The notorious Infowars host Alex Jones once opined that he didn’t like the government ‘putting chemicals in the water that turn the friggin’ frogs gay’. CNBC called this a ‘disturbing and ridiculous conspiracy theory’, and Jones is noted for wild and sometimes actionable claims.
But if we read ‘gay’ in the colloquial sense, as offensive shorthand for ‘feminised male’, Jones’s assertion contains a glimmer of truth. Chemicals really are going into the water that so disrupt the endocrine systems of small aquatic creatures, including frogs, that males sometimes undergo sex reversal or adopt homosexual behaviour. It’s just that the synthetic estradiol that damages fish and amphibians isn’t being added to the water as a sinister government conspiracy.
The truth is more banal: traces of estradiol are peed into the sewage system by every woman who uses hormonal birth control, and this compound is difficult to remove in sewage treatment. So if you’re on the pill, it’s not the government messing with frogs’ sexual behaviour. It’s you.