Religion is a bad excuse for homophobia
On the eve of the Tolerance Forum, for which I gave a very personal and vulnerable talk about my growing up experience, I got caught up in yet another Facebook debate. A friend posted a link, disapprovingly, about an anti-gay law in Kansas and this friend’s conservative Christian family decided to chime in. One person said something to the effect of, “If we pass laws protecting homosexual acts, what’s to keep us from passing laws protecting incest or bestiality? Where do we cross the line?” To which I responded, “Homosexuality is an i ntrinsic characteristic. Anti-gay laws do not merely discriminate against people who engage in a specific sex act. They discriminate against an entire class of people, many of whom are monogamous, a number of whom (among young people and clergy especially) are celibate. The comparison to incest or bestiality is invalid and offensive.” Another conservative Christian following the thread added the insight, “I am intrinsically given to adultery, but I practice restraint.” I made a brief remark, then left the debate because the level of ignorance was beginning to give me a headache. I assume that this last individual is a married man (by his age and the tenor of his remarks). Perhaps I am wrong. But, if he is a married heterosexual, then he is not practicing restraint with regard to his heterosexuality. The underlying assumption, I think, for both of these individuals with whom I sparred, is that heterosexuality is true north for everyone and that homosexuality (a “condition” associated mostly with men among homophobic people, though there is this thing called lesbians) is just one of many possible deviations from this. What science and the weight of cultural progress is telling us is that a heterosexual orientation is true north for most of the world’s population, a homosexual orientation is for a minority, and a bisexual one is for an even smaller minority. This is a fact about a person regardless of h/er actions. However, falling in love is a natural development in each case and erotic expression is a natural development from that. A participant in our culture who is cognizant and really paying attention can identify progress in how we see people in these minority classes. Legitimizing incest or bestiality would be a case of regress. Each of these perversions, moreover, hinge on patriarchal assumptions. That is, the male controls the sexual equation in every case and the receptical is irrelevant. The acceptance of gays into society is a move AWAY from patriarchy and its abuses. It might be added that straight men have penetrated straight men – historically – out of these same assumptions. This is was what happened in Sodom and this is what happens in prison every day. Not every incidence of homosexual behavior is an indication of homosexual orientation any more than heterosexual rape deligitimizes all heterosexuality. As far as adultery goes, someone is clearly being betrayed. Who is being betrayed by Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner, who have been together for 30 years? God? Really? … Bottom line is, the attitude that seeks to marginalize gay people is an outgrowth of old, fundamentalist thinking. It is not even valid as an expression of religious belief. Recruiting Jesus to the anti-gay cause is insane. Jesus declared that if you call your brother “raca” (effeminate), you are worthy of hellfire. He stood up for Roman eunuchs, the sexual minorities of his day, and healed a centurion’s “boy” without cultural comment. This is all in the Bible. Look it up. … It is time to stop giving Evangelicals and their allies a free pass on their anti-gay rhetoric simply because they claim that it is their religious conviction. This rhetoric and these laws affect a whole class of people in a profound and staggeringly negative way. I call bullshit.