The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1225  Thursday, 2 May 2002

From:           Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 1 May 2002 22:52:36 +0100
Subject: 13.1190 Re: Portrait of Southampton
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1190 Re: Portrait of Southampton

Jan Pick wrote,

> On the homosexuality question - Shakespeare was not
> homosexual - he had wife and children (fact) and possible
> other affairs with women.  He may well have been bi-sexual
> - in fact he probably was.

There's nothing to stop a homosexual man having a wife and children.
Indeed, this can be a 'cover' for those who do not wish their
homosexuality to be known. Surprisingly, the freedom from persecution
enjoyed by homosexuals in many modern countries might reduce the number
of homosexuals in future generations. That's because there might be an
hereditary component to homosexuality, and if so those homosexuals in
the past who fathered children had an opportunity to pass it on. Modern
homosexuals more free of the need for 'cover' presumably have, on
average, fewer children than their persecuted predecessors and thus
project fewer copies of their genes into the future.

It would appear, then, to be in the interest of a gene for homosexuality
to also promote shame of homosexuality, and so a gene for 'ashamed
homosexuality' would apparently have an advantage over a gene for
'unashamed homosexuality'. Since 'gene' means an arbitrary length of
code with a arbitrarily-interesting effect, one could rewrite this as
either a) a gene for homosexuality would develop the additional effect
of inducing shame of homosexuality, or b) a gene for homosexuality would
'team up' with a gene for inducing shame of homosexuality. (By 'team up'
I mean, of course, that each has a competitive advantage in the presence
of the other and so they would be selected together by evolutionary
pressure; not that they have volition.) It's hard to see what it could
mean for there to be a gene for 'shame of one's homosexuality' as a
free-floating characteristic existing independently of homosexuality
itself, so (a) seems more likely.  I suppose one could argue that the
shame could be a consequence of a gene for homophobia, which in
homosexuals is expressed as a self-loathing and in heterosexuals is
expressed as a hatred of homosexuals.

Progressive politics is easier if genes don't work like this, although
that isn't itself a reason to ignore possible evolutionary pressures
upon sexual behaviour. After, many of us routinely overrule our genes
by, for example, using contraception.

If anybody can see flaws in the above reasoning, I'd be grateful for

Gabriel Egan

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