19 March 2011
A costs/benefits metaphor about homosexuality
1. You are completely colorblind and see the world in a monochromatic, grayscale continuum. (Or perhaps a "greenscale" continuum — but in any case, it's monochromatic.)
2. However, you are able to see wavelengths of infrared and ultraviolet that are invisible to most humans. Thus, some flowers that appear solid-colored to people with normal vision have dazzling zebra-stripe designs to you, as they do to many insects, because you can see ultraviolet patterning on the flower. And in a pitch-black room, you can see the warmth of another person's body, or a hot cup of coffee, or the spot on the sofa where the dog was sleeping a few minutes ago.
I consider my homosexuality as somewhat analogous to this, because I am clearly missing out on certain experiences that normal heterosexual men can take for granted in their lives. But I'm also able to experience aspects of life that normal heterosexual men cannot, or that they can only do in a limited way and with difficulty — so there's a definite trade-off!
Of course, the "things I'm experiencing" are not sense perceptions, but rather social interactions with men and with women: I don't interact with either men or with women in the same way that a heterosexual man typically would.
So an observant heterosexual man will be able to "see things" about men and women and male/female social relationships that I don't necessarily pick up on, but the converse can also be true — I may easily "see things" about men and women that a heterosexual man is likely to miss. (And I'm not even getting into the fact that homosexual sex can "feel good"; even if you're homosexual and celibate, being a man who's sexually attracted to other men but not sexually attracted to women will affect how you socialize with men and with women -- and this difference in socialization can be positive and constructive.)
P.S. Just to be pedantic and geeky about it, the hypothetical mutation I describe is quite unlikely, and particularly the "seeing infrared" part. (Retinal "cone receptors" that can detect ultraviolet as a visible color are actually found in some vertebrates, including birds. But as far as I know, there aren't any animals that literally SEE infrared in the sense that they're able to form a focused infrared image on the retina in a manner analogous to a thermal-imaging camera).
There are definitely animals that can detect infrared radiation -- such as pit-viper snakes -- but they don't see infrared via the eyes. That said, as human mutations go, being able to see infrared would be vastly less unlikely than shooting laserbeams out of your eyes -- sorry, X-men!
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