This is an account of an argument I made when I was 18/19. I was still breaking with my home culture, so please be forgiving.
The first time happened in 1994. It was an exercise for class – a mini debate to demonstrate use of logos, pathos and ethos for my persuasive writing class. The assignment: pro or con same sex marriage. To me it was a non-issue. I’d only met two gay people at that point. One did untold damage to my neighborhood and family. The other, a mentor at one of those don’t-use-drug love-ins popular in the late 90s, came out to our entire group. He hugged me later – I was the only person who did not immediately withdraw from him. I didn’t care if it was pro or con; while at the time still a Bible-believing Christian, I’d already found the Bible pretty useless as much more than a doorstop in most real life situations. I was already struggling to reconcile the meaning of bacon.
It gave me an excuse to hit the library – always a favorite visit for me – and what I turned up suggested that modern information once again unplugged the cultural concepts enforced in my home. This was when the first research on sexual orientation as a neurological condition surfaced. Being gay was something people were born with, it looked like. Within my then Christian understanding of science and God as hand-holding buddies, that meant God MADE them gay. So God wanted gay people. I also turned up the tidbit about how animal populations have homosexual partnerings that increase when overpopulation happens. It looked to me like one of nature’s rare kindnessness: still joy, just no kiddies.
No matter how I dug, I could find no quanitative information on how gay people hurt society or hurt marriage. At the time, the AIDS epidemic was still a chilling crisis. It had also become clear that it was not just a disease for gay people and while its origins were vague, it was something that destroyed everyone who came within its fluid grasp – it was not just a scourge of the homosexual.
I thought of the images of the gay men with cut out butt flaps running around San Francisco. While crass, when I thought about it critically – if they removed the disease risks, they weren’t harming anyone. It didn’t occur to me until years later that my health teacher was issuing propaganda from the same emotional cloth that spun both anti Soviet and anti drug propaganda. He was aiming to induce disgust – not to help us look at these sexual behaviors critically and scientifically, to understand how we fit into this natural system of kinks quiet and loud.
The path my mind took, upon considering these realities and my own pathos masquerading as ethos at the time, was this:
God is nature.
God made gay people.
Homosexuality is natural.
God is also not an asshole. He didn’t make gay people just to be a jerk.
The Bible actually said something pretty explicit in the New Testament about either a)not having sex or b)getting married if you just can’t control yourself.
The AIDs epidemic was (and is) tearing up Africa and did untold damage to people I knew I hadn’t even met yet but was going to.
Gay people should get married, too. If straight people couldn’t supress their sex urges why on earth should gay people have to?
Marriage – increased monogamous unions – might positively contribute to reducing the AIDS epidemic.
When time came to debate, I went up against Brad. We were friendly; neither cared who won. He believed in what he said. I personally wasn’t sure but after all my reading I was starting to persuade myself.
He began. “The Bible says it’s wrong.”
I rebutted, “The Bible says marriage is a substandard option.” I proceeded to enumerate my research.
Brad threw up his hands and laughed. “That’s all I’ve got.”
The debate came to an end.
More lessons came later. A slew of friends from high school coming out to me as bi or gay – and no one with a pamphlet on how to be supportive about it. Boyfriends unable to face their own bisexuality and blaming me for not, through femininity alone, reaffirming their manhood. The first woman to openly make a move on me. BDSM. Non-monogamy. Me still straight, mostly vanilla and celebrating all of it while reassuring friends that I loved their weirdness, their queerness, their non-binary-ness and that my choosing not to partake most of the time was not a rejection. The party house on Byron Street in Mankato where all the queers and freaks hung out and the night they beat the crap out of the homophobic bros that crashed the party. Eventually becoming, when it came to all the sexuality in the world, fearless.
My arguments are quite a bit different now – after all, I haven’t been a 19 year old semi-conservative Christian girl in a very long time. Now it’s simply this:
Gay people are people. They deserve full human rights. That includes the right to marry, the right to divorce, the right to recognition and honor from the military when they lose a partner. They’ve been part of humanity all along – and they deserve to be.