Gay marriage is not a topic I have spent much time thinking about. Naturally finding myself a liberal (I never sat down and actually thought about it, I just happened to notice that my values coincided with those on the left), I have always been, what you could call a ‘default’ supporter of gay rights and never once actually considered the issue in any detail. I just assumed gay and lesbian individuals had every right to get married, the same as straight individuals. What was there to think about?
But then a friend of mine shocked me by saying he disagreed. As I said, I had never thought about the issue and so was completely unprepared and unable to give any reasons for my default position. In addition, I respect his opinions which are usually reasoned through carefully and impartially. In the end, he did give me pause with some of his arguments and I was in fact led to wonder if I had thrown my lot in with the right team on this one.
After a few days careful thought and a little internet research, I decided to put my ideas on paper and have framed this article in a simple ‘arguments against’ and ‘responses’ format.
I should point out here that the discussion which follows, while catalysed by my friend, went beyond our original conversation and not all of the points raised here were made or defended by him. In addition, I have largely phrased this article in response to anti-gay Christians (despite the fact that my friend is not Christian, and of course, not all Christians are against gay marriage) for two reasons; 1) Christians are the most vocal group in the West against gay marriage and 2) although my friend asserted that there were non-religious reasons for disagreeing with same-sex marriage, I think it will become evident throughout the course of this article that Christianity is, in fact, lurking behind every argument.
Arguments against gay marriage:
1. The gay community should have been happy with civil unions. These are after all equivalent to marriage, just without the religion
2. Gay men molest children more than straight men
3. Same sex parents harm children
4. The homosexual community is ‘highly sexualised’
1. First of all, civil union is NOT equivalent to marriage. This is obvious because if they were identical Christians wouldn’t be making such a fuss in the first place. So what is a civil union? It is a legal arrangement, a contract, designed purely to provide legal protection to partners in a gay/lesbian relationship precisely because they are (or were, in some places) unable to get married.
But couldn’t one describe marriage as a ‘legal arrangement’? Well, you could, but obviously the word itself means much more than that. It is a commitment to one person, a declaration of love, a promise of companionship, a bonding recognised in the community and celebrated by friends and family, a tradition as old as recorded history itself. Words matter. Even if ‘civil union’ confers exactly the same legal benefits and protections on the individuals involved, it will never be the same as ‘marriage’. Words matter. If they were exactly the same neither homosexuals nor Christians would be upset over this.
Second, although marriage has been closely associated with religion, it is NOT a specifically ‘religious’ celebration presided over by a priestly elite, and it is definitely not a Christian invention. Marriage predates Christianity and was originally nothing like a sacred vow before a tribal deity. It wasn’t even necessarily a sacred commitment to one particular person and ‘love’ was often not considered particularly important. Christians sometimes seem to forget this but there can be no doubt about it because in virtually all ancient traditions (including ancient Hebrew culture) the husband was usually allowed to take concubines (read the Bible if you don’t’ believe me), sleep with prostitutes, or even have more than one wife. Rather, it represented a commitment between a man and a woman to have and raise children in the most advantageous environment possible (i.e. a stable family with both male and female providers). The first marriage celebrations quite possibly involved ritual sacrifices to local deities but any and every celebration required these. It was no more a ‘religious event’ than the harvest day or winter solstice celebrations. Marriage was also most definitely NOT controlled by the village priests.
Having said that, it DID become impossibly intertwined with Christianity (in the West, at least) and it DID become a sacred vow a couple made before God that WAS (read that ‘must be’) presided over by a priest. But is it still like that? Is that still what ‘marriage’ means? Words matter but meanings do change. ‘Marriage’ has already changed once from being a social ritual to ensure the success of the tribe (having nothing to do with YAHWEH) to being a primarily religious ritual (all about YAHWEH) and it has clearly changed again in our modern secular society.
This is where Christians typically slip up in their reasoning because to them ‘marriage’ is irrevocably tied to Christianity. They fail to realise that just as it changed to become a Christian celebration in the past, it is changing once again. Did you get married in a church? Did you make reference to God or Jesus during your wedding? You may have but you just as likely may not have. The word ‘marriage’ still retains its religious meaning for those who wish it to but it no longer does for an ever-increasing number of people. Sticking ones head in the sand and decrying that marriage IS a Christian celebration is just a denial of the facts since people get married every day without any reference to Christianity at all.
It is worth pointing out that this second point is one of the main reasons gay marriage has prompted so much ire from the Christian right. They see marriage as something exclusively Christian, and given their attitude towards homosexuals, letting this particular group of people join what they see as an authentic, bona fide Christian club is a huge affront to them. The problem with this thinking, of course, is Christianity didn’t invent marriage. Christianity itself took the word ‘marriage’ (an institution which pre-dated them and lacked the religious trappings) and re-christened it in their own terms. It seems, at the very least, extremely intolerant to complain when society elects to change it back again.
2. This is a remark frequently promulgated by various anti-gay groups, so I thought I’d look into it myself. The claim is that almost all sex crimes against children are committed by men and up to one-third of those are against young boys which means that virtually all sex crimes against boys must be being perpetrated by males who have a sexual preference for other males, i.e. homosexual men.
So why then does the American Psychological Association assert that "homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are" and why is there so much research which refutes this claim? This little fact will go a long way to resolving this. An expert panel of researchers convened by the National Academy of Sciences noted in a 1993 report: "The distinction between homosexual and heterosexual child molesters relies on the premise that male molesters of male victims are homosexual in orientation. Most molesters of boys do not report sexual interest in adult men, however".
A number of studies have found that many adult male sexual offenders of young boys can neither be considered homosexual or heterosexual because they are simply not attracted to adults of either gender. In addition, they are often socially stunted or emotionally underdeveloped to such a degree that they are unable to form meaningful relationships with other adults. Does this sound like any homosexual people you know? I highly doubt it. In fact, when you take a moment to think about it, isn’t it clear that desiring some form of sexual interaction with children (of any gender) is completely different from simply being attracted to members of the same sex. A. Nicholas Groth, a psychologist specialising in the sexual abuse of children, has called this type of abuser (i.e. not interested in adults), fixated. He also identified another type of child sexual molester, regressive, which characterises adult males who are normally attracted to adults but may “regress” to children when under stress. The majority of regressive offenders are typically heterosexual in their adult relationships.
Dr. Gregory M. Herek, a distinguished and respected psychologist teaching at the University of California at Davis, reviewed a number of studies cited by the Family Research Council as evidence that a link between homosexuality and paedophilia exists and found that “the scientific sources cited by the FRC report do not support their argument. Most of the studies they referenced did not even assess the sexual orientation of abusers. Two studies explicitly concluded that sexual orientation and child molestation are unrelated.”
Dr. Herek also mentions one particular individual who stands at the forefront of these anti-homosexual sentiments, Paul Cameron. Cameron has been an active promoter against homosexuals and a wide disseminator of statistics vilifying the gay community despite his work having been rejected by both the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association. Here are some facts which reveal something about this man’s character:
- This is a quote of his from a pamphlet; "Homosexuality is an infectious appetite with personal and social consequences. It is like the dog that gets a taste for blood after killing its first victim and desires to get more victims thereafter with a ravenous hunger."
- On May 3, 1982, he told an audience at the University of Nebraska Lutheran Chapel: "Right now, here in Lincoln, there is a four-year-old boy who has had his genitals almost severed from his body at Gateway [mall] in a restroom with a homosexual act." The police reported no record of such an incident and Cameron finally acknowledged that it was false, but he argued it "could have happened." Even today he still claims, “This happens once or twice a year in this country… Some little boy somewhere has his genitals severed--apparently by a homosexual.”
- He has advocated quarantining gays and literally branding AIDS victims with a capital ‘A’ on their faces (AIDS being a disease homosexuals apparently “deserve”), noting that other societies have called for the extinction of homosexuals.
This is the man (predominantly) religious, anti-gay groups turn to for their ‘impartial’, ‘scientific’ conclusions, and I have only scratched the surface of his hatred of gays and almost unbelievably unprofessional and disgraceful conduct and utterances. If you want a religious bigot, Cameron’s your man, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you can get reliable, impartial and honest research from him.
A more comprehensive review of the scientific literature on this topic is beyond the scope of this article but it is all there. The scientific community has weighed in on the subject and in the words of Dr. Michael R. Stevenson, “a gay man is no more likely than a straight man to perpetrate sexual activity with children,” and “cases of perpetration of sexual behavior with a pre-pubescent child by an adult lesbian are virtually nonexistent”. Unless you want to infer a nation-wide conspiracy of respected professionals (like climate change, evolution, 9/11, the moon landing, etc.) there is really no (rational) reason at all to believe that homosexual men are some kind of sub-human species hell-bent on sexually molesting our children… but isn’t that what our intuition tells us? If we think about this issue without our religious, anti-gay blinders firmly tacked on; is there anything about homosexuality as a genuine phenomenon, that is, men and women preferring to sleep with members of their own sex, that should lead to them desiring any form of sexual contact with children? I don’t think so.
One final point here. This is not the first time we have seen these kinds of smear tactics in human history, tactics that have attempted to dehumanise and vilify minority groups. It is instructive to note that, while each of these crises were considered authentic and serious at the time, looking back on them now, they seem childish and ignorant.
- In the Middle Ages, Christians believed Jews were kidnapping Christian babies for use in bizarre rituals
- Before abolitionism, many people feared that black men were subhuman and they were regularly accused of raping white women
It is difficult to see the current ‘crisis’ surrounding gay sexual predators as being any different from the above fictional accusations of bigotry and small-mindedness.
3. Much of the hoopla surrounding this claim comes from a study conducted by a man called Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor at the University of Texas, who also happens to be a Christian. The study in question was published in July 2012 and was immediately seized on by anti-gay groups as proof that children are in danger in LGBT households. Regnerus surveyed young adults and asked them about their experiences growing up. From a total sample size of 3,000, 175 people reported that their mother had a same-sex romantic relationship while they were growing up and 73 said the same about their father. One of the most disturbing findings was that children raised by a lesbian mother were 10 times more likely to have been “touched sexually by a parent or other adult caregiver” (23% vs. 2% for married biological parents) while those raised by a homosexual father were 3 times more likely (6%).
On the face of it, this certainly seems quite damning so I decided to dig a little deeper. It turns out there was more to this study than first met the eye. The following year Darren Sherkat, a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University, was interviewed about the Regnerus study and identified the following fatal flaws in the methodology used:
- The people used in the study were not a random, representative sample (an absolute must in any scientific study); rather they were recruited through a marketing firm. On this, Sherkat says, “…because it is a non-random sample, this study has nothing to say about anything.”
- There were some outlandish values reported, such as people claiming hundreds of sex partners the prior week; this was probably a consequence of online collection of data making it difficult to confirm any of the responses.
- Regnerus himself has admitted that only two of the children he studied were raised from birth by same-sex parents, and their outcomes “looked pretty good”. Back to Sherkat, “Since only two respondents were actually raised in gay or lesbian households, this study has absolutely nothing to say about gay parenting outcomes.”
- Regnerus failed to take into account normal family effects on wellbeing, resulting in a study that “just constructed differences from a group of people who were raised in unstable environments.”
In addition to this, Regnerus intentionally did not control for family stability. Though the majority of the respondents were the product of a “failed heterosexual union,” he compared them against children whose biological different-sex parents were together through their entire childhood.
Also, why is it that none of the anti-gay groups seem to be surprised by the fact that, contrary to other simultaneous anti-gay rhetoric, it was the children in lesbian homes, not those raised by male homosexuals (remember the deviant child predators who “deserve” AIDS?), who were ten times more likely to have been touched sexually than other children?
Bottom line: Regnerus is a bust.
How about Donald Paul Sullins then, a Catholic priest and sociology professor at Catholic University of America? He recently conducted an analysis of data spanning 1997-2013 and concluded that the children of the 512 same-sex parents identified in the study have more emotional problems compared to children raised by biological different-sex couples. Does this study fare any better? You be the judge:
- Sullins’ analysis contains no information about whether the same-sex couples were actually married. As he notes, “Almost all opposite-sex parents who are raising joint biological offspring are in intact marriages, but very few, if any, same-sex parents were married during the period under observation.”
- The data gathered similarly contain no information about family formation. Sullins notes that many of the children had a biological connection to one of the same-sex parents, but it’s unknown if these are from prior relationships, which would suggest their negative outcomes are related to a broken home instead of having two parents of the same sex.
How can a study draw conclusions about same-sex marriages if none of the couples were married at the time? And what is the only meaningful conclusion that be obtained by comparing children in stable families with children in broken (heterosexual) relationships which later involved a same-sex couple? Children fare worse when a marriage disintegrates. But that is hardly surprising news. So Sullins is a bust too.
But one might still hesitate; even if studies like those above are inconclusive (a term that, given the flaws I have highlighted, is really overly generous), where is the research on the effects on children living with same sex parents? Who is investigating this very serious topic?
The following speak for themselves:
- In 2014, just last year, the largest study of its kind in the world was conducted in Australia by University of Melbourne researchers who “surveyed 315 same-sex parents and 500 children.” The children in the study scored about 6% higher than Australian kids in the general population. The advantages held up “when controlling for a number sociodemographic factors such as parent education and household income.”
- Colombia Law School identified 76(!) scholarly studies for addressing the wellbeing of children with gay or lesbian parents. Of these, 72(!) concluded that these children fare no worse than other children. The four studies that disagreed with this finding (as we have seen) all took their samples from children who had suffered family break-ups, a factor that is well-known to affect children adversely.
- In 2010, New York University sociologist Judith Stacey and University of Southern California sociologist Tim Biblarz reviewed almost every study on gay parenting and found no differences between children raised in homes with two heterosexual parents and children raised with lesbian parents.
What about official, public bodies? Why haven’t they weighed in on this?
- The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry stated in 2013 that “[c]urrent research shows that children with gay and lesbian parents do not differ from children with heterosexual parents in their emotional development or in their relationships with peers and adults” and they are “not more likely than children of heterosexual parents to develop emotional or behavioural problems.”
- The American Academy of Pediatrics declared in 2002 that “A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with one or two gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual.” This statement was reaffirmed in 2009 and 2013.
- The American Psychological Association (APA) noted in 2004 that "same-sex couples are remarkably similar to heterosexual couples, and that parenting effectiveness and the adjustment, development and psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation."
The truth of the matter is that no legitimate research has demonstrated that same-sex couples are any more or less harmful to children than heterosexual couples, but even if the couple of studies that anti-gay organisations trumpet about were in fact legitimate (we have seen they aren’t), what about the more than a hundred other studies that have failed to find damaging effects for children? If you are a member of the religious right, you probably don’t even know about them… and that is the real crime here.
4. So how about the fact that the gay community is “highly sexualised”? Let’s start by defining exactly what we might be talking about when we say “highly sexualised”. I take this to mean two things; 1) that the gay community, as a group, celebrates sex and sexuality with a considerable degree of enthusiasm and abandon
Now the first part of that definition seems hard to argue with. LGBT events tend to involve more nudity and raunchy behaviour than has typically been the norm and I’ve been told gay bars are also more oriented towards sex. I am not so certain about the second point but I’m prepared to admit it is quite probably true and will therefore let it remain unchallenged here.
Now the first thing to point out is that this accusation of being “highly sexualised” says absolutely nothing about same-sex marriages and by extension has nothing to do with children. On the contrary, as we have seen, all the evidence seems to point to same-sex parents being equally caring and supportive of their children as different-sex parents. The research is quite clear on this fact.
But how can that be? How can one admit what I have admitted and then still conclude a gay couple can be good parents? Haven’t I just said gays and lesbians celebrate sex more and go to gay bars populated with people looking for sex with multiple partners? Yes, but I haven’t said every gay person does that. Perhaps if I re-word it in the form of a deductive argument the logical error will become more apparent. The gay community is “highly sexualised” therefore every gay individual is promiscuous and always up for sex with strangers. Now it’s easier to see that this argument makes the fallacy almost all instances of discrimination make, i.e. inferring something about the particular from a generalisation.
As a generalisation, my definition may be correct, but it will NEVER (like all generalisations) apply to all gay individuals, especially those who want to start and raise a family. And remember, this is what Christians typically tell us they are really concerned about here (aside from a minority
No one is rushing to block straight 20-somethings who just want to drink and party every weekend from having or adopting children. Why? Because none of them want children! Their lifestyle is a natural check on the desire to settle down and raise a family. But there are 20-somethings who don’t want the party lifestyle and instead choose to have children. That’s fine because not all 20-somethings are party animals. We know this. It’s common sense. The problem is this generalised stereotype among anti-gay groups that ALL gay people are sex-crazed deviants who have multiple sexual partners every week. And this is OBVIOUSLY false.
(If you really wanted to be pedantic about it, you could also point out that no lesbian liaisons will ever result in an unwanted pregnancy, something that is becoming a bigger and bigger problem for straight females.)
Not only that, the actual adoption process itself must involve a number of rigorous checks into the suitability of the couple applying, which would equally apply to straight and same-sex couples. A further check on the process that doesn’t require a ridiculous blanket ban on one segment of society based on sexual orientation, and one that arises naturally in any childcare system worth the name. (Questions about how one can actually investigate a same-sex couple I consider to be meaningless because the exact same problem arises for straight couples but no Christian is complaining about the adoption system.)
So, arguments that a same-sex couple shouldn’t be allowed to adopt because the gay community is “highly sexualised” are empty. Yet I doubt my arguments to this effect will change the mind of any anti-gay advocate though. Why is that? Why are (mainly) Christians so worked up over homosexuals and their being “highly sexualised”? I suspect this is closer to the real issue than the smokescreen Christians throw up about children and adoption. Before we look closer at this, let me briefly run through why I think the whole ‘protect our children’ routine is a smokescreen:
- I am betting that most anti-gay Christians who know of research that supports their views (e.g. Regnerus or Sullins) know nothing more than a couple of inflammatory ‘findings’ but haven’t actually looked into the research in any detail
- I am also betting that most of them have NOT looked into the dozens and dozens of studies that have found no link at all between same-sex marriage and any of the supposed harms that flow from them
- No Christian favours excluding low-income couples, low-educated couples, people who have previously divorced, or even single parents, from adopting despite the fact that research is abundantly clear that children in such families tend to be fare worse than others
- The anti-gay movement is overwhelmingly a Christian one. It would defy logic to suggest the only group of people interested in the welfare of our children are Christians
So, what is the real complaint behind gay people being “highly sexualised”? Well, I suspect Christians are just uncomfortable with sex itself. Christianity has a history of being prudish and highly averse to anything to do with sex. Why else would Pope Benedict XVI have gone to AIDS-stricken Africa in 2009 and preached against condom use? Because condoms offer the promise of (virtually) risk-free sex; no pregnancies, no risk of disease. The Pope’s pronouncement clearly implies that sex is for having children only. Hopefully few of you actually believe that but it is undeniable that sex is something Christianity has made us acutely ashamed of. We weren’t always like this though; some Pagan rituals were highly graphic and even orgiastic in nature.
If you were raised in the Christian West, even if you have rejected everything else associated with Christianity,
I ought to point out that the urge to have sex is a completely natural desire. Every animal on the planet does it and most species will overcome immense hurdles in order to get their groove on. There are two objections one might want to make here. First, other species don’t ‘abuse’ sex like humans do. None of them are interested in pornography and few masturbate as a form of pleasure. They all use it as it was intended, for the ‘wholesome’ purpose of procreation. Second, just because something is natural doesn’t make it right.
In response to the first objection; it is true that in the (non-human) animal kingdom sex is simple. There is no sex industry with mother tigers selling their bodies to the males if they pay by killing an antelope for her and the cub she’s struggling to raise on her own and no fish with fin or gill fetishes. And it’s all governed by hormones so the males aren’t thinking about sex every 7 seconds.
So, they aren’t doing it for wicked carnal pleasure, only to make babies right? Wrong. No rabbit thinks to himself, “That cute bunny over there is ovulating now so, even though the idea of sex isn’t really all that appealing, I’d better go and do my duty.” Why does an animal have sex? Because it feels good. Because their whole being craves it more than anything else. Even if the female is bigger and will kill and eat the male after she’s had her wicked way with him, he won’t be able to help himself. That’s how powerful this urge is. They aren’t doing it for their species, they don’t even know what a ‘species’ is. They’re just doing it for the same reason we do, because it feels good.
To the second objection; this is also true; just because something is natural doesn’t make it ‘right’ but it does make it, to a certain extent, unavoidable. Sure, we can feel the desire but then decide not to indulge it. But that doesn’t eliminate the fundamental urge and no healthy human could decide to suddenly not want sex anymore. For better or worse, we are evolutionarily programmed (exactly like our animal cousins) to want sex. The question we need to ask ourselves is not, “Is this urge good or bad?” but, “Since we can’t avoid this urge, what is the best way to deal with it?”
Is the best method the repression of these desires? Well, the current scandal over Catholic priests molesting young boys
1. Sacred and special
2. Not to be cheapened by bandying it around in the public domain
3. We don’t talk about in ‘civilised’ or ‘decent’ company
4. We certainly don’t want to expose our children to
This is essentially the way have treated it in modern times and now, with the “highly sexualised” nature of the same-sex community, some of these notions are being flagrantly challenged. Christian sensibilities are being trampled on by this behaviour and this has led to the problem we are discussing here. So, let’s drop the smokescreen about children and molestation and focus on what is really bothering Christians, namely, S-E-X.
Let’s look at number 1. Now, I have absolutely no problem with sex being a special connection between two people who love each other… but must it be only that? If we morally regulate sex in this way, what we are essentially doing is making our natural urges wrong, and we’re back to guilt and shame – sex outside of a committed relationship is bad, wrong, dirty. Is there no scope for sex to be a casual encounter between two people who share a physical attraction and want to experience that on a physical level? Sex is an undeniably pleasurable and uniquely intense physical experience. Why should two consenting adults (straight or gay) be prohibited from engaging in it unless they are prepared to make a long-term commitment to each other? Casual doesn’t necessarily mean ‘empty’ or ‘cheap’.
And let’s not forget it wasn’t that long ago that even a single consenting adult was discouraged from pleasuring him or herself sexually. We even told lies to our children so they wouldn’t indulge in this completely harmless act, “You’ll go blind”. Is this what healthy communities do? Lie to their children, all so they don’t pleasure themselves in a way that harms absolutely no one?
I think the fear here is that letting sex out of the marital bedroom is like opening Pandora’s Box, “But if everybody’s having random, indiscriminate sex, the fabric of civilised society will disintegrate! Sex is too powerful. We must control it otherwise we’ll be swept away by our passions and reduced to animals doing it in the streets!” This is ridiculously alarmist and a completely skewed way to think about things. No one is suggesting abandoning marriage or monogamy, but just because every sexual encounter isn’t part of a committed relationship doesn’t mean we’ll be overcome by our desires and start “doing it in the streets”. On the contrary, if we aren’t conditioned to believe that sex is sacred and nothing but sacred, then we won’t be confused when our natural bodily urges lead us to want sex outside a committed relationship. At the very least, we will be able to face this fact and deal with it without shame and guilt.
Number 2. As far as things currently stand, sex is pretty much everywhere in the public domain. Sex sells, right? Gay people do tend to be more playful and raunchy in their approach to sex (this is obviously a generalisation, it doesn’t apply to everyone) than we have seen in the past. Is there something inherently wrong with this? Only if you think sex can’t be anything other than something sacred and reserved for a special person. And no one is stopping you from thinking that, that’s your decision. If you want to save yourself for ‘the one’, go for it; but don’t kid yourself into thinking that you are right and people who disagree with you are wrong. As we’ve seen, sex is nothing more than a completely natural, albeit extremely powerful, urge that can’t be suppressed or ignored without negative consequences. Intrinsically, there is nothing shameful, private, sacred, profane, obscene, or beautiful about it. It just is. The adjectives we use to describe sex are a choice, and I’m suggesting we have allowed a puritanical institution that was deathly afraid of it, to make that choice for us... and that we can choose again.
And to number 3, why should sex be something we can’t talk about in public, something we have to be ashamed of? This only adds to the stigma we have built up around this perfectly natural subject. We all have sex; most of us have, do, or will masturbate, and yet there’s this code of secrecy we must all obey.
Note that I am not saying I would be comfortable talking about my sex life in public and so I’m assuming most of you reading this would feel similarly uncomfortable. My point here is that we can’t trust our instincts on this subject because we have been conditioned to be ashamed of them. It is pointless thinking about it, shuddering, and then rejecting what I am saying based on your gut reaction because it is precisely your gut reaction that I am suggesting needs to be challenged.
As far as number 4 is concerned, on the face of it, this seems like a valid concern. Children are innocent – do we want to corrupt them with an attitude towards sex that leaves them thinking sex is natural, joyful and something that can be playful as well as representing a deeper commitment instead of saddling them with guilt and responsibility over this serious act we must never talk about at all costs? You bet we do!
“What if my child sees these semi-naked homosexuals cavorting around simulating lewd acts in the middle of a street celebration?” Oh no. Then your child will grow up not being ashamed of his or her natural physical desires. They will grow up knowing that what they are feeling is totally natural and there is nothing wrong or ‘lewd’ about them.
“But our children will then mimic these people and they’ll be reduced to sex maniacs having sex on the streets.” Again, this is nonsense. If we teach our children that sex is something natural that can be both enjoyed as a casual encounter and cherished with a loved partner (perhaps just not at the same time), there is absolutely no reason to suppose they will become obsessed with sex. On the contrary, not exposing them to sex leaves them to deal with these urges on their own, in which case their totally natural sexual desires will tend to be something they naturally hide. The result is a confused youth who stands more chance of becoming obsessed about his or her natural desires, their dirty little secret.
It is worth remembering that sex education, a completely sensible idea, was initially opposed by Christians who feared that by teaching teenagers how to have sex, we are also encouraging them. Here’s the problem. Teenagers are going to have sex with or without education about it! It’s natural! It can’t be stopped! Make sex something taboo and they’re just going to do it without your knowledge and then feel guilty. Wouldn’t it be better if they could talk about what they felt, if everyone knew about it because everyone else was feeling the same, and it wasn’t something that must be secreted away, hidden, acknowledged but never encouraged, and suppressed?
So to try and bring this section to some kind of conclusion; yes, the gay community is “highly sexualised” but that is only a problem because we have been trained to be ashamed or feel guilt over this perfectly natural urge. And so we are no longer surprised that it is the members of a religion that has always had a huge problem with sex, who are the most vocal against that segment in our community that not only partake in homosexual relations but do so without the Christian baggage that the West has lugged into the 21st century on our behalf.
We have covered quite a lot of territory in this article (certainly more than I expected to) and confronted four arguments anti-gay groups usually throw up to support their position. If I can summarise my four conclusions as briefly as possible:
- A ‘civil union’ is not equivalent to a ‘marriage’ and suggesting that it is, is an attempt to continue to invalidate the LGBT community and treat them as a group we don’t accept
- The suggestion that gay men molest more children than straight men turned out to be a complete misunderstanding of the situation. Fixated child molesters are neither gay nor straight and repressive child molesters are often heterosexual.
- A half-decent review of the scientific literature reveals that the handful of studies Christians point to which claim to have found evidence that children in same-sex families fare worse than those in traditional families don’t actually support this thesis. In addition, the overwhelming majority of studies conducted have found exactly the opposite.
- The fact that the LGBT community is “highly sexualised” seems far less of a concern when we consider where our own intuitions about the subject have come from. Sex is a completely natural urge and something we can’t sensibly deny (although that hasn’t stopped us from trying). Fears that society would crumble if we make it something that doesn’t come packaged with guilt, shame, seriousness, and an injunction to suppress, are at best, unlikely, and at worst, paranoid.
Despite my best efforts at providing a reasoned and cogent argument, I remain sceptical that any minds will be changed through this kind of discussion or the conclusions I have argued for here simply because no one reasons themselves into holding discriminatory ideals, therefore no one can be reasoned out of them. Attempting to control what a minority can or cannot do based on stereotypes and generalisations is just not usually something someone consciously decides to do. Such an attitude arises rather from irrational beliefs that lie beneath rational thought processes and a deep-rooted fear of anything different.
New directions are always fraught with potential obstacles and unforeseen difficulties but that is the very nature of progress. And while progress doesn’t always take us where we expect, when the status quo involves placing restrictions on fellow human beings simply because they find themselves attracted to the ‘wrong’ gender, the risks of faltering in the future pale in comparison to the shame of staying where we are.