It had to happen. They’ve tried to pray away the gay, to hug away the gay, but now they’ve got medical science after us.
After decades of us declaring “It’s not our fault! We’re born this way,” a scientist has decided to make sure we aren’t.
Of course, choosing a child’s sex has been happening for quite some time. In China, it happens by aborting female fetuses, or by leaving a female baby to die of exposure, because parents want boys so badly. With IVF, it can happeneither by design or because parents may carry a sex-linked condition. But choosing a child’s sexual orientation? That’s pretty new. Or not.
There have been widely publicised studies indicating that male children born to women who’ve already had several male children are more likely to be gay. While this won’t affect people having children together very much, the issue is raised when it comes to surrogate mothers:
A man phoned me from the States and wanted advice about hiring a potential surrogate mother who had already conceived several male offspring. Despite my statistical arguments, he concluded that he didn’t want to hire her if there was any increased chance that she might produce a gay son. He said, ‘That’s not really what I want…especially if I’m paying for it.’
Ray Blanchard quoted by Alice Dreger – Bioethics Forum
But more recently, it’s been reported that an American doctor, Dr. Maria New, is prescribing steroids to pregnant women in order to prevent daughters with a specific medical condition from being born “masculinised”. The steroid, dexamethasone, is given to women who are carrying female children likely to suffer from CAH (Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia). It doesn’t treat or prevent the condition, just the related likelihood of being less feminine than other women. The term “ambiguous genitalia” is thrown around a lot too, but in CAH the ambiguity isn’t extreme nor is it a medical issue. The clitoris would be larger than average, but everything is in its rightful place.
the use of prenatal dexamethasone treatments for CAH represents, to our knowledge, the first systematic medical effort attached to a “paradigm” of attempting in utero to reduce rates of homosexuality, bisexuality, and “low maternal interest.”
According to Dr. New, the point of this treatment is:
to restore this baby to the normal female appearance which would be compatible with her parents presenting her as a girl, with her eventually becoming somebody’s wife, and having normal sexual development, and becoming a mother. And she has all the machinery for motherhood, and therefore nothing should stop that, if we can repair her surgically and help her psychologically to continue to grow and develop as a girl.
as quoted by Alice Dreger, Ellen K. Feder, Anne Tamar-Matti in Bioethics Forum
The editor of the Gawker blog, io9, had something to say about the problems inherent in this mission statement.
Note that one example of “masculinization” has to do with “sexual orientation.” But another is “career and leisure time preferences.” So dex will prevent girls from picking masculine careers and hobbies? The message here is not just that dex can cure lesbianism, but also that it will encourage girls to desire the traditional roles of wife and mother.
Annalee Newitz – io9
From “problem” to “solution” this entire issue pegs women in non-traditional roles as abnormal. This, paradoxically, comes from a woman in the field of medical research, but we’ll leave her to her own super-issues. Or we would, except that she’s taking her own issues and treating other women with off-label steroids in order to prevent something that isn’t necessarily a problem.
It’d be a far more interesting argument if the steroid treatment was actually a cure for CAH, or if it eliminated the need for a life of medication and doctors visits, but it doesn’t. All it does is possibly ensure that the infant will grow into an acceptable fascimile of a stepford wife, with a desire for penis and babies and dresses. And because the only study ever done on its usage included fewer than 30 participants, it’s not exactly without risk.