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Monday, June 26, 2006

 

Prenatal effect hinted for some gay men - Yahoo! News

This, which was just posted on Yahoo! today, is interesting for three reasons.

First, the contents. The odds that a man will be homosexual depends on how many older brothers were born to his mother. Each older brother increases the odds by approximately 1/3. This is believed to be due to an allergic reaction by the mother to antigens produced by the embryos' H-Y genes. The response of her immune system suppresses these proteins, which are responsible for the masculinization of the male embryo's brain. Each exposure to these protein, which are only produced by males, increases her immune system response, causing the brain of each successive male child to be less masculine than the one before it.

This raises a number of interesting questions. First, how long does a male fetus have to live in the womb before it affects the mother's immune system? This is important, because of the number of abortions which occur in this country. About 1/4 of all pregnancies are now aborted. If a significant percentage of these would have been eldest sons, and if these aborted sons were still able to significantly impact their mother's immune system, then aborting these embryos might, over time, significant reduce the number of the most masculine brains in the general population. This might cause society as a whole to skew toward the feminine.

Second, does this mean that male homosexuality might be preventable? If that one aspect of the mother's immune system response could be suppressed, wouldn't that leave all male brains equally masculinized? It would be interesting to put this question to those people who want to "cure" various other genetic "diseases" and short-comings by even more draconian measures - that is, by testing embryos and aborting those which fail to met a certain fitness standard. Most hearing people, for example, dismiss out of hand the concerns of some in the deaf community, who fear testing for genetic deafness. Will those same people dismiss the concerns of the homosexual community if it becomes possible for pregnant mothers to pop a pill that reduced the likelihood that their male offspring are homosexual?

Finally, though, the most interesting aspect of all. This article was published on Yahoo! today as news. But the explanation that I gave above was paraphrased from "Genome", a book by Matt Ridley copyright 1999. Why has it taken from then until now - at least 7 years - for this information to become more widely disseminated? I leave that question for the reader.

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