Gay Gene Debate

A new study found that homosexual men may be predisposed to nurture their nieces and nephews as a way of helping to ensure their own genes get passed down to the next generation.

It has been a great source of debate but scientists agree that homosexuality is in some part hereditary. So than how do these genes get passed on?

Since homosexual men are les likely to reproduce then heterosexual men, why haven’t we become extinct?

“Maybe what’s happening is homosexuals are helping their kin reproduce more by just being altruistic towards kin,” said evolutionary psychologist Paul Vasey of the University of Lethbridge in Canada. “Kin therefore pass on more of the genes which they would share with their homosexual relatives.”

So just by the nature of maintaining close contact with my own niece and nephews, I will inadvertently pass on my altruistic gay genes? Sounds implausible yet Vasey and his student Doug Vander Laan tested this hypothesis among a group of men called fa’afafine on the Pacific island of Samoa.

Fa’afafine are effeminate men who are exclusively attracted to men, and are generally recognized and tolerated as a distinct gender category. The researchers surveyed about 300 fa’afafine, and found that they were significantly more likely to be altruistic toward their nieces and nephews than either single men or women, or mothers or fathers. The scientists call this behavior avuncular, or uncle-like.

The kin selection hypothesis was first proposed in the 1970s, but previous efforts to test it among gay male populations in Western societies found no effect. A study in Chicago and another in England found no difference between gay men and straight people in altruistic behavior toward family members.

One major cultural difference is the individualistic nature of Western society, compared with the Samoan culture. “We think we’re close to our families, but Samoans are really close to their families,” Vasey said. “People are more geographically connected in Samoa.” Additionally, there is less discrimination against fa’afafine, compared with the widespread homophobia that exists in many Western societies. Even if many Western gay men wanted to be doting uncles, their families might not always encourage it.

Vasey said the next step is to test whether this trend exists in other non-Western cultures where homosexual males are accepted as a unique category. Although Vasey’s research is interesting, I still think a more logical answer to support how gay genes are perpetuated in future generations is that it is carried on a recessive chromosome or is sex-linked. That way a straight mother or father could pass the gene onto their offspring.

In a 1995 study, researchers analyzed the genetic makeup of 456 men from 146 families with two or more gay brothers. The genetic scans showed a clustering of the same genetic pattern among the gay men on three chromosomes — chromosomes 7, 8, and 10. These common genetic patterns were shared by 60% of the gay men in the study. This is slightly more than the 50% expected by chance alone.

While religious advocates denounce the idea that homosexuality is genetically linked, the research continues.



  1. Posted February 19, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Well, then it is a good thing that it doesn’t matter what the religious advocates say since it is merely hearsay and opinion.

    this is interesting. I was close to most of my 13 nieces and nephews as well, in age as well as socially.

    Hopefully intelligent people will know this.

  2. Tracey
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Check out “Evolution’s Rainbow,” by Joan Roughgarden.

    She is a transexual and bio researcher at Stanford who claims that Darwin’s theory of evolution missed a very important point, that LGBT people are representative of diversity of our species, and further it along.

  3. Joe Militello
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    I am happy to see you were able to use this article, that I e-mailed to you.

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