Last edited: December 05, 2004

Time for Serious Gay Debate

The Jamaican Gleaner, December 5, 2004

By Ian Boyne

HOMOSEXUALITY IS one subject which demands attention to philosophy and most people’s incompetence in this area is excruciatingly and agonisingly evident in the puerile discussion which usually takes place on the subject.

The most philosophically incompetent, of course, fall back on prejudice, bigotry, received tradition, culture and religion to argue their case. Others simply argue from their own physiological urges and desires, narcissism and anti-religious biases. Most of the arguments I hear for and against homosexuality are facile, preposterous and glandular. It is not just the flaming Fundamentalists and culturally prejudiced anti-gay persons, but gay persons themselves are usually given more to emotive argumentation rather than reason.

Yet, if one is dispassionate and detached, it is evident that the discussion really turns heavily on some deep philosophical issues and can’t be resolved without examining epistemological foundations. In simple terms, how do we know what we know? How do we determine right and wrong? How do we establish ethics? For most of the rabid anti-gay people, right and wrong are determined by the Bible. God has spoken infallibly and authoritatively in the Bible and the Bible condemns homosexuality, so argument done. It’s an abomination, a stench in the sight of God (and man) and homosexuals must repent.


Even many non-Christians appeal to the Bible as the source of their opposition to homosexuality. But who says the Bible writers really represent God? How do you know God inspired the Bible? You simply accept it on faith without evidence? Is that good enough for everyone? And how do you know the Bible is any more the authoritative word of God than the Muslim Koran, the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita, the Moonies sacred book The Divine Principle, Joseph’s Smith’s Book of Mormon or the sayings of Confucius? If you can have faith in the Bible ­ without concrete scientific evidence ­ why can’t someone else express faith in those other sacred books?

If the Bible is the major source of people’s opposition to homosexuality, then the authenticity of that source is very relevant and poignant. And what about the Bible’s equal condemnation of fornication and adultery, which are not criminalised in Jamaica? Shouldn’t they be criminalised also if we are to be consistent with biblical ethics? Some people don’t know that it was not just homosexuality which attracted the death penalty under Israel’s theocratic laws, but also fornication and adultery. To argue against homosexuality based on the Bible requires a whole set of apologetics and justification of the Bible itself.


As one homosexual wrote me this past week, “Having faith in God and faith in the Bible is not synonymous with each other. I believe wholeheartedly in God but not necessarily that God is limited to the God of the Bible.” He goes on to needle the Fundamentalist: “I cannot use the Bible, which is the foundation of Christianity and by extension moral values, to substantiate any code of ethics where sexuality is concerned. David’s copulation with Bathsheba was deemed wrong only because she was the wife of Uriah, for if she were single she would have been regarded as just another of David’s concubines. Solomon was more promiscuous than he was wise, a nature that ostensibly God had no problems with. Numbers Chapter 31 speaks to the genocide of the Midianites as instructed by God which resulted in every Midianite man, boy woman, suckling cattle being murdered, but frighteningly, every virgin girl spared.” These kinds of arguments pointing to the alleged moral incongruities in the Bible itself are becoming popular among gay apologists.

Others say nature itself shows that homosexuality is unnatural and perverse. First, they say that homosexuality threatens the species. Clearly, same-sex relationships do not produce offspring so humanity would be extinct if all of us were gay. But this argument misses the point. Gays have never claimed that everyone should be gay and that heterosexuality should be stamped out. They have simply said, let’s “live and let live”. Nature could still conceivably be overwhelmingly in favour of heterosexuality while still leaving room for homosexuality.

If nature is all there is and there is no transcendent Being, then how could you convincingly argue that nature does not allow for any expression at all of homosexuality? After all, the fact that some persons have homosexual desires ­ and began experiencing those feelings without consciously choosing them ­ could indicate that nature, indeed, allows for this variety in sexual expression. (For those who only read a few paragraphs, let me say that my personal position is that homosexuality is wrong, sinful and cannot in any way be harmonised with the Bible. But that is because I accept the Bible as authoritative. So don’t run off and misrepresent me ­ or shoot me!).


The atheists, agnostics and Bible-bashers who stoutly oppose homosexuality have a hard time justifying their opposition to homosexuality. Talking about how the human anatomy is constructed and the natural use of this or that part of the human body strikes one as the kind of thinking which once lead many to condemn oral sex. We can’t construct an ethical edifice on that kind of shoddy foundation. Bible-bashers like Mutaburuka say people don’t need the Bible or any religious document to know homosexuality is wrong. But how would he know? Can he argue on sociological grounds? How?

Besides, there is evidence of some homosexuality in nature ­ in animals. The Christian can say that came through the fall of man, but Muta has no such answer for homosexuality among some animals. If nature is not uniformly heterosexual, only predominantly so, how can Muta and other Bible-bashers deny the allegedly 10 per cent of the world’s population who are gay the legitimacy of acting out their orientation?

A lot of the arguments by non-religious people against homosexuality are pathetically weak and flawed. The Bible, even more so than other sacred writings in the world religions, is the greatest obstacle to the homosexual movement. This is why a concerted, vitriolic campaign is being waged against the Bible ­ at least conservative notions of it. The line of reasoning (for want of a better word) of gay people is also pitifully weak and intellectually soggy.

Gay apologetics is simple and simplistic: “I am born this way. It’s natural. Sex is like breathing and eating so why should you heterosexuals have it and I can’t?” If culture, custom and the democratic will of the people stand opposed to homosexuality, by what moral authority does the homosexual assert the inviolability of his sexual practice? If the majority of Jamaicans want homosexuality to remain criminalised, on what philosophical or political ground do you as a gay person demand its repealing? The natural world (human and animal) is overwhelmingly heterosexual. Civilisations and cultures throughout history have been universally heterosexual (in terms of being predominant). So what gives you, the gay person, the inalienable right to the expression of a sexual orientation which the majority deems unacceptable? Only the sovereignty of your urges and desires. Nothing else. The philosopher David Hume says “Reason is the slave of passion”, and nowhere is that more apt than in listening to gays justify their sexual practice.


Suppose I have a powerful, overwhelming desire for young girls. I find a bright, precocious 14-year-old who consents to have sex with me. What would be wrong, apart from the fact that the society believes that a man in his 40s should not be having sex with a 14-year-old? There are some people who have an overwhelming, overpowering desire for sex with eight-year-olds. Pedophiles have strong sexual desires, too. How is your strong homosexual desire different in substance from the strong sexual desire of the pedophile? Don’t raise the matter of consensual sex. For who says sex has to be consensual? What if the majority opinion is just backward and oppressive?

[The notion that consent in sex is ethically irrelevant is astounding. The casual dismissal of the consequences of a person's actions means that the author is unprepared to deal with the subject. -Bob]

You say I am arguing as though we can’t have ethics without God. Not saying that. But I am saying that the notion of ethics can’t be just personalistic. It has to be determined by the larger community. Any group of rapists and pedophiles could come together to reinforce themselves in their ‘ethics’ but would that make it right? They have particular strong desires, too just like the homosexuals. The homosexual previously quoted went on to say, “Unfortunately for the world, I don’t feel I have anything to justify.” My life is my life, in other words, my gay correspondent says. But so could the pedophile and the rapist say, and don’t tell me about breaking the law for there are oppressive laws, just like the one criminalising homosexuality, in your view.

There is no homosexual gene. The 1991 study by Simon LaVay did not establish that, nor did the 1993 study by Dean Hamer. Hamer’s team did not locate a chromosomal marker for lesbians and bisexuals. Genetics does influence sexuality, but it does not determine it. Scientific studies have shown that genetics influences criminal behaviour but not in a deterministic sense. Yet people would not generally suggest that criminals are not responsible for their actions.

Says the 1998 book, The Perspectives of Psychiatry: “That genes have a role in behaviour can be demonstrated; that behaviours are influenced by other forces is also certain. Studies demonstrating a genetic factor in criminality have also acknowledged cultural/environmental influences shaping the behaviour.” Says Neil and Briar Whitehead in their 1999 book My genes Made me Do It: A Scientific Look at Sexual Orientation: “Science has not yet discovered any genetically dictated behaviour in humans, far genetically dictated behaviours of the one-gene-one-trait variety have been found only in very simple organisms.”

I could quote an abundance of studies debunking the gay propaganda myth of a genetic determination of homosexuality. This does not mean people choose their homosexuality. Why would most gays in a homophobic world? Many desperately want to change and find it hard. There are a number of early factors responsible for homosexuality. It’s a complex issue and not as simple as either the gay bashers or the irrational, desire-driven gays make out.

The most comprehensive account of the social construction of homosexuality from the earliest times to the present has been done by David Greenberg. In his highly-acclaimed cross-cultural work, The Construction of Homosexuality, he rejects the view of those who see homosexuality as an unchangeable, genetic condition: “Where social definitions of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour are clear and consistent with positive sanctions for conformity and negative ones for nonconformity, virtually everyone will conform, irrespective of genetic inheritance and, to a considerable extent, irrespective of personal psychodynamics.”

Gays just want to have sex and lots of it like most of us heterosexuals. They feel it’s unfair that we should have it and they should have none. When you really press them (oops!), they have no intellectually unassailable defence. It goes back to the sovereignty of their irresistible desires. They are just helpless slaves to their passions. Their reasoning violates every rule in even naturalistic ethical construction.

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