syp3 - Everybody has an idea: It's genetics-we're born that...

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Everybody has an idea: It's genetics--we're born that way. It's our mothers and testosterone in the womb. It's the environment as we were growing up. One thing we know for sure: The possible explanations raise as many questions as they answer, particularly: What would happen if we found the one true answer? and, Would we change if we could? Mark Stoner pins it on the clarinet. Ever since Stoner, a 41-year-old creative director for an advertising agency in Lancaster, Pa., realized that three out of four of his childhood friends who played the clarinet grew up to be gay, he has taken note of who among his adult gay friends once played the instrument. What he calls an "exhaustive but unscientific" survey covering two decades indicates that "there is an extremely high correlation between playing the clarinet and being gay," he says. "My theory is that most boys want to play the trumpet," the former woodwind player says, only partly in jest. "But the more sensitive boys wind up with the clarinet, and we're the ones who turn out gay." Stoner's theory, of course, is offered tongue-in-cheek. But in the past decade or so, researchers from disparate fields spanning genetics, audiology, and behavioral science have amassed bits and pieces of evidence that they believe indicate what may determine sexual orientation. If they're right, our sexual orientation may well be fixed long before any maestro blows his first note. But despite some compelling studies that indicate that the propensity to be gay or lesbian is determined before birth--either genetically or through biological processes in the womb--most researchers today agree a complex combination of genetics, biology, and environmental influences work together to make the determination. Just how much is predetermined by the forces of genes and how much is shaped by influences such as society and culture remain unclear--and hotly debated. So too does the corollary question of whether sexual orientation is somehow an innate trait and thus fixed for life or whether it is malleable and thus changeable over time. More than scientific curiosity hangs in the balance. For years the gay and lesbian political establishment has leaned, at least to some degree, on the argument that sexual orientation is inborn and permanent and thus should not be a basis for discrimination. The tactic has proved incredibly successful. Polls repeatedly indicate that Americans who believe sexual orientation is either genetic or biological are much more likely to support gay and lesbian civil rights than those who believe it is determined primarily by environmental influences. In a Gallup Poll conducted in May, half of those surveyed said they believe homosexuality is genetic, and half said it is environmental. In a 1977 Gallup Poll, respondents pointed to the environment over genetics by more
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than a 4-to-1 ratio. The poll calls this shift in perception "one of the more significant changes in American public opinion on gay and lesbian issues." It is clearly accompanied by increasing tolerance toward gays and
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This note was uploaded on 02/04/2011 for the course SYP 4060 taught by Professor Brown during the Spring '11 term at University of Florida.

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syp3 - Everybody has an idea: It's genetics-we're born that...

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