A report on gender and sexuality released by the journal The New Atlantis has met with both praise and criticism from commentators.
Written by Lawrence S Mayer, an epidemiologist, and Paul R. McHugh, a psychiatrist, at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, it is a survey of research from the biological, psychological, and social sciences about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Outlined in the executive summary of the report are the findings that “the understanding of sexual orientation as an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings…is not supported by scientific evidence”, and that “the hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed property of human beings that is independent of biological sex… is not supported by scientific evidence.”
Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, said The New Atlantis report is another instance in which Dr. McHugh espouses “his own personal prejudice against LGBTQ people.”
Yet one of the most widely cited researchers on transgender issues, Northwestern University psychologist J. Michael Bailey, suggested that the report was a welcome addition to the literature on gender and sexuality:
“Most importantly, I agree that all of these issues should be openly discussed and researched,” Bailey told the Washington Times. “There is little government support for open-minded investigation for these controversial issues. That is unfortunate and exactly backwards. Support should be directed to resolve the most contentious issues.”
In their introduction, Mayer and McHugh state that the report “is offered in the hope that such an exposition can contribute to our capacity as physicians, scientists, and citizens to address health issues faced by LGBT populations within our society.”
I must be getting old. For most of my life, I have been reading about the global need to curb births and the unmet demand for contraception. And then I opened this week’s edition of The Economist and discovered that the main problem facing couples is the unmet demand for children.
The Economist surveyed 19 countries, asking people how many children they wanted and how many they expected to have. The results were astonishing.
“For more and more couples, the greatest source of anguish is that they have fewer children than they want, or none at all. … In every rich country we surveyed, couples expect to be less fertile than they would like, and many in developing countries suffer the same sorrow….
“The pain of having no or fewer children than you desire is often extreme. It can cause depression and in poor countries can be a social catastrophe. Couples impoverish themselves pursuing ineffective treatments; women who are thought to be barren are divorced, ostracised or worse.”
I hope that executives at Marie Stopes International (see article below), the United Nations Population Fund and all the other global agencies dedicated to shrinking family sizes read The Economist’s advice:
"Governments and aid agencies have turned family planning into a wholly one-sided campaign, dedicated to minimising teenage pregnancies and unwanted births; it has come to mean family restriction. Instead, family planning ought to mean helping people to have as many, or as few, children as they want."
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