Site Meter

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Film: "TABU"

This is a short film produced in Belgium about a GSA romance. It's a nice little short, and the various Freudian visual jokes are on the good side of the endearing/insulting divide. I like that they chose the actors to look vaguely related as well. It's a very sympathetic portrayal, I think. Overall, I give it a thumbs up. (Avec sous-titres français.) (FYI, it has a few shots that are definitely NSFW.)

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Longtime Marriage Denied Equal Treatment Under the Law

From Full Marriage Equality:
I am 65 years old live in the New England area. I am 100% Italian and have some college education. I have one sister and only one son who is 43 now. I live a normal life. Still working in a small doctors office where my life is private. I live with my son. [...] [We’ve been in a relationship for 25 years. My son and I are not married legally, but he] and I said our vows to each other years ago, privately. [...] I have a long-time girlfriend that knows all about my relationship with my son.
[...] [I had] a normal childhood. I grew up in the city in an Italian community. We weren't rich by any means but not poor either. [...] I got divorced when [my son] was three and raised him alone. We were never separated.
[...] [The development] was gradual. We went out one night, and it felt like a date more then anything else. At the end, he said "I feel like I should kiss you." And I said it was OK as long as it was between us. So we kissed. A second night, we went out again. We pulled in our garage and made out in the car.
[...] I was confused I guess at first. I was wondering "Where is this going to go?" Then I got incredibly turned-on and felt guilty. I felt like this going to keep him from living his life. But my mind was filled with thoughts of making love to him. I know I couldn't stop them. So we had a long talk. I wanted to make sure this is what we both really wanted. He kept saying over and over he did. My mind was still spinning. He reached out and felt my breasts and I just gave in to it. I asked him into my bedroom and he never left. [laughs]
[...] We live as a married couple but worked on keeping on the mother/son part too. The two roles are inseparable. I am his mother and his wife. He is my best friend, my husband in every way but legally, my lover and he happens to be my son too. I know he feels the same about me.
[...] [The only other person I have sex with is] with my long-time girlfriend mostly now. When I was younger we did go to a few swingers clubs. The ones we told were all fine with it. We also had sex in front of another mom and son couple we know. [...] It is by far the best sex ever. Even after 25 years! We still make love as a mother and son. It feels as natural as anything in the world.
[...] I had to tell my sister. We had many many talks, and it took a long time, but she has come to accept it. A small group of friends know, but mostly we appear as a married couple. [...] I was older, so that played into [our lack of children]. I was pregnant a few times but never could carry the pregnancy.
[...] I have helped and encouraged others over the years. People are starting to realize how wonderful it can be. How can anyone tell me or try to make me think this is wrong? It's not. What two consenting adults do is their business. We are lucky. We live in a state where its not illegal. We just can't get married and I hope that gets changed someday, too. [...] I think as this gets more and more out in the open and commonplace, people ideas will change and it will be accepted. Maybe not be in my lifetime but, I believe it will one day.
[...] People ask me how we lasted so long. It's like any other relationship. You have to work at it. Communication is especially important. I see so many think it's just about sex. There is so much more to it.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"Brother sleeps with sister, gets her pregnant"

Another case out of southeastern Africa:
In Malawi, two siblings, Zione Jere, 17 and Nelson Jere, 21, have been detained for engaging in incest, Mzimba Police PRO, Constable Gabriel Chiona confirms. “Yes I can confirm that we have arrested the two, who are brother and sister on suspicion that they committed incest,” Chiona was quoted as saying.
Chiona further said the father of the two siblings received a report that his daughter is pregnant, and when questioned about the man responsible, 17 year old Zione identified her brother as the father. “The victim was referred to Mzimba district hospital where test results revealed that Zione was 16 weeks pregnant,” Chiona said.
The two suspects will appear in court soon to answer charges of incest contrary to section 157 of penal code which attracts a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment with hard labor. The two hail from Bekhandnhale Village Traditional Authority (T/A) Mzukuzuk in Mzimba district.
Notice how he calls her “the victim”, yet they’re both going to court as “suspects”? They’re both above the age of consent in Malawi, so they’re both culpable unless he raped her.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Documentary: "Brothers and Sisters in Love"

During the mid-to-late ‘00s there were a bunch of documentaries made about genetic sexual attraction, motivated by the high profile arrests and court cases at the time. I recently found Brothers and Sisters in Love. (It wasn’t easy.) It was apparently made in response to that other British documentary on GSA, which was generally sympathetic to the couples, and seemed to argue for some kind of social acceptance.

This documentary takes a much more complicated (and sour) tone. It has the sympathy one might have for the victim of a car crash. Of course in many cases the feelings are unrequited, and sometimes it’s best to pursue a platonic relationship, but that is not the case for everyone. Not everyone can just move on. Yes, it can be very complex, but this documentary actually supports (maybe inadvertently) that most of what makes GSA relationships complicated is how other people react. I can’t help but feel that this documentary is trying to impose a one-size-fits-all view of GSA, that it’s tragic but that everyone should abstain.

Despite all of that though, the documentary is full of great moments in support of accepting GSA couples. They couldn’t avoid the power of real people defiantly standing up for themselves. (I’m sure they realized it makes for a more compelling documentary as well.)

The self-confidence of the woman in this clip makes me smile so much.

There’s also the lawyer of the Stuebing siblings. I really wish he’d succeeded in his case. At least it started a conversation.

Then there's this great illustration of why I even use the word “consanguinamory”.

One thing I do appreciate about the documentary though, is the argument it seems to be making that it can only help if society has a better, more sympathetic understanding of GSA. Some of their choices are weird, though. Despite being about sibling couples, they quickly throw one mother-son couple in, a couple who were traumatized by the sudden extreme psychological dissonance brought about by the conflict between their disgust at the idea of “incest” and their overwhelming desire to commit “incest”. Having only one interview like that sends a weird message. I know for a fact that it’s not representative.

Anyway. Watch it in full for yourself and decide what you think. Despite my dislike of its editorial attitude, I think it’s possibly the best documentary on GSA out there. (Then again, there isn’t much competition.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

An Aunt and Nephew Denied the Freedom to Marry

Another interview from Full Marriage Equality:
I am currently a senior in college about to graduate. I attend school and reside in a nice apartment in a major city in the northeastern U.S. My ethnic background is white, being half Italian and half Jewish. [...] I come from a middle-class family consisting of my dad, mom and a younger brother. [...] I currently reside with my aunt. I had to move in with her when I was 18, since she lives really close to the college I attend and this allowed me to avoid expensive dorm fees. It is currently just us two, since she is divorced and has no children.
[...] My family life was pretty standard. My parents worked a lot and were always away on business trips. They provided a good life for me and my brother. I had a pretty average childhood. I attended school and hung out with my friends, participated in sports, received good grades. My aunt lived three hours away and visited very sporadically, mainly only seeing her on birthdays and holidays. [...] Yes I am in a sexual relationship with my aunt, who is my mom’s sister. My aunt is 41 years old and I am 22 years old.
[...] I had a pretty good relationship with my aunt growing up. She was my mom’s only sister and every time she visited she would bring gifts. She wouldn’t visit often since she lived three hours away, but every time she did, it was a positive experience. We didn’t have much contact with other people from our mom’s side of the family except for our grandparents so it was always nice to see her.
[...] I did have a slight sexual attraction to my mother while going through puberty, I always thought she was very attractive and started seeing her in a sexual way. I also had a sexual attraction to my aunt, she was also very attractive and resembled my mom a lot, and I definitely saw her in a sexual way. I believe that my younger brother might also have had some sort of sexual attraction to my aunt, as I’d catch him staring intensely at her in the same way that I did. However, we never really discussed any of it.
[...] I would say it was more of a gradual process rather than a sudden event. I didn’t know for sure that it was going to happen but I guess she had dropped some hints. She kept telling me about her divorce and how hard it was for her to date, and listing great qualities about me and how that would make any girl very lucky to have me. The more we talked, the more she would reveal and the closer the bond we would form, which also happened physically as she was always getting closer to me. For example, she’d put her legs on my lap or head on my shoulders or chest.

This eventually led to her confiding in me that she found me sexually attractive. I was very surprised and instantly shot back that I was also sexually attracted to her, and has been since I was a teenager. After a very long talk we ended embraced in each other’s arms. [...]
I was very excited. but also felt a bit strange since I had never experienced anything like it before. I had been with other girls before, but nothing could compare to the way me and my aunt made love that night. I was feeling a range of emotions, from happy to excited to aroused, but I mostly remember feeling like I was on top of the world.
[...] I didn’t think it was possible for me since I never thought my aunt would ever feel that way about me. [...] I never had a problem with people from their own family having sexual relations. I think as long as both parties are consenting it’s all good. [...] Our relationship right now is that of a girlfriend-boyfriend. We don’t see other people. We go out on dates, we sleep in the same bed, we text each other throughout the day. We have been together for almost four years now and live together. We see each other as both family and lovers.
[...] Nobody in our family knows the full nature of our relationship. We are sometimes able to act as couple in public since we do live in a very dense and populated city so many people don’t think twice to seeing an older woman with a younger guy, but we never say we are aunt/nephew; we usually introduce each other as significant others. [...] I guess the biggest disadvantage is not being able to be fully transparent and be considered a normal couple. Not being able to marry is also a huge disadvantage. The advantages are that you get to share something beautiful with someone you have known for most of your life and have a huge bond with who you might never find outside of your family. [...] You are free to believe what you want but don’t discriminate against others or tell them what they are doing is wrong. I am perfectly happy in my relationship and would not want to be with anyone else. [...] I am graduating soon and hope to get a good job out of college so that I can afford to move us to a nicer apartment and continue our lives together.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Poet Byron, His Half-Sister Augusta, And Their Daughter

Portrait of George Gordon, Baron of Byron
At the age of twenty-five, the poet Byron entered what has been described as a torrid affair with his half-sister Augusta Leigh. Those who saw them together were struck by their resemblance. They met for the first time in 1801, when Byron was fourteen and Augusta seventeen.
- Mark T. Erickson, Inbreeding, Incest, and the Incest Taboo

Portrait of Augusta Leigh

Augusta’s half-brother, George Gordon, Lord Byron, didn’t meet her until he went to Harrow School and even then only very rarely. From 1804 onwards, however, she wrote to him regularly and became his confidante especially in his quarrels with his mother. Their correspondence ceased for two years after Byron had gone abroad, and was not resumed until she sent him a letter expressing her sympathy on the death of his mother, Catherine.
Not having been brought up together they were almost like strangers to each other. But they got on well together and appear to have fallen in love with each other. When Byron’s marriage collapsed and he sailed away from England never to return, rumours of incest, a very serious and scandalous offence, were rife. Some say it was because of his fear of prosecution that Byron abandoned his country.
There is some evidence to support the incest accusation. The Honourable Augusta Leigh’s third daughter, born in spring of 1814, was christened Elizabeth Medora Leigh. A few days after the birth, Byron went to his sister’s house Swynford Paddocks, Six Mile Bottom, Cambridgeshire, to see the child, and wrote, in a letter to Lady Melbourne, his confidante: [“Oh! but it is ‘worth while’ — I can’t tell you why — and it is not an Ape and if it is — that must be my fault.”] (a child of an incestuous relationship was thought likely to be deformed).
“Medora” is the name of one of the heroines in Byron’s poem The Corsair, which was written at Newstead Abbey during the three weeks in January 1814 when the poet and a pregnant Augusta were snowbound there together.
 - Wikipedia, Augusta Leigh

Byron died at the age of 36 from a medical infection, while assisting the Greeks in their war for independence. It was 4 days after Elizabeth’s 10th birthday. 

Portrait of a young Elizabeth Medora Leigh
Likely to maintain appearances, especially for Augusta, Byron married Annabella Milbanke. He had one child by her - a daughter, his only legitimate child. She was born one year after Elizabeth. He named her Augusta Ada. She later became Ada, countess of Lovelace, mathematician and arguably the world’s first programmer. Ada and her mother helped support Elizabeth, and her mother told her that Elizabeth was her half-sister.

Portrait of Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace

While Byron was in exile in France, he wrote several poems to Augusta, and she visited him from time to time with their daughter.

- Lord Byron, Stanzas to Augusta

The BBC made an excellent miniseries on the life of Lord Byron. It’s definitely worth watching. Their depiction of his relationship with Augusta is very moving. (As a side note, if he lived today, Lord Byron would probably identify as polyamorous. He was famous for having many lovers, male and female, and was known for not wanting to settle down. Part of this, as they depict in the miniseries, was because he couldn't settle down with Ada, but the rest of it was definitely constitutional.)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Queer Poly People Have to Come Out Twice

This woman makes an excellent point about the intersection of polyamory with other non-normative sexual identities:

Sharing something so important to you, knowing that they may not understand or accept it, can be scary. When I first read “The Ethical Slut” at age twenty, my mind was blown. I was psyched to be made aware of this possibility, that I wasn’t terrible for wanting to date more than one person at a time. I was electric when I called a good friend from high school to tell her about it. Though skeptical, she agreed to give it a read, so I popped it in the mail and anxiously awaited her response.
A few days later, she called and I immediately could tell she was agitated. She’d only gotten a few pages in and refused to continue. The very concept angered and upset her. She took it as an excuse for people to cheat, despite my protestation that it, instead, fosters intense honestly between partners. While she accepted my exploring this path, she wanted nothing to do with it. She asked me never to mention it to her again, and I didn’t. When I told her I was kinky, however, she was thrilled and wanted to hear all about it. Other friends and family were accepting of the poly, but disgusted by the kinky.
Why do our loved ones sometimes take such an issue with our lifestyles? Well, I believe there are two main reasons. First, they are worried about us. They cannot comprehend it, and worry for our safety and health. More partners can mean more heartache and more exposure to STIs, and kinky relationships can sometimes literally involve pain. Their concern is understandable, but it is our job to help them try to discern what it means to us, and the joy it can bring us.

The second, more difficult reason they can have a tough time accepting our alternative lifestyles is that they are offended by the very idea of it. They may see our polyamory as an affront to their monogamy. Perhaps they fear that if their partner knew of this possibility, they would also want to give it a go. They may find kink in general to be abhorrent, and think something is wrong with you if you like to participate in BDSM. They might see this power exchange as genuinely insane behavior, especially if you are a bottom/sub/slave.
So why come out in the first place? Well, you certainly don’t have to, and choosing to keep these things to yourself is absolutely a valid and legitimate choice. [...] [However,] Aunt Hilda may think anyone who participates in these lifestyles is totally nuts, until she actually knows someone who does. Once there is a human face on it, it’s not just a wacky concept. They can actually see how it works, and how fulfilled it makes you feel.
When all is said and done, it just feels good to come out, to not have to lie or hide these important aspects of your life. The fear of being rejected for doing so is very real, but the lightness of having done it can be wildly gratifying. My seventeen-year-old sister was the last major player in my life to know that I am poly, but our conversation about it was fantastic. She asked a lot of questions, and ultimately responded the same way she did when I told her, several years earlier, that I dated women, “Well, I don’t think that’s for me, but I’m happy you’re happy.”

Dear Prudence gives some disappointing advice...

You can't win 'em all:
Dear Prudence,
My brother and I are having a physical relationship. Our parents are admirable people who took good care of us, but are distant and aloof, and I think that my brother and I turned to each other for warmth and emotional support. He’s two years older and looked out for me in high school, and I shared with him what girls are like, which made him more confident socially. After he went away to college, I chose a college in the same city as his, so we continued to see a lot of each other. I'm now a senior and he's a graduate student. About three months ago we were sitting on my couch watching a sad movie and when it was over we turned to each other, exchanged a look, and started kissing. Now we lie on the bed, clothed, and kiss and talk and hold each other. When I'm with him I feel loved and cared for. We have not had sex because there's a psychological barrier that neither of us wants to cross. I go on dates with other men, but I never feel the emotional connection that I feel with my brother. I needed to talk to someone about this so I went to a counselor at the student health service and in the first session she practically ordered me not to see him for three months. I left in tears and haven't gone back. We want to lead normal lives and have families. We both know intellectually that we shouldn't be doing this, but we don't feel the wrongness of it. Must we stop this immediately, or may we let it continue and hope we grow out of it?
—No Sibling Rivalry
Dear Sibling,
Since you’re both in your 20s, the trend appears to be going the opposite way of outgrowing your closeness. You say you don’t want to cross the ultimate line, but you continue to slow dance to the edge of it. If one day Jack’s resolve breaks, you, Jill, are likely to come tumbling after. You profess you two want normal lives, but if you violate this taboo you may never get there. If you do have an affair, or something pretty close, and you vow to forever keep this secret, you each will spend decades hoping your sibling stays silent. But if one or the other feels this is something a future romantic partner should know, don’t be surprised if upon hearing your confession your new love quickly backs away. I know I more or less gave a pass recently to a pair of middle-aged incestuous gay twins, but they had long ago made a physical and emotional commitment to each other, and were asking me about whether they should let their family know. I think even those two men would advise you two to stop the rubbing and get yourselves disentangled emotionally. Your therapist should have had the training not to be so shocked by your revelation that she ended up barking orders. Go back to the counseling office, say your first therapist was not a good fit, and you’d like to talk to someone else about a pressing emotional issue. A good therapist should be able to hear you out, understand your situation, and help guide you out of it. For a window into how strange things like this can get if they go too far, read Jeffrey Eugenides’ wonderful novel Middlesex.
I don't know why Prudence has all of this faith that there are all of these amazingly sympathetic therapists out there. You really can't train someone to be sympathetic and empathetic. They can learn through life and job experience, but just as I've known some great therapists, I've known some awful ones. (And any therapist can tell you horror stories about their colleagues.) It's an art, not a science. Someone isn't suddenly going to becomes understanding and supportive and wise just because they have a degree. Because of the stigma and lack of knowledge about consanguinamory, most therapists will be more alienating than Prudence on this topic. It's just an unfortunate part of life in the Anglo-Saxon world, one she's failed to acknowledge more than once.

Prudence herself exemplifies this when even she makes crass jokes to those two brothers seeking her help, and when she uses Middlesex as a serious recommendation for understanding consanguinamory. I really hope it was a joke. Middlesex is imitative of Greek tragedy and symbolism, and includes all the distortion one would expect of that. I mean, it posits that the main character's intersexuality is the result of inbreeding, which is medically impossible. Not saying it's a bad book, but it's not the kind of objective non-fiction (or non-judgmental fiction) one should be suggesting to someone seeking help. Even with all of her sympathy, things like that indicate a lack of empathy for consanguinamory. I know that she would never be consanguinamorous herself, and that's fine. I also know that she's the byproduct of our culture. I just wish she was more aware of that - more humble about it. I understand that Prudence wants to give them somewhere to go for further advice, but she needs to realize that the person’s at best going to be no better than she is. (Unless, of course, the therapist turns out to be consanguinamorous themselves, but that's pretty unlikely.)

All that said, I mostly agree with the intention of her advice. If these two siblings really do want to live "normal", separate lives, and aren't willing to confront what it would mean to develop their romantic attraction further, then they need to disentangle themselves. Still, I would have added that while a life as a consanguineous couple will be harder because of society's behavior, there's nothing inherently wrong with it. Other people have been in a similar position, made the choice to take the plunge together, and are very happy together. If they want to continue the relationship in full knowledge of what they're doing, they have my permission. If they want to end the relationship in full knowledge of what they're doing, they also have my permission. What I wouldn't want is for them to make a decision based purely on what they think other people expect of them, and not what they themselves want or need.

Life is complicated. People are complicated. The answers are never simple. But sometimes, all people need is permission to be themselves.

Friday, April 17, 2015

More Research on Recessive Genetics

A great find by Full Marriage Equality. I changed the title because the article’s title is oddly misleading.

Members of the Hutterite ethno-religious group are descended from a small group of founding individuals
Most people carry one or two genetic mutations that can cause early death or infertility in their offspring, researchers report in a study published on 8 April in Genetics. That estimate puts humans on a par with animals such as fruit flies and zebrafish, which have smaller genomes. But it is probably a conservative figure, says lead author Ziyue Gao, a geneticist at the University of Chicago in Illinois.
Gao's team examined recessive mutations that cause lethal disease in people who inherit two copies of the flawed gene — one from each parent. People with one copy do not show symptoms, but can pass the mutation on to their children. The researchers' findings account for only mutations that would prevent a person from reproducing in the absence of modern medical care — excluding recessive conditions that do not always result in early death or infertility.
Scientists have tried to estimate the average number of lethal recessive mutations in an average person by comparing the genes of children from unrelated parents to those from parents who are first cousins or other blood relatives. But people who marry relatives tend to differ in other ways from people who do not, making it hard to separate genetic and environmental factors.
To avoid this problem, Gao's team chose to study a US ethno-religious group called the Hutterites. Members of the group have a communal lifestyle, with shared property and equal access to modern medical care. They keep detailed genealogical records and traditionally marry within the group. These characteristics minimize variations in environmental influences that could skew the researchers' analysis, Gao says.
The analysis involved 1,642 Hutterites living in South Dakota. The study group stretches back 13 generations and is descended from just 64 founders. Gao's team used computer simulations to determine the likelihood that a recessive mutation in a founder would show up as a genetic disease in a Hutterite child born after 1950. The team compared this result with the number of present-day Hutterites who have severe genetic diseases to infer that each founder carried about 0.58 recessive lethal mutations.
The team then adjusted this number because research in mice suggests that about half of offspring who inherit recessive lethal diseases die before birth. From this, they concluded that each Hutterite founder carried one or two recessive lethal mutations. The results suggest that, on average, two first-cousins are 1.8% more likely than unrelated parents to produce a child with a serious genetic disease — a relatively small effect, says Gao.
Alan Bittles, a geneticist at the Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, says that the work adds to a growing body of research suggesting that concerns about marriage between relatives are overblown. “It’s one more study that tends to show, and show quite clearly, that our previous ideas of the ill effects of first-cousin marriage have been grossly exaggerated,” he says.
People always seem to misrepresent what Alan Bittles thinks when they reference his work. He’s actually quite humble about his findings and generally supportive of reducing the stigma associated with “inbreeding”. It’s nice to see him actually quoted here.

Overall I really like this study, but I wish they’d extended their analysis beyond just cousin couples. I suppose we’ll have to wait for someone to care enough to bother with a topic like the children of siblings.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dear Prudence gives some great advice!

This kind of thing keeps popping up. I wonder how many couples have lived their whole lives without knowing? This is definitely more common than people realize.
Q. Nasty Surprise: When my wife and I met in college, the attraction was immediate, and we quickly became inseparable. We had a number of things in common, we came from the same large metropolitan area, and we both wanted to return there after school, so everything was very natural between us. We married soon after graduation, moved back closer to our families, and had three children by the time we were 30. We were both born to lesbians, she to a couple, and me to a single woman. She had sought out her biological father as soon as she turned 18, as the sperm bank her parents used allowed contact once the children were 18 if both parties consented. I never was interested in learning about that for myself, but she felt we were cheating our future children by not learning everything we could about my past, too. Well, our anniversary is coming up and I decided to go ahead and, as a present to my wife, see if my biological father was interested in contact as well. He was, and even though our parents had used different sperm banks, it appears so did our father, as he is the same person. On the one hand, I love my wife more than I can say, and logically, done is done, we already have children. I have had a vasectomy, so we won't be having any more, so perhaps there is no harm in continuing as we are. But, I can't help but think "This is my sister" every time I look at her now. I haven't said anything to her yet, and I don't know if I should or not. Where do I go from here? I am tempted to burn everything I got from the sperm bank and just try to forget it all, but I'm not sure if I can. Please help me figure out where to go from here.
A: This is a seminal question about the nature of assisted reproduction. As David Plotz discovered in his book, The Genius Factory, on the alleged sperm bank of Nobel Prize winners, many non-geniuses were moved to spread their seed far and wide. So the question has always hung over this: What if the offspring meet and fall in love? Well, you've met and it's true that if you had researched your origins and disclosed them to each other, you and your wife would now likely be close half-siblings. I understand your desire to burn everything. But if you are now looking at your wife and thinking, "Hey, sis," I don't see how you can keep this information to yourself. She's bound to sense something off in your behavior and you simply can't say, "I'm struggling with father issues." I think you have to sit her down and show you what you've discovered. Then you two should likely seek out a counselor who deals with reproductive technology to help you sort through your emotions. I don't see why your healthy children should ever be informed of this. That Dad didn't want to find out who his sperm donor was is a sufficient answer when they get old enough to ask about this. I think there's way too much emphasis put on DNA. Yes, you two will have had a shock, but when it wears off you will be the same people you were before you found out. Shocking news has the effect of making people feel as if the waves it sends out will always rock them. But I think you two should be able to file away your genetic origins and go on.
This is one of those cases where I really like Prudence. This is great advice. Don't lie, but don't act like things have to be different just because of this information. What's done is done, and it's understandable. No reason to let the past ruin the present.

I also really like this: "I think there's way too much emphasis put on DNA. Yes, you two will have had a shock, but when it wears off you will be the same people you were before you found out." Righteous.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Polyamorous role models in the media

More positive coverage of real polyamorous relationships in the media! Yay! This article is a really good summary of the history and future of legal polyamory in the US and Canada.

Can you be fired for being polyamorous?

A recent case from Australia says "yes":
You won’t be surprised to know that the word “poly” comes from the Greek word “polýs” which means ‘many’.  But did you know that, earlier this year, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in Bunning v Centacare [2015] FCCA 280 was faced with the question of whether an employee of a religious organisation could be dismissed for being “polyamorous”?   (Defined by the Oxford Dictionary to be “the practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the consent of all involved.”)
Susan Bunning was employed by Centacare (a Catholic counselling organization) in the position of Clinical Practice Co-ordinator.  In 2011 or 2012 Ms Bunning became associated with the Brisbane Poly Group (a social group for those interested in open relationships and polyamory) and provided the organisation with her work contact details which were later published on their website.
About a year later Centacare dismissed Ms Bunning for serious misconduct when it became aware of her involvement with the Brisbane Poly Group. It argued that her involvement was against the moral teachings of the Catholic Church and brought Centacare into disrepute. Ms Bunning lodged a claim with the Federal Circuit Court alleging unlawful discrimination under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (SDA). While the SDA makes it unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of their sexual orientation, the key question for the court was whether being polyamorous was a relevant sexual orientation.
To Ms Bunning’s disappointment, the court held that it had no jurisdiction to hear her claim because, for the purposes of the SDA, the phrase “sexual orientation” was intended to mean “how one is” rather than a person’s sexual behavior or lifestyle.  The court said that, if polyamory could be considered a person’s sexual orientation, this would potentially lead to the absurd result where sexual behaviors such as pedophilia and necrophilia would be legally protected grounds.
In light of this decision, it seems that although a person’s sexual behavior would not be protected by anti-discrimination laws in Australia, sacking an employee for having friends with benefits could still get employers in hot water under other legal routes such as a claim for unfair dismissal or adverse action.
Poly people have had to deal with this for a long time. Polyamory still doesn’t have anything close to general acknowledgement, let alone acceptance, and there are no workplace protections for polyamorous people.

The judge's argument is ridiculous. I agree that polyamory generally is no less a lifestyle than monogamy, but firing someone for being monogamous would in many situations justify damages due to wrongful termination. We need to ask ourselves whether we're okay with the increasing creep of employers to punish people for their private behavior. If firing someone for wearing a green shirt when there's no official dress policy is wrongful termination, then why should someone's private romantic endeavors be any less protected when they're even more important to a person's identity and quality of life?

I think firing her because she used her work information for an organization they don’t agree with is more valid than firing her for purely private actions. That said, they cited her membership in the Brisbane Poly Group itself as their grounds for firing her, which would still be illegal under any reasonable workplace protection scheme.

Edit: A follower on Tumblr gave their own personal experience.
Bee got fired from his job a few years ago when they found out about our relationship. This shouldn’t be happening to poly (and, LGBT) people - but it does. Even the workplace protect[ion] laws here in Canada are weak enough that for some of the time things like this happen. Which is why we fight hard here, and work with the CPAA (Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association - under pseudonyms, unfortunately). Sharing her work details shouldn’t have been enough to fire her. If they didn’t want the workplace associated, they could of had it taken down.
Just because there are enclaves of acceptance, and just because there's been some positive media attention lately, doesn't mean that poly people aren't still (potentially unlawful) pariahs in mainstream society. This is why organizations like the CPAA are so important.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"I'm poly and happy—do I have to come out?"

Dan Savage gets a question:
His response:
Not everyone who's poly can be out, NUNYA, just as not everyone who's gay, bi, trans, kinky, or poz can be out. But the only way to dispel myths about poly people and poly relationships—poly people are all burners, poly relationships don't work out for the long term, all nonmonogamous relationships ultimately fail—is for poly people to come out when and where they can. So if you're in a position to be out, NUNYA, you should come out.
And while your poly relationship isn't anyone's business, it's not something you should have to hide, either.

"Theories on the Origin of Sexual Orientation, 1864-present"

I've found a very good aggregation of the various theories of the origin of homosexual attraction.
1896 -- Published in a German pamphlet, "Sappho and Socrates," which describes the origin of homosexuality as taking place in a bisexual embryo.
Hirschfeld posited the existence, in the embryos of both sexes, of rudimentary neural centers for attraction to both males and females. In most male fetuses, the center for attraction to women developed, while the center for attraction to males regressed, and vice versa for female fetuses. In fetuses destined to become homosexual, on the other hand, the opposite developmental sequence took place.
While admitting that the location of these centers was still unknown, Hirschfeld predicted that when they were identified, it would be found that adults of each sex carried the vestigial remnants of the centers typical for the other sex.
I wouldn't be surprised if that turned out to be true.
1978 -- [E.O. Wilson] hypothesized a possible genetic predisposition for homosexuality in certain humans by using a theory he calls 'inclusive fitness,' defined as the sum of the individual's reproductive successes plus the reproductive success of others who carry that person's genes. He explained that there are homosexual genes that exist not only in the individual who is homosexual but in his relatives. Homosexual persons contributed to the survival of the family by not having children so they were available to support and help other family members, by serving in roles such as aunt, uncle, shaman, or medicine man. Thus, genes for homosexual orientation increased in frequency, not because they aided the homosexual person in his or her own survival but because they aided the relatives who shared his gene pool. This broader spread of the genes helps explain how persons with the homosexual genes could be reproduced, since they themselves often did not produce offspring.
It may also just be an ameliorating side-effect.
2012 -- [...] For several years, studies led by Andrea Camperio Ciani at the University of Padova in Italy and others have found that mothers and maternal aunts of gay men tend to have significantly more offspring than the maternal relatives of straight men...
[...] The theory holds that the same genetic factors that induce gayness in males also promote fecundity (high reproductive success) in those males' female maternal relatives. Through this trade-off, the maternal relatives' 'gay man genes,' though they aren't expressed as such, tend to get passed to future generations in spite of their tendency to make their male inheritors gay...

[...] Turns out, the moms and aunts of gay men have an advantage over the moms and aunts of straight men for several reasons: They are more fertile, displaying fewer gynecological disorders or complications during pregnancy; they are more extroverted, as well as funnier, happier and more relaxed; and they have fewer family problems and social anxieties.
Unfortunately, there is no such breadth of reasonable neurological and biological theories for consanguinamory. Only GSA is understood, and even then I think scientists assume more understanding than they actually have. I suspect there are many unexamined subtleties in "normal" human attraction and the Westermarck Effect.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

You Can Still Be Arested for Being Gay

It's not something most people are aware of, but given how recently it was still constitutional to ban sodomy, it's not that surprising.
Last week, the Advocate reported some troubling news out of Louisiana: Since 2011, at least a dozen men have been arrested on a count of “attempted crimes against nature”—that is, an offer to have sex with another man. Even worse, the arrests were part of a sting operation in which undercover officers propositioned men, lured them into an apartment, then promptly arrested them and brought them to jail. The latest arrest occurred on July 18.
Sound retro? It is and it isn’t. On the one hand, Louisiana’s actions are patently, almost comically unconstitutional. It’s been a decade since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that “the liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right ... [of] intimate conduct with another person.” That 6–3 ruling struck down every anti-sodomy law in the country, legalizing homosexuality—as well as any kind of sexual contact between consenting adults, gay or straight.
On the other hand, rejecting Lawrence has long been in vogue in red states. Ten years after Lawrence, 13 states, all of them red or red-leaning, have kept their anti-sodomy laws on the books. And three of them—Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas—explicitly outlaw consenting sex between people of the same sex. In much of red-state America, then, being gay remains officially illegal.
If these laws lingered as unenforced, outdated relics, they might not be such a big deal. Sure, anti-sodomy statutes present a significant affront to the “personal dignity and autonomy” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote about in Lawrence, but plenty of obsolete state laws remain on the books long after their expiration dates. Yet these laws aren’t merely symbolic. Same-sex couples in North Carolina and Texas have been arrested for “homosexuality conduct” in recent years. And as the Louisiana debacle illustrates, overzealous law enforcement officers feel enabled by the law to arrest, prosecute, and generally humiliate gay people simply for being gay.
The continuing presence of anti-sodomy laws can’t be blamed on absentminded legislators, either. Equality advocates have mounted significant efforts in all 13 states to repeal these laws in the wake of Lawrence—efforts that failed in the face of conservative resistance. In Virginia, the endeavor actually backfired: An attempt to revoke the state’s “crimes against nature” statute led the legislature to reaffirm the anti-sodomy law—more than a year after Lawrence.
Virginia’s law has returned to the spotlight in recent months as Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s current attorney general, has centered his gubernatorial campaign on an effort to enforce Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature law. Cuccinelli was integral to the defeat of the 2004 repeal bill, and nearly a decade later, he remains strangely fixated on an issue settled long ago by the highest court in the land. He’s even prosecuted a case based on the state’s anti-sodomy laws, all the while insisting that his efforts are directed against all forms of sodomy, not just same-sex intimacy. (Never mind that the would-be governor is on the record describing “homosexual acts” as “intrinsically wrong” and “not healthy.”)
There’s no easy legal remedy for these holdout states. The Supreme Court can render state laws unenforceable, but they can’t officially remove them from the books. And though lower courts consistently shoot down attempts to revive anti-sodomy laws, reactionary politicians and homophobic police chiefs will almost certainly continue to use these laws to intimidate and denigrate gay citizens. A decade after the Supreme Court found that matters of sexual intimacy are “central to the personal dignity and autonomy” guaranteed by the Constitution, too much of red-state America still formally outlaws homosexuality. And there doesn’t seem to be anything anybody can do about it.
This is a map of current anti-sodomy laws in the US, all of which are unconstitutional. (The map is slightly out of date, since Montana repealed its law.)
Remember, these laws were only ruled unconstitutional about a decade ago. A generation ago, half of the country still outlawed sodomy. There are people alive today whose relationships were against the law where they lived for most of their lives. Here is a map of the repeals of sodomy laws. Notice how many didn’t repeal their laws until the 1990s.

Even if laws are frequently waved, and few to no prosecutions actually result, and the use of the laws are erratic, laws which outlaw consensual sex between adults are dangerous and repressive. If a man has a gun pointed at your head, even if he doesn’t fire it, even if you know he probably won’t fire it, even if shooting you is technically illegal, the mere presence of that gun is traumatizing and oppressive. It changes how you think and behave.
Given how recently this was relevant to so many LGBT+ people across the US, you’d think there’d be more awareness and sympathy among the community for other groups who face this reality daily, but recently there’s been a lot of progress for the LGBT+ community socially and legally, and people have surprisingly short memories.

"Mountain Gorillas and Inbreeding: The Path to Extinction or Salvation?"

A recent analysis of the mountain gorilla genome has revealed something important:
Mountain gorillas are currently suffering from a serious inbreeding problem, and while scientists everywhere worry that this will lead them down the path to extinction, one new genetic study says that it might in fact be their salvation. This is the first study ever to sequence whole genomes from mountain gorillas, and it is helping shed light on the impact of population decline on these critically endangered apes.
Back in 1981, the number of mountain gorillas living in the Virunga volcanic mountain range - on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo - plummeted to a mere 253 apes, thanks to habitat loss and hunting. Since then, conservationists have been working to restore their population, boosting their numbers to approximately 480 among the Virunga population.
However, while this is certainly an improvement, these mountain gorillas are not out of the woods yet. Scientists are concerned that severe inbreeding among this small population is causing decreased genetic diversity and threatening their very survival. But now, researchers are saying that many harmful genetic variations had in fact been removed from the population through inbreeding, and that mountain gorillas are genetically adapting to surviving in small populations.
"This new understanding of genetic diversity and demographic history among gorilla populations provides us with valuable insight into how apes and humans, their closely related cousins, adapt genetically to living in small populations," said Dr. Aylwyn Scally, corresponding author from the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge. "In these data we can observe the process by which genomes are purged of severely deleterious mutations by a small population size."
In the study, published in the journal Science, researchers were able to sequence the whole genomes of seven mountain gorillas for the first time using blood samples collected over several years. Previously, only poor-quality DNA from fecal and hair samples was available. This time around, scientists were able to compare the genomes of all four gorilla subspecies. They found that these mountain gorillas - along with eastern lowland gorillas, their closely related neighbors - were two to three times less genetically diverse than gorillas from larger groups in western regions of central Africa. What's more amazing is that mountain gorillas have managed to survive in small populations for thousands of years.
It has long been a concern that for a species that is already critically endangered, severe inbreeding would push them more towards extinction - that is, with low level of genetic diversity making them more vulnerable to environmental change and disease, including cross-infectious strains of human viruses. However, that does not appear to be the case. The inbreeding has, in some ways, been genetically beneficial. For example, fewer harmful loss-of-function variants were found in the mountain gorilla population than in the more numerous western gorilla populations. These variants stop genes from working and can cause serious, often fatal, health conditions.
"We worried that the dramatic decline in the 1980s would be catastrophic for mountain gorillas in the long term, but our genetic analyses suggest that gorillas have been coping with small population sizes for thousands of years," concluded Dr. Yali Xue, first author from the Sanger Institute. "While comparable levels of inbreeding contributed to the extinction of our relatives the Neanderthals, mountain gorillas may be more resilient. There is no reason why they should not flourish for thousands of years to come."
That aside about Neanderthals is conjecture. Anyway, this is something people have been saying here and there for a while, but this is the first hard evidence showing it to be the case. Because mountain gorillas have had smallish, isolated populations for most of their history due to the terrain, they’ve had to deal with a higher than average level of endogamy than other species. The combination of gene mixing between populations and gene isolation within populations, ensured that harmful recessive genes would be eliminated faster from the gene pool, and that this process wouldn’t destroy the population as a whole. As a result, when humans started driving them to near extinction, their gene pool was already adapted to deal with high levels of mating among close genetic relatives. (This happened to cheetahs as well.) This means that the sparsely populated mountain gorillas are actually more likely to survive human destruction and poaching than their cousins at sea level.

So is endogamy good or bad? It depends. Like most things in life, it depends.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

This really sums it up

On a recent episode of SciShow about gender, Hank Green made a really important point:
Science is not necessarily necessary in this situation, because I feel like sometimes, if you feel a way, and you want to live your life a way, science doesn't need to be a part of that, but there is, I think, some affirmation and some freedom in knowing that nature is complicated, and that all these things can actually be reflected in our scientific understanding of gender, and sex, and sexuality.
I think this idea applies generally. Everybody is so obsessed with “naturalness”, but why does it even matter? We’re diverse and live in an artificial environment. What should matter in people’s life choices is whether those choices are good for them and those around them, if they can be most fulfilled by living that way. I think individuals are in a better position to determine what is most fulfilling for themselves, not institutions. Our norms and institutions should be to help people exist well together and live fulfilling lives, not to destroy people.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bigotted "Help" Just Causes Harm

From the comments of Full Marriage Equality:
Sounds a lot like what I was told when I went looking for advice though I don't know if that was the particular place I got it or not. Essentially I was told to not to make any moves, just wait and eventually my feelings would go away as if it was just a phase. I was also pretty much told to be silent with regards to my condition. I actually complied, because it wasn't like I really had much of a choice. I mean, adults face 25 years where I live, and while I am sure a minor would face less, I don't know how much. There was also the social stigma, to which I was already acquainted with from when I was even younger.
But let me tell you one thing, that advice was useless, and basically amounts to bottling up your feelings and throwing them under the bus. Their support was even worse, because after hearing them I felt even more alone than I had before. Everybody was out for themselves, all of their advice was basically to maintain the status quo of doing nothing, I was even told that it would be detrimental to tell anybody, which it could very well have been but many who might not want to go through with it would probably do a lot better if their family understood and was willing to help them. Such advice may have in fact isolated me and many others from help we need, either in regards to avoiding going through with it, or to actually go through with in as a minimally damaging way possible. Even worse, if somebody is looking for a way out then telling them there is no way out and you're basically f**ked regardless, and the only thing you can do is wait and pray your heart gives up on them, can you really call that advice? Can you really call that support? How is anybody suppose to get help when the helpers are just as condemning and demonizing as everybody else.
Either they hated themselves and it showed through their writing, or they were inexperienced in the area masquerading their trolling as advice. I felt that had they just told me that I was better off dead that it wouldn't have changed their antagonism much towards me (yes it felt as if they had something against me as a person rather than toward my question).
Around ten years later, and my feelings haven't "gone away" they weren't just a phase, instead they have grown. My silence and and being alone in my struggle had a dramatic negative effect on my life. For several years I struggled with my depression. The past couple of years and especially the past few months I decided to discard my silence. Even if I stay anonymous, speaking out has helped me tremendously. I've found people that have supported me(though not personally due to anonymity), and I don't feel anywhere near as alone as before. By the same token, there have been people that have judged me (same as before, not personally due to anonymity), but I can see that their inexperience with the subject has clouded their judgment, their bigotry has lost most of it's power. Those that support tend to have had experience with consanguinamory, or knows somebody who has, and they learned that the arguments are inconsistent hogwash, while the bigots only have hear say of cases where not all facts are known and bias is presented. Everything else if filled out with ignorance.
If anybody is reading this, know that whether you pursue a relationship with a relative, or you choose to avoid it, there are people that respect and support your choice. It's all about environment. I've been to both good and bad sites, and the good sites, I've stayed at, the bad ones I don't visit anymore or avoid as much as possible. This has taught me that there is more than one choice for environment, if you seek help and they tell you rubbish, there are other places that are far more helpful. You'll know a good environment is one you don't fear speaking in.

Why we need legal reform

Some friends of Full Marriage Equality discuss the threats they have to navigate:
You can read about Bonnie and her fiancé here. The woman (Anonymous) who starts the conversation is married to a man who happens to be here genetic father. Like Bonnie, this is a Genetic Sexual Attraction situation, meaning these men did not raise these women. These women were strongly attracted to the men in their lives and are happy with them.
[...] Anonymous: So one of my old high school friends is starting to figure out [my husband in my genetic father.] Now I'm worried about her reaction to it. Bonnie: My grandfather is doing the same. It's so annoying cause you want to tell them but you don't how they're going to react. Or if they really are figuring it out.

Anonymous: Exactly

Bonnie: My dad says that grandpa is picking on me like he used to his girlfriends. We are so confused.

Anonymous: Well she has been my friend for 9 years now, and I have wanted to tell her but couldn’t because of fright.

Bonnie: Yes, I understand.

Anonymous: I want her to figure it out so she will ask me about it.

Bonnie: Yes that's what we did with our one and only friend, other than our roommate, who knows. I think it's the best way because people who don't wanna know or are afraid to know usually do not ask so you know it's most likely the time you can admit it.

Anonymous: She keeps telling me to tell her what is going on and she will be open minded, but I still don't know.

Bonnie: Just wait until she asks. It's going to be safer in my opinion.

Anonymous: Well, my adopted family knows and hates me for it. They are trying to get our kids now and everything.
[...] Can you imagine going through things like this simply because of loving another adult?
In all honesty, as sad a truth as it is, if her family really wants to take her children away, they'll succeed - 100%. Not only is the law no safeguard for her, but it's actually the primary threat they could use to blackmail her into giving the children willingly.