"I am the love that dare not speak its name"
-Lord Alfred Douglas
(From the poem 'Two Loves')
-Lord Alfred Douglas
(From the poem 'Two Loves')
Homosexuality or same- sex love is the hottest, most-discussed human trait. Although in existence since prehistoric times, the gays and the lesbians, as the homosexuals are popularly known, have been banished to the 'back of beyond' thanks to the stigma linked to their sexual preference.
AdvertisementPresent-day liberalism has finally enabled the emergence of these languishing souls from the closets of a hypocrytic society.Perceived by many as the 'Devil's Own', the homosexuals are eager to shed their identity as 'rear-door entrants', and to enter the mainstream.
Homosexuality has been argued by the pro-gay lobby, as something scripted in the genes and, therefore, unchangeable. Research, towards this end, is on the hunt for a 'GAY gene' in order to lend credibility to a growing cause. Others, meanwhile, aggressively refute the gene theory and credit it all to the environment.
Holier Than Thou
Conservative proponents of Christianity argue that homosexuality is not interred in the genes. Instead, they credit the trait to a dalliance with the dark forces. Man's same -sex penchant has got many a 'holy' tongue wagging .It has been accused of as a profane act that is bound to speed in doomsday.
Majority of the 'faithful' regard this deviation as abnormal and unnatural. They perceive it as a direct consequence of a conscious indulgence with perversion. Many die-hards even believe that, with appropriate counseling and treatment, the deviants can be lured back to their place among the 'flock'.
What could be the driving force behind the natural selection of a 'maladaptive' trait with a potential to destroy the human race? Is homosexuality an acceptable variant of 'normal' human behavior? In other words is it normal to be gay?
According to prominent scientists, homosexuality is an anti-dote to evolution. Yet it has been loyally transmitted through thousands of years. Rational and the scientific minds have been working overtime to unravel the mystery that motivates man to pursue members of the same sex. Genetic studies have been carried out with the intent to decipher the intricacies of deviation.
The Polymorphic Gene
Several studies on homosexuality point a finger to the existence of a polymorphic gene, which is essentially a single gene that exists in various forms. Each of these forms is capable of functioning differently.
Why was this unfavorable gene favored by natural selection?
One of the theories indicates that few of our ancestors had bisexual leanings, a behavior which could not be expressed adequately because of an unfavorable ambiance. From this tendency, other forms of sexual orientation, such as homosexuality, evolved.
There are strong indications that people with these 'deviations' are endowed with profound adaptable qualities such as enhanced empathy, greater linguistic skills and other forms of creativity.
Women with these genes are known to have the potential to bear more children. This could be the driving force behind the selection of the homosexual trait.
"If Michelangelo had been straight, the Sistine Chapel would have been wallpapered"-Robin Tyler
One can only guess what Michelangelo's sexual leanings were!
Taking a cue from prior research , Gavrilets and Rice developed several mathematical models. These generated conflicting predictions on the potential factors that cause gene polymorphism which influences homosexuality.
It has also been discovered that the inheritance of this polymorphic gene, which sways sexual preferences, is non - Mendelian in nature; in other words, it cannot be explained in a way that the inheritance of blue eyes can be.
The Twinning Effect
Research during the past decades has witnessed the emergence of interesting genetic patterns behind homosexuality. Studies on identical twins indicate that genes influenced the sexual orientation of 50% of the cases studied.
Although it was a shot- in- the- arm for the pro-gay lobby, there was enough fodder for the anti-gay activists too, as it meant that environmental and non- genetic factors are also at play in deciding homosexuality.
Playing Big Brother
It is widely accepted that sexual orientation in males is settled before birth. Scientists Ray Blanchard and Anthony f. Bogart hypothesize that this could be the result of a cascade of events in a mother with a male baby, which resulted in the production of 'anti-male' antibodies against subsequent male fetuses. These antibodies, supposedly, succeed in demasculizing the brain, even prior to the birth.
So far no 'anti-male' antibody has been detected. But the facts about the fraternal birth-order effect remain fairly convincing. Having a big brother increases the chances for a male to be gay, by 33%. Having an older sister mattered very little.
Another scientist, Pillard, discovered that homosexuality is a trait inherited from the mother's side rather than from the father. Recent data indicates that female maternal relatives of gay men have a greater than normal fecundity rate.
It has been consistently observed that men have more number of neurological diseases than women. This is because women have two copies of X-related genes (unlike men who have just one), which softens the impact of a deleterious gene. This could explain the reason why men have more brain phenotypes, while in women they are successfully masked.
On the Fruit -Fly trail
Homosexuality has been widely observed in several members of the animal kingdom. Penguins are famous examples.
It may be fascinating to know that the humble fruit fly, Drosophila, shares several neurological and reproductive genes with the mighty humans. Research has revealed the existence of certain genes, which when modified, induces homosexuality in these flies. Simple logic compels one to think that the same applies to humans too.
The Biology of Being 'Gay'
A plethora of studies carried out to zero in on the 'gay gene' have helped to understand the biology of same- sex attraction.
According to Helen Fischer, an anthropologist at Rutgers University, three primary brain systems have evolved that controls human reproductive behavior.
• One initiates the sex drive that prompts people to seek partners.
• The second involves a mechanism for romantic attraction that focuses people on specific partners.
• The third controls a program that inspires people to co- habitate long enough to kick-start, and provide for, their family.
Contrary to popular belief that desire is the root of all evil, it is the spark that sustains the human race.
The brain is a full-fledged sex organ. 'Masculization' of the brain, influenced by the SRY gene, triggers a neural circuit that makes women desirable to men, while in 'different folks' it is wired differently.
According to Marc Breedlove, Department of Neuroscience, Michigan State University, "Most males are more stubborn in their ideas about which sex they want to pursue, while females are more flexible". This is evident even in the case of men who have accidentally lost their penises, but who continue to be attracted to women.
Desire is rooted, some argue and the attraction between sexes is not influenced by choice.
There has been a lot of confusion in understanding the fineries of homosexual behavior. All human traits are heritable but not inherited emphatically, like the color of one's eyes. This difference has been overplayed by some, to explain the vagaries associated with same- sex love and, to lend it the genetic tag.
Till date, no 'gay gene' has been unearthed. Evidence from numerous studies has highlighted the unquestionable involvement of environmental factors, which may be biological, psychological or social in nature.
Although a genetic component could help justify homosexuality, it could also usher in an era when women would 'selectively' snuff out sprouting lives in their wombs. It must be kept in mind that studies related to homosexuality are still at the nascent stage and lot more spadework needs to be done before lending sexual orientation a genetic twist.
Dr. REEJA THARU/K
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