Re: Disorders

Sharon Presley (
Tue, 14 Jul 1998 16:41:32 -0700

I just joined the list and am jumping into the middle of this particular thread but have some comments for the people who made the following remarks (and others making a similar claim):

Harvey Newstrom wrote:
"Scientific research shows that gays don't choose to act gay,
>but really are attracted one way over the other."

I gather that you are claiming that it's been proven that there is a genetic basis for homosexuality.

I'm a psychologist who has read a LOT of the original research in the areas of gender, gender roles (one of my specialties), and sexual preference. My reaction to the above statement is HA-HA. We are FAR from "proving" one way or another what the genetic bases (or lack of such ) for gender roles and sexual preferences are. The studies are slippery, fraught with methodological problems, small in size, contradictory and highly controversial. For every one that provides evidence FOR a genetic basis, there is a study that fails to support it. We jut don't know yet -- so please don't make such claims in an area that I suspect is outside your area of expertise. If I'm wrong about the issue of expertise, I'm prepared to play dueling studies with you at some point(well, that is, if I have the time!). If this is outside your expertise, then you might do well to read a little more before you make such claims.

In another post, Jim Barnebee said:
"All of this information can be obtained in the Discovery Channel's special called "Brain Sex". I belive these studies are referenced and explained in the third hour of the documentary."

The book on which this documentary was based is one of the most intellectually dishonest books I have ever read. I can dispute almost every page with studies that show the contrary, studies that were conveniently overlooked by the authors.

In fact, here is an outline of a critique that I use in my presentations on the subject of gender.

Critique of Brain Sex
(book by Anne Moir, Ph.D. and David Jessel)

Purports to show research evidence for differences in the brain that provide a biological basis for gender-related behavior.

  1. Distorts by omission. Fails to cite researchers who contradict them or reach different conclusions. No mention of contrary studies. For example:
  2. Ehrhardt is in bibliography but not mentioned in text. Her conclusions about prenatal hormonal abnormalities is very different than theirs. .
  3. Kinsbourne, a researcher in brain-hemisphere differences, concludes that no reliable sex difference exist.
  4. No mention of the critiques of studies they cite. For example:
  5. Ehrhardt’s review of research on abnormal prenatal hormones
  6. Ehrhardt’s critique of Dominican Republic study .
  7. Fausto-Sterling’s "Myths of Gender" (though it’s in bibliography)
  8. Ruth Bleier’s critiques
  9. Distort findings and exaggerates size of differences. Ex: "Most women cannot read a map as well as a man." No study backs that up. Even in spatial abilities, the overlap is greater that the differences.
  10. Claims many sex differences are well-established and noncontroversial that are in fact not! For example: Sex differences in math, verbal and spatial abilities--contrary to what they claim, the consensus in psychology is that differences in math and verbal abilities have disappeared and differences in spatial abilities, while consistent, are not great enough to explain behavioral differences.

Brain hemisphere differences--still very controversial.

5. Innuendoes that mislead because no research backs them up; pure speculation
"could it be that…" "may be…"

6. Lies

"Virtually every professional scientist and researcher has concluded that the brains of men and women are different." "Even researchers most hostile to the acknowledgment of sex differences agree that [aggression] is a male feature, and one which cannot be explained by social conditioning."

These statements are patent falsehoods. Researchers that they cite in their bibliography would disagree with these statements, let alone the researchers they leave out.

For example:
Anke Ehrhardt, Heino Meyer-Bahlburg, John Money Marcel Kinsbourne, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Ruth Bleier, Ruth Hubbard, Janet Hyde, Carol Tavris


A far better book on the subject is "Sex on the Brain" by Deborah Blum I don't even agree with all of this book --it still gives short shrift to psychology and social conditioning (the author is a journalist who specializes in biological science) -- but at least she is careful and measured in her conclusions and seems quite honest in her attempt to present the research accurately ---as opposed to "Brain Sex" which is a bad joke.

On the opposite end (re conclusions) from "Brain Sex" is "Myths of Gender" by Anne Fausto-Sterling (a biology prof at Brown)who is excellent at showing the faulty reasoning behind a lot of the pop articles and some of the studies.

The moral of all this is: before you make assertations in controversial areas, be sure to read more than one side of the debate. [If the above writers HAVE read the books I cited, then they are entitled to their opinion but are still misleading in their comments. My guess is that they have not read these books. Tell me if I'm wrong --ha-ha, I'm sure you will!]

Sharon Presley