the top hat question #1

So: last day of class is question day. All the things they wanted to learn and didn’t, all their curiosities, their fears, their fantasies, they can drop anonymously into a top hat, and I answer them, one at a time.

No, really, a top hat.

In an hour and a half, I didn’t get through all the questions – hell, I didn’t get through HALF the questions. So I’ll keep the hat on my desk and start posting answers on the blog.

I’ll do what I did in class, which was to reach down and grab the piece of paper under my hand. I won’t edit or cull, I’ll just answer them until they’ve all been answered.

The question in my hand today:

What explains lesbian twins? Not “dyke-a-likes,” but lesbians who also happen to be twins.

Fabulous, extremely hard question. First, for those who don’t know, dyke-a-likes (dyke-alikes?) are lesbian couples in which the partners strongly resemble each other. This question, it sounds like, is asking instead about twin sisters, both of whom identify as lesbian.

The answer is: (1) (honest but unhelpful) no one knows exactly, yet; (2) (vague) the same process that explains twins in which one is a lesbian and the other is not, or twins in which neither is a lesbian, viz some combination of genetics, biology, and environment.

As folks learned in class, women’s sexuality is, very globally speaking, more sensitive to context than men’s, and sexual orientation is not an exception. A 2008 study of twins showed that genetic effects accounted for roughly TWICE the variance in sexual orientation* in men compared to women. In addition, shared environment accounted for none of the variability in men, but about .16 of the variability in sexual orientation in women.

* I say “sexual orientation,” but it’s important to note that actually this study looked only at same-sex sexual behavior, not identity.

So that’s interesting, eh?