Hetracil, a drug that supposedly “cured” homosexuality, was an elaborate, clever joke. But apparently, researchers at the University of Illinois have discovered the real thing… at least for fruit flies. As John Tierney wryly notes, it will be interesting to see whether the Leon Kass types denounce such technology as “meddling with nature” or “playing God.”
Of course, the reaction of the gay community will be interesting to watch as well. For perhaps understandable reasons, gay activists have staked a lot on the notion that sexual orientation is—whether by genes or early environment—biologically hardwired, not the result of any conscious choice. But of course, this meant that someone might one day come up with a biological means to artificially produce either orientation. If something like this ever reaches the market—still, to be sure, a far-off hypothetical—I’m guessing we’ll watch X-Men III play out, though (alas) with fewer mutant powers.
With respect to adults, this seems all to the good. If I were single, it might be interesting to try being gay for a few months. But children will present a difficult case. Doubtless there will be parents who—whether from homophobia, because they’re eager for grandchildren, or because they fear the discrimination gay kids and teens face—decide to ensure their kids are straight. If their numbers are substantial, that obviously creates a series of both personal and political problems for the gay community.
On the other hand, and perhaps I’m being excessively sanguine here, it could also have the result of eliminating the idea of sexual identity—a fixed, static “orientation”—altogether, in favor of a more protean, Kinseyan conception of sexuality. “Gay rights,” on this optimistic picture, cease to be the rights of some small, utterly Other minority group, and instead become rights each of us hold, and can imagine ourselves invoking, whether or not we actually decide to take a walk on the other side. Sadly, I doubt anything of the sort will be developed in time for someone to does James Dobson, which I would dearly love to see.
Addendum: I haven’t read it yet, but there’s a long article in a recent Mother Jones dealing with this very topic.