As I travel the world interviewing LGBT people about their lives, their cultures and countries I hear stories of effort, strategy, frustration and achievement. One question I have failed to ask these courageous activists, some risking their lives, is “how far away is hope?”
How far away is hope for equality, tolerance, acceptance, relationship recognition, political participation, religious compassion, social calmness…? And what is keeping it in the ever seemingly receding distance?
Another way to ask the question is how long will it take humankind to unlearn the teachings of religion against human sexuality. Indeed, can humanity unlearn something so ingrained in mind from religious prohibitions against sexuality–period. This most human of appetites is the most proscribed against.
Even in the ‘crass’ exchange of money-for-sex , the so-called “world’s oldest profession,” there is good reason for that title. The desire for sexual intimacy has become hard-wired in our brains over milennia, beyond the instinct to procreate. With the developing mind becoming more learned by acquiring knowledge and sophisticated systems for survival, came also an increase in more sophisticated desire called intimacy, mental contact, emotional affection, nurturing, warmth, touch…
This want runs so deep that people will kill for it. Crimes of passion are a common occurrence in ‘civilized’ humanity, some resort to murder when it is frustrated , denied or betrayed.
The challenging question is, given this core aspect of human nature why is it that the religious/spiritual thought/belief systems that have emerged recently, over two or three thousand years, have become so antagonistic toward a human’s fundamental need for intimacy and sexual desire? And why/where/when has come this fanatical obsession to reject, discriminate, punish or kill people whose desire for intimacy leans toward their own gender?
It is one of the greatest paradoxes that such an essential trait has become so stigmatized, sometimes to the degree that torture and murder feel justified in an effort to eliminate it.
How far away is hope? About as far away as modern human sexuality is from the human truth that people are different; people are born straight, gay and in-between.
Homophobes refuse to see this truth and prefer to cling instead to their hostile opinions; they refuse to see these opinions as imaginary fabricated beliefs made up by a (very) few tribal men and scribbled down–for what reason scribbled down?–despite their own inherent human desire for intimacy. Why would these early scribes ‘legislate’ or opine against their own nature? At the time, the reasons were likely less religious than political. Indeed, were they in fact writing about intimacy and sexuality at all or something more public–the various language translations and the inevitable changes of word meanings, in addition to the uncertain original meanings, have obscured the initial intent.
So the current anathema against homosexual desire continues unabated, unexamined, unintelligent and has little to do with any kind of divine source. Simplicity is dangerous in the minds of ignorant people who will not look beyond their own fears. Gay people are not some modern scourge; same-sex desire is not a recent ‘problem’. Ancient attitudes about homosexuality are not authoritatively known. It’s claimed the Bible is the ‘word of god’ without realizing there were many gods back then. Was there a God of gods who took a consensus and decided that sex had to be confined and controlled and homesex was a no-no? The questions into the past become ludicrous the further back we look and try to think clearly.
How far away is hope? Fortunately modern civilization has improved in certain countries–in fits and starts, stumbling along but for the better–so that things like democracy, equality and human rights have taken root and helped create an international judicial belief system that parallels the religious system. Judicial thought and action has begun to turn back the excesses and abuses of religion and forwarded human rights as an equal and better way of managing civilization. Slowly in one country after another, officially sanctioned legal decisions have blocked religious persecution (in the guise of discriminatory political statutes) from advancing further against homosexually-inclined citizens.
Slowly, gays rights have become part of the fabric of human rights as one bias after another is being taken down: gay relationships are legal, gay marriage is legal (and published in the New York Times); gays in the military will soon be legal; discrimination in jobs, housing, health care and inheritance are illegal; child adoption by gay couples is legal… All of which were opposed and prayed about by religious institutions. (Imagine praying to one’s God on behalf of discrimination and bigotry!)
How far away is hope? In Zimbabwe or Iran it is far distant. In Holland, UK or, unevenly, in USA hope has already arrived.
By Richard Ammon
September 1, 2011