Truth be told many, if not all indigenous cultures, including our own, have been influenced by European homophobia and misogyny.
Truth be told many, if not all indigenous cultures, including our own, have been influenced by European homophobia and misogyny.|Source: unsplash
Hot Musings

How Did Homosexuality Evolve?

Hotwire Intern, Leah Chauhan, discusses the evolution of homosexuality in the age of Darwinism. Here, she shares her thoughts.

By Leah Chauhan

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With the passing of the landslide legislation in 2019 effectively legalising homosexuality in Botswana, the subject of the LGBTQ+ community is slowly gaining mainstream acceptance. Unfortunately, there remains a lot of misconceptions and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

This anti-LGBTQ+ viewpoint, however, is a relatively modern and western practice arriving only when Bechuanaland became a British Protectorate in the 19th century and began enforcing Victorian-era laws and social policies. Truth be told many, if not all indigenous cultures, including our own, have been influenced by European homophobia and misogyny. In the 18th century the KhoiKhoi people, who once inhabited parts of modern-day Botswana, Namibia and South Africa recognised the term koetsire, referring to a male who is sexually responsive to another male. Prior to colonisation, Tswana society did not share the Western interpretations of sexuality and gender as homosexuality was not viewed as the direct opposite of heterosexuality.

Evidence of homosexuality amongst animals have been documented from as far back as the 1700s but has not been heavily explored due to western taboos imposed on the scientific community. Homosexuality and especially bisexuality are extremely widespread amongst thousands of species varying from giraffes to ducks. However, within the animal kingdom bisexuality is a wide spectrum and can encompass sexual activity, pair bonding, courtship, affection and even parenting amongst same-sex mates.

If you took a high school biology class you might be familiar with evolution and how it is theorised to work, but for those who are unfamiliar with the topic “evolution is the change in the characteristics of a species over several generations and relies on the process of natural selection.” An example of evolution is of the peppered moth. The peppered moth had its light-coloured wings darkened after the Industrial Revolution due to the rapid surge in air pollution at the time. This genetic mutation likely took place because the light-coloured moths were too easily seen by birds that preyed upon them, so with natural selection, the dark coloured moths were able to survive and reproduce. To put it simply, evolution is when the features and or characteristics of a species are slightly changed to increase the likelihood of the species survival.

In the age of Darwinism, same-sex relations have puzzled the scientific community as it is sexual activity and behaviour but is not reproductive. As many same-sex couples do not reproduce and thus do not pass their genetic information down to an offspring, it is a paradox from an evolutionary perspective. So, I wanted to take a deep dive into the question that ultimately has no answer, how did homosexuality evolve? I would also like to disclaim that these are all theories and whilst none of these is considered to be scientific fact, they are still regarded as satisfactorily established on the topic.

A theory I would like to explore is the theory known as “bisexual advantage,” that theorises that species with more fluid sexuality stand a higher chance to reproduce than those with less. The argument is that bisexuality is an observable characteristic that corresponds to a gene coded in one’s DNA. If the gene caused the host to become more objectively “feminine” it would result in females reproducing more frequently and thus having more offspring. This would be considered a desirable trait in females and thus the gene would be passed down to future generations. Despite the positive effects on females, the male offspring would also be receiving the “feminine” gene although it would be “disadvantageous” to them from an evolutionary standpoint.

Another theory stems from this reasoning known as the kin selection hypothesis. Homosexual men would likely play an important role within their communities due to their increased free time as a result of not having children. Research shows that feminine men are more inclined to babysit, tutor and play with their nieces and nephews than heterosexual men. This would make it that homosexuality possibly evolved due to social rather than reproductive reasons.

The aformentioned theories are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unpacking a question as big, and with as many variables affecting it, as to "how did homosexuality evolve?" but it is important to question and theorise how homosexuality evolved because ultimately, it did evolve. Sexuality is a tremendously complex and tangled trait interconnected to society, attraction, social bonds and desire, and similarly to other emotions and feelings, it cannot be measured or even fully explained, only felt. Unfortunately, people still feel societal pressures to conceal their sexuality and hopefully, by asking these kinds of questions, people who are denying themselves the freedom to fully express themselves can realise that what they are experiencing is as old as human history itself.

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