America and Homosexuality: An Unfortunate Hate Story

A motley collective of passionate Californians, fresh from re-reading the Sermononthe Mount, practice loving thy neighbor.

A motley collective of passionate Californians, fresh from re-reading the Sermon on the Mount, practice loving thy neighbor.

America. It’s the land of the free. The home of the brave. The country that invented the bacon milkshake. If that isn’t freedom, then “freedom” has no meaning. But in the twenty-first century, this great nation faces many threats to its cherished notions of freedom: wage stagnation, income inequality, unequal pay, infrastructure collapse, money in politics, endless overseas wars, environmental degradation, poorly guarded nuclear arsenals, TED CRUZ!!! But, according to some conservative Americans, no threat is more threatening than the threat of two dudes making out (lesbians don’t count, because they’re what conservatives download at night after a hard day of protesting gay marriage at any given state capital).

Yes, for a certain subset of freedom-fondling patriots, nothing is more frightening than the Gays, who, according to religious conservatives, are out to indoctrinate every last God-fearing American into their sordid homo cult of glitter bombs, interior design, and (gasp!) live theater. Even in über-liberal California, which is (probably?!) a satellite member of the Eastern Bloc, some people just don’t care much for teh gayz and their constant gayness. Take, for example, the recent “Sodomite Suppression Act,” an absolutely bonkers initiative proposed by a mysterious Huntington Beach lawyer named Matthew G. McLaughlin which mandates that any Californian caught acting out their gayness can be shot point-blank in the head. McLaughlin needs 365,880 signatures in order to put his initiative on the ballot, and Attorney General Kamala Harris is seeking a court order to block it, so it seems unlikely to pass. But still, not cool.

If McLaughlin’s “Kill the Gays” initiative is indeed serious, then it’s obviously a very extreme manifestation of the anti-gay culture that has a firm stronghold in America, particularly in some Christian circles.

For example, Dr. James Dobson, founder of the Colorado-based Christian Right lobbying group Focus on the Family, claims that homosexuality is a “sexual perversion” that is putting the United States on a path towards “the depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah.” In an even more classy observation, Catholic League president Bill Donahue — a guy who probably thinks the Pope is a closet Pinko — maintains that American culture is now “being driven by the Gay Express,” the apparent metaphorical vehicular delivery system for the “gay agenda.” Moreover, the Republican Party, one of the United States’ two major political parties, embraces an explicitly anti-gay platform. And we all know about those delightful little Ewok droppings known as the Westboro Baptist Church, who parade about in public spaces claiming that “God Hates Fags.”

All of this animosity towards gays in America seems both inhumane and misplaced. If I wanted to argue from a secular standpoint, I’d say that it’s slightly ridiculous for someone to claim that they know the whims of a celestial being whose existence they can’t prove and whose demands correspond suspiciously with their own. If I wanted to argue from a religious standpoint, I’d point out that rabid anti-gay stances conflict with Jesus’ injunctions to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and to “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Finally, if I wanted to argue from the standpoint of basic human decency, I’d argue that love is always better than hate, and that hate shrouded under the banner of good intentions and blind moral absolutism is especially devious.

Focus on the Family Founder Dr. James Dobson has, shall we say, issues with gay people.

Focus on the Family Founder Dr. James Dobson is one of many religious conservatives who have, shall we say, issues with gay people.

But let’s approach homosexuality from another angle, shall we? Conservative American Christians’ anti-gay stances are largely rooted in what I’ll call “aberration theory:” the belief that homosexuality is a sinful aberration from a historically timeless notion of sexuality that defines heterosexuality as “correct” and sanctioned by a higher authority. But, the thing is, sexuality has no history.

As scholar of literature and classics David Halperin writes in The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, sex is “a natural fact, grounded in the functioning of the body,” and it therefore “lies outside of history and culture.” Halperin notes that sexuality is “a cultural production” that represents “the appropriation of the human body” for the purpose of constructing identity.* Much of Western culture’s current obsession with tying sexuality so closely to individual identity is a modern phenomenon, born out of nineteenth-century Victorian notions of designated male and female complimentary spheres. Things were different in the ancient world, for example, where modern notions of “hetero” and “homo” sexuality didn’t exist. “For those inhabitants of the ancient world about whom it is possible to generalize,” Halperin writes, “sexuality did not hold the key to the secrets of the human personality.*

The ridiculous idea of a “gay agenda” rests on the wrongful assumption that homosexuality represents the totality of a gay person’s identity. Of course, religious conservatives don’t extend this notion to heterosexuals, because heterosexuals are “normal” and therefore just “people.” They are, however, card-carrying members of the Yahweh-approved “heterosexual” identity club when held up in contrast to those dastardly gays.

Historian Francis Mark Mondimore observes in A Natural History of Homosexuality that the term “homosexuality” didn’t even exist before 1869, when German writer Karl-Maria Kertbeny coined it as part of a radical new theory, postulated by himself and other writers, that same-sex attraction “was an inherent and unchanging aspect of their [gay peoples’] personality.”* This was a major departure from past societies that didn’t have fixed sexual categories.

Consider the ancient Greeks, the people who built the Cradle of Western Civilization and originated the debauched fraternity costume party that made John Belushi famous. In the classical era, the concept of romantic love was not yet fully developed, sex outside of marriage was both common and accepted, and sexual pleasures were available to men in a whole bunch of forms.* Mondimore writes that, among the Greeks, “honorable and accepted sexual practices for men were not defined by the gender of one’s partner or by whether sex took place within an exclusive relationship based on romantic love.”* Indeed, when it came to sex, the Greeks were really only concerned with the age and social standing of those involved.

The ancient Greeks associated sex with dominance and submission, and they considered it perfectly normal for an older man of high social status (the erastes) and a younger man of lesser status (the eromenos) to have sexual relations. And while we moderns might characterize this behavior as “gay sex,” the ever-inventive Greeks eschewed oral or anal contact in favor of “intracrural intercourse,” in which the older man inserted his member between the thighs of a younger man while both were standing, and then went to town. The Greeks celebrated this particular act in poetry and pottery decorations — even Plato wrote about it, because he liked to party.* These notions of sexual behavior are a far cry from modern interpretations of romantic love and “the sanctity of marriage,” and while today’s religious conservatives would likely retort that the arrival of Jesus made Greek depravity null-and-void, they can’t in good faith claim that sexuality has existed as a timeless, unchanging idea throughout history.

The ancient Greeks. They were very fond of live theater.

The ancient Greeks. They were very fond of live theater.

Now, I’m not saying that it would be a good idea for Americans to start acting like the ancient Greeks. After all, we don’t like to read nearly as much as they did. But I am pointing out that even our most cherished notions of what constitutes “good,” “traditional,” and “moral” behavior when it comes to sex and identity are more cultural constructions than they are eternal truths. Gays and lesbians have been with us since the dawn of human civilization in a variety of different cultural contexts, and specific societies have risen and collapsed for all kinds of reasons — none of which had anything to do with gay people. Heck, in today’s definition of the word, Alexander the Great was gay, a fact that would seem to throw cold water on the idea that homosexuality is the destroyer of empires.

With all of this in mind, American conservatives ought to give the gay-bashing a rest. There’s already too much strife, conflict, and discord in American society, and there’s no need to add more fuel to the fire by condemning other people just because they’re different. Live and let live and hope for peace, for Christ’s sake. We are all Americans, even those of us who like theater.

* See Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin, eds. The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 1993), 416, 419.

* See Francis Mark Mondimore, A Natural History of Homosexuality (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 3, 7, 8-9.

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40 Comments

  1. The Declaration of Independence is all that is needed in this instance.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Denying the LGBT community the same rights as anyone else is wrong and does not fit in with the founding principles of the United States of America.

  2. One of the things I have noticed and something that the Gay Rights Movement needs to remind the public of more often is the fact that anti-gay social conservatives have followed a self serving trajectory when it comes to government. From the moment gays and lesbians began fighting for victories as mild as simply repealing sodomy laws, anti-gay Americans began working to make sure the government continued to promote their anti-gay views. Homophobes defended government sodomy laws and government restrictions that, among other things, prohibited gay marriage and gays from serving in the military. They also tried to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment in order to make sure that no state could allow gay marriage. Now that the momentum is finally going against them, the homophobes are trying to use libertarian rhetoric and complaining about “big government” even though they tried to use big government over and over again to oppress gay people. We saw the same thing happen with slaveholders and segregationists: they were happy to use government coercion at the state and federal level to support their agenda, but when the pendulum swung the other way, they used the language of states’ rights and libertarianism.

  3. The Declaration of Independence? How could a mean-spirited, slack-jawed, Southern, child-raping, save-owning, secessionist possibly have anything to contribute to the subject? And “Creator”? What “Creator”? Why on earth are you invoking cultist superstition into all this?

    Better put that dead white male away. He has absolutely nothing to say to anyone.

  4. In addition to being a Southerer, a traitor, a slaver, a child-rapist, and a white-supremacist, Jefferson was indeed, a secessionist.

  5. It’s amazingly easy to distract people from inequality and the real sources of their problems by making them worry about what other people might be doing between the sheets.

    I find the proposed Act frightening. Is this 2015 or 1885?

    • Much of conservatism is fueled by the need to conrol the agency of the “lower orders:” women, minorities, etc. A woman who has the right to choose, a gay couple who can live freely without persecution, these are threats to a ruling order that claims to speak for a higher power, when, in fact, they’re only speaking for their own need to dominate others.

  6. The essence of modern liberalism is intolerance, hatred, tyranny, and hypocrisy. Conservatives would be perfectly delighted to allow the 10th amendment to be the governing priniciple of our civil society. On a practical level, this means that if the citizens of South Carolina, for example, wish to restrict marriage to between a man and a woman, that is their right. It also means that if the citizens of Massachusetts, for example, wish to permit a marriage between two men, or a man and a goat, or a man and a pig or whatever, the citizens of South Carolina would say “have at it fellas”.

    It is the busybody limousine-liberals who insist on shoving their own personal preferences down everybody else’s throat.

    • The 10th Amendment does not apply when the state is engaged in discrimination. That has nothing to do with conservative or liberal. It has everything to do with the founding principles of the United States of America. Specifically these five words: All men are created equal.

      Your last statement is pure hypocrisy.

    • “Conrad” still cannot understand the Constitution. Marriage is a natural right. As such, it cannot be given or taken away by a mere majority. That’s the whole point of rights–that they are protected by government from “an overbearing majority.”

      His Tenth Amendment argument–which is basically a state can and should be able to give or take away any rights it believes a person should or shouldn’t have–is utterly trumped by the Fourteenth Amendment, which clearly states that no state can take away the rights of any of its citizens.

      Of course, “Conrad’s” cowardice here and elsewhere, demonstrated by his use of multiple pseudonyms, means he is really nothing more than a common troll, and so really doesn’t require all the feeding he gets here. But any day I get to talk about the Fourteenth Amendment is a good day.

      • His 10th amendment claim is the usual state’s rights claim. As soon as one side gains federal power they begin to use that power on a national scale completely ignoring state’s rights. It’s a common story and both sides conveniently forget it as they use the claims for political rhetoric.

        The Fourteenth is a great Amendment. Eric Foner covered it in some depth in his course and is still working with it. It has had huge consequences for America and I think it will continue to do so over time.

      • Yeah. If we could just repeal The Slaughterhouse Cases it would be very nearly perfect. Did you ever get around to reading that paper on restoring the “P or I” clause I sent you?

      • I don’t think I did. I got bogged down in the prospectus changes. I have to develop a study, make it fit into transformative learning theory, develop it as a case study and invent a mobile learning app on iTunes U to give to instructors for use in order to run the study. Add in teaching, and my other job. I sometimes miss things at certain times.

  7. Actually the tenth amendment specifically applies to the federal government when it abuses its authority and discriminates against the respective states and their citizens. And the founding principles of the United States were treason, secession, and white-supremacy. Just so you know.

    And as for the “five words”? They were written by a slave-owning, white-supremacist, traitor. The hypocrisy is all on your side of the fence.

  8. It is regrettable having to deal with ignorant gutless trolls like “Christopher Shelley” and his comic-boom understanding of both history and the Constitution. But it is usually good for a chuckle or two, and often even a deep belly-laugh.
    In this case however, it is enough to observe that his grotesque and obsequious fawning over the corrupt and lawless14th amendment, and his superficial understanding of it, only serve to produce a sad and tragic spectacle.

    • Gutless? Let’s see, he uses his real name. You do not.
      Doesn’t understand the Constitution? He has a Master’s degree. You do not.
      Doesn’t understand the 14th Amendment? How would you know? You don’t understand it or the 10th Amendment or other parts of the Constitution.

      I think what we have here is you wanting something that doesn’t exist. The Constitution does not work the way you want it to. That would be because the people that created it did so for their reasons and their interests. If you took the time to study history instead of making it up to suit your ideology you might figure that out. I doubt you will bother to take the time. You wouldn’t like the answers because you don’t like the facts.

    • And yet, at no point did you actually refute, with evidence, anything I wrote. On the other hand, I did refute your Tenth Amendment argument. The best you could come up with is that the Fourteenth is “fraudulent.” Sorry, but I live in the real world.

      What is ultimately frustrating about this is “Conrad” is rather smart. I actually enjoy a lot of these encounters. But hiding behind pseudonyms is too cowardly for me. Perhaps that’s so he can make comments like “I am not at all persuaded that the slaves were happier after their emancipation” (http://junehog.com/2014/04/18/secession-and-the-constitution/#comments) and get away with it.

      • Actually, at no point did you even come remotely close to refuting my tenth amendment argument. And insofar as the fourteenth amendment is concerned, a “military district” cannot ratify the constitution. And that is as real as it gets.

  9. Now the blowhard, gutless, triple-chinned, semi-literate, middle-aged,, white male from “Walden Online University” wants to make a little noise. Take a hike, tubby.

    • Still don’t have a degree do you? And you are still a coward. What’s the matter? Can’t handle it? I feel so sad for you since you have no spine and can’t even get an education. You are brave online, but in real life your mom cleans your room in the basement while you work the graveyard shift at WalMart. By now she is used to your blow-up doll girlfriend.

    • You know, if you actually studied history instead of whining online all the time you might learn something, Oh that’s right, that would conflict with your belief structure. So you just have to stick to lies and insults while hiding behind a fake name while calling others cowards.

      It must suck to be uneducated. living at home in the parent’s basement, having a blow-up doll for female companionship, and working for minimum wage at Walmart stocking shelves on the night shift. Hey, that lifestyle is your choice though. Enjoy it!

  10. Lol..I struck a nerve. Jimmy, you are a gutless, pathetic, grubby, “Walden Online University” clown. And for you edification, I pay more in taxes
    than you earn in a year, with your ridiculous community college “salary” and you “other job” (delivering Pizzas, no doubt).

    PS- Take a look in the mirror pal. You are a soft, flabby, stubby, triple-chinned loser.

    • No, you don’t. You just say you have a job that pays well. You have no proof which is normal because it is like everything else you claim, there is no proof. So you are just lying to us which is par for the course for you.
      You have no education. You work the night shift at Walmart. You have a blow-up doll for a girlfriend. You live in your parent’s basement. You don’t even have friends. It’s just you and your imagination compensating for your failure of a life.
      Enjoy being spineless!

  11. Sorry Jimmy, but you asked for it. I just looked over the various salary levels at MACC. I am literally laughing so hard I have to stop writing and wipe the tears from my eyes with a towel. As an “adjunct instructor”, you make less than 50K! Holy hay-zoos! I made more than that when I was a paper-boy in junior high school!

    And you have the unmitigated gall to attempt to belittle someone else’s salary! You, my fat, bloated, loud-mouthed, antagonist, are some piece of work. A grown man who makes less man 50K. Pathetic.

    • No, you don’t. You have nothing to prove your statement. It is like the rest of your imaginary life. It is all lies because you are too afraid of people to use your real name. So you just sit there and make all kinds of claims while you wait for your mommy to fix your dinner.

      It is just like the claims you make about history. They’re all lies.

  12. On some level, I suppose, I do feel very, very sorry for you. I mean, you are a lonely, pasty, fat, flabby, ugly, stupid, semi-literate putz who is stuck in a lowly job with no prospects for the future. So I understand your desperation and bitter frustration when you have to confront someone who is superior to you in every possible way, and who earns four or five times what you do. Basically, you are an embittered failure. But you are such a jackass, it’s hard to care.

    • Night stockboys at Walmart don’t make more than I do. Nor are they superior. You might want to get help for your delusions. Now go eat your TV dinner and let your mommy tuck you in so you can play with your blow-up doll.

      • He only drinks Red, White, & Blue. He thinks it makes him more of an American.

  13. Go ahead chubs, take your silly little paper-boy “salary” and keep fooling yourself, because you sure as hell don’t fool anyone else. No go finish delivering the rest of the pizzas before they get cold. Fatty.

  14. Must have been the usual bad night at Walmart for you getting laughed at, getting rejected by the girls or guys depending on your preference, and having your boss tell you what a miserable employee you are. Then there are the customers. Even the weirdest ones from People of Walmart look down at you, but then again, maybe you are one of those people in your off work time.

    You really should stop wearing the same pair of sweat pants to work all week long. That way your mom could wash them for you to remove the stains.

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