I’ve heard many a person say that Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings were gay. But as it turns out, just as Wesley in The Princess Bride was actually “mostly dead”, Frodo and Sam were probably just “mostly” gay.
Likewise, I have heard complaints from those who feel the inclusion of homosexuality in a fantasy world is as unnecessary and arbitrary as having the heroic champion pause to rail against liberal tree-hugging mages who don’t understand the war against the Tarerids in Aroc.
Such persons may see homosexuality as a unique and voluntary product of our societal history that need not exist in fantasy worlds, or as the author’s personal view being thrust upon them. Such protests are often rooted in a belief that homosexuality is not “natural.”
So why does homosexuality exist? And does it make sense for fantasy worlds and fantasy races to include homosexual behaviors?
Well, an article by Robert Kunzig in the June, 2008 issue of Psychology Today offers not one but three answers to the mystery of homosexuality’s existence, and further proof that homosexuality is natural. While the research he discusses focuses on mundane earth-folk (and particularly males), I’d say these same answers would apply equally whether you’re from earth or Middle Earth.
First, it turns out there is not any single “gay gene.” Nope, not even Rock and Republic bootcuts. Rather, a wide variety of genetic traits and bio-chemical influences must all be just right for a man to turn out biologically homosexual (as versus the variety of hormones and recreational chemical influences that may make a young man experimentally bisexual).
Which means that yes, a man can be, say, 63 percent biologically gay. His sexual preferences may be completely heterosexual. He would be seen as a “real man” by today’s standards (or even by King Denethor’s standards). But he may have increased levels of kindness, sensitivity, and other nurturing traits one might consider more feminine than masculine. Think Aragorn off the battlefield.
Only if the other 37% of biological factors needed to make Aragorn gay had been just right during his creation would he have been born truly homosexual, and thus felt exclusively attracted to other men (or male elves, I suppose, although that’s a whole other issue).
So any woman seeking a man who is likely to stick around and help raise her child in a loving, nurturing environment would choose a guy who has a large number of the same “feminizing” traits that contribute to (but do not individually cause) homosexuality. She might even forgo sailing to paradise to stay with him.
And this is how these traits have been selected for and perpetuated down through the generations, spreading them throughout the male population, even though intuitively you might think homosexuality would be deselected as not increasing the likelihood of reproduction.
Another genetic factor, passed down from the mother to some male homosexuals, may literally drive a desire in some women to have lots o’ sex with men. Cue lusty bar wench. This is good for the mother since it increases the number of offspring and therefore the overall odds of her family line continuing. But passed down to sons, it may increase the odds of homosexuality.
Finally, there is the “fraternal birth order effect.” Basically, male homosexuals often have a large number of older brothers, and in fact the more older brothers a man has, the more likely he is to be gay. Why?
The leading theory is that women’s immune systems react to male fetuses, and with each successive pregnancy its resistance to male-specific proteins increases. Once this immune response reaches a certain strength, it may affect the developing fetus such that it becomes gay. This may very well explain the rarity of seventh sons of seventh sons – there’s a high probability that the first seventh son is gay, and not too likely to be fathering seven sons of his own.
Speaking of women, what of lesbians? Well, the studies focused on male homosexuals, allegedly due to the greater difficulty in determining female sexual orientation – as the article states, “women are much more likely to report fantasizing about both sexes, or to change how they report their sexual orientation over time.”
I’m sure that is part of it, as is, I suspect, that female homosexuality is seen as more acceptable by men and therefore less “controversial” (and thus in less urgent need of explanation). But the article suggests that perhaps similar factors that lead to male homosexuality may lead to female homosexuality – for example, a buildup of “masculinizing” genes that benefits the mother by making her a better protector of her child.
One potential issue some may have with this information is the use of the terms “feminizing” and “masculinizing,” as they imply certain behavioral traits are specific to gender. For example, it can be seen as sexist to say women are nurturing and men are violent, when clearly there are nurturing men and violent women.
This is a complex rabbit hole of a side issue. Suffice to say that there are differences in the genetics, the biochemistry, even the brain structures of the two sexes (to whatever degree that may contribute to, but not guarantee, predispositions to certain behaviors and traits).
And when a male has a traditionally “female” brain structure and/or certain genetic traits or predispositions that are dominantly seen in females, or that have been identified as contributing to behaviors that society and the researchers label (but are not really exclusively) feminine, this has been shown to result in homosexual behavior.
So what do all of these revelations on homosexuality mean?
It means that homosexuality is natural and isn’t going anywhere. Nor should it, since the individual traits that contribute to it are actually beneficial in many ways.
It also makes sense that homosexuality can certainly exist in fantasy worlds and fantasy races as well, for the same evolutionary reasons.
And it means that when you say some guy who just cut you down in Halo or World of Warcraft is “so gay” as a put down, you are technically correct, if as rude and unthinking as someone who uses a racial slur.
Because every “straight” guy you can think of, both real (Sean Hannity, Rick Santorum, the Pope, and Pastor Fred W. Phelps) or fictional (Indiana Jones, Perrin Aybara, Colbey the Renshai, or Captain Sun Wolf), is likely “a bit gay” — genetically speaking, of course.