Why are there gay, lesbian, and bisexual people?



Because the universe would wither and die in despair if such fabulousness were not part of it.


BB needs more science-y people. I <3 your posts, Maggie. The earlier post about evidence-based pregnancy, this one… gushes sorry.


I thought this had already been mostly sorted out. The same gene that gives a man a tendency to be attracted to men also makes women more fertile.

Meanwhile, female sexuality is much more nurture than nature and is a fairly fluid thing based on experiences associated with sexual pleasure.

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My guess: a gay uncle or aunt is a bonus, and a heterosexual cousin who has a gay uncle or aunt likely shares 25% of the genes with their gay relative and could be advantaged by their patronage. Homosexual people can pass on their genes indirectly via helping straight relatives who share much of their genetic make-up. Historically people who today would “come out” might have suppressed their homosexuality and married nonetheless to fit in with society. Homosexual preferences wouldn’t automatically exclude a one night stand with a member of the opposite sex.

Suppose homosexuality is controlled by 4 genes, and having 2-3 of those “gay genes” makes a heterosexual carrier more attractive to the opposite sex, but having all 4 predisposes to homosexuality. Then the benefits to the recessive heterosexuals who carry some of the “gay genes” would compensate for the lower reproductive rates of those who hold a “full house” of the “gay genes”. There’s plenty of scenarios that could explain why homosexuality in a subset of the population is a natural trait that is never “bred out”


I believe there is a fair amount of research showing other contributing factors besides genetics. I seem to remember studies showing some hormonal differences in both blood and breast milk in children that become homosexual as well as some statistical correlation between homosexuality and being a late born child in a large family.

It makes sense that a family group that is successful in breeding would find advantage in slowing down population growth by adding some non-breeding adults to help raise their nephews and nieces.

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That’s been a common theory for a while, but as far as I know there isn’t any direct evidence for it. This theory is interesting because it’s one of the few that seems to have some actual evidence.

What’s different about this theory, though, is that gay people aren’t being selected for. In the theory you quote, and in other theories I’ve heard, there is something important about being gay, or being related to a gay person, that is an advantage – like helping to raise niblings.

In this theory, though, gayness is accidental. It’s the result of genes that exist because someone else reproduces better with those genes, and that reproductive advantage would exist even if gay people themselves had never existed.

Obviously this should make any difference at all, except to an evolutionary biologist, but I do wonder whether such a genetic view might affect how people perceive gayness.


This makes further sense when you take into account the Kinsey spectrum.

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This is in many ways a no-brainer to anyone who understands how genes works, and it’s something I first read about quite a while ago and have been trying to spread awareness of ever since… often to no avail. Considering how it’s something that simply a basic understanding of genetics would indicate to have a far stronger case than the “gay relatives” theory, which is weak on evidence, I’ve since assumed that people don’t like it simply because it doesn’t provide as good of a story.

A lot of the genes we carry, even popular and widespread ones, are only situationally beneficial. This certainly shouldn’t be new to most people. Especially with something as complex as neurochemistry, there are bound to be countless chunks of genetics that influence things one or way or another without really caring about context, other chunks of genetics that try to limit their influence or counteract them with the circumstances aren’t right, and a lot of stuff floating around that seems negative, and is… on the individual reproductive level, but that’s a level the survival of genes really doesn’t concern itself with. Sickle Cell is a popular example of this - it’s beneficial to have, under certain circumstances, so it gets selected for - even if it is clearly a bad thing under other circumstances (in this case, when you already have a copy of the gene). As long as it makes things better more often than it makes things worse, it will be selected for - and it’s likely that our sexuality, arising as it does from a wide mix of factors, is a situation where the negatives aren’t so bad so long as other pressures - environmental, genetic, even social - help insure the negatives aren’t felt too heavily.

Then again, this is the same population that became fascinated with the hilariously inept idea of there being a “gay gene” at some points, so I was never really surprised.


I personally agree on the matter of other contributing factors. Genetic predilection for certain behaviors quite often ultimately means squat in the face of human culture.

Physiology is another matter. Disease resistance or susceptibility, dietary tolerances or intolerances, et cetera - these are the sorts of things where your genes really matter. But when it comes to the mind? To learned behaviors? Genes are a drop in the bucket.

I don’t buy the “born this way” argument. It strikes me as absurdly simplistic. History is full of ready examples of how wrongheaded it is, where individuals of a certain genetic background enter into the culture of a group of people from a separate genetic background at a very early age and adopt it as their “native” culture. Behaviors and thoughts completely alien to their people and ancestors become so deeply ingrained as to be utterly “natural”.

Look at the Turkish Empire and its countless Christian slaves, many of whom were taken as infants and had no knowledge or memory of their original families or European life. In their minds they were Turks and Muslims, despite coming from Christian European stock. Their behaviors, their beliefs, their feelings and their personalities were the product of their upbringings - not their genetics.

How can anyone attribute sexual attraction to genetics any more than they can attribute religious belief, or political affiliation, or philosophical creed, or linguistic preference? With values of beauty and sexuality being so amazingly twisted up in tradition and cultural imposition, how can they possibly expect their analyses to be at all accurate or significant?

The only way to get a pure reading would be to study humans raised in the absence of extant cultures - removing the influence of human conditioning and examining the natural, spontaneous behaviors outside of cultural paradigms and societal expectations.

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Point to consider: nature doesn’t actually select /for/ things, only against them. The idea that nature would automatically be selecting against non-reproductive members of a species is readily disproven by the existence of ants, bees, etc.


Well said. It’s also shown by the fact that we and other creatures have “obsolete” biological components in the form of vestigiality.

Why do we have tailbones? It’s not because we gain some advantage from possessing them - it’s that we used to have tails, and then lost them, and little bits remained.

Why did we lose our tails? Part of the mechanics of walking upright, making us better suited to nomadic life on the ground than sedentary life in trees.

Why didn’t we lose the tailbone as well? It wasn’t a significant detriment, and there was no pressure for it to be completely eliminated. It was a harmless leftover, so it stayed.


In their minds they were Turks and Muslims, despite coming from Christian European stock.

Huh?! Belonging to one tribe or another is not at all comparable to innate sexual desire. Nobody has ever said “speaking Turkish” was a genetic trait, and a pale-skinned blonde Swede isn’t going to turn dark-haired and swarthy from being raised by Turks; this is genetics, not Lamarck’s “Transmutation of Species.” Nevertheless, the sheer quantity of homosexuals who are raised among (and as) heterosexuals obviously disproves your point-- for centuries homosexuals were born in cultures where it was frowned upon, so any “nature vs. nurture” argument is moot here.

(Sorry, originally posted this in reply to the wrong comment.)


I get the point of the humor, but I wonder if to some small degree (and since this is BB, it seems the right place to fuss about it), that it’s not harmful to some degree to stereotype even the “positive” stereotypes like “being fabulous” etc…

What about the bookish and quiet gay man who wants nothing to do with anything “fabulous”? Or the burly football loving grilling “manly” gay man?

What about the african american guy who has absolutely no interest in sports/basketball?

What about the asian kid who sucks at math? (this one hits a bit close to home)…

See where I’m going here (in a somewhat racist fashion, sorry).

o.k. done raining on parades. Here’s 10 hours of one of the most fabulous things I know of:

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Let me rephrase: not gay as in happy: queer as in fuck you!

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And there’s also stuff that is evolved without being selected for. For example, our blood is red. But that’s not because “redness” (or even the frequencies of light reflected by blood), present selective advantage. It’s because the hemoglobin strategy we evolved to carry oxygen incidentally has these qualities.

Some stuff is just a bonus. :slight_smile:


As a gay man, I always find these discussions interesting! As much as I’m open to the idea of there being genes that make it more likely to exhibit homosexuality tendencies, I don’t believe there is a set it genes that can be attributed to anyone being gay. In most societies being gay is still seen as taboo or some kind of affliction, so it makes it somehow easier for people to accept homosexuality behaviour if it can be attributed to some gene, rather than environment or preference. Also in regards to camp behaviour, I think that many gay people are naturally effeminate, but at the same time, many men exaggerate it. It does seem that men that behave extremely camp are usually presumed to be gay, and are easier to accept by many people. When people have a preference for certain kinds of music, I assume it can only be related to environmental exposure, but mostly choice. I really believe that sexually is a lifestyle choice, and hopefully in the future it is as acceptable as choosing to be with someone of the opposite sex.

I am a tinfoil hat in regards to the Internet especially on personal topics, I would evaporate facebook and google along with the NSA if I could so personal discussions which might come back in the future to bite make me a bit queezy. That said, I have a friend who is bi; bi enough that when it came time to decide he chose the life of a prolific breeder with a trusted friend who he ended up married to, they are very happy.
He is an engineer and has always considered his attraction to be more of a nerd fetish with an appreciation for intelligence and sweetness well over what is hanging or not. Glasses and a MLA will do more than who you were born as though given a choice he loves tall, slender, and a slightly athletic bookish mix in all of his fantasy picks.
I am with mjbeswic, why do people who are gay need to be one of three to five permitted stereotypes which have an automatic gaydar transponder, why can’t you be accepted by general society as gay without being a fabulous clubbing superfruit? Why are people so afraid of the unexpectedly gay or bi person who doesn’t wear a shirt advertising dating preference?
I have always wondered how much sexual orientation is just another kink mostly developed pre-puberty and honed through the teen years, but when opposed by official and legal barriers positions harden and resistance takes ideological stances as much as desire based stances. Lets ask how many truly bi people are now living 100% gay or straight in subconscious disgust and protest for or against learned straight culture and its laws? I will end my low-on-IQ/caffeine rant asking why homosexuality is such a big deal in some cultures and a non-factor in others, how does this affect the homo-bi-hetro ratio, how much is sex about power, and how much does controlling sex, availability of casual sex, family and societal expectation, or not even caring affect how we land when fully baked?

Now we need some research into why so many people think it is such a big fucking deal.


“We know now that homosexuality is connected to genetics”

I was actually not aware of any genetic evidence, so this is an interesting piece of info. I was aware of evidence that sexuality was influenced by hormonal changes during gestation, in a sense (and this is perhaps ineloquent) it’s more like a birth defect; nobody would claim a Thalidomide baby wasn’t “born that way”, or that a cleft palate was learned behavior, nor should we discriminate against those traits.

The phrasing “connected to genetics” seems to imply that it is not purely genetic, but that genetics is only part of the puzzle. A particular gene sequence might make it more likely for one to be gay, but there needs to be another influence to seal the deal.