Sexual Orientation

Animated global map of same sex marriage.

Sadly, the blog from where it originated is gone. From the Nerd Up North:

Gay rights by jurisdiction: Civil Union (light blue), Equal Marriage (dark blue). Jurisdictions are highlighted (bright blue) in the first year of marriage equality

Here we have the first version of another animated map, this one showing marriage rights around the world. It begins in 2000 for no particular reason, other than perhaps to show which countries allowed civil unions before the first to confer marriage equality (the Netherlands, in 2001). It's noteworthy that Canada and France, among others, only began offering civil unions to gay couples in 1999.

Of course this is an imperfect map -- Argentina, for example, allowed civil unions in one state prior to marriage equality in 2010, as well as in three cities. Obviously I've chosen not to attempt to include municipal recognition of same-sex relationships as those tend to pre-date national or sub-national recognition by leaps and bounds. Australia, on the other hand, offers many of the same benefits in the states that don't allow civil unions as those that do -- it is often the case that civil unions don't confer some or even most of the rights that actual marriage provides. In Canada prior to 2005 each province had different criteria for recognizing common-law partnerships and conferred a different set of rights, even though it was a federal court ruling that began the process.

Gay rights remain controversial even in Canada, where even if it seems like the fight was over a long time ago, most of the country hasn't enjoyed marriage equality for a full decade, and LGBT people are not as of yet explicitly protected by our constitution or human rights legislation. But as this map shows, the fight for LGBT rights has marched inexorably forward, at least throughout the western world. Within the next few years, Israel or Nepal may become the first Asian nations to grant marriage equality rights, and with groundbreaking victories in Latin America in just the last three years, the tide has not only turned but accelerated; 2013 has been the biggest year for marriage equality so far.

It is interesting to compare the progression of gay rights in the countries broken down into their states and provinces on this map. Brazil and Canada saw court decisions and laws rapidly bring each from no recognition to full marriage equality within a matter of years. The United States and Australia, on the other hand, seem to make very little progression each year -- but progression nonetheless.

Of course, this map doesn't indicate the many countries where it's illegal to be gay, a handful of which even carry out the death penalty for any degree of sexual activity between members of the same sex. And there are countries where gay rights have taken major steps backwards in recent years too -- this year, Russia passed a law limiting freedom of expression and association for LGBT citizens and non-citizens alike. In fact, the Canadian government advises its LGBT citizens not to travel to Russia except for urgent business, as advocating for the advancement of gay rights or even showing PDA can now land a tourist in a Russian jail.

New study: Gay genes, and their potential role in shaping orientation.

From New Scientist:

Huge Twin Study Homes In On 'Gay Genes' by Andy Coghlan

A genetic analysis of 409 pairs of gay twins has provided the strongest evidence yet that gay people are born gay. The study clearly links sexual orientation in men with two regions of the human genome that have been implicated before, one on the X chromosome and one on chromosome 8.

The finding is an important contribution to mounting evidence that being gay is biologically determined rather than a lifestyle choice. In some countries, such as Uganda, being gay is still criminalised, and some religious groups believe that gay people can be "treated" to make them straight.

"It erodes the notion that sexual orientation is a choice," says study leader Alan Sanders of the NorthShore Research Institute in Evanston, Illinois.

The region on the X chromosome picked out by the study, called Xq28, was originally identified in 1993 by Dean Hamer of the US National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, but attempts to validate the finding since have been mixed. The other region picked out is in the twist in the centre of chromosome 8. Known as 8q12, it was first signposted in 2005.

Statistically stronger

The latest study involves about three times as many people as the previous largest study, which means it is significantly more statistically robust.

Over the past five years, Sanders has collected blood and saliva samples from 409 pairs of gay non-identical twins from 384 families. This compares, for example, with 40 pairs of twins recruited for Hamer's study.

The team combed through the samples, looking at the locations of genetic markers called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – differences of a single letter in the genetic code – and measuring the extent to which each of the SNPs were shared by the men in the study.

The only trait unequivocally shared by all 818 men was being gay. Because the twins were non-identical so don't have the same genes, all other traits, such as hair colour, height and intelligence, varied by different degrees between each twin in a pair and between all sets of twins. Therefore, any SNPs consistently found in the same genetic locations across the group would most likely be associated with sexual orientation.

Only five SNPs stood out and of these, the ones most commonly shared were from the Xq28 and 8q12 regions on the X chromosome and chromosome 8 respectively. But this doesn't mean the study found two "gay genes". Both regions contain many genes, and the next step will be to home in on which ones might be contributing to sexual orientation.

Sanders says he has already completed the work for that next step: he has compared SNPs in those specific regions in gay and straight men to see if there are obvious differences in the gene variants, and is now preparing the results for publication. "Through this study, we have the potential to narrow down to fewer genes," says Sanders.

Whatever the results, Sanders stresses that complex traits such as sexual orientation depend on multiple factors, both environmental and genetic. Even if he has hit on individual genes, they will likely only have at most a small effect on their own, as has also been seen in studies of the genetic basis for intelligence, for example.

Read the rest here.

The "Gay Voice".

From Vice:

David Thorpe and Dan Savage Have a Lot to Say about the “Gay Voice” by Regan Reid

David Thorpe sounds gay. And, though Thorpe is gay, for a long time, it really bothered him. But it bothered him more that he was bothered at all. So he decided to make a documentary about it. He talked to voice coaches and linguists about how and why some people “sound gay.” He worked hard to “sound straight.” He interviewed historians about the cultural history of the gay voice. And he talked to famous gay celebrities, like Tim Gunn, Dan Savage, and David Sedaris, about accepting how you sound and who you really are.

I met up with Thorpe and Dan Savage during the Toronto International Film Festival to discuss Thorpe's debut feature documentary, Do I Sound Gay? We were seated in a crowded restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel in Toronto and, after we all got over our excitement that Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany were sitting behind us (at least we thought it was them), we talked about what it means to “sound gay,” the use of the gay voice in kids movies, and one particularly contentious Louis C.K. skit.

VICE: When you set out to make this film, what did you want to accomplish? And how did that change over the course of making the film?

David Thorpe: I wanted to come to terms with my voice, whatever that meant. I broke up with a boyfriend, I had no confidence and I was on this trip to Fire Island that I should have been excited about, but instead of being excited, all I could think about was how much I hated the voices of the chattering gay men around me. That felt like a real low point for me, because I fought so hard to come out and embrace being gay, and I've really fought hard for the gay community as an LGBTQ and AIDS activist, and advocacy journalist. I couldn't believe that I was in my 40s and still hated sounding gay and was afraid of sounding gay. So, for me, the real Come-to-Jesus moment making the film was when I interviewed one of the men on the street, the young guy who says: I wish I didn't sound gay. I can't get a boyfriend because I'm too effeminate.”

He said other things that were not in the film, but he essentially said, I hate my voice and I wish I could change it. And I just thought, holy crap, what's going on?

Go read the rest here.

No more 'gay panic' defence in California.

From PinkNews:

US: California Governor Signs Law Outlawing ‘Gay Panic’ Legal Defense

The Governor of California has signed a law outlawing the use of the so-called ‘gay panic’ defense.

The defense – which is often used to get more lenient sentences for criminals after assaults and murders – is based around the claim that a perpetrator was “panicked” into committing a violent crime due to an unwanted advance from a gay person.

More recently, the panic defense has also been used to justify crimes against transgender people after discovering their gender identity.

Rights campaigners have long argued that it is deeply homophobic, and last month a bill axing it was passed by the state assembly by a vote of 50-10.

It was yesterday signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, making California the first state in the US to expressly outlaw it.

Jordan Blair Woods, a law fellow at the Williams Institute UCLA said: “The gay and transgender panic defenses did not appear until the late 1960s, and rely on outdated ideas that homosexuality and gender non-conformity are mental diseases.

“Since then, the defense has appeared in court opinions in approximately one-third of the states.” Brad Sears, Executive Director of the Williams Institute, added: “This bill not only changes the law in California, but creates a model for other states to follow to eliminate the use of gay and transgender panic defenses in other states.”

‘Gay panic’ defences still exist in varying forms around the world, and in 2009 a man was acquitted of a double murder in Spain, after he claimed he burned down the home of an engaged gay couple due to “an unbearable fear”.

The best-known case of the gay panic defence was in the murder of US student Matthew Shepard. He was killed in October 1998 on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming, by two men he had met in a bar. Local residents Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, both 21 at the time, were charged with his murder. They told the prosecution they suffered “a moment of insanity” when he allegedly made sexual advances to him. Shephard was robbed, beaten and left to die tied to a fence. Both men are serving consecutive double life sentences.

Sexual orientation, choice, and allies.

 From UpWorthy:

Gay People Made A Straight Man Cry With Their Response To The Question 'Is Being Gay A Choice?' by George Takei

I have always maintained that the fight for LGBT equality can only be won with the help of our straight allies, and this is a noble and fine example. This vlogger (who is straight) changed the life of one young gay man whose own parents not only rejected him when he came out, but subjected him to horrific verbal and physical abuse before tossing him out of his home. The incident brought the vlogger to tears, and his heroic and heartfelt response brought me to them in turn.

Hearts and minds are changed one person at a time. But this shows that one person with his heart in the right place really can make a big difference.

And the clip:

During the section on sexual orientation and identity, we'll be talking about the issue of choice, and what it might mean (it may not be as black and white as it seems).

Evangelical Christians softening stance on gay marriage.

From Politico Magazine:

Evangelicals Are Changing Their Minds on Gay Marriage And the Bible isn’t getting in their way. By Jim Hinch

Amy Tincher is an evangelical Christian who plays bass in the band at her suburban Ohio church, where she and her fellow congregants firmly believe the “words we adhere to” are those in the Bible. But last summer, without telling her husband and two kids exactly what she was doing, she boarded a plane for a conference in Kansas whose purpose many evangelicals would plainly consider heretical.

Tincher was one of 50 people flown from around the country and the world—Canada, China, Nigeria and South Korea—to a four-day Bible boot camp dedicated to discussing, and embracing, gay relationships. The gathering was organized by Matthew Vines, who by then was enjoying modest fame for a 2012 YouTube video in which Vines, looking even younger than his 21 years, delivers an hour-long lecture arguing that the Bible does not, in fact, condemn all same-sex relationships. The video has gone viral, racking up more than 730,000 views to date, landing Vines on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Styles section and helping him raise $100,000 for the conference, where he launched The Reformation Project, a nationwide network of pro-gay evangelicals committed to ending their church’s longstanding hostility toward gay people.

Tincher told me she had once “tried on” an anti-gay attitude to fit in with her conservative community in Liberty Township, outside Cincinnati, but like many evangelicals, she struggled to see how homophobia could accord with an all-loving Christian God. So when her pastor sent her a link to Vines’ video, she recalls, “I remember sitting in my kitchen and just crying. I knew it in my heart, but I had never been told that from the pulpit.”

It’s no secret that attitudes toward same-sex relations have changed in this country: Gay marriage is legal in 19 states plus the District of Columbia, and all major public opinion surveys now show a majority of Americans are in favor of it. But Matthew Vines and Amy Tincher are no longer outliers either: Increasingly, even evangelical Christians, long known for doctrinally condemning homosexuality, are embracing gay people, too.

Read the rest here.

And the video clip of Mathew Vine, outlining how the bible does not forbid homosexuality:


Some straight men respond to Grindr.

For those who aren't familiar with Grindr, from their website:

Grindr is a simple app that uses your mobile device’s location-based services to show you the guys closest to you who are also on Grindr. How much of your info they see is entirely your call.

While it's described as a social-media app, it's primarily used by men looking to hook up for sex with other men. There's a version for opposite sex partners called Tindr, but it's a little more subtle, at least on the hooking-up-for-sex front.

A YouTube regular, Neil McNeil, asked a bunch of his straight friends what they thought of Grindr, and here's the result:


First openly gay player drafted to the NFL.

From CBS Sports:

Ready yourself, America, for Michael Sam; because he's ready for you. by Gregg Doyel

This is your dream, America. Or this is your nightmare. Whatever the case, buckle up. Because Michael Sam just got here.

His first few days with St. Louis Rams have been fascinating and thought-provoking and criticism-generating, and the odds are it's going to keep happening. Because in Michael Sam, the NFL doesn't just have its first openly gay player. Its first openly gay player is openly gay.

Not trying to play word games here, but Michael Sam hasn't played an NFL game or attended an NFL practice -- hell, he was drafted just three days ago -- and already he has shown himself to be something much more confrontational, more formidable, for lack of a better word, than Jason Collins. A few months ago Collins became the first openly gay athlete in major U.S. team sports. He's openly gay, but hasn't been openly gay, and his tenure with the Nets has been quiet. If he's kissed anyone, we've not seen it. If he feels like his career path has been slowed, we've not heard it.

We've seen Michael Sam. We've heard him.

We saw him kiss his boyfriend to celebrate being drafted by the Rams. Lots of America loved that. Lots of America recoiled. Had the draftee been AJ McCarron and the kissee been Katherine Webb, lots of America would have shrugged.

But this is different, obviously, and America reacted differently. Don Jones of the Miami Dolphins got himself suspended. Marshall Henderson, formerly of Ole Miss, got himself castigated. Elsewhere, lots of America celebrated. Lots recoiled. All this, because of something Michael Sam did after being a member of the St. Louis Rams for all of 75 seconds.

Gay rights advocates were thrilled the Rams drafted Sam in the seventh round, maybe moreso than Sam, because after he had a few minutes to think about it ... wait a minute, Michael Sam wanted to know. Why did it take so long to get drafted?

Sam never came out and said his sexuality caused him to drop to the end of the seventh round, but he did tick off some of his accomplishments at Missouri and used them to say he should have been drafted much, much earlier.

Read the rest, including responses to his drafting, here.

And the video of the kiss (@ 1:20):


Three legal parents.

From the CBC:

Della Wolf is B.C.'s 1st child with 3 parents on birth certificateB.C.'s new Family Law Act is the first to allow birth certificates with more than 2 parents By Catherine Rolfsen

A Vancouver baby has just become the first child in British Columbia with three parents listed on a birth certificate.

Three-month-old Della Wolf Kangro Wiley Richards is the daughter of lesbian parents and their male friend.

"It feels really just natural and easy, like any other family," said biological father Shawn Kangro. "It doesn't feel like anything is strange about it."

B.C.'s new Family Law Act, which came into effect last year, allows for three or even more parents.

Della's family is the first to go through the process, and they finalized the birth certificate registration last week.

B.C., which is celebrating Family Day on Monday, is the first province in Canada with legislation to allow three parents on a birth certificate, although it's been achieved elsewhere through litigation.

Moms wanted a dad, not just a donor

The story starts when Danielle Wiley and her wife, Anna Richards, were faced with a problem many couples encounter: how to get pregnant.

"Both of us, from the beginning, wanted to have a father that would actually be a participant," said Wiley.

"I know a lot of other lesbian couples don't want that. They want an anonymous donor. But both of us liked the idea of somebody who could actually be involved, and who could be a father figure to our children."

Kangro, an old friend of Richards, seemed like the obvious choice.

"When Anna and Danielle approached me, I think instantly I thought I was going to say yes, even though I had to debate a lot of things in my head first," said Kangro.

Before Della was conceived, the three started creating a written contract, outlining how their family would work.

Wiley and Richards would have custody of Della, as well as financial responsibility.

Kangro would be a guardian, with rights to access.

Wiley became pregnant with Della without the help of a clinic, using what she describes as the "homestyle" method.

Read the rest, and see the news clip, here.

Not quite what Putin intended.

From the CBC:

Could this be the gayest Olympics ever? LGBT rights, sexual identity at forefront of Games despite Russia's attempt to silence activism By Matt Kwong

A rainbow-inspired Google Doodle. Openly gay delegates sent to Sochi by foreign governments. A viral PSA promoting inclusiveness of LGBT athletes.

This could be adding up to be the most LGBT-conscious Games in history, says former gold-medal Olympic swimmer and openly gay athlete Mark Tewksbury.

"I don't know if it's a watershed moment, but it's certainly a bit of a tipping point. It shows that the world as I knew it back in 1992 as a closeted athlete has changed," he said.

If it wasn't already clear from global press images of demonstrators hoisting signs depicting President Vladimir Putin in drag, the 2014 Sochi Winter Games has been unable to shake the gay-rights controversy.

The uproar was also Russia's own doing, stemming from the country's passage of legislation last June to punish people for the spread of homosexual "propaganda." The law drew condemnation around the world for being vague and stigmatizing gay identity.

"Sometimes things backfire," Tewksbury said. "Trying to make this a non-issue, well, guess what — it's a huge issue."

Referring to Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov's declaration to the BBC that his coastal town has no gay residents, Tewksbury said, "You cannot tell me there wasn't a single gay person in that opening ceremony."

Commentators already pointed out the use of gay composer Tchaikovsky's music during the show, as well as a performance from faux-lesbian singing duo t.A.T.u.

Tewksbury noted it was unusual for an International Olympic Committee president to make political overtures at an Olympic opening ceremony. He was surprised, then, when the IOC's Thomas Bach seemed to address the controversy over Russia's anti-gay laws during his remarks at Sochi's Fisht Olympic Stadium.

Read the rest here.

Insect homosexual behaviour.

From The Dish

The Buggery Of Bugs

Up to 85 percent of many insects have same-sex sex. Scientists trying to figure out if this is due to the same evolutionary reasons for widespread homosexual behavior across many species have decided it’s just about confusion. The dudes think other dudes are chicks – yes, all ants look alike even to ants – and they fuck anything that moves and looks fuckable:

“Insects and spiders mate quick and dirty,” Dr. Scharf observes. “The cost of taking the time to identify the gender of mates or the cost of hesitation appears to be greater than the cost of making some mistakes.” … Almost 80 percent of the cases of homosexual behavior appeared to be the result of misidentification or belated identification of gender. In some cases, males carry around the scents of females they have just mated with, sending confusing signals to other males. In other cases, males and females look so similar to one another that males cannot tell if potential mates are female until after they have mounted them.

So many Justin Biebers, so little time. But species with high rates of homosexual sex also tend to be more generally horny, with a penchant for humping beer bottles and … well, basically anything. So you can put it down to bonobo-levels of sex. Or we may not understand it fully yet:

It is also possible, however, that sexual enthusiasm in bugs is related to other evolutionarily beneficial traits, the researchers say.” Homosexual behavior may be genomically linked to being more active, a better forager, or a better competitor,” says Dr. Schart. “So even though misidentifying mates isn’t a desirable trait, it’s part of a package of traits that leaves the insect better adapted overall.” To confirm their theory, the researchers plan to study the conditions that make homosexual behavior more or less likely in bugs. They also want to look more deeply into male resistance to homosexual mating.

Yeah: what about bug homophobia? At what point does the buggered bug turn around and say, “Hey, wait a minute …”?

Parents sue over ban on conversion therapy.

From Salon:

Family sues New Jersey for right to put their child in gay conversion therapy

A New Jersey couple is fighting to put their child in a discredited therapy to "cure" him of his sexual identity

By Katie McDonough

A New Jersey couple is suing their state over a law banning so-called gay conversion therapy, which they say is a violation of their free speech rights, freedom of religion and ability to parent their child “free from unconstitutional government interference,” which in this case means putting a 15-year-old high school student through a medically discredited pseudotherapy intended to “cure” him of his sexual and gender identity.

According to the complaint, the couple’s teenage son began “experiencing gender identity disorder when he was around nine years old,” at which point he started to see a social worker who “helped him tremendously” with his gender identity and “unwanted same-sex attraction.”

At the recommendation of this social worker, the family then contacted Ronald Newman, a member of the anti-gay Christian counseling group National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, but the state ban on the discredited practice prevented them from going forward with the counseling.

“John Doe has a sincerely held religious belief and conviction that homosexuality is wrong and immoral, and he wanted to address that value conflict because his unwanted same-sex attractions and gender confusion are contrary to the fundamental religious values that he holds,” according to the complaint.

The suit contends that the teenager has also struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts in the past, a sad and frightening fact since he doesn’t seem like he has the support necessary to seek the genuine help — including legitimate and medically credible therapy — that he needs any time soon.

Beyond Ex-Gay, a community of survivors of “sexual orientation change efforts” who abandoned the practice and the anti-gay, anti-trans worldview that comes with it, surveyed its members to find the top 10 reasons they entered ex-gay therapy in the first place, all of which, sadly, seem to be echoed in this case:

  • To be a better Christian.
  • I believed it was what God wanted me to do.
  • I feared I would be condemned by God.
  • The desire to fit in with everyone, to feel “normal.”
  • Cultural pressure to conform to heterosexuality.
  • Desire to please family and friends.
  • I feared I would go to hell for being gay.
  • Fear of losing family and friends.
  • Misinformation of what it meant to be gay.
  • Self-hatred & internalized homophobia.

British rowers get naked to fight homophobia.

From Buzzfeed:

British Rowing Team Strips Down Once Again To Fight Homophobia

It’s a beautiful day for fighting bullies.

Say hello to the fine gentlemen of the Warwick University Rowing Club. On most days, they’re just your average fine British rowing men.

[…]

Since 2009, the rowing team has stripped down for the Warwick Rowing Naked Calendar, donating a portion of the proceeds to their charity, Sport Allies, which fights homophobia and bullying. According to the project, “Sport Allies is dedicated to challenging homophobia among young people. The rowers are predominantly straight men who have welcomed and embraced the fantastic support they have had from the gay community for their fundraising efforts. Sport Allies is their way of honoring that support and giving something back.”

[…]

You can watch the entire promo video here, follow them on Twitter and Facebook, and, of course, grab a calendar at WarwickRowers.org.

See the rest of the photos here (NSFWish). And the video (also NSFWish):