Where Science and Queerness Meet w/ Daniel Pfau

Episode · 1 year ago

Where Science and Queerness Meet w/ Daniel Pfau


Today, Daniel is here to explain their discoveries about the history of queerness and what place the LGBTQ community has in the world of science.

Be sure to follow Dr. Pfau on Twitter! Your host is Levi Chambers, co-founder of Gayety. Follow the show and keep up with the conversation @Pride. Want more great shows from Straw Hut Media? Check out or website at strawhutmedia.com. Your producers are Levi Chambers, Maggie Boles, Ryan Tillotson and Edited by Sebastian Alcala Have an interesting LGBTQ+ story to share? We might feature U! Email us at lgbtq@strawhutmedia.com. *This podcast is not affiliated with Pride Media. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Straw media. In the queer community it's common for individuals to conceal their true identities because of societal influences and expectations. In Dr Daniel Foul's case, who uses they then pronounced it went a step further. They grew up in a conservative bubble, so when they tried to open up about their sexual orientation, their counselor sent them to conversion therapy. But Dr Foul knew there was more out there than what their counselor was telling them. They wanted real answers, so they turned to science and began looking for the answers themselves. Dr Foul is a queer and Gender Queer neuroscientist specializing in sex differences and into chronology. And if you don't know what any of that means, don't worry, we're going to get into it. Today. Dr Foul is here to explain their discoveries about the history of queerness and what place the LGBTQ plus community has in the world of science. I'm Dr Daniel Foul in this is pride. Dr Foul grew up in Sunny California and from a young age they were drawn to nature by just loved being in nature and love watching the animal walls and even just the plants blowing in the wind. But they were interested in more than just the beauty of it. They wanted to know why it was here and what it came from, how everything sort of grew and how everything sort of like looked in the way that it grew. And for me that sort of translated really well into science and school. Dr Fowl began to realize that the community and the education system they were in was only going to cover the basics. I had a very small sort of community of conservative individuals. So the things that drew me to science were necessary things, are topics that they were interested in talking about. So they started looking for the answers themselves. So when I was growing up, I would see in the natural world these things, these aspects of the natural world that didn't fit into like what I was being told. So like when I was being told, like you know, there's men and women, and then I'd collect all these beetles and these beetles would all like stack up on each other and obviously be doing something that someone told me would only have but between a man and a woman. Then I'm like, okay, well, five these beetles now are on top of each other. Something else has to be going on. But because Dr Fowl was young and therefore viewed as naive, they were constantly battling it with no at all adults, all the adults basically telling me that, like, you don't know what you're talking about. Let us share with you what's the truth, and then me, looking out in nature, being like He. But wait a second, these two things aren't really sort of driving together. While on a school field trip, Dr Foul's fascination with sex and identity intensified. We were looking at animals and it was in the fifth grade, I think, and we had a file just with us who's telling us about sex differences between males and females. But then so to talking about how in some species they don't exist, and I just like latch down to that idea and just was going all wonky and talking about it a bunch, and people were just entertained by it and like to know end, and so I just like, oh my goat, I said, Hey, let me just keep talking about male and female and man, and people were getting me word looks and my dad was on a trip with us and he was just mortified. I don't think he really knew exactly what was going on. Dr Fowl received push back because of their passion for gender identity. No one in their community understood why they...

...cared so much. But, like I said, I think a lot of individuals felt like I was sort of both connected to like some weird sexual thing as well. As you know, my gender identity at the time not being like not being comfortable identifying nail, or at least expressing gender identity and gender expression center, typical of the males that were there. Of people would say things to me like, Oh, you can't do that, that's sexual. Some of the habits Dr Foul picked up on we're seen as a typical by their peers, which only left them more confused. I couldn't twirl in my sweatshirt that I'm wearing around my waist like it's a tow to what's going on? Why? They were part of a very conservative church group, which meant the queer community didn't even exist in their eyes. Anyone who was queer or trans would eventually realize that that was wrong and, you know, rejoined society. Basically, and so little daniel so to grew up feeling like they had no there was nothing like them. There was no outside example that they could sort of take in and say like this is how I feel, this is how I would like to express myself, this is how I feel authentic and safe. But their research pointed to the conclusion that there was more to gender and identity dyan just male or female, and so it was just like these mixed messages and feeling, honestly, like I had discovered a whole new world that no one wanted to talk about. But Dr Foul didn't give up. Biology is only as limited as the scientists who are creating it, in the sense, and so for me, like us little tiny biles, just Danniel, was like, oh my goodness, everyone's wrong. Why? Why is no one watching these beetles like I am? And really isn't this when your biologist is like, you know, there's these some species that don't have you know, man came on. There's more of a spectrum, and you're like I know what I know when it's humans. Did you know that? Like yeah, no, it's so cul that's a species. Yes, I like exactly. And it's so weird because people will talk about all the time like Oh yeah, we're only talking about animals and I'm like, okay, yeah, am I not an animal? Luckily, when they went off to college, the professor's they are were more willing to help them find the answers they were searching for, and it had a lot to do with reproductive into chronology, which is one of my most favorite things to talk about, which is basically just looking how our hormones influence our ability to sort of create these different aspects of our identity related to sex. So we had and our physiology related to sex. They had found their passion, but Dr Foul still worried others wouldn't take their work seriously because of how they identified. Oh but wait, no one's going to believe anything I talked about because I'm this weird individual and eventually would come out it's gender queer, and I felt like I just simply would be laughed at, and honestly, that that does happen from time to time. But they had had enough pushback for a lifetime and decided to look past that fear and just do it anyway. My love for understanding these systems took over and I was just like now I'm done caring about that and so instead of at this point in my life where I'm just like this neurownderchnologist to sort of wants to do as much as I can to help the queer community, to not not even be shown to be supported through science, but to have science be there for them, have science address their needs and and to truly give them power in science as well. We're not expecting everyone to just know what an endochronologist is, so let's break it down. Endochronology is basically...

...the study of hormones and neuronner chronology is sort of looking at how hormones and the nervous system interact, and I think it's fascinating because one of the things these are really are to communication systems for the body, one of them being hormones, which are chemical signal, and then the neurons and on nervous system, which is all electrical signals, and we translate those signals between each other. So electrical signals become chemical signals, not only at the level of hormones, but you know, even between cells, if neurons are communicating with each other, it means they're transitioning an electrical signal into a chemical one in between themselves. And the other neuron, and then that other neuron, ave is, is able to take that information and make it into an electrical signal again, and so throughout the body this is happening in like small scale and large scale all over the place, and I just find it fascinating how much communication is going on and just that diversity. And it was this diversity that led Dr Foul to look out side of societal walls for their own identity, seeing how things can be so diverse, because, I mean, when you've got two systems that are communicating and all different kinds of ways, you get to solve this diversity going on too. When we come back, how the disappearance of a gene could explain the history of queer behavior. Welcome back. Today we're talking with Dr Daniel Foul, a queer neural endochronologist who first questioned the idea of gender and identity by observing the sexual behavior of beetles before the break. Dr Foul explained how their own findings were inconsistent with what some researchers and studies were trying to tell them. Like I said, that there was these aspects of biology that just didn't make sense. They didn't quite get to an experience that could explain them in my in my thinking basically, and I think one of the really good papers that I came across early that sort of showed me this was a friend of mine who had published a paper and they are sort of a they work mostly in psychology, and so they had really dealt into this idea of whether or not expressing something like same sex sexual behavior would actually lead to a decrease in the amount of reproduction that's going on. So basically, like, okay, this animal, all of a sudden, this is expressing same sex sexual behavior. Does that mean it's no longer expressing different sex sexual behaviors and then that it can no longer reproduce? The paper they are referencing is called oversimplifying evolutionary psychology leads to explanatory gaps, by Dr J Better Garcia and Dr Charlotte tape when I first came across this sort of idea that, you know, they had presented that we were thinking about things a certain way, but we don't always have to think about them that way. So to stuck with me. Yeah, there are people out there who's seeing this unique world that is and saying to themselves like, Oh wait a second, the step back and let's make sure we're actually looking at the complexity and holding all that complexity. Dr Fouls, next year RECA moment came while taking your college course, but instead of the Beatles they were looking at before, this time it was mice, this mouse model where they removed a specific gene and the mice started to show same sex sexual behavior. So the male mice would actually mount males and the female mice, which typically don't show mounting behavior, did start mounting and they would mount both males and females and so and they'd also obviously show the sexual behaviors that would lead to reproduction as well. The gene they removed from the mice was called T RPC two. And then...

...when the next bit of information I've got, for some reason for me like made so much sense but for many people just didn't, it was that humans lost this gene, the t RPC to gene, long time ago during our evolution, about twenty five million years ago. Humans weren't exactly around twenty five billion years ago, but Dr Foul says it may have been a small mammal that humans evolved from. The idea basically being that some ancient creature not at all like humans, and in this organism there was this gene and when it was lost, it was that at that point that the creature would be able to express the same sex sexual behavior. In that that's what makes sense in my mind, like okay, take it away from a mouse, they express their sex sexual way where. Take it away from a human ancestor. There they go, there's this they're expressing same sex sexual behavior. But when I often, when I tell people this, they'd be like, oh well, we don't have the t RPC to doing so, it doesn't apply to us. I'm like yeah, no, I said that it applies to our ancestor. And so there was this like even at the get go of this, I could see there was this sort of disconnect between wanting to talk about like something that sort of influenced us but sort of started way before, this sort of concept of queer community, and really just sort of having to separate those two ideas was something that I can see now was sort of one of the driving issues of why people sort of had a difficulty understanding. So what I was saying when I got to a certain point, and so what I was hoping to do with his paper was to really like, as you say, there's just tons of biological information, and so it was really hoping to do is sort of just stew it all out there and be like hey, this is directly that each step I took to sort of try and get to this point of saying that. You know, it's a convocated story. But why does the absence of the gene cause the animals to show same sex behaviors? The foot assumed that mice and R and ancestral primates for the same they would both be expressing aggression towards males because of the scent and showing on sexual behavior towards females because of their scent. The loss of this gene disrupts the ability of that olfactory system and no longer are they able to just say, okay, I automatically am going to do this based on this signal. And that doesn't mean that they can't detect whether or not it's a male of female, but what it means is that there was a system that sort of put this in stone. It was sort of a behavioral paradigm that was set up because of its presence, because of the presence of the PHARAMONE, because of the presence of the behavior and because of the presence of this gene, and all those things had to happen together for this sort of complicated behavioral paradigm, which was aggressed towards my own and has sex with femails for a male and then, obviously, for females. You end up with a little bit more complicated because they'll aggress towards a male that is not their mate and then they'll also be able to show sexual receptivity to a male. But this idea led to some complications. Some people began to wonder if the loss of the gene could have led to the creation of a gay ancestor and a straight ancestor. That really can't be done, because we're losing a gene for one, which means everything that's after is the same for everyone. So there's no way that this created, you know, two separate species that are even Alleles, because it's the loss of a gene. Every gene makes up our bodies has two copies, one from each parent. These are called Alleles, and they ultimately make up our phenotypes or our outward appearances. Your mom has blue eyes and your dad has brown those alleles caused you to have the phenotype for Brown eyes.

But what can also lead to diversity in humans are selection pressures or outside influences. How selection pressures interact with each of those aspects can lead to a diversity of changes. And so without having the ability to interact with sort of diverse sexual partners, we wouldn't be able to see all these sort of diverse identities today, because in order for new Alleles to develop that would allow for the expression of those sort of phenotypes, those identities, those experiences, there has to be some sort of Allele that appeared, which is a gene difference, and for that gene difference to appear we need to have like something acting on it. And if you don't have any other diversity and sexual partner except for, you know, different sex organisms, than those types of Alleles just wouldn't appear. And especially when we're talking about sort of the evolution of where identities, this has to have taken place way after that because, you know, within credities we have all these this multitude of experiences, whether it be on levels of romantic attraction to sexual attraction, to desires of multiple partners or a dire for monogamy. So all these differences sort of have to have come from some diversity in our genetics being acted upon by these various selection pressures and and so to me it just made sense that there had to have been something really having a really long time ago for so much diversity to appear now. So how does this all relate back to humans? There's a really big studies done recently looking at genetics between individuals. It was looking at two sexes, so men and women, and then it was looking at three different orientations, so they were looking at bisexuals, heterosexuals and homosexuals. The research shows that some aheels were showing it more frequently in certain communities, for example, like in homosexual men, there might be an Allele that shows upbout much higher levels than in the other groups. And so one sort of one idea that comes from this is like, how could these I alleles have appeared without the selection pressures that could lead to their development? And so that's sort of the idea of my paper that we need to accept a sufficiently nuanced explanation of our behavior as far back as you know, this ancestor, in order to truly understand and and hold the complexity of actual human experiences. One of the biggest takeaways from Dr Fowl's research is to keep an open mind when it comes to the human species. There really are no simple explanations for everything. People sort of want when they're hearing Abi. I'll just talk to be like, Oh, yeah, it's this percentage genetics and this percentage like environment and nature and nurture, and to me it's sort of immaterial to humans because of how long a hard development extends, we truly have so many aspects of nature and nurture interacting. I like to think of it sort of like is this Plinko board where you sort of drop a disc at the top and it can go down and will sort of go out and, like I was explaining, there's phenoe types and so in science we often like limit things and say like male and female. So we drop our Plinko thing and we study each of the steps that eventually lead due to male or female. And that is truly a model, and...

I always love to say that. You know, all models are useful but they're wrong. And so it's a useful idea of male and female, but it's ultimately wrong, and so I think a lot of scientists are finally really opening up to the idea that rather than sort of saying, you know, we have male and female or we have more than male and female, but it to rather say, like, you know, sex is complicated, it's not it's not any one thing, and to move away from that positionality I think is really scary for scientists. Dr Fouls relationship with the studies has been rocky. It was difficult to trust science when all the research that was presented to them went directly against everything they were feeling. I really did not know or believe that a queer community existed beyond sort of this community of individuals working through their sin and, you know, eventually coming out on the other end, and so that was sort of one of the reasons why I felt difficult or a difficult connection with the scientific community. was that went through this process, I was shown like the scientific research that supported the notion that you could actually change your sexual orientation, and this was sort of stuff presented at, you know, scientific conference and so at the time, and this is back in like twozo early S, and so at the time I had no ability to push back against that, aside from, you know, my little beetles and my garage. That sort of confused me, and so the only way I had to push back against it was sort of wanting, wanting the things that I did desire and feeling like, you know, like how could this be wrong if this is what I'm feeling? And so, but I mean it took forever to get to that point. Dr Foul came out to a Christian counselor when they were fourteen. The counselor advised them to go to conversion therapy where they would supposedly push the gay away. It was really all about this idea that any same sex attraction that I had was only related to sort of the sexual aspect and that, you know, any aspect that I thought was going to be something I wanted from the same sex relationship could also be gotten from these from basically being ahead of sexual and the idea I think that really drove that and allows that for individuals to sort of claim, is that they feel all these systems for our relationships were developed with the idea of hettersexual head of sexuality in mind. So, when you think about it as a scientists, a rather crazy concept to basically be like, you know, evolution. It's there to support heterosexuality. Of course, why would it do anything else? But when you really think of it at as a biologist, like that just doesn't make sense. It was holding the complexity of evolution and not letting ourselves be struck by, you know, sort of the simplicity of just saying, Oh yeah, headersexuality leads to babies the most, like it's just such a easy thing. Then for a scientists say then, Oh yeah, well, head of sexuality is how we get babies, then that's all that our evolution would be selecting for. But I mean, obviously that's not true. There's tons of queer individuals that have children on top of that, like if that were the case, then why our career individuals able to reproduce at all? And I mean these are sort of some the questions that sort of...

...pushed back at that idea. But I think the thing that really pushes back the most is this idea that these systems evolved independently of like these directed sexual behaviors. We didn't evolve a sexual drive that's a head our sexual drive and a homosexual drive. We have sex drives. We didn't. We didn't develop these separate sort of aspects of relationships. Dr Foul hopes that going forward, science can focus more on input from communities. They want to make sure that the queer community has a say and feels represented by science rather than alienated. Oh my goodness, everyone in the Queer Tra tunity, tell me what you think sex is, and I'm like yeah, let's add that in and for them it's like, oh, that's too much, too fast, and you know, it's something that I think is happening more and more. But there's also, I think, sort of going to have to be this reckoning in science where we start to value the experiences of the individuals were discussing in terms of how we develop our theories. And I don't mean just sort of asking what they think, but making sure that they have a chance to look at what we're creating and say like, Oh, yeah, I see myself in that, or no, I don't see myself in that. And so you need to change and and I think also just learning how to hold that complexity to learning how to be able to say to one individual like okay, yeah, they conceptualize it this way and you say that's not all. How you conceptualize that? How can we hold both those as truthful within as within biology, and I truly believe that is is the way for the for really the quet community, to be empowered by science. I honestly do feel like for some individuals it's very helpful to sort of be able to look at science and say, Hey, like, I understood in the past that my denny was this way or I understood it or I had difficulties accepting my identity because of explain and Z, and then they maybe look in the science and be able to say, okay, well, there's sort of this idea out there that sort of helps me personally. But even science has its limits, especially when it comes to explaining the origins of gender identities, and part of it is because it's not something science is capable of doing in a sense. So we have like all these studies about brain skins and things like that, but really we don't exactly know what's going on in those oftentimes they're interpreted and very distinct ways, but it's a lot more handwavy, I think. Then people realize, Dr Foul says, the research going forward should stop questioning what the queer community is and instead move to like, okay, we are what we are. Let's examine how this amazing diversity and understand that. And a step further is looking into studies and research that can directly benefit lgbtq plus individuals, like improving hormone replacement therapy for the Trans and nonconforming communities. So individuals, for example, who have Parkinson's. They have tons of mouse models to study how we can better serve them through health go through medicine. But when we're talking about like the queer community, there are so few examples of this. And one of the researchers that I'm really looking forward to working for our working with in the future is at University of Michigan, Drin Kinneyer, and he's looking at specifically. He has two papers out that are just looking at mice and treating them with hormone replacement therapy, so trying to mimic that which is given...

...to humans in a rodent model and and just sort of making this mouse model of hormone replacement therapy. And you know, those are the types of things that really are going to lead to the queer community benefiting from science. But I also in a sense feel like that's an actual way in which scientist can accept our identities without having to, you know, say they do it through research by, you know, accepting the fact that we have unique needs that should be addressed in research. It's basically saying that our needs and our identities are being affirmed invalidated. It's our lived experiences that need to be improved, and so there's just been, I think, this really great push lately to really question what science is being done and for the queer community. Dr Foul is currently finalizing an article to describe their findings, ALONGSIDE THEIR CO author and Phd Advisor, Dr Cynthia Jordan and Dr Mark Read Love. To connect with Dr Foul, you can follow their twitter at Endo Queer, spelled kweer. That's Eendo Kweer, and find their block queering science on psychology today at the link in their twitter bio. Thanks for listening. Pride is a production of strawhat media. If you like to show leave us a rating under review on Apple, podcasts, spotify, wherever you're tuning info. Share us with your friends, subscribe and follow us on Instagram, facebook and twitter at pride. Yes, it is that easy. It's apt pride. You can follow me at leave by Chambers Pride is produced by me LEA, by chambers, Maggie vals and Ryan Tillotson, written by Caitlin mcdaniel, edited by Sebastian Alcala and Daniel Ferrara. Sound mixing by Sebastian Alcala. That's why you were really, really into I've already forgotten at with my goldfish prayin neural and a Cronan. They're under CARENATI. Yes, that's why. It's because you're like watching the Brady vines. I don't know, watching TV. I'm studying. Okay, continue, I.

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