Monday, August 1, 2011

The Evolutionary Case for Homophobia?

OK, so this is just a theory. Really just a musing, even. I'm not saying that it's the truth. I've just wondered about it... Is there an evolutionary case for homophobia to exist?

There have been a lot of men, for a very long time, who have, for one reason or another, thought that the persecution of other men could be justified on the grounds that they didn't want to compete for women.. You'd think that the straight men who are left would be happy for making the competition lighter, right? But that's not the case, and I'll present one potential reason that could result in the observed behaviour of homophobia.

I'm not going to examine the persecution of lesbians. I don't think women get it as bad as men. It's not even specifically mentioned in the bible as a sin the way it is for guys, and let's face it... That's probably because it's kind of hot. God probably likes to get his perve on as much as men, considering men were meant to have been created in his image. Alright, that's the end of the religion-mocking for this post and onto my little theory.

I'm assuming that a person's sexuality is fairly ingrained from birth or early childhood, implying that there is a genetic mechanism that affects it. For evidence that it isn't environmental, just look at one of those religious 'gay conversion' programs run by some camp guy claiming to have converted to being straight. If a gay conversion counsellor can't convince anyone, that indicates to me that it isn't environmental.

So, if it is genetic, is it a good genotype or a bad genotype? Well, like everything in genetics, that's defined by the environment. It would be easy to say that it must be bad, because the environment persecutes homosexuality, however my theory is that the opposite is true.

What is the effect of homophobia?
Homosexuality gets buried. People stay "in the closet".

And what is the effect of staying in the closet? 
Gay people feel pressured to get married and live "normal" heterosexual lives.

And what is the effect of that?
Children. Children who, if homosexuality is genetic, will be predisposed to being gay or carrying a "gay gene".

So if I haven't made any blunders up until this point, homophobia causes the continuation of homosexuality in our species. If homophobia didn't exist, then gay people wouldn't have, for thousands of years, felt pressured into breeding. The effect of this would possibly have been the loss of homosexuality as a trait in the human species.

Perhaps there is some statistically positive contribution that the homosexual phenotype contributes to the group that causes the group to ensure that it continues to exist.

I said earlier that you'd think that straight guys would be happy for there to be lots of gay guys as they make competition weaker. That could be a reason in itself. By allowing competition to be lowered, the species itself could suffer. I don't think this holds evolutionary water, however. Without homophobia, guys would be happy with the lower competition for a generation or two, and then the competition would increase again due to a lowering of the rate of homosexuality.

A more compelling reason is that humans, like most other animals, are just hard-wired to fear and therefore dislike anything different, treating it as some kind of threat. In the case of a human and a lion, that is pragmatic, but as differences reduce down to the trivial, such as race or sexuality, the hard-wired feelings are still there despite genetic compatibility, where diversity is positive. While race can't be hidden from view, sexuality can be, and so it is.

I guess that would explain what has been observed for a long time: Gay people staying in the closet and straight people (or overcompensating gay people) persecuting them when they come out.

So in summary, homophobia possibly causes homosexuality to continue existing. Homophobia itself probably exists due to hard-wired hatred of differences, but could be a mechanism by which some positive trait of homosexuality are maintained in our genome.

Even if these musings turned out to be right, which I doubt could be easily proved, there is no reason left in our modern society for homophobia. We have the capability to overcome our base instincts with rational thought and our technological prowess, as a species, allows anyone to breed without requiring anything sexual to take place, so gay people can easily have kids and keep their genetic lines alive.

If anyone somehow reads anything into this that makes them think that a genetic reason behind homophobia somehow justifies it, then don't. Just don't. Come down from the trees and grow the hell up.

Anyway, this is a touchy subject about which to write. Should I keep my thoughts to myself, or is there something interesting here that warrants discussion?

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