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RSS icon Comments on Fascinating Article About Genetics and Homosexuality


Why do tell. I declara the other day I was talking with my goo dfriends? And one of them said he likes to get it all over but when he's finished with that he reeally wants someone to tlk with? And then I noticed his hair wasn't really as pretty as usual so I asked him about that and he said he went to get it cut and there was a discussion going on about the war in fghanistan and anyways, the point is, this led to a buncha us going out for beers and pretzels so we could all talk about it while watching the football games? And --

Posted by PC | October 23, 2008 9:53 AM

Hey Dan does this make you rethink your position on bi guys and whether there are more legit bi guys out there than you care to acknowledge?

You, like most gay guys, never seem to give bi guys much credibility.. been reading your column for years and it's clear you have a real issue believing most of them and usually seem to have disdain for most guys claiming to be bi.

This makes it sound like the genetics themselves support a very real continuum.

"Men with a touch of the gay"""""""

Posted by really | October 23, 2008 9:55 AM

This is strangely relevant to me. Thanks, Dan!

Posted by Mr Fuzzy | October 23, 2008 9:58 AM

Regardless of how much data backs it up, it's an interesting hypothesis that certainly matches up with my experience of the world.

Posted by violet_dagrinder | October 23, 2008 10:00 AM

Um, hey, I like your work, but don't be dissin' Charles Darwin.
And am I crazy, or didn't Jonathan Golob write about this a few months ago? Is it a different theory?

Posted by puschkin | October 23, 2008 10:06 AM

So this rationalizes my inexplicable urge to start saving college money for my future nieces and nephews...

Posted by Jake | October 23, 2008 10:15 AM

I believe bi guys exist. I don't want to marry one—fuck 'em, sure. (Back in the day, ya'll.) But marry one? No thanks. I think bi guys should stick to bi guys—which shouldn't be a problem, as there's way, way, way more of them, supposedly, than there are of us.

Posted by Dan Savage | October 23, 2008 10:16 AM

The helping out your nieces and nephews theory might make sense for humans, but how does it explain homosexuality in species that don't have any childcare, like fruitflies?

Posted by julia | October 23, 2008 10:26 AM

One thing that's worth noting is that saying people are born with their sexual preferences set (or at least, pointed in a particular direction) is not necessarily the same thing as saying it's genetic. There are lots of examples in the animal kingdom of complex physiological or behavioral changes that are the result of fine-tuned environmental factors during gestation. See for a classic example. It's not a great leap to think that gestational factors such as temperature, chemical levels, etc. may play a part in determining sexual preferences in humans. My personal best guess is that it's most likely a bit of both.

Posted by Afreet | October 23, 2008 10:32 AM

Mmm, dykey straight girls . . . I'll be in my bunk.

Posted by christopher | October 23, 2008 10:36 AM

This is bullshit. Gays and lesbians exist because because the species homosapien survived--unlike other humanoid species that did not possess this unique abberation that continually pushed social evolution. A square peg that does not fit a round hole becomes an agitating agent, and where there's agitation, there is movement--and it is movement that caused us to survive. And btw, will continue to cause us to survive, in spite of the fact that we can now destroy ourselves.

Posted by Cat in Chicago | October 23, 2008 10:37 AM

Some of the best lovers I've had have been, at times, bi-sexual.

So maybe there's some truth in this.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 23, 2008 10:58 AM

The problem with that theory is that it doesn't take into consideration homophobia. If homosexuality was evolutionarily selected, then you'd expect a "natural" inclination on the part of straight males to accept it. That is not the case. I prefer the strong evidence that indicates a heightened auto-immune reaction to male embryos on the part of the mother during gestation. The more consecutive male children a woman has, the more likely she is to produce a gay son. Usually by the third child.

Posted by crazycatguy | October 23, 2008 11:02 AM

Homophobia is a product of our fucked up culture and likely not a evolutionarily selected human trait. There are plenty of examples of other cultures where homosexuality wasn't vilified by straight men, such as in ancient Greece and Rome. I don't know of any evidence of homophobia documented
in other species either.

Posted by clementine | October 23, 2008 11:17 AM

I have read this before, and for anyone who is interested in this kind of thing, also read the "maternal immune hypothesis." This is considered the most likely "environmental" cause for homosexuality.

I love how this basically deflates that homosexuality "just isn't right," because gays cannot reproduce and are therefore bad for humanity; in fact, its the opposite. BECAUSE of the causes of homosexuality, humans are BETTER at reproduction:

1. This states that homosexuality in a family is a sign that that family has more "caring" genes than others. Therefore, marry your gay friend's siblings!
2. The maternal immune hypothesis suggests that a woman is more likely to have a gay son after having one or more straight sons.

Basically, nature found a way to make gayness without making us go extinct.

Posted by LT | October 23, 2008 11:20 AM

@ 13,
What this hypothesis is suggesting (and though I haven't read the paper, I do not believe they've actually identified specific genes--it's still hypothetical and don't take this as any way an endorsement of the hypothesis) is that there's a balancing selection for traits that produce a spectrum of phenotypes, homosexuality being at one end. It's an issue of Mendelian assortment as much as Darwinian selection at that point. Since the alleged fitness gain isn't from the homosexual outcome of random assortment of the alleles, but from increased fitness in someone expressing some, but not all of the traits, the alleles hang around in the population even when there is strong selection against one extreme of the distribution.

Posted by Jason | October 23, 2008 11:24 AM

Golob posted about this months ago, but the conclusion he thought the data points to is that these traits are favorable when expressed in the opposite sex -- i.e. the "feminized appearance" etc raised the reproductive chances of the females who inherited those genes enough to more than offset any negative effect experienced by males who inherited those traits. Remember that genes get passed on through multiple generations and just because one person, say a "pretty" male, may not experience a reproductive advantage, the genes for "pretty" will stay in play as long as somebody with those genes does experience an advantage and thus passes them on.

Speaking as somebody who is an evolutionary dead end from this perspective (I don't have children) I gotta say it ain't so bad.

Posted by flamingbanjo | October 23, 2008 11:26 AM

@10 Please say that's a firefly reference.

Posted by Windupbird | October 23, 2008 11:35 AM

This is nice, and certainly interesting. But it isn't necessary for homosexuality to be genetic or natural in order to justify equal rights. It helps, but I wouldn't rest entirely on it, since scientific consensus can change. Universal principles of human rights are far more reliable a foundation.

Posted by elenchos | October 23, 2008 11:47 AM

This bit of research doesn't seem to look at how women like each sort of man in bed, but I have a feeling that's important. I'm a woman who's been with both macho-masculine straight guys, and the "softer" poet-ish straight guys, and let me tell you, the poets and girly-boys are about 75 million times better lovers than the macho ones. (and I don't just mean with Tender Sensitive Lovemaking...)

When I figured this out I wanted to have a pamphlet printed and issued to every single American 15-year-old in the country. Good sex requires the ability to have some gender-role fluidity, especially in a long-term relationship.

I bet after 5 years (when that first hotness has mellowed) the imaginative girly-boys and their partners are probably having a lot more fun in bed than the macho guys who have never been able do any more than the ol' in-out-in-out with their wives -- which loses its thrill pretty quick.

It's too bad, because some of those macho guys are probably hidden poets, and that could come out if they weren't living inside the straight-jacket of conventional masculinity.

Posted by kitesrack | October 23, 2008 11:48 AM

I think Type A male pesonalities found males that were more passive good "soldiers". One thing about myself is I've always attracted and been attracted to Type A males. I make a good "side kick" if you will. A body guard, a care taker, male serf. I'm happy to let him take the lead. Good followers gave Type A males more mates and more resources. Therefore, advantages in survival. For both.

Posted by Vince | October 23, 2008 11:50 AM

Gays: selflessly fucking for humanity. this brings a tear to my eye and makes me proudly horny.

Posted by inkweary | October 23, 2008 11:55 AM

I think it's a simple matter of the way our bodies and brains work.

Nobody is born with green blood or horns on their head because it's almost impossible in terms of physiology. Being born gay or trangender or bisexual is easy, physiologically. We can turn rats or other animals gay or trangendered for their entire lives by injecting them with a couple milligrams of hormones or other chemicals on the right day during prenatal or neonatal development.

Normally, rudimentary gonads (which provide hormones and other chemicals) usually determine sexuality, but other factors are always in play. Nobody has done these experiments for obvious reasons, but if we inject androgen into a female fetus on the certain day when sexuality is determined in the brain, you'll come up with a baby who is a lesbian (or transgendered) for life. This almost certainly happens naturally because 1) these chemicals are already present in the womb in small amounts and hormone levels vary day by day, 2) environmental factors with the mother, like chemicals and food, can probably play a role, 3) there is a huge variety in the way humans work -- some are more sensitive or resistant to certain chemicals, whether they be hormones, anthrax, acne medicine, or gluten.

In short, I think the origins of homosexuality and transgenderism have a lot more in common with gluten allergies and height (natural physiological variety) than with how many teeth we have or our opposable thumbs (evolutionary advantages). Evolution may have some effect, but evolution couldn't end homosexuality without completely re-engineering our species, even if it tried.

Posted by jrrrl | October 23, 2008 1:14 PM

@22 for the win.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 23, 2008 2:19 PM


You, Dan Savage, are responsible for ruining the world. You prehistoric gays allowed the lesser intelligent offspring to survive and grow up while their lesser intelligent parents died.

Which means you gay motherfuckers, through evolution, are responsible for all the ultra right-wingers, gay-bashing mormons, and McCain voters to survive until now.

I knew you stupid motherfuckers were worthless.

Thanks a lot gays!


Posted by robot2501 | October 23, 2008 9:11 PM

Somewhere, Charles Darwin is smiling about this finding. Here's a quote from the great man himself:

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."

-- Charles Darwin

Posted by Yeek | October 24, 2008 7:11 AM

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