Helping teenagers understand and appreciate their gay peers: Is there a way we can understand Homosexuality that recognises it as an asset rather than an evolutionary flaw?
In recent years’ evolution has become the dominant understanding of how and why the human race has developed and thrived. However, suggestive within this theory is that those who identify as ‘gay’ have been left behind by evolution. “Viewed in the light of evolution,” O’Keefe said in a recent TED Talk (video below), “homosexuality seems to be a real self-defeating non-productive strategy. Gays have 80 percent fewer kids than heterosexuals. This is a trait that ought to go extinct in a few generations, yet down through recorded history in every culture and many animal species as well, homosexuality has been a small but distinct subgroup. If this were a genetic error, natural selection should have long ago culled this from the gene pool.”
So is the evolution theory flawed, or have we missed the essential evolutionary purpose of gay people within this process?
O’Keefe points to two studies that suggest that if a mother gives birth to a high number of male offspring or if they experience severe prenatal stress, the likelihood of her giving birth to a gay son increases. Interestingly these studies are also referenced by ‘Gay Cure’ therapies when trying to explain why children are gay, explaining that the genes are ‘faulty’ and are ‘unnatural’. However, if we consider these gene adjustments as an advanced evolutionary feature, we no longer need to see them as a flaw in the system. In fact, these gene changes are likely to be significantly fundamental to the successful functioning of society as whole, and may be more advanced than we realise. The underlying reason has something to do with an emerging science known as epigenetics.
Epigenetics suggests that similar genes can express themselves in different ways based on external circumstances, and are wholly natural and effective. For example, epigenetic studies of ants have shown that if the colony is hungry, the queen will give birth to more worker ants, but if the colony is under attack, she’ll give birth to more warrior ants. In both cases, ants’ genetic makeup are exactly the same, the only difference is how they get expressed. Warrior ants will be bigger and more aggressive whereas worker ants will be smaller and better at finding food.
Thus, O’Keefe says, “If the [human]family is flush with plenty of kids and/or it’s a stressful place in time, nature occasionally flips these epigenetic switches to turn on the gay genes. This alters brain development that changes sexual orientation.”
“You probably have gay genes in your DNA,” he told the audience, “but unless they were activated in your mother’s womb, they remained coiled up and silent.”
Based on this epigenetic explanation, homosexuality is nature’s way of ensuring that the family won’t have an unmanageable number of mouths to feed or a son who might fight with his brothers over female mates, two problems that can reduce a family’s overall health and cohesion. Put another way, gay kids help reduce resource competition among family members, and increase family cohesion and cooperation.
In fact, what we can see is that gay members positively contribute to a family’s emotional health as well. O’Keefe points to other studies that show lower levels of hostility and higher levels of emotional intelligence, compassion, and cooperation in gay men. He says that these ‘specialized talents and usual qualities of personality’ help increase a family’s ability to relate to one another.
“An ability to love our family and bond with our group determines in many cases whether we survive or perish,” O’Keefe says. “So it’s survival of the fittest family, not the fittest individual.”
Watch his TEDx talk here: https://youtu.be/4Khn_z9FPmU
And yet, O’Keefe ended his talk by pointing out the many countries around the world that punish homosexuality with death or imprisonment.
“In India,” O’Keefe says, “the law states 14 years to life because homosexuality is ‘against the order of nature’… except that it’s probably not. Nature prescribes homosexuality at specific times and places. It endows these people with special traits to help the people around them flourish.” You can often see this in families, or even later on in school and in the work place. “What is against the order of nature is the ongoing persecution of the sexual minority. These are not confused or defective people that need to be cured or punished or ostracized. They need to be accepted for who they are and embraced. They make us better.”