One common theme found in anti-gay rhetoric is the dismissal of sexual orientation. This can be seen from Exodus’ statement that “the opposite of homosexuality is godliness” to the Family Values Coalition’s redefinition of sexual orientation to include all paraphilia to the obsessive use of “homosexual lifestyle” by virtually every anti-gay activist.
And the reason is clear. It is not overly difficult to condemn people for their lifestyle or even to justify executing them for their “behavior”, but few modern Americans are comfortable mistreating others based on an innate and immutable attribute.
And they know it. Consider this aptly named piece in OneNewsNow by virulently anti-gay writer Peter Heck: Why we’re losing the ‘gay’ debate:
Because of their ceaseless onslaught of propaganda, a majority of Americans (some even within the church) have come to believe in the existence of a group of people whose natural state is “homosexual.” We now casually use this terminology, assuming that there are “heterosexuals” and “homosexuals.”
When we accept this baseline, we have detached ourselves from rational thinking. We have allowed the debates over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” marriage rights, hospital visitation and other legislative objectives like adoption privileges to become ones of civil rights and fairness. And once those advancing homosexuality have successfully framed these debates in this way, those holding to traditional morality are helpless. They are easily portrayed as cruel, discriminatory, hateful bigots unwilling to extend the rights they want for themselves to others who are not like them. Needless to say, this is all by design. It has been the stated strategy of the homosexual agenda from the start.
Heck argues that the only way they will win is if they convince the populace that they are not discriminating against people but discouraging behavior.
But since what they do sexually is always chosen behavior, it has nothing to do with their identity. Who a person is, is different than what a person does.
Heck is right that they are losing, and why, but he’s wrong about the solution. Rebranding homosexuality as a behavior rather than a trait will not and cannot be successful for three reasons:
1) The horse is already out of the barn. Regardless of how you feel about gay people, virtually everyone already recognizes that such a group exists.
Even rabid anti-gay activists who rant about there being no such thing as sexual orientation distinguish between those who are gay and those who are not. In fact, anti-gay activists are among the quickest to assign category and announce differences. They’ve spent years ranting about the imagined mental illness, criminal activity, diseases, and predatory nature of the ever feared homosexual, and now it is too late to declare that such a creature does not exist.
Even Heck, in a desperate effort to avoid any suggestion of an innate trait, talks about “men having sex with men”. Not as a descriptive act, but in substitution for “gay men” or “homosexuals”. It’s kind of amusing once you recognize it.
You can call us gays and lesbians or “men having sex with men” or “those struggling with same-sex attraction” or “militant homosexual activists” or queers, fags, deviants, or dykes and ultimately the effect is the same. Gay people exist, are a distinct population, and everyone already knows it.
2) The attempt to distinguish between behavior and identity, if it were possible, would only work in the favor of gay rights.
One of the more bizarre aspects of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was that it pretended to be based on behavior. And part of the definition of “behavior” was having “a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts”. In other words, being a gay person was behavior. And there we are right back in a great big circle.
So assume for a moment that Heck’s imagined distinction were law. Suppose we took him at his word that “the debate should be held over whether or not those who do serve should be banned from participating in certain sexual behaviors.”
OK. Ban gay sex and not gay people… And just how would you go about enforcing such a law? Sex police?
Anti-gay discrimination in America has never really been about behavior. No gay person is fired from their job for having sex in the breakroom (or if they were, they should have been). And if you want to ban adoptions based on who uploads home porn to x-tube, you might even convince me.
Homophobes almost universally say, “I don’t care what you do in the privacy of your bedroom,” they just don’t want you to “shove it in their face.” And by that, they mean that they don’t want you to be a gay person. Because they don’t really truly care if you are engaging in homosexual acts, as long as you aren’t gay.
It isn’t behavior that is behind the adoption ban in Florida, or marriage in 45 states, or denial of benefits for federal employees, or denied hospital visitation, or any other anti-gay discrimination. A ban on “behavior” wasn’t enforced – or enforceable – in the states that had sodomy law before Lawrence v. Texas.
And behavior is not really Heck’s issue. He’s no more fond of the celibate single gay man that doesn’t sleep around outside a relationship than he is of the guy who is getting it on several times per day. In fact, he’d by far prefer a closeted shame-filled sexually active gay man sneaking off to the bathhouse than he would an out and proud celibate gay man.
It’s not really the behavior to which anti-gays object, it’s the kind of people who might possibly do that behavior, and especially the kind of people who aren’t ashamed of it.
3. Efforts to try and deny sexual orientation only make you look extreme, hateful, and lunatic.
The best thing that an anti-gay activist can do for us is loudly proclaim the ridiculous. It discredits them and those with whom they associate.
With each passing day, more people get to know their gay family, neighbors, friends and coworkers. And claims that “they’re not really gay, they’re just choosing aberrant behavior” are so far from their experiences that they fall on deaf ears.
Anti-gays are, on a rather rapid pace, losing influence on the culture around them. Now it seems that only like minded people will listen, and this reinforces extremism and positions that are further and further from the mainstream.
The more that they ratchet up the rhetoric, the less their positions are given credibility.
But what else can they do? I’m not sure that Heck or any of the others can really come up with a strategy that can, in the long run, allow them to implement or retain anti-gay legislation and discrimination.
As gay people are becoming more recognized as a demographic, a unique people with an innate and immutable attribute known as sexual orientation, the more that discrimination seems to be unAmerican and unChristian. And those who espouse it do, indeed, began to be seen as cruel, discriminatory, hateful bigots unwilling to extend the rights they want for themselves to others who are not like them