Homosexuality: It’s about survival – not sex | James O’Keefe | TEDxTallaght

Homosexuality: It’s about survival – not sex | James O’Keefe | TEDxTallaght

Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Mile Živković One summer evening, my eighteen-year-old son Jimmy
said he wanted to talk. So, after my wife Joan and I got his three
much younger siblings tucked in and read their bedtime stories, Joan and I sat down in our bedroom. Jimmy came in and closed
the door behind him. And he sat down on a chair across
from the bed where we were sitting, and says, “Mom and Dad,
I have something important to tell you, and it’s not a problem, it’s not
a bad thing, it’s just different.” We said, “Okay.” And he looked at us in earnest,
and he said, “I’m gay.” So, after a few seconds
of deafening silence, Joan takes a deep breath and says,
“Jimmy, we will love whoever you love.” That was about 12 years ago
when he came out to us, and I’ll have to admit that, at the time, Joan and I did think
this could be a problem, for his safety, even. And as his father, I had this feeling
that, somehow, I had failed him, and maybe, because of that, he wouldn’t
have a chance to have kids of his own. So, I’m a cardiologist, and I like to imagine the world through
the eyes of a hunter-gatherer ancestor for clues about how to thrive
in the modern world, but, viewed in the light of evolution, homosexuality seems to be a real
self-defeating non-productive strategy. I mean, gays have 80% fewer kids
than heterosexuals. This is a trait that ought to go extinct
in a few generations, but down through recorded history, in every culture,
and many animal species as well, homosexuality’s been a small,
but distinct subgroup. If this were a genetic error, natural selection should have long ago
called this from the gene pool. So, while I was pondering this, this paradox about the natural
origins of homosexuality, our babies grew up. Jimmy has three younger
siblings who adore him. He has this magnetism
and this charming wit that helps them feel happy and relaxed. And one day, while contemplating
this “Jimmy effect,” it suddenly dawned on me:
homosexuality is not so much about sex; it’s really more about survival,
the family’s survival. So us, Homo sapiens, we are among
the most social species on Earth. For us, it’s not just a kill-or-be-killed
struggle for existence. It’s a snuggle for existence, you know. An ability to love our family
and bond with our group determines, in many cases,
whether we survive or perish. So it’s the survival
of the fittest family, not the fittest individual. So, you share 50% of your DNA
with your siblings. Your nieces and nephews
share 25% of your DNA. Frоm evolution’s perspective, you have the same genetic success
if you raise one child on your own or you enable a sibling
to raise two children. Frоm evolution’s perspective, this is all about
cooperation and altruism. Homosexuality is
genetically-programmed altruism. Gays are designed by nature
to help us be kind to one another, like Ellen DeGeneres says. (Laughter) So, E. O. Wilson, probably the greatest evolutionary
biologist since Darwin himself, says homosexuality gives advantages
to the group by specialized talents and unusual qualities of personality. So, a society that condemns
homosexuality harms itself. So, what does professor Wilson mean
by “unusual qualities of personality”? Well, let me tell you
about our dear family friend Jenny. She is 35, single, straight. She was telling us she is looking
for a man who’s smart and funny, who’s sensitive, who’s a good listener. And she says she occasionally
meets a guy like that, but she complains, “You know,
he usually has a boyfriend already!” (Laughter) So, although people tend to obsess over
what gays do or don’t do in a bedroom, it’s really this distinctive personality
and a strong intellect that are more critical,
from evolution’s perspective. So, scientific studies do indeed show that people in the sexual minority
tend to be intelligent, particularly when it comes
to emotional intelligence. So, this study showed that boys and girls who scored
in a very bright IQ range were twice as likely
to be homosexual as adults as those children who scored
in the low to average range. And, among gay males,
on psychological testing, gay males tend to score higher
in metrics of compassion and cooperation, and lower in metrics of hostility. So, if Michelangelo had been straight, he might have just wallpapered
the Sistine Chapel. (Laughter) Songwriter Sam Austin says, “Homosexuality is God’s way of ensuring the truly gifted aren’t
burdened with children.” (Laughter) But today, in the US, about 2 out of every
25 people are in the sexual minority. Diversity is nature’s secret weapon. If all males were gay,
that would be a problem, but if all males were warriors,
we’d always be at war. The recipe for a successful human culture is a synergy of many
different ingredients. Homosexuality is like a catalyst to help emotionally connect
groups of people together. For heterosexuals, to disapprove of gays is kind of like the white flour
in bread disapproving of the yeast. So, if your genome is your hardware,
epigenetics is your software. You have many different DNA programs
downloaded on your DNA, and epigenetics chooses
from among these to determine which version of you actually is
the best fit for the environment. So, ants, you probably didn’t know it,
but are another highly social species that have epigenetic mechanisms
very similar to humans. These two are identical twin sisters, huh? Even though their DNA sequences
are exactly the same, this one, the worker, is a brainy little scurrier
who goes out looking for food, whereas the one on the right, the soldier, is obviously a brawny one
to fight off enemies. So, the queen ant
epigenetically orchestrates this by placing different epigenetic tags
on the developing ants. So – she places tags
when the colony is under attack to uncoil the DNA and light up
the genes to make the soldier, but when the colony is hungry,
she puts different tags to uncoil the DNA and epigenetically create
the conditions for the worker. So, in this way, the epigenetics – the dynamic power of epigenetics
changes our genetic expression, so that we’re born with traits
that allow us and our families the best chance to succeed
in the current conditions. So, you probably have
gay genes in your DNA, but, unless they were turned on
in your mother’s womb, they remain coiled up and silent. A recent groundbreaking
study from UCLA found that, by looking at a group of men,
some gay, some straight, and looking at epigenetic tags
in nine different sites, they could predict with 70% accuracy
their sexual orientation. So, what conditions in the uterus
turn on those gay genes? So, for a male, your chances of homosexuality
increase in proportion to the number of previous baby boys
who inhabited your mother’s uterus. So, for every older
biological brother you have, your chances of being born gay go up 33%. Long before we invented the pill, nature devised homosexuality
as a prescription for birth control. After four straight, heterosexual males,
nature says, “Enough already!,” and the mom’s immune system
switches on the epigenetic switch so a gay male is born into the family. This one will not be overburdening
the clan with yet more mouths to feed in the next generation
– sometimes more isn’t better – and he’s not going to be
killing his brother in a fight over who gets the girl. Thankfully, the sexual minority
these days have many options for having kids of their own, and I have a hunch my gay son
may bless us with grandchildren before our three straight children do. So, another gene,
this one on the X chromosome, is called a “male-loving gene,” because, when it shows up in a female, she tends to mate early
and have a lot of kids, but, when the male-loving gene
shows up in a male, it predisposes to homosexuality. So, this is another gene
that balances a family destined to have a large brood
of kids and grandkids with an occasional gay son whose natural
tendency to promote togetherness could improve the chances of survival
for the whole family. Now, I apologize. We have a lot more science about
sexual orientation in men than in women, so this talk is mostly about gay males. Though, I have no doubt that female homosexuality
is also a natural variation that is advantageous
for the family and the community. But Jimmy has no older brothers. Why is he gay? So, when Joan was pregnant with him, we discovered a large cancer
growing in her chest. Metastasis in the neck. It was a scary time. She had radiation therapy to her chest while Jimmy was still
in the third trimester. It was a rocky start for little Jimmy. Miraculously, they both survived
and are in great health today. But, in fact, severe prenatal stress
does predispose to homosexuality. In this study, 37% of gay males reported their mothers
suffered severe prenatal stress compared to only 3%
of heterosexual males’ moms. This is kind of like the queen ant, where the mom is placing
epigenetic markers on the baby to change his identity to help
the future welfare of the family. It’s as if the mom was saying,
“I’m in trouble here. I need a kind and clever ally
to help me hold this family together.” So, to summarize, if the family is flushed
with plenty of kids and/or it’s a stressful place and time, nature occasionally flips
these epigenetics switches to turn on the gay genes. This alters brain development, that changes sexual orientation
and also improves emotional intelligence. I have no doubt that Jimmy was born gay. Here’s his first birthday party. (Laughter) When he was three, he said, “Mommy,
when I grow up, I want to marry Daddy.” (Laughter) Now, some parents send their kid away,
you know, well-meaning parents, to a conversion camp
to pray away the gay. You might as well send the kid to a camp to convert his eye color
from brown to blue. Not happening! But Jimmy is like social glue
holding our family together. You know, whether his brother Evan
gets beat up in a bar fight, or his sister Caroline
gets dumped by a boyfriend, or his sister Kathleen gets busted
for plagiarizing Wikipedia – (Laughter) they know Jimmy’s made them feel like they belong to something
bigger than their problems. So, storytelling is the great
survival skill of the Irish, and, right here in Dublin, 162 years ago, one of your finest storytellers was born: Oscar Wilde. Oscar ran away to the University of Oxford where he met a young poet
named Bosie Douglas. Their long-standing
openly gay relationship infuriated and humiliated
Bosie’s father, Lord Queensburry – I’m not making this up – (Laughter) who was so mad that he eventually
had Oscar arrested for gross indecency, thrown into a dungeon
for two years of hard labor. Oscar died three years later, a young man. Oscar wrote, “Always forgive your enemies.
Nothing annoys them so much.” (Laughter) But these days, open homophobia is being
replaced by more of a subtle heterosexism where people in the sexual minority are often considered
second-class citizens. Boy George says, “There’s this illusion that homosexuals have sex
and heterosexuals fall in love. That’s completely untrue.
We all want to be loved.” I agree: among all the things in life
it’d be hardest to live without, love would come first. But indoor plumbing and toilet paper
would be pretty high up there too, right? (Laughter) I want to tell you about one more study, this one a heartbreaking,
nationwide study, from the US, that looked at US teens, and they found
that those in the sexual minority were twice as likely to be bullied, five times more likely
to have attempted suicide. Twenty-nine percent of gay teens
had tried to kill themselves. These days, around the world,
in many countries, it’s illegal to have same-sex
physical intimacy. In many countries,
it’s punishable by death. In the red countries,
it’s punishable by imprisonment. In India, the law states
14 years to life, because “homosexuality
is against the order of nature.” Except that it’s not! Nature prescribes homosexuality
at specific times and places, and endows these people
with special traits that help the people around them flourish. What is against the order of nature is the ongoing persecution
of the sexual minority. These are not confused or defective people that need to be cured,
or punished, or ostracized. They need to be accepted, for who they are, and embraced. They make us better. If you had told me 30 years ago,
as I held my baby boy, that he would grow up to be gay, I would have been devastated, but looking back, I see Mother Nature
knew what she was doing! Her clairvoyant intelligence,
forged during eons of evolution, instinctively knew my family would need
the advantages of a gay son. Now, admittedly, the science of homosexuality
is still in it’s infancy, but as his father,
what I can tell you for sure is that Jimmy is exactly
who he was meant to be, and my family is stronger and happier
because he’s in our clan. How about you? Can you set sex aside? Realize gay men and gay women
are essential to humanity? We’re like the ants. It’s in our diversity where we find
our collective strength. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)


  1. Homosexualite is a fact of life. I once had a dream that all men but me were homosexuals paying me to get there girl friends who could not get it of their back. Obviously I do not have those dreams anymore, we mellow down with age. I do not see much thing wrong with homosexuality every thing but the physical part make sense. I simply do not understand it, I can see that it happen but why the physical part and not only the emotional part? In any case it is not because I do not understand something that I find it wrong. We live in a very strange world!

  2. This video reads like a textbook definition of rationalization but that said, what anyone chooses to do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is their own business and I don't really care, just please don't try to justify it with "science" or throw it in our faces.

  3. 3 year old son told mommy he was going to grow up and marry daddy. Back of the line, kid, back of the line.

  4. Everything he says is justified with the characteristics of an average woman. Intelligent but sensitive, with a helping nature. You know why? Because of estrogen. Gays have much more estrogen than an average straight male. That's why they have more "feminine" characteristics. Also If you look at their faces, they look much more feminine. not always, but a lot of gays have really round and feminine features. And this is because in their puberty or when they were born, their mom gave them a lot of estrogen naturally. Another reason can also be the amount of estrogen that exists in the food. And they put it in. For cows to produce milk all the time, they need estrogen, and then we indirectly drink that estrogen. It's probable that homosexuality comes from other places too which I don't know.

  5. I have an aunt who is married to a woman. She had 3 children from a prior relationship. Her wife also has kids from a prior relationship.

  6. ~ Intellectually, this is a no-brainer! Oh, how I wish the movers and shakers of this world's major "religions" would watch this objectively, and "get" the truth of it. But first, they all, males all, need to get a clue about 50+% of the population, all types of women! Two parts of the population that will save us ALL sociologically: gays and women. Fascinating and 100% true. Cheers, DAVEDJ ~

  7. It is important to note that the said law in India is from the British colonial era and not from the ancient Indian civilisation. Also, it has been abolished now.

  8. Nobody should ignore this controversial topic, you can learn a thing or two because you might have a lgbt child, so listen up!

  9. homosexuality is legally promoted through media education agricultuire phramraceutical and every other industry .
    homosexuality is detrimental to health

  10. This is pretty much the same theory my dad had about homosexuality! Very interesting to listen to. I'll try to translate this to my dad, I'm sure he'll love it lol

  11. My only question, without considering the personal closeness to this issue is why is a cardiologist giving a lecture on genomics?

  12. The evidence used to back up seems a bit flaky and the statistic of 70% predictability based on DNA isnt really that impressive when you realise that just guessing straight every time gives you 90+% predictability

  13. I’d say its a win-win, if there were more lgbt+ people in the world (people who dont/cant reproduce) then there would be more open minds and the decrese in overpopulation. In other words, ADOPT. (unless you do not wish for a child)

  14. When I saw Pete Buttigieg's CNN Town Hall in March of this year, I immediately thought of this TEDTalk. He has that healing, emotional intelligence that this traumatized nation needs.

  15. this video was in my recommended and after james in the title it got off
    smh I thought it was going to be james charles lmao

  16. He tries to connect survival of the fittest theory to the existence of gays in today's world. I have pondered on the very question myself. But his talk doesn't seem that satisfactory to me. I hope someone else would be able to find the real connection b/w "survival of the fittest" and "existence of gays".

  17. This… repaired my mood. I was told today at school by our social science teacher that gays, asexuals etc. are a deviation from how the society should be. I left that class very dejected, but this beautiful man made me return to my confdence before I dwelled on it too long. Thank you!

  18. A little off topic here but why do people still think you can’t become queer and that the only way to be queer is to be born that way. There’s actually a lot of people who seem to have become that way. Whether you see it as a bad thing or good thing that is up to you

  19. In the time it takes for humanity to grow up, too many have already been thrown under the bus. Do the victims of the past mean anything to you at all? If they do, then you embrace the future with great humility. We can't allow the "sacrificed" victims of hate and apathy to die in vain. Which means, no narcissism, but a quiet, selfless, composure. A Zen of sorts. We want the future not to be a "sacrificial" alter to success.

  20. I can proudly say that criminalisation of homosexuals is no longer a law in India after the repeal of section 370

  21. Makes sense to me. But you can't argue science with homophobes. They're usually super religious and they believe science contradicts the bible, so they don't want to hear it.

  22. October 10:
    Still a crime since 1857 [Rule 377]
    Can be punished for upto 10 years in Jail
    Currently poor chance of removal, since it's a strict muslim country. (The government isn't that much strict, the people are the ones who are toxic)

  23. I've always had this question , why nature need gays ? And felt like nobody wanted to bring science because people will get offended. This man is so open minded and still talking science and I wish we all could have this conversation in such a lovely way

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