Gay Science

Three Reasons Gay Men Exist (And One Myth)

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 8.50.31 PMYouTubers Alex and his alter ego Xander want to know why feeling good often means being “bad.” So they’re going to use science, sketch comedy and a little skin to get at the core of taboo topics and pleasures. Introducing the new Queerty column, The Science of Sin.

Aspiring GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson thinks homosexuality is a choice (before he changed his mind). John Enslen, an Alabama judge, wrote in a Facebook post that “Homosexual marriage is on the wrong side of morality. Unlike skin color, homosexuality is not an immutable physical character trait disconnected with our moral agency.”

Come on, dudes, we can all at least agree that homosexuality is hardwired biologically, right? After all, that’s the scientific consensus–much like the fact that global warming is caused by humans.

Let’s review the facts.

To give the antigay wing nuts the benefit of the doubt, it can be hard to understand from an evolutionary, biological context why homosexual men exist (other than to create great outfits and run Apple). If gay men aren’t driven to procreational sex, how are gay genes passed on from generation to generation?

The Myth

At the turn of the 20th century, researchers like Sigmund Freud believed absent fathers made boys gay. They thought that since many gay men reported distant relationships with their dads, homosexuality arose because these men had not been properly “masculinized” by their aloof fathers.

But experts now believe it wasn’t the fatherly distance that caused homosexuality – but rather the homosexuality that caused the distance. In other words, the father withdrew from the homosexual child–if he was even around at all.

Today we know for a fact that homosexuality endures and even flourishes in every culture and throughout the animal kingdom. This means that being gay likely is the result of some biological and evolutionary mechanisms.

Here are the leading hypotheses as to why we have homos…

1. A lot of older brothers
Multiple studies have confirmed that the more older brothers a man has, the more likely he is to be gay. That might be because a mother’s body develops antibodies to male hormones the more boys she has. The antibodies then influence the development of any future sons, making them homosexual. Why would this happen? Maybe because the less heterosexual men that are born, the better chance a society has of avoiding overpopulation.

2. Fertile Females
Studies show that compared to families with no gay men, some families with a lot of gay men have women that give birth to many more babies. This leads scientists to think that perhaps the genes that make these women extra fertile make men … extra gay. So even though some men might be taken out of the gene pool, their sisters (and mothers and cousins) more than make up for them.

3. Kin Selection
Finally, in the hypothesis we like the best, studies on cultures that still live tribally show that having gay men around add to a family’s fitness. The idea is that gay genes stick around because having homosexual, non-reproducing members of a family are crucial for survival. Gay uncles without children of their own can help take care of their nephews and nieces along with the elderly. This added support ensures their kin will grow healthy and strong and pass on their genes by having children of their own.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the biology of homosexuality (or sexuality for that matter). But it seems there are probably many different pathways to becoming gay. Woohoo!

Wanna learn more? Click the video to see Alex and Xander grapple with the existence of gay men…