Thursday, July 1st, 2010
67

Doctors Really Not Testing Drug On Pregnant Women So As To Prevent Lesbianism

LITTLE WOMENA corner of the Internet went up in flames yesterday. John Byrne at Raw Story had a disturbing headline: "Doctor testing drug to ‘prevent' lesbianism, interest in ‘male careers.'" Dan Savage wrote on the same topic: "Doctor Treating Pregnant Women With Experimental Drug To Prevent Lesbianism." Both stories express outrage that doctors and expectant parents are attempting to interfere with sexual orientation in utero. But this treatment, prenatal dexamethasone, isn't being given to anyone at all in order to prevent lesbianism.

It's being given to prevent the most extreme effects of congenital adrenal hyperplasia, notably the formation of ambiguous genitalia (photo NSFW) in potential victims of CAH, a rare genetic disorder that floods the developing fetus with androgens. Prenatal dex is not being given to just any pregnant women, only to those who are carriers of CAH-and certainly not because they fear having lesbian daughters.

What does "ambiguous genitalia" mean, exactly? A pregnant woman who is a carrier of CAH has a chance of her female baby being born with the following:

* An enlarged clitoris that has the appearance of a small penis.

* The urethral opening (where urine comes out) can be anywhere along, above, or below the surface of the clitoris.

* The labia may be fused, resembling a scrotum.

* The infant may be thought to be a male with undescended testicles.

* Sometimes a lump of tissue is felt within the fused labia, further making it look like a scrotum with testicles.

Time also reported on the effects of CAH on genital development:

Because the condition causes overproduction of male hormones in the womb, girls who are affected tend to have genitals that look more male than female, though internal sex organs are normal. (In boys, in contrast, the condition leads to early signs of puberty, such as deep voice, body hair and enlarged penis by age 2 or 3.)

The medical ethics problems (to say nothing of the potential health risks) surrounding the use of prenatal dexamethasone are not trivial, obviously. Dr. Maria New, the endocrinologist and researcher cited as an early champion of prenatal dex in the Time article, appears to be a controversial figure-for starters, she classifies a number of "male" characteristics as "abnormal" in women. This is brought to light at the Bioethics Forum at the Hastings Center, where they concur with pretty much the rest of the world that use of these drugs should take place in supervised clinical trials.

That seems fair. But it's not fair to suggest that parents who are worried about the possible complications and problems their child might face as the result of being born with ambiguous genitalia, and who are offered a medical intervention that might help, are simply trying to avoid having a lesbian daughter. It's very misleading of these two writers, both of whom I have a very high regard for, to position the story in this way.

Here's my question for Messrs. Savage and Byrne. If we believe in the absolute sovereignty of a woman's body, of her right to choose, then are we also bound to support her right to treat the fetus she is carrying with whatever medications or therapies are agreed on by her and her doctor?



Maria Bustillos is the author of Dorkismo: The Macho of the Dork and Act Like a Gentleman, Think Like a Woman.

67 Comments / Post A Comment

Moff (#28)

As intriguing as I find the questions posed by this post, what I really want to know is: WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO FIND THE DRUG THAT CAUSES LESBIANISM?

The bisexual kind, I mean.

cherrispryte (#444)

The hot kind, you mean.

beatbeatbeat (#3,187)

tequila, you mean.

Moff (#28)

@cherrispryte: GOES WITHOUT SAYING.

@beat3: SEE HOW I SET THAT ONE UP FOR YOU?

Fredrick (#268)

I'm assuming when you say 'lesbianism', what you really mean is 'bisexual nymphomaniacs'. Right??

Moff (#28)

@Fred: If they're housewives, too, so much the better.

Kate Croy (#973)

Yah, we're bound to support her right to medicate her fetus however the fuck she wants within the bounds of what her doctor says is ok. That whole "what the doctor says is ok" thing, however, is obviously a separate fucking issue. Duh.

Kate Croy (#973)

to clarify: it shouldn't be the woman's right to choose that is at issue here, it should be the doctor's right to prescribe this particular course of treatment

scrooge (#2,697)

You forgot to say "fuck" in that last post. Just FYI.

Kate Croy (#973)

you misspelled "I'm a douche," just fyi.

synchronia (#3,755)

Thank you for this. Also, according to the NIH, it isn't just about ambiguous genitalia: "Lack of aldosterone, which occurs in three out of four patients with classic CAH, upsets salt levels. This imbalance may cause dehydration (too little fluid within the body), and possibly death… Also, too much hydrocortisone [used to correct CAH patients' lack of cortisol] can cause decreased bone density (osteoporosis)."

cherrispryte (#444)

But it's not fair to suggest that parents who are worried about the possible complications and problems their child might face as the result of being born with ambiguous genitalia, and who are offered a medical intervention that might help, are simply trying to avoid having a lesbian daughter.

No, but Dr. New is promoting the fact that "prenatal dexamethasone therapy will reduce the well-documented behavioral masculinization . . ." – and by "behavioral masculinization," she means not wanting to play with dolls, have children, or fuck men.

Admittedly, they're only talking about women who have CAH – but the fact that "CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role" is presented as just as significant a problem as the ambiguous genitalia.

We don't know whether parents who are carriers for CAH are thinking "Oh no, my child may have ambiguous genitalia" or "Oh no, my child may be a lesbian". Dr. New seems quite pleased that this drug may treat both.

Read more: http://www.thehastingscenter.org/Bioethicsforum/Post.aspx?id=4754&blogid=140#ixzz0sTCWFBKk

cherrispryte (#444)

whoa, that "read more" snuck in there when i copied and pasted. I'm blaming THE MACHINES.

"CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role"

Cherri should I get tested for this CAH thingy cause I have no interest in any of those things either.

But the author of this post acknowledged already that this woman's views and statements are controversial and problematic. In fact, just two sentences before the sentence you quoted above, Maria Bustillos stated this:

Dr. Maria New, the endocrinologist and researcher cited as an early champion of prenatal dex in the Time article, appears to be a controversial figure–for starters, she classifies a number of "male" characteristics as "abnormal" in women.

But the author's point is: just because one of the doctors who promotes this drug has said and written some stupid things, this does not make it fair, or accurate, to state that parents who seek treatment with this drug to prevent their daughters from being born with hermaphrotitic genitalia are, instead trying to "prevent them from becoming lesbians."

And Bustillos is right. That is unfair, and totally stupid, and poor, deceptive reporting on the part of Byrne and Savage.

So yes, maybe this Dr. New woman has some old-fashioned and anti-lesbian views. But that's not the point of this post.

cherrispryte (#444)

@kitten – we'll get tested together?

@Hippity – We don't know whether parents wanting this drug are only trying to prevent ambiguous genitalia or also worried about lesbianism as well. To most logical people, ambiguous genitalia is the considerably more serious concern, but not for everyone.

At the end of the day, did Savage and co. exaggerate? Yes, definitely. But there's still a nugget of truth in there that's very, very disturbing.

Wrapitup (#975)

What is the point of this post? That CAH is a serious illness? Nothing new there. That women whose kids are at risk for developing CAH might want to try dexamethasone? Perhaps.

Basically, Bustillos is saying that Savage and Byrne attacked women who might want to try dexamethasone for their kids having CAH. That's extremely debatable.

Please read their articles. Note the utter lack of quotes from Savage and Byrne in this post. There's actually very little in both the articles to suggest that they went after mothers of at-risk babies with pitchforks.

Ok, so for most people (by your own admission), the obvious, logical, medically reasonable purpose for wanting to test this drug is because it has shown promise in preventing the development of ambigous genitalia.

But some parents *may* be seeking this treatment because they think it'll keep their kid from growing up as lesbians (a purpose that the mainstream medical community does not promote, and that there is no scientific basis to support).

Therefore, it is FAIR to go around whipping up outrage by calling this a "drug to prevent lesbianism" (which Gawker/Io9.com have now done too, citing the Savage article).

Ok …

Wrapitup (#975)

There's no evidence showing the ratio between the number of parents who legitimately want to treat their kids' disease and those who want to raise straight daughters. Who's to tell? But again that's not the issue with this case at all.

It's not about the drug really. It's about the doctor/scientist and her team that has published studies showing a subtle but clear and definite bias against non-normative gender behavior. And now apparently she's found a cure for it.

That's why I believe that the point of this article isn't particularly significant. No one is really attacking the parents of sick kids. Read the articles Bustillos cites. There's plenty of justifiable anger from the writers directed at the whackadoo doctor. She and her possible belief system are the focus of the articles. Not the parents of genuinely sick kids.

That's why I say below that this article is very misguiding and takes the focus away from an issue that is of great concern to the LGBT community.

By the way, the response above was directed to Cherri, not Wrap … but to BOTH of you: I don't want to fight! I love you both!

Maybe I'm reacting emotionally because my wife and I had a baby fairly recently, and I empathize with the medical fears of parents-to-be. But I'll go back and re-read Savage's and Byrne's posts to see if maybe I'm out of line and you have a point.

Peace!

cherrispryte (#444)

The idea that prenatal medicine can influence sexual orientation is terrifying. As I said before, people are getting carried away.

However, according to New, this is a drug that will decrease the chance of lesbianism in girls who have CAH – and the doctor herself promoted this as a positive effect. The "in girls who have CAH" part got left out of pretty much everyone's coverage, which creates the sensationalism that you and the author here are objecting to – but the fact remains, that for a certain part of the population, this drug will should lesbianism, according to the doctor researching it.
Is it fair? If this wasn't supposed to be one of the selling factors of this medication, the doctor wouldn't have focused so positively on it. The oversimplification isn't fair, but it never is.

cherrispryte (#444)

"this drug should reduce lesbianism", not "this drug will should lesbianism". oy.

Ok, I've re-read both pieces (Savage and Byrne), and here's the main problem: Both have poorly written headlines. They suggest that "dex" is a drug intended to prevent lesbian babies. I don't think that was what they MEANT the headlines to say — I think the intended meaning of the headlines was that this one doctor (New) is USING this drug for the PURPOSE of preventing lesbian babies (not exactly accurate, but closer to the truth). But the headlines are poorly written, so they just leave the impression that Dex is an "anti-lesbian" drug.

The majority of both pieces (Savage and Byrne) comprises one enormous, multi-paragraph block quote from a Hastings Center Bioethics Forum piece that, very rightly, calls into question the notions that Dr. New and a few of your colleagues have advanced on "normal" behavioral characteristics in men and women.

But the way Savage set up his post in the opening paragraphs — and his headline — leave an incomplete impression that the main use of this drug for women with CAH is to prevent lesbian — or at least male-behaving" (?) — daughters. And that's all that many (most) casual readers will read and remember.

What gets lost is the legitimate reason for pregnant women with CAH to participate in clinical trials of this drug, which is stated briefly in the opening paragraph of the Hastings piece that Savage and Byrne both quoted:

The majority of researchers and clinicians interested in the use of prenatal "dex" focus on preventing development of ambiguous genitalia in girls with CAH.

But I'll grant you this: Some of the stated goals and observations of this Dr. New woman are clearly outrageous. That should be the main story here. But a couple of badly written headlines are causing another, inaccurate story to spread around …

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

People are completely missing the point here. The drug treats CAH. Studies have linked CAH to a host of very serious medical problems. They have also linked it to "masculine behavior" (I assume they mean to-the-point story pitches), which is not a problem. I AM STILL IN FAVOR OF TREATING CAH. One of its possible outcomes may fall in the "not a problem" category, but most don't.

To skirt some unpleasant details for a moment: plenty of genuinely ugly things have been linked in research to homosexuality, which is not an ugly thing. To attack those ugly things is not to attack homosexuality. It's totally understandable that LGBTs are very sensitive to even a hint of persecution, given their history, but this is really not a case where the defensiveness is justified.

"(I assume they mean to-the-point story pitches)"

Ha!

cherrispryte (#444)

@DD – I think the problem is that Dr. New is treating homosexuality/"masculine behaviors" as one of those ugly things.

The idea that this drug will prevent ambiguous genitalia, fatal dehydration, AND ensure your little girl plays with dollies – one of those things is not a problem to be remedied, and treating it like it is (which I think it's fairly obvious Dr. New is doing) is insulting and scary.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I agree, it seems likely that New's motivations here are questionable at best. But at worst, she could prove that this particular genetic disorder affects an adult's behavior. That's strange, certainly, but it's valid (and even interesting) science.

More likely, no such link exists, and her work won't stand up to scientific scrutiny. Other attempts to link genes to behavior have been made, with pretty wimpy results.

But this isn't a "lesbian cure" even if she's 100% correct in her hypothesis. Nowhere is anyone suggesting that every lesbian – much less every woman who remains single, prefers sports to dolls, or takes breakups really hard – suffers from CAH.

lbf (#2,343)

Can i just way i loved Middlesex by J. Eugenides because I don't want to badmouth those writers either.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

interesting. so, um, I might as well toss this out:
I used to work as a medical photographer. I actually got to shoot a reconstructive procedure on a patient who had this condition. It was messy and unpleasant, to say the least. It's pretty obvious to me, why some would want to avoid having to deal with this condition in later years.

Wrapitup (#975)

No, Maria, your research is incomplete. You've not done your homework.

http://io9.com/5577804/a-drug-for-pregnant-women-that-prevents-lesbian-daughters

From an article by Maria New in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences:

"Gender-related behaviors, namely childhood play, peer association, career and leisure time preferences in adolescence and adulthood, maternalism, aggression, and SEXUAL ORIENTATION become masculinized in 46,XX girls and women with 21OHD deficiency [CAH]. These abnormalities have been attributed to the effects of excessive prenatal androgen levels on the sexual differentiation of the brain and later on behavior . . . We anticipate that prenatal dexamethasone therapy will reduce the well-documented behavioral masculinization."

beatbeatbeat (#3,187)

also from that page- "Many of the women receiving dex treatment don't realize that the drug doesn't cure CAH, and are shocked to find out that it's not approved by the FDA."

also from one of the comments on that page- the awl is referred to as "the kids in tighter jeans over at Listicle-Land"! i thought it was just me wearing those…

barnhouse (#1,326)

This doesn't refute anything written above. I suggest only that a pregnant carrier of CAH might well elect to try a therapy that would reduce the risk of giving birth to a child with ambiguous genitalia. (I quite agree that Dr. New's remarks are very far-out.)

Wrapitup (#975)

Maria New certainly has more than a passing interest in preventing lesbianism in utero :

From a research study by Maria New: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18157628

"This is the first study to relate sexual orientation to the specific molecular genotypes of CAH. Diverse aspects of sexual orientation were highly intercorrelated, and principal components analysis yielded one general factor. Bisexual/homosexual orientation was (modestly) correlated with global measures of masculinization of non-sexual behavior and predicted independently by the degree of both prenatal androgenization and masculinization of childhood behavior. We conclude that the findings support a sexual-differentiation perspective involving prenatal androgens on the development of sexual orientation."

From New's longtime collaborator , Heino F. L. Meyer-Bahlburg, of Columbia University in http://jcem.endojournals.org/cgi/content/full/84/6/1844 :

"CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role. As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups. "

From Time magazine:

"New, who declined to be interviewed for this article, does not administer the treatment in her current practice – according to Mount Sinai Medical Center, she has prescribed it only once since joining the hospital in 2004 – but ethical concerns remain, Dreger says, if the doctor consults with patients, resulting in their being prescribed dex elsewhere, then follows up with them for research purposes. At a medical conference in January, where New presented data from her research on prenatal dex, the doctor refused to answer a fellow researcher's questions regarding her process of informed consent."

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1996453,00.html#ixzz0sTaAjCLH

So technically yes, it isn't proven that some pregnant lady, at this point, has been prescribed dexamethasone to give birth to a heterosexual daughter. But there's plenty of evidence to indicate that New sees dex as a way to enhance heretosexuality and feminine traits in female fetuses.

And that's why your article is misleading and does a disservice to the LGBT community. You have not focused on the evidence of Dr. New's bizarre practices with eugenics. You're giving the impression that all is well and that it's all just a big misunderstanding. And that's simply not true.

UGH. See my reply to Cherrispryte above.

You have totally missed the point of this post!

Wrapitup (#975)

No need to get snippy with me, Hippity.

Take a good look at both the articles Bustillos' cites as evidence that some nasty writers out there are attacking women whose fetuses are at genuine risk for developing CAH for being lesbian-haters. Both articles from Byrne and Savage do exaggerate somewhat in that they seem to imply that women right now are taking dex to prevent their kids from growing up into lesbians. Nowhere is there any callous attack on women who legitimately want to help their children grow up with CAH. So the point of the article is built on iffy evidence.

I think Bustillos read way more than was intended into Savage's and Byrne's articles. Which is too bad really because she has completely detracted from the real issue at hand and taken it down an irrelevant path.

Ok, sorry for sounding "snippy." But you stated yourself: Byrne and Savage "seem to imply that women right now are taking dex to prevent their kids from growing up into lesbians."

Well, that's a very big problem in my book. Because the women taking dex in clinical trials to (hopefully) prevent their daughters from becoming hermaphrodites don't need that kind of implication. They've got enough problems.

As for the idea that Bustillos "read more than was intended" … apparently many others are coming away with the message from Savage's piece. Look at the front page of Gawker right now, with the headline: "A Drug For Pregnant Women To Prevent Lesbian Daughters." At the end of that piece, you'll see this note: "Hat tip to Dan Savage."

Baroness (#273)

Bianca Jagger and her white hat must be stopped at all costs from her freakish in utero experimentations. No, not talking about vaginal fistings at Studio 54, this.

laurel (#4,035)

There were only a couple flipper babies.

Now I09 has posted a piece that just echoes everything Dan Savage asserted:

"A drug for pregnant women that prevents lesbian daughters"
http://io9.com/5577804/a-drug-for-pregnant-women-that-prevents-lesbian-daughters

And it's been cross-posted to the front page of Gawker! So the deception just keeps spreading …

Wrapitup (#975)

And what deception is that exactly?

That the purpose of the drug is to prevent lesbian daughters — exactly what the headline states.

Wrapitup (#975)

This is a little OT but I think it's high time that The Awl hired an actual science writer to cover issues like this. Liberal arts training is great, and yes it does develop critical thinking and argumentative skills. But it's simply not enough to analyze scientific problems and issues. You guys cover science stories all the time and your readership is clearly interested in sci/tech too. Given that, I think, at this point, you really need someone with a science background in your roster of writers. I think we'll all benefit from it. It prevents ambiguity and conjecture in the actual posts and we, the readers, get information that is of a much higher quality.

When they get around to paying writers maybe they will hire one.

bb (#295)

yeah, I don't think the awl has a consistent/comprehensive writer "hiring" approach, so that is sort of out of place – my reaction here is definitely, umm.. why is this here? Why is the Awl taking a fierce stand against writers who critique doctors who develop drugs that might be used to prevent lesbianism? It hardly seems like the biggest misleading journalism problem out there.

Bigger question – I am not remotely scientifically informed enough to answer this – but are CAH and ambiguous genitalia things that really need to be aggressively prevented? Gay writers are hopping on this issue because of a long history of medical and social authorities trying to prevent or "cure" homosexuality. There is a host of literature on intersex and hermaphroditism that suggests these categories are very vague and many people with "ambiguous" genitalia are harshly butchered just to make them "look normal" when they could have continued with perfectly happy lives with their existing genitalia. Should we be asking if the scientific interest in curing sexual ambiguity is similarly questionable?

cherrispryte (#444)

@bb – "why is this here" could be asked of the majority of The Awl posts.

And as for CAH, from what I've read (which is not much) there seem to be other health risks associated with CAH – something about not retaining salt, which can lead to dehydration and death in infants, and issues with overall growth. I don't know how common either of those situations are, but there are other symptoms of CAH that are unquestionably negative and should be prevented.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

@bb: I think a drug to prevent ambiguous genitals from developing is FAR DIFFERENT from the sort of post-facto procedures you're talking about. It's the difference between using antibiotics to prevent infection and amputating an infected limb.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@hippy and @wrapitup tuned in early on here. You're way over you're head. Further, you (or editors) tried to out-headline Savage and Co. by criticizing them for their outrageous take over the "prevent lesbianism" hook while at the same time playing the SEO (or whatever) angle with your own "prevent lesbianism" hook.

Why not yourself get deeper with a medical pro for your take? Or is it just easier to be another piece of the echo chamber of professional opinion-havers and SEO headlines?

If you;re really concerned with this I hope to see a follow up on this subject in a few months. Thought I doubt that will happen for all the obvious reasons.

Abe Sauer (#148)

*your*

Wrapitup (#975)

I hate to say this, Abe Sauer, but I agree with your strong criticism.

What is the point of this article? Is it to criticize Dan Savage and John Byrne for their supposedly unfair criticism of a well-respected scientist for her forays into eugenics? If so, how about some quotes from both Savage and Byrne that directly prove the writer's claims? How about some evidence to back her thesis? Where's the citations? Are we to simply take her word for it that Savage and Byrne did a bad, bad thing?

Secondly, why is the much larger issue of the crazy eugenics lady not being investigated or mentioned? There's still much to learn online about Dr.New and her research. It's a very disturbing and important story. Frankly, this article detracts from it because it doesn't have anything substantial to offer. It shouldn't be upto Hippity, a commenter, to flesh out and clarify the writer's point.

It's ironic that an article about misleading headlines is in itself quite misleading. The article gives the impression that Dr.New has zero intention of testing the drug's effects on lesbianism in utero. Which is simply not true. There's way too much evidence to contradict that assumption. Dr. New is clearly invested in dex as a method of preventing not just lesbianism but even so -called 'masculine career choices'.

This is actually not a minor issue. It's the tip of an iceberg. So far the commentariat here has been too polite, too nervous (for fear of breaking the All Jokes All the Time culture) or too relieved that they're out of Gawker to notice or mention it. If the Awl wants to break into the big time, then they're gonna have to figure out what kind of content they provide. Right now, it seems like the site has a bit of an identity crisis at hand. You can't get yourself taken seriously with content like this that's lacking in focus, short on evidence, poorly fleshed out and that ignores a way bigger story that's burning up the Internet.

I don't think the editors and publisher at The Awl get that they're at a crossroads. So far, the site has worked as a refuge for ex-members of the Gawker commentariat. And that's great. But if the site is to grow beyond that and move from being a place rife with insider jokes, and the occasional lame pun, into something that actually provides us with real information and fulfill its laudable and purported aim of making us less stupid, then things are going to have change. You can't have liberal arts trained writers writing about scientific issues and consistently get cogent posts from them. Linking to a couple science stories every day with some joke-filled headline and little explanation isn't really gonna cut it. You can't sustain a website over the long term with general purpose cultural commentary. Because general purpose cultural commentary is everyfuckingwhere and a lot of it is on websites that are much prettier to look at. I think if The Awl really wants to differentiate itself from Gawker, then they need to get in a science writer or two into their roster. Basically, they need to get more writers who specialize in a field whether it's physics or history or music or public health. I can get superficial cultural crticism anyfuckingwhere.I don't need to come here for it. Most people here feel loyalty to The Awl because it isn't Gawker. What does this website have to offer all the people who don't really give a shit about Gawker?

The Awl ran a great article from a guy who went down to Ciudad Juarez and wrote what he witnessed about the drug wars there. That's the kind of specific, information-based writing that'll help propel the Awl into the big time. They gotta figure out what they want from their content providers. Sure there's a lot of jokes in the comments from the ex-Gawkerites for now. But over the long term, as a consumer, I think I'd like to see more focus and discipline in the content.

P.S: Balk, Choire and Cho: I just gave you guys some good and free business advice. I won't charge you but please do right by your readership. I really give a shit about this site's long term financial wellbeing.

elecampane (#1,877)

Thank you, Abe. A website with this tagline should not run regular "Gender Issues" features written as if by Otto West.

cherrispryte (#444)

@Wrapitup – maybe emailing the editors, rather than posting this as a comment, would make more sense. And maybe being less condescending wouldn't hurt either.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I think these histrionics about Maria not being a scientist are really bizarre. First: most good science writers are not scientists. Second: this is not a science story, it's a media story about misleading headlines.

I like that the Awl decided to run an article pushing back against the Internet Hysteria Machine. That's what "be less stupid" means to me. The "let's castigate a scientist because we don't like certain implications of her research" bandwagon so many are hopping on? Is not as less stupid as you seem to think it is.

An individual researcher is investigating whether there are links between a certain medical condition and certain behaviors. The implications of this research make a lot of people uncomfortable, for good reason. Does that mean the research should not be done? Are we going to start picking and choosing science we "like," joining the stem cell opponents, creationists, and anti-vaccination crowd? Should a drug that prevents this medical condition, which has a lot of genuinely unpleasant consequences, not be tested?

barnhouse (#1,326)

@Abe @Wrapitup There is zero evidence that any pregnant carrier of CAH is using or has used this controversial therapy to prevent lesbianism in a developing fetus. And yet any mention of the therapy is provoking outrage as if it were. Even in these comments.

Until such a person is produced, Byrne, Savage et al. are taking the conversation in the wrong direction, and the hysteria does not serve their cause as I understand it. Whether or not Dr. New is crazy is totally irrelevant to that point.

Wrap: I'm sorry, but I still think you seem to be (willfully?) missing the point of this very simple post.

Bustillos is *not* defending Dr. New specifically, nor her nutty, sexist ideas, in this post. Nobody disputes that some of the stated positions of Dr. New and her research collaborators are pretty fucked up. Bustillos alludes to that in the post above.

But most of the clinical trials involving the use of "dex" by pregnant women with CAH are *not* being undertaken by Dr. New, but other, apparently very responsible medical researchers — and the goal of these clinical trials is simply to prevent intersex genitalia in infants and other ACH-related health risks.

Bustillos doesn't have to get into details about how crazy Dr. New is here – many other posts all over the liberal blogosphere are doing a great job of that already. Instead, she's focusing on another story related to this issue that nobody else (that I've seen) is covering — that the use of "dex" to treat CAH in general is being inaccurately characterized as a lesbian-prevention effort, when really it's just the minority of researchers (Dr. New and a couple of others) who are bringing up the weird "gender-normal behavior" stuff. So somebody needed to step in and just offer a reasonable, sane counterpoint to that hysterical overreaction. That's what Maria is doing here.

Wrap, maybe I'm misunderstanding you here, but the main point of your latest comment appears to be: "You did not fall into line and take the same slant on this story as the rest of the liberal media, and therefore that's bad business direction for the Awl." But maybe The Awl isn't always interested in covering the same angles on stories that the rest of the liberal echo chamber — maybe they want to cover some new angles that aren't being examined elsewhere? That's only my guess – I can't speak for Choire and Alex on that. But that's the way I interpret their willingness to entertain perspectives like the one offered in this piece, anyway.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Looking back, I think i should clarify something: I am not saying that Dr. New's research should be accepted uncritically. I think it should be subjected to strenuous review and other researchers should attempt to duplicate her results. It's entirely possible that she's just a whack job with an agenda to push. But that doesn't mean her research shouldn't be attempted in the first place – indeed, most of the mechanisms to recognize bad science don't come into play until after she's published.

So if she's wrong about links between CAH and "masculine" behavior, the best way to establish that is to get her research published. And if she's right, well, that's pretty weird! Either way we don't have a right to say "you can't do this research."

dham (#4,652)

@DoctorDisaster

I agree- if anything, doesn't this doctor's offensive justification of her homophobia and misogyny through science point out the very problem with assuming a scientist or medical expert's opinion at the Awl would prevent confusion and disagreement in the comments? Being "a Scientist" doesn't provide some impenetrable objectivity or clarity.

cherrispryte (#444)

The "Polite Arguments" tag is remarkably prophetic.

THE ONLY THINK NEEDED TO PREVENT LESBIANISM IS THIS GUY!

/WINKS, CLICKS HIS TONGUE AND POINTS AT HIMSELF WITH BOTH THUMBS!

cantastoria (#441)

"CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role. As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups. "

So it makes them immune to the patriarchy? Nice!

barnhouse (#1,326)

If you're interested in this topic, there's a thoughtful article at Newsweek on the subject.

"Thoughtful?" The title of her post is "The Anti-Lesbian Drug"!

That's just great … she's really helping to take a reasonable, non-sensationalized take on this topic, huh? Jesus.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Indeed yes, she is; read it.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@MisterHippity p.s. I found all your comments on this so patient and insightful. @DoctorDisaster too. The subject is thorny like an Iron Maiden.

Thanks. And you're right that MOST of the Newsweek piece is fairly reasonable. But the title and first paragraph are not — they were designed to spread a misleading and sensationalist impression to drive page views.

Check out how the first paragraph of that post is phrased:

"Genetic engineers, move over: the latest scheme for creating children to a parent's specifications requires no DNA tinkering, but merely giving mom a steroid while she's pregnant, and presto-no chance that her daughters will be lesbians or (worse?) ‘uppity.'

Or so one might guess from the storm brewing over the prenatal use of that steroid, called dexamethasone. …"

Ha. Tricky. "Or so one might guess … if one were to believe all that sensationalist, misleading hype being written in places like .. er .. the title and opening paragraph of this very post."

Senor_Wences (#2,234)

Speaking as a woman with an enlarged clitoris with the appearance of a small penis, I am outraged.

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