Origins of Homosexuality?
An Evolutionary Perspective
Essays and Theories
I had a student write to me that he was writing a paper on homosexuality for his human sexuality class and he asked me several questions. This, in brief, is what I wrote back:
Where does homosexuality fit into the evolutionary process? First off, Let's assume that by homosexuality you mean male-to-male sexual activity. I won't, in this short letter, write about female-to-female sexual activity. Well, it obviously does not pass genes into the next generation, so we can then assume that it must go deeper into why humans engage in this seemingly non-natural selection process.
In a brilliant paper, Helen Fisher, anthropologist at Rutgers, in the journal Human Nature Vol. 9. No. 1, 1998 has broken down the passing of genes through sexual transmission into Lust, Attraction, and Attachment. (I won't get into brain architecture here), Lust is the basic, innate, reactive force that produces the sex drive emotion and then the conscious mind decides with whom (attraction), and then if the coupling should continue on any time basis. (attachment occurs).
Since males are twice as sexually aggressive then females, if you were to put all males in one group, then they could become four times as sexually aggressive towards each other or seek out other females as a group. This sets off a series of complex interpersonal social interactions, but this in this letter, I am stripping away many elements. (today, this all-male-grouping might take the social movement into a bull session as to whom had sex with whom, etc, or it could become serious, and turn in a "wilding," roaming band of young males seeking sexual satisfaction or acting out dominance scenarios. The culture at their local environments has a large influence on their behavior. One speculated theory has been brought forward that during the long period (some 100 thousand years) that when young hunter-gatherers formed hunting groups (by mostly men only in ages of 16-25 -- we did not live too long back then) that those long periods of group interactions may have resulted into homosexual activity which explains the behavior in approximately 10% of the population. (the lust stage only, followed by attraction -- in this case only available males -- we males are a horny lot -- and any port in a storm, etc...) But the problem with this theory, is that in our modern society, we do not have any empirical evidence to even suggest this possibility. Sexuality studies of male populations in prisons are not even considered grant material by institutions of higher learning because of the cultural disdain attached to them by many conservatives that control the purse strings of many universities. (ultimately, it's the resources).
Another speculation has it that homosexuality is a altruistic trait that is passed so that the homosexual male could help out other members of the clan/tribe in protecting, and providing resources to other members of the group via what we call kin selection. A kind of protective, baby-sitting "uncle" Jack or "aunt" Ellen syndrome. However, once again, the modern day male homosexual does not appear to follow this pattern. They seem to abandon, or more likely, are rejected by their families, and then flock to higher populated cities to be with others that are similar, and thus away from the family clan. This theory can not be ruled out because we really don't know what life was like in our ancient hunter-gathering ancestry, and of course, not all families reject their homosexual sons. Of course, more studies need to be done.
The third and most promising suggestion (by myself) is that the AMG's (all male groups) not only were hunters, but also protectors of the clan/tribe/village/group. The creation of the initiation ceremony to prove the "courage" and "strength" of the young male as acceptable into adulthood is prevalent throughout all cultures on our planet. It is a rite of passage signaling the departure from childhood into adulthood and also forms bonds of trust with the all male group. I also diffuses dependence on the family and in particular, attachment to, the "inferior" and "weak" women. Failure to be "strong" enough or "brave" enough by the individual could have resulted in his expulsion from the clan/tribe/village, and of course, certain death. Or, he could have been assigned to be with the women for protection duties, and therefore acquiring "feminine" and "gentle" traits. It has been strongly suggested by modern day feminists that females are a lot "lustier" than previously thought, (Time magazine cover story, March 8, 1999), so perhaps, while the "strong" men were off on the hunt, the "weaker" males could have been (rewarded-seduced-forced?) to mate with the females remaining in the village/clan, etc., hence the passing of "softer," more "feminine" characteristics into succeeding generations.
Now, let us look at the present day political/cultural arguments of whether homosexuality is genetic in origin or is a social choice. If we look at this expulsion behavior by the dominate and "stronger" males forcing "weak" males into exile, it could explain why gays gather together into groups that have the appearance of "choice" by their groups. Current social behavior studies indicate that they flock together because it gives the feeling of safety and "comfort" (of being alike) and information gathering (job locations, other available mates, etc). In some ways the grouping together of matching traits by others is similar to immigrants that arrive from foreign shores. They come together for job information, and emotional support of leaving behind familiar customs in the "old country." Of course exclusions by dominate groups also keep minorities "in their place."
Do I think that political correctness forced the elimination of homosexuality as a classification in the DSM-IV? That is correct....but another, and probably more important reason, was that the psychiatrists had "failure" rates of "curing" the male homosexual boarding on the ridiculous, and hence, they did not want to appear as "less than godlike" in their ability to cure. Like refusing to ask directions when lost, the male is also notorious for not admitting error in minimizing any "weakness."
Homosexuality has been found in more than 450 species (Biological Exuberance, by Bruce Bagemihl, St. Martin's Press, 99), and in particular with the Bonobos, our closest primate cousins, and in all human cultures throughout recorded history. It most likely is genetic in origin, but to what degree, is still open to large, and heated debate. I strongly feel that homosexuals band together merely because they have been "expunged" from the male dominated culture which emphasizes "strength" and "courage" as a guide-line for social acceptance. Religious objections are minor, but still a powerful force with those who literally believe in every word of the bible as the word of a powerful God and still have considerable influence in our modern day politics. Bottom line is this: I believe that the origin of homosexuality is brought about by powerful male dominated groups trying to "eliminate" the weak male who could or would not protect the tribe/clan/village. The grouping together of homosexuals for protection and sense of community may then give the appearance as "choice." Hence, is it genetic or choice? I feel strongly that it is both.What is ironic here is that the culture that is attempting to expunge the "weak" male merely creates an environment of survival mode mechanisms that reinforces the survival of the "weak" male gene. This comes about by homosexuals pretending to be, or passing for "strong" males, mating with females, and fathering children.
Origin: Feb. 11, 1999
Updated: Jan. 2000
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