When Kip posted about the recent discovery of possible structural differences between the brains of straight and gay people, he predicted that it would make no difference to the anti-gay folks:
To the bigots, all the research in the world won’t make a scrap of difference. If it’s not biological, then it’s a “choice.” If it is biological, then it’s a “disease.” Either way, it’s wrong and deserves no equal treatment (other than in a hospital or asylum).
Case in point, a recent Illinois Review post by George Kocan that has this wonderful first paragraph:
I refuse to use the g-word, in this discussion. I prefer SAD (Sodomy Attraction Disorder) because it describes a pathological condition in clinical and descriptive terms. The g-word is clearly prejudicial and self-serving. I, therefore, refer to a person suffering from SAD, a ‘SADist’ or a SAD person.
Wow. It takes a whole special kind of anti-gay bigotry to invent your own personal word to describe homosexuality.
(Also, sodomy can mean a broad range of sexual acts, most of which can also be done by straight people, and most of which are rather entertaining. It’s not all about man-on-man anal action, George.)
The post then passes through a brief discussion of genetic diseases and behavioral genetics before getting to this:
A suicide rate higher that that of normal persons seems to be associated with SAD… If true, this could very well be a result of the influence of SAD genetics…
Or it could be the influence of all the bigotted assholes who make their lives miserable.
If students of behavior are to take the gene theory of SAD seriously, they must allow for the probability that SAD genes cause suicide and influence many of the other destructive behaviors that plague SAD persons. Notorious SAD serial killers come to mind, such as John Wayne Gacy, who murdered some 33 young men and hid their bodies in his basement; Jeffrey Dahmer, who ate his victims and stored their remains in his refrigerator; Andrew Cunanan, and others. The widespread use of narcotics and other psychoactive drugs in the SAD “community” may result from a genetic influence. The extreme exhibitionism and narcissism displayed at SAD “pride” parades may also have a genetic basis.
What about ferns? Everyone knows gays like ferns. Could that be genetic? How about full, well-groomed mustaches? Colorful clothing? Track lighting? Is there a genetic basis for track lighting?
“Homophobia” also may have a genetic basis. This term refers to the repulsion and disgust that normal persons have to sodomy. The term, however, carries its own prejudicial connotation in the suffix, ‘phobia.’ It suggests a psychological condition akin to agoraphobia, the fear of public spaces; arachnophobia, the fear of spiders; or acrophobia, the fear of heights.
Suddenly encountering a spider or a snake induces in normal persons a startle response. Obviously, this is a protective mechanism. Fear in many cases is a friend not an enemy. A fear of heights or spiders can protect us from injury and even death. Fears of various kinds, in other words, are normal and natural. In biological terms they function as adaptations to a dangerous world. It only makes sense that they would have a genetic basis.
Actually, as I understand it, this isn’t entirely off the wall. Fears of things like spiders and heights may well be a safety mechanism, although the evolutionary basis is unclear. There’s scant evidence that spiders were ever a serious threat to humans, so it’s hard to see how such a strong fear would have evolved.
As for fear of heights, our ancient ancestors spent a lot of time in trees, so there’s certainly strong evolutionary argument for a fear of falling. In fact, all human infants seem to instictively grab for something when a fall begins. A phobic-level fear of heights, however, would have been debilitating in tree dwellers.
Which brings us back to phobias. The thing that seems to set phobias aside from normal fears is that phobias are unreasonable fears. People with arachnophobia, for example, can have a fear response to pictures of spiders, and even though they realize it’s a picture, some part of their brain remains in high alarm all the time.
As for repulsion to homosexuality, I’m willing to believe that’s natural. I suspect that dislike for sex with the wrong gender is just nature’s way of implementing a reproduction-friendly sexual preference. It would have to be a pretty strong dislike, too, given how much fun it is to have someone touch your genitals.
What makes homophobia wrong, however, is its unreasoning nature. It’s alright to have an “ick” emotional response to gay sex, and it’s perfectly okay if you don’t want to get intimate with someone of the same sex.
But when you get up in arms about the homosexual activities of other people, you’ve crossed the line from a reasonable dislike to something like a phobia. Adam and Steve getting it on in the next room can’t hurt you any more than that picture of a spider can hurt an arachnophobe.
We’re a smart and versatile species, and we can overcome our fears. Despite our natural fear of falling, we live and work in skyscrapers, and we ride rollercoasters and dive out of airplanes for fun. Food poisoning has been a threat for millions of years, but every day people get up the nerve to try foods they’ve never tried before. Phobias stand out precisely because they cannot be controlled by reason or will. They are a weakness in our normally extraordinary ability to change ourselves by thinking.
Revulsion and hostility against sodomy and sodomites has occurred throughout history and many different cultures. Such a widespread behavior must not only have a genetic basis but also have an adaptive function. Those persons and communities, that acted on this impulse and suppressed sodomy, tended to survive and thrive, while those, which failed to do so, became extinct.
As evidenced by the fact that, like the dinosaur, homosexuality no longer exists.
The fact that we’re even having this debate makes it quite clear that despite its apparent detrimental effect on the reproduction rate of homosexuals, homosexuality is not a threat to the survival of larger units of evolution like tribes or societies.
Any public policy–like for example granting legal sanction to sodomite couplings–must take such science into consideration. Normal persons have a right to be homophobic, seeing as it is part of their genetic make-up and “who they are,” to use a popular expression. Society and the law must recognize their right to give expression to their identities.
Of course people have a right to homophobic feelings. Nobody has the authority to force you to have only the right kinds of feelings.
But that sword cuts both ways: Just because something gives you unpleasant feelings doesn’t mean you should have the power to forcibly prevent other people from doing it. Society and the law should recognize everyone’s right to express their identities.
I know I should have just stopped as soon as I saw the “SAD” nonsense, but Kocan’s whole piece just pissed me off. I think he may himself be suffering from CRI.