21 August 2011

Book Review: Gay, Straight and the Reason Why


Simon LeVay was an associate professor of biology at the University of California, San Diego and a researcher with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

I recall when Simon LeVay's more media-attention grabbing research came out. He published an article about differences in the structure of the hypothalamus in heterosexual and homosexual men in Nature. I also recall some of the more media-attention grabbing research that he discusses in his book.

It's a great book. It goes through the medical and biological research on sexuality over the last twenty years since his IHON3 study came out. I read it as an epistemological meditation of sorts. What stood out the most was the research showing a strong correlation between gay men and gender dysphoria in pre-adolescence. I recall a book chapter in Fear of a Queer Planet regarding how normative psychiatry and psychology have used gender dysphoria diagnoses to try to cure children of the threat of homosexuality. However, it appears from this book that those treatments are ineffective (or counter indicated).

The book leaves unanswered the difficult questions. It's difficult to assess how much of homosexual identity is bound to culture and how much of it derives from the mammalian parts of the brain. The book doesn't answer those questions but clarifies and restates in a very readable fashion the current state of medical and scientific knowledge on the subject matter which seems to clarify: There are gays who were born that way, and there are gays who have been made gay by others -- and there are those who choose to live as gays for other reasons.

This is book is definitely worth reading if you are interested in the current biological and medical research on sexuality and homosexuality.

The version I read was a 432 page hardcover published by Oxford University Press USA (September 29, 2010), ISBN-13: 978-0199737673. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was used at amazon.com.

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