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Gay & Gender-Queer

The end of this page has some comments on transgenderism (starting with some concerns, then a bit of research and finally not much in the way of strong conclusions!),
the middle has a short section on community parenting to support young parents, which has nothing to do with gay/queer but has some overlap with the following thoughts on the question of...

Is group parenting the evolutionary purpose of homosexuality?
So, the Australian Same-Sex Marriage survey is done and achieved precisely nothing - an appalling process that asked a question that should never have gone to a public vote (allowing the tyranny of the majority to determine the basic rights of minority groups), told us nothing we didn't already know and yet failed to properly address all the issues of detail that parliament still had to debate, like so-called "religious protections".
I'm not generally in favour of so-called "religious" exemptions (in any sphere), because most religious practices are just a continuation of historic customs that once had a benefit for society but may no longer do so (and some, like the burqa, are oppressive distortions of a religion that if followed properly actually places the onus for modesty on men before women, but it would be better to offer burqa wearers support services rather than ban it in public, which seems likely to only further oppress them behind closed doors).  Too often "religion" just seems to be an excuse for not thinking more deeply.  

But one underlying issue that concerned many 'no' voters was what (if anything) allowing gay marriage might consequently mean for gay parenting, and most importantly, the rights of children and their biological parents (which underpin this opinion opposing surrogacy).  I do think it's important for children to know and grow up with their biological mother & father if at all possible, and I have significant concerns about how society currently fails to recognise and support father's rights, so this got me thinking about all the issues and then wondering why there are so many gay people in the world, given one would think it's not exactly a trait likely to be evolutionary advantageous for passing on the associated "gay genes".  The proportion of the population that is gay (or non-heterosexual in some way) is uncertain, but at around 4-10%depending on where & how it's assessed (or maybe even a bit higher in Australia, where it is apparently rising, or increasingly admitted) it seems too high to be a persistent genetic/evolutionary 'flaw' with no advantages, especially as it also prevails widely in many other species (but note the same argument may not hold for less-common transgenderism, discussed further below).
Not surprisingly, it seems I'm not the first person to be puzzled by this.

One scientist tried to suggest lesbianism evolved because straight men like it and you can guess what the reaction was!  I generally support people putting forward any ideas even if they are morally contentious, but in this case it doesn't seem very convincing "research", not because it's offensive, porn-inspired rubbish but it shows little understanding of how evolution works (men should only like it if doing so helps the species survive), and anyway the hypothesis only seems relevant to why a lot of women might be bi-sexual (rather than purely lesbian).  My initial thought in reaction was that lesbians have only survived evolution because men rape them, which also explains why big, stupid, insensitive men have survived evolution as well!  But this is still not an actively useful characteristic of being lesbian (which it seems must exist), and also rape of gay men seems an even less plausible evolutionary theory.

The fact that homosexuality is widespread across the animal kingdom (e.g. up to 10% of male sheep are gaysuggests it has some evolutionary purpose, and given some researchers have suggested that a switchable "gay gene" is a means of controlling animal population levels at sustainable levels, this could become increasingly important for humans as science continually extends life expectancies (but bi-sexuality may be encouraged more than pure homosexuality if increasing respect for gays & lesbians in modern society reduces their coercion into male-female relationships and causes "pure gay genes" to die out).
Although at present there is no clear agreement as to what the evolutionary advantages of human homosexuality are, I think the most likely hypotheses would relate to the benefits of affection and in particular parenting within a group, on which I expand here, leading me to some interesting & perhaps somewhat challenging conclusions:

I assume most if not all of human's evolutionary traits would have developed for their benefits in our early hunter-gatherer days, and in this case I imagine gay men would be helpful for heavy-lifting duties and protection of cave-women from intruders (without being a rape threat themselves) whilst the majority of tribes-men went out hunting for days on end.  Having a male role-model around for young boys may also be a benefit, whilst some feminine (or stereotypically gay) characteristics, like empathic understanding, could also be helpful, e.g. for minding of babies/kids in the cave (which suggests gay men would now make the best adoptive Dads & might also explain why a lot of women like hanging out with gay men).
And as a minority amongst the women at home, they may also be at greater risk of rape by sex-starved women whilst the other men were away - enabling their gay genes to survive, although a better explanation than rape or coercion for the continued propagation of gay genes could be that they are recessive in many or most people and only become active when the right combinations mix, perhaps also assisted by the environment & culture.[1]  Also mothers' hormones may cause an increased chance of homsexuality for larger numbers of children, maybe as a means of moderating unsustainably large populations.

Meanwhile lesbians would be useful for breast-feeding babies when the natural mothers didn't have enough milk, such as in times of famine, drought, death (e.g. during childbirth), or simply for mothers who commonly had to feed many babies at once (twins, triplets etc or several closely-spaced births) - especially given the energy required to breast-feed as they did for 5-6 years.  At these times it would be better to have childless women who have an affectionate bond with the mothers and can help ensure a fewer number of babies in the group are fed well, rather than having a larger number of babies all of whom are fed inadequately (and note some women, & even men can lactate without having been pregnant, even after menopause).  With this explanation, it's hardly surprising that humanity had a greater need for and hence higher percentage of lesbians (or bi-sexual women) than gay men, and it also explains why most women find breasts attractive. (This idea came to me after I'd been wondering why men like big boobs (even when they feel guilty about it), and realised it's obviously a sign of baby-feeding capability - so there you go Julia Roberts / Anna Scott of Notting Hill !)

Similarly, I've been wondering why women have longer and thicker hair, and men find this attractive (noting that culture could only explain length, and anyway, culture develops for practical reasons), and in my ponderings on evolution I hypothesise that it's for babies to cling to (like other animals cling to fur) whilst Mum is on the move through the trees or out of Africa (which may explain why some women feel pleasure - so I'm told - as well as pain when a baby or their partner pulls their hair).  As for the few men who grow their hair long these days, I suspect they do so because they can, because it grows unusually fast & long compared to most other men.

In general, men are most attracted to the visual indicators of a good breeder (birthing & feeding features, and symmetrical features, which are an objectively determined measure of "beauty" that indicate a more diverse & healthy genetic base), whereas women tend to give greater emphasis to a man's family-supportive behaviours.  However, it's beneficial for women to find the feminine form attractive, so they can help their friends look nice to attract a mate (as we see in the extreme on social media these days).
And so returning to the "offensive porn" theory above, well, it's probably not the primary driver but men's liking of M-F-F threesomes would at least avoid a barrier to these evolutionary-beneficial baby-feeding practices! (Basically, back-up baby-feeders are attractive!)  It might also explain the greater historic tendency of cultures in hot countries (where drought may cause milk to dry up more) to encourage men to have multiple wives (but it's not necessary in these modern times!).

Since those ancient times I suppose social pressure to marry & have kids has kept gay genes alive, but the economic & demographic changes of recent decades may be again increasing the benefits of homosexuality, not least to meet the desperate need for childcare as more women go out to work in the new "knowledge economy" (more so than was economically beneficial in old heavy industry).  In fact it may simply be social acceptance - set by society's needs - that determines the extent to which "gay genes" are activated or acted on (or rather, the extent to which these tendencies are suppressed or not, as it's not as simple as a single 'gay gene' and they may reside in all of us to a greater or lesser extent).  So lately we're becoming more tolerant of gay people because we have a greater need for them!
But, as it is desirable for children to grow up with both male and female loving carers & role models, the best form of gay parenting would still be at least partly within a group/collective community, rather than just a two-adult household.
Also, given how many non-ideal male-female heterosexual households there are, sometimes with awful domestic violence consequences, the same could be said of them.
More broadly, let's face it, parenting is bloody hard, even for two parents (let alone single parents), and given grandparents these days seem to be too far away &/or too busy enjoying retirement on world cruises, and the last thing most of us weary parents want to do is mind someone else's kids, who better to give us a break and mind the children than childless gay friends or family?

So, to my surprise, I conclude that from an evolutionary perspective, the purpose of gay people is probably to help with raising children, and still now in modern times we need more ways of encouraging group/collective community parenting, for people of all sexual orientations.


[1] Inspiration from Dan at The Anchor (Bankside), near St Paul's, London, 8 Dec. 2017

Teenage Mums & community parenting
On the subject of group or community-supported parenting, I had my eyes opened recently to my own and modern western society's prejudices against teenage Mum's, by a well-spoken young Mum at the launch of the 2017 Children's Rights Report.
It got me thinking - we need to support not judge them, not least as they are having children at a more biologically optimal age than is most common these days, and then they have the rest of their life free for higher education (especially easily accessed & affordable online courses) and then a career they can throw themselves into without facing the dilemma and sacrifices from having to pause, compromise or abandon it to have children at a late age.  Makes a lot of sense really; we ought to make it an easier option.
Besides, from my experience, having kids forces parents to become more selfless & grow up (otherwise, as a friend said, your head will explode!), so it seems better for everyone if we do that sooner, rather than waiting until later in life when we're more stuck in our selfish ways.

Must transgender & intersex issues be lumped into LGBTIQ...?
To answer the heading's question - no, I don't think they should.  Aside from the ridiculous, constant lengthening of the LGBTIQ...XYZ label, I don't see why intersex & transgender people (or “gender incongruent”, that is, having a female brain in a male body or vice-versa) would want to be put in the same category as "gay" people (which could reasonably cover "LGB"), or why gay people would want to be grouped with T&I peoplegiven the latter experience very different issues of physical or psychological gender identity ("genderqueer"), rather than sexual partner preference.  Lumping them all together into one supposed "LGBTIQ community" suggests they're all the same, and does nothing to enlighten others about their differences.  It seems ironic that they get labelled this way when the whole point should be to acknowledge, accept & even celebrate differences, and it suggests that the label is being used more as a badge of political correctness (PC) than for genuine concern for these people's issues.

On which, concerns are arising in public debate about the unthinking application of PC agendas, such as female-gendered & gay traffic lights (which seems a pointless waste of money, & likewise for pro-vegan lights, although I must confess I think Elvis ones look rather cool, so maybe I'm just being prejudiced) and the dogmatic promotion of transgenderism, for example this feminist group trying to get people to say "pregnant people" instead of "pregnant women", in the name of transgender sensitivity, “because people of all genders can fall pregnant”, or transgender boys who say they identify as girls being allowed to participate in and unfairly win girls athletic races (or adult Olympics & even boxing - with predictably dreadful consequences!), or allowing men claiming to be transgender into women's prisons, where they can sexually assault real women.  When taken this far, I am inclined to agree with Germaine Greer's view that it is nonsensical to allow someone with a male body to claim to be a woman and have all the rights of fully genuine females (or vice versa), such as using female toilets or sharing a girl's dormitory (but then that does mean we need some unisex toilets that they can use).  It's always the over-zealous ones who become a good cause's own worst enemy, as those who raise concerns get strongly & unfairly criticised for being "transphobic", which only further increases concerns about the gender-PC lobby becoming too strident (e.g. when vetting children's books).

It's hard to know what is more ridiculous - the state of affairs that leads some women feeling that they need to defend the meaning of the word "woman", or the fact that they actually did advertise the definition, or that this was then declared anti-trans "hate speech" and pulled down.  Of more serious concern, it seems the UK has decided that calling a transgender person by their less preferred pronoun constitutes a crime of hate speech warranting arrest and detention (& is a priority for limited police resources), whilst Canada is fining people for offending transgender women by referring to them as "biological male", regardless of this being fact.  I'm surely not the only person who gets confused as to whether a "transgender woman" is a man who thinks they're a woman, or vice versa?  And whether it intends to or does cause offence or not, isn't it a legitimate matter for debate whether using the term man/woman should be based on someone's genitals or their state of mind?  I can understand that how someone thinks about their gender is core to their sense of self, but it's not objectively observable and can potentially change without surgery.  And how should transgender people flag to those around them how they want to be seen and addressed?  By how they dress?  So is it more necessary to call someone a woman if they look and dress more like a woman?  We seem to have forgotten why we have "hate speech" laws - which is to protect society from those who would actively encourage hatred & violence towards others in society - and where the balance should sit relative to free speech, which, much as it may be undesirable and contravene polite social customs, must unavoidably allow for people calling each other names and causing offence.

Public unease about intolerant fanaticism in this area is further heightened by incidents like this student editor fired for saying women don't have penises, or this UK Doctor losing his job because he refused to accept that gender is a social constructand similarly a Swedish university is investigating a professor for “anti-feminism” and “transphobia” for correctly saying there are “biologically founded” differences between men and women and therefore genders cannot be regarded as “social constructs alone” (as per the references in my discussion of patriarchy here).  Perhaps of most concern is the World Health Organisation (WHO) deciding to reclassify transgenderism under “conditions related to sexual health” instead of “mental, behavioural & neurodevelopmental disorders”, not for scientific-medical reasons, but to "reduce stigma” (and to “even increase access to healthcare” by trying to influence insurers' classification of it).  Most recently, Tasmania's lower house voted to remove a baby's sex from birth certificates, unless parents apply to include it.  I'm not sure what the implications of this may be and am concerned these changes are being pushed through without broad community support, which may lead to a future backlash.

With this background, it's not surprising that there is public concern as to whether political correctness is encouraging gender theories & practices to be propagated in an unprofessional way to young children in schools (via the ABC or other non-professional psychology sources, like transgender puppet videos).  Children (i.e. up to & even beyond age 18) have immature, highly malleable brains and need clear guidance, not confusing messages about their very nature, so increasing their confusion & self-doubt through indoctrination with scientifically-undeveloped gender theories, overseen only by non-expert teachers, risks encouraging innocent, gender-confused (dysphoric) children down a path that could ultimately lead to premature transgender medication & operations, which some professionals say amount to child abuse (& are opposed in all circumstances by some medical experts - see also attached).  If a child is confused about their gender it can be for a range of reasons and is often only temporary if supported by proper guidance & professional counselling.  Children are also easily influenced or even manipulated by others (unfortunately there are a few bad & mad parents in this world) and are not mature and independent enough to make such decisions themselves.  Of course we can & should have compassion & be supportive for T&I people, but I don't think we should be enthusiastically promoting transgenderism in schools (if such accusations are at all true).

These concerns appear to be reinforced by criticisms of the UK's gender transitioning service for "fast-tracking" children into changing gender, with the dismissing of robust challenge to diagnoses and therapy risks, due to claimed pressure from zealous transgender activists, said to be contributing to a "surge" in the number of children being referred for gender-changing treatment, from 100 in 2009 to 2,590 in 2018and from just two in Australia in 2013 to about 100 in 2018, but note this critical response and also that these numbers being referred each year for possible transition are still far less than the numbers one would expect for about 0.6% (+/-0.4%) of the population believed to be transgender (about 8,000 trans kids in Australia in a range of 10-14 years and around 24,000 at that age in the UK).  Concerns are also raised by school course content descriptions that may suggest some adherence to the flawed notion that gender psychological differences are only a social construct - a theory that ironically is dismissed by the transgender experts in this very interesting video, which notes that transgenderism is at "early stages of understanding" (at 48'48"), but provides evidence of how a combination of genetics and hormones (the latter also usually triggered by genetics, which ultimately cause transgenderism) create typical differences in male & female brain/thinking/emotional characteristics, although often with significant overlap - as shown in the first two slides below (from the video at 30-40 mins).

The slides also show the dramatic increase in transgenderism caused by the presence of testosterone (during foetus development)or lack of response to it.  Without these influences, the number of transgender people would be even lower than they are - which is reflected in the very small overlap between the frequency distributions for "identification with male gender" in the first slide below.  The incidence of transgenderism is about 0.5-1%, whilst intersex rates are even lower at 0.05%, although of course this stills adds up to a significant number of people across a nation.  Unlike my arguments above for gay people, these very small prevalence rates suggest their occurrence could simply be due to natural genetic variations (which are required for evolution to work at all), rather than any distinct evolutionary advantage.

Whilst the experts in the video advocate giving puberty blockers to gender-dysphoric children, so they have time to consider more permanent & irreversible sex-change treatment (which would be more drastic after puberty), this logic seems to ignore the potential for puberty to change a child's thoughts & feelings about what they want (since hormones inevitably affect brain development as well as physical development, as the charts below confirm).  So the process of going through puberty can actually fix the problem, but if it doesn't, then fixing it becomes a lot harder.  On the other hand, premature use of puberty blockers could lead to transgender operations that people would otherwise not have chosen, and may go on to regret (as some do).  Unfortunately it's a "catch 22", with no easy or perfect way to make such decisions, but recognising the uncertainty is especially important given 3/4 of young children confused about their gender are no longer so after puberty (& only 1 in 5 prepubescent children showing persistent gender dysphoria go on to become fully transgender - ref. video at 47'15").  This is why puberty blockers are apparently started only just after puberty commences (& after ruling out non-permanent causes for their dysphoria) - so the child has begun to experience what puberty is bringing on for them - but this still suggests they don't actually get any time to contemplate their future in a fully-settled, post-puberty hormonal & brain state, and the brief partial experience they do get is likely to be quite confusing & frightening, as it can be for all teenagers!  Basically you need to predict before puberty which kids are amongst the 1 in 4 who won't be helped by going through it, and therefore might want to seriously consider treatment for gender reassignment.  How good are psychiatrists at making such predictions?  I've no idea, but given the underdeveloped nature of our understanding about this condition, I guess I still have some concerns.

But then again there's the enormous benefit to consider for those children who really are trapped in the wrong body, as you may appreciate from this video.  Given about half of all young transgender people attempt suicide and 4 out of 5 engage in self harmI realise it is a horribly difficult dilemma for people directly involved.  I am inclined to say that unless there is an absolutely overwhelming case (backed up by multiple independent medical experts and the agreement of both parents!), we should just let nature take its course and accept & support people as they are and end up, but I can't adopt any strong conclusion about such a person-specific issue, other than to appeal for society to use different labels!  It seems to me that "queer" (whether sexually queer or gender-queer) is still the simplest, all-encompassing term to use.  After all... 

"There's nowt so queer as folk, except for thee & me, and even thee's a little queer!"

an old quote with variation from Yorkshire - a place known for their liberal attitudes! ;-)

David Thorp,
6 Sep 2018, 16:58