A foray onto the topic of gay marriage, inspired by the book of faces. I’d like to take a look at a few ideas that seem to fuel much of the opposition to homosexuality.
- Strictly defined gender roles
I watched a great Norwegian documentary a few months back that investigated some of the dominant theory in psychology and sociology in Norway, where most explanations tend to favor nurture over nature in the development of the human psyche and society. Over the course of the series, he demonstrates how the desire to create total equality leads to dogma which rejects the possibility that people aren’t just blank slates. To the point: as much of the anecdotal evidence suggests, men and women are fundamentally different from one another in certain ways. This observation forms much of the basis for “ought” statements concerning the genders, but to stop here is to use incomplete evidence.
Although we generally perceive gender as binary, the reality is that it’s more like a spectrum. Masculine women and effeminate men are everywhere; some explain this as a byproduct of recent cultural shifts, but it’s true across all known cultures. It’s these cases that make “ought” statements about men and women rather hairy affairs. A large minority of the populace do not immediately fit rigid classification, and it’s this demographic that suffers when society fails to acknowledge their existence. No, it turns out, nature is not as simple as boy and girl. But what does this have to do with homosexuality?
- Universally applied expectations of relationships
As the perceived roles of men and women become more exclusive to one another, notions of what constitutes a valid and functional relationship begins to narrow. What results is a very specific definition of a successful relationship, one that tends to rely heavily on shared concepts of gender roles. Norms of gender are only effective in so far as most people are willing to enforce them or abide by them, which is why the slippery slope argument is so widely used. In a society where gender norms are no longer strictly enforced, individuals that rely on these norms to structure their relationships will probably feel threatened or undermined.
People generally look to history for confirmation of their notion that things are getting worse or that the game has fundamentally changed, but this analysis is nothing more than a post hoc fallacy. Just because our culture here in America has been structured to favor one man and one woman does not mean that all other combinations are in any way invalid or sub-optimal. The principles that govern heterosexual relationships are the same for homosexual relationships – and why should we expect any different? Sexuality and gender do not diminish the prime importance of communication, awareness, and patience, as well as all the other qualities that form the groundwork for a healthy relationship.
But why is homosexuality a target of such angst for the fundamentalists?
- The origin of sexuality is considered irrelevant
For a long time people rejected the idea that sexuality was innate – gays were making a choice and were therefore at fault. Nowadays, there exists overwhelming data which indicates that for many people, sexuality is mostly determined in utero. Testosterone modulates developmental changes in the brain, transforming the structure of the brain (which starts female!) to a male-structured brain. The origins and demographics of sexuality are important to consider if we want to know whether it’s actually a good or bad thing.
This is where it’s important to consider what percentages actually mean. Given that at least 3-4% of the American population identify as LGBT, that’s well over 10 million people, or somewhere around one in every 30 people you know. Many arguments suggest that current culture has encouraged its growth and that it used to be smaller, but there is no evidence for this; other countries across the globe show similar rates, even in places where it is still extremely taboo.
- Homosexuality is considered synonymous with promiscuity
Maybe you’ve seen statistics like this before (this one’s all over faith-related websites):
“a 1978 study found that 75 percent of white, gay males claimed to have had more than 100 lifetime male sex partners: 15 percent claimed 100-249 sex partners; 17 percent claimed 250-499; 15 percent claimed 500- 999; and 28 percent claimed more than 1,000 lifetime male sex partners.”
Using this data (or similar), the conversation generally circles back to questioning the viability of homosexual relationships because they are not deemed monogamous. This is certified bullshit. Every study performed since has found a quite different result. In general, the vast majority of the LGBT population nearly mirrors the behaviors of the heterosexual population, and it’s a very small minority that end up accounting for a disproportionately massive chunk of sexual activity. This brings us to the last point.
- Lumping all sexual deviance into one group
Driven by assumptions and inaccurate perceptions of the gay lifestyle, many moralists unflinchingly prophesize beastiality and orgies if we allows homosexuality to go on. The Boy Scouts of America still refuse to allow openly gay scouts or leaders, a policy fueled entirely by the notion that pederasty is standard homosexual behavior. All of it based on an inability to see gay people for the overwhelmingly normal folk that they are. With these associations cemented daily by religious and political leaders, fundamentalists at large learn to see gay marriage as a symbolic threat to the safety of their value systems, rather than the civil rights movement that it really is.
In my mind, it’s nothing short of a disgrace that so many continue to claim that there is no unfair discrimination in preventing gay marriages. There is no point in arguing whether there should or should not be legal benefits for marriage – there are, and they aren’t going away. Being as we don’t live in a theocracy, legal benefits should never be restricted based on sexuality. End of story.