A cure for lesbianism?

If a mother at risk of her child having congenital adrenal hyperplasia takes steroids during her pregnancy, it may make the child less likely to be lesbian.

CAH has various effects, including retention of male hormones in the foetus, so that a girl’s genitals may be made ambiguous. Once a woman has had a daughter with such ambiguous genitals, she might be offered steroids during subsequent pregnancies, which will treat that particular symptom, but not the CAH itself. And the steroids have to be administered before the child’s sex may be detected, when there is a one in eight chance of a girl with CAH.

There are no long term studies showing this treatment produces fewer lesbians. There is a study showing that women with CAH are more likely to be lesbian, and one showing that treated girls are more feminine. We don’t know. That lesbians are always more masculine is demonstrably false.

The choices are, leave the child at risk of ambiguous genitalia, give surgery, or give steroids. Even if the child has CAH, the enlargement of the clitoris may be slight. DSD advocates oppose genital surgery on infants- it should be the informed choice of the adult woman- but if human diversity is a problem, this treatment may make one aspect of it go away. My political view is that human diversity in general, including ambiguous genitals, is not a problem, it is society’s reaction which is the problem- but while society has that problem, I can sympathise with a mother seeking to avoid her child being a non-voluntary pioneer in breaking down that intolerance. Even if the child has CAH, the enlargement of the clitoris may be slight.

Dr John Grohol‘s political view is that doctors and patients should be able to decide together to take whatever action they might wish. No. Professional bodies and government will always have a say, and while I cheer on brave doctors who have pioneered sex change treatments because those increase the freedom of the patient, this treatment changes the child, not necessarily for her good, because of the parent’s desire.

Alice Dreger (see the LA Times article) is concerned that the risk the parent might seek to avoid is not an enlarged clitoris, but homosexuality. Homosexuality may be affected by the intra-uterine environment, as well as by genes. She wants to prevent the treatment because of that. There must be no attempt to cure homosexuality, in anyone. I think society would lose out if diversity is reduced, and the idea of getting people to conform to a norm so others can feel less uncomfortable repels me, but-

I admit the possibility that heterosexuality might be preferred to homosexuality, if there is a completely free choice. I am not certain. This is separate from whether gay people are of equal value with straights (we are) or are immoral per se (we are not). In a society purged from kyriarchy, if there were a completely free choice I might prefer to be androphile. What about you?

Thanks to William and his “Strange side effects” blog. I followed the source to the LA Times.

12 thoughts on “A cure for lesbianism?

  1. wow, i hate the fact that i am still stunned that there are people in the medical world who even have these kinds of studies, research, and “treatments” to create a homogenous society. this is scary stuff, Clare. part of this why the discussion of genetics is such a slippery slope–it can be used against gays/lesbians. honestly, as a gal that swings both ways, i enjoy choice, myself, and leave my hormones to figure themselves out (my brain gets in the way, anyway). what is the term for a good ol’ like ’em all people-ophile? ๐Ÿ™‚


    • I don’t know what the term is. Try “Goddess” and see how that pans out ๐Ÿ˜€

      It is not a cure for CAH, or even a palliative for the symptoms, only the abnormal retention of male hormones. On the other hand an enlarged clitoris and partially fused labia may be distressing for the girl as well as the mother. At last visiting Wikipedia, I find other symptoms may include failure to ovulate or disorders of puberty. A side effect of reducing lesbianism, suggested but not demonstrated by studies, may be bearable if the risk of these things is reduced, just as pain relief in terminal illness is ethically justifiable, even in some cases where there is the side effect of hastening death.


        • And the same with the articles. William says ooh, this is strange; that doctor bangs on about Freedom for Doctors; the LA Times article brings out enough gen to make it interesting, but not really to form an opinion. The doctor who administered the treatment to pregnant women would not be interviewed- she knew she would not be shown fully and truthfully. And I can name some of the considerations, but not imagine what it might mean to consider whether or not to take the treatment, or resist an eye-catching headline.

          The feminist commenter does not want lesbians tidied away, socially or medically, and I agree, certainly if lesbianism is seen as the “problem” for which any treatment might be given. And- not being lesbian might be a reasonable price to pay for not having the other effects of CAH- depending on what other side-effects there were.


          • so, if i am reading it correctly–with these articles, the addition of lesbianism to the topic/discussion is possibly just a way to stir up some media exposure with a controversial headline? i prefer your blog to the LA Times, but i will certainly go read the article fully now… ๐Ÿ™‚ I am truly glad you are out there finding these topics and blogging about them.
            oh and hey–i liked your GODDESS comment previously. ๐Ÿ™‚


            • You’re welcome.

              For Alice Dreger, cited in the LA Times article, cure of lesbianism is at the heart of the issue. Any treatment which might have that effect is monstrous. I see her point, even though I think this is directly comparable: in Scots and English law and medical ethics alike, euthanasia is Wrong, but treatment given by a doctor for the purpose of pain relief, even if it has the side effect of shortening life in a terminal illness, is ethically justifiable.


    • I fear I was too subtle, talking of having my lesbianism cured with no desire at all to be “cured” of my transsexuality. Yet another person told me that she could get her head round me being trans, but trans and gynephile was difficult. Why should I want to be other than I am? Just because I would fit in better?


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