From the Head of the Q.U. Crypto-Psychology Department
I’ve heard many a person who has watched the Lord of the Rings movies say that Frodo and Sam were gay. But as it turns out, they were probably just “mostly” gay.
In fact, the new information presented in an article by Robert Kunzig in the June, 2008 issue of Psychology Today suggests that even the manliest of heterosexual men and feminine of heterosexual females who read this are likely a little “gay,” though they may not realize it, and would benefit from picking partners that are at least a little “gay.”
No, I’m not talking about in Valdemar. I’m talking right here on good ole Earth.
Whether you favor evolution, intelligent design, God’s creation, Goddess’s blessing, or alien guidance, there has been a shared difficulty in explaining why homosexuality would occur in nature when it does not appear to provide survival or reproductive benefits.
In fact, this difficulty has led many to say homosexuality is learned and chosen behavior (in spite of its existence throughout recorded time, and in non-human species).
And likewise, I have heard complaints when homosexuality appears in fantasy worlds. I imagine that this happens most often when a person buys a fantasy novel looking forward to epic battles and awesome magic, and feels the inclusion of homosexuality is as unnecessary and arbitrary as disco dancing in a medieval period.
They may see it as equivalent to sticking a Mormon missionary into the middle of Lord of the Rings, or having the heroic champion pause to rail against liberal tree-huggers who don’t understand the war against the Tarerids mages in Aroc. They see it as a product of our society that need not exist in fantasy worlds, or as the author’s personal view being thrust upon them.
Well, the Psychology Today article offers not one but three answers to the mystery of homosexuality’s existence, and further proof that homosexuality is natural. While the research he discusses focuses on mundane earth-folk, I’d say these same answers would apply equally whether you’re from earth or Middle Earth.
First, it turns out there is not any single “gay gene.” Nope, not even Rock and Republic bootcuts. Rather, a wide variety of genetic traits and bio-chemical influences must all be just right for a man to turn out biologically homosexual (as versus the variety of hormones and recreational chemical influences that may make a young man experimentally bisexual).
Which means that yes, a man can be, say, 63 percent biologically gay. His sexual preferences may be completely heterosexual. He would be seen as a “real man” by today’s standards (or even by King Denethor’s standards). But he may have increased levels of kindness, sensitivity, and other nurturing traits one might consider more feminine than masculine. Think Aragorn.
Only if the other 37% of biological factors needed to make Aragorn gay had been just right during his creation would he have been born truly homosexual, and thus felt exclusively attracted to other men (or male elves, I suppose, although that’s a whole other level of sexual ambiguity and confusion).
So any woman seeking a man who is likely to stick around and help raise her child in a loving, nurturing environment would choose a guy who has a large number of the same “feminizing” traits that contribute to (but do not individually cause) homosexuality.
And this is how these traits have been selected for and perpetuated down through the generations, spreading them throughout the male population.
Another genetic factor, passed down from the mother to some male homosexuals, may literally drive a desire in some women to have lots o’ sex with men. Cue lusty bar wench. This is good for the mother since it increases the number of offspring and therefore the overall odds of her family line continuing. For even if one of her many sons turns out to be gay because of this trait, she has plenty of other children to produce grandkids.
Finally, there is the “fraternal birth order effect.” Basically, male homosexuals often have a large number of older brothers, and in fact the more older brothers a man has, the more likely he is to be gay. Why?
The leading theory is that women’s immune systems react to male fetuses, and with each successive pregnancy its resistance to male-specific proteins increases. Once this immune response reaches a certain strength, it may affect the developing fetus such that it becomes gay. This may very well explain the rarity of seventh sons of seventh sons – there’s a high probability that the first seventh son is gay, and not too likely to be fathering seven sons of his own.
Speaking of women, what of female homosexuals? Well, the studies focused on male homosexuals, allegedly due to the greater difficulty in determining female sexual orientation – as the article states, “women are much more likely to report fantasizing about both sexes, or to change how they report their sexual orientation over time.”
I’m sure that is part of it, as is, I suspect, that female homosexuality is seen as more acceptable by men and therefore less “controversial” (and thus in less urgent need of explanation). But the article suggests that perhaps similar factors that lead to male homosexuality may lead to female homosexuality – for example, a buildup of “masculinizing” genes that benefits the mother by making her a better protector of her child.
So what do all of these revelations on homosexuality mean?
It means you should replace your gaydar with the new improved gay-o-meter.
It means that homosexuality is natural and isn’t going anywhere. Nor should it, since the individual traits that contribute to it are actually beneficial in many ways – who could complain about fathers being kind and nurturing parents?
And it also makes sense that homosexuality can certainly exist in fantasy worlds and fantasy races as well.
On the flip side, it means that it makes no sense to deny gay couples the right to marry based on the argument that the union is “unnatural” because they can’t have offspring.
And it means that when you say some guy who just cut you down in World of Warcraft is “so gay” as a put down, you are technically correct, if arguably as rude and unthinking as someone who uses a racial slur.
Because every guy you can think of, both real (George W. Bush, Rick Santorum, the Pope, and Pastor Fred W. Phelps – if you actually believe they are real, that is) or fictional (Indiana Jones, Perrin Aybara, Colbey the Renshai, or Captain Sun Wolf), is likely a “little bit gay” — genetically speaking, of course.
Share your thoughts on the issue of representations of homosexuality in genre fiction; or the use of the term “so gay;” or your evidence supporting your gay-o-meter reading of genre fiction characters; or whatever you would like related to this topic.