Sunday, June 05, 2005

Of homosexuality and free condoms

Based on my readings, I have always believed that homosexuality is more nature than nurture. My own ratio would be like 80-20. Of course, this ratio could never be scientifically proven.

Just think about it, what elements of homosexuality were you exposed to? In an Asian society, all things related to it are so hush-hush and unspoken. I didn’t found out about the word ‘gay’ till I was fourteen, as I remember typing ‘naked men’ in the search bar, not ‘gay’.

I have not given much thought about this topic for quite some time, till I came across this article. I shall post here a few important paragraphs:

When homosexual men smelled the odor of male sweat—more specifically, a chemical in the male hormone testosterone—their brains responded similarly to those of women.

The findings suggest that brain activity and sexual orientation are linked. It also supports an opinion held by most scientists, that people are born—not bred—gay

In a previous study a few years ago, the Swedish researchers showed that the brain's hypothalamus region, which is involved in sexual behavior, becomes activated when men smell EST (the estrogen derivative) and women smell AND (the testosterone compound), but not vice versa.

For their new study, the scientists added a sexual-orientation element, which revealed a difference in the brain activity of gay and straight men.

The researchers found that the testosterone compound activated the hypothalamus in homosexual men and heterosexual women, but not heterosexual men. Conversely, the estrogen compound activated the hypothalamus only in heterosexual men.

"It directly shows a link between brain activity and sexual orientation," said Hamer, the NIH geneticist.

Hamer cautions that the gay men's different brain activity could be either a cause of their sexual orientation or an effect of it. But, he said, "it certainly seems unlikely that somehow being interested in men would cause the brain to rewire itself in such a dramatic way."

Scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, found that gay men preferred odors from other gay men, while odors from gay men were the least preferred by straight men and women.

The last paragraph made my eyes widen. It means that we can detect other gay people – the gaydar. And there is a biological explanation for it – pheromones. So, all gay men have gaydar and we can pooh-pooh those who say that they don’t. They actually do – but they are not aware of it, as ‘smelling’ pheromones works unconsciously.


Another issue that is close to my heart is HIV/AIDS. Last week, there was a headline in the Star which read ‘Needle swap and free condom plan’.

Not surprisingly, the people who are up in arms about this are the religious leaders. Sometimes, these people just can’t think beyond religion and see the big picture. The average number of people infected every year is more than 6000, which means everyday there are more than 16. The numbers were taken from here.

Education has always been one of Malaysia’s HIV/AIDS strategies. Somehow, it has not been truly successful, as can be seen by the rising number of infections. We can only tell young people to abstain, but they will still do it.

More effective and proven strategies are needed to complement and enhance the current program. Needle swap and free condom should definitely be seriously considered – their success rates are much higher.

Free condom distribution does not mean encouraging promiscuity. If people want to have sex, they will, with or without condoms. Easier access to condoms, at hotels, saunas, spas, red light districts, etc simply means that people would be reminded about sexually transmitted diseases. From there, it is up to them, but at least they have been given condoms and thus reminded about STDs. I mean, how many men actually carry condoms with them?

Statistics seldom lie. There have been many success stories – our northern neighbour, Thailand is one. Another is Uganda. The report and statistics can be found here.

Hopefully, common sense will prevail and both these programs will be implemented.

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