One in Ten?
While in Med school one of my friends, whom today one would call a “cis”—a totally straight guy, had a urological exam for prostatitis that involved prostatic massage. He bounced out of that clinic exclaiming, “Wow! Now I get why gay guys love anal sex.”
The iconic Kinsey reports on the sexual proclivities of men and women leaves us with the standing perception that about 10% of the population is gay. The Human Rights Campaign has recognized the current expansion of that term as LGBTQ.
What is the cause? The word and fixed concept of homosexuality evolved only relatively. Michel Foucault reported that the term and concept originated in the 19th century, as has been generally recognized. Of course, other terms (sodomy, lesbianism, pederasty) already existed but did not separate into identified, categorical lifestyles.
“There is no evidence for either biological necessity or socially adapted ‘choice’.”
The ancient Greeks and Romans indulged in homosexual relations though not assigning them to a specific lifestyle. Family, as in all cultures, was and remains a central social responsibility. But homosexual relations among the ancients were more or less freely practiced. The great Roman Emperor Hadrian had a young male lover who died at an early age whereupon the grief-stricken emperor had him deified (against Roman rule), named a city in Egypt after him, and built a temple on his villa property as a shrine and devotional site dedicated to that youth.
The Bible and the Quoran both have admonishments against same-sex practices though not specifically against homosexuality as a lifestyle, a sexual identity. That the harsh admonishments appear in both texts indicates that homosexual activities did occur which, in the very least, denotes their appearance in some of the oldest written documents extant, along with ancient Greek and Roman documents.
The most difficult issue about homosexuality rests on causation. Is homosexual desire biologically determined, genetically essential, or is it the result of social construction, a behavioral adaptation formed from cultural allowances, demands, constrictions. There is no evidence for either biological necessity or socially adapted “choice.” Rather the issue seems to resolve as a coalition formed from natural desire and social experience.
The emergence of gay identity as an accepted and equal social role as heterosexual identity is helping remove the shame, vilification, secrecy, and social isolation that still affects much of the LBTGQ community.
The emergence of Pete Buttigieg on the national scene as an accomplished, lauded public figure and now presidential aspirant raises gay identity to a nationally recognized norm on the same scale as racial or religious identity. Mr. Buttigieg has breached a very high social ground.
While a triumph for gay rights and a further realization of the American ideal of total equality, that triumph has precipitated a conservative, reactionary move to limit or remove gay rights and newly legalized gay marriage as well as women’s rights to abortion and even contraception.
The resurgence of Bible-thumping against homosexuality only confirms again that homosexual desire still runs through even the most conventionally conservative communities. Why rail against that desire unless it exists, is expressed and persistently appears among them?
The diffusion of homosexual desire continues to create divisive attitudes even within the LBGTQ community. Arguments about boundaries between behavior and identity still remain. The recognition of men having sex with men as a form of bisexual identity or a more fluid sexuality remains mostly closeted. Social construction is now recognizing same-sex relationships and marriages as reasonable alternate lifestyles. But mixing sexual relations with both men and women remains relatively taboo. And does not this suggest that cultural norms are still at work defining, although expanding, the accepted sexual norms?
Having broken ground—ground so long forced and resistant—Pete Buttigieg with all his stunning credentials has breathed new air into the American climate. And just when reactionary winds are stirring up a backlash.
Will goodness and equality and liberty and justice for all prevail? Will America re-emerge as the leader for all that yet again?
Will love of fellow man—and woman—win out?