Great piece by the brilliant Irish columnist Dermod Moore in Dublin’s Hot Press about the BBC John Barrowman doc about the ’causes’ of his homosexuality called The Making of Me – or rather, The Making of MEEEEE!.
I couldn’t quite bring myself to watch the doc myself which I’ve had on HDD for months because a) I’ve seen enough Barrowman to last me a lifetime, and b) I’ve written plenty on this subject already.
Though maybe I would have watched it if the doc had been about what makes Barrowman such an annoyingly ubiquitous musical theatre queen.
Which reminds me of my favourite Two Ronnies joke:
Big Ron: ‘My mother made me a homosexual.’
Little Ron: ‘Really? If I gave her the pattern would she knit me one too?’
Clearly genetics have a strong influence on all sorts of behaviours, but even if a ‘gay gene’ had been found (as we were told it had in the early 1990s in one of the greatest scientific frauds of the century), the problem for American gays keen to prove that God made them Good With Colours, is that as Mr Coderch pointed out, and as most geneticists who aren’t actually barking will accept, environment is the decisive factor when it comes to most behavioural traits. Predispositions are exactly that: predispositions. Or ‘trials and temptations’ in the language of the God squad. In other words, Mendel won’t save you from the Christian right – or Mum.
The documentary itself was, of course, utterly trivial. That human sexuality might be a complex and tricksy item to describe and understand was never going to be the message of this programme. There were one or two amusing moments. I particularly enjoyed the demonstration of JB as linguistic chameleon (bidialecticism). His parents emigrated from Glasgow to the US when he was eight and they still have strong Scottish accents and when talking to them JB slips unselfconsciously from Mid Atlantic into Scots. We also got to see something of his partner, Scott Gill, who it turns out looks like a younger version of JB – but this didn’t lead to an investigation into the possibility that homosexuality arises from an over-emphasis on assortative mating. Barrowman himself seemed to be obsessed with showing that ‘Being Good with Colours’ is genetic i.e. ‘nothing to do with me guv’, but, as you have so eloquently pointed out Mark, that sort of biological determinism is steadily losing what little credibility it had.
I believe that people are born with genetic tendencies towards everything, including sexual orientation, but in the case of sexuality there is a high degree of plasticity that is succeptible to societal influence and individual choice. Masculine boys raised by single mothers have a much higher tendency of growing up to become gay than similarly masculine boys who were raised with a paternal influence in their lives, so there’s definitely a strong psychosocial component to sexual orientation as well like Freud believed there was. The reverse hypothesis also rings true: very feminine boys tend to almost invariably grow up to become gay, but those raised by single mothers have a much higher probability than this raised with a paternal influence in their lives. Researchers have found that genetic tendencies influece people in almost every from, from the probability of loving alcohol and gambling too much too avoidance of risk-taking behavior to other traits like intelligence, boldness, shyness, extroversion, preference for blodes or brunettes, etc, so it would be naive to postulate that genes don’t play a role in sexual preferences as well. However, when it comes to the definitive answer to what causes sexual preferences in Humans, the best answer would be to plagiarize Multivac’s from Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi classic, “The Last Question”:
“There is as yet insufficient data to give a meaningful answer.”
You did the right thing in avoiding it, John Barrowman feigns (I hope…) ignorance over allsorts of old debunked theories of biological determinism. My boyfriend made me watch it months ago and I still feel insulted by the programmes lack of common sense.
Your old post is brilliant, you are totally spot on.