Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Sheep and a Tennis Player Walk Into a Leather Bar...

In And the Band Played On..., Randy Shilts documented the first few years of the AIDS crisis. He noted that one of the major impediments to research was the gay community's firmly-held belief that they were constantly threatened by mainstream society. In fact, many activists apparently believed that public registration, labeling, and even containment facilities for gays were real possibilities.

I always thought that Shilts was overestimating the fears of the community. After all, even in Reagan's America, the idea of concentration camps was farfetched. However, after the events of the last month, I no longer have the slightest question that he was correct.

The Week recently ran an article about "curing" gay sheep. Scientists in Oregon have discovered that between five and eight percent of adult male sheep "engage exclusively in ram-on-ram action." The gay community's initial response was to laud the Oregon team for demonstrating that homosexuality is not merely a human "aberration," but rather a natural phenomenon, observable in other species. However, the scientists soon discovered that gay rams could be made to prefer ewes if the testosterone levels in their brains were adjusted.

Gay activists responded with reactionary terror. Fearing that similar techniques could be used to eradicate human homosexuality, many rushed to attack the research. Perhaps the most interesting statement came from Martina Navratilova, who stated that sheep have "a right to be gay."

Okay, just to be clear here, we're talking about sheep. Is it me, or does it seem a little strange to be discussing the rights of an animal that is bred for the purpose of providing leather, sweaters, and a yummy Easter meal?

I wonder if the gay ones taste different? I imagine that their abs are ripped.

This seems like over-identification. I can understand demanding respect for one's gay dog or cat. But sheep? As anyone whose ever driven in Scotland can attest, it's hard to imagine an animal stupider than the average sheep. There's a reason that mindless followers are sometimes referred to as "sheep," the word "sheepish" denotes embarrassment, and the phrase "wooly thinking" suggests a lack of intelligence.

Speaking of wooly thinking, have you heard the one about the former tennis star who demanded equal respect for gay sheep?

I understand the desire to protect one's subculture, and America's record with regard to its homosexuals has been far from exemplary. However, this reflexive fear of obliteration really does little to help the gay community. Not only does it lend a shrill, humorless tone to their rhetoric, but the tendency to see anti-gay boogymen in every corner makes them seem hysterical. It's ironic that people who are identifying with sheep should be so quick to cry wolf.

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  • OMG.."I wonder if they taste different..."
    They did the same studies on dolphins too...(I don't know how I know that) but tis true...I think I read it on the internet ;-)

    Once you go sheep
    You'll never lose sleep
    Moans turn to bahs
    Are gay sheep from Mars?


    By Blogger Odat, At January 31, 2007 at 8:17 AM  

  • Okay this is a bit much.... hilarious, but still a bit much. I can't believe that scientist actually wasted their brain power on this issue.

    For some reason what popped into my mind was the movie X Men, the Last Stand. The need for scientist to "cure" those who are different is a very real threat. I think if I were gay I would be a little concerned, but I would also be totally offended at having been compared to a sheep. I mean sheep are not at all butch, they don't wear mullets, they are not fashion conscious and they don't refer to one another as "girlfriend". I am not seeing the similarity at all!!

    By Blogger Let's Pretend, At January 31, 2007 at 10:15 AM  

  • "I imagine their abs are ripped." HYSTERICAL!

    I see your point about the negative boomerang of hysterical gay over-reaction, but I really do have to wonder why scientists are testing un-gaying-hormones on sheep. Haven't humans historically tested on animals before trying it out on humans?

    Whole thing's creepy. Can you imagine if scientists were adding melatonin to white mice to see if they could turn 'em black? What's the point?

    By Blogger Lee, At January 31, 2007 at 12:38 PM  

  • The heartless bottom line of livestock is that you either procreate or are slaughtered. They could keep this quiet and just select the rams-on-rams (loved the phrasing my the way) for the slaughter house or they can fix some chemicals and save their little sheep lives so they can live and have sex they apparently don't like that much. Basically, gay sheep are martyrs for the cause. I'm glad activists are standing up for the ram's right to the fast track to a delicious dish. Preferably cooked with rosemary and a little thorn crown...

    By Blogger GalliganRising, At January 31, 2007 at 12:41 PM  

  • I find myself feeling ridicule for both sides involved in this story.

    I rather imagine that the scientists goal was to get the sheep to mate and thereby create more sheep. The gay community's assumption that science is ultimately seeking to cure them is pretty far-fetched, after all. The gay people in my neighborhood keep very tidy yards and homes, and the last thing I want is any more beer-swilling football fans.

    But wouldn't you think our scientific community would have better things to research? Or did we cure that cancer thing while I was asleep? Is Alzheimer's now a thing of the past?

    By Blogger Mystic Wing, At January 31, 2007 at 5:46 PM  

  • Jim Newman here from the university conducting the researh.

    Not only did "The Week" oversimplify the research. They also got it wrong. They repeated erronious reports that have long since been debunked. (FYI they never actually called us to see if the info they were printing was true.) A web search would have also revealed that their informatrion was false.

    For more information about the research and how it has been misused by both the left and the right - here are a few links:

    The Guardian: Gay sheep? Let's get the facts straight,,1989430,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=11

    TIME Magazine: Yep, They're Gay,9171,1582336,00.html

    National Post: How I fell for PETA's gay ram scam

    New York Times: Of Gay Sheep, Modern Science and Bad Publicity

    ABC News: Are Some Sheep Gay?

    Sunday Times apology and correction:,,2087-2570061.html

    Seattle Times: Born gay? How biology may drive orientation

    By Blogger Jim Newman, At January 31, 2007 at 6:08 PM  

  • People without scientific minds will not understand the research team's need to create controls. Just because the homosexual behaviors were reversed does not imply that such a "cure" could be applied to humans; rather, it explains a reasoning for the homosexual behavior in the first place.

    By Blogger monicker, At January 31, 2007 at 8:15 PM  

  • I gotta cop out and agree with Lee. It's really creepy, and lets not forget that even though experiments give results, politicians steer the use. And politicians get elected by sheep.

    By Blogger Pickled Olives, At January 31, 2007 at 9:50 PM  

  • It seems to me that people who identify with sheep would be the very ones to cry wolf.

    The whole thing is really silly. To draw conclusions about human behavior from livestock experiments is absurd, as is the idea that gay people need to be "fixed."

    Martina's comment is further proof that athletes should not offer their opinions on anything but their game.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, At January 31, 2007 at 10:03 PM  

  • I enjoyed reading this as comedy, and I also enjoyed reading it absolutely straight. I like it with vodka too, and adding olives made it oh so tasty.

    Speaking of which, Olives is my official representatives in matters such as this.

    On the other hand, I need fixing, so I think I will close out and see if I can find the wife, and see if she has her tool kit handy.

    By Blogger The CEO, At February 1, 2007 at 12:29 AM  

  • I want you to know that I would only have sex with a female sheep. Having sex with a male sheep sounds disgusting.

    By Blogger Matt, At February 1, 2007 at 12:12 PM  

  • Odat-
    Your poetry kills me. At least, it kills the scottish part of me.

    Let's Pretend-
    I guess I'm of two minds on this one. You're right--there are other, worthier things to focus on. On the other side, I feel like it's worthwhile for us to consider how and why we are the way we are.

    From what I've read (and I'm going to do a new post on this issue), a lot of people have drawn reflexive comparisons between this research and Nazi studies on eugenics.

    Or, as I always say, "Kill them while they're young and tender!"

    Mystic Wing-
    You make a good point. I guess my take on it is that any research into the workings of the brain and the origins of identity and identification can have useful ramifications (pun intended).

    Of course, this assumes a level of maturity and decency on the part of the dominant society!

    So, uh...never mind.

    Thanks for the heads-up. I will be writing another post on this very soon!

    Right there with you.

    "And politicians get elected by sheep."

    This, by the way, is why you're my hero(ine)!

    Agreed on Martina. Now, if we could apply the same gag rule to actors...

    Let me guess--you're into recreational brainwashing, aren't you?

    Don't knock it till you've tried it. With mint sauce.

    By Blogger Crankster, At February 1, 2007 at 3:13 PM  

  • I dunnon about any of this stuff. I just read my husband's blog for the pictures.

    By Blogger misanthropster, At February 1, 2007 at 3:31 PM  

  • An observation from someone who has spent much of her life on the fringes:

    There is something about being part of a minority that often allows people to assume the role of victim in response to mainstream culture. Granted, minorities are usually persecuted in some manner; the hegemonic process demands it. Unfortunately, that position of victimhood is very seductive - it allows one to rail against the system and feel a justifiable rage at any perceived attack (and there are a lot of those), without having to actually
    do anything about it. As with the weirdness about apologising for the behaviour of one's ancestors, this story seems to highlight the loss of perspective that often occurs when one identifies one's self as belonging entirely to a minority group.

    To be pragmatic, a ram that doesn't inseminate ewes and make more sheep is redundant. Giving it hormones so it will breed is an alternative to killing it. Unless maybe Martina would like to go down the Brigitte Bardot route and start an animal sanctuary for gay animals heartlessly cast out of mainstream (heterosexual) farms...


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At February 1, 2007 at 4:24 PM  

  • La Glamourpuss kills me!! I love it!! I can just see Martina on the farm now...

    By Blogger Claudia, At February 1, 2007 at 8:52 PM  

  • Puss-
    Your victimization comment is right on the mark!

    Actually, Martina does bear a little resemblance to the "American Gothic" woman...

    By Blogger Crankster, At February 4, 2007 at 11:00 PM  

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