The “Science” Behind LGBTQ+ Discourse: Re-Reading the Narrative of Nature & Nurture

Nature and nurture debates have lost their shine in the realm of LGBTQ+ discourse, and rightly so, albeit with a conundrum of non-occlusive answers. Sexuality research when seen through selective prism leads to falsely believe that sexual fluidity and sexual behavior beyond the binary are “natural” and “innate.” Research with lenses painted with Christian creationistic outlook tries to paint it as “completely nurtured” (this is fading fast!). But the essence being, probably, that neither is the case.

Sexuality research and the narratives evolved out of it through the murky horizon of scientism played an extraordinary role in making the modern concept of LGBTQ+ and sexuality popular among the general public and the societal elites, and in creating moral desensitization towards such concepts.

As findings of sexuality research began to move out of laboratories into public consciousness, through popular science, naturally, many of the findings, which were merely superfluous in nature, were considered authoritative. Those that were incomplete were considered complete. Those that required further validation were considered the final word on the subject. And so, all the defects, this cascade of transfer of bits of knowledge generated by research into the public domains and their inferences, seeps into public consciousness through means of mass communication into LGBTQ+ discourse. This results in a tendency among the public to blindly trust the research done in this domain, which produced far-reaching results that also irrevocably affected the research efforts in sexuality. It is understood that it is very difficult to create or raise the level of true scientific awareness among the public. In fact, the responsibility lies with the institutions and individuals who disseminate the results of scientific research to the public, that is, writers of popular science and people associated with scientific journalism. But what really happens is that these individuals and institutions have their own agenda. They consider sensationalization of science over real science, finality or authority over relativity, none of which make sense in real science because essentially real science is all about skepticism.

The same thing happened with LGBTQ+ and the “scientific evidence” to justify it. When Charles C. Kinsey presented the results of his research in 1948 and then in 1953, most researchers in the United States and Europe lapped it up.

Since there were sensational revelations in these investigations, the media of that time embraced them wholeheartedly. It became much easier for researchers working in this field to get research funding. Acceptance of papers in research journals publishing sexuality became easier than in other fields and a kind of research ecosystem was created in which easy funding on sexuality, lead to easy publication and easy acceptance in reputed journals and more funding from it became possible.

Most interestingly, most findings of Charles C. Kinsey’s research were not replicable, there were statistical limitations of sexuality studies, and limiting factors of research design on sexuality research yet other researchers quickly advanced his work on the scale of sexuality as well as the basic hypotheses of his research. For us, the main reasons for this are the same as mentioned earlier. (Please see the previous chapter in this series, September 2022 issue.) However, at a purely practical level, the trend that played the most important role was the collective desire for a free sexual society, which was one of the most important features of Eurocentric modernity, and this desire and its fulfilment was not feasible until the sexual binary given by religion was completely dissolved.

Therefore, the funding agencies behind the research and the elites occupying these institutions generously funded such investigations. The researchers also made sure that those results of the research were presented that revolved around previously accepted results. Therefore, for a long time, research on sexuality continued to proceed on Kinsey’s observations. Some other names emerged on this horizon with some limited success, but their impact did not make a dent. However, this situation is changing now. There are certain challenges to sexuality research. People are questioning the methodology and apprehensions are rising over generalizations of research findings.

The narrative that the discourse of sexuality and affiliated research on the subject have created in this field over nearly seventy years can be summarized under the following points:

  1. Naturalistic methodology can be applied to understand sexuality, sexual orientation, and sexual deviation and it is effective and sufficient.
  2. Kinsey scale is a reliable scale for sexuality research .
  3. Sexuality and sexual behavior are characterized by sexual fluidity.
  4. Sexuality and sexual deviations are influenced by hormones and the condition of the uterus.
  5. A part of sexuality and sexual deviations is characterized by genetic determinism.
  6. There is only a difference of complexity in terms of sexuality between animals and humans. That means, in essence, the sexual system is the same.
  7. Sexual orientation cannot be changed by any therapy. Research in this regard is further strengthening this hypothesis.

Each point in the narrative above can be meta-analyzed. This is the method of research in which all scientific research on a particular point is collected and then classified from different aspects, such as the number of samples used in the study, the design, the use of statistics, the basis of inclusion and exclusion criteria, the strength of hypotheses etc. All the research in a certain domain is tested on the above aspects under certain statistical models and the accuracy or robustness of their arguments and the scientific narrative on a subject that has gained fame can be debated and criticized, beyond that, opinions can also be formed on the accuracy of this narrative.

It is necessary to subject the scientific explanations (whatever is presented as evidence) used for the nature and nurture debates of the LGBTQ+ narrative to meta-analysis and other well-known rules of accuracy and robustness, in order to separate science from non-science. Generally, this is painstaking work and is not very rewarding as well, so researchers avoid it and prefer to follow the beaten path.

It is not possible to elaborate on all the points given about the scientific narrative of sexuality with reference to this article, yet some principled position is taken on all of the above-mentioned points.

1. Research on sexuality, sexual orientation and sexual deviation can be done through naturalistic methodology.

Before going into the details of naturalistic methodology, it is enough to understand that this method is popular and well-known all over the scientific world. And in the absence of any other method, this is appropriate. This methodology entails that in order to research any phenomenon be it physical or non-physical, this phenomenon can be divided into different parts. This is known as reductionism. For example, if you want to study sexuality in humans, research should be done by separating the individual and the environment for sexuality, sexual orientation and sexual deviations in humans. Both should be studied, reducing their systems to components and the results should be combined and sometimes not combined, to deduce the narrative or build an understanding of systems. But the biggest problem with the reductionist methodology is that it works extremely well in physical sciences but miserably gives contrasting results in social sciences. This is circumvented by applying checks and balances. For example sexuality (the topic in hand) can be governed by myriad environmental and genetic and other factors. The individual’s genes, the individual’s environment, the individual’s parents’ genes—how many aspects can be separated and for how long?

In the same way, the environment has many aspects within itself, such as the genetic environment of the individual, the society which impacts his psychology, the environment of the individual’s family and the sociocultural milieu of the society in which the individual lives all very well can impact the individual and what he ought to be.

Then, even if all these aspects are studied meticulously, how can the results obtained from the study of all of them be integrated and controlled? What precautions need to be taken? Moreover, how to measure the accuracy of these results after all this (i.e., even after the study of these aspects has been grouped into an array)?

It is important to clarify that this does not mean that naturalistic research methodology is all pointless. No, the usefulness, importance and universality of this method in the physical sciences is well established. But social sciences are more complex in that they are changing every day. Human beings, families, societies, states, and systems change all the time and change is not linear, but adopts web and other modes of evolution.

On the contrary, life, despite all its complexity, have only certain methods of change. Whether it is cellular complexity or cellular evolution, both have their limitations.

Therefore, all the tools used in social sciences, especially in sexuality research, such as surveys, interviews, and other sources, have a certain level of relativity within themselves. See, for example, the following points:

  1. A group of people living in a particular single geographical region have completely different cultural and civilizational patterns and manifestations. The assumption that is true for this society is sometimes completely wrong for a collection of people living and settled in another geographical region.
  2. Similarly the concepts of sexuality in one society are quite different from the concepts of sexuality in another society. See, for example, many African tribal concepts and practices such as customs and perceptions about making sexual relations with friends and cousins of husbands in the Ova Himba tribes in the Namibia is diagonally apart from Eastern sexual values. [1]

It can be said that there is no comparison between the mainland and tribal regions and these tribes did not evolve during the evolution of civilizations. But the problem with this argument is that it is instead based on the fact that research on sexuality or other complex social phenomena of this tribe cannot be extrapolated to other civilizations.

It should be noted that we are not talking about certain nearly universal values about sex and sexuality, the emphasis here is on the spheres of sexuality and its conception, ideation and practices which varies among civilizations such as the whole discourse about LGBTQ+ and evolve in a very specific sociocultural milieu and extrapolating them with all other civilization and considering them as universal is scientifically exaggerating.

For example, if a survey of people living in Florida State in the United States shows that 10 percent of all of them are indulging in male homosexual practices. It cannot mean that 10 percent of people in Uttar Pradesh state of India are also indulging in homosexual practices That is, the results cannot be generalized unless this survey is carried out in Uttar Pradesh with all its scientific accuracy. But physical science is a different ballgame.

In physical science, for example, an American cell and an Indian cell are both molecularly identical, with the exception of very few gene expression changes. But American sexuality and Indian sexuality can and do differ from many aspects, from many angles, and from many levels. Without taking these differences into account, if the results of research on sexuality in a particular US state are copy-pasted onto any region of India or the whole of India, then it will be called scientific excess and moral dishonesty. However, it should be kept in mind that there are fewer social scientists doing this, and more of those who are merely reporting social science research.

Moreover, as it has been stated, when research goes out of research papers and reaches the public through popular science, then a lot is lost in translation.

Sufficiency of the Kinsey Scale for Sexuality Research:

The scale can be said to be the cornerstone of the scientific narrative of LGBTQ+ sexuality. The simple meaning of this scale can be explained under the following points:

  1. This scale describes an individual’s sexual orientation.
  2. Human sexuality is not discrete, but instead, it occurs in a continuum.
  3. At one end of this linear chain of human sexuality can be placed those who are clearly homosexuals and on the other end those who are heterosexual and in between, there are people who practice all kinds of sexuality. These include those who have sexual attraction towards both genders, male and female.
  4. This scale is the same for the sexuality of both men and women.
  5. The Kinsey scale has been the most popular and well-known scale used for sexuality. Based on this, LGBTQ+ strengthened its scientific narrative and convinced the world that the Kinsey scale proves that the sexuality of individuals is not just based on a binary, but there are people with all kinds of sexual orientations. But cleverly, this narrative hides the question – ‘what percentage?’ in which countries and what are the variations in data and how and when all these data are validated etc. Because the percentage of such people is very important. Why? Because in 1973, when the American Psychological Association stopped categorizing it as a disease and began to call it a normal sexual phenomenon, the first argument and reference was Kinsey’s study, followed by many minor arguments, but the most basic reference was to Kinsey. He said that since 10 percent of Americans have homosexual tendencies and a sizable number of them were indulging in sexual practices beyond the binary. It was a common trait and there was nothing “unnatural” or “deviation” or “criminal” about it. But interestingly, even then (i.e., until 1973), other studies had not been able to particularly validate his research with special reference to prevalence of such sexual behaviors.

It is, still, very difficult to answer on purely scientific grounds as to why APA made this decision. It should be noted that, here, we are not entering the debate about whether the decision was right or wrong or should have been made or not, but rather, investigating the scientific grounds of the decision (We will try to bring this up in the next article.) The reasons attributed by the APA have been responded to aplenty. Additionally, this is not a discussion about is the social trauma caused to individuals due to their sexual orientations or persecution thereof or the social stigma in this context. (We condemn all this in a sincere and thoughtful and nonapologetic manner; no one should be denied their basic human rights of dignity and sovereignty, but whether or not sexual rights are frameless, and unlimited under the realm of individual rights is the real question. Right to sexually practice what one believes or satisfy with is a long debate). It is perfectly believable that this was happening, but the scientific bases by way of which the APA resorted to reconsider homosexuality and sexual deviance from being a disease to a normal phenomenon lay exposed. Of course, there have been many modern investigations succeeding this, but here, the question is about the research leading up to 1973 and their results. Because, these scientific investigations were used as justifications for an important issue that was either uncertain, incomplete or inconclusive.

It should be noted that Kinsey’s scale was used in all these researches. There are many shortcomings in them, but those shortcomings are also described keeping in mind a particular concept of sexuality. We will not mention these shortcomings here. Rather, here we would like to mention a scientific correspondence by two big names working in the field of pure sexuality. They published their correspondence in a reputable journal like PNAS and titled it, “The Kinsey scale is ill-suited to most sexuality research because it does not measure a single construct.” (2)

Now that the Kinsey scale itself is flawed, thousands of papers written on its basis will have to be re-evaluated. It also has to be seen what the sample size of these papers were, in terms of LGBTQ+ and sexuality. What was the role of the scale in deriving results? What is the relationship between scale and statistics? We are not claiming that every single research done on the basis of the Kinsey Scale will be declared invalid, but it ought to be considered in terms of all the aspects given above.

But all this is no longer possible, because the spectrum of sexuality has been considered very important in sexuality research. It is also assumed to be such a common phenomenon, that it is considered wrong to label it as an exception or something separate from the norm. And, as it has been proved, the grounds on which it is perceived to be so are rudimentary and sometimes, unscientific.

It begs the question – does this mean that the spectrum of sexuality does not exist at all? Aren’t there people who fit into this spectrum? Can it be completely denied that there are manifestations of fluidity in sexuality? On the contrary, it can be argued these things are largely true! But they are shaped by extraordinary levels of relativity. They are poles apart. Sexuality and the concepts associated with it are not ‘universal’. There is extraordinary diversity in sexuality, sexual behavior and sexual phenomena in society. And therefore, in the case of sexuality, it is wrong to present LGBTQ+ as the dominant, unquestioned scientific narrative despite all this.

Sexual Fluidity?

In the beginning, it was believed in sexuality research that sexuality can be best understood as a binary phenomenon, something that could be classified into two neat boxes. That is, humans and animals perform the act of sex as males and females.

This view began to change after Charles Kinsey’s investigation and it began to emerge in various investigations that sexual attraction between the same genders is an important sexual realm, and that sexuality should be measured on a scale. It was assumed that naturally, “all” human beings have different tendencies, which cannot be reduced to sexual duality.

On the basis of these investigations, research on a new dimension in relation to sexuality started progressing; that is, not only does man not have sexual duality and his sexuality is not according to a scale, but beyond that, whatever sexual orientation he has is not stable in itself: at different points in his life cycle, he can practice homosexuality, bisexuality or other forms. This is called sexual fluidity.

But do all human beings have sexual fluidity? Or does it have a certain proportion? This is a question that is rarely discussed in scientific circles.

Lisa M. Diamond has analyzed a great deal of research on the concepts related to sexual fluidity in men and women. In it she has argued that:

  1. Sexual fluidity is an important phenomenon.
  2. Sexual fluidity is higher in women than in men.
  3. Homosexuals have higher sexual fluidity. (This is a point to consider and there is no explanation offered for it.)
  4. There is an unusual discrepancy in data on gender identity, sexual attractiveness, and sexual behavior. (This point is also very important.)

In our view, despite the quality of statistics used and a good research design, this research has the following flaws:

  1. The findings of this study can only be considered valid regarding public attitudes in the United States, Canada and some countries in Europe, with the clarity that no matter how large the size of the samples in social science research, there is still room for relativity. For example, the researcher wrote that “studies in many countries suggest this”, although these are surveys of only six countries. There are 195 countries all over the world which are spread over six continents and in many countries hundreds of thousands of types of social units exist . In some of the countries mentioned above, its generalization may be acceptable, but it cannot be a given for all other countries.
  2. Fluidity of sexuality was found to be higher in those with tendencies outside of the sexual duality. Is it a sign that all of those individuals can be made to shift to one side of the sexual binary? If yes, why does conversion therapy (the practice of attempting to make homosexuals into heterosexuals through medical and psychiatric means) mostly fail to work, at least in the context of recent experiences?
  3. This research suggests that sexual fluidity has increased, but why did it happen? There is no adequate answer to it.

There have been extraordinary investigations on sexual fluidity. But there are no clear or decided answers yet on the following:

  1. Is there really universality of phenomenon in the context of sexual fluidity, gender identity, sexual behavior etc.?
  2. How and what percentage of sexual fluidity is found in the general public?

References

  1. “Ovahimba: a Namibian tribe where sex is offered for free to Cousins and Friends”.Rhingo G.K Mutambo; (2020) (PDF) “Ovahimba: a Namibian tribe where sex is offered for free to Cousins and Friends” (researchgate.net)
  2. Zietsch BP, Sidari MJ. The Kinsey scale is ill-suited to most sexuality research because it does not measure a single construct. (2020).Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Nov 3;117(44):27080. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2015820117. PMID: 33144520; PMCID: PMC7959566.
To be continued in Part V….

1 Comment

  1. سلیم منصور خالد

    Tmely and forceful writing . accept congratulations

    Reply

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