Friday, June 30, 2006

'Justifying' being gay .

A recent report has looked into the 'causes' of people being gay. Interestingly it looks at men and not women . Why do we need research into why someone is gay ? Is it a problem that needs fixing? Its as irrelevant as research into why someone is heterosexual or why they like certain consensual sexual practices. Why can't difference just be accepted , whether that is sexuality, mental health, 'disability' or people who just do not fit in. The danger of this research is that it pathologises difference. The underlying danger is to try to find a 'cure'.

An argument has been made that this sort of research can help fight discrimination :

Andy Forrest, a spokesman for gay rights group Stonewall, commenting on this and other studies, said: "Increasingly, credible evidence appears to indicate that being gay is genetically determined rather than being a so-called lifestyle choice.
"It adds further weight to the argument that lesbian and gay people should be treated equally in society and not discriminated against for something that's just as inherent as skin colour."

I have some problems with that. Ok, some might be less homophobic because they feel gay people 'can't help it'. So outright homophobia may be replaced by sympathy, very reminiscent of attitudes to disabled people. The 'oh isn't it sad, poor things, tragic ....' .There is the stance in the Church of England where some seem to accept that it cannot be helped but the actions can be controlled , the idea of ' practising homosexuals'. This also implies it is all about sex and ignores the emotional aspects of gay relationships.

Finally, in response to the Stonewall reaction , what is the problem with it being a choice. Why would that be a bad thing ? Many feminists have chosen to be political lesbians and that is a valid lifestyle. I find justifying people being gay as a way to appease homophobia a defensive tactic. It panders to prejudice. LGBT people should just be accepted , not studied as a problem to be understood.

Peter Tatchell is further debating the issue on Comment is Free.