Sunday’s New York Times (online, July 3) featured four articles about homosexuality in America–on the front page.
In the context of a recent wave of gay issues in the media (Governor Cuomo wins the NY gay marriage vote (photo right); Rhode Island approves civil unions; New Jersey’s governor rejects gay marriage; the debate over DADT and DOM legislation; gay divorce; Republican presidential candidates taking positions on all these and the usual Catholic homophobia, etc.) this is not surprising, especially in the ‘gay month’ of June Pride. In one of these stories, no less a respected person than the NYT executive editor Bill Keller stated in a Sunday Magazine essay: “the move toward legalization of same-sex marriage in America had become inexorable.”
Noble and affirmative and welcome as this position is, it’s easy to take such comments in stride, here in media-blitzed, east coast, big city with a flamboyant gay parade, a governor and mayor out front, gay TV pop talent stars, gay Broadway plays. The present seems saturated with gay issues, which even President Obama is actively pondering (“evolving”), urged along by numerous gay people on his staff, to arrive at politically correct and humanistic positions toward his gay constituents. Clearly the cause is great and the struggle for equality goes on, step by step, city and state by city and state.
But we must not get too far ahead of the frontline in this culture war, which sometimes can be fatal to the ‘special forces’ of the gay movement. Surrounding, these mostly positive Times reports, are many more not so positive stories and postings that have come across my desk in the past few weeks, sent in from various countries including the USA:
Russia: June 25, 2011
About a dozen gay people were arrested and jailed for trying to hold a small gay Pride rally in Moscow. Police detained two groups of activists protesting their lack of rights in two central districts of the city. An Associated Press photographer saw unidentified individuals attack the demonstrators, trying to seize their banners before police moved in.
Turkey: June 26, 2011
Thousands of Turks marched through Istanbul in a demonstration calling for improved rights and greater social acceptance for the country’s homosexual community… as transgendered people continue to be murdered.
Slovenia: July 18, 2011
A British police officer has spoken of his terror after being beaten by a gang of vicious thugs brandishing metal batons in a shocking homophobic attack. The gay officer was attacked while on holiday in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana by six or seven men who took exception to his sexuality.
China: April 6, 2011
A weekend raid at a club in Shanghai was a stark reminder of what can happen when homophobia meets the all-too-heavy hand of the law. Shanghaiist reports: Early Sunday morning, police stormed into Q Bar in the middle of a go-go boy performance, turned the lights on, and shoved about 70 bar employees and patrons (save the foreigners) batch by batch into a minivan that whittled them away to the Xiaodongmen police station, just a stone’s throw away from the bar. The state-backed Shanghai Daily said the bar was targeted “after complaints that it was staging sex shows”. This was vigorously denied by the bar’s owner.
Vietnam: May 21, 2011
Every day in Vietnam, stigma, discrimination and violence threaten the basic constitutional rights of gay men, including access to the information, products and services that they need for their well-being. There is a special concern regarding MSM’s access to HIV services, as HIV prevalence among MSM was 14% in 2009.
USA: July 2, 2011
Governor Lincoln Chafee signed a civil unions bill into law, making Rhode Island the fifth after Illinois, New Jersey, Delaware and Hawaii to recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil unions.
As a result, Thomas Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, has barred gay Catholics from entering a civil union:
“I am deeply disappointed that Rhode Island will establish civil unions in our state,” he wrote in The Rhode Island Catholic. “The concept of civil unions is a social experiment that promotes an immoral lifestyle, is a mockery of the institution of marriage as designed by God, undermines the well-being of our family and poses a threat to religious liberty…Because civil unions promote an unacceptable lifestyle, undermine the faith of the Church on holy matrimony, and cause scandal and confusion, Catholics may not participate in civil unions. To do so is a very grave violation of the moral law and, thus, seriously sinful. A civil union can never be accepted as a legitimate alternative to matrimony.”
Uganda: May 11, 2011
Uganda’s parliament on Wednesday delayed debate on a controversial bill that once proposed the death penalty for some gays and lesbians, but officials suggested lawmakers could take up the matter on Friday. [They did not.] U.S. and world leaders and rights groups have denounced the bill in recent months in hopes parliament would reject it. Internet petitions have gathered more than 1.4 million signatures. The bill was first proposed in 2009 but has been avoided in parliament.
South Africa: June 29, 2011
Lesbian South Africans are living in fear as rape and murder become a daily threat in the townships they call home. Noxolo Nkosana, 23, is the latest victim of a series of violent attacks against lesbians. She was stabbed a stone’s throw from her home in Crossroads township, Cape Town, as she returned from work one evening with her girlfriend. The two men – one of whom lives in her community – started yelling insults. “They were walking behind us. They just started swearing at me screaming: ‘Hey you lesbian, you tomboy, we’ll show you,'” Ms Nkosana tells the BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13908662
There are few issues on the world stage more divisive than homosexuality. It is a fiery flashpoint in modern societies around the world, often hateful, sometimes murderous, always conflicted. Fueled primarily by religious bigotry that relies on ancient mythological ‘holy’ books, this is one culture war that may never go away since those old books are not about to be re-written–despite the fact that they indeed were originally written by unknown mortals living in primitive times.
Imagine if we used medical books from the middle ages to guide modern treatments. But religion is not science, which is based on facts and reality, and like politics people can hold whatever irrational views they want just because they want to and attribute their views to a religious doctrine or scripture, base on vague history, magical myth and entrenched hearsay. Bringing rationality into religion is like mixing oil with water. Nothing in nature or super-nature can ever cause them to blend. Rationality, religion and human sexuality will never be blended and will always be major hindrances and blind spots to civilization reaching its full potential; light and dark make gray in which one cannot see forward or backward.
By Richard Ammon
July 5, 2011