Monday, February 3, 2014

How Does Being Straight Tell Me that Being Gay is Normal?

Strictly speaking, the question of whether or not being gay is normal, or should be treated as normal, isn’t an atheist issue. There are, for example, many atheists who believe that it’s not normal and ought to be banned for reasons that have nothing to do with the dictates of a god. I happen to disagree with them as well.

But the reason I bring it up here is that the vast majority of objections to homosexuality seem to be religious in nature. And it’s one of those areas where having no belief in a god allows you to examine the issue on its own merits rather than simply defaulting to obeying a dictate or by assuming that it must be wrong simply because you were brought up to believe that it is. It’s also one of those areas where you can see that the arguments religious objectors make are so hilariously at odds with reality that you wonder how they can possibly cling to them.

And then you realize that the arguments are meant to be taken seriously, and it becomes simultaneously sad and anger-inducing. Hence this article.

Of course, the primary argument is that one’s god considers homosexuality to be an abomination or something like that. This one automatically falls flat for everyone who doesn’t believe in the existence of that god, or for those who believe the god exists but don’t believe that it really thanks that. So then the argument is forced to go in the direction of things that might make actual sense in the real world. Many of these arguments kind of boil down to claiming that it’s not normal because it doesn’t occur “in nature,” or because if everyone were gay then the human species would die out.

Oddly, the “not normal” argument seems to use a different definition of the word “normal” than is used in pretty much every other facet of life. Only when it comes to homosexuality do I ever see people use “normal” as if it means “universally practiced,” and expect to be taken seriously.

Let me see if I can provide a few illustrations to get at what I mean. It is normal for a person to have blue eyes. We can all agree on that, right? Does that mean that everyone has blue eyes? Of course not. It’d be ludicrous to make that claim. It’s just as normal for people to have brown eyes, or green eyes. And even though grey eyes are unusual, they are still normal. Likewise, it is normal to like sports, but not everybody likes sports (and that is also normal). It is normal for a person to read books, but it’s also normal for other people to hate reading. It is normal to shower in the morning, but other completely normal people are still going to shower in the evening. Even though these things can be quite opposite from each other, accepting one as normal does not render its opposite abnormal. You know this.

Likewise, it’s normal to be sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex, but it is also normal for some people to be attracted to members of the same sex. Accepting homosexuality as part of the normal range of human sexual expression does not mean abandoning heterosexuality. If you think about this with any honesty, you know this is also true.

How do I know this? Because I’m straight.

I have a pretty fair number of gay friends. I like them. I think they’re good people, which is why they’re my friends. Some of the men have even hit on me at various times. And while I was flattered (who doesn’t like knowing that people they like think they’re attractive?), I was never even remotely tempted. And believe me, it’s not because I’m not a lustful person. It’s wholly and entirely because I’m straight. It simply doesn’t matter how accepting I am of my gay friends, or how many opportunities other men may give me to have sex with them, the simple fact of the matter is that I’m attracted to women. I am not just waiting for society to give me permission to give them up, as some people seem to want us to think.

Now, I know that’s just anecdotal. It’s only talking about my own experience, and I can’t speak for anyone else. I suppose that it’s just possible that I’m the only person on the face of the earth who isn’t burning with a repressed desire for others of the same gender that is only held in check by the disapproval of society and the fear of an angry storybook character. But does that seem at all likely? Does it really? It seems to me that the existence of seven billion people on this planet is pretty strong evidence that a healthy number of men really want to get together with women, and vice versa.

That’s why, when I hear people making ridiculously overblown claims such as that accepting homosexuality as normal will lead to the end of human families and procreation, it’s laugh-out-loud ridiculous. But when I see people accepting that argument, it turns to you-make-me-want-to-cry sad. Because there are really only two ways I can see someone honestly making or accepting that argument. The first is because they themselves are genuinely tempted by homosexuality and emotionally damaged over that desire. The second is that they aren’t tempted, but have completely abandoned reason and self-reflection on this subject. Neither of those are good things (and to be clear, it’s the emotional damage I’m claiming is sad, and not the sexual desire).

Of course, it’s possible to dishonestly make that claim. And I’m sure there are some people who do, in order to drum up fear and drive people in their preferred political direction. But if you honestly think about your own sexual desires (yes, it’s OK to think about what you might want), it should be pretty easy to see them for the ridiculous fear-mongering they are.

People love who they love. That doesn’t really change based on what other people tell them is normal. All that changes is whether we make them suffer because of it.

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