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|August 7, 2008
In The VillageScience on gays falls short
by Orson Scott Card
The claims of those who support gay marriage rest entirely on the idea that science has proven several things:
1. Gays have no choice whatsoever. Genes or hormones make them gay, and it is unreasonable to expect them to control or limit their behavior in any way.
2. Even if there is an element of choice (or preventable environmental influence), there is no reason to ask gays to control or limit their behavior, because homosexuality causes no harm to anyone.
3. Because the first two points have been "scientifically proven," it is unfair to give any kind of legal or social preference to the actions and relationships of heterosexuals. Any such preference is like telling gays to "sit in the back of the bus."
After a lifetime spent in theatre and the arts, of course I am well acquainted with many homosexuals; and because of who they are and who I am, I am close friends with several.
They have never directly harmed me, nor I them. Many have helped me in my life -- and I them. We get along just fine.
So what's the big deal? If science says that homosexuality is natural, uncontrollable, and harmless, why would any decent person -- especially one who knows and likes, or even loves, a number of homosexuals -- wish to deprive them of something they desire so much?
1. Science does not say that gays have no choice whatsoever.
2. Science does not say that homosexuality harms no one, and that homosexual liaisons are as valuable to society as marriage.
3. It is not unfair to give unique preference to monogamous heterosexual relationships, if that preference and those marriages benefit all of society -- including homosexuals or potential homosexuals.
In looking at the current scientific claims, let me start by pointing you to two articles in Commentary: "Inventing the Homosexual," by Marjorie Rosenberg and "Straight Talk about Gays," by E.L. Pattullo.
You might also check out "Homosexuality and Biology," by Chandler Burr, in The Atlantic Monthly.
The Commentary articles are highly critical of the existing science on homosexuality, while Burr's Atlantic article takes almost everything at face value. In my opinion, no one should attempt to speak on the subject without being familiar with the facts and reasoning presented in all three.
Many people believe that because the American Psychiatric Association voted in 1973 to stop treating homosexuality as a disorder, this means that the science is settled -- homosexuality is as normal as heterosexuality.
But science is not done by majority vote -- particularly not by majority vote that was intensely pressured and cajoled by homosexual activists.
"Normal." The leading scientific studies in support of this change were highly questionable. Evelyn Hooker's study, for instance, which purported to show that homosexuals were perfectly normal, studied a group of homosexuals who were members of organizations "extremely anxious to provide their most admirable members," and "she removed from the sample anyone who struck her as obviously pathological" (Rosenberg, p.37).
Given the way she stacked the deck, the surprise was that she didn't find that homosexuality was better than heterosexuality.
In another study, Laud Humphreys interviewed homosexuals taking part in the bathhouse culture. Using only questionnaires, and starting with his own strong bias in favor of finding even the most promiscuous and dangerous sexual activity to be normal, it is no surprise that he reached, as his conclusion, the opinion he had when he started -- that the only problem was the way society reacts to homosexuality.
Twin Studies. Then there are the studies of twins who were adopted and raised apart, comparing identical twins, who share all the same genes; fraternal twins, who are no more alike than ordinary siblings; and non-twin siblings raised apart. The numbers deal with how often a gay adoptee has a gay sibling.
Fraternal twins were twice as likely as ordinary siblings to both be gay, and identical twins were five times as likely. But even identical twins were both homosexual only about half the time. Thus the study suggests that while there is probably a genetic component, genes are certainly not the sole cause of homosexual desires.
In fact, the fraternal twin result suggests that sharing the same womb is a strong contributing factor, too, so that hormones, nutrition, deficiencies, or even acidity during gestation might be strong contributors.
The study does not allow for the possibility that the physical appearance of the subjects might have played a role. If seduction, molestation, or other sexual trauma contributes to homosexuality, and if those are influenced by the perceived attractiveness of the subject to a molester, seducer, or rapist, then the greater physical resemblance between identical twins may account for some of the results.
Most scientists agree that twin studies suggest that social influences play a significant role, alongside physical ones, in determining which people become identified as homosexuals in adulthood. Which means that homosexuality, while influenced by prebirth events, is not necessarily inevitable, but varies from case to case in its cause or in the strength of the impulse.
Anatomy. Much was made of a very flawed study that reported differences in the hypothalamus of persons identified post mortem as homosexual. Other, better studies also point to visible anatomical differences in the brains of homosexuals.
The suggestion in each case has been that these abnormalities must be the cause of homosexuality. But unrelated research has been discovering that, contrary to longheld belief, the brain's physical structures can change in response to human behavior.
At this point, it is impossible to tell how cause and effect are related in these cases, and the studies are so ambiguous that it cannot yet be said for certain that there are structural differences consistently tied to homosexual behavior.
Old Science. What no one seems to want to mention is that back in the days when mother-blaming Freudian theory was still dominant, the scientific research all pointed to overdominant or sexually inappropriate behavior by mothers, and hostile or distant behavior by fathers, as markers or causes of homosexuality.
It was this view of homosexuality that lost the political battle in the APA back in 1973, but the vote that was taken then did not erase all the old research. No one can say now to what degree, if any, the treatment of young children -- or pubescent ones -- by their parents or peers might influence their self-perception and their adoption of a particular sexual identity.
Countless homosexual record their "awakening" to homosexuality in the form of rape, molestation, or seduction; homosexuality seems to be one of the possible responses to profound trauma or sexual misdirection at a susceptible age. Yet even the suggestion that this may be an important cause of or influence on homosexuality is shouted -- no, screamed -- down.
Why? Because within the homosexual community people no perfectly well that not everybody's introduction to homosexuality was the beautiful fulfilment of an idyllic dream. But that fact does not fit the public story that supports their political agenda. It must not be admitted.
The Bi-Sexual Problem. Ever since 1973, the homosexuality normalizers have done their best to avoid pointing out the prevalence of what is called "bisexuality," but which might just as easily be called "indeterminacy." A large number of men and women marry and conceive children before (at the age of a normal midlife crisis) they discover or reveal that they "were always" homosexual.
Obviously, whether or not they were fantasizing a different partner, they successfully mated and reproduced. This makes hash of the doctrines of inevitability.
What is clear is that the culture of homosexuality strongly pressures persons identified as homosexuals to "come out of the closet," "stop fooling themselves," or otherwise surrender to the doctrine that if you ever have a homosexual desire or are aroused by a homosexual partner, that means that you "are" a homosexual and any attempt to repress or sublimate or simply refuse to act on those desires is useless and doomed to failure no matter what you do.
And when many individuals report that they have successfully lived heterosexual lives despite or after homosexual experiences or desires, they are dismissed by the normalizers as "victims of a repressive society" or "never really homosexual in the first place" or, of course, as liars.
Variety. The picture that emerges from a dispassionate view of the existing science, as well as the biographies of hundreds and thousands of actual homosexuals, is that homosexuality is not just one thing. It does not manifest itself the same way in all persons identified as homosexuals. It does not follow one unalterable course.
Many people have homosexual experiences or desires and fantasies in adolescence, yet grow up to be fully functional, at least for a time, in heterosexual relationships.
Every homosexual reading this essay, no matter how enraged they might be at my deviance from the party line, will recognize that I am speaking nothing but the truth that is obvious to all participants in the homosexual community: Homosexuals are not exactly alike, and neither is their degree of homosexual exclusivity.
In my opinion, all homosexuals should be enraged at the notion that of all human beings, only homosexuals cannot control their sexual behavior by conscious choices. This dogma implies that they are less than human. Yet this is precisely what the normalizers claim: "They can't help it."
We can all agree that no one can help desiring what they desire. Desires come unasked for and often from sources we do not understand.
But every other human impulse, natural or dysfunctional, can be recognized and controlled, at least to a degree. We expect alcoholics to be able to refrain from driving when drunk. We expect pedophiles to keep their hands to themselves. We expect aggressive males to curb their need to fight with perceived rivals. We expect people whose mental illnesses are only contained by drugs to take those drugs.
We expect heterosexual males -- males who are expressing the very drive that leads to reproduction of the genes, and which in other primate species is often expressed as rape -- to be able to recognize that "no means no" at every stage of wooing and coition.
In other words, our society right now says that everybody but homosexuals must curb whatever innate desires are perceived, by our society, as harmful or undesirable, regardless of how natural or evolutionarily productive they might be, or how strongly they are felt.
Homosexuals alone are treated, by our politically correct society, as being somehow perpetual children, incapable of controlling their desires or limiting their expression in any way. They are regarded, by those who presume to speak for them, as less volitional than other citizens of the same age.
I refuse to believe that. The homosexuals that I know well are every bit as volitional as any other people. They are fully human -- and are fully accountable for all their choices and actions. They are as able as I am to contain and channel their sexual desires, if they believe there is a reason to.
Science of Prevention. I agree with the normalizers that homosexuality should not be treated as a mental illness. It is not like bipolarity or schizophrenia, which make it impossible for untreated sufferers to lead normal lives.
On the contrary, some homosexuals have been and are among the most creative people in our civilization (though not disproportionately so).
But there can be no serious question that homosexuality, to the degree that it cannot be overcome or outlasted, is a reproductive dysfunction. A human body that has evolved with functional organs of sexual reproduction is redirected to sexual activities that are reproductive dead ends.
The cultures that last longest are the ones that maximize the reproductive opportunities and security of the largest number of their members. They must believe that they have a fair chance to reproduce, must be reasonably sure that the children they raise are their own, and must trust that society will provide mating opportunities for their adult children and not act to interfere with their reproductive success.
Therefore, our scientific efforts in regard to homosexuality should be to identify genetic and uterine causes, as well as environmental and social influences that put their children at greater risk of this reproductive dysfunction so that the incidence of this dysfunction can be minimized, and where it occurs anyway its negative effects on the individual and the rest of society can be minimized.
Yet this very suggestion is invariably seized upon by normalizers as an attack on homosexuals, a desire to "commit genocide" against the homosexual community.
It's perfectly all right for parents to grieve for any other loss or dysfunction a child suffers, but the reproductive dysfunction called homosexuality they must pretend to receive without a qualm -- or risk severe condemnation by one of the most vocal and intolerant groups in our society.
There is no "cure" for homosexuality because it is not a disease. There are, however, different ways of living with homosexual desires. And if acceptable ways can be found to protect children from developing this reproductive dysfunction before it even manifests itself, or to shape society so as to encourage the least affected to achieve reproductive success -- i.e., evolutionary normality -- why would we not want to assure that the children we bear would be free of this dysfunction?
Wouldn't we prevent dyslexia, if we could? Why, we would even prevent tone-deafness! We put braces on perfectly healthy children with buck teeth. But homosexuality? No -- we must treat this as the dysfunction that we pretend is functional.
It makes no sense. And if the normalizers have their way, and it becomes criminal to give any social or legal preference to reproductively productive patterns of marriage and family, why would any rational person give their allegiance to such a community, such a legal system, such a state or nation?
|Copyright © 2024 by Orson Scott Card
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