Unreal Discrimination?

Reggie objects to National Coming Out Day:

As a black American I’m old enough to remember what real discrimination was like(I once got bit by a police dog on a peaceful march), as we tried to be judged by our actions.

How is the brutality that gays suffered at the hands of policemen in the ’70s any less “discrimination” than that you experienced (presumably) in the ’60s? How is losing your job, your family’s acceptance, your church’s acceptance, your rights to marry whom you love, your rights to serve in the military as who you are, not “real” discrimination? How is it not discrimination to be marginalized and vilified not only as an inferior sort of being as blacks cruelly and unjustly were but also demonized as inherently immoral and to blame for all manner of social ailments for which there are no genuine causal links (terrorism, heterosexual divorce, pedophilia).

You say you wanted to be judged only by your actions and presumably you are saying that it was unfair you be judged by something not in your control, your skin color but rather by what you could control, which is what you did. You wanted to be judged by whether what you did was moral, intrinsically excellent, and contributory to society, rather than by whether or not you were black. How are gays any different? They do not want to be praised or blamed on account of the accident of their sexual orientation but want the same dignity to be treated based on the content of their character as expressed in deeds. Even if you had a good reason to say that that homosexual acts were immoral, this does not justify the sorts of conformity enforcing brutality that even non-sexually active homosexually oriented gays have routinely received from bullies—including policemen, including legislators exploiting the vulnerability of this unpopular minority to gin up support for themselves as George Wallace (initially relatively indifferent to segregation) did.

Even were being gay like being an alcoholic, which it’s not, would that justify losing one’s job and one’s family’s approval and being harassed by bullies and policemen even when one’s behavior does not intrude on anyone else’s lives? Unlike the alcoholic who says and does rude, thoughtless, and physically reckless things which endanger others bodily and mentally, the gay person merely being gay in your presence does no harm to you. Why justify the abuse meted out to such people?

And if you think that being gay is a genetic disorder, does this mean you promote disownment of children with gentic disorders? Should mayors who have genetic disorders be assassinated for their disorders as Harvey Milk was for what you think was his? That would not be evidence of any “real” discrimination as I imagine you think Harvey Milk’s murder wasn’t anything “real”?

Later on I took a job in Laguna Beach California and all the talk was of this good “alternative lifestyle”, and people telling me “don’t knock it until you try it”. This was before that AIDS epidemic decimated the city. Now don’t get me wrong, no one one should be harassed or bullied.

But, what? Their harassment and bullying should be dismissed as “not real discrimination”? Their affliction with a heinous disease should be blamed on them as though they somehow chose to be inflicted disproportionately with a brutal virus? What you write is insidious and a form of bullying. What you implied above is that homosexuals were seducing otherwise straight people into deadly behavior and that they bear responsibility both for catching a virus and, far worse, for leading others to that virus. This is disgusting. The health crisis of AIDS does not make homosexuality immoral anymore than an outbreak of salmonella make eating chicken immoral.

But you see a community decimated, to use your word, by a virus and rather than compassion you use it as a justification for marginalizing and denigration of the group of people who fell victim to that virus. You use their tragic suffering as part of an argument supposedly that all the other indignities, vile disrespect, and bullying and harassment they receive is not “real” discrimination. Just because you suffered discrimination, you don’t earn any right whatsoever to be the judge and arbiter of who is or is not discriminated against or who does or does not deserve their marginalization based on their vulnerability to diseases or their behavior rooted in their very biology. Being black entitles you to full moral and legal equality with everyone else. It does not entitle you to decide other people deserve their marginalization or that they have no right to protest discrimination against them.

That being said, science says, if gayness is an acquired trait, and if a person can quit smoking and drinking, gays can quit being gays.

It is not. And even if it were an “acquired trait”, you have not demonstrated why anyone who wanted to engage in homosexual sex or who fell in love with a member of the opposite sex should quit doing so? Where is the intrinsic immorality in this sex act or in this form of love? Even though being black is clearly a genetic trait, you can bleach your skin white. It would be repulsive for anyone to encourage you to do so as though being black was something that needed to be fixed if it could, something that needed to be “quit”. Even if people were to “acquire” gayness I see no moral reason that they should feel pressured to abandon it. It does not of itself lead anyone to any cruelty, any abandonment of responsibilities to their friends, loved ones, or fellow countrymen. It is just a different way to love and a different way to experience sexual pleasure either in love or out of love. Period.

It is bullying and it is discriminatory to equate your prejudicial distaste against with a moral objection.

If its caused by a “gay gene” then it is a non reproducing genetic chromosome defect. I have pity on them as any other person with an abnormality. I would never wish a defect as this on anyone, but we should never allow ourselves to be brainwashed that this defect is normal. I won’t celebrate. Biologically it doesn’t work. What you do in your house is your business, but don’t wave something in my face thats abnormal, and force me to embrace it

Biologically it has worked well enough for enough species that the trait has stubbornly persisted, despite its inability to directly reproduce itself. We have no clear idea why it is reproductively successful but probably through kinship altruism by which gays contribute to the flourishing and reproductive success of their brothers’ and sisters’ kids, who are very close to them in terms of genetics and may inherit whatever tendency towards homosexuality which is fully realized in the gay person and yet latently present in their close genetic relatives who are nonetheless heterosexual. But that’s all wild speculation. The clear point is that homosexuality is present all throughout the animal kingdom despite its inability to directly reproduce itself and so it is unclear whether or not it has other purposes it contributes to animals’ survivals.

But, nonetheless, all of this is irrelevant, there is far more to life than reproducing ourselves. It is true that it is strictly speaking less good for a homosexual to not be able to directly reproduce (should he or she want) through his or her primary sexual love relationship as most heterosexuals can. But, nonetheless, this does not make being gay just a genetic defect or an insurmountably bad one at all. In fact, infertile heterosexuals are worse off than fertile gays since at least fertile gays can use modern technology to more easily make children through IVF. It is a more complicated process, but that’s life.

What are your other alternatives if gays are genetically bound to be gay? Should they just abandon hope for love altogether? Is that your recommendation? That based on a genetic disposition gays just never have romantic love or sex with the sex of people they naturally love? You do realize that this sort of reckless advice is why so many gays kill themselves out of despair that they can never fulfill the same fundamental pair-bond craving that is natural to you and me. If you defiantly refuse to celebrate their finding love despite this genetic obstacle to reproduction, what will you celebrate for gays? Suffering in celibacy? Is that the only way they can be moral in your eyes? Or is it that you will celebrate them if they marry people they are not sexually attracted to so they can have loveless (but fertile) marriages? Would that be more ethically acceptable to you? That they raise children in loveless marriages? Would you celebrate that? Is that the kind of action upon which people should be praised highly? You think it is unambiguously unfair to blame people for being black but not blame people for choosing love in unreproductive relationships over the alternatives of celibacy and loveless marriages which raise children (and which possibly deceive poor heterosexuals who don’t know their partner is gay)?

Sorry, but as far as I’m concerned, any morality which demands people to abandon their strongest pair-bond inclination for another consenting adult simply because reproduction is harder for those people leads to far more misery through stunting people’s abilities to love. That kind of moral thinking is some combination of thoughtless, cruel, and flat out stupid–depending on the particular thinker thinking it.

Gays exist. Just because they cannot naturally and directly reproduce with their sexual/romantic love partners as you and I could, does not mean that they cannot love, that they could not raise children with as much love and wisdom as any straight person, does not mean they can not contribute to society morally and creatively as much as anyone else, does not mean they cannot successfully use IVF technology to create genetic children even where some heterosexual couples never are able to.

But you won’t “celebrate” these real human beings who number in the tens or possibly hundreds of millions worldwide finding ways to live as full lives as possible, simply because doing so involves a few extra-circuitous routes to overcome a genetic dilemma. That’s it. So, I guess you close your arms and spit when you see the Special Olympics because, goddamn it, we can’t promote people in wheel chairs playing sports or else people will think of breaking their legs! We cannot approve of access for wheel chairs or more braille in public places lest people think blindness itself or inoperative legs themselves are great things. No one is saying that gays’ inabilities to directly reproduce is what makes being gay a good thing. What we are saying is that this is only one obstacle that can no more “handicap” gays from as loving, as fully excellent lives, including as parents, as you and me and any other straight person is capable of. Just as being in a wheel chair does not stop you from racing and shooting baskets impressively and just as people should be assessed for how they flourish in the conditions in which they actually find themselves rather than according to standards they have no control over (being white, being straight, being able to reproduce, being male, being American, being young, being old, etc.).

This is not just an “alternative lifestyle” this is people’s lives. As full, equal, dignified, loving, creating, morally excellent people. These people do not need your denigration of their entire love lives over the biological obstacles to their directly reproducing. They don’t need your self-centered contempt for and dismissal for the ways that they are routinely marginalized and abused—even by your own language about them. They don’t need to be blamed for being vulnerable to a virus. We all are, it’s part of being an animal, as we all are.

And they don’t need to be offered wholly impracticable choices like “be celibate or marry someone you’re not actually sexually oriented towards”. They don’t need to be reduced to just getting your pity and no affirmation for their pursuit of full, equal, dignified lives because you have arbitrarily decided that an action’s not being able to lead directly to reproduction makes it fully evil or makes those who have that trait fully defective.

Your idea of ethics offers nothing serious, nothing constructive, no real alternatives for gays. It demonizes, it vilifies, it marginalizes, and bullies. It demands alienation where affirmation and constructive thinking and living are possible. It is deeply prejudicial and self-absorbed.

As a true victim yourself of such prejudicial demands that you just go and accept second class citizenship, that you live in your “own house” (your own diners, your own side of town, your own churches), lest you disturb the “normal” white people, you should be ashamed of your attitudes towards this other minority to which you do not belong and whose welfare you treat with an astonishing callousness and hostility. Telling them to keep their love in their “house” because you won’t embrace it is a form of bullying, it’s a form of marginalization, it’s broadcasting to every gay teenager reading this that even if he can grow up to fall in love he’s going to have to worry about ever casually mentioning his beloved to coworkers or strangers or to hold hands in public because he just might be dealing with someone like you who is hell-bent on not approving of his love for this most important person in his life. He never knows if he’s dealing with someone who thinks he should apologize for his love because of that other person’s own arbitrary distaste for “people afflicted with genetic disorders”. He has to walk on egg shells lest he upset you by the fact that he—what? Loves with a different orientation than your own? He does not want to have anal sex with a man in front of you, he wants to have the dignity of his love with his husband acknowledged as readily and uncontroversially and, sometimes, even happily, as you want yours to be recognized. That’s it. But you demand segregation and call then get indignant that he would feel discriminated against.

You’ve come a long, ugly way from your days marching to end segregation.

Nonetheless, I sincerely and respectfully thank you for your bravery in standing up for your own rights. It’s time you consider doing the same for someone else’s now.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Nicoline Smits

    That is an excellent expose of the prejudice many black people harbor toward the LGBT community!

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    You handled that far more diplomatically than I ever could have. Bravo.


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