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.

8 thoughts on “quibble”

  1. “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”

    Lies, damn lies, and (vague, ill-defined) statistics.

    The simple fact that HIV/AIDS was and is often referred to as an epidemic among homosexuals quickly and decisively sinks this argument; the studies mentioned are either flawed or biased, not to mention the relevance of the stated metric (“vast majority … nearly mirrors” – give me a break). The empty(*) threat in the 80s by homosexuals to spread HIV to heterosexuals unless HIV research funding demands were met only highlights that even homosexuals considered themselves generally promiscuous.

    Besides being wrong, Tim also misses the point of the relationship of promiscuity to homosexual marriage in the discussion on the book of faces: *heterosexual* promiscuity made it easy to conflate the meanings of love. I.e. someone could get away with saying “because heterosexuals love (eros) each other freely, you can’t tell me whom I can love (agape),” and the acceptance of promiscuity as a standard makes that a logical and unanswerable statement.

    * empty because enough heterosexuals were promiscuous and/or bisexual that HIV was bound to spread there too without any homosexuals carrying out their threat.

    “as we don’t live in a theocracy, legal benefits should never be restricted based on sexuality.”

    “should?” Apparently someone thinks we live in a Timocracy. Anyone, even Tim, who says “can’t legislate morality” but then uses “should” is really saying “can’t legislate *your* morality, mine is a different matter.”

  2. ” ‘“should?” Apparently someone thinks we live in a Timocracy. Anyone, even Tim, who says “can’t legislate morality” but then uses “should” is really saying “can’t legislate *your* morality, mine is a different matter.’ ”

    That is a deliberate conflation of notions of moral legislation to hide the flaw in your position.

    Your stance: homosexuality is immoral and therefore legislation against it is acceptable. The immorality of homosexuality is rooted in your religious tradition, without any empirical basis. To legislate accordingly is to give the Christian moral framework primacy in terms of controlling social policy. Do you see how this is Christian moral hegemony? You assume the “natural” position is your own, but it isn’t. Your set of beliefs is only one in a much larger spectrum, theologically and morally.

    This is completely different from the stance that is *not* imposing legislation on homosexual activity. Preventing moral restriction is not a moral restriction in itself, and to consider them equivalent is deliberately fallacious reasoning.

  3. You seem woefully uneducated about HIV/AIDS. Let me help!

    HIV/AIDS did not originate from homosexuality, nor is male-male sexual behavior the primary vector of transmission. The evidence indicates that it was acquired from primates, most likely in the Congo as a result of the bushmeat practice. It’s true that HIV/AIDS is disproportionately common among gay men in the United States. However, the rest of the world tells a different story. Transmission across the globe comes primarily through good old fashioned penis-and-vagina sex (as well as poor blood screening and mother-to-child transfer). So what’s different about the US?

    The United States, being a mostly developed country, has decent access to preventative measures, effective blood screening, and widespread awareness programs. Anal sex is the most risky vector of sexual transmission because of the concentration of seminal fluids combined with the increased risk of condom failure. Sharing of needles is comparatively much riskier, and becomes relevant when you look at the demographics of the situation. Homeless individuals in America are much more likely to be LGBT, and (unsafe) drug use correlates strongly with poverty. Consider also prison populations, where male-male contact is much more common, preventative measures are often not available, and (unsafe) drug use is rampant. This is also why African-Americans are disproportionately affected. If you don’t believe me, then go do the research yourself. I even provided a place to start in my post.

    I have no idea what you’re talking about with the “threat to spread HIV”. I don’t see how anyone could threaten to spread a disease they knew nothing about, nor do I see why such an opinion should ever be considered representative of the overall population. Quite frankly, this reaks of homophobia in the purest sense, and I would further label it a red herring.

    Matt addressed your last quip rather well, but just to add my own response. There’s a difference between morality and dogma. I don’t want anyone else’s dogma telling me or my friends how to live. Morality is a different matter. Morality can (and should) be justified using evidence, reason, and debate. You say that I am wrong and that I provide false statistics: where, then, is your evidence? I propose that you have none, because your beliefs are based on religious ideology and inaccurate stereotypes that you are unwilling to reconsider.

  4. You need to read more carefully. It was never claimed that HIV/AIDs originated from homosexuals, just that in the US, the *initial* vectors were *mainly* among homosexuals. That debunks the claim of a level of promiscuity among homosexuals comparable to heterosexuals.

    And the following is not “research” in the strictest sense but it readily comes up from a quick search:

    AIDS Office, Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Control, San Francisco City Clinic Special Programs for Youth and San Francisco Department of Welfare, The Young Men’s Survey: Principal Findings and Results (San Francisco, CA: 1991). This study revealed that almost half of study participants ages 17-19 had participated in unprotected anal intercourse as compared to under a quarter of the 20-22 year-olds and under a third of 23-25 year-olds. In addition, just over 14 percent of young men between 17 and 22 years old were HIV positive, comparing to 10.4 percent of young men between 23 and 25 years old.

    AIDS Committee of Massachusetts, A Survey of AIDS-Related Knowledge, Attitudes and Behavior Among Gay and Bisexual Men in Greater Boston (Boston, MA: AIDS Committee of Massachusetts, 1991). In this survey of 1,841 gay and bisexual men, four out of 10 men under 23 years of age reported at least one instance of anal intercourse without using a condom during the past six months.

    from a review of “And the Band Played On:” Shilts, who is openly gay, is equally tough on the gay community, which, he says, transformed its civil rights movement in the ’70s into “omnipresent carnality.” In the face of rampant disease, he says, gay leaders resisted calling for sexual restraint, fearing that it would threaten their hard-won liberation.

    Your ignorance of threats from the homosexual community are probably due to you being too young to remember it. Ask some people 20-30 years older than you; some will remember.

  5. You’ve provided statistics on condom use, which is not the same as promiscuity. Further, statistics on same-sex relations are meaningless if you don’t look at opposite-sex relations. From the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/sexualbehaviors/):

    – 47.4% had ever had sexual intercourse
    – 33.7% had had sexual intercourse during the previous 3 months, and, of these
    – 39.8% did not use a condom the last time they had sex
    – 76.7% did not use birth control pills or Depo-Provera to prevent pregnancy the last time they had sex
    – 15.3% had had sex with four or more people during their life

    More (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_024.pdf):

    – In 2002, the proportion of never-married females aged 15–19 who had ever had sexual intercourse was 46 percent
    – The percent of never-married males aged 15–19 who ever had sexual intercourse declined significantly between 1995 and 2002, from 55 to 46 percent.

    Funny how similar those numbers are.

  6. Condoms, for protection against most STDs, are only an issue when promiscuity is in play (known to be a factor or uncertain). Barring an outside method of transmission (needle, blood transfusion, etc.), lifetime-monogamous couples need no protection from HIV transmission via sexual intercourse. And is “four” some magic number of lifetime partners, or is it just the point where the percentage feels low enough to make a point? Two is enough to infect everyone, and the percentage for two is unlikely to be comparable to that for four.

    But again, you are missing the point. The original issue raised regarding promiscuity was that, historically, the acceptance of heterosexual promiscuity provided the backdrop for the unanswerable “I can’t be told whom I can love” conflation by the pro-homosexual position. Evidence that that homosexual population act “about” as irresponsibly as the heterosexual is irrelevant.

    An a priori declaration of homosexual marriage as a right, when the same privileges are available irrespective of orientation via other means, is not just asking for tolerance, but is demanding acceptance no less than a call for Christian hegemony.

  7. In case you continue to miss the point, what is true is that once sex within a monogamous heterosexual marriage ceased to be the accepted norm, the ballgame was over.

  8. My last note re: AIDS, since this is getting repetitive – you used AIDS as evidence that homosexuals are significantly more promiscuous than heterosexuals. I rejected this proposition by comparing statistics of behavior between gay and straight populations. That’s what I was addressing – not your notion of steadily increasing societal promiscuity. Which brings me to ask…

    When was this magical Golden Age where all of society unanimously enforced the union of one man and one woman, exclusively and for eternity? This is what I meant in my post about a post hoc fallacy: the only way that you can construe modern society’s sexuality as being particularly extravagant is through a simplistic (and incorrect) interpretation of history. It certainly wasn’t in Biblical times – Yahweh explicitly condoned the rape of virgins as spoils of war, polygamy, forced and arranged marriages, and the odd case of incest. Perhaps you mean the Victorian era, where sexuality of all kind – straight or gay – was hidden and repressed wherever possible? Perhaps the 19th century, then, when it was the norm for slaveowners to use their slaves as concubines? Maybe the 20th century, when women were denied equal pay and opportunity in the workplace because they obviously all belong at home raising the kiddos?

    To jump up and down and say “Look at how things used to be, and look at how they are now” is simply not a valid argument when we can see such gross violations of human rights across all times and places, often defended (even today – see Syria, India, or Somalia, where rapists are frequently given a totally free pass by the law) as being part of tradition or ritual.

    But honestly, all this gives your last statement too much credit. When did monogamous heterosexual marriage cease to be the norm? I look round and I see exactly that, everywhere. I just spent five days in NYC (mostly Manhattan and Brooklyn) and not once did I see a same-sex couple. Are they hiding? Do they feel oppressed or unwelcome in public? Possibly, but it’s freakin’ NYC. I suspect that it’s just a reflection of demographics and the nature of social networks. Go to San Francisco and things will be a different story. In an area specifically branded as a safe haven for the gay community, proportions of the population will shift and how that population expresses itself is going to change as a result of that altered ratio.

    You feel like the ball game is over because people aren’t playing by your rules. The truth is that they never were.

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