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Homosexuality May Have Evolved in Humans Because It Helps Us Bond

January 9, 2017

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Quiz
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Source: Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons

Homosexuality, or being gay is the romantic attraction between members of the same gender. As such, being gay is an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or attractions to people of the same 1) ___. It also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions. Along with bisexuality and heterosexuality, being gay is one of the three main categories within the heterosexual-homosexual continuum. The exact cause of being gay is not known, but it is believed to be caused by a complex interplay of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences, and do not view it as a 2) ___. The favored biologically-based theories point to genetic factors, the early uterine environment, both, or the inclusion of genetic and social factors. There is no substantive evidence which suggests parenting or early 3) ___ experiences play a role when it comes to being gay. While some people believe that gay activity is unnatural, scientific research has shown that being gay could be a normal and natural variation in human 4) ___ and is not in and of itself a source of negative psychological effects.

The number of people who identify as gay or lesbian is difficult to estimate reliably for a variety of reasons, including many gay or lesbian people not openly identifying as such due. Homosexual behavior has also been documented and is observed in many non-human 5) ___ species. Many gay and lesbian people are in committed same-gender relationships, though only recently have census forms and political conditions facilitated their visibility and enumeration. These relationships are equivalent to heterosexual relationships in essential psychological respects.

Gay relationships and acts have been admired, as well as condemned, throughout recorded 6) ___, depending on the form they took and the culture in which they occurred. Since the end of the 19th century, there has been a global movement towards increased visibility, recognition, and legal rights for gay people, including the rights to marriage and civil unions, adoption and parenting, employment, military service, equal access to health care, and the introduction of anti-bullying legislation to protect gay minors.

Scientists have long been puzzled by homosexuality, as it seems to be at odds with the basic human drive to 7) ___. Various theories have been offered, from the notion that gay men make more diligent uncles than their heterosexual counterparts (and thus are better at ensuring the survival of their relatives) to the notion that the same gene that codes for homosexuality in men makes women more fertile. Now researchers from the University of Portsmouth in England have put forth a controversial new theory. They say homosexuality evolved in humans and other primates because it helps us form 8) ___ with one another. From an evolutionary perspective, we tend to think of sexual behavior as a means to an end for reproduction, Dr. Diana Fleischman, an evolutionary psychologist at the university and one of the researchers, said in a written statement. However, because sexual behavior is intimate and pleasurable, it is also used in many species, including non-human primates, to help form and maintain social bonds. We can all see this in romantic couples who bond by engaging in sexual behavior even when reproduction is not possible. For the study, 92 women were asked to indicate the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with various hypothetical statements about homosexual behavior, such as: The idea of kissing a person of the same gender is sexually arousing to me and If someone of the same gender made a pass at me I would be disgusted. Then the researchers measured levels of the hormone 9) ___ in the women’s saliva. Progesterone is linked to social bonding. What did the researchers find? Women with high progesterone levels were more open to engaging in homosexual activity. The researchers theorize that progesterone may make people want to bond with others, and since sexual activity is one form of bonding, homosexual as well as heterosexual behavior is encouraged. In another experiment, 59 men did word completion puzzles, filling in the blanks of words from one of the following three categories: friendship (for instance, fr  ds becomes friends), or neutral (sq.ar. becomes square). The researchers found that the men who completed the friendship puzzles were 26% more likely to be open to the idea of having relationships with other men compared to the men in the other two groups. In other words, when men were led to think about forming bonds with others, they were more open to homosexual as well as heterosexual behavior, Fleischman told The Huffington Post in an email. It’s very complex, but it’s clear there’s a continuum between 10) ___ and sexuality, and the ability to engage sexually with those of the same gender or the opposite gender is common, Fleischman said in the statement. In humans, much, if not most of same-gender behavior occurs in those who don’t identify as homosexual. An intriguing theory, for sure. But not everyone is buying the new research. It is a plausible theory that there is a societal benefit from homosexual behavior, but the link to progesterone is probably spurious, Dr. Gerard Conway, professor of reproductive endocrinology at University College, London, who was not involved in the study, told reporters. It’s a long way from proving cause and effect. The study was published November 25, 2016 in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. TED lecture: Homosexuality: It’s about survival| James O’Keefe MD

ANSWERS: 1) gender; 2) choice; 3) childhood; 4) behavior; 5) animal; 6) history; 7) reproduce; 8) bonds; 9) progesterone; 10) affection

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