Sunday, November 7, 2010

Via 365gay: Corvino: Gay is not “unnatural”

, columnist,
It’s interesting the things that push us over the edge.
A few weeks ago, I was participating in a marriage debate with Glenn Stanton, a Focus on the Family researcher whom I’ve debated many times in the last half-dozen years.

During the Q&A, an audience member made the bizarre claim that homosexuality did not appear in his (Native American) culture until it was introduced via rape by Europeans. The claim was not just bizarre but offensive, and I expected Glenn to counter it. (I have often come to his defense in the past when people on my side make bizarre and offensive claims.) Instead, Glenn jumped in and started talking about how homosexuality is “unnatural.”

Say what?

It’s not as if I hadn’t heard the “unnatural” claim before. Indeed, it has roots in otherwise respectable philosophers like St. Thomas Aquinas, and finds expression today among notable conservative academics like Robert George of Princeton and John Finnis of Oxford and Notre Dame.

 But I had never heard it from Glenn, and when it came in the wake of an audience member’s linking homosexuality to rape, I lost my cool.

During the ride back to the airport that day I expressed my anger and disappointment that Glenn would fail to challenge the audience member’s strange claim. It’s one thing to oppose marriage for gays and lesbians, I told him, and quite another to remain silent while someone claims that homosexuality is the “unnatural” result of sexual abuse.

 Particularly in light of the recent string of gay teen suicides, such myths must be forcibly demolished.
A few weeks later we were speaking together in Missouri, and once again Glenn made the claim that homosexuality is “unnatural.” I asked him again to clarify, and he seemed unable to say more than that “marriage between men and women is a human universal”—something he says in every one of our debates—and that no society in history has accepted homosexuality without effort (a debatable point of dubious significance).

None of these claims were new to me. But the “unnaturalness” wording continued to rub me the wrong way.
I’m still trying to figure out why this bothers me so much. After all, I disagree with Glenn about a lot of important issues—our relationship is rooted in debate, after all. Much of what he believes I find harmful and wrong. Why would this particular claim stand out?

What’s more, the claim that homosexuality is unnatural strikes me as largely impotent. Homosexuality appears, not just across human cultures, but also in hundreds of other species. More to the point, many valuable things are “unnatural” in some sense: airplanes, eyeglasses, iPhones, and government, to take a random list. Unless “unnatural” can be backed up with some morally significant explication, it has no force.
Or at least, no MORAL force. Its force is emotive and rhetorical. And perhaps that’s what bothers me.

We call sexual activities “unnatural” when we want to evoke a certain horror—such as, for example, when we speak of necrophilia and bestiality, rather than, say, adultery. (I’m putting aside here natural law theorists, who hold that all immoral acts are unnatural—because such acts are against reason, which is central to human nature.) The term suggests not merely something bad, but something monstrous and disgusting.
Such rhetorical flourish makes sense if evoking disgust is one’s goal. But I don’t think that’s an acceptable goal in reasoned discussions of same-sex marriage. Hence my dismay.

In the years I’ve debated this issue, I’ve done my part to foster discussions that produce more light than heat. For example, I’ve argued (sometimes in the face of criticism) that the term “bigot” should be used sparingly, because it’s a conversation-stopper.

“Unnatural,” for me, is a similar conversation-stopper.

I don’t know whether Glenn intended to evoke disgust by his use of the term. But I now expect him to know better.
John Corvino, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, and philosophy professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. His column “The Gay Moralist” appears Fridays. For more about John Corvino, or to see clips from his “What’s Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?” DVD, visit
Later this month he will be one of the speakers at the Skepticon convention in Missouri:

Email Quote of the Day from a colleague:

"I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it. "

-John Stuart Mill
Letter to the Conservative MP, Sir John Pakington (March 1866)

Put in contemporary terms, I suppose,  while it is not the case that the Republicans are generally stupid, stupid people are generally Republican. - Prof B. D.

Via JMG: Today In Loving Christianity

Via JMG: Defense Sec. Robert Gates Urges Senate To Repeal DADT In Lame Duck Session

Today Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Congress should hurry up and repeal DADT before the new members arrive in January. But it doesn't sound like he thinks they will.
"I would like to see the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" but I'm not sure what the prospects for that are," Gates said Saturday, as he traveled to defense and diplomatic meetings in Australia. Unless the lame-duck Congress acts, the repeal effort is considered dead for now. The current, Democratic-controlled Congress has not acted to lift the ban, which President Barack Obama promised to eliminate. In his postelection news conference Wednesday, Obama said there would be time to repeal the ban in December or early January, after the military completes a study of the effects of repeal on the front lines and at home.

reposted from Joe

Via JMG: Photo Of The Day - Barcelona Pope Kiss-In

Hundreds of homos staged a protest kiss-in as the Pope-Mobile passed in Barcelona today.

(Tipped by JMG reader Jimmy)

reposted from Joe

Via Truthout: Be Careful What You Wish For

William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "The Senate still belongs to Harry Reid and the Democrats, but by a smaller margin, and while the House is far in the lead when it comes to having new members with certifiable brain damage, the Senate also has some members who are no slouches in Teh Crayzee department. Jim DeMint is a perfect example of the latter, and it may come to pass that DeMint will find himself at the center of a damaging GOP civil war."

Read the Article

Via HimalayaCrafts

Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent. 
 ૐ. Namaste ૐ

Rachel Maddow On The Keith Olberman Suspension

Via JMG: Teenage Dream