Sunday, July 07, 2019

Old book on "Sissy Boy Syndrome" might have clues (however objectionable) for real developmental disorders

I found a book review in the New York Times of a 1986 book by Dr. Richard Green, “The ‘Sissy Boy Syndrome’ and the Development of Homosexuality”, published by the Yale University Press in February 1987, article by Jane E. Brody.

Why would I bring up such an old chestnut?  This was a sacrosanct idea as far back as the early 60s, pre-Stonewall, when the male-only military draft influenced things (leading to Vietnam); there was an idea that men had a Spartan obligation to prove themselves worthy physically, father children and protect women and children for the future of the tribe;  those who failed to do so were viewed as moochers or even cowards, willing to allow the male risk-taking to be shifted to others. Indeed, some of the demand to respect gender fluidity from the woke left today is motivated by a desire to break up this kind of oppressive thinking from the past. (In the 1980s, when this book was published, the dangers of behavior in a community amplifying HIV within itself would have been relevant.)

Before going further, we’ll note a CNN short documentary that discredits the study.

Actually, I’m trying to figure out my own past.

Apparently as a youth I did have some sort of Developmental Coordination Disorder, or dyspraxia, which seems to have genetic causes distantly related to autism and Asperger’s, but is often very mild and sometimes is outgrown in puberty.  Sometimes boys with this presentation will have unique talents (like music) that seem to come at the cost of other capacities, almost as if there were a premature brain pruning process.

On the other hand, at NIH in 1962, I was officially diagnosed as having “schizoid personality disorder”, probably with some schizotypal thoughts or feelings or fantasies.  This is in Group A of the DSM personality disorders, distantly related to schizophrenia in some families, so it may have a genetic basis, but not the same as autism. 

A schizoid understands the emotions of others, but does not personally want to join in and share tribal or brotherly warmth with others, and remains aloof to making emotional commitments required for a life-long marriage that can raise children and endure unpredictable risks and challenges to intimacy. As Asperger person supposedly doesn’t understand them. But with dyspraxia, the behavior pattern may tend to fit closer to schizoid, so it is very hard to figure out what genetic or epigenetic or familial neurological processes are actually happening.

On my mother’s side of the family, several males seem to fit the schizoid pattern.  Most have done fairly well in life because they can adapt by doing well at their own jobs, which are often solitary (like writing software) rather than working with others (like salesmanship or leading others in a political movement).

In fact, both schizoids and people with mild Asperger’s often do very well in a modern technological individualistic society (they can literally outflank others) but would not survive in a more primitive, communal one.

I never encountered a lot of dyspraxia until I was in Basic Combat Training in the Army, in 1968 at Fort Jackson, where it seems in retrospect that most of the other men in Special Training Company displayed the same syndrome. They had been drafted to prove they were not moochers. Imagine how that would play out with the politics today. I got better at housekeeping, cleaning and reassembling a rifle, etc. but after leaving the Army I went back to my old habits gradually and lost the improved coordination I had learned.  That alone is an interesting finding.

It seems intuitive that some of this would lead back to homosexuality in men. But no one really talks about this. The 1980s article seems a bit flawed. It says that only about one third of gay men were typically “masculine” as boys.  I find, in my own interactions, that if you exclude those who want to be viewed as gender fluid (and they are still a distinct minority within LGBTQ), probably 75% of the men were normally “masculine” growing up, but maybe a quarter were not.  Among gay men, a substantial fraction are physically fit enough to be able to play professional sports or compete in Olympics.

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