Gay marriage is frequently the discussion du jour among conservatives. They imagine that the very institution of marriage is under deadly assault. What they all fear about gays and gay marriage remains a total mystery to me, and meantime, the five percent of humanity that is gay, some 350-million people, are frequently denied normal human rights.
Let’s begin with the most common misunderstanding about homosexuality.
Not one gay person in the history of the world has ever been able to purposely change his or her sexuality from heterosexual to homosexual. Nor can anyone who is gay simply decide to be straight. (I use “gay” here to represent all persons, male or female, who are not entirely heterosexual.) Yet many heterosexuals, who couldn’t under any circumstance do it themselves, assert that all 350-million of these people simply decided to be gay. Or they will say that gays have “chosen the gay lifestyle”. One supposes that choosing such a lifestyle is akin to choosing, say, a country club lifestyle, or a motorcycle gang lifestyle. There is no such thing as “the gay lifestyle”, and no one has ever chosen to be gay.
Let us assuage fears that gay marriage will destroy the sanctity of “traditional marriage”. Whose “traditional marriage” might that be? Is it the traditional marriage where the groom arrives riding an elephant? The one where the bride leaves her maternal home, never to return? How about the marriage where the bride and groom don’t see each other until the moment they are married? Or the one where the bride arrives in a palanquin, a fancy carved box, carried by two or four men? How about all those where the marriage partners are chosen by others?
Nowhere are conservative Christians’ “traditional” marriages being disallowed. Nor are they somehow devalued by gay marriage, any more than they are devalued because others have different wedding traditions. In fact, the high divorce rate among Christian conservatives suggests that they value the sanctity of marriage less than others do.
In places where marriage is not denied by law to gay people, the social foundations have not crumbled into madness and anarchy. Things seem to be pretty much normal, and may, in fact be even better than normal. In a large, long-term study of lesbian couples, for example, literally none of their children, adopted or otherwise, was ever abused. Not one. This cannot be claimed for sanctified Christian marriages.
“Will you raise your child to be gay?”, many would ask gay parents, at which point the beleaguered parents will roll their eyes. No one can “raise a child to be gay”, any more than a person can simply decide to be gay himself. In the study of lesbian couples mentioned just above, about 2% of their children were gay, which is below estimates for homosexuality in the general population. A child’s sexuality can no more be purposely altered than an adult’s, even when the genitalia are altered.
In a famous case where a baby boy’s genitalia were accidentally mutilated shortly after birth, he was made into an anatomic female. But all his life he felt like a misfit, behaved like a male, and was unhappy. When his twin brother died, he was finally told of his true sexuality, and he committed suicide shortly after.
We should mention here that religious attempts to force gay men to become heterosexual have been spectacularly unsuccessful, resulting in all sorts of mental and social difficulties and illnesses. Suicide is not uncommon. There are, however, some gay, or at least bisexual men, who live with wives, and who have children.
Another eye-roller is the statement that sometimes comes from the mouths of people from elsewhere. “We don’t have that problem in China [or Tanzania, or someplace]”, they will say. If someone claims that their country doesn’t have “that problem” it is probably because homosexuals in those places are singled out for legal and extralegal sanction and violence, and must spend their lives in hiding. In many parts of the US, to come out would be to reveal yourself to the attentions of homophobes who would kill you. That’s what the problem is.
There is no shortage of conservative politicians who routinely use their office to bash gays. They loudly oppose even legislation that would assure gays the same economic rights everyone else enjoys. “Loudly” may be the key word. It’s often a case of, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” (from Hamlet). So many of these noisy legislators have turned out to be gay themselves that our suspicions should be automatically aroused. Such people, if they absolutely must stay in the closet, should simply shut up, and not make others’ lives more difficult.
All the holy books of the Abrahamic religions condemn homosexuality in no uncertain terms, and often prescribe death for such transgressions. Here are a few other things the holy books tell us: You may not eat lobster or clam. A man may have as many wives as he wishes, although a woman may have only one husband. If your child talks back, you must kill him. A man is worth twice as much as a woman. A woman is suited only for domestic duty, and may be beaten at the whim of the husband. If a woman is raped, she must be killed. If a daughter speaks with a boy outside the family, she must be killed. If a child should steal something, his hand must be cut off. There are many similar barbarisms. How can anyone care what such books have to say about homosexuality?
You may personally dislike the idea of homosexuality, and no one says you must change. But it is unwise to deny a population larger than the entire United States the normal respect and rights that are the mark of a mature and humane society.