Friday, December 14, 2007

Gay on Saturday night, Straight on Sunday afternoon. Is That Any Kind of Life, Switching One's Sexuality ON and OFF,to Suit The Mood or Situation?

The following discussion has been getting a lot of traction in the blog world this past week?

Do you think something like this could happen, or is it something from the pages of the Twilight Zone?

Turning Homosexuality On and Off
By John Tierney

What if you could take a drug that would quickly alter your sexual orientation from straight to gay, or vice versa?

To their surprise, neurobiologists have discovered that homosexuality can be turned on or off in fruit flies. They’d known that sexual orientation can be genetically programmed, but they didn’t realize it could also be altered by giving a drug that changes the way the flies’ sensory circuits react to pheromones.

Within hours of the treatment, previously heterosexual male fruit flies would be courting other males, and treatment could also cause flies who had been engaging in homosexual behavior to become exclusively heterosexual, the neurobiologists report in Nature Neuroscience. You can read a summary of it here from the University of Illinois at Chicago, the home of one of the researchers, David Featherstone.

“It was amazing,” Dr. Featherstone said. “I never thought we’d be able to do that sort of thing, because sexual orientation is supposed to be hard-wired. This fundamentally changes how we think about this behavior.”

The writer asked Dr. Featherstone if it might be possible one day to quickly alter humans’ sexual orientation. Here’s his answer:

"Although I am not sure my research is a big step in this direction, I think that ultimately the answer will be: Yes. After all, the goal of neuroscience is a complete understanding of brain function. Understanding in science is typically demonstrated by the ability to control a process."

"This morning, I received an email from a transsexual 5 years into her hormone therapy. She told me she regularly modifies her libido and orientation with diet and drugs. She even sent me a scientific reference explaining why her regimen might work. Now that is amazing research. "

The question of whether or not homosexuality should be turned on and off is not a scientific question. It is an ethical/societal dilemma. I am glad my work is stimulating the discussion earlier rather than later. History is replete with poorly thought out attempts to ‘cure’ societal/behavioral ‘illnesses’ that turned out, with proper perspective, to not be ‘illnesses’ at all.
So let the discussion begin. The author doesn't think of homosexuality or heterosexuality as an “illness” to be “cured,” but I wonder how people would use the ability to control sexual orientation — to have a designer libido.

Would some people, gay or straight, who weren’t having luck attracting one gender decide to switch to the other? Would some people casually switch back and forth?

Would some social conservatives (like Leon Kass), who normally object to biologists “playing god” and pharmacologists altering “human nature,” change their minds and urge the use of biotechnology to promote heterosexuality?

Would some social liberals try to restrict the use of this biotechnology? Would parents, gay or straight, want to regulate their children’s sexual orientation — and should they or their children be allowed to do so?

187 comments so far...

This is something that some guys, I would believe, would experiment with, to explore their "straight " side. For me personally, I wouldn't even be interested. I like who I am, and I like the fact that I enjoy loving and having sex with men, men who share my same plumbing, and who I have a lot of experience in making sure certain parts of the male anatomy are functioning to perfection. WOOOF. To me, there isn't any better way. To male buddy body bonding, may it continue to flourish and expand to the end of time.


raindog469 said...

I'm pretty sure that if you need a drug to alter your perception of pheromones in order to be with a woman, you have no "straight side" to begin with. But I think some guys would do it out of curiosity anyway, and probably some straight guys would probably try the reverse. But what about people who are already into both sets of plumbing?

The one thing I'm sure of is that there'll be lots of drink spiking with it, if it's an oral drug. said...

This development in neuroscience is obviously pretty big, but can anyone truly be surprised that being gay has a grounding in science? I mean, think about it: we are all a bunch of molecules, and when you arrange them differently you get blonde hair, a full beard, short height, gay, white teeth, high blood pressure, etc. We are who we are because we are all biologically different. The implications go beyond sexual orientation...eliminating diseases physical and mental on all would mean a vast purification of human race to create the *perfect* human. I don't agree with this approach in the slighest, and not out of a fear that they would try to turn me straight. The problem is that everywhere in nature are imperfections and anomolies that have existed for millions of years. I guess the bigger question is whether or not we were meant to evolve to perfect and eliminate these differences. It is cumbersome to think about it.

Leonard said...

Hmm...if this experiment was on monkey's or something I would be more concerned, but not with fruitfly's. I've already explored my straight side, and prefer the gay side. ;-) peace

JB said...

Can't really imagine being interested in women these days, but maybe *after* having taken it I might feel differently. Of course, before taking it, how would I know how I'd feel?

P.S. Who in the fuck is that pic of? He's gorgeous.

Chris (in Philly) said...


I like being myself: a gay leather-bear 24/7, who loves to sing. tap-dance, play rugby, and loves to go to NYC to see drag queens ( Jackie Beat - amazing and mean / Charles Busch in "Die Mommie Die" truly a treasure / and Shequida is just well....; Shequida).

And forget the pic of the guy, Buff. You are more much more handsome than him.

Thanks again for a great blog.

Happy Holidays.


RD said...

This is an interesting thing. Well as far as interesting things go. Changing orientation. How would that affect someone that is bisexual, I wonder? Another commenter had a point...rearranging molecules will produce different results, so that's not really all that groundbreaking.

Why would someone be doing this kind of research anyway unless this is a conservative push to elminiate "abominations".

Bill Samuels said...

We already have people who are gay on Saturday night and straight on Sunday. We call them closet queens -- or married homosexuals. Or maybe "bisexuals."

There was a movie called "Hard Pill," which I haven't seen, but I believe it was on the subject of chemically changing someone's sexual orientation.

I've often said that even if there were a pill I'd never take it. I'm very happy being gay and have no desire to change. I got all of my hetero impulses out of me years ago. Hopefully all Out and Proud people will feel the same, although I'm sure many of these self-hating "ex-gays" would opt for chemical conversion.

As for some guys taking the pill just to see what it's like being straight or being with a woman? Why? -- if you're happy being gay. Straight guys have no desire to get it on with other guys and sure as shit wouldn't take the pill. Besides, most gay men probably fooled around with women in their younger days and already know what it's like.

(As for bisexuals? -- I'm tempted to be politically incorrect and say with this pill there might actually BE a few bisexuals, LOL.)

Actually, since being gay is so much more than who you sleep with -- it's a whole attitude, sensibility, call it what you will -- I don't know if any pill or chemical could change anyone into a hetero.

I love the gay community, being part of it, and the thought of it being eradicated is not at all a pleasant one.