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Other commentators have pointed out the changes in identity involved as sexual and gender minorities seek out fertility services, as well as certain moral complicities connected to engagement with the practices of global fertility medicine.
To show how much work remains to be done by queer bioethics, Richie has singled out my work as instructive in the limitations of LGBT bioethics. The U. Catholic Conference of Bishops works on behalf of a church that as a matter of theory and practice works against the status equality of LGBT people. These positions generally follow from the view that the conception of children should occur as an effect of sexual intercourse between a man and woman who are married to one another and committed to a certain interpretation of responsible parenthood.
Am I in bed with Catholic bishops? Not in a way that would make any of us very happy, even speaking only conceptually. When sex between men and sex between women was a crime in most of the United States, I defended the morality integrity of that kind of sex. Nothing in this work depends on the idea that sexual relationships not open to conception are fundamentally disordered. Nothing in this work depends on the idea that the very nature of adult sexual relationships is teleologically ordained to produce children.
Nothing in this work requires that LGBT people have children in order to assign moral significance to themselves or their relationships, whether coupled or not. Nothing in this work depends on the idea that sexual relationships between men or between women are subordinate in their value to sexual relationships between men and women. Nothing in this work requires that identities be understood as valuable only in relation to children. When it comes to children, my work has been concerned with — above all — defending access and equity to social goods.
I have made no judgment about whether individual gay men, lesbian, bisexual people, or trans people ought to have children or whether they ought to do so as a class, but I have worked to show that there are no meaningful moral obstacles to their doing so in the context of relationships and identities that may differ from social expectations.
All things considered, I have been no friend to the formal teachings of Catholicism.
At this point, however, let me take up directly the question of whether the interest in having children can survive Richie's critique, especially for LGBT people. Central to Richie's analysis is the repudiation of children as fundaments in the value of human life.
She declares that they have a warping effect on identities and relationships, deflect attention from the present to the future, and that they undercut an ethic of bionatural ecology. In fact, nowhere in her analyses does she characterize children as having value of any kind. I will note, however, that defenses of having children are at least as robust as the commentary offered against having children. I take these goods to be prima facie justification enough for having children as a matter of principle and, I submit, justification enough for efforts in bioethics to help people with obstacles to having children.
Neither does imagining the benefits of a life without children for some people establish the valuelessness of children in general. Kraut's analysis also deserves mention another way, in its rejection of any version of the idea that some supravrening good confers value or is the reason by which anything is of value. He argues, for example, that no inherent good is expressed or achieved by there being a particular kind of living thing in existence, or in its continuance for that matter. What this view means is, in brief, that living things flora, fauna and natural features waterways have no moral interest over and above human interest in them.
They can still be protected and preserved, should human beings decide to do so, but there is no good per se in them that requires their protection and perpetuation. Although I won't develop the particulars of Kraut's argument here, I will say that an account like this would undercut the bionaturalism that Richie has put forward. Let me say a bit more here about children in relation to LGBT people.
Empowering Parents of Gender Discordant and Same-Sex Attracted Children
It is an understatement to say that they have done so without endorsement from any major social authority. It is also an understatement to say that they have done so in sometimes inventive ways, compared to cultural expectations. If I may put an only slightly provocatively spin on Richie's account: any obstacles in the way of LGBT people having children have ironically protected them from the parent trap! That is, those obstacles to having children have protected many LGBT people from succumbing to heteronormative reproduction.
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To be sure, the obstacles to parenthood by LGBT people are diminishing in force in significant swaths of the world, though not all. For example, prominent medical organizations have defended the entitlement of gay, lesbian, and transmen and women to ARTs. On the contrary, she objects almost on principle to the place of children in the aspirations of LGBT people, at least insofar as they ought to be the front line of queer interests. Even apart from this flimsy account of eligibility for fertility interventions, Richie's justification for turning away subsidized ARTs for gay and lesbian people is curiously an adverse preference, something chosen because a better option is not available.
Neither would Richie guarantee body modifications to transpeople wanting them as a means of gender expression, at least in principle. A transwoman might want, for example, hair removal, eyebrow reduction, nose and earlobe resizing, Adam's apple size reduction, hormone treatment, excision of penis and testes, reposition of the urethra, among other body modifications.
The day might come, too, when transwomen might want uterus transplants in order to experience gestation to the extent possible, in other words, for exactly the same reason that cisgender women want uterus transplants. As these examples make clear, in their totality these interventions would not be without meaningful environmental effects.
Yet, if we are going to begin assessing body modifications as threats to the environment, it is not clear why a small fraction of people having body modifications as a way of managing gender dysphoria should be closed out of those modifications, compared to the vast number of cisgender people having body modifications in the name of their own gender expression, modifications such as fat removal, fat redistribution, body sculpting of all kinds, genital enhancements, dermabrasion, tattooing, tattoo removal, and all the other body modifications sought as a matter of gender expression bringing one's body into line with one's gender ideal.
In their totality, the body modifications sought by vast numbers of cisgender people will have more environmental impact than the body modifications sought by the always meaningfully smaller number of transpeople. The review here shows exactly how queer bioethics — in the way Richie formulates it — loses sight of LGBT people in their particularity.
Its generic characterization as skepticism as such overrides social circumstances important to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transpeople, adults or adolescents. In general, it makes sense to put solutions where the problems are, and these proposals don't do that.
What is altogether lacking in Richie's analysis is any mechanism for allocating responsibility for environmental threats according to some metric of responsibility and a mechanism for prioritizing one constraint on environmental damage over another. Without methods for establishing this kind of responsibility and priorities, the choices Richie champions are not only unprincipled, they are almost random, not to mention punitive to LGBT people.
In general, she characterizes the desire for children as morally suspect in itself and damaging in its effects. By Richie's account, children are metaphysically unnecessary in a good life, are in many ways desired for dubious reasons, and — collectively — are deeply damaging in their effects on the environment. Wanting and having children is impossible without complicity in objectionable moral values and social practices, and the interests of LGBT people in having children are not exempt from this indictment. To Richie's dismay, bioethics has pretty much only ever worked to enlarge the prospects for adults having children.
LGBT people have benefited from that effort with a degree of success almost without parallel in the field. Robust defenses of LGBT people as parents, their entitlement to existing ARTs, and entitlement to techniques of assisted reproduction looming on the horizon are the rule in bioethics; opinion to the contrary is no more prevalent than it is convincing. In the face of looming environmental disaster, we are only — all of us — unindividuated entities.
People's sexual orientations and gender identities are eclipsed in significance in the shadow of present and looming ecological damage. Even so, the generations to come remain of moral interest, perhaps not as a matter of moral obligation properly speaking, but certainly as a matter of beneficence toward others yet to live. Richie might have pressed a case for environmentalism without diminishing the value of children per se and without also singling out children as especially problematic for LGBT people.
If socialization were a significant part of the sexuality equation, the odds that not one of these natal males would grow up to be attracted primarily to men are just about nil, statistically speaking.
If one cannot reliably make a male human become attracted to other males by cutting off his penis in infancy and rearing him as a girl, then what other psychosocial intervention could plausibly have that effect? So does that clinch it?
Sexuality is, in fact, innate? Not quite …. Putting things a bit more straightforwardly: Identical twins share the same genes and the same womb, and yet when one is gay, the other is usually straight. Those environmental factors — mostly nonsocial ones, the researchers think — do matter. But as the authors hint, people often misinterpret this as meaning sexual orientation is a choice, or is something one person presumably a creepy older adult can teach another one presumably an innocent, otherwise-straight child.
No one chooses what they desire. They tend to be far more animated by political opportunism or fear or disgust than a desire to truly understand the full, fascinating range of the human experience. Already a subscriber? More recently, legislators in Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota have passed same-sex marriage, and those in Illinois, Nevada, and New Mexico have taken steps in that direction. Meanwhile, polls show a majority of Americans in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples.
If you ask people what accounts for their shift in attitudes, you will frequently hear the claim that gay people are "born that way. And if gays are indeed born that way, the idea goes, then homosexuality is "not a choice" and thus cannot be subject to moral censure. My own view is more skeptical and thus, often viewed by my fellow gays as verging on heretical : while research suggests a significant genetic or epigenetic component in sexual orientation, it does not follow that any given individual is hardwired to have the sexual orientation that he or she does, let alone that such hardwiring would answer any moral questions about homosexual conduct as opposed to homosexual orientation.
Ethics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about Children
Finally, given the complexity of human sexuality generally, I'm doubtful that science is going to find anything quite so simple as a "gay gene. Against that background, I approached Timothy F. Murphy's book with some trepidation. Murphy acknowledges that his "What if? But this hypothetical question raises important ethical and political issues about parental choice, government intervention, and child welfare.
Sexual orientation change efforts - Wikipedia
Thus, the book should be of interest not only to those concerned about sexual-orientation research, but also anyone interested in whether, and to what extent, parents should be allowed to intervene prenatally to influence their children's traits. Murphy, a bioethicist at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, has long been involved in these disputes, and the book reads somewhat like a scholarly memoir.
He begins in Chapter 1 by describing the debate's origins in a study asking gay men and lesbians whether, if it were possible, they would take a "magic pill" to turn them heterosexual. Most would not. Suppose such a pill were actually available, and suppose one could administer it prenatally, so that it would involve no re-orientation or disruption as it would, presumably, for adult homosexuals : should parents be free to use it for their "gay" fetuses?
The book is an extended argument for an affirmative answer to that question, an argument consisting largely in reviews of previous work, including Murphy's own. Chapter 2 which is oddly short discusses how Simon LeVay's work comparing the brain structures of homosexual and heterosexual men sparked a mainstream discussion of prenatal intervention for sexual orientation.