Will homosexuality become less common as it is more widely accepted?

I believe that people are born homosexual in most cases, and there seems to be a bit of evidence that backs that belief up. One thing that always bothered me about that, though, was the fact that homosexuality seems to be just as common as it ever was - you’d think if there was some ‘homosexual gene’ it would be pretty rare by now.

I was talking about this with my wife, and she pointed out that until fairly recently, homosexuals in most cultures were forced to remain in the closet. Many gay men had wives and children to fit in with the rest of society, therefore the gene would still be passed down, and as to lesbians, most cultures didn’t care whether a woman wanted to have kids or not. That makes a lot of sense, but I realized something - more and more homosexuals are open about their sexuality, and therefore don’t need to reproduce unless they really want to. Seems probable that the percentage of homosexuals who have children is considerably lower than it was 100 years ago.

Could this cultural change reduce the percentage of people who are born homosexual? It should, if it’s genetic. Should steps be taken to prevent this from happening? I could envision the gay community getting organized and encouraging gays to pass their genes on (sperm banks seem like a good choice).

If the homo gene were passed from gay-to-gay, then hetero couples would never have a homo child, yet this has happened throughout history, consistently around 10% in all cultures.

In my humble and scientifically challenged view, homosexuality might occur during a special event in fetal development not necessarily related to DNA sequencing. I can inagine a certain influx of hormones here or there having a major effect on sex and sexuality.

This seems quite a leap that I, frankly, don’t buy.

:blink: I :blink: I–I--

This just seems so outrageously bizarre to me. This goes beyond imagining that gay people recruit straight people: The Nancy Boys from Brazil.

As gays are more and more accepted, their gayness will become less and less of an issue, so the movie of the week you’re envisioning would become less and less likely. This kind of bizarre SF plot might appeal to a people under siege, but your scenario would necessitate a segment of the population who sees themselves as genetically isolated and unique and in danger of genetic annihilation.

I don’t see this coming up on the Gay Agenda.

If it’s genetic, then I think most of what you said is true. A few points, though:

  1. It’s pretty likely a recessive gene, since gay kids often have straight parents and vice versa. Recessive genes take many more generations to weed out of the gene pool than dominant genes and, as you pointed out, the forced repression would have gotten this one pretty well mixed in.

  2. I can’t guess how many generations it would take for this to have even a measurable effect, but my understanding is that evolutionary changes in a gene pool usually happen on the scale of many generations. 100s? 1000s? I have no idea. Regardless, I wouldn’t expect to see any real effect for centuries. Maybe thousands of centuries. I don’t think we need to set up any gay wildlife refuges just yet…

  3. Lesbians and bisexual women usually have the same biological desire to have children as straight women. As society becomes more accepting, I suspect that more gay women will have children through artificial insemination. This would further reduce the rate of homosexual extinction.

  4. Why would the gay community band together to take action? They aren’t some different species of animal. They’re just people born a certain way, like left-handed frea…I mean, people. I can’t imagine any of them care if humans are less likely to be homosexual in 40,000 years, any more than lefties would.

I heard that.
::mumble mumble . . .rightist bigots . . . mumble:: :wink:

Suppose it is a genetic trait. We have no clue what activates a wide range of genes, or how they are expressed. Something as (relatively) simple as late-life diabetes – those at risk, because carrying the gene, should be treatable before their Islets of Langerhans shut down.

Remember that virtually every gay person is the descendant of a long line of presumably straight people. (“Virtually” to allow for the occasions where a gay man fathers children in an attempt to “turn himself straight” and one of the kids is gay – such as Mel and Mike White.)

Lissener, you owe it to posterity to preserve your genes! Next time you have an orgasm, save the “results” and give them to the nearest friendly lesbian couple who want children, along with a complimentary turkey baster! :smiley:

One additional serious thought: presuming gayness is genetic, it would have occurred about equally often in history. Now more openness in the last 25 years has meant there are more “out” gays – but there have probably been as many in total. And one assumes that most closeted gays in 1430 or 1850 simply did not marry and have children, just as happens today. There were a lot of convenient reasons one could give throughout most of history – uh, I have a vocation to monastic life, that’s it – I haven’t found a woman I want to settle down with, but just you wait! – Artemis has called me to a celibate life as her devotee – and so on. Few if any closeted gays prior to 1975 would turn to straight sex simply because gay sex was verboten.

It would be my speculation that whatever keeps the “gay gene” active in the gene pool has functioned quite well to do so throughout history. If this were untrue, it would have reduced its occurrence by now, in a trend line that if extrapolated back would show the entire population gay at some point in the past.

Just some speculations.

I’ve got a mayonnaise jar that’s almost empty. I’ll start tonight!

I personally believe that there is a strong genetic component to homosexuality. To an extent, I can see it evidenced in my own family- the paternal cousin that I am most similar to is also gay. However, I’m her cousin, not her child, so could it be argued that we got “the gene” from our fathers? I don’t think it’s that simplistic- environmental factors doubtlessly caused something.

I don’t think it’s a possibility that homosexuality can be “bred out” of the species, simply because there have got to be some environmental factors working in there somewhere.

There have always been gay people who have children. (IIRC, in certain eras it was not uncommon for people to be married but be fooling around with a motss on the side.)

BTW, let us not forget the gayby boom… :slight_smile:

Damnit, where did I put my turkey baster?

10% of a population isn’t rare?

Closet? Not really the right concept. Exclusive homosexuality certainly is a modern development. Having a family has generally been de rigeur. We can find historical examples where societies saw no necessary contradiction between liking sex for fun with same sex, and screwing for babies… Outside of the industrialized West, this likely remains to be the case.

If there is such a thing as a genetic disposition to homosexuality --I’m agnostic-- it is not likely to be “a gene” but perhaps a package of alleles… And expression may be environmentally determined. We’ll have to learn about the underlying genetic basis of sexual desire.

Maybe in the industrial west. But then fertility in general is dropping.

I agree that it is probably a recessive gene, but I do believe it is genetic. Anything that reduces the chances of a carrier of a gene from reproducing will reduce the frequency of that gene.

It is true that in the old days it might be possible for a gay man to live a life without starting a family, but it would be a LOT tougher, especially as you go further back. What could a poor gay peasant do in an agrarian society that depended on having children to work your land? Not EVERYONE could join the clergy, and consider that in these times marriages were often arranged for people who were still going through puberty, or even sooner. What reason could a closeted gay give to his family for refusing to marry, especially when the wife came with a dowry? Societal pressure to marry and have children was much higher in the past than it is now. Look at all the historical figures who are known or suspected of being gay - a LOT of them had wives and kids.

Heh, and look at this side of it - even if I am wrong, imagine if the idea that gays coming out of the closet might get rid of homosexuality in the future was adopted by the Christian Right and other groups who disapprove of homosexuality - they might start encouraging homosexuals to come out and marry other homosexuals! 8^)

Even if it’s a single, simple, recessive gene that causes homosexuality, it’s still going to take a long, long time. Assume it’s well mixed into the gene pool (compatible with your original statements). Two straight people with this recessive gene could have four kids, one of whom might be gay. That’s not going to hurt their chances of passing the gene on – the other three straight kids will have kids.

The only way it would really affect the gene pool would be if no couple ever had more than one child. Then family trees would stop at gay children more frequently than straight children. So you’d have a small selection criteria against the “gay gene”.

Plus, in the time it would take to notice any effect at all, there could be other random factors promoting the same gene. For example, gay men might all realize that someone will pay them to masturbate. Suddenly, it’s raining men at the sperm bank. Hallelujah! (Ew. That didn’t come out quite right.) Then the gay gene is back in business, baby.

And when it is, I’ll be there, mayonaise jar in hand.

Part of the problem I’m seeign here is int he definition of “genetic.”

All too often, when people hear that word to describe a condition or trait they think of something inheritable, single allele, dominant or recessive–IOW, what we remember from high school bio.

But just because somethng is “genetic” does not mean it’s inherited, or even inheritable. An example: Down Syndrome (trisomy 21) is a genetic disorder in which there is an extra whole or partial 21st chromosome. While Down mothers are much more likely to have Down babies than other women (50% versus 0.1%), for the most part it’s not inherited (and causes are still unknown). It’s “genetic,” but it’s neither dominant nor recessive.

I’m certainly not comparing Down to homosexuality, juts pointing out that a genetic cause is not as simple as we might hope.

What about the possibility that humans are born bisexual? Maybe what is passed on is just a sex drive of varying degrees of vigor, and it is social conditioning that drives its “orientation”. I read an article in the online version of Current Anthropology a couple of months ago that attempted to explore homosexuality from an evolutionary standpoint, and that was one of a number of hypotheses that was explored. I’d really like to link to the article, but the site is password protected now; they require you to register and purchase a subscription in order to read their articles. :frowning: I am not an anthropologist or biologist (which will soon become apparent), but I’ll try to recall some of what was in the article. The thrust of the argument (no pun intended) for human bisexuality was (IIRC):

  1. Bisexuality (and homosexuality) and bisexual behavior is too common to be considered an evolutionary anomaly.

  2. There is an increased incidence of homosexual behavior in single-sex institutions (prisons, boarding schools, the military), which would suggest that people who consider themselves exclusively heterosexual can change their behavior if the environmental stresses are great enough.

  3. The percentage of people who regard themselves as exclusively homosexual is less than the percentage of people who have admitted to homosexual behavior but are primarily heterosexual.

  4. There have been a number of societies in the past that have tolerated or even encouraged bisexual behavior (the ancient Greeks, the Florentines, the 17th century Japanese) to a greater degree than our current culture permits. Presumably, these people did so willingly, so why did they do it?

Obviously, I’m not saying that this proves anything, or that I even believe it. I’m working from memory here (Damn, I wish I had saved that article), and the arguments listed above don’t really amount to anything earth-shattering, they are a collection of statistical measurements that are open to interpretation. But it seems like an interesting idea, and there is much that we don’t understand about human sexuality. I just thought I’d throw it out for possible discussion (or destruction) by the more scientifically literate members of the SDMB.

headshok, you (or the article you’re paraphrasing) are lumping together “homosexual” and “heterosexuals/bisexuals who have participated in a homosexual act.”

You’re conflating orientation and behavior (and possibly even isolated as opposed to habitual behavior). For the sake of this discussion I think the “homosexuality” being discussed is orientation.

We all know about prisons and ancient Greece (hell, I’ve done my share of straight guys :o ). This is, let us say recreational behavior brought about by environment or alcohol.

Since this discussion is primarily about genetic predisposition–orientation–I think we can leave the instant gratification of horny hets out of it.

Oh, I promised myself that I would get involved in a debate like this because it is too close to my own field (sexual differentiation). However, I would like to say that the idea that homosexuality is caused by genetics is correct in spirit (they are born that way) but wrong in fact. Genetics do not explain all of development even up until the moment of birth.

What can easily explain this, as Wrath has already suggested, is the effects of sex hormones on development. I am going to pull a Collounsbury here and suggest that, if you are really interested in topic, you read a good college text on sexual differentiation. Even Time, Newsweek, and Scientific Amercican have all carried good starter articles on this topic.

I am going to back out now, but if you are going to post, think sex hormones not pure genetics. The literature is so well developed that I would even go far as to say that this isn’t really a Greate Debate at all.

I’ve become a noun?!?! Well, of course, I’ve always been a noun come to think of it. Let’s see, what would be the right term here. Classifying noun?

Well, everything I have read shows that we don’t know one way or another, but there is evidence that it is genetic.

How about a cite thatt this is “wrong in fact,” please…

Yer pal,
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Adding my $0.02…

The biggest problem I see here is that people are looking at this as a black/white sitution. You’re either gay or straight. This ignores the established fact that human sexuality is a broad spectrum of experience ranging from purely heterosexual to purely homosexual. Kinsey’s scale of 0 to 6 establishes a nice gradient for this.

This boils down to; if sexual expression is geneticly detirmined, how do you explain those Kinsey 1-5 numbers, the people who have desire for both sexes?

Because of this, I think that while genetics is part of what causes sexual expression, it’s certainly not the only part or possibly even a major component.

I’ll reiterate what was said before - homosexuality isn’t solely a genetic phenomenon. There are too many other factors to say that one societal change will either help or hinder its development or demise.

'Sides - who cares? (Well, I do, but that’s only because I’m currently single. :D)


Well, common sense would seem to back that up… how often do we see a system as complex as a person’s sexual orientation spring from a single source?

I’d imagine that a good deal stems from status at birth (different balances of chemicals and hormones and such), but I’d think that some aspects of a developing person stems greatly from the environment that they’re raised in, or what influences they have on their lives, etc. etc. Then there are some (like me) who seem to develop no sexual identity of their own (much to the chagrin of people who like to flirt).

Anyway, to address the OP…

I think, as homosexuality gets more and more acceptance, people will simply stop noticing it all that much. I would think that eventually, you can tell people that you prefer those of the same gender, they’d react much the same way as if you told them you prefer relish on your hamburger. While there’ll probably always be people to condemn homosexuality (hopefully, those’ll be the people that become less common :D), I don’t see homosexuality decreasing significantly any time soon.

(Just my oh-so-humble opinion :))