Daily Archives: February 3, 2007

Baa! Baa! Baa!

Lord Saletan has donned his labcoat as he’s ventured into Animal Husbandry

Just up the road from Brokeback Mountain, closeted away in their own private Idaho, the gay sheep are getting it on.
Well, it’s not exactly private. They’re doing it in front of scientists at the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station near the Idaho-Montana-Wyoming border. The scientists arrange the trysts. It’s called “sexual partner preference testing.”

No escaping a reference to that pathetic tearjerker — so beloved of voracious fag-hags and closeted Republican staffers (which I dealt with here), is there? And that’s not to mention the invocation of that most beloved of homophobic buzzwords, “preference.”

“According to an article by researchers involved in the project, here’s how it works. In a 15-by-10-foot “arena,” a young ram is offered four choices: two ewes in heat and two rams. “The four stimulus animals are restrained in stanchions so that they can only be approached from the sides and rear.” For 30 minutes, the unrestrained ram does as he pleases. The scientists count his “anogenital sniffs,” “mounts,” and “ejaculations.”
A bare majority of rams turn out to be heterosexual. One in five swings both ways. About 15 percent are asexual, and 7 percent to 10 percent are gay.”

15 percent? Are you sure about that? Maybe they “just had a headache” that day. And how, precisely, does one query a sheep?

“Why so many gay rams? Is it too much socializing with ewes? Same-sex play with other lambs? Domestication?”

Exposure to musical production numbers featuring Dolores Gray seen at an “impressionable age” ?

Nope. Those theories have been debunked. Gay rams don’t act girly. They’re just as gay in the wild. And a crucial part of their brains-the “sexually dimorphic nucleus”-looks more like a ewe’s than like a straight ram’s Gay men have a similar brain resemblance to women Charles Roselli, the project’s lead scientist, says such research “strongly suggests that sexual preference is biologically determined in animals, and possibly in humans.”

Now just a parboiled minute here. “Sexually dimorphic nucleus”? I don’t recall seeing anything about this in Biological Exuberance Bruce Bagemihl’s definitive research study revealing the fact that same-sex activity is universal in nature — in all species.

But then Lord Saletan doesn’t mention Bagemihl either — for reasons that are obvious.

Roselli’s interest is in the science. He figured the political upshot, if any, would be gay-friendly. After all, surveys show that if you think homosexuality is biologically determined, you’re less likely to be anti-gay.

What surveys? As is obvious in everything from “Intelligent Design” to opposition innoculation against cervical cancer, the Fundie Right is unremittingly hostile to science. Why should it pay any attention to gay sheep? Unless of course they have plans to make them “ex-gay.”

But that’s Lord Saletan’s balliwick.

“Roselli didn’t just prove homosexuality in rams was natural. He tried to engineer it. In a 1999 grant application, he proposed “to determine [whether male-oriented] preference behavior can be artificially produced in genetic male sheep by providing male lamb fetuses [with] prenatal estrogen stimulation.” Seven months ago, he published a study that sought the same result by other means That’s how you test possible causes of homosexuality.”

Is that a fact? Then how do you test possible causes of heterosexuality?

(crickets chirping)

“You’d expect conservatives to demand that the government stop funding this research. But science is tricky. If you figure out how to make sheep gay, you can probably figure out how to make them straight. And maybe you can do the same to people. “

Well, DUH!

“Roselli studies hormones, brains, and behavior . He works at Oregon Health and Science University, a medical institution. But his collaborator, Fred Stormshak, is an animal scientist affiliated with Oregon State University, which focuses more on agriculture and economics . Gay rams are “a costly problem for sheep producers because breeding rams are worth $300 to $500 each,”

The bottom line at last. It’s all about the Benjamins !

Stormshak told OSU’s agricultural newsletter a decade ago. “Outwardly, there is no way to tell whether a ram is male-oriented, so the producer runs the costly risk of buying an animal that will never produce any offspring.”
Identifying gay rams wasn’t enough. In 2000, Stormshak described an attempt to “alter them. The idea was to “enhance their sexual behavior or performance” by making them act like straight rams.

How about a personal ad? “Rams wanted. Straight-acting, straight-appearing. No fats or fems.”

Three years later, Roselli told an OHSU committee that “information gained about the hormonal, neural, genetic, and environmental determinants of sexual partner preferences should allow better selection of rams for breeding and as a consequence may be economically important to the sheep industry.” OSU president Ed Ray says the research “may define biological tests that can be used to identify” gay or asexual rams, “thus eliminating their use for general breeding purposes.”

Maybe they can get jobs in show business. Quick — somebody revive Gypsy !

“Notice the lack of animus in these explanations. Breeders don’t care whether rams are gay or simply unmotivated. All that matters is “performance.” And when Ray talks about “eliminating” such rams from breeding, he leaves open the possibility of a happy old age munching grass. But you can smell the slaughterhouse.
Which brings us to the animals whose breeding we really care about: our children.”

Oh I can smell the slaughterhouse alright.

“Passing on your genes is life’s deepest drive.


“You don’t just want kids. You want grandkids. “

Maybe you do, bucky, but not me — and not, I daresay, a great many other people. Even Norman Mailer has thrown in the towel on such nonsense. So keep your hystericla macho fantasies to yourself, it’s no longer becoming.

“An Israeli woman, with court approval, is already using her dead son’s sperm to inseminate a stranger. I know a guy whose future mother-in-law put him through a fertility test before approving his marriage. Then there are all the parents who pressure their adult children to marry and procreate. “

And we’ve seen them all on “Dr. Phil” and Jerry Springer.

In a recent survey, 73 percent of Americans said they’d be upset to learn that their child was gay. To many parents, “I’m gay, Mom” means “No grandkids for you.”

Except if you’re a Cheney, right?

“Roselli offers lots of evidence that human homosexuality is linked to biological conditions, some of them genetic. If he figures out how to manipulate sexual orientation in sheep, will others try to manipulate it in humans? We already have. Doctors used to “treat” homosexuality with hormone injections Some still do This idea failed miserably in adults, but it might work in fetuses, since their brains are forming. And if we can’t engineer sexual orientation, maybe we can select it. Millions of Asians have used modern sex tests to identify and abort female fetuses. If we learn how to recognize gay brains in development, look out.
But killing is the horror scenario. The more likely path is gentler.”

A kinder, gentler homophobia? Just what Dr. Saletan ordered!

” Science will gradually convince us that sexual orientation is innate, more like the color of your skin than like the content of your character. “

“Us”? Who is this “us”? Apparently Slate has an exclusively heterosexual readership.

Condemnation of homosexuality as a sin will subside. Freed from the culture wars, we’ll turn to the biological differences between race and sexual orientation: Homosexuality defies the aspiration to procreate with your mate, and it’s easier to isolate and alter in embryonic development. Resentment will give way to pity. We’ll come to view homosexuality as a kind of infertility-a disability, like deafness.

Thus rendering Patient Less Than Zero the new Marlee Matlin, right?

The rhetoric of “acceptance will shift from liberals to conservatives. We’ll inoculate our offspring against homosexuality out of love, not hate.

Killing Me Softly With His Innoculation. How tasteful, Dr. Mengele.

“The sheep researchers intend nothing like this.”

Just like my favorite line of dialogue in the history of the cinema: “I know what you ‘meant to do’ — it’s what you did that I don’t like!”

“But they didn’t foresee the initial uproar over their work, either.”

In other words, they’re complete idiots.

“It has come from the left, not the right. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has tried to quash their research depicting them as bigots”

PETA is “left”?

PETA, like President Bush, thinks that bad ideas come from bad people, and you have to stamp out the whole lot.

Is PETA sending scientists to Saudi Arabian prisons to be tortured?

“But bad ideas-communism, eugenics, wars of liberation-don’t happen because they’re bad. They happen because, in the beginning, they’re good. What we do with the biological truth about homosexuality, for good or ill, isn’t written in our hormones or our genes. It’s up to us.”

Again with the “us.” Spare the real us – the gay, the proud, the sheep.

“To the tables down at Mory’s
To the place where Louis dwells
To the dear old Temple Bar we love so well Sing the Whiffenpoofs assembled
With their glasses raised on high
And the magic of their singing casts its spell
Yes, the magic of their singing
Of the songs we love so well
“Shall I Wasting,” and “Mavourneen,” and the rest
We will serenade our Louis while life and voice shall last
Then we’ll pass and be forgotten with the rest
We’re poor little lambs who have lost our way
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We’re little black sheep who have gone astray
Baa! Baa! Baa!
Gentleman songsters off on a spree
Damned from here to eternity
God have mercy on such as we
Baa! Baa! Baa!”