So my baby’s sexuality is my fault?

If my son is gay, schizophrenic, autistic or anorexic, it will be all my fault, according to Dutch Professor Dick Swabb. In his new book We Are Our Brains he maintains that the lifestyle of pregnant mothers affects the sexuality and mental health of their unborn child. By drinking too much, getting too stressed, taking drugs and living in polluted areas, women are influencing the type of person their child will be in later life, Prof Swabb says.
From start to finish, We Are Our Brains, is a mother-bashing frenzy. Perhaps the least controversial of his views is that mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy are more likely to have babies with lower IQs. My midwife said a similar thing at one of my routine appointments but Swabb labours the point harder, insisting that there is no safe level, every sip consumed during pregnancy can damage the intellect of your unborn child.
More incendiary are his beliefs that pre-birth exposure to nicotine and amphetamines increases the chance of lesbian daughters, and that those who suffer stress during pregnancies are more likely to have homosexual children from both genders. If this is true, my son could well be gay – my pregnancy was the most stressful nine months of my life due to various complications.
Swabb claims that his book follows surveys of the latest academic studies about links between the lifestyles of pregnant women and the development of their babies. Is there any science behind it? Not according to Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights organisation Stonewall, who believes there isn’t a shred of evidence to back up Swabb’s view that raised levels of the stress hormone cortisol affect the production of fetal sex hormones, increasing the chances of the child being gay. “Our feeling is that sexuality is probably caused by genetic inclination, but until the evidence is there, nobody can say either way,” he says.
Still, Swabb’s findings are music to the ears of gay rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell who, in an article in the Daily Mail, claims they are a slapdown for religious and political homophobes who believe gays can be “cured”. “If being gay is mostly or wholly determined by biological factors prior to birth, it is immoral to condemn or discriminate again lesbians and gay men,” he says.
This is all very well, but by attributing a person’s sexuality to their mother’s behaviour and stress levels during pregnancy, isn’t he insinuating that it’s a medical problem rather than a natural occurrence – thus condemning both gays and their mothers?
I asked my son’s nanny, who has spent almost 20 years looking after various children whether she thought there was any truth in Swabb’s book. She laughed in my face and pointed out that I’ll be wasting time if I started trying to work out my son’s sexual orientation now.
If he starts dressing up as Snow White in high heels aged three, she said, it will mean absolutely nothing.

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