Daily Archives: October 9, 2008

A function for “gay genes” after all?

In a previous post, I scoffed at the theory that eating soy would make someone (mainly men) become homosexual. I argued that homosexuality had been present through the ages, even before the tofu-eating fad. Come to think of it, there are no more homosexuals among Asians than elsewhere, and they sure eat a lot of tofu.

Now World Science reports that there may be a function for “gay genes” after all. The studies were done with a Samoan tribe whose men have sex with men. Since homosexuality makes “little evolutionary sense,” it has been a puzzle as to why it persists.

There are two competing theories. One is that gay relatives help raise other people’s young, therefore strengthening the families and helping the survival of these young. The other is that “gayness” is a genetic aberration that simply occurs without cultural significance.

In the new studies, “Ca­na­di­an psy­chol­o­gists sought to test some of these com­pet­ing ideas by vis­it­ing Sa­moa, a rel­a­tively un­-westernized land. By stu­dying peo­ple who they said live clos­er to the ways of human­ity’s “ances­tral” past, the re­search­ers said they hoped to as­sess pos­si­ble ev­o­lu­tion­ary func­tions for ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and the roles of oth­er gen­der-blur­ring be­hav­iors.”

It turns out that the first theory was supported by those studies:

Men who ha­bit­u­ally have sex with men are so­cially ac­cept­ed in Sa­moa, where they’re known as fa’a­fines… fa’a­fines put “sig­nif­i­cantly” more ef­fort in­to rais­ing nephews and nieces. The child­care ac­ti­vi­ties that saw stronger in­put from fa’a­fines in­clud­ed babysit­ting, buy­ing toys, tu­tor­ing, ex­pos­ing the chil­dren to art and mu­sic, and con­tri­but­ing to day-care, med­i­cal and educa­t­ion ex­penses, the sur­veys in­di­cat­ed.

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