If Mother Nature is constantly selecting genes that help people survive and reproduce, why the heck are there so many gay people? In theory, same-sex couples don’t reproduce at all, so you’d figure the trait would die off. But the opposite is true…homosexuals comprise an estimated 6-10% of the population. The only answer is that homosexuality must confer some genetic benefit. So what is it? Gay guys are great with interior design, but that’s more of an advantage in the Castro than it was in caves 50,000 years ago (although we all love a tastefully adorned, post-modern cave).
First, let’s remember that natural selection promotes survival of the fittest genes, not the fittest individuals. Individuals just carry the genes, and they aren’t the only ones who carry them. For instance, if you have an identical twin, they have 100% of the genes that you have. Non-identical siblings have 50% of your genes. First cousins, 12.5%. In other words, your genes are passed on not only through yourself, but also your family.
With that in mind, a leading theory on homosexuality is that it confers a benefit to the kin of the homosexual individual. For instance, if gays or lesbians don’t reproduce, but they somehow help their siblings reproduce successfully, then homosexuality will be selected for. A gay guy might not have kids, but if his sister (with whom he shares 50% of his genes) has a shitload of kids, she will pass on some of his gay gene and, in the next generation, there will actually be MORE gay kids, despite the fact that the gay brother didn’t reproduce. There is new evidence to support this: a 2009 study in Italy found that the maternal relatives of gay men have more children on average than maternal relatives of straight men.
There are other hypotheses as well. The one I like most is “The Johnny Depp Theory.” It goes something like this: Typical gay guys are handsome, sensitive, stylish and nurturing. In other words, all the things women love. But what if you could be—oh, let’s say, “80% gay.” That is, gay enough to have many of those qualities women find attractive, but still straight enough to like chicks? Well, my friend, this would make you quite sexually successful. Take for example Johnny Depp, Justin Bieber, and other incredibly hot guys who are, as we say in the scientific community, “kinda faggy.” Thus, homosexuality in men might be something of an over-reaction to selecting for the traits women love. So catch .22 for gay guys…you’re really hot, but you got so damn attractive you forgot to like vagina!
This could certainly be part of the puzzle, but it doesn’t explain some important facts: A) Not all gay guys are “feminine.” B) What about lesbians? “Butch” chicks aren’t particularly attractive to men (sorry, Martina Navratilova!)
So I look deeper. Turns out gay people are pretty important in society. For instance, two of my five favorite musicians of all time are gay (Freddie Mercury and Elton John). And as anyone who took theater in high school knows, there’s also a bajillion gay actors…and by the way, I’m including closeted gay guys like John Travolta, Tom Cruise and Kevin Spacey, to name a few. You can fool TMZ, but not natural selection! Mark my words…Suri Cruise will be a female golfer. Benjamin Travolta will study ballet.
And politicians! I know you’re thinking: “Really? All I can think of is Barney Frank.” Yeah, he’s the only openly gay politician in America. But what about outed congressmen like Mark Foley (the sexting teenage boys guy) or Larry Craig (the gay airport bathroom guy)? And how about Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney and Alan Keyes? Gay? No. Carrying the gay gene? Yup! Newt has a lesbian sister, Dick and Alan lesbian daughters. Ah, Republicans. Why don’t you all just form a boy band and get it over with.
And don’t get me started on organized religion. Gay guys love the priesthood like fat people love Hometown Buffet.
Furthermore, imagine how many gays and lesbians we might be seeing in these areas if we didn’t live in a Judeo-Christian society that persecuted and vilified homosexuals for the past two thousand years. Most of the people I’ve mentioned thus far didn’t even come out of the closet until late in life, if at all…homosexuality is essentially forbidden in politics and religion. And contrary to popular belief, it ain’t that accepted yet in the arts either…the only thing they’ve let Ricky Martin sing since he came out is a cancer commercial. And yet, despite the obstacles, homosexuality persists.
Art, music, politics, religion…gays and lesbians are giving pop culture quite the reach-around. As always, I refuse to see coincidence, only Darwinian providence.
Writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell has surmised that today’s artists, actors and musicians were yesterdays cave painters, storytellers and shamans. It wasn’t all hunting and gathering 100,000 years ago…even before language, there was art. And while it may not seem like much, the simple paintings we find on ancient cave walls begin to occur just as human innovation exploded in size and scope. What was it about art and culture that helped humans survive? It created no food, killed no predators. But perhaps it helped us explain mysteries of life that science and religion were not around to address. Did the crude murals we find at ancient burial sites help early humans deal with the death of loved ones, giving them renewed strength to persevere in the face of tragic loss? Did drums and music create powerful bonds in tribes, bonds that fostered cooperation and love? Did storytellers use humor and drama to keep spirits high and to relate valuable lessons? Did shamans, in creating religion and mysticism, begin to fill that spiritual void we’re all still trying to fill today?
Was Andy Warhol the descendant of such a cave painter? Elton John the descendant of early musicians? Ellen Degeneres a latter day storyteller? Outed Pastor Ted Haggard a contemporary shaman?
And if these rare but important individuals were truly valuable to the tribe, then I wonder if their lack of offspring isn’t so much a negative side-effect, but rather an intended adaptation. Don’t forget that 100,000 years ago, just like today, the most energy and time consuming thing you could do was have kids. Children required sharing precious food and resources, and if you were a good parent, sometimes even sacrificing your own life to save your child’s. I ask you: Is it possibly better for the clan if the most important people don’t have kids to take care of?
Nowadays, of course, you can be queer and have children. There’s adoption, surrogate mothers, and if you’re not quite ready for that, small annoying poodles. So modern homosexuals get the best of both worlds…hotness that makes them sexually attractive, skills that make them invaluable to art and society, and the freedom to experience the joys of child-rearing. And as long as your siblings keep getting knocked up, your faaaaabulous genes get passed on too. As Darwin might say, you get to have your cock and eat it too.