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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Role for Same-sex Attraction Revealed. Is that so?

Definitions first:

The Samoan word fa'afafine literally translates as 'in the manner of a woman'. Fa'afafine are biological males who express feminine gender identities in a range of ways.

From: Redefining Fa'afafine: Western Discourses and the Construction of Transgenderism in Samoa, by Johanna Schmidt

Now to The Times of India - a must read.


"While homosexual individuals do not directly pass on their genes to successive generations by having children, they indirectly spread their genes through their families..."

...Past research has also shown that the fa'afafine are much more altruistically inclined toward their nieces and nephews than either Samoan women or heterosexual men. They are willing to babysit a lot, tutor their nieces and nephews in art and music, and help out financially-paying for medical care and education and so forth. "

My bit:

Excellent. While I do not see myself as a fa'afafine, I am "much more altruistically inclined toward my nieces and nephews" like the snippet above describes. I babysit for my sister. I really do. I hate the housework, the cooking and the chores Samoan third-sexers are used to doing. I often employ outside help.

However, I find this study a bit flawed in that the authors chose a small island in the Pacific to explain a more than complicated subject. They cannot possibly explicate homossexual behavior/roles here in the Western Hemisphere especially because our nieces and nephews tend to be very well cared for materially. Granted that in Latin America, well-off, childless uncles and aunts will help their next of kin. It may not be the same in the U.S. or Canada.

Now trickier still is how we may be subconsciously trying to pass on our genes. I do not envisage myself telling my brother to please breed while I simply tell him to put the brakes on the baby-making machine whenever I can. It is a bad, bad world out there.

Perhaps the authors of the study would consider studying queer demographics in New York, London, Paris, Berlin and Buenos Aires to see if they their theory holds water. Other than that, I find the article to be just a tweak in the queer universe. Or shall I say "multiverse"?


  1. I agree that more study is needed, but it actually makes perfect sense to me. Samoa was chosen because gay males there don't have the stresses and worries and difficulties that others do in more repressed nations. So those factors (not present in heterosexual men) do not interfere with the results.

    When you consider that research suggests the "gay gene" expresses itself more often in children who are among the last born to large families, this altruistic quality makes sense. Altruism is a effective way for social populations to select only the best genes and pass those on. Natural selection never works on individuals, but on populations. We want to control overpopulation so resources are conserved, so after a large amount of children have already been born to parents, subsequent ones are gay and won't add to the population. But they still consume resources, and so would require a role. As in all altruistic societies, the non-breeding individuals are normally caregivers.
    Humans are supposed to be societal and altruistic mammals. Unfortunately, we have learned to avoid those behaviors and remain "uncivilized" and intolerant of many naturally occuring situations and events.

    This is very interesting indeed! Thanks for posting this.

  2. Thank you, Stan. In light of what you said, I should like to have access to the research and not read it through the media.


  3. Here's a NY Times article reference for you: The researcher and study are mentioned in the article.