Published on
The San Francisco Chronicle

Is Your Fetus A Republican?

Mark Morford

Oh right, like you don't want to play God.

Maybe it's time to blow it all out of the water. Maybe it's time to say, You know what? All this chatter and yammering and cute brow-furrowed quasi-religious faux-ethical squirming about DNA and gene pools and all the horribly fraught issues surrounding the notion that you soon will be able to select the various traits you want in your baby, maybe it's all just so much childish screaming into the Void. Which is to say, utter, adorable, self-reflexive bull--.

Here's the big hot-button gumdrops: Science is now on the verge of being able to test for gayness in a fetus. It's true. It's the most recent genetic development and it comes hot on the heels of the fact that doctors are essentially this close to being able to let you choose anything you want about your kid, from gender to eye color to height to intelligence to parallel parking acumen to really superlative taste in stemware and designer watches.

This is the message: Get over yourself and your hollow moral indignation concerning baby customization, and do it quickly, because science is about to slap the entire universe of genetics and babydom upside the head, and it won't be pretty. Or rather, maybe it will be. Maybe it will be beautiful and interesting and messy and fun and dangerous and stupid and random and sad and absolutely insane. You know, just like life.

Here are but a few of the imminent questions: What would you do if you knew your unborn child was, without doubt, destined to be gay? Or what if you knew your unborn had all the DNA markings of, say, a drug addict? How about if you knew he was genetically predisposed toward becoming, oh, a severe Republican, one with, say, a vicious hate-filled talk-radio show somewhere in the Deep South that ranted about war and gays and uppity wimmin and the need for more prisons and guns in the schools?

Would you celebrate? Would you scream? Would you abort? Would you call Fox News and demand your own reality show? Or would you immediately seek medical treatment to turn that hapless helpless bundle of goo and tissue and possibility into a nice straitlaced bland-as-milk moderate Democrat with a thing for gardening and the missionary position and tepid travel magazines?

You'd better find your answer quick, because hard-core Christian right-wing Neanderthals are already oozing out of the woodwork to officially endorse medical treatment to reverse gayness in fetuses -- if it is, in fact, proven to be biological, a possibility which is itself already hurling the entire right-wing gay-hate machine into a bewildered frenzy, given how they have always insisted that gayness is a choice, one that can be "cured" through, you know, prayer and drugs and electroshock therapy.

Like so many things in life, it's all the fault of the sheep. Did you know? Seems upward of 10 percent of healthy rams are quite naturally gay. Twenty percent are naturally bisexual. Seems there is some staggering new evidence that points up similarities between ram brains and humans. Seems these similarities and their ramifications -- primarily, that homosexuality is very likely biological -- are potentially catastrophic, life-altering, explosive, no matter which side of the baby-customizing argument you normally take.

In other words, as far as genetics and DNA and sexual orientation go, like it or not, we are, within the next decade or so, about to come face to face with every prejudice and every law and every injustice and every conservative homophobia and every liberal bias and I'm here to say, It's about time.

It is, quite obviously, insanely complicated. Violently, deliciously so, far too complicated for me to discuss all its nuances in one tiny opinion column. But the amusing thing is we kid ourselves into thinking that we don't want it this way, that we want nothing to do with natural selection, with "playing God," when in fact we've already proven a million times over that we want to control and customize every aspect of our lives, from our pets to our plants to our foodstuffs to the color of your iPod to the font in which you are now reading this very column.

And really, what are birth control, fertility clinics, vasectomies, tubal ligation, spermicide and Astroglide and warm body oil and sperm-killing hot tubs and divine boy shorts and Celine Dion CDs (one listen and you both go sterile) if not nascent attempts to control the when and why and whatever-for of raw meaty infuriating luminescent life?

Put another way: We think it's perfectly acceptable, say, to spend ten grand at a clinic to have three dozen frozen test-tube embryos forcibly implanted in the womb all in the hopes that the strongest will survive -- but the notion of choosing the gender and hair color of your kid is radically off limits? Please.

Oh yes, it will be a mess. It will be a delightful tempest of ideas and opinions and cultural shiftings and religious quiverings and political implosions.

In short, from the most hateful right-wing homophobe on up to the most open-minded liberal, everyone's beliefs about homosexuality, nature, biology, sex, gender, parenting, even the idea of the life force itself, will be at least somewhat upheaved, taken to task, rinsed and slapped and made to stand the test of human progress. Is that not a good thing? Is that not how it should be? Are we not just about long overdue?

Or maybe not. Maybe it won't be so ridiculously dramatic at all.

One of my more lovely liberal friends, herself a mother of two luminous young girls, summed it up beautifully when I posed to her the idea that she could maybe choose the predilections of her kids, or asked if she would have worked to prevent them from becoming that nasty, ranting neocon. "Absolutely not," she said, without hesitation. "Whatever my girl would want to be, I'd be thrilled. As long as she's a thinker, someone engaged in the world. It doesn't really matter. So long as she's free to choose."

Or perhaps it's my gay friend, who said, had he the choice to somehow medically "eliminate" his gayness in early childhood, he just might have, given the suffering and pain it caused him throughout his younger life.

Then again, he also realized he would've missed out on what came next: The years and years of tremendous love and adoring connection he's shared with his life partner. He also might have turned out less gentle, less open-minded, less prone to easy laughter, less of a wondrous, gifted healing spirit than he is now.

In other words, he might have become, you know, ordinary. And who the hell wants that?

Thoughts for the author? E-mail him. Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle.

© 2007 Hearst Communications Inc.

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