Was 2013 a good year for you? Because it was a good year for science but for all of the pop-culture geeking out that we do, I don’t think we do nearly enough science geeking out. I intend to rectify that, starting now and starting with how science stood up for the LGBTI community last year with two important findings. I present them here in laymans for all people to see and understand. Two questions in particular were tried and tested and had their results published last year:
1. Are homophobes secretly attracted to the same sex?
Short Science Answer: Yes
Long Science Answer: A couple of studies undertaken from 1996 (Adams, Wright & Lohr) to this year (MacInnis & Hodson, 2013) have found evidence that individuals having bias against homosexuals (more commonly known as homophobia) is tightly correlated to them also having repressed sexual desires for the same sex. The study (unfortunately) only focussed on male attraction, possibly due to the fact that it’s a lot easier to study men’s sexual response thanks to phallometry. Possible psychological explanations include that these men are homophobic because they feel intensely sexually attracted to other men but feel like they shouldn’t and are ashamed of their feelings. The heightened aggression against homosexuals could be due to the need to justify their heterosexuality in the face of same-sex attractions that they can’t explain or simply outright deny.
Yes, this has been a folk suspicion for decades, even centuries. Now we live in an era where we have things like advanced scientific techniques and rigorous research to back up the truth.
2. Is homosexuality a personal choice?
Short Science Answer: No
Long Science Answer: A recent study found that a branch of genetics called epigenetics may be the underlying cause of not just homosexuality but also trans* identities. The ‘epi-marks’ – the focus of study in epigenetics – are the backbone of our genes and control their expression. Some of these epi-marks serve the purpose of protecting the foetus from the natural variation in testosterone. This allows a female feotus with abnormally high testosterone to remain feminine and and male foetus with abnormally low testosterone to remain masculine, but more importantly it also affects fertility/virility, gender identity and sexual partner preference. Epi-marks passed down from father to daughter can cause masculisation of the foetus, while epi-marks passed down from mother to son can cause feminisation. However the thing is, those same epi-marks, when passed from father to son or mother to daughter, can cause increased fertility and virility, which is why they will never go away. They’re an evolutionary advantage to parents and their same-sex offspring but not to their opposite-sex offspring. This explanation also covers the mystery of how it’s possible for even identical twins to have different sexual orientations, since no two people have the same epi-marks, even if they have the same genes.
What you need to take away from that explanation is that you certainly were born that way and that it came as a result of a process that is actually beneficial to the human race.
[Image: Tips from Town]
MacInnis & Hodson, 2013, Is Homophobia Associated with an Implicit Same-Sex Attraction? Journal of Sex Research, 50(8), 777-785
Adams, Henry E.; Wright, Lester W.; Lohr, Bethany A., 1996, Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol 105(3), Aug 1996, 440-445.
Rice WR, Friberg U, Gavrilets S., 2012, Homosexuality as a consequence of epigenetically canalized sexual development. The Quarterly Review of Biology, Published online.
You know what doesn’t get geeked about enough on this site? Biology. And that’s a shame because the science of biology has recently expanded with a newly discovered species of rodent.*
Let me introduce to you Scutisorex thori, soon to be more commonly known by its non-scientific name: Thor’s Hero Shrew. That’s right! This shrew has been specifically named after the God of Thunder and Strength (in my head I firmly believe that it was actually named after the Avenger).
The shrew is a sister species to one that was discovered about a century ago in 1910, Scutisorex somereni, the Hero Shrew. Both are native to equatorial Africa and have a unique feature that no other mammal has. Their spine is a series of special interlocking vertebrae that are so strong that (allegedly) when the Hero Shrew was first discovered, scientists were so baffled by its strength that they got a man to stand on it to see what would happen. The shrew scampered away unharmed. To put this in perspective, that’s roughly like a human supporting the weight of a space shuttle and walking away unharmed.
Even further testimony to this super-strength is the shrew’s reputation among the local people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Thor’s Hero Shrew was discovered. The Mangbetu people wear the shrew’s body parts believing that they will be bestowed with the creature’s power, which will literally make them bulletproof.
Scientists still don’t know much about Thor’s Hero Shrew or the Hero Shrew. For starters, they have no idea how this interlocking super-spine could be of any evolutionary benefit. One theory suggests that they use this spine to lift heavy logs and get food from sources that no other rodent can reach but nobody has ever seen them actually do this. Just like the gods and superheroes, the Hero Shrew and Thor’s Hero Shrew are a mystery to the mere mortal man.
*By newly discovered, I mean that this happened two months ago but I didn’t find out about it until now.
Image Source: [Skeletal Columns]
Information is the best way to protect yourself. That’s what they tell you about STDs. Know what you’re up against, know how you can get it, know how you can protect yourself, know how you can get treated. Knowledge is definitely power.
If you didn’t know that you can take PEP within 72 hours of being exposed to HIV in order to prevent the virus from taking hold, you might not seek it out when you’ve engaged in a risky encounter. And if you didn’t know that the A&E departments will have it for you, even on the weekends when the sexual health clinics are closed, you might not be able to save yourself should you have been exposed on a late Friday romp.
But how much do you actually know about HIV and how it is treated in today’s world of more advanced medicine? Most people I know would say that they know that, “It’s totally treatable and manageable and people go on to live long and happy lives.” They would probably also think that HIV-positive people wouldn’t be able to have functional relationships with HIV-negative people – but they probably wouldn’t say it. I admit, I would have secretly thought such things not too long ago myself.
That is, until I ended up in bed with someone who is HIV-positive.
He was what they call “undetectable”. This was a term I had vaguely heard among the community (yes, I mean on Grindr profiles), but never really understood. He educated me.
Basically, treatment for HIV involves taking medicine (antiretroviral therapy) that reduces what is known as the “viral load”. That means it reduces amount of the virus that is in the blood and semen. This treatment can be so effective to a point where the amount of HIV present is so low that it is undetectable. You’ve essentially got so little of the virus that you’ve got a 96% chance of catching HIV from the positive person.
Of course, you have to keep taking the medication to remain that way, hence why it is not a “cure”.
And, of course, there is still that 4% risk of contracting HIV. So safe sex is still necessary with someone who is undetectable.
However, something I’ve found is that HIV is still something that people seem to avoid like the plague. Too often you see people saying that they’re negative, and that the person contacting them should be negative too. Is that not as discriminatory as racism, really? How do you know that someone who’s positive isn’t going to turn out to be the love of your life? And just because they’re positive, doesn’t mean you can’t have sex!
The man I was with was incredibly brave (and an incredibly good person) to tell me straight up that has HIV. He had no idea how I would have reacted – I could have kicked him out of my house, I could have never talked to him again. I could have been terrified, angry, or worse yet, I could have pitied him. So he took an incredibly brave step.
But he shouldn’t have had to be brave to take that step. Just as someone shouldn’t have to be brave to “come out” and shouldn’t have to announce that they are gay, bisexual, asexual or whatever sexuality they identify with. Saying you have HIV, when you’re undetectable, shouldn’t be such a tough thing to do. It’s so unfair to them.
Or is it? What do you think? Should we keep this wariness of HIV alive in order to encourage more safe practices when it comes to sexual encounters, or is it unfair to those who have contracted the virus but are perfectly healthy?
If there were ever a nerdy lesbian device, it would be the clap-off bra.
Just as it sounds, this is, indeed, a bra that you can remove simply by clapping your hands.
Wondering if this is nerdy enough for Gay Geek? Well you need to check out the Instructables post on how to make this. Just take a look at this list of things that you will need to make this work:
A front opening strapless under-wire bra
Small nut and bolt
(x2) Prototype circuit boards
An Arduino (w/ATMEGA168 DIP chip)
28 pin socket
(x2) 22pF capacitors
(x2) 0.1uF capacitors
2N3904 NPN transistor
7805 voltage regulator
5V SPST relay
5V DPDT relay
An electret microphone
9V battery connector
A spare USB cable
1″ shrink tube
A small grommet
Double stick tape
Ribbons and frills
Tools of various sorts
This thing requires some seriously hardcore geek work to get it going – including some soldering, sewing and programming!
So we got any geeky lesbian, bisexual or trans electrician nerds in the house ready to create the easiest bra to take off ever?