by Luke Fevin (You can follow Luke on Twitter @According2Luke, or on Facebook )
The terrible events of Orlando, followed immediately by the detention of a heavily armed James Howell en route to the LA Pride celebration have once again catapulted the discussion of homophobia and it’s origins to the fore.
Two key questions appear to be;
Does homophobia occur naturally?
What role if any, does religion have to play?
Evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup in the 90’s (and in his earlier work in the ’80’s with Susan Suarez) argues that homophobia (in it’s colloquial rather than literal sense) is a natural product of a belief that gay men around ones offspring may increase the likelihood of said offspring being gay, causing a reproductive disadvantage. The problem that Gallup had in his studies, is that they were conducted in the United States, in a society already absolutely saturated with Christian ideals. And so even if his studies did show incidences of “naturally occurring” homophobia, he was still unable to test outside of the unseen influence of a Judeo-Christian heritage. Fellow Evolutionary Psychologist, John Archer argues that homophobia occurs as natural function of out-grouping, or a kind of xenophobia.
Whether either or both of these arguments are correct or not, one finds it a significant challenge to leap from the kind of gentle discomfort type of homophobia that Gallup reports in his four studies to the type of outright hostility we see manifested every day in highly-charged emotional, aggressive & violent interactions. Hate crime statistics against the LGBTQ community are frightening, even just in the Americas. Between 2008 and 2014, there were 1,612 murders, across 62 countries, of transgender persons — equivalent to a killing every two days. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported 594 hate-related killings of LGBT persons in the 25 members of the Organization of American States between January 2013 and March 2014. Brazil saw 310 murders in 2012 in which homophobia or transphobia was a motive. In 2013 the U.S. experienced 18 hate-violence homicides and 2,001 incidents of anti-LGBT violence. The U.S. Department of Justice notes that, in 2013, “law enforcement agencies reported 1,402 hate crime offenses based on sexual-orientation bias. Of these offenses: 60.6 percent were classified as anti-gay (male) bias; 22.6 percent were prompted by an anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (mixed group) bias; and 13.2 percent were classified as anti-lesbian bias.”
So are there examples of how cultures have dealt with gay, bi, trans & 2 spirited people in the past?
Is it possible for cultures to have gay & LGBTQ members without demonization, ostracization and worse? Or is non bi-gender conformity a more modern occurrence?
Homosexuality in China has been documented as far back as 600 BCE. In Japan it has connections with Buddhist monastic life and the Samurai tradition. The Ladyboys of Thailand (treated as a 3rd gender) have been a feature of Thai society for centuries, and Thai kings have had male as well as female lovers. In the America’s, the North American First Nations people have a history of honoring & respecting those that were “2 spirit”. In South America, gay, bi & trans people were commonplace in the Aztecs, Mayans and many other tribes and cultures. In the 16th century, the Catholic Spanish invaders were horrified to discover sodomy openly practiced among native peoples, and attempted to stamp it out with severe penalties, including public execution, burning and being torn to pieces by dogs. In ancient Persia it was at a minimum tolerated, if not accepted. The foundational work of Hindu Law, “The Laws of Manu” includes a 3rd sex whom may engage in nontraditional gender expression and gay sex. In Papua New Guinea, same-sex relationships were an integral part of the culture, only declining under the arrival and influence of the Christian West. It is well documented of course that gay & bi sex was normative in ancient Greece, and was even accepted in the Roman Empire – although the Romans had more social hierarchy expectations on same-sex behaviours.
The point is that there is a vast amount of evidence for the normative existence, respecting and acceptance of same-sex sex and non-binary gender conforming people since the dawn of recorded history, and in unconnected & isolated cultures spanning the globe – and that evidence for homophobia prior to the 10th century exists, but is comparatively minimal. So why did so much of the World change it’s perspective on gender and sexuality?
In the Hebrew Bible, The Torah tells the story in Genesis 19 that around 600 BCE, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by the God Yahweh for the sins of its inhabitants. These sins have been translated and retold in various forms, including that they were rude & unkind to strangers, that they wanted to engage in beastiality and wanted to absorb the power of angels. Of course, the mainstream Christian dogma is that it was because they were also engaging is “sodomy”. Fast forward to the first couple of centuries CE, and Christianity has managed to make the whole issue of sex and sexuality taboo. By the time we get to the fourth centuries we see an easing on sexual restrictions to allow procreative sex. And this is where it all starts going horribly wrong. We can find, including in St Augustine’s writings the idea that procreative sex within marriage is allowed, while every other kind of sexuality is sinful. Suddenly this requirement for only procreation sex creates an obvious problem for same-sex sex that had never previously occurred in Greek or Roman law. Suddenly Homosexuality was forbidden, and the punishment was death.
With the decline of the Roman Empire, a general tolerance of homosexuality existed in Europe until around the middle of the 13th century. This was around the time that Catholic church started to gain prominence, and it’s earlier Lateran from 1179 which included it’s first specific mention of gay sex – “Whoever shall be found to have committed that incontinence which is against nature shall be punished…” And it’s downhill from this point on. The 14th century sees a surge in anti-homosexual law in Europe though to the 17th century. The Napoleonic code decriminalized sodomy, and the advances of secularization and science in the 18th and 19th centuries saw further reductions in the harshness of sentencing, or the acceptance of homosexuality. In the 20th century sexual roles were once again redefined. Premarital sex became increasingly common and acceptable, and there was a general decline in the prohibitions of sex for pleasure. Even the Communist Party decriminalised homosexuality in the old Soviet Union – and one can’t help but notice the rise of vitriolic homophobia in modern Russia strongly correlates with the resurgence of the Christian and Muslim churches.
In more recent years, the Christian church under growing pressure from more liberal values, secular societies and falling memberships has pushed back (especially in the US) lobbying for legislation to protect primacy, historical privilege and exemption from Human Rights expectations. In fact, in the US alone, and in just 6 months, over 200 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation was tabled. So it seems that homophobia can occur naturally, but that there is a rich history of societies and cultures that have accepted, respected and even celebrated their LGBTQ members over the centuries. Where is homophobia today at it’s highest? Where is it at it’s most violent? In countries most inspired by the Abrahamic religions, Christianity & Islam.
How literally incredible and sad is it that the levels of homophobia & violence we see to day seem to be the result of deluded ancients and their establishment that sex should only be for procreation.
And that the drip drip drip of this arrogant, deluded and dangerous nonsense has become embedded in our cultures and our psyche – to the point where those that hate gays don’t even know why they hate gays. A million preachers in a million pulpits over centuries. A million teachers making millions of children read holy books over and over and over. A stupid meme propagated again and again. And so here we are today. Trying to understand how one man could hate one group of people so much. How one man can hate himself so much that he would walk into a nightclub and shoot over 100 people, taking the lives of 49.
For the most part, homophobia is made up. It was a lie told over and over so many times it became a self-perpetuating truth. So, if you’ll excuse me a moment. Fuck your deluded made up bullshit. Fuck you pretending to know what a creator of the universe may think about things you have no ability to know. Fuck the self-appointed moral authority and judgement of the religious houses. Fuck the Catholic church for continuing to perpetuate this dangerous harmful bullshit even today. Fuck the homophobic Imams. Fuck every organization and person that has directly or indirectly endorsed this concept, or supported the idea that this concept should be respected. So there you have it. This has been going on for generations over large parts of the world, hurting the lives of millions and millions of innocent humans. And it was all made up. So no more tolerating this bullshit.
Is there a god? Maybe. But let’s stop pretending that you know what he thinks about shit. Because you don’t. And the delusion that people do is one of the most harmful human failings of all time.
50 people dead. And it was all made up. Fuck you religion.