I don’t care what other peoples’ sex practices are, so long as they don’t practice them in the streets and frighten the horses. Oscar Wilde, I think.
Some years ago, on a camping trip, my friend Joe Ray and I resolved that should one of us be unfortunate enough to be bitten on the penis by a venomous serpent, and oral suction by the other was the only life saving measure available, then the afflicted party would simply have to die. My liberated stepdaughter finds this view “homophobic,” meaning fear of homosexuality. I don’t think so. I am not afraid of homosexuality; I simply find the idea of people of the same sex having sex unaesthetic and curious and do not understand why up to ten percent of the world’s population wants to do that.
But there are many things I find annoying, don’t understand, don’t want to do, and don’t know why anyone else would want to do, like being left-handed. Why, I wonder, would anyone choose to be left-handed? They look funny when they write, and their hand moves across what they have written. Also, lots of manufactured artifacts are most unhandy for people electing this deviation. Parents sometimes force their children to be right-handed and normal. In the superstitious past, such maladapted persons were thought blessed or cursed, depending on prevailing local mythology. Kids forced to alter their basic nature became psychologically scarred.
We are more enlightened now. Left-handed people are accepted and their rights acknowledged. Sports stars and Presidents can be left-handed, as can anyone else, and special goods are manufactured accommodating their variance from the much larger right-handed population. Their condition is seen as a result of the roll of the genetic dice, having no moral or pejorative implications.
Homosexuality appears to have been an aspect of the human condition forever, praised by some societies, condemned by others. Because of the “Judeo-Christian” tradition, American culture has feared, condemned, and criminalized this left-handedness of human sexual drives. To the followers of Yahweh and St. Paul, sex has been suspect anyway, the source of original sin, and tolerated only to create new believers. Homosexuality was viewed as a practice permitted by the unsaved heathens whose science and culture Christianity destroyed. The Bible specifically condemns same sex erotic love, but then it also condemns women and gives instructions on repressing them. One might muse darkly on what those twelve apostles did together on long nights in the desert, without women, or why the woman-hating apostle Paul lavished such affectionate words on his young disciple Timothy. Anyway, the religious right wants homosexual acts to stay criminal and sees the practice as a sin, not as the genetically predisposed state of being it appears to be. Because of this sin myth, homosexuals have been banned from the American military, and, if not made criminals elsewhere, have been denied the rights to live together and constitute a lawful family. They may not behave as heterosexuals in love because their sexual orientation is mythologically viewed as immoral and wrong. They appear to be not only loathed but feared.
The fear comes from the belief that homosexuality is voluntary and contagious. Bigots believe gays and lesbians choose to be that way and that they try to convert others to their perversions. As is usual in matters of religious certainty, if the facts contradict the myth, the myth wins. The existence of homosexuals in the military is unsettling to many, proving that the perceived immorality is not confined to the arts and the priesthood. We will not expend space here in prolonged discussion of the obvious hypocrisy of priests practicing that which they condemn as sin and absolving those sinners through the power of God. That many religious leaders do “unnatural acts” is known from the confessions of nuns who have kicked the habit and from the confessions of priests in open court to the criminal molestation of same sex children. If gold rusts, what will iron do?
The matter of gays in the military has brought our social myths on sexual orientation into sharper focus. Gays have always been in our military, and in every military since society started resolving their differences through organized violence. The Greek way was not confined to the armies of Alexander, and has been accepted, if not condoned, in all ancient and modern land and naval forces, except in those who insist, despite all proof, that the myth is right and reality is wrong. The armed forces can function with homosexuals in their ranks because they have so functioned and continue to function, despite official denial. Gays and lesbians have served with distinction, flying planes, running hospitals, manning artillery batteries, and so on. Many have risen to high command rank without their sexual preferences interfering with duty and good order. A well-disciplined conscientious gay in the military is certainly to be preferred over a sexually misbehaving heterosexual officer harassing female subordinates or a priest molesting choirboys.
If the sexual drives of the homosexual are propelled by forces within put there by his Creator, whose creations are perfect and whose will is unknowable and unknown, then prejudice against him is theologically unsound. If homosexual behavior has a biological basis, then one so predestined did not choose his orientation any more than heterosexuals choose theirs, and the idea that such genetic drives are somehow catching is as absurd as a fear that left-handedness may be acquired by proximity or persuasion.
If gays and lesbians voluntarily choose to practice a lifestyle of deviation from mythical standards of proper behavior, they must be severely masochistic individuals. Imagine choosing to be rejected by family members you love, risking shame, imprisonment, loss of career, and being denied the ability to publicly express affection, obtain housing, or serve one’s country. Does it seem reasonable that a military person who adheres to rigid standards in rules of conduct and discipline would, in the sexual area of life, elect to destroy all that has been worked for, and risk beatings, private scorn, and public disgrace merely to flaunt freely chosen homosexual behavior condemned by others as repulsive and perverted? Barry Goldwater correctly observed we should be more concerned with whether they can shoot straight (he probably intended none of the possible puns).
The notion that homosexuals are seeking special rights is in the same category, and is maintained by the same people, as was the idea that blacks were seeking special rights when they wanted to vote, buy a home, or ride at the front of a bus. What is so special about wanting the same human and civil rights enjoyed by people who have a genetically ordained yearning for the opposite sex? Actually, I am glad I was not born gay. Heterosexuality has caused me quite enough problems, thank you. Sometimes I think the Almighty erred by inventing it. But I can accept that which I cannot understand without fear of being converted. I do not believe my left handed paralegal, daughter-in-law, or President are likely to cause me to write in their strange way. It seems equally unlikely that I could be persuaded to substitute my excessive fondness for warm, soft, perfumed women for attraction to hairy legged males.
Oh, yes, I bought a snake bite kit.
Edwin Kagin (c)