Well, my last post seems to have stirred up a certain amount of interest. This blog had it’s biggest ever daily total of hits on Tuesday, the day after I posted, and the post has rocketed (or, at least, gently strolled) into the exact centre of my “most viewed over all time” list, even though it’s only been up for a few days. Now, I wonder, was it the topic, or the rather provocative title, that produced the extra interest? I’m not entirely sure, but I think if I’d gone with my original title (‘Now, Sparky: don’t be gay’ – a reference to this episode of South Park, which covers a lot of the same ground) I might not have got quite so many hits…
Anyway, in addition to that, I got some really interesting comments, and I wanted to take the time to reply to them in a bit lot more detail than is possible in a normal response. They’ve given me the chance to think about the same issues again, but in a different way, and I think they’ve added quite a lot to the way I think about them, so I hope you’ll be interested too. Oh, and by the way, I hope I don’t come across as hostile or angry when I’m responding to any of these comments. I don’t really disagree in a serious way with anyone, but I wanted to make it clear where I did have a slightly different opinion. Ok, that’s enough insecure prefacing, I think.
I see the issue of whether homosexuality can be ‘cured’ and whether it’s a fundamental part of people’s natures as kind of irrelevant.
You’re right, in a way it is kind of irrelevant – it shouldn’t matter in the slightest degree. But in another way it isn’t irrelevant. Being gay is a fundamental part of my nature, in the same way that being straight is a fundamental part of the nature of straight people. The difference is that straight people, because they are in the majority, and because their sexuality is validated by pretty much every book/film/advert/tv show they ever encounter, tend not to think about it. It’s unconscious, but still central to who they are. To be honest, I think that’s where a lot of knee-jerk homophobia comes from; for the first time, people are forced to realise that sexual orientation is something they have to actually think about.
Try this thought experiment
A thought experiment – that’s one of those pretend experiments where you don’t have to worry about anything inconvenient like actual data coming along and mucking up your theories, isn’t it? ;o) (And so, of course, perfect for a situation like this, where this isn’t any uncontaminated data available.)
imagine a world where people can change their sexuality through a quick and simple treatment. In this world heterosexuals can become homosexuals and vice versa whenever they want.
You know, some people would argue the “treatment” already exists, as in the old joke: “What’s the difference between a straight man and a bisexual one? About 5 pints of lager…” ;o) (btw, just to be clear, I’m not actually saying I think that’s true)
Doesn’t homosexuality remians completely valid in that world.
Yes, absolutely, it does.
It’s just a valid choice rather than a valid inherent trait.
Again, I agree with you, as far as this goes. But, as you say, this is a thought experiment, it’s not the situation as it actually exists. I know the question of what causes homosexuality (if anything does) is a vexed one. For the record, my personal opinion is that it’s likely to be either a question of genetics, or physical environmental factors during pregnancy, or possibly a combination of both. But the fact is the personal experiences of gay people, and the failure of most attempts at “converting” or “curing” them, demonstrate with a high degree of probability that being gay (or straight, or bi) is not a choice.
Why am I insisting on that point in the middle of your hypothetical scenario? Because it explains why this issue is crucial. Whether you drive a gas-guzzler or a hybrid car; whether you leave carrots on the side of your plate, or always go back for second helpings; whether you’re attracted to a mysterious stranger or a friendly person-next-door – these are all matters of choice. Whether you’re tall or short; whether you go bald at 25 or still have all your hair on your 70th birthday; whether you will fall in love with men or women, or both – these are not matters of choice. Describing homosexuality (or hetero- or bi- sexuality) as a choice devalues and trivialises it. (BTW, I know, experimental chimp, you’re not saying it is a choice, just putting the possibility up for discussion).
People who thought homosexuality was an abombination in that world would still be bigoted idiots.
Absolutely they would. But someone who, for example, believes that carrots are an abomination is a laughable bigoted idiot. Someone who believes that being shorter than 5‘ 6″ is an abomination is a dangerous bigoted idiot.
The idea that homosexuality should be accepted because it’s a fundamental part of people’s natures seems uncomfortably close to an excuse to me. I can’t change so don’t try to change me.
I don’t agree with you here. First of all, saying something seems like an excuse suggests that there’s something to be excused. As a gay man who thinks that being gay is a fundamental part of my nature, I can tell you that I don’t see it as something that has to be excused. I’m not so much saying I can’t change so don’t try to change me as I am It’s impossible to change me, so why do they keep insisting that it is?
I don’t think it would ever be acceptable to question the validity of someone’s height, because it’s a fundamental aspect of themselves that they can do nothing about. On the other hand, I think it could be acceptable to question the validity of someone’s choice to drive a needlessly fuel-inefficient car, on the grounds that it wastes a finite resource, or that it may (almost certainly does) contribute to global warming.
This points up a key difference. It’s acceptable to question someone’s choices. It’s not acceptable to question fundamental aspects of themselves.
Homosexuality should be accepted because it’s nobody else’s damn business who you fuck or fall in love with or hold hands with as you walk down the street. If people don’t approve then, well, they’re free to avoid sleeping with anyone the same sex as them.
The offensive idea in all this is the one that goes “This disgusts me and therefore it is wrong.” I’m fine with people being disgusted about whatever they want. But there’s a simple solution if you think homosexuality is Wrong with a capital W: Don’t sleep with people the same sex as you.
*rises to his feet for a standing ovation*
You’ve put your finger on something absolutely key there – personal disgust is probably a key motivator in what Iris Robinson says.
Mind you, the thing that confuses me is why Christians, who supposedly believe that everyone gets judged after they die, get so worked up about these things. So what if it’s an abombination, it’s not as if it’s your sin.
Of course, christians would argue that they’re trying to “save sinners” by campaigning against homosexuality, although personally I don’t think there’s any real compassion behind it.
‘Political correctness’ might be what’s holding Mrs. Robinson back in her campaign against the Evil Gays. I’d like to think, though, that’s what’s really holding her back is the embarrassment that most people feel when confronted with her hopelessly parochial views.
Well, ‘political correctness’ is something of a shibboleth for right-wingers, after all. She probably hopes by mentioning it she’ll encourage wider support for her stance.
Really, the right response for this sort of thing shouldn’t be anger, but laughter.
I wouldn’t want to underestimate the appropriateness of laughter as a response. Mockery often is more effective than anger, because anger says I take you seriously and laughter says you’re ridiculous. The trouble with this is that I think her attitudes are dangerous, and so I feel I have to take them seriously. Partly that’s because attitudes like hers were causing real-world damage to the lives and careers of gay people until so recently.
Until the 29th April 2007 (so that’s pretty much exactly 15 months ago) I could perfectly legally be discriminated against on the basis of my sexuality. Owners of hotels and guesthouses could refuse to rent me a room, or could insist that same-sex couples did not share a double bed. A restaurant, or a pub, or a shop, or a café, could have refused to serve me because I’m gay. A bank could have refused to handle my account, a solicitor could have refused to take my instructions, and so on. All of these people and businesses could have been entirely up-front about what they were doing. They could have said, to my face, “You’re gay so I’m not going to serve you,” and I would have had absolutely no legal recourse. If I had objected, they could have called the police and had me forcibly removed from their premises.
Until the 1st December 2003 (so less than 5 years ago), a prospective employer could have asked me at a job interview if I was gay, and if I had answered yes, could have refused to offer me the job. If I was in employment, an employer, if they had found out I was gay, could have fired me, and (provided they applied the policy equally to all gay employees) I could have done nothing about it. Again, they could have been entirely up-front and open about what they were doing.
Discrimination in the provision of goods and services came to an end (officially – I’m sure there’s still plenty of surreptitious discrimination) with The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. Employment discrimination came to an end with The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003. That’s 15 months and 4½ years ago, respectively. This is, it seems to me, incredibly recent.
I’m not usually one for political maxims and the like, but I think there’s some truth to the idea that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. Not in the way American neo-cons interpret it (bomb the crap out of anything that moves), but in the sense of keeping on the look-out for people who are trying to roll back progress. That’s what I think Mrs Robinson and her ilk are doing, and that’s why, personally, I can’t just laugh at her.
these dumb fundamentalist idiots are funny with their silly, misplaced and ineffectual rage, and their wacky concept of a God who gives a damn what people do to each other in bed rather than how they treat each other.
That reminds me of a joke Stephen Fry told at a charity event, back in the days when he was still officially celibate rather than gay, which, from memory, went something like this: “Why, in a world filled with hunger and war and disease, would god give two hoots if some people who love each other are in bed “making the beast with two backs,” or, alternatively, the beast with one back and an interestingly-shaped middle…” ;o)
Anyway, I agree with a lot of what you say. It shouldn’t matter if being gay is a choice, or an innate trait, or the result of one’s mother having sex while she was pregnant. Bizarrely, I did see this put forward as a serious theory once. I don’t know if they thought the foetus said to itself, “Ooh, what’s that poking up towards me? A penis? Gosh that does look like a nice thing to play with”…
Certainly, getting caught up on the idea that homosexuality is genetic could be counter-productive, since the religious bigots could just start advocating genetic screening to eradicate homosexuality. (Although they would have to work out which they hated more, homosexuality or IVF.) Having said all that, I hope you understand why I take a different view from you on some things.
Well said the chimp.
Perhaps we should form some sort of fan club….. ;o)
Just out of interest, is there a term for a homosexual man who chooses to live as a heterosexual. You know the way you have, dry drunks … are there dry gays? (Not that I’M comparing homosexuality to alcoholism but the people who believe it can be “cured” obviously consider it a disease or addiction in the same way.)
The closest to a specific term is “Ex-gay“, but those who “help” gay people to become “straight” seem to be quite squeamish about using the word. There’s at least one religiously inspired “ex-gay” organisation that uses a 14-step programme based on the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous programme, so they obviously do believe homosexuality is analogous to alcoholism.
Btw, not misogynistic at all. My self-esteem remains intact!
Well, that’s a relief! :o)
That is all so wrong on so many levels. I particularly couldn’t get over her reference in the same breath to forgiving gays and murderers. apparently she loves them all, as that’s what the lord has told her to do.
It’s outrageous, isn’t it? But, sadly, not all that uncommon. If I had a tube of Smarties for every time I’d heard a fundamentalist equate homosexuality with murder, or bestiality (another favourite, because Leviticus condemns bestiality) – well, I’d be even more overweight than I am now…
Wonder is she sacrificed the correct animals after giving birth to her poor children too?
Well, I don’t know if she has kids, but if she does, I’m going to go out on a real limb here and bet that, no, she didn’t. And the reason she didn’t is because she doesn’t really believe that the bible is the actual, literal word of god. What she believes is that god hates all the same people she does, and if it takes selective reference to the bible to prove it, then so be it. (That last link’s quite funny, by the way.)
That’s a great piece, Aethelread and one of the finest titles for a post!
Why, thank you! I’m glad you approve…
One would hope we, as a society, have moved on terms of acceptance and understanding and then you read someone like Mrs Robinson…
Lots of us have moved on, of course, and I would guess that even the majority of christians wouldn’t agree with her opinions, or at least not with the naked hatred with which they’re expressed.
I liked the quotations from Deuteronomy, by the way, I think it illustrates perfectly the absurbity of the position of taking and leaving whichever parts of the Bible suit the purpose of the speaker.
Well, quite. Although, personally, I’d rather everyone abandoned the whole thing, and just worked out what was right and wrong on a reasonable, rational basis. I get quite irritated when religious people try to argue that the only reason all of us atheists and agnostics and other enlightened folk think murder is wrong is because it says so in the bible.
You fancy getting your teeth into this?
Stonewall are calling for a Heinz boycott…
Thanks for the link. To be honest, I think this is really just a storm in a media teacup. It’s irritating that Heinz have pulled the advert, because doing that suggests there’s something wrong with showing two men who live together and have kids. But that said, Stonewall’s call for a boycott seems a little over-the-top to me. Put it this way: I still have a bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup in the cupboard, and I don’t feel like a traitor to the “cause”…
And last, and by no means least, comes Sue. (No link to a blog to include.)
Well I just found your blog – happily reading my way through some of your past entries – So far particularly liked the “What’s the bloody point?” one – As for the above entry I pretty much agree with all you say……..Well better go to bed now……..work and that…………I’ll be back
Thank you for the kind words. Always nice to meet a new fan, even if they do sign off in a worryingly Terminator-esque way…. ;o)