Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why Are Some Men Gay? Why Do We Still Care?

Blame it on mom. Or, better yet, thank her!

That's the gospel according to a study I just read about in the Huffington Post.

"Why Are There Gay Men?" asked the June 12 headline. "Because Women Who Inherit 'Gay Genes' Have More Kids, Scientists Say."

Led by Andrea Camperio Ciani at the University of Padova in Italy and others over the course of several years, those scientists are hinging their findings largely on the fact that the mothers and aunts of gay men tend to have more offspring than those of straight men.

The article (reprinted by Huff Post from Life's Little Mysteries) begins by conceding that while female sexuality is fluid, male homosexuality is intractable (which should be news to bisexual men). According to the study, it's also genetically transferable, thanks to a so-called "gay gene" that's passed along by the female relatives of men, namely their mothers and aunts. The same genetic factor that influences sexuality in gay males also leads to these women being more fertile. This would explain why gay men haven't become extinct over the years, considering that so few of them pass along the "gay gene" to future generations through procreation with women.

Are you still with me? 

Apparently, this "gene" that makes men gay also makes female carriers likely to be more attractive to men. At one point, the Italian research team suggested that female carriers were more attracted to men, leading to promiscuous behavior, but they've since retracted and adjusted that hypothesis. Theory No. 2: This gene makes women more attractive to men, so it's not so much about promiscuity as fecundity, and behavior that promotes fertility.

Still with me? Because at this point, Camperio Ciani and company were beginning to lose me with the implication that gay men are more likely to have mothers who were born to breed, so to speak.

An excerpt from Huff Post, via Life's Little Mysteries:

Turns out, the moms and aunts of gay men have an advantage over the moms and aunts of straight men for several reasons: They are more fertile, displaying fewer gynecological disorders or complications during pregnancy; they are more extroverted, as well as funnier, happier and more relaxed; and they have fewer family problems and social anxieties. "In other words, compared to the others, [they are] perfect for a male," Camperio Ciani said. Attracting and choosing from the best males enables these women to produce more offspring, he noted.

I could spend all afternoon poking the holes in this theory. If a woman has a lot of children, doesn't it stand to reason that one of them will be more likely to be gay? And there are so many levels and variables of attraction and attractiveness among both men and women. The study simplifies heterosexual attraction almost to the point where men and women seem less human than like bees.

And why does this "gay gene" manifest itself one way in women (producing the drive to procreate and the ability to lure men into doing it with you) and another way in men (check out Queer as Folk, the UK version, if you're not sure)?

For me, though, the bigger issue is this: Why do we even care? Why are we still grasping at straws trying to explain homosexuality rather than trying harder to simply accept it? While I'm glad that the mothers and aunts of gay men are no longer being deemed promiscuous sluts by the "gay gene" study, I'd be happier if gayness were no longer treated like some sort of malady, an aberration from the norm that needs to be scientifically justified. Why are some people straight? No one ever asks that because it's perfectly "normal."

Human sexuality is a complex thing. Yes, as I've said on this blog and in conversation numerous times -- and as Lady Gaga has sung countless times, too -- gay people are born that way. That is to say we are born with a predisposition toward our particular sexuality. But whether we grow up to act on it, or to choose one pattern of sexual behavior over another, depends on a host of environmental, social and personal factors.

You are who you are, but many things make up who we all are, and to try to trace the root of male homosexuality to a specific "gay gene" that also makes women more attractive to men, and possibly sluttier as well, would probably be to bark up the wrong dress.

For those queer folk, gay and straight, who feel like they must explain homosexuality, do what you have to do. But that's one aspect of my over-examined life that I intend to just kick back and enjoy.

No comments: