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Posts Tagged ‘homosexuality’

You might have noticed there are some Christians still not on board with same-sex marriage.

One Jesus-centric group recently put forward five reiterations of tired old clich├ęs whose unconvincing nature is becoming ever more apparent. Their second point began thusly:

The promotion and legal recognition of homosexual unions is not in the interest of the common good. That may sound benighted, if not bigoted. But we must say it in love: codifying the indistinguishability of gender will not make for the “peace of the city.” It rubs against the grain of the universe, and when you rub against the grain of divine design you’re bound to get splinters.

It was Hemant’s analysis that prompted me to think some more about this:

Aww… they’re trying to turn their bigotry into poetry. Isn’t that sweet of them.

I’d never quite noticed before that this is what happens in Christianity a lot. They’ll take up a conservative, narrow-minded stance on a very particular interpretation of Biblical values, but distance themselves from all those hateful Westboro Baptists and the like, by claiming that they’re motivated by love.

They’re not raging about queers burning in Hell; they’re talking about getting metaphorical splinters from rubbing against the grain of divine design.

They hate the sin, but love the sinner. Gay people, you should appreciate the compassion these Christians have for you – it’s just your actions in your personal relationships and the innate tendencies within you that they find contemptible and wicked.

The point being, of course, that there’s more to love than flowery language and a soft face and declaring aloud to all and sundry that love for your neighbour is what drives you. If you’re not going to be a hypocrite, you also have to actually love people. You don’t get instant credit for being compassionate just because you’ve replaced blatant spite and invective with worthy analogies built of purple prose.

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– If, like I was, you’ve been wondering what Herman Cain’s been doing with his time since his presidential campaign was abandoned, well, here’s your answer. Avant-garde performance art. Inspiring. (h/t Ed Brayton)

Minimalist poster designs representing mental disorders. Nifty.

Science is broken. It’s still the best we have, but our current practice of peer review and replicating blinded studies leaves a lot to be desired, in terms of its capacity to filter out biases and errors. More at Heterodoxology.

– Conservatives have often complained about being put in the incredibly awkward and uncomfortable situation of having to explain homosexuality to their children, because of how those gays keep adamantly existing with no regard for anyone else’s feelings. Truly, this is a nightmare scenario.

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Wait, that sounds wrong. The Gay Slope. No, that’s got problems of its own.

Anyway, this is a brief post about the “slippery slope” argument as applied to gay marriage.

Martin Robbins is getting frustrated at the persistence with which many campaigners are seeking to Keep Marriage Heteronormative. He dismantles the various anti-equality arguments well enough, but that shouldn’t really even be a challenge for any thinking person these days.

Still, however many times all this needs to be repeated, there’s no forcing anybody to accept it, and there might be no escape from the futile waste of time that seems to present itself as the only solution: Wait until the generation of people who come stubbornly pre-opposed to the idea die off, and society is primarily comprised of those who’ve grown up amid this conversation and who can easily tell which, generally speaking, is the side that makes sense.

There’s just one thing that comes up in Martin’s piece which I want to comment on. One question being asked by the Coalition for Marriage is:

If marriage is redefined once, what is to stop it being redefined to allow polygamy?

The same answer can be given here as with any question that takes this form.

The thing that will stop us from redefining marriage to allow polygamy, if anything, is simply this: a good reason why we shouldn’t redefine marriage to allow polygamy. Are there any of those? Well, maybe. Martin suggests not, and I’m inclined to agree, but that’s for a discussion about polygamy to decide. Right now we’re talking about gay marriage. So, are there any good reasons why we shouldn’t redefine marriage to allow same-sex partnerships? We’re still waiting.

If we do terrible thing A, what’s to prevent us from doing terrible thing B later?

Rational arguments against terrible thing B that simply don’t apply in the case of terrible thing A. That’s what.

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– An organisation claiming to represent mothers essentially think that Ellen shouldn’t be allowed to speak in public because she’s one of them gays what are destroying the country. And Bill O’Reilly appears to be the voice of reason.

Atheism and death.

– Was the whole kerfuffle over Siri refusing to talk about abortion clinics too ambiguous and complex for you? Do you want your smartphone to flat out tell you abortion is wrong and evolution can’t be proved? Meet Iris.

– “Printing money is the last resort of desperate governments when all other policies have failed.” – George Osborne, retroactively admitting that he’s a complete failure.

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There’s been an ongoing petition for some time to have an official pardon granted to Alan Turing.

Turing was a mathematical genius who basically won World War II (I’m abridging the full story a tad), and was then convicted on a charge of gross indecency due to being in a gay relationship. He agreed to undergo a process of chemical castration, the only alternative being prison, and committed suicide a couple of years later.

As much as an official pardon would be nice, and well overdue, there has been a question of whether it’s really worth pushing for it now. It’s far late for it to do him any good, after all, and he did receive a formal apology in 2009 from then Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Still, some people considered the formal pardon worth pressing for, and gathered 23,000 signatures in an online petition, which the House of Lords finally responded to on Monday.

By turning it down.

Which is a bit weird. I mean, I wasn’t entirely sure whether the campaign was really worth it myself, or whether there weren’t better ways by now for us to make progress toward LGBT equality and whatnot. But to have the thing in front of you and turn it down? To have reached the point where you’re obliged to make a decision, do we pardon Alan Turing or not, and your answer is no?

What the hell, Justice Minister Lord McNally?

A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence.

Right…

You do know that the criminal offence he was “properly” convicted of was, basically having a boyfriend? I mean, yes it may have been a criminal offence at the time, but… that was back when we were a bit rubbish about gay people. We’ve got better since then. Can we not all agree that forcing chemical castration on someone because of their same-sex attraction was, y’know, wrong, even back then when we thought it was a good idea?

No? Fair enough.

Way to stay relevant, Lords.

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So it was National Gay-Straight Alliance Day recently, and as has started to feel like an increasingly regular occurrence lately, I had to go and find some way to oppose this perfectly sensible effort to foster acceptance and compassion.

I haven’t followed the campaign and its associated activities much, so I don’t really know how people spent the day who were noting it. It’s not like there isn’t work for LGBT equality that needs to be done, and I’ve no doubt that a lot of people in “gay-straight alliances” are doing it well.

But the way it’s framed seems misjudged to me. It makes it sound like Gay and Straight are the only two camps available, and that they’re momentarily putting aside their grievances and forming a truce, despite the unavoidable distinction that will always exist between them.

Which I’m sure isn’t what they’re really trying to imply; the actual details on the site do talk about other groups beyond “Gay”, and suggest that their principles should apply “regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity”. It just doesn’t seem like reinforcing the illusion of a strictly binary system of sexuality is something you’d want to do right in the name of your organisation, if all sexualities deserve equality.

Am I being too picky? Obviously I applaud the fundamental intent behind what I suspect most people involved in a GSA are trying to do – promulgate love and compassion, put an end to bigotry based on superficial differences – just like I support the basic sentiment behind liberal drives for higher taxes on the rich – greater rewards and social support for the less well-off labourers and the disadvantaged. But I find myself being rubbed the wrong way by the particular method of marketing tolerance in these “alliances”.

And I can’t stand it when gay people rub me the wrong way.

(I’m so sorry.)

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If you weren’t following the big Obscenity Trial at the start of the year, it’s worth catching up on, either through the defense lawyer‘s own account or that of David Allen Green for the New Statesman.

It concerns the sale of some particular styles of hardcore pornography (described more explicitly at the above links than I’ll go into here), which the Crown Prosecution Service apparently deemed obscene under a 1959 law.

The acts depicted in the DVDs being sold were not illegal. More to the point, they weren’t anything the law has any place passing such judgment on. What concerned the CPS was the potential of the content “to deprave and corrupt” the people who viewed it – referring, presumably, to those unsullied innocents who approached a former sex-worker and specifically requested “extreme BDSM and fisting material”.

The defendant was acquitted on all charges, but it’s dismaying that this law under which he was prosecuted is still in place, and that prosecutors still consider smut-peddlars useful and important targets of their time and resources.

I want to do more, though, than just the usual lip service to the standard liberal argument – that what consenting adults get up to in their own lives is no concern of mine. So much of the discourse around this case, discussing these strange people and their bizarre sexual fetishes, who it’s agreed (perhaps reluctantly) should be tolerated because it’s really none of our business, seems reminiscent of how gay people were talked about until quite recently (and probably still are, in some parts of the world): Whatever unconventional things they want to get up to, it’s their own private business, and it’s not for us to pry into what goes on behind closed doors.

There’s often something about the way this argument is made which continues to pathologise any sexual interests that go beyond the hetero and vanilla. We’re past the point where any decent, right-minded human being has any business thinking homosexuality is an inherent evil, but a common expression of the competing idea – that it’s something different but still basically fine – isn’t exactly the culmination of successful humanist thinking.

Perhaps I should be surprised that, despite my increasing recent interest in cases such as this one, I’ve still never encountered the word “heteronormativity” as regularly as I did when living with several humanities students at University. It doesn’t seem to get so much play in the discussions about sexuality I follow online, and yet the implicit dichotomy between “standard” and “deviant” sexual behaviour is one of the more persistent out-dated ideas around.

I wonder whether the distinction that makes more of a difference isn’t between “my healthy sex life” and “other people’s weird kinky shit”, but between sexual and non-sexual parts of our lives.

A lot of what was on the DVDs that got Michael Peacock in trouble would probably be actively unappealing to me. As a (to within a margin of error) straight male, gay male sex also doesn’t generally match my own interests, and isn’t something I want to spend much time thinking about over breakfast.

But – with apologies to any parents or in-laws of mine who might be reading this – there are sexual things I am into which would still put me off my Corn Flakes if a graphic image poked my brain at the wrong time, and which would provide an undesirable mental image even to other people who don’t find them particularly unusual or surprising.

The important point is less about people being turned on by things that I’m not, and more about people’s capacity to keep their sexuality separate from the non-sexual aspects of their lives.

The old-fashioned fear of homosexuals depended on the perception that their sexuality was something central to their identity, which affected everything else they did, and infused them with an untrustworthy gayness which meant they might start unexpectedly gaying at you, at any moment. Similarly, it might take a special effort of will to divorce the knowledge that someone sells hardcore DVDs from the rest of their personality.

People with uncommonly expressed sexual kinks or fetishes aren’t often credited with being in command of a sexuality that doesn’t intrude on everything else that defines who they are. But given how rarely I hear about what they get up to, compared with the more mundane sex scandals that are rarely out of the news, I’d say straight people are in no place to criticise.

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