual male is biologically normal and ge-
netically distinct, and his normal sexuality cannot be corrupted
by the seductive in®uence of homosexuals, nor can it be compro-
mised by fuzzy categories of sexual orientation.
Because the ethical debate has revolved around the interests
of gay men, no one has recognized that biomedical products may
be marketed to the heterosexual population. Any tests developed
by the gay gene research also provide biological evidence of het-
erosexuality. The heterosexual population provides a larger and
more lucrative market for the gay gene test, and conceivably such
a test could be used to verify heterosexuality. Once the gay gene
discourse has restricted homosexuality to a genetically distinct
population, biological proof of “normality” could be obtained
through a simple blood test.
Heterosexuals could also use a gay gene test to ensure that
heterosexuality stays in the family. According to Hamer’s theory,
it is possible for a heterosexual woman to pass homosexuality to
her sons. Thus, an expectant mother could undergo prenatal tests
to determine if her unborn child is genetically predisposed to
homosexuality and abort the fetus if the genetic predisposition
were found. In an interview with Burr (1995), medical geneticist
Philip Reilly argued that it is unlikely that such a test could be
successfully marketed because few women would consider sexual
orientation a valid reason to terminate a pregnancy. Further-
more, he suggests that any company that developed such a test
would be a target for protest from gays and lesbians. Reilly as-
sumes that only women who are highly intolerant of homosexu-
ality would consider using these tests; he also assumes that
women who are tolerant of homosexuality would be willing to

Beyond the Gay Gene

raise a homosexual child. Reilly’s assumptions, while plausible,
are unfounded; it is equally plausible to assume that women who
might publicly espouse tolerance for homosexuals might not
want to rear a homosexual child. Some homosexuals might feel
the same way. In a Newsweek interview (Baker 1990), a lesbian
couple who had conceived a son through arti¤cial insemination
express the hope that their son will be heterosexual “because it’s
easier” (p. 24), and they hope to have grandchildren. If some

homosexual women do not want homosexual children, it would
seem that the desire for heterosexual children is much more per-
vasive and deep-seated than Reilly has imagined.
The gay gene discourse offers economic advantages to the
biomedical community because once it claims authority over
male homosexuality, it is in a position to market new products.
Previously, diagnosis and treatment of homosexuality were the
domain of the sociopsychologists and were conducted in labor-
intensive therapy sessions. When homosexuality is constituted as
an object of biomedical knowledge, then diagnosis and treat-
ment are reconstituted as manufactured tests and drugs. As
Garland Allen (1997) has argued, pharmaceutical manufactur-
ing is less labor intensive and more economically advantageous
than is the sociopsychological counseling paradigm. In other
words, the biology of homosexuality becomes the rationale for a
new line of pharmaceutical products.
The economic potential of the gay gene discourse is not
limited to products developed to test for and treat homosexual-
ity. The discourse also de¤nes the relationship between genes
and social behaviors. As Hamer has argued, “It’s likely that ¤nd-
ing a ‘gay gene’ will be remembered as a breakthrough not so
much for what it explained about sexuality as for opening an-
other door to understanding genetic links to many equally com-
plicated human behaviors and conditions” (Hamer and Cope-
land 1994, 187). Accordingly, the gay gene will be held up as
proof that many social behaviors are biologically determined,
which then could open the door for the medicalization of these
behaviors. There have been reports in the media that intelli-
gence, violence, depression, and other conditions could all be at-
tributed to genetic factors, and like homosexuality, they could
128 become rationales for new lines of tests and treatments. Any new
understanding of genetics that the gay gene discourse may intro-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

duce can quickly be converted into new economic opportunities

for the biomedical industry. If ethical concerns interrupted the
development of tests and treatments for homosexuality, then the
full economic potential might not be realized. Considering the
strong market pressures that drive the biomedical industry, it is
doubtful that ethical concerns alone would prevent the economic
exploitation of the gay gene and attendant genetic discoveries.
Hamer’s argument about the impact of the gay gene, albeit
more circumspect, reveals the same disciplinary purpose that
LeVay has expressed: the gay gene discourse is part of an effort
to replace sociopsychology with biology. The advantages that bi-
ologists might gain from winning this turf war with sociopsy-
chologists are numerous because biology no longer is limited to
explanations of how our bodies work; now it can explain why
our bodies act. At a time when academic budgets are shrinking
and the competition for research resources is great, biologists
have much to gain by rendering sociopsychology a “dead end”
discipline. In addition, the private sector has much to gain when
homosexuality is moved out of the counseling of¤ce and into the
pharmaceutical factory. In other words, the interests of biologists
seem to coincide with a capitalistic interest in increased pro¤ts.
After all, the gay gene discourse turns male homosexuality into
a bigger biomedical business, and what conservative would deny
big business a lucrative opportunity? The interests served by the
gay gene discourse, however, are not solely economic.

The Conservative Appeal

If Hamer is correct in saying that the gay gene will intro-

duce a new genetic paradigm for social behavior, then the argu-
mentative grammar of this discourse is cause for concern. The
gay gene discourse, for example, relates behavior to genes by
evoking the stereotypical beliefs and assumptions that society
has about gay men, and its ¤ndings seem plausible because they
con¤rm cultural beliefs about homosexuals. The gay gene dis-
course formulates an argument by isolating a discrete population

Beyond the Gay Gene

(male homosexuals); then it proves that the population is geneti-
cally distinct by offering evidence that ful¤lls stereotypical ex-
pectations. If the gay gene discourse is held up as a model for
genetic research on social behaviors, how will this argumenta-
tive grammar be used to represent women and racial minorities?
Imagine what would occur if the stereotypical social behaviors
attributed to women and racial minorities were treated similarly
in genetic research.

The stereotypes about male homosexuals that conservatives
may ¤nd most satisfying are those that the gay gene discourse
perpetuates. The beliefs about effeminate pathology would cer-
tainly not be unwelcome in a conservative discussion of homo-
sexuality, but what should be more attractive to conservatives is
that the gay gene discourse moves the study of sexuality back to
a time before Kinsey. Kinsey and his research have come under
attack from conservatives, who question his methodology as
well as his character. They also equate Kinsey with what they see
as an erosion of sexual mores, and they lay the sexual revolution
at his feet. Tom Bethell (1997), writing for the National Review,
summarizes Kinsey’s legacy: “The sexual revolution has resem-
bled an incoming tide more than a war. Nothing seems able to
resist it, and we can only hope that one day it will turn and move
back out to sea. The cultural wreckage left behind will be con-
siderable. Meanwhile the laws have been changed, good habits
undermined, the string untuned” (p. 37). Undoubtedly, conser-
vatives consider the more tolerant contemporary attitudes to-
ward gays and lesbians to be part of the cultural wreckage.
In its efforts to claim that homosexuality is a product of
biology, the gay gene discourse has had to prove that Kinsey and
his followers were wrong. In an interview with Burr, Hamer ar-
gues that his data prove that sexual orientation is bimodal and
that the Kinsey scale is “a dead model because it doesn’t re®ect
reality” (Burr 1996a, 167). Questions concerning Hamer’s own
methods were raised in chapter 3 of this volume; in his interview
with Burr, Hamer admits that the bipolarity of sexual orienta-
tion that his data produced made it much easier to prove a ge-
netic link. Putting aside concerns about Hamer’s motives, it is
important to recognize that the gay gene discourse displaces
130 Kinsey and the post-Kinsey theories of sexual orientation. The
gay gene discourse suggests that sexual orientation is limited to
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

heterosexuality and homosexuality, a dichotomy that facilitates

conservatives’ efforts to defend simple categories of normalcy
and deviance. In fact, by killing off Kinsey’s model, the gay gene
discourse also kills off an entire paradigm of sex research that
ushered in a new tolerance of homosexuality and challenged the
supposition of pathology.2 In other words, the gay gene discourse
displaces a model of sexual orientation that has proved very
bene¤cial to gays and lesbians. The discourse also appeals to
conservatives—not just for what it has to say about male homo-
sexuality but also for what it has to say about Kinsey and the
post-Kinsey theorists. If used strategically by conservatives, the
biological research on homosexuality could refute Kinsey and re-
inforce the conservatives’ own efforts to turn back the tide of the
sexual revolution.
Many conservatives, however, are probably reluctant to em-
brace this research because they associate it with gay rights ad-
vocacy. Admittedly, the gay gene discourse is a confusing puzzle
because many people see it as motivated by a liberal ideology.
The gay gene research and other studies on the biology of ho-
mosexuality have been reported in the popular press as major
milestones for the gay rights movement. As noted, however, this
research can provide some political advantages for those conser-
vatives who have bemoaned the laxity of sexual mores. More-
over, the gay gene discourse argues for a relationship between
genes and social behavior that favors a broader conservative
agenda. As Allen argues:

In an era of skyrocketing health-care costs and the consolidation

of mammoth health-care empires, a strictly biological approach

2. The work of other researchers, such as Evelyn Hooker (1957), was instru-
mental in removing the mark of pathology from homosexuality. Hooker’s re-
search was primarily concerned with the mental health of male homosexuals;
unlike Kinsey, she did not generate new theories or models of sexual orientation.
I have singled out Kinsey because conservatives treat his work as the theoretical
point of departure that brought on moral decline. Therefore, the desire of bio-
logical scientists such as Hamer to discredit Kinsey’s model of sexual orientation
coincides with the desire of conservatives to discredit Kinsey generally.
to psychological/psychiatric conditions provides one way to re-

Beyond the Gay Gene

duce costs while maximizing pro¤t. . . . To locate those problems
in the innate biology of individuals is to remove the blame from
the economic and social system in which we live and to de®ect
responsibility for such problems away from society’s privileged
and powerful elite. . . . This view is sometimes referred to as the
“technological ¤x,” for it puts the solution to social problems, no
matter how complex, in the hands of technical “experts.” The rest
of us can go about our business and not ask the more penetrating
questions of why such behaviors exist, whether they are truly
pathological or not, and how we should respond both morally

and ethically. (1997, 265)

The gay gene discourse is part of a scienti¤c paradigm that holds

that social ills are not the fault of society. Low educational test
scores among ethnic minority populations, for example, could be
attributed to genetic levels of intelligence. Burr makes the point
quite well when he attempts to pitch the gay gene to a conserva-
tive audience in the pages of the Weekly Standard:
The liberalism that emerged from Locke and Rousseau holds
that everyone is born tabula rasa, as a blank slate upon which
society and environment write the adult that emerges. . . . Pass
enough programs, spend enough on them, and we can equalize
the sexes, equalize the races, level all professional playing ¤elds,
wipe out criminality, make the lazy industrious, the stupid smart,
the violent paci¤c, and the poor rich. The research on homosexu-
ality says: No. It says: In fundamental ways, we are born with
many important aspects of the way we are. And nothing—no
Head Start program, no midnight basketball, no welfare check,
no well-intentioned but misguided clemency from the bench—
can modify that or make it better. (1996b, 22)

According to Burr, the gay gene discourse just says no to anyone

not born into a state of genetic “normality.”
Burr’s article attempts to overcome the ambiguous character
of the gay gene discourse and to convince conservatives that, the
gay rights agenda notwithstanding, they have a lot to gain from
embracing the gay gene.3 This conundrum, however, illustrates
another aspect of the rhetorical force of the gay gene: it operates

3. Considering the in®ammatory letters to the editor written in response to

Burr’s article, he was not entirely successful in convincing conservatives that the
gay gene research supports their agenda.
as a bait and switch. Many liberals have been quick to embrace
132 the gay gene because they see it as ultimately supporting gay
rights when in fact they should recognize the conservative po-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

tential of the research. By accepting the gay gene discourse, lib-

erals also embrace an argument that they should be loath to ac-
cept. After all, the gay gene discourse derives its credibility from
biologically essentializing stereotypical beliefs about gay men.
Liberals have resisted biological arguments about women and
racial minorities, and suspending their suspicion of such claims
for the sake of gay rights puts them in a tenuous position.
The question of rights seems to have dissuaded liberals
from considering the conservative implications of the gay gene
discourse because it cloaks a conservative agenda in a liberal ap-
peal. It could be argued that these conservative possibilities do
not matter if the biological argument secures gay rights. What
makes the obfuscation of these conservative possibilities even
more insidious is that the biological argument may never deliver
on the promise of gay rights.

Is It Immutable?

Although the popular press has often discussed the biologi-

cal research on homosexuality in relation to current con®icts
over gay rights, the press is not solely responsible for this asso-
ciation. Many scientists have argued that their ¤ndings should
help to ease the social and political injustices suffered by homo-
sexuals. Hamer, for example, was a witness for the plaintiffs in
the challenge to Colorado’s Amendment 2; however, his testi-
mony had little bearing on the ¤nal decision rendered by the
U.S. Supreme Court. Indeed, in spite of claims to the contrary,
the biological argument is unlikely to have a positive impact on
legal decisions regarding gay rights.
The biological argument is used to support arguments for
gay rights that depend on a speci¤c reading of the Fourteenth
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Although the amendment
extends equal protection to all citizens, the 1973 Supreme Court
decision in the case of Frontiero v. Richardson interpreted the
amendment as protecting groups that experience discrimination
resulting from such immutable characteristics as race, sex, or na-

Beyond the Gay Gene

tional origin. Because the gay gene discourse supposedly proves
that homosexuality is biological and, therefore, immutable, ad-
vocates argue that these same protections should be extended to
gays and lesbians. The anti–gay rights response to this argument
is that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, not an immutable
characteristic. As noted in chapter 1, the lifestyle choice argu-
ment was used by gay rights activists to challenge the classi¤ca-
tion of homosexuality as a mental disorder (Herbert 1997), and

only recently has the gay rights movement embraced the biologi-
cal argument in reaction to the Christian Right and other gay
rights opponents.
Stein (1994) has argued that there are ®aws in the biologi-
cal argument for protected status. He suggests that biology may
be an unnecessary and insuf¤cient basis for gay rights. Stein
notes that the immutable characteristics mentioned in the Four-
teenth Amendment do not have to be biological and that many
protected categories are not biologically based. He offers the ex-
amples of hair color and religion to illustrate his point: a person’s
hair color is biological, but it does not deserve to be a protected
category; a person’s religion is not biological, yet as a category it
merits protection. Thus, a biological basis for homosexuality
need not justify constitutional protection for homosexuals under
the Fourteenth Amendment.
Stein (1994) claims that the discrimination directed toward
gays and lesbians is based on questions of behavior. Although he
does not use this example, the debate surrounding gays in the
military illustrates Stein’s point in that the exclusion of lesbians
and gays from the military has been based on the belief that
their behaviors would threaten heterosexual soldiers and erode
morale. Stein argues that even if the biological basis of homo-
sexuality were accepted, it would in no way dissipate discrimina-
tion that is based on behavior. In other words, a person may be
biologically predisposed to homosexuality, but that does not jus-
tify acting on the predisposition; participating in homosexual
acts remains a “choice” even if those acts are biologically moti-
vated. The analogy to alcoholism, which is often used in the bio-
logical research, illustrates this point. A person may be biologi-
cally predisposed to alcoholism, but the predisposition does not
134 justify, nor should it protect, the choices of an employee who is
drunk on the job. The argument that Stein outlines has already
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

surfaced in religious responses to the gay gene. The Catholic

Church, for example, has concluded that although being homo-
sexual is not a sin, homosexual acts are still sinful.
Stein concludes that appeals to gay rights should not be
made on the basis of biological research; rather, they should en-
gage moral and political issues. He suggests that the gay rights
movement follow the examples of other civil rights movements:

Consider, for example, the sorts of arguments that get made for
equal rights for racial or religious minorities. Rather than ap-
pealing to any facts about the constitution of these types of
people, these arguments involve theories of justice, rights, pri-
vacy, equality, and liberty. The arguments are moral and/or po-
litical in nature. The same is true for arguments for lesbian and
gay rights, protection for lesbian and gay men against discrimi-
nation, respect for queer relationships, and so on; these issues are
moral in nature and arguments for them should be cast in terms
of justice, rights, privacy, equality, and liberty. (1994, 293)

Stein’s position was validated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s rul-

ing on Colorado’s Amendment 2. The appeal to immutable char-
acteristics is noticeably absent from the majority opinion au-
thored by Justice Anthony Kennedy. The Court determined that
Amendment 2 was unconstitutional, but they did not base their
decision on the biological argument; in fact, their ruling illus-
trates that the biological argument may be counterproductive for
the gay rights movement. Writing for the Court, Kennedy stated
that Amendment 2 “is at once too narrow and too broad. It
identi¤es persons by a single trait and then denies them protec-
tion across the board. The resulting disquali¤cation of a class of
persons from the right to seek speci¤c protection from the law
is unprecedented in our jurisprudence” (Romer v. Evans 1996,
866). He concluded: “Amendment 2 classi¤es homosexuals not
to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to
everyone else. This Colorado cannot do” (p. 868).
In this opinion, the Court appears to be resisting attempts
to de¤ne homosexuals as a discrete population, which is the pur-
pose of the biological argument. The Court rejected Amend-

Beyond the Gay Gene

ment 2 because it denied homosexuals the same legal recourse
and access to political participation that is available to all other
citizens. Furthermore, the Court rejected Colorado’s efforts to
exclude certain citizens from the political process solely on the
basis of their sexual orientation. In other words, the Supreme
Court’s rationale was that homosexuals deserve the same protec-
tion afforded other citizens, not because they are homosexual but
because they are citizens. In addition, Kennedy’s majority opin-

ion should be a warning to those who would identify homosexu-
als as a discrete population: the biological argument that homo-
sexuality is an immutable characteristic can be used to single out
homosexuals in discriminatory legislation. Colorado’s Amend-
ment 2 is a case in point.
The discussion of gay rights from the perspective of biology
and constitutional protection, however, does not consider the po-
litical condition of gays and lesbians outside the United States.
Schüklenk and Ristow (1996) have criticized this myopia and
argued that although scienti¤c discoveries about the biology of
homosexuality cross national lines, the protections offered by the
United States Constitution do not. They wonder how this re-
search will be used in countries that do not extend the civil lib-
erties found in the United States, and how it might affect gays
and lesbians living in political climates more oppressive than our
own. Indeed, by embracing the biological argument, advocates of
gay rights have been negligent of the conditions that gays and
lesbians face in other countries. Schüklenk and I collaborated to
investigate the possible political dangers the biological research
may pose for gays and lesbians living outside of the United
States. We discovered that in many countries, including India,
China, Russia, and Singapore, there is interest in using biological
research to test for and control homosexuality (Schüklenk and
Brookey 1998). Recent reports of the treatment of gays and les-
bians in Africa indicate that there are several countries that
should be added to our roster (McGreal 1999).
Clearly, the belief that the biological argument will improve
the political condition of gays and lesbians is, at best, spurious.
Not only is the reasoning ®awed, but the appeal to immutable
characteristics has not been recognized by the U.S. Supreme
136 Court. Because the Court’s ruling on Amendment 2 will be the
basis for future legal tests of gay rights, the political potential of
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

the biological argument is limited. In fact, Murphy has observed

that the Supreme Court’s ruling on Romer v. Evans may have
brought an end to “the utility of pursuing suspect classi¤cation
for gay people” because “there are no references to scienti¤c re-
search in this opinion” (1997, 187–188).4 In an analysis of the
decision that appeared in Constitutional Commentary, D. Farber
and S. Sherry (1996) note that not only did the Supreme Court
reject the legal arguments that attempted to de¤ne homosexuals
as a discrete category deserving of protection under the Four-
teenth Amendment, but all the other courts that heard Romer v.
Evans rejected the argument as well. As noted, the Supreme
Court based its decision on moral questions of rights and equality.
The biological argument, as a bio-rhetoric, has failed gay
rights advocates in that it had no discernible impact on the most
important legal ruling to date. Although the gay gene discourse
has proved politically impotent in our country, it may prove to
be politically dangerous in others. Moreover, as Schüklenk and
I observe: “Some will argue that . . . the political responsibilities
of any gay and lesbian community do not extend beyond its own
national borders. But can any gay and lesbian community afford
to be so glib? For example, in the United States the Christian
conservative movement has gained a great deal of political clout
in a very short period of time. If this movement were to gain
political control, it is not dif¤cult to imagine how the etiological
research on sexual orientation might proceed” (1998, 84). We
suggest that given the Christian conservatives’ political clout,
gays and lesbians in the United States cannot afford to ignore

4. Murphy, however, is not entirely convinced that biological research had no

impact on the Court’s decision. He argues that it may have had some indirect
in®uence. Although he concedes that his argument is speculative, he claims that
“it is dif¤cult to imagine this decision coming down in the way it did had there
been no credible science investigating the nature and social effects of sexual ori-
entation” (1997, 189). Allowing for any indirect in®uence the biological research
may have had on Romer v. Evans, the biological argument had no direct legal
impact. When it comes to the extending legal protection to gays and lesbians, the
biological argument has yet to deliver.
international implications. In fact, continuing to use the biologi-

Beyond the Gay Gene

cal argument to advocate rights frames the debate in a way that
bene¤ts gay rights opponents.

Framing the Gay Rights Debate

One reason that the gay gene discourse and the biological
argument for rights may be attractive to some gays and lesbians
is that many believe their own sexual orientation to be inborn.

This belief in a predetermined sexual orientation is most visible
in the emerging conservatism in the gay rights movement. Al-
though the concept of conservatism seems antithetical to the
cause of gay rights, it has been expressed recently as an effort to
assimilate gays and lesbians into mainstream heterosexual cul-
ture. The assimilationist movement is not so much a challenge
to conservatives as an effort at accommodation. Whereas con-
servatives have portrayed homosexuality as a threat to tradi-
tional values, assimilationists attempt to show that homosexuals
can embrace the same values they are supposed to threaten. As
Michael Warner (1997) points out, some of the strongest propo-
nents of assimilation, including Gabriel Rotello, Bruce Bawer,
Andrew Sullivan, and Chandler Burr, are also political conser-
The politics of assimilation came to a head when organizers
suggested that in 2000, the March on Washington, a recurring
gay rights event, should re®ect religious faith and family values,
and that attendees should eschew any overt expressions of their
sexual practices. There was swift reaction to the plans to create
a family-friendly event, particularly to the extent that those plans
excluded public displays of sexual expression (Solomon 1998).
The push for assimilation, however, is not new. The original
homophile organizations of the 1950s, such as the Mattachine
Society, Daughters of Bilitis, and ONE, Inc., adopted a policy
of assimilation. Mattachine was founded by activists who wanted
to challenge the legal and social mechanisms that oppressed
homosexuals, but the society quickly redirected its policies to
accommodate dominant social norms. Central to the policy of
assimilation was the rejection of political activism; instead, Mat-
tachine deferred to the authority of scientists, who they believed
138 might bring about social change through education. Mattachine
sought out professors at UCLA and Berkeley and volunteered its
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

members as subjects in studies in the hope that the research would

document the existence of “normal” homosexuals (D’Emilio
The contemporary assimilationist movement resembles
Mattachine’s policies in two important ways. First, it is designed
to deny any attempts to challenge the heterosexual norms of so-
ciety. The assimilationist agenda is perhaps best articulated by
Andrew Sullivan (1995), who argues that prohibition of homo-
sexuality is a well-reasoned position; therefore, gay activism
should be limited to the struggle for marriage rights and mili-
tary service. Sullivan and others believe that social change can
occur only if gays and lesbians abandon difference as a point of
political identity and adapt their lives to conform to a heterosex-
ual model.5 In other words, the best thing that gays and lesbians
can do to improve their situation is to enter into same-sex mar-
riages and have children. Gabriel Rotello takes the argument
a step further; he believes the option of marriage and family
should be tied to the social status of gay men, so “marriage
would provide status to those who married and implicitly penal-
ize those who did not” (1997, 256).
From this perspective, a spouse and children become social
commodities for a gay man, so much so that Dan Savage (1998)
has remarked in the pages of the New York Times Magazine that
these accoutrements could become the ultimate gay status sym-
bol. Although I question the wisdom of turning marriage and
family into status symbols, my point here is that adaptation to
heterosexual norms is the primary political agenda of the as-
similationists, who believe that the best way to adapt is through
forming relationships and families that can serve as social dis-
plays of normality.

5. Regarding homosexual prohibition, it is probably best to let Sullivan speak

for himself: “And at its most serious, it is not a phobia; it is an argument. As
arguments go, it has a rich literature, an extensive history, a complex philosophi-
cal core, and a view of humanity that tells a coherent and at times beautiful story
of the meaning of our natural selves” (1995, 23).
The current assimilationist movement, like the older Matta-

Beyond the Gay Gene

chine Society, has deferred to the authority of scientists. The as-
similationists of today are turning to the authority of the bio-
logical scientists and using this authority to argue that sexual
orientation is not a choice but an inborn sexual drive. Because
assimilationists claim that homosexuals are not fundamentally
different from heterosexuals, and that sexual orientation is the
least important aspect of one’s personality, an argument based
on biological research indicating that homosexuals are different

from heterosexuals presents a bit of a problem. Indeed, the bio-
logical argument is the weakest point of the assimilationist po-
Here is how the argument plays out. Gays and lesbians can-
not help being attracted to their own sex; their sexual orientation
is part of their physical being and their genetic code.6 Gays and
lesbians can conduct their lives in responsible ways, however;
they can enter into same-sex marriages and raise families, just
like heterosexuals. Although homosexuals may have no choice
when it comes to their sexual orientation, they can make respon-
sible choices about the ways they conduct their lives. Responsible
choices, as the assimilationists see it, are the same choices hetero-
sexuals make.
The assimilationist position is ®awed because it is based
on the premise that biology cannot be separated from behavior:
homosexuals cannot help it if they want to have homosexual sex.
Stein (1994) has argued that this premise cannot support a legal
argument for gay rights, but I would add that the premise is an
equally inadequate basis for increasing social acceptance of ho-
mosexuality. That gays and lesbians can adapt their behavior in
responsible ways is based on the idea that biological drives can
and should be contained and channeled into a certain type of
relationship, that is, same-sex marriage. That behavior can be
adapted contradicts the biological premise, however, because it
reveals that biology cannot justify behavior. Although one may
be predisposed to homosexuality, ultimately one has to make a

6. Here, again, Sullivan (1995) provides that example. His argument, how-
ever, is not based solely on biology but operates from the premise that homosexu-
ality is a predisposition that precludes choice.
choice to act on that predisposition. When assimilationists argue
140 that this predisposition can be channeled into responsible behav-
ior, they run into a problem, particularly when responsible be-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

havior mimics heterosexuality. The biology of homosexuality

does not justify this mimicry. If homosexuals have the choice to
act responsibly and contain their desires, and heterosexual mar-
riage is the model of responsible behavior, why not skip the
mimicry and opt for the real thing? Why not ask homosexuals
to contain their desires and channel them into heterosexual mar-
riage, if such marriages are the standard of responsible behavior?
Reasoning from the assimilationists’ position, heterosexual mar-
riage becomes the responsible choice, even for homosexuals.
Unfortunately, Christian conservatives have tapped into
this weakness in the assimilationist position and have used it to
champion programs designed to convert homosexuals to hetero-
sexuality. A cover of Newsweek ran a photograph of a former
lesbian and a former gay drag queen, now married to each other,
with a son, and living in Colorado Springs (Leland and Miller
1998). The cover article described ways that the “ex-gay” move-
ment has learned to accommodate the biological research on
homosexuality. Religious organizations such as Exodus maintain
that through spiritual guidance, gays and lesbians can over-
come their homosexual desires by adapting to a heterosexual life
through marriage or, at the very least, by abstaining from homo-
sexual contacts. Although abstinence might seem a bit extreme
(some members are even told to avoid masturbation), the under-
lying assumption of the “ex-gay” movement is the same as that
of the assimilationists: sexual behavior can and should be adapted
to social norms, and those norms must be heterosexual.
The biological argument leads to a dead end in both the
legal and social realms. The argument has been ignored by the
courts, which refuse to acknowledge that homosexuality is an
immutable characteristic or to establish homosexuals as a dis-
crete class worthy of constitutional protection. The U.S. Su-
preme Court struck down the efforts by the state of Colorado to
de¤ne homosexuals as a class in order to single them out for dis-
crimination. Obviously, future legal strategies will need to take
a different approach. The biological argument has had even less
impact on the social debate about homosexuality because it can-

Beyond the Gay Gene

not absolve gays and lesbians of the responsibility of choice.
Given that assimilationists have equated responsibility with a
heterosexual model of marriage, the choice to participate in a
homosexual relationship, even one that is monogamous, cannot
be justi¤ed by biology. The homosexual, regardless of biological
impulses, always has a choice when it comes to homosexuality.
The failure of the assimilationist position is not the result of
its advocacy of marriage and family. Instead, the failure lies in its

capitulation to conservative agendas. In other words, assimila-
tionists have allowed anti–gay rights interests to frame the de-
bate on gay rights as a matter of choice: if homosexuality is a
choice, it is an immoral choice. The assimilationist response is to
argue that homosexuality is not a choice, but for reasons that
I have already addressed, the choice argument is one that gay
rights advocates are bound to lose. Gay gene or no gay gene,
homosexual behavior is ultimately a choice. By framing the gay
rights question as a matter of choice, conservatives not only have
stacked the deck against gay rights advocates, but they have
oversimpli¤ed the debate in ways that obfuscate some important
To begin with, choice, in and of itself, has no moral content.
Because some action is chosen and volitional does not mean that
it is inherently suspect, yet that is exactly how the frame of the
argument about choice categorizes homosexuality: if it is a
choice, it is immoral; end of the debate. By closing down the
debate, the frame of choice eliminates the opportunity to discuss
the full implications of the gay rights issue. It eliminates debate
about how and why our society believes homosexuality is im-
moral. This is a debate that should not worry gay rights oppo-
nents because a signi¤cant number of people in the United
States still consider homosexuality immoral (Leland and Miller
There are, however, other debates that should disturb gay
rights opponents. Even if the majority of people consider homo-
sexuality immoral, for example, to what degree do they believe
our government should dictate the sexual behaviors of individu-
als? Considering that gay rights opponents often base their op-
position of homosexuality on a literal interpretation of the Bible,
142 to what degree should government policy be based on religious
fundamentalism? Furthermore, to what extent should the gov-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

ernment police sexual behavior, and should those police actions

include legally denying individuals the right to employment and
housing? These questions are much more complex, and given
public attitudes about government intrusion into personal mat-
ters, they may not be resolved to the satisfaction of most gay
rights opponents. A Newsweek poll, for example, revealed that
although 54 percent of the respondents believe homosexuality is
a sin, 83 percent believe gays and lesbians should have equal em-
ployment rights, and 75 percent support the right to fair housing
(Peyser 1998). Thus, it is in the interest of antigay factions to
limit the debate to the question of choice because that is a debate
they can win.

Whose Choice Is It Anyway?

The Christian Right and other antigay activists have used

the framework of choice to portray gays and lesbians as seeking
special protections that other members of society do not enjoy.
They argue that homosexuals want “special rights” to protect
their lifestyle choice. The argument over choice permits antigay
forces to portray liberties that are enjoyed by most Americans as
special rights when those same liberties are sought by gays and
lesbians. The issue of choice puts the burden on gays and lesbians
to justify their right to the privileges that other Americans enjoy.
The focus on choice forecloses discussion of the prejudicial
choices and discriminatory practices that have led gays and les-
bians to seek legal protection.
In her book Freedom to Differ, Diane Miller (1998) analyzes
the military hearing and civil court trial of Colonel Margarethe
Cammermeyer, the highest ranking of¤cer ever discharged from
the U.S. military for homosexuality. Although Cammermeyer’s
attorneys argued that her sexual orientation should not exclude
her from military service, the outcome of the trial left intact the
right of military personnel to act in a discriminatory manner. As
Miller observes: “By continuing to focus on ‘gays in the military’
as opposed to prejudice against lesbians and gays in the military,

Beyond the Gay Gene

we locate the source of the problem in gay and lesbian service
members rather than in the attitudes of homophobic military
leaders and service members. . . . As long as we fail to under-
mine the discourse that frames the situation in terms of a ‘gay
problem,’ we leave unchallenged the underlying ‘homophobia
problem’ that truly needs resolution” (1998, 137–138). Miller’s
analysis can be extended to the larger debate about gay rights.
The question of choice frames the debate as a gay problem that

continually demands that gays and lesbians justify their actions
and behaviors. What escapes scrutiny, what is never questioned,
are the prejudicial choices and discriminatory actions of homo-
phobic members of our society. In the debate about whether or
not homosexuality is a choice, one fact has gone unnoticed: dis-
crimination is a choice.
Everyone in our society has the right to hold prejudiced
views. Our government is not so intrusive as to try to control the
thoughts that we have about other people, even when those
thoughts are stereotypical, categorical, and bigoted. Our govern-
ment does not allow people to act on their prejudices, however,
particularly when those actions violate the rights of others. A
person can choose to hold prejudicial views but does not have the
right to act in a discriminatory manner. A sexist cannot deny a
person employment because of gender. A racist cannot deny a
person housing because of race or ethnicity. There is one group,
however, whose members have the right to act on their prejudice:
homophobes. Except possibly in those states that have enacted
protective laws, the prejudicial choices that result in discrimina-
tory actions against homosexuals are protected in our society.
Because prejudiced individuals in most states can act in a dis-
criminatory manner without legal consequences, it would be
proper to say that these individuals enjoy special protection and
special rights. Of course, Christian conservatives claim that
their discriminatory behavior is based on their religious be-
liefs—that it does not come from any sense of bigotry; however,
these same Christians are not permitted to discriminate against
individuals whose religious beliefs differ from their own. To put
a ¤ner point on it, although a Christian enjoys the right to deny
employment to a homosexual, a homosexual does not enjoy the
144 right to deny employment to a Christian. In this state of affairs,
who is enjoying special rights? Surely it is not gays and lesbians.
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

In the past, moral arguments have been used to justify dis-

crimination directed at women and ethnic minorities. Some
contend that it is inaccurate to compare the gay rights movement
with other civil right struggles, and to the extent that the com-
parison ignores the different experiences of these oppressed
groups, the claim is justi¤ed. But to the extent that it reveals
something about bigotry, the comparison has real value. That
the moral arguments become modular—that they can be used
against groups that are similar only because they are targets for
prejudice—reveals that bigotry is a willful denial of individu-
ality. Bigotry is the classi¤cation of a group of people for the
purposes of discrimination. It does not recognize that an indi-
vidual has any value apart from membership in the group; in
fact, membership in the group is enough to divest the individual
of value. In other words, knowing that a person is homosexual is
all that a bigot needs to know to determine that person’s value,
or lack thereof. Considering this willful denial of individuality, it
is no surprise that bigots recycle their arguments for use against
dissimilar groups.
The modularity of the moral argument suggests that the
burden in the gay rights debates needs to be placed on those who
choose to discriminate. Because the moral arguments against
women and racial minorities have been rejected, the opponents
of gay rights should be called on to explain why those same ar-
guments justify discrimination against gays and lesbians. What
is it about their moral objection to homosexuality that gives
their recycled argument special status? Basing their moral ob-
jection on religious faith does not provide adequate justi¤cation
in a nation founded on the separation of Church and State. If
the objection becomes a question of faith, then the debate about
gay rights becomes a question of con®icting religious beliefs.
Those who oppose gay rights do so because homosexuality vio-
lates their religious beliefs, but those who support gay rights
hold different religious convictions. The U.S. Constitution pro-
hibits discrimination on the basis of religious belief, but when it
comes to the question of homosexuality, some religious beliefs

Beyond the Gay Gene

seem to enjoy special protection. It is this special protection—
the special right to discriminate against homosexuals—that
needs to be challenged. Unfortunately, because of the biological
argument, the debate has focused on the personal choice of ho-
mosexuals, not on the social choice of homophobia.

What Next?

As a bio-rhetoric, the biological argument fails the gay
rights movement. Although those who formulate the argument
may hope to establish that homosexuality is biological, the argu-
ment itself does not indicate what should be done about homo-
sexuals. In both the legal and social realms, the biological ar-
gument has done little to improve the conditions of gays and
lesbians. U.S. Supreme Court decisions have ignored the biologi-
cal argument. Christian conservatives have used biological re-
search to justify therapeutic treatments to “cure” homosexuality.
Given the failure of the biological argument, gay rights advo-
cacy needs a different approach. The necessity for a new ap-
proach became even more apparent when a study published in
Science cast doubt on Hamer’s genetic research. The authors con-
clude their report with this observation: “It is unclear why our
results are so discrepant from Hamer’s original study. Because
our study was larger than that of Hamer et al., we certainly had
adequate power to detect a genetic effect as large as was reported
in that study. Nonetheless, our data do not support the presence
of a gene of large effect in®uencing sexual orientation” (Rice et
al. 1999, 667). Although the authors of this study admit that
their ¤ndings do not preclude the existence of a gene for sexual
orientation, their conclusion erodes any argument for gay rights
based on biological research. After this study appeared, an edi-
torial in the Boston Globe suggested that the “enthusiasm for the
‘gay gene’ research has waned among activists and scientists alike,
and there is growing consensus that sexual orientation is much
more complicated than a matter of genes” (Brelis 1999, C1).
The lesson for gay rights advocates is not to eschew scien-
ti¤c research as a tool in the gay rights movement; instead, they
need to be selective about the research they embrace. If there is
146 a growing consensus that sexual orientation is complex, then gay
rights advocates should base future arguments on scienti¤c re-
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

search that re®ects this complexity. Perhaps the theories that

may be of the most value are those developed by sociopsycholo-
gists who have expanded Kinsey’s model and conceptualize sex-
ual orientation as a multidimensional ®uid phenomenon. The
more complex and unstable sexual orientation becomes, the more
dif¤cult it is to isolate a speci¤c orientation as a distinct form of
pathology. Furthermore, models that indicate that an individual’s
sexuality can change over time cast doubts on attempts to single
out a discrete population of sexual deviants for discrimination.
In other words, the more options there are for sexual orientation,
the less normal heterosexuality seems to appear, particularly
when those models show that even heterosexuality can change
over time. Of course, some gay rights advocates will claim that
these models of sexuality play into the hands of gay rights op-
ponents who argue that homosexuality is a choice; after all, op-
tions and change imply choice.
With this challenge in mind, perhaps it is time to rethink
the strategy for the defense of gay rights. Currently, opponents
have focused the debate on the question of choice, which has put
gay rights advocates on the defensive and in the position of jus-
tifying equal rights for sexual minorities. Indeed, the biological
argument was adopted to provide such justi¤cation. Instead of
debating whether or not lesbians, gays, and other sexual minori-
ties deserve legal protection, gay rights advocates need to shift
the burden of argumentation in such a way that they challenge
the rights of individuals and institutions to discriminate against
sexual minorities by withholding equal rights. The legal prece-
dent for such an approach can be found in the U.S. Supreme
Court’s ruling in Romer v. Evans. Gay rights advocates might
use this ruling as a means of shifting the debate on gay rights to
focus it on acts of discrimination and to force homophobes to
justify their discriminatory behaviors.
Finally, gay rights advocates need to distance themselves
from research that treats gays and lesbians as biological errors.
Although the gay gene discourse deals almost exclusively with

Beyond the Gay Gene

male homosexuality, studies have suggested that lesbians may be
physically masculinized (McFadden and Pasanen 1998). Fortu-
nately, most of the biological research on sexuality is easily re-
sisted because of the ways it operationalizes sexual orientation as
a variable. My investigation of the literature reveals that re-
searchers have no consistent means of measuring sexual orienta-
tion as a variable, and in some of the studies no actual measures
even were made. In the genetic studies mentioned previously, for

example, subjects were recruited who identi¤ed themselves as
gay. These recruiting tactics would not produce a set of subjects
that re®ected the population at large. Furthermore, such tactics
exclude individuals who participate in homosexual behaviors but
do not read gay publications, participate in homophile organiza-
tions, or incorporate their sexuality into a political identity.
In addition, the studies in the gay gene discourse do not use con-
sistent measures when treating sexual orientation as a variable.
Although Hamer used a truncated version of the Kinsey scale,
LeVay did not attempt to measure sexual orientation at all; in-
stead, he depended on the medical records of his subjects. Given
these vast differences in method, it would be dif¤cult to say that
Hamer and LeVay were studying the same variable, even though
both thought they were studying male homosexuality.
At a time when the political landscape may be shifting and
anti–gay rights forces may have more access to high of¤ce in the
federal government, it would seem that gay rights advocates
must proceed with caution. They should carefully scrutinize the
biological research on homosexuality and challenge the ways
that researchers represent sexuality. This scrutiny is particularly
necessary when the research attempts to structure homosexual
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those claims re®ect their own sexual experience. If the members
Reinventing the Male Homosexual

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Animal behavioral research, 82–87, Beliefs (in argument), 14–15
94, 108 Bergler, E., 31, 33–34, 37, 41, 43–44
Anti–gay rights groups, 6, 11, 44, Bethell, T., 129
119–20, 130–32 Biological research argument, 5–8;
Archer, J., 113–14 assimilationist movement and,
Arnold, A., 73 139; background beliefs/assump-
Assimilationist movement, 137–41 tions and, 14, 19–21, 122; bio-
Assumptions (in argument), 14– power and, 8–11, 22, 40–43;
15, 20 bio-rhetoric and, 11–13, 15, 23,
120, 136, 145; co-optation of by religious/conservative, 1–3, 5,
anti–gay rights groups, 6, 11, 124, 134, 136, 140, 142–43,
119–20, 128–32; ¤elds of study 145. See also Values, moral or
in, 18–19; negative impacts of, “family”
6, 13, 120, 132; politics of, 7–8, Coleman, E., 37–38, 55
21, 59; protected status and, Colorado, 4, 132, 134–36, 140
132–36 Congenital homosexuality, 29–30
Biomedical industry, 125–28 Congress of German Jurists, 26
Bio-power, 8–11, 22, 40–43 Conservatives: assimilationist move-
Bio-rhetoric, 11–13, 15, 23, 120, ment and, 140–41; conversion
136, 145 of homosexuals and, 140; co-
Birke, L., 87 optation of biological research
Bisexuality, 30, 32, 35, 64–65, 76, by, 6, 11, 119–20, 128–32; gay
107, 126 gene discourse and, 128–32;
Boston Globe, 145 religious, 1–3, 5, 124, 136, 140,
Brains, sexual differentiation of. See 142–43, 145
Organizational/activation Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
model of the brain (Wilson), 97
Brand, T., 86 Constitutional protections, 3, 5, 132–
Breedlove, S. M., 73 36, 144–45
Brookey, R., 135–36 Copeland, P., 10, 63
Bryant, A., 101 Counterfeit-Sex: Homosexuality, Impo-
Buhrich, N., 61–62 tence, Frigidity (Bergler), 33, 41
Burr, C., 5, 94, 121, 124–26, 129, Criminal behavior, homosexuality
131, 137 as, 11
Buss, D., 116 Cures (Duberman), 10
Byne, W., 19n6, 119 Cures and treatments, 6, 10, 29, 33–
34, 37, 77, 122–25, 140, 145
Callaghan, R. S., 85–86
Cameron, P., 114 D2 receptor gene, 68
Cammermeyer, M., 142 Darwin, C., 115
Carretta, R. A., 56 Darwinian models, 30, 115
Cass, V., 38 Daughters of Bilitis, 33, 137
Catholic Church, 134 Dawkins, R., 18–19, 64, 97–100, 110
Cheating, 107–108 De Cecco, J., 38
China, gay rights in, 135 Defense of Marriage Act, 4
Choice: of discrimination against Depression, genetic determination of,
homosexuals, 143; of homo- 68n12, 127–28
phobia, 145; of homosexual life- Desire, 2–3, 11, 28, 76, 81, 116, 147
style, 1–5, 13, 23, 43–45, 133, Dewey, J., 6
139–46 Diamond, M., 56–58
Christian Right. See Conservatives, Discipline and Punish (Foucault), 8, 42
religious Discrimination, 132–35, 143–44, 146
Chromosomes: intersexuality theory Disease, homosexuality as, 11, 13,
and, 49–50; X chromosome, 17, 22, 94–95, 103, 107. See also
66; Xq28 chromosome, 4, 17, Pathology, homosexuality as
63–69; Y chromosome, 66, DNA tests, 47, 51, 63
93, 122 Domestic partner bene¤ts, 4
Civil rights movements, 134, 144 Dörner, G., 75–81, 89, 122–24
Clement, U., 79, 80 Duberman, M., 10, 41
Climates of opinion: cultural or so- Dunne, M., 65
cial, 14, 25, 28, 32, 42, 59, 119;
international, 26–28, 135–36; Eckert, E., 54–56
political, 4, 7–11, 25–26, 32, Economics of sexual behavior, 9, 41–
43–45, 59, 69, 114, 120, 135; 42, 125–28, 130–31
Effeminacy: background beliefs/ Gallup, G., 100–102, 110–14,
assumptions and, 19–22, 56, 117, 125
58–59, 74, 87, 129; behavioral Gaonkar, D., 12
genetics research and, 50–51, Gay and lesbian rights: conservative
53, 56, 61, 63, 65–66; cultural movement in, 137; declassi¤ca-

stereotypes of, 57–59, 66–67; tion of homosexuality as men-
gay gene discourse and, 118–19; tal disease and, 25, 44, 133; gov-
neuroendocrinology research ernments’ role and, 141–43;
and, 71–72, 75, 78–79, 86–87, historical appeals for, 26–28, 43;
94; sociobiology/evolutionary international status of, 26–28,
psychology and, 18, 98, 103– 135–36; military service and,
104, 107, 117, 121; socio- 133, 138, 142–43; politics of, 3–
psychological theories of, 27– 4, 7–11, 21, 23, 25, 42–44, 114,
28, 30–32, 35–36, 121. See also 117, 120, 134–36; special rights
Gender, atypical behaviors and arguments and, 4, 5, 142–44;
Ego-dystonic homosexuality, 37 strategies for, 146–48. See also
Ellis, B., 100 Gay gene discourse
Environmental conditioning, 51, 54– Gay gene discourse: appeal of, 5–6,
56, 60, 62, 68, 73 137; argument in, 128–29, 133;
Estrogen feedback, positive, 74–78, background beliefs/assumptions
81–82 and, 19–21, 25, 45, 47, 56, 118–
Ethics, 123–25, 128 19, 121–22, 128; conservative
Evans, Romer v., 4, 23, 136, 146 co-optation of, 6, 11, 119–20,
Evolution of Desire, The (Buss), 116 128–32; de¤nition of, 16; eco-
Evolution of Human Sexuality, The nomics and, 120, 125–28, 130–
(Symons), 116 31; female homosexuality ex-
Evolutionary arguments, 18, 60, 95 cluded from, 54; ¤elds of study
Evolutionary psychology. See in, 16–19; media coverage of,
Sociobiology/evolutionary 4–5, 130, 132; organizational/
psychology activation model and, 71; psycho-
“Ex-gay” movement, 140 analytic theories and, 21, 33–
Exodus (religious group), 6, 140 34, 43–45; sociopsychological
Extramarital affairs, 107–108 theories and, 39, 44, 130; turf
wars and, 120–24, 128. See also
Family Research Council, 5 Gay and lesbian rights
“Family” values. See Values, moral or Gay Rights/Special Rights (video), 3
“family” Gay studies (academic discipline), 39
Farber, D., 136 Gays in the military, 133, 138,
Fausto-Sterling, A., 20, 73, 115 142–43
Feder, H., 73 Geist, C., 111
Female homosexuality. See Lesbians/ Gender, 98–100; atypical behaviors
lesbianism and, 51, 53, 59–63, 65, 74, 79,
Feminist critiques, 71, 115–16, 118 100–101; background beliefs/
Fernandez-Guasti, A., 83–85 assumptions and, 14–15; dichot-
Fitness theories, 52, 104–107 omy of, 14–15, 20, 28, 50, 65,
Fliers, E., 87–88 73, 93, 99, 118–19, 124
Foucauldian genealogy, 14, 15 Gene talk, 13
Foucault, M., 8–10, 15, 39–44, 120 Germany, gay rights in, 26–28
Fourteenth Amendment (U.S. Con- Glaude, B., 78
stitution), 5, 132–33, 136 Goode, E., 112, 114
Freedom to Differ (Miller), 142 Gooren, L., 81–82
Freud, S., 21, 30–32, 37, 40, 48, 50, Gorski, R. A., 84, 89–91
54, 80 Götz, F., 75
Frontiero v. Richardson, 132 Governments’ role in behaviors,
Frustration, heterosexual, 100–102 141–43
Gowaty, P., 115 INAH 1, 88–89
Goy, R. W., 72, 73 INAH 3, 91
Green, R., 78 Incest, 54
Inclusive ¤tness, 52
Hall, N., 83 India, gay rights in, 135
Hamer, D., 63–69; background Ingram, H., 6, 8
beliefs/assumptions of, 22, 65– Institute for Sexual Research (Ber-
66, 122, 125–26; choice debate lin), 27
and, 5–6; critics of, 6–7, 145; Intelligence, genetic determination
ethical concerns of, 124–25; as of, 127–28, 131
expert witness, 132; gay gene Intersexuality theory, 49–50
discourse and, 16–18, 127–28;
gender atypical behaviors and, Jones, S. L., 2
65; maternal attribution and,
17, 63, 66–67, 80, 122, 126; me- Kallman, F., 47–51, 66–67
dia coverage of, 4–5; methodolo- Kamin, L., 55
gies of, 22, 63, 147; pathology Kaposi’s sarcoma, 22, 68
of homosexuality and, 67–69; Kardiner, A., 32n3
sel¤sh gene theory and, 97; Karush, A., 32n3
sexual orientation and, 10, 64– Kay, C., 3
65, 125–26, 129; sociobiology/ Kennedy, A., 134–35
evolutionary psychology theories Kennedy, H., 27
and, 97, 110; sociopsychology/ Kin-selection theories, 18, 97,
psychoanalytic theories and, 67, 102–104
128; test or treatment develop- Kinsey, A., 34–39; critics of, 35, 37,
ment and, 124 129–30; declassi¤cation of
Haynes, J., 64 homosexuality as mental dis-
Healy, B., 68, 69 ease and, 25, 120; on effemi-
Hellman, R., 78 nacy, 35–36; homophile move-
Herrn, R., 77 ments and, 33; in®uence of,
Heterosexuals/heterosexuality, 3–4, 35–36, 45, 123; on pathology
100–102, 125–26. See also of homosexuality, 36–37, 130;
Homophobia sexual orientation and, 21, 35–
Hirschfeld, M., 21, 24, 27–28, 30, 40 36, 44, 55, 117, 121, 130, 146;
History of Sexuality, The (Foucault), treatment and, 37
9, 10, 42–43 Kinsey scale: bisexuality and, 35;
Hofman, M. A., 88–89 critics of, 129; Foucault’s indict-
Homophile movements, 26–28, ment of, 40; structure of, 35, 38;
33, 137 used as measure of sexual orien-
Homophobia, 22, 101, 104, 110–14, tation, 52, 53n3, 56, 57n5, 63–
125, 143, 145–46 65, 78, 147
Hooker, E., 130n2 Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, 38
Hormones, 28, 49, 52, 66, 72–74, 85, Knight, R., 5
95, 122 Koppel, T., 5
Howe, H., 109 Krafft-Ebing, R. von, 29–30, 40
Hubbard, R., 93 Kroger, W., 31, 37
Human Rights Campaign Fund, 5, 6
Hutchinson, G. E., 104–106 Larsson, K., 83–85
Hygiene, sexual, 9 Lesbian studies (academic disci-
Hypermasculinity, 116, 122 pline), 39
Hypothalamus studies, 4, 17, 75, 88– Lesbians/lesbianism, 7, 54, 87,
89, 91–93, 95 103n3, 127, 147
LeVay, S., 91–93; AIDS as homo-
Identity, sexual, 2–3, 30n2, 38, 62. sexuality identi¤er for, 22, 89;
See also Sexual orientation background beliefs/assumptions
of, 22; brain differences and, 17, Neural structures, 87–94
22; choice debate and, 5; critics Neuroendocrinology research, 16–17,
of, 7, 91–92; ethical concerns of, 19, 22, 70–95; animal behav-
124–25; gay gene discourse and, ioral studies and, 82–87, 94;
16–19; media coverage of, 4; background beliefs/assumptions

methodologies of, 89, 91–92, and, 74–75, 119; effeminacy
147; sociopsychology/psycho- and, 71–72, 75, 78–79, 86–87,
analytic theories and, 21n7, 46, 94; luteinizing hormone and
93, 121, 123, 128; test or treat- positive estrogen feedback in,
ment development and, 124; Y 74–78, 81–82, 94; maternal at-
chromosome and, 66n10 tribution and, 79–80; neural
Lewes, K., 31–32, 35 structures and, 87–94; organiza-
Lewontin, R., 55 tional/activation model and,
Limerance, 107 71–74, 82–83; pathology of
Longino, H., 13–15, 20, 98n1 homosexuality and, 74, 82–83,
Lott, T., 120 92–95; psychoanalytic theories
Luteinizing hormone (LH) experi- and, 80, 93; stress studies in, 79–
ments, 74–78, 81–82, 94 82; transsexuals and, 78–79, 81–
Luttge, W., 83 82, 84–85
Lyne, J., 12–13, 15, 109, 119–20 Neurotic Counterfeit-Sex (Bergler), 33
Lysenko, T. D., 12 New Republic, The, 117
Nightline (television program), 5
March on Washington, 137 Nobel, D., 3
Marriage, 107–108 Nonconformity, gender. See Gender,
Martin, J., 56–58 atypical behaviors and
Martin, N., 61–62, 65
Masturbation, 29 ONE, Inc., 137
Mathy, R. M., 58 Oosterhuis, H., 30n2
Mating behaviors, 72, 74 Opposite sex-dimorphic behaviors,
Mattachine Society, 33, 137–38 61–62
Matuszczyk, J. V., 83–85 Organizational/activation model of
McCaughey, Martha, 10–11 the brain, 71–74, 82–83, 87
Media coverage, 4–5, 130, 132 Ovesey, L., 32n3
Megill, A., 12
Mendel, G., 104 Parental manipulation theories,
Military service, gays in, 133, 138, 18, 104
142–43. See Gays in the military Parks, C., 79
Miller, D., 142–43 Partnership bene¤ts, 4
Minority group status, 3, 132–35 Pathology, homosexuality as: anti–
Mismeasure of Desire, The (Stein), 20 gay rights groups and, 11, 119–
Moral Animal, The (Wright), 115 20; background beliefs/assump-
Moral behavior. See Values, moral or tions and, 19–22, 56, 58–59, 75,
“family” 92, 114, 129; behavioral genet-
Mothers’ contribution to homosexu- ics research and, 48–49, 54, 56,
ality, 17, 30–32, 50, 63, 66–67, 59, 67–69; declassi¤cation as
79–80, 122, 126 mental disease by APA and, 25,
Murphy, T. F., 124, 136 37, 39, 43, 120, 122; gay gene
Muscarella, F., 116–17 discourse and, 7, 123, 130, 147;
neuroendocrinology research
Narcissism, homosexual, 54 and, 74, 82–83, 92–95; psycho-
National Association for Research analytic theories and, 24, 31–
and Therapy of Homosexuality 32, 37, 40–41, 43, 47–48, 50,
(NARTH), 6, 34 51n1, 67; sociobiology/evolu-
National Institutes of Health, 68–69 tionary psychology and, 98,
Nelson, J., 12 104, 114, 117; sociopsychologi-
cal theories and, 25, 28–30, 32– Schlessinger, L., 120
34, 39, 42 Schmidt, G., 79, 80
Pavelka, M., 99–100 Schneider, A. L., 6, 8
Pedophilia, 111–13, 121 Schüklenk, U., 135, 136
Pharmaceutical manufacturers, 127 Science as Social Knowledge (Lon-
Phoenix, C. H., 72, 73 gino), 13–15
Pillard, R., 51–53, 56, 59–61 Science of Desire, The (Hamer and
Positive estrogen feedback, 71, 74– Copeland), 63
78, 81–82 Scienti¤c argument, 6, 8, 11–16, 59
Poumadere, J., 56 Sel¤sh Gene, The (Dawkins), 98
Procreation, 96–99, 108 Sel¤sh gene theory, 18, 97
Progesterone, 84 Separate Creation, A (Burr), 94
Promiscuity, 54, 98–100, 116 Sex differences. See Gender
Psychoanalytic theories: authority of, Sex-dimorphic behaviors, 61–63
32–34, 37, 40–41; gay gene dis- Sexing the Body (Fausto-Sterling), 20
course and, 21, 33–34, 43–45; Sexual Behavior in the Human Male
maternal attribution and, 32, (Kinsey), 35
67, 80; neuroendocrinology re- Sexual orientation: dichotomy of, 10,
search and, 80, 93; pathology of 20, 32, 47, 55, 64–65, 76, 78,
homosexuality and, 24, 31–32, 87, 89, 107, 116, 124–25, 129;
37, 40–41, 43, 47–48, 50, 51n1, empirical models and, 35, 37–
67; sexual orientation and, 32, 39; ®uidity or diffusion of, 35–
35. See also Sociopsychological 36, 38, 44, 47, 55, 73, 117, 121,
theories 125, 130, 146; heritability of,
Psychoanalytic Theory of Male Homo- 16–17, 27, 47, 50, 54–56, 63;
sexuality, The (Lewes), 31 maternal responsibility for, 17,
Psychopathia Sexualis (Krafft- 30–32, 50, 63, 66–67, 79–80,
Ebing), 29 122, 126; measurement of, 52,
53n3, 55–56, 61, 63–65, 78, 80–
Queer theory, 39 81, 83–84, 92, 147; organiza-
tional/activation model and, 72;
Rado, S., 32n3 protection of, 3–4, 101, 110–12;
Ramsey Colloquium, 2, 6 as a recessive trait, 104–106;
Reilly, P., 126–27 social conditioning and, 39–
Religious opinion. See Catholic 40, 48, 59; testosterone levels
Church; Conservatives, religious and, 119. See also Effeminacy;
Repression hypothesis, 10, 40–42 Pathology, homosexuality as
Republican Party, 11 Sexual practice, 3, 22, 40, 43, 47,
Rhetoric of Inquiry school, 11–12 53, 137
Richardson, Frontiero v., 132 Sexual revolution, 129–30
Riddle of “Man-Manly” Love, The Sexuality, study of: authority over,
(Ulrichs), 26 32–34, 39–41, 46, 64, 120–24,
Ristow, M., 135 127–28; behavioral genetics
Rohde, W., 75, 78 research and, 46–47, 55, 64;
Romer v. Evans, 4, 23, 136, 146 DNA tests and, 47, 51, 63; em-
Rose, S., 55 pirical models and, 35, 37–39;
Rosenthal, D., 51 Foucault and, 9–10, 39–40;
Rotello, G., 137–38 psychoanalytic theories and,
Ruse, M., 101n2, 102–107 21, 32–35, 37, 40–41; socio-
Russia, gay rights in, 135 psychological theories and, 21–
22, 24–25, 39; subject identi¤ca-
Same-sex marriages, 4, 138–39 tion for, 19, 22, 52, 60, 63, 78,
Savage, D., 138 80–81, 88–90, 93, 147
Save Our Children campaign, 101 Sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN),
Schizophrenia, 50 88–89
Sherry, S., 136 Suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN),
Shively, M., 38 88–89
Sickle-cell anemia, 105–107 Supreme Court (U.S.), 4, 23, 132,
Singapore, gay rights in, 135 134–36, 140, 145–46
Sissy Boy Syndrome, 63, 121 Survival behaviors. See Kin-selection

Situational homosexuality, 29 theories
Socarides, C., 34 Swaab, D. F., 87–89, 92
Social behaviors, genetic determina- Symons, D., 100, 116
tion of, 127–28
Social constructionists, 98 Tannen, Deborah, 4
Social in®uence, 14 Terry, J., 20
Sociobiology (Wilson), 97 Testosterone, 72, 75, 81, 83, 119
Sociobiology/evolutionary psychology Tests, diagnostic, 124, 126–28, 135
theories, 96–117; background Toulmin, S., 15, 20
beliefs/assumptions and, 22, Traditional Values Foundation, 3
114, 121; behavioral genetics re- Transsexuals, 78–79, 81–82, 84–85
search and, 52; as distinct disci- Troiden, R., 112, 114
plines, 97, 108–109, 115; effemi- Twin studies, 16, 47–48, 51, 54–58,
nacy and, 18, 98, 103–104, 107, 65–66
117, 121; gay gene discourse
and, 16, 18; heterosexual frustra- Uebelhack, R., 78
tion in, 100–102; homophobia Ulrichs, K. H., 21, 24, 26–28, 30, 40
in, 101, 104, 110–14; pathology Underdetermination of theories, 98,
of homosexuality and, 98, 104, 109–110, 113, 117
114, 117; politics of, 115–17;
promiscuity and procreation in, Values, moral or “family,” 2, 9, 41–
98–100, 108; survival behaviors 42, 44, 97, 106, 110, 137, 141
in, 18; underdetermination in, van den Wijngaard, M., 71, 119
98, 109–110, 113, 117 Van Wyk, P., 111
Sociopsychological theories, 24–45; Venereal disease, transmission of, 80–
authority of, 39, 120–24, 128; 81, 88–90
background beliefs/assumptions Violence, genetic determination of,
and, 21–22, 25, 45, 122; choice 127–28
debate and, 44; economics of,
127; effeminacy and, 27–28, 30–
32, 35–36, 121; gay gene dis- Warner, M., 137
course and, 39, 44; pathology of Warrants (in argument), 15, 20
homosexuality and, 25, 28–30, Weinrich, J., 51–53, 102–104,
32–34, 39, 42; sexual orienta- 107–108
tion and, 47, 125, 146. See also Whitam, F., 56–58
Psychoanalytic theories Willerman, L., 79
Sodomy laws, 39–40 Wilson, E. O., 97
Spitzer, R., 94 Wright, R., 115–17
Stein, E., 20, 133–34, 139
Steroids, 73 X chromosome, 17, 66
Stockman, E. R., 85–86 Xq28 chromosome, 4, 17, 63–69
Stress, prenatal, 79–82
Suarez, S., 100–102, 112 Y chromosome, 66, 93, 122
Suicide, 50 Young, W., 72–74
Sullivan, A., 137, 138, 139n6
Summit Ministries, 3 Zita, J., 10, 64n9
Superior ¤tness theory, 104–107 Zuk, M., 115
Robert Alan Brookey is an assistant professor in the Hugh
Downs School of Human Communication in the College of
Public Programs at Arizona State University. His research ex-
amines how social norms regarding sexuality and gender are
produced in scienti¤c discourse and popular culture. His work
has appeared in Critical Studies in Media Communication; Com-
munication Studies; and the International Journal of Sexuality and
Gender Studies.