Lecture examines link between biology and sexuality

Aston Tan

Human sexuality and orientation were discussed Friday at the Whitsett Room in the fifth installment of the Richard W. Smith lecture series, which featured Dr. Milton Diamond of the University of Hawaii’s John H. Burns School of Medicine.

During the event, officially dubbed ‘Gender ‘amp; Sexual Orientation: Biology? Social Influence? Free Choice? What the Latest Research Has Found,’ Diamond denounced several myths from a range of topics, such as homosexuality, transgender issues and lesbian and gay parenting.

‘Most gay people want their kid to turn out straight,’ said Diamond. He said that kids who were raised by gay parents have usually turned out more ‘tolerant’ and ‘sophisticated’ than their peers, and are for the most part straight.

Diamond, whose presentation consisted of several examples of people he said he knew personally, also sought to illustrate the link between biological conditions and sexuality.

‘The sheep is the best example of a species displaying homosexual behavior,’ said Diamond as he described a previous trip to New Zealand.

For a time, New Zealanders held mass protests because sheep were displaying homosexual tendencies he said, provoking laughter and chuckles from the audience.

Diamond also touched on transgender and intersexual issues. He said previously, intersexuals were called hermaphrodites ‘- a term the Merriam-Webster dictionary describes as an organism having both male and female sex organs.

He goes on to say how in the recent past, doctors would be given consent by parents to ‘normalize’ an intersexual newborn’s genitalia.

Doctors would be allowed to snip away if the genitals in question were considered ambiguous ‘- too large to be a girl and not quite large enough to be a boy ‘- in which case the child, regardless of other biological factors, would be raised as a girl.

‘To the doctors, it’s easier to dig a hole than to build a pole’ Diamond said, ‘I am representing reality.’

Another topic Diamond touched was the John/Joan case, or the true story of David Reimer, a non-intersexed twin who had his entire penis burnt off in a botched circumcision when he was eight-months-old. His parents, under the advice of a psychologist, agreed to have him sexually reassigned through hormone, surgical and psychological treatments. Eventually, David reassumed a social identity as a boy.

Renee Liu, a family studies and child development major, came to the lecture because she wanted to hear more about the case.

‘I thought it would actually be meaningful to hear (Diamond) talk about it,’ she said. Liu said she wished Diamond would have discussed the case more, having personally met David while in the course of his research.

Family studies and child development major, Lawanda Baker was impressed with the lecture.

‘It was very educational to learn that people can be born with two sexes,’ said Baker, it gave me a better idea of their sexual identity.’

Baker said she was most shocked to learn about the over-zealous parents of intersexual children, saying that the lecture shed some light on how people ultimately follow a certain sexual orientation.

In the end, it was evident the event spoke to different people in different ways.

‘Gender is designated by society and not by an individual,’ said CTVA major, Chloe Hoft-Truitt.

‘Our brain is our primary sex organ and we’re only taught gender by our culture,’ she added.

Diamond ended the occasion with a few words of wisdom.

‘Nature loves variety, but society hates it,’ he concluded. ‘Let’s see if we can change society rather than nature.’