Would Life Be Better if You Were Straight?

by Dylan Vox


Thursday December 20, 2007

If you found out that you could flip a switch and change your whole life, would you? Most people spend a majority of their childhood and sometimes into their teens coming to terms with their sexuality. But for some gay men and women, that struggle can be a life long battle that never gets resolved.

Even after making peace with being gay, there can still be some lingering questions of whether or not you would change your sexual orientation if the opportunity came about, and a new study from the University of Illinois at Chicago has hinted this alteration could perhaps be a reality. The study of pheromones and smells has suggested that gene mutation in fruit fly subjects could alter the insect's sexual proclivity.

Researcher David Featherstone and his assistants discovered a gene in fruit flies they call "genderblind," or GB, which if mutated, could make the insects attracted to the same sex.

"It was very dramatic," Featherstone explained in an interview with ABC News. "The GB mutant males treated other males exactly the same way normal male flies would treat a female. They even attempted copulation."

The experiment altered the GB to suppress synapse strength and it changed the way the insects interpreted the smell of pheromones that are thought to cause the attraction to other individuals.

The experiment is not new and has, in fact, been one of the leading areas of study supporting the fact that homosexuality is a biological trait.

In 1995, National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland researchers Ward Odenwald and Shang-Ding Zhang isolated what they thought was the gay gene in fruit flies.

A few years earlier, National Institute of Health Researcher Dr. Dean Hamer published an article in the journal Science based on the study of male twins suggesting, "that between 40%-60% of the variability in sexual orientation is due to genes. The rest is thought to be due to environment and possibly other biologic but nongenetic causes."

Harvard researchers have also found that altering a mouse's sense of smell can in effect create lesbian mice that will help each other take care of their young.

For years researchers and social analysts have debated whether homosexuality was a biological trait or a choice. The very answer to the question holds the key to whether current legislative and political views about homosexuals could be somehow justified. Without the argument that homosexuality is a choice, those who fight to withhold legal status when it comes to marriage, health care, job employment or adoption would no longer be able to justify their animosity or unequal treatment. Legal homophobia would be seen like racism and would, therefore, not be permitted under the Constitution.

But this new fruit fly experiment created an even bigger dilemma about homosexual behavior. After the fruit flies were mutated and changed, Featherstone then turned them back "straight".

"It was amazing. I never thought we'd be able to do that sort of thing, because sexual orientation is supposed to be hard-wired," Featherstone told Fox News. "This fundamentally changes how we think about this behavior."

With so much emphasis placed on gay conversion therapy over the past few years, the idea that homosexuality could somehow be "cured" becomes a dangerous platform for extreme right wing politicians and religious leaders.

Even in the gay community, it is a question that raises many issues, and some members feel that life would be better if they were straight.

Former lesbian Melissa Fryear stands by her decision to enter the infamous Exodus program and feels like she has been converted from homosexuality.

"When I lived homosexually, I was homosexually identified, my attractions, my feelings, thoughts, my behaviors, all centered around a homosexual identity, and I can say that all of those things are radically changed now, where I'm a heterosexually identified women," She told Anderson Cooper during an interview on CNN's 360 blog. I'm attracted to men. I even look different. I think different, feel different."

She currently works with others to help them convert and is a member of the Focus on the Family religious group which seeks to forbid gay marriages and equal rights.

While the therapy is neither warranted or supported by physiologists or the medical community, the thought of changing one's sexual orientation has created a movement within certain religious factions throughout the world.

In the gay community, there is also a sub culture of self-loathing behavior. Psychologists and social workers have found that often time's homosexuals will engage in unhealthy activities such as drug use and unprotected sex at higher rates than straight people. A report at Healthfinder.gov suggested that more than one third of HIV positive gay men still have unprotected sex even though there is a risk of reinfection or spreading the disease to other parties.

In The Naked Man: A Study of the Male Body, author Desmond Morris, tries to explain homosexuality is an evolutionary trait that is formed during formative years. His convoluted explanation about self-loathing behavior in gay men and why they are not fully evolved leaves something to be desired, but the study also brings up the interesting phenomenon that many gay men are disturbed or offended by effeminate or "sexually deviant" behavior exhibited by other gay men.

Acclaimed gay author Tim Bergling addresses the hostility in his book Sissyphobia: Gay Men and Effeminate Behavior. The book looks at gay culture and tries to uncover why so many gay men have such disdain for each.

The Washington DC journalist explained in an interview with Gender Talk Radio, "that 'sissyphobia' finds its roots in a general disdain for all things feminine. Also, that knowing the roots of one's own prejudices doesn't always defeat them."

Bergling went on to say, "I still wrestle with some sissyphobia myself, as do many of my interviewees."

As a community gay men and women will often ban together to help support a cause, but also hold animosity toward each other when their ideology doesn't match up.

Whether you could change your sexuality is an interesting question that may never see fruition, but with constant research being conducted that could change homosexual behavior, it does make you wonder what you would do if it were possible.

For now, most gay people realize that homosexuality is not a choice, but rather a biological predisposition. That being the case, it seems time that the gay community drops their hostility toward each other and learns to accept people for who they are, as human beings.

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