My research for an essay on trans people in Sumer led me to a book called The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies by James Neill. As you might guess from the title, it is partly based in evolutionary biology. That’s not a discipline that I have much time for as so much of it appears to be thinly veiled justifications for Patriarchy and racism. However, Neill shows you can turn that on its head. After a fascinating tour through homosexual behavior in animals (loved the lesbian dolphins) he goes on to postulate that male homosexuality has significant advantages for humans at a social level. It means fewer teen pregnancies, a more stable population, and less dangerous conflict between males. (If you want to argue with that, by the way, go read the book yourself. I’m not going to engage with discussion based solely on the very bare outline I have given here.)
The upshot of all this is that same-sex relations were rife in most ancient societies, and indeed there’s plenty of evidence for this (though not for “homosexuality”, which is a much more modern concept). Nevertheless, exclusive heterosexuality developed as a desired practice among strongly patriarchal religions, and that left me wondering why. If Neill is right, unfettered heterosexuality will lead to population expansion which poses problems for the tribe because it can’t feed all of the babies. One possible way of dealing with that is territorial expansion and conquest. So what we might be seeing here is patriarchal society insisting on behavior that it knows will drive the need for war, and will provide the bodies needed to wage it.
This is the sort of thing that makes me want to go back and read The Gate to Women’s Country again.
Neill also provided me with a very interesting research lead. He quotes an observation about the Hidatsa people of North America (a Sioux tribe based in North Dakota). It reads:
“If a boy shows any symptoms of effeminacy or girlish inclinations, he is put among the girls, dressed in their way, brought up with them, and sometimes married to men. They submit as women to all the duties of a wife.”
Those words were written by William Clark, one half of the famous explorer duo, Lewis and Clark. They are the clearest expression yet that I have seen showing that at least some native North American people could recognize trans kids and would accept their identities. Western “civilization” is so uncivilized in comparison.