Gay Penquins and The Flat Earth Society
When I started this blog, I was unsure of just what topics I would write about or where the journey might lead but it is becoming increasingly clear to me that it is leading me into a head-on clash with hypocrisy, hatred and stupidity.
I wish I could claim that this was a noble decision and that I woke up one morning and decided I must stand up and try to rid the world of its ills but that wouldn’t be true. I’m kind of falling into it whether I want to or not and I’m not sure that is all that noble. It appears that in writing every day, my own thoughts and opinions are crystallizing and they have taken control of the agenda.
I never thought, for example, that I would write as often as I have about children at risk or that I would be as critical of the conservative agenda as that of the liberal. I thought I would rant about a few things like customer service and stupidity, pour myself a coffee and then maybe go fishing or something. That hasn’t turned out to be a very accurate analysis on my part.
I don’t know if it is because there are things within me that have wanted out for a very long time or it is just that my radar is more finely tuned now that the blog provides an outlet for expressing what it picks up on an almost daily basis. Certainly, you don’t have to read more than a couple of headlines in the newspaper or spend much more than 10 minutes in a place like Twitter before you feel a need to say something about what is going on in your community, your society and your country.
We are swimming in a sea of anger, fear and hate. It is palpable and it is eroding our values in a way only it can.
All of that to say, it is this that brought me to write about the gay issue in yesterday’s post “The Problem With Being Gay”. I was prepared for a significant backlash by homophobes and fundamentalists from various religions. I was not prepared for the level of encouragement and support I received from heterosexual men and women, from the parents of gay children and from some gays for the piece.
While I did receive some hate mail, I was equally unprepared for the polite and reasoned disagreement I received from some who continue to maintain that being gay is a choice rather than a circumstance of genetics. I’ve never believed that it is important for us all to agree, it is only necessary to disagree with mutual respect for each other and for the right of us each to hold our opinions.To all of them, I extend my thanks.But I want to expand on one small part of what I wrote yesterday, not because I’m a gay activist, but because one particularly ignorant message challenged my facts and nothing annoys me more than having facts challenged by prejudiced opinion.
I asserted in yesterday’s piece that homosexuality had more to do with genetic wiring or programming than making a moral choice and I continue to hold that belief based on what I have learned over the years. I don’t pull these opinions out of my butt and while I am not an authority on very much, I’m anything but stupid. I tend to research based on curiosity rather than to support a pre-held opinion. I am more interested in learning than in shoring up my particular belief system.
Same-sex behavior is not unique to humans. It has been observed in more than 1500 species across the animal kingdom, including mammals, insects and birds. Animals don’t have a moral code or make moral decisions. They are programmed genetically to do certain things. Same-sex behavior seems to be part of the programming of many in nature.
To be sure, animals are also programmed to do certain things we are not programmed to do. Male lions, for example, will brutally kill all of the cubs in the pride they have just taken over and the females will not intrude or interfere in the infanticide. These are the same females that will immediately kill anything that threatens their cubs but they are programmed to stand passively and watch as those same cubs are slaughtered by the new head of the pride. They almost immediately go into heat and mate with the new alpha male and in that brutal way; nature programs survival of the fittest for that pride.
Fortunately we aren’t programmed that way or a significant number of us would never have made it into our teens considering the high divorce and remarriage rates.
Some conservative fundamentalist’s use this as an argument to try and prove their point that homosexuality is a choice because people don’t ‘choose’ to follow some of the other programmed activity of animals.
It’s a bad comparison. Not all species are programmed exactly the same way. Bears, as an example, are programmed to hibernate for the winter. Geese are programmed to migrate. Both have members of their species that are programmed to have same-sex behavior even though not all of their other programming is the same. To put it more simply, some genetic programming seems to be species specific while others seem to be more universal.
Male penguins have been observed forming life-long relationships with other males to the exclusion of females and have actually refused to mate with a female when given the chance. Some gays in the human race are programmed the same way although I have never heard of any gays or lesbians being programmed to live in the Antarctic and hunt for live fish (sushi doesn’t count).Female chimpanzees often engage in same-sex activity throughout their lives and even elephants, giraffes (I can’t even begin to imagine how) and cute little dolphins all have members of their species that form same-sex relationships. In other words, the basic concept of same sex orientation seems to be far more wide-spread in nature and far more naturally occurring than some would like to believe or accept.
I didn’t always hold my current view on homosexuality. I am conservative by nature and a Christian but it is difficult to argue with the evidence. Over the years, I have come to know many who were gay and found most of them to be decent, moral and contributing members of our community although being gay, like being heterosexual is no protection from being stupid or intolerant.
I’ve met more than a few of those in my days too.
Considering how much contempt, intolerance and even violence has been leveled at gay men and women over the years, it’s difficult to imagine very many people deciding that would be the preferred life-style choice, given the option. Many have agnonized over their sexuality and more than a few have tried to live hetero-sexual lives in contradiction to the feelings and programming within them. Too many have been unable to reconcile their feelings with the anti-gay intolerance in society and have committed suicide. That doesn’t seem to confirm that being gay is a simple choice to be made.I have also had some experience with religion.
Religion doesn’t come from God. It is man-made and accordingly is very flawed. One only has to remember that it was religion that once persecuted Copernicus and Galileo for asserting that the earth wasn’t flat and that it wasn’t the centre of the universe.
Religion justified the love of God by burning women alive for witchcraft and for torturing and then burning both men and women for heresy during the Inquisition. It was religion that allowed the extremists behind ‘the troubles’ in Ireland to murder innocents with indiscriminate bombs and radical Muslims to kill thousands, including many other Muslims. No religion has been immune from the distortion of the fundamental message of faith.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
You’ll notice that there are no qualifiers in there. The commandment isn’t to love only those neighbours who agree with you, who look like you or who don’t annoy or piss you off. Too many have rationalized that away over the centuries, decided they had the right to interpret that teaching to suit their prejudice and to judge, sometimes quite harshly, those with whom they disagreed.
All of this to say that religion got it wrong so many times, it is difficult for me to accept that it got it right on homosexuality, especially in the face of overwhelming evidence that same-sex behavior is observed throughout nature.Personally I believe that persecuting others out of hate is more of a moral choice than homosexuality ever will be and how the righteous justify that is beyond me; especially considering that it is the antithesis of the teachings of Christ and most of the world’s great religions which generally promote tolerance, love and forgiveness.
As I said at the outset, I’m not an activist for gay rights. My issue is with respect for life. If I’m going to make a mistake, it’s going to be for trying to understand and to be tolerant of others rather than discriminating and persecuting the rights and lives of those with whom I might disagree or even disapprove. For that I make no apology.
It doesn’t quite meet the commandment to love your neighbour as yourself because even I admit that I have trouble loving some stupid people…but it’s a beginning.
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