How America should react to homosexuals
Many experts agree that homosexuality has existed as long as human beings themselves, although the attitude towards them has undergone dramatic changes in some countries. Accepted by many societies during Greek and Roman era, most of the time homosexuals were considered to be sinners against nature and even criminals. In Medieval and modern periods homosexuals were prosecuted. Enlightenment brought some liberation, substituting death penalty by imprisonment. In Nazi Germany so-called “doctors” tried to “cure” gays by the ways of castration and extreme intimidation. Until 1973 attempts to find a cure against homosexuality, what by majority was viewed as a disease, were continued. Today, when research on twins suggests that sexual orientation is not a choice, but our genetic predisposition, homosexual acts are still considered to be immoral and even illegal in majority of countries and in the eyes of most religious groups homosexuals, probably, always will be the subjects of anathema. As much as the future may look gloomy for many gays and lesbians all over the world, there are remarkable changes in public opinion and officials’ attitudes toward homosexuals in some countries. For example, in 1989 Denmark was the first to allow the same-sex marriage. In the United States the subject of homosexuality remains controversial. For example, In Hawaii three homosexual couples asked the court to recognize their right to get married and the court did. However, the state government refused to legalize this marriage. Consequently, a new amendment was introduced to the state Constitution. At the same time, majority of the states are not even considering this option and homosexuality itself is still illegal there. Still, not only authorities try to determine the position they should take towards homosexuals, many common Americans also have no clear understanding of how to react to homosexuality.
Why should we bother to find the answer to the questions: who are the homosexuals and where do they belong in our society? First of all, it is important to realize that homosexuals are an integral part of our society. Your neighbor, your co-worker, your hairdresser, your child and even your spouse can be one of them. According to Richard D. Mohr “[t]wo out of five men one passes on the street have had orgasmic sex with men. Every second family in the country has a member who is essentially homosexual and many more people regularly have homosexual experiences”(186). Should we avoid them, ignore, express our anger and disgust? Unfortunately, many people feel that way because they have a remote idea about people of different sexual orientation. For them homosexuality is perversion, abnormality or decease. The ignorance may foster fear, which in its turn leads to hostility. Homophobia is dangerous, because it affects all groups of people – heterosexuals and homosexuals, grown-ups and children, men and women. It may lead to violence and even death. There are numerous cases when people were actually killed because of homophobia. To name few of them – Matthew Shepard(homosexual), John Braun (heterosexual), Steve Kennedy (homosexual) and the list can be continued. As Jeffrey Nickel puts it, “[p]rejudice against homosexuality sharply limits how all men and women may acceptably behave, among themselves and with each other”( 529). It is obvious that we can no longer pretend that the homosexual issue is none of our concern. In attempt to evaluate our attitude towards people of different sexual orientation we will be able to understand them better. What is more important, we may overcome our prejudice, which often results in discrimination of one group against another. To acknowledge that there are people who are different and learn to tolerate them means to live in a safer world.
The next question is: Do we have the right to discriminate against homosexuals? Until recently homosexuals were invisible minority. Therefore, many Americans were unaware that gays and lesbians were discriminated against. But homosexuals were and still are treated unfairly on the basis that they undermine our morality, that they present danger to our children and that they are transmitters of AIDs far more than heterosexuals. Today many gays and lesbians come out of “the closet” and demand the same rights that heterosexual take for granted. We have to admit that some steps have been made to protect homosexuals. However, many government and public institutions and individuals still discriminate against homosexuals denying them employment, housing, insurance, marriage, child’s custody and so on.
Why is it allowed to discriminate against people who have different sexual orientation? Some may put forward arguments that being gay is immoral, that it is illegal, that it is a sin against nature and violation of God’s law and, as Pete Hamill remarks, some people consider “homosexual variety [as a] proof of existence of Satan” (532). Some homophobics qualify homosexual behavior akin to lying and stealing and, therefore, support the idea that gays and lesbians deserve to suffer. As Pete Hamill points out ,”…gay-bashing is real; homosexuals are routinely injured or murdered every day, all over the world, by people who fear or hate their version of human sexuality”(532). But as was mentioned above, the medical studies confirm that being gay is not a matter of choice or preference, but a deviation from normal sexuality, which lays in genes and hardly can be changed. Given a choice many would have preferred not to be homosexual. It is hard to imagine the somebody would voluntary give up all the privileges of being straight and subject himself to harassment, discrimination, assaults and scorn. Some argue that the homosexual act is unnatural since it is not procreative. Then why don’t we discriminate against sterile couples or those of over childbearing age? Others express their concern that by granting homosexuals rights we will give our blessing to other forms of sexual perversions such polygamy and pedophillia, for example. Here it is important to notice, that for one, pedophillia is not necessary a homosexual act. Secondly, it is immoral and unlawful because one of the partners in this case is a child or a teenager who more often than not has no other choice than to yield to the power of the adult. As Joseph Geraci and Donald H. Mader point out “the power imbalance between the adult and the younger partner in a pedophille relationship is so great that it inevitably leads to coercion and exploitation” (969). Unlike pedophillia, a homosexual act is consent between two adults, no harm to others is done and with our bodies we are free to do whatever we please. Therefore, there is no point to call it illegal. Moreover, discrimination against people of different sexual orientation will be a violation of the constitution, which guarantees common rights for everybody. Thus, despite our own preference we have neither moral nor legal right to discriminate against them. As for disapproval of different religions of homosexuality, everyone should have the “freedom to go to hell as one wants”, as Udo Schuklenk and Tony Riley put it quoting Enlgelhardt (602).
The last question that is important to discuss: Should homosexuals be a protected minority? Like any other minority homosexuals deserve the protection by any government and public institution. An absence of protection against discrimination will result in more violence and injustice. For a example, a gay who was beaten and harassed may not seek justice in court because by doing so he puts himself and his loved one in the open position for further discrimination. Most homosexuals prefer not to engage themselves in such procedures for fear of losing more. Therefore, while heterosexuals feel free victimize them in different ways, homosexuals can not even exercise the rights given them by law. Some may argue that homosexuals themselves often cause trouble. “Gay activists harass doctors, disrupt public meetings, and scream self-righteously about their “rage””(Hamill 534). It is hard to dismiss this point, but by denying homosexuals their rights one can not stop violence. Only by accepting them into the society on the same terms as we accept heterosexuals will give us a chance to stop the escalating rage from both sides. Other opponents of homosexuality argue that granting gays and lesbians the same protection under law that is granted to other minorities is to give them “special privileges”. But homosexuals do not ask for “special privileges”. They want the same rights as heterosexuals – the right to have a job they want and be treated according to their skills and performance at work, but not by the fact that they share their bedrooms with the same-sex partners. They want to live in the house they like and be judged according to their action, but not for who they are. They want the same benefits from their employers and insurance companies as heterosexuals have. Finally, they want to get married and have children, but those basic human choices cause the main disagreement among heterosexuals. As was mentioned above, there are many families with homosexual members. Some parents are disappointed that their child will never be married and they will never have grandchildren, but most of those parents still want to see their children happy and hope that they will find somebody to love and share their life. Why should not society find it possible to share the same maturity. Moreover, in the wake of AIDs encouraging gay monogamy is simply rational public policy. However, according to Washington Post poll 70 percent of Americans oppose same-sex marriage, yet only 53 percent oppose homosexual relationship between consenting adults (Francoure 246).
Some will argue that one of the family’s function is it conceive and raise children. But today sex is not the only way to have a child. It can be conceived in vitro through sperm and eggs donors or by surrogate mother, and there is always such option as adoption. In addition, the wide spread opinion that homosexuals will raise children who also will be homosexuals has no scientific evidence. To the contrary, some studies show that the sexuality of a child is determined very early, perhaps at conception and it is very unlikely that parents can have influence on his or her sexual orientation. As one can see, there is no justification to deny homosexuals their rights. In addition, if there is no other way we can provide gays and lesbians with those rights without making them a privileged group this is not their fault. Since homosexuals often are the subject of harassment, violence, mistreatment, discrimination, or illness for no fault of their own we should chose the position which will allow them to have the same rights as heterosexuals do.
As science and technology moves forward, we easily accept changes in the outside world, and yet we are reluctant to leave our beliefs and prejudices behind. I hope that people are becoming smarter not only in developing sophisticated methods, producing and operating complex devices, but also in understanding other human beings. It is time to abandon our ancient prejudice about homosexuality and start think reasonably. We have to acknowledge the scientific fact that being a gay is not a decease, not a curse, not an immoral act, not a preference, but just another type of sexuality. Gays are a permanent minority and aren’t likely to go away. So, instead of burdening ourselves with unnecessary tension by rejecting them, we have to adjust our apprehension, accept them for who there are and treat them fairly. By doing so we will reduce violence, hate crime and stress. Is it not a good reason to overcome the last of our prejudices?
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