A friend of mine asked me a while ago what I thought about homosexuality in light of evolution. I thought about it for a while and googled it a bit, but I'm not sure I've found a satisfactory answer.

I currently believe that humans (and every other animal on the planet) are basically bags of animated DNA whose ultimate goal is to survive long enough to procreate in order to continue the particular DNA that each is created from. This is largely unconscious, but we all fight for survival. Supposing this is true, one would think that homosexuality would not survive hundreds of thousands of years (assuming it has been around that long) due to the natural evolutionary process. But homosexuality is alive and well in the human species. Why do you think that is?

Richard Dawkins has some ideas on this that can be seen in this video. Other studies show that female siblings of male homosexuals are (or can be) more fertile than females from other families with no instances of homosexuality. Perhaps sexuality is not this or that, but more like bisexuality. Homosexuals may go back and forth over their lifetime. Perhaps the number of homosexuals are not large enough a number to really affect the number of homosexuals that occur at a later time in the population. Or does this point to either no genetic component for one being homosexual or not, or that social factors also play a large part.

My friend had an interesting thought in that, except for small areas and certain times, homosexuality has in general been frowned upon by society. In order to fit into society, homosexuals (male or female) would adapt their behavior by playing the part of a heterosexual by getting married to a person of the opposite sex and having children. These people would either suppress their nature, express their nature in secret, or perhaps 'come out' later in life after they had already birthed and raised children. He postulated that, accepting and allowing homosexuals to be who they are would prevent these people from playing such roles resulting in less homosexuals procreating. (wouldn't that just blow some people's small minds?). It's an interesting theory. I have know idea if it has any merit though.

I wonder how others see this issue.

Views: 349

Tags: evolution, homosexuality

Comment by kris feenstra on December 30, 2013 at 9:58pm

Until it is known what lies at the root of sexual orientation, it is rather difficult to speculate on how it fits in with evolution. The 'gay gene' was a really convenient term socially because people had a vague understanding of genes and it fit in with the notion of natural homosexuality. There are plenty of reasons to believe homosexuality is natural, but a 'gay gene' is not yet one of them. It may never be. Certainly not all characteristics of individual humans are genetic, and even those that are genetic are not always as simple as the basic Punnett squares we learned in intro to genetics.

Some research is starting to veer away from a gay gene and into epigenetics. I think this will add more pieces to the puzzle, but I will not jump the gun on a 'gay epi-mark' just yet, in part because it seems premature, and in part because it doesn't have the same ring as 'gay gene'. Also, gay men and women named Gene or Jeanne should be allowed to crack jokes for as long as possible before anyone goes and spoils the lame pun for them. I firmly believe in the preservation of lame puns.

If you haven't encountered articles on homosexuality and epigenetics, this is an accessible intro:
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/253971.php

Comment by IkeArrumba on December 30, 2013 at 10:06pm

Now THAT's what I like. An answer that is provocative, informative, and funny (with no grammatical or spelling errors). I'll read that article Kris. Thanks.

Comment by IkeArrumba on December 30, 2013 at 10:15pm

Fascinating article. I'm not a geneticist, and know only a little about epigenetics, but it is something that I find very interesting. With the human genome project done, it must be a very dynamic nd interesting time in the field of genetics.

Comment by David Smith on December 31, 2013 at 10:58am

Hmm, hard to say on this one.  I really only have half baked idea on the origins of sexual tendencies in the psyche.  What I can say as un arguable fact is that homosexuality is nothing other than natural phenomena across the animal kingdom and throughout history.

unfortunately, since we evolved to think abstractly and mentally put our selves in the picture of anything that is suggested, homophobia has become a part of life to.  But don't get angry that someone made you envisage yourself in a gay situation for a second or that you had a homosexual dream.  You don't have to get defensive in the face of these things.

Sexuality is an interesting, and beautiful thing, as long as its done with physical and emotional care.  We should celebrate our differences. We should live in a society that, if anything, encourages experimentation.  To many people finally are able to admit they are gay after 20 years of being married with 3 children.  This kind of thing should be far more rare than it is, if it happens at all.

I see openly gay people and wonder 'would I have been brave enough to come out' I have nothing but respect and admiration for these people.  They don't need 'help', they don't need 'fixed'. its the homophobes who need help by teaching acceptance, respect and in many cases no small amount of therapy.

This is my rant, it's because I'm passionate about this.  we should all be.  Any time you hear homophobic remarks, the people making them should be challenged as if they were being resist or sexist.  I have friends, relatives who are openly gay, they are brave to be so open but they shouldn't have to be brave at all.  While talking about sexuality, you should be able to state your preference as openly as if you like chocolate or mint flavour ice cream.

These things are my views, and for once I will go against my usual style, to say they are not just opinion.  It is fact that your sexuality does not diminish  character, understanding your sexuality builds character.  it is fact that experimentation is not a bad thing, but can help growth if done carefully.  It is fact that homophobes need to be challenged, they need help, they are broken and need fixed.

Comment by Thomas Blood on December 31, 2013 at 11:32am

If Dawkins has taught us anything, it is that genes don't care if they are good or bad for you. They are simply jockeying for position on the genome in order to get passed down to the next generation. How do we explain cystic fibrosis? Until very recently NONE of these individuals lived into their reproductive years. Yet the genes that carry this affliction  have managed to survive by being recessive.  The genetic foundations to sexuality are very complex. We already know that much of the so-called "junk" DNA plays a subtle role in influencing other parts of the genome. There are probably many pieces of the genome puzzle that lead to homosexuality, some are recessive and others convey positive adaptations that have led to their survival.

I LOVE your observation regarding gays procreating. It is the best response to homophobes objecting to gay marriage. Of course you have to convince them that homosexuality is something that you are born with, and that flies in the face of their perfect god not making that kind of mistake. (Birth defects are fine of course. It's all part of that his mysterious ways you know.)

Comment by Sheri S on January 4, 2014 at 10:14pm
Could homosexuality be evolution's response to overpopulation? Why ostracize these individuals? People think someone 'chooses' to be gay. Stop and think, who would seek attention in a way that causes homophobes ( the majority in this world ) to shun you?

I've been thinking about gay adoption. So many fear that the child will grow up to have a 'twisted' view of sexuality. They won't let gay couples adopt children for fear that the child will grow up gay, too. Two things wrong with this thinking. 1- most homosexuals were raised by heterosexual parents and it didn't warp their preferences to turn them hetero. And 2- why deny children a loving stable home in place of the alternatives?

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