Michael Crawford

Gay Men are Bigger and Now There's Research to Prove It

Filed By Michael Crawford | November 11, 2007 10:53 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay men, sexual orientation

A new Canadian study has added new fuel to the nature vs nurture debate over the origins of sexual orientation. The study looked at the brains of healthy, right-handed, 18- to 35-year-old homosexual and heterosexual men using structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and follows up on a ten year study that shows a higher percentage of left-handed people in the LGBT community than in the general populace.

From Psych Central News:

Handedness is a sign of how the brain is organized to represent different aspects of intelligence. Language, for example, is usually on the left - music on the right.

In other research, Witelson and research associate Debra Kigar, had found that left-handers have a larger region of the posterior corpus callosum – the thick band of nerve fibres connecting the two hemispheres of the brain – than right handers.

This raised the hypothesis for the current study – whether the anatomy of the brain of the sub-group of right-handed homosexual men is similar to that of left-handers.

They found that the posterior part of the corpus callosum is larger in homosexual than heterosexual men.

The size of the corpus callosum is largely inherited suggesting a genetic factor in sexual orientation, said Witelson “Our results do not mean that heredity is destiny but they do indicate that environment is not the only player in the field,” she said.

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This article is sooooo not about what I thought it was going to be about.

*kicks dirt*

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | November 11, 2007 2:06 PM

It's not clear to me what those of us gay men who are RIGHT handed (and who, so far as I can tell concerning myself, was not one of those youngsters who "tried to be left-handed but mom and dad discouraged it" types) should draw from the study.

I'm also not sure where the business linking homosexuality to left-handedness to the arrangment of intellingence leads to. Although there didn't seem to be an inference that this arrangment itself suggests some kind of genetic mental superiority, it would be easy for some to extrapolate a "that's why gays are generally smarter" conclusion.

It may or may not be a short distance between speculation that this or that gene is responsible for homosexual orientation and the extremely touchy issue of any genetic links between race (whatever that may connote) and intelligence. We all (including me as the lighter half of an interracial pairing) get very nervous when the question is even asked in scientific discourse (witness the furor over "The Bell Curve"). And rightfully so, because of the historically tragic misuse of purported scientific data to justify political inequality.

Yet when we inquire and start to draw conclusions concerning one facet of our DNA makeup, we cannot totally fence out other inqueries because they are politically incorrect. Sometimes we need to be careful of what we wish for.

[And yes, I realize that maybe I should lighten up because the post itself was just a bit of a "size tease", and that Bil almost bit into it. Well....you know what I mean.]

But in order to get a 95% accurate Gaydar, the size of the Corpus Callosum, handedness etc were just parts of the data that had to be gathered. They had to look at other indicators of brain structure as well.

That the prediction was 95% accurate indicates to me that they're definitely onto something, and confirms my belief that sexual orientation is set neurologically. That there's a 5% miss rate means we're still a long way from understanding it though. Which parts of the brain are important here? How much is a congenital pre-set tendency, how much is strictly determined at birth, how much is environmentally induced based on potentials (not actuals) present at birth?

In other words, are some born straight, born potentially straight, or born with a tendency to be straight? For that matter, are some born male, born potentially male, or born with a tendency to be male?

One problem: this is all so politically charged, you'll find opposition not just to funding the research, but results will be suppressed since they fit into neither the "gender and sex are social constructs" nor "God made them Male and Female" world views.

Meanwhile, those of us who are Scientists try not to let our biases get in the way, to let the data say what it says, and let the cards fall as they may, regardless of how inconvenient that may be to our cherished belief systems. In the long term, Reality always wins anyway.

Eric Georgantes | November 12, 2007 12:46 AM

Don't be sad, Bil:


"On all five measures, homosexual men reported larger penises than did heterosexual men."

I guess that's the long and the short of it.