The Bookworm Sez

Book Review: Gay, Straight and the Reason Why

By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Real AspenNovember 15, 2010

Some things just can’t be tolerated.

Take, for instance, when food touches other food on your plate. Or when socks don’t match up. Or if, like, somebody, like, repeatedly uses a catch-phrase without, like, thinking.

“Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why” by Simon LeVay c.2010, Oxford University Press $27.95 / $29.95 Canada 412 pages, includes notes

Buy it on Amazon
We all have our individual likes, traits, and dislikes. But are our selves shaped by outside influence, or did we enter the world this way? Was our behavior learned or innate? In the new book “Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why” by Simon LeVay, you’ll find answers to similar questions of a more intimate sort.

Nearly two decades ago, Simon LeVay published a scientific paper asserting that gay men differed from straight men in brain structure; specifically, a cluster of nerve cells controlling sex drive were, in gay men, of the size that LeVay observed in straight women’s brains.

Since the publication of his paper, vast amounts of further research have been done concerning same-sex attraction and the nature / nurture debate. In this book, LeVay takes a deeper look at new findings.

While some gays and lesbians are “surprised” later in life by feelings of same-sex attraction, LeVay says that sexual identity, while not always immediately apparent, is present at birth (although women, throughout life, appear to be more “fluid” and cannot always be categorized). As small proof, he points to several cases in which male infants were, for one reason or another, “assigned” to live as the opposite sex. In most cases, upon adulthood, the “assignment” turned out to be wrong.

Childhood abuse has been theorized to be an influence on gayness, but survivors deny it as a factor. Some theories claim that older siblings hold sway. And as for “choice”, LeVay cites several quasi-claims of “conversions”, in which therapy reportedly changed sexual preference.

Overall, LeVay says, nothing is “cut and dried” but the probable reason that someone is gay has to do with genetics, hormones, and stress that individuals receive in utero. Studies show, for instance, that mice are influenced by chemicals secreted by their mothers and by littermates. Humans, likewise, are affected in similar ways, which could lay to rest so many questions.

And one of the hints may – literally – be at your fingertips.

While there is no doubt that “Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why” is an intriguing book that makes sense on several levels, there’s one big problem with it: you almost need a PhD to follow much of what author Simon LeVay says. Yes, it’s steeped in medical lingo. Yes, LeVay includes a glossary and heavy-duty notes to explain the scientific terms and acronyms. Still, this book is a challenge.

If you’re up for that challenge, though, you’ll be rewarded with a pondering and thought-provoking examination of a private subject that has a very public focus. LeVay leaves no hypothesis unexamined, which leaves readers satisfied that every corner of this argument has been thoroughly dusted off.

Give yourself some time if you decide to tackle this book, because it’s nowhere near light reading. Still, “Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why” is surely food for tolerance.


comments: 0 Comments on "Book Review: Gay, Straight and the Reason Why "

Be the first to comment below.

COMMENT
Comment Form Info  Comment Information
Real Aspen encourages you to post comments on our articles and blogs. Logged in email is required for monitoring purposes. Your email will not be published and will not be distributed to any third-party. Abusive, obscene, profane, threatening, libelous or defamatory comments are prohibited. By posting a comment, you agree to this policy and our terms of use. To report an abusive posting, please contact us.

To make a comment, please log in or create an account. This helps us prevent spam and other malicious attacks.

Please log in to comment

 

Create a user account to comment

Snow Report

  24hr snow mid dpth snow cond.
A-Basin n/a n/a
Aspen n/a n/a closed
BC n/a n/a closed
Breckenridge n/a n/a closed
Buttermilk n/a n/a closed
Copper n/a n/a closed
Crest. Butte n/a n/a closed
Eldora n/a n/a closed
Heavenly n/a n/a closed
Highlands n/a n/a
Howelsen n/a n/a closed
Keystone n/a n/a closed
Kirkwood n/a n/a closed
Loveland n/a n/a
Monarch n/a n/a closed
Northstar n/a n/a closed
Powderhorn n/a n/a closed
Purgatory n/a n/a closed
Silverton n/a n/a closed
Ski Cooper n/a n/a closed
Ski Granby n/a n/a closed
Snowmass n/a n/a closed
Steamboat n/a n/a closed
Sunlight n/a n/a closed
Telluride n/a n/a closed
Vail n/a n/a closed
WinterPark n/a n/a closed
Wolf Creek n/a n/a closed
More Weather Reports
VIDEO GALLERY
A teaser to the Winter X Games in Aspen
Methane from Bill Koch's coal mine powers Aspen Skiing Company
'Circle of Corduroy'