Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Liberals and Hot Air America
What can be made of something like Air
Rather than recognizing the truth of Malcolm words, liberals, like Linus of the children’s cartoon Peanuts who forever is clinging to his blanket, cling to the Democratic Party. So then, what is Air
Ultimate aims, such as overturning the rotten capitalist order and embarking on the path toward an open and egalitarian society, is not what they are after. They just make it seem like it is. This is why Michael Moore proceeded to endorse the killer of the Balkans Wesley Clark (a tactical move, he claimed on WBAI’s Democracy Now!) and why an atypical liberal organization like moveon.org can, without a sense of historical irony, wrap themselves in the flag, declare “anyone but Bush,” and support an open imperialist like presidential candidate John Kerry. This supposedly all in the name of defeating G. W. Bush. Never mind that his ostensible replacement is fellow Skull and Boner John Kerry who dutifully did his genocidal part in Vietnam and, more recently, when he voted for both the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq. For liberals, the bizarre call to ‘take back our country’ and the chant of ‘anyone but Bush’ takes precedence over everything. Liberals also seem to miss the point that for many around the world, most recently
As damning, and it is in this aspect that they have been the bane of radical/progressive movements, is that liberals have continually posed as being on the right side of history and so have been able to funnel change from below within the
To pose an analogy, if radical/progressive movements were a prizefighter, liberals would be the equivalent of a bought off corner purposely giving all the wrong advice while giving only superficial support to “their” fighter. Meanwhile, the opposing fighter, representing the neo-cons or right wingers, is winning practically every round handily. But is this not the point? Liberals primp and pose as a better alternative while all the while leaving untouched the fundamental structures of power that are at the root of the ills plaguing both U. S. society and the world. With friends like liberals we do not need enemies. It would be much wiser, for black people in particular, and the working class in general, to forget about the cheap wares proffered by liberals and their Democratic Party backers. We need to develop an independent political perspective along with a movement to express it that then seeks to go to the root of the problem which, for those who want me to name names, is the class and racial caste system embodied by the Capitalist order. As events in
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Superman No More
Well the Military-Media-Industrial complex has been caught at it again. After months of legend making and narcissistic bereavement, it officially has been finally revealed that ex-Cardinals football player Pat Tillman died from friendly fire. Though alternative media outlets months before had reported that Tillman had died not from enemy fire, as had been claimed by the military and trumpeted by the mainstream media, but at the hands of his own fellow troops, only now has it become official. Like the Kleenex snatching story of Jessica Lynch that came before it, the Tillman saga is yet another public relations stunt gone sour.
Whoever he may have been as a person, and it appears that he, to put it succinctly, was a real life Captain
The fact that the Military-Media-Industrial complex is ever vigilant for a story, any story, which will prop up the ideological and emotional underpinnings of the
The Superman of comic book lore could do no wrong, he was as strong as 200 men or better, faster than a train and could fly . . . like an eagle. Being created in 1938, only seven years before the U. S. would stand virtually alone out of the ashes of World War II, Superman as a character embodied the can do spirit of America but also the American exceptionalism (and its distinctly racist flavor) that had always been that spirit's companion. Like Superman, America was/is invincincible and can do no wrong. It is these two qualities (we can do anything and only we are fit to do so) that ultimately lied at the heart of who Tillman was as a person (why else would he leave fame and millions on the table) and lies at the heart of America's psyche (i. e. 'we are bringing democracy to Iraq and only we are uniquely qualified to do so'). While Tillman’s death was a tragedy on human terms because he died in a war that has little to do with actually combating terrorism (even recently Bush said he was unconcerned about Osama bin Laden!) and thus was needless, his passing showed once again the pusillanimous nature of the Military-Media-Industrial complex and that Superman or Superwoman does not really exist. It is up to us to get through the lies and obfuscations and free ourselves.
Monday, December 13, 2004
Gary Webb Remembered
As I read the news of reporter for the San Jose Mercury News Gary Webb’s death I felt deeply saddened. Here was a solid reporter whose life, as have been countless others, was snuffed out by the system in general and the mainstream press in particular. Whether or not his death was really a suicide or not, it is clear that one way or another, it was the system that killed him. For simply doing what any good investigative reporter should do, Webb was dragged through the mud by the mainstream press who, because they purposely overlooked the story Webb broke and because they also serve as guardians of what is and is not acceptable public discourse, had to make an example of him as a warning to all who would dare cross the line.
For those who may not know, Gary Webb was the reporter who broke the story in 1996 of CIA involvement in the drug trade sweeping
Decency Should Not Be Assumed
As I’ve read much on the material on blackcommentator.com I’ve been impressed with the focus and dead on analysis of
What is disturbing is that much of the rag tag left in this country continue to insist that if only the American public were better informed by the media then a movement would arise to challenge the neo-con’s plans specifically and all injustices generally. But the truth does not get through the filters of the corporately controlled media and naturally, the color red or orange or any other color can mean something only to someone who can see to begin with. Clearly, the white
Even if one charitably assumes that the U. S. media can and will accurately report on U. S. adventures or misadventures abroad, will as racist society such as the U. S. be able to muster the appropriate moral outrage and countervailing action appropriate to the slaughter and maltreatment of black and brown peoples? Not likely since so much of their identity is based on the domination of and perceived superiority over black and brown peoples. Then, when someone among their own, such as Eugene Debbs, decides to stand with humanity and attempt to move the white U. S. masses away from their allegiance to the brutish U. S. ruling class, he is either quickly marginalized (ala Noam Chomsky) if he or she is lucky or simply murdered or imprisoned if not. But lets also not forget the economic dimension. Much of the wealth of not only the U. S. but of the global North as a whole originated and continues to originate with the destruction and exploitation of people of color. Racism is integral to the maintenance of a modus vivendi with the conscience (such as it may be) of whites individually and collectively. This is why poor whites consistently vote against their material interests by voting for the most reactionary politicians. Abandoning racism would simply mean the destruction of their collective identity. An identity that while having spelled doom for non-white peoples and perhaps ultimately whites themselves cannot be easily discarded. Apparently, the psychological comfort of their white skins is more valuable than decent healthcare, wages and schools. In short, if the Iraqis, or the rest of the world for that matter, is waiting for the white masses in the
The Argument for Gay and Lesbian Rights
Gay and Lesbian rights over the last 40 years has been a contentious issue within the
Here it is important, for purposes of clarity, to define some terms: A homosexual is someone whose sexual inclination is towards that of that individual’s own sex rather than the opposite sex. A lesbian is a homosexual woman. A transvestite is a man who derives sexual pleasure by dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex. An effeminate person is someone possessed of qualities generally attributed to women such as weakness, gentleness, delicacy . . . etc. A pedophile is someone who is sexually attracted to children. A trans-gendered person is someone who was born a female and was surgically converted to a male or vice versa. Finally, the generally accepted definition of a hermaphrodite is someone born with both male and female sex organs. But in reality, there are three types: True, Male pseudo and Female Pseudo. “A True hermaphrodite is a person born with both ovary and testicular tissue, this could be 2 separate gonads ( one of each) or a combination of both in one (an ovotestes). The genitalia can vary from completely male or female, to a combination of both or even ambiguous looking. A Female Psuedo is a person born XX with normal female internal organs but with "masculanized" genitalia. They can appear more male then female or a combination of each. Finally, a Male Psuedo is a person born XY with testes (usually in the abdominal cavity). The external genitalia are usually female but can be ambiguous.” 
I have defined these terms because frequently when I am arguing for or speaking of gay rights I invariably get comments like ‘I don’t want my child taught by no homo!’ The implication being that the child will be either taught a gay lifestyle, to accept a gay lifestyle or, what is usually meant, the child will be sexually molested. Many times people confuse homosexuality with pedophilia, a person who is hermaphrodite, effeminate, trans-gendered or a transvestite with the end result that I am talking about apples, so to speak, and they are talking about oranges. Granted a homosexual can have any of the qualities described by the terms I’ve just defined but he or she cannot possess them by definition. So, in other words, making an objection to homosexuality because you fear your child will be molested is an invalid inference because a homosexual by definition or necessity is not a pedophile anymore than a heterosexual is.
There is, however, another classification that does not get as much press but more than heterosexuality and homosexuality exemplifies the fluidity of human sexuality. This is bisexuality. Being bisexual means having many options. Such an individual likes men and women alike. In her book Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life Marjorie Garber noted that “when an interviewer asked Dr. Wardell Pomeroy, co-author of the Kinsey report, what made someone bisexual, he replied that it was the wrong question. You should ask, ‘why isn’t everybody?’” Indeed, considering the obvious suppleness of human sexuality that is an interesting question. Likely, a large part of the answer is the power of Western civilization to enforce rigid gender roles. But also likely is the difficulty in settling on what one is. Are you straight or are you gay? Answering neither seems to be a bit too equivocal or ambiguous. Sort of like being left adrift at sea and not knowing which way to face before starting to row. It is thus not surprising that Kinsey institute research has found that “at least 25 percent of all American men had a sexual experience with another male as teenagers or adults. [However,] the majority of these men think of themselves as heterosexual.” From a societal standpoint bisexuality, in relation to heterosexuality and homosexuality, can be heard as saying ‘ruin on both of your houses.’ It can be seen as radical in that it rejects the defined roles projected from either camps or conservative in that it appears as a “glass half full” to both sides. Perhaps it is this inability to be classified one way or another that adds to the appeal of stars such as Mick Jagger and Madonna. Gore Vidal explained it this way:
It is an underlying assumption of twentieth-century
For those bisexual folks who are not stars their ambiguous sexuality likely will draw fire upon themselves. As Gore Vidal noted, theirs is a sexuality that the contemporary American, if not European, cannot pin down. It is easy to see how bisexual people would not be welcome in either the men’s locker-room or the women’s locker-room. For perhaps what is loathed more than being different, is being different with no place to go. Bisexuals don’t fit; there is no easy way to categorize them and so no easy way deal with them. Most heterosexuals view them as homosexuals plain and simple while many gays see them as phonies and fakes for not “going all the way.” To borrow a line from the present discourse over terrorism, bisexuals have to decide whether “you’re either with us or against us.” These types of attitudes have the effect of splintering the categories of sexual identity and adding to the confusion over sexuality and identity.
Indeed, sexual identity itself involves more than just a set of practices and notions about sex that a society ascribes to this or that group. Sexual identity is forged through the crucible of history and where and when one finds oneself. Being a homosexual in Ancient Greece, for example, is of a different character than being a homosexual in the contemporary U. S. In the former homosexuality in certain forms was not only accepted but even elevated above heterosexuality. In the latter homosexuality is condemned and heterosexuality made compulsory. No one, however, sits still and passively allows him or herself to be labeled or categorized. While one is being defined, one also consciously or unconsciously reworks this unsolicited definition and reflects this back onto one’s society. This reflection in turn redefines the social and cultural terrain where these identities are continually contested.
Probably the most misunderstood and marginalized group of gay and lesbians as a distinct class are queers of color. White middle-class gay men are quite visible in comparison to their colored, usually non-middle class, counterparts. This is no accident as from the start sexuality in general in U. S. society had been racialized. Beginning almost immediately following the “discovery of the
The prevailing Western concept of sexuality . . . already contains racism. Historically, the European construction of sexuality coincides with the epoch of imperialism and the two inter-connect . . . The personage of the savage was developed as the other of civilization and one of the first “proofs” of this otherness was the nakedness of the savage, the visibility of its sex.
Race thus has to be understood as
a historical, ideological process rather than fixed [on] trans-historical or biological characteristics: one’s racial identity is contingent on one’s cultural and historical location. Processes of ‘racialization’ [are] the extension of racial meaning to a previously unclassified relationship, social practice or group. ‘Racialization’ is an ideological process, an historically specific one
It is through this prism, which this legacy of conquest and imperialism represents, that gays and lesbians of color are seen. While most people of color in U. S. society to this day have two identities, one African-American and the other simply American, gays and lesbians add a third; their identity as homosexuals. Not being able to exist outside of the society in that surrounds them, African-Americans and Latinos show little more tolerance for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters than the larger society. Homophobia runs deep in communities of color like in the rest of society. Prison is one of the few places where one sees a peculiar breakdown in this area. There a man is considered homosexual if he plays the role of “catcher” rather than the role of “pitcher.” So in prisons we are left with a situation within the sphere of homosexuality where the stigmatized other is feminized in the absence of the ability, because of objective conditions, to racialize the other.
In terms of relations between gays and lesbians themselves, race adds another layer of complexity and ambiguity. For example, earlier in the twentieth century psychologist Margret Otis, in an article appearing in a medical journal in 1913 and entitled “A perversion not Commonly Noted,” wrote of the pervasive “love-making between white and colored girls” in all female institutions such as reform schools. She drew attention to what she deemed the “peculiar moral code” that governed these relationships:
In particular, she noted that the girls incorporated racial difference into courtship rituals self-consciously patterned on traditional gender roles: “one white girl . . . admitted that the colored girl she loved seemed the man, and thought it was so in the case of the others.”
Already segregated by gender these girls apparently replicated traditional gender roles through the use of race. In this case black skin became synonymous with masculinity while white skin represented femininity. A curious development since Black men practically from the beginning of slavery were painted as sexual predators always looking for a white woman to take. In this instance, however, it is the black woman that is recast as the black man. This being early in the twentieth century when Victorian norms of sexuality between women still held on one hand and “Jim Crow” was alive and well on the other, Ms. Otis’s readers were likely appalled by the inter-racial nature of these relationships rather than the homosexual aspect of it. In essence the fear and loathing heaped upon the Black man for his supposedly uncontrollable sexual urges, could, through homosexuality, be transferred to the Black woman. But more telling is the adaptability and pragmatism of human relationships. The lessons that need to be learned here is that race and homosexuality can combine in a peculiar social cocktail that can lead to not easily resolved tensions in sexual identity and that one’s identity, as discussed earlier, is as much about what one does with what is handed down.
From a constitutional perspective one of the more important cases dealing with the legal status of gays and lesbians in the last ten years is the case of Romer v Evans. This suit was launched as a result of the passage of a law known at the time as Amendment 2. Amendment 2 was a state-wide anti-gay initiative prohibiting all branches of state government in
all persons born or naturalized in the
In essence the court simply upheld the “equal protection clause” of the Constitution that had been in place since 1866. Writing in “Women, Gays, and the Constitution” Professor of Law Daniel A. J. Richards states:
The strongest constitutional argument for constitutional limits on antigay/lesbian rights iniatives has been the one least explored in the available literature and the one all other arguments impliedly depend on for their force: namely, the initiatives in question express constitutionally forbidden sectarian religious intolerance through public law against fundamental rights of conscience, speech, and association of lesbian and gay persons protected by America’s first and premier civil liberty, the liberty of conscience.
While I certainly can agree with Mr. Richards that the right arguments need to be presented I think that it should be kept in mind that, like the “Jim crow” laws existing between the era bracketed by the end of Reconstruction and the apex of the Civil Rights Movement, anti-gay initiatives find their force during times most favorable to their enactment and enforcement. Arguments need to be presented yes. Also, legal recourse can be pursued such as the strategy of the NAACP that challenged the legal basis of segregation. But ultimately it is mass movements, rather than lawsuits, agitating for overarching social change that will transform the political climate where these initiatives germinate. In addition, while the U. S. Constitution states, “that all men are created equal,” this was certainly not true, at the time the constitution was ratified, for enslaved African-Americans, Native Americans, Women and the property-less. They were to remain outside the loop for some time to come. My point being that laws are as much a function of political expediency as they are guarantors of our rights as citizens. It all depends on the alignment of political forces outside the legislative chambers of Congress and the courtrooms of the legal system.
For gays and lesbians living in the
In the early morning hours of
Eyewitnesses recalled that the scene outside the bar was at first campy and festive. Tourists and passers-by joined patrons and everyone cheered when a gay person emerged from the bar, dismissed by the police. But when a paddy wagon arrived and the police loaded the bar's staff and the three drag queens inside, the crowd on the street grew surly. One person threw a rock through a window, and eventually garbage cans, bottles, and even a parking meter were used to assault the building. Someone set a fire with lighter fluid. By newspaper accounts, 13 people were arrested and three police officers sustained minor injuries in the confrontation.
Later that night and into Sunday morning, a crowd again gathered in front of the ravaged bar. Many young gay men showed up to protest the flurry of raids, but they did so by handholding, kissing, and forming a chorus line. "We are the Stonewall girls," they sang, kicking their legs in front of the police. "We wear our hair in curls. /We have no underwear. /We show our pubic hair." Police cleared the street without incident this time, but another street altercation occurred a few days later.
Coming as it did during one of the most politically charged periods in
Undoubtedly, the history of the fight for gay/lesbian rights has been a long, tortuous and winding road in the
[Falwell] "What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact, if in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of
[Robertson] “Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.”
From a philosophical standpoint, these comments, their illogic and venomous invective aside, expose the paradoxical ideological and political framework that underpins
In the realm of political--economic theory, no one, other than Adam Smith, had as much influence as John Locke. John Locke was an English philosopher born on
. . . hath by nature a power not only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty, and estate against the injuries and attempts of other men . . .
would make its next appearance 86 years later, almost to the word, in The United States Declaration of Independence (1776) where Thomas Jefferson wrote:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,
Locke’s arguments however rest on some shaky assumptions. First, he assumes that “though the things of nature are given in common, man . . . had still in himself the great foundation of property.” This is an argument from nature. Are “men”, by nature greedy or possessive? Second, while it is true people have a right to the product of their labor, it does not follow that land, being the means through which one realizes the product of one’s labor, entitles one to exclusive possession of both the means (the land) and the product (born of one’s labor). Third, because he sees only the consensual aspect of community he is mistakenly led to argue that “it is necessary the body should move that way whither the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the majority.” Of course, this leaves the minority at the mercy of the majority. Finally, more a mistake born from the era in which he lived, where America stretched out as a great frontier awaiting “improvement”, Locke believed “men” could always depart or dissolve whatever community they found themselves in and start afresh in any part of the world “they can find free and unpossessed.” Of course today, that is out of the question. You can move to another part of the world but in general you just cannot simply start your own nation-state. Perhaps sensing some of the weaknesses in Lockian political theory, Thomas Jefferson when writing The United States Declaration of Independence (1776) replaced “life, liberty, and property” with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
It is with J. S. Mill that we find a somewhat different conception of the individual, his or her role in society and, in turn, society’s function and the form and role of government. John Stuart Mill was born in
Here, what concerns us is his works “On Liberty” and “Considerations On Representative Government” where he argued for the freedom of the individual from undue government intrusion and what government’s role should be. For Mill, the individual was sacrosanct. The individual had the natural right to pursue his own aims without hindrance as long as in pursuit of these aims he did not keep others from doing the same or cause harm. Furthermore, he recognized that human beings, while possessing a nature, are still very much conditioned by the social context in which they exist. Thus, the free flow of information and ideas is paramount not only to guarantee individual freedom but also to precipitate the mental growth of the individual and by extension raise the cultural or intellectual milieu. The best form of government, he believed, was one of proportional representation. To his credit, Mill recognized that proportional representative government, characterized by checks and balances along with separation of powers, could still fall prey to a tyranny of the majority, a “general ignorance and incapacity, or, . . . insufficient mental qualifications in the controlling body [and] the danger of its being under the influence of interests not identical with the general welfare of the community.” No doubt, he would see the oligarchic nature of present day “democracy” in the
Locke’s legacy in the
Because Mill’s contributions were reformist and did not seek, as Karl Marx did, to transform the socio-economic relations that grew out of bourgeois political and economic theory, it is now up to others to complete this project of transformation. It is precisely this project, or at least a piece of it, that the gay/lesbian community, along with other groups, such as people of color and the working poor, must persevere in completing if they are to gain the rights that Locke and Mill spoke of.
Here I’ll just mention, in regard to homophobia (which can be defined as a fear or hatred of homosexuals) that studies have been conducted, of which the most recent I came across appeared in a 1996 issue of Journal of Abnormal Psychology, that appear to show that "Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies," In sum, this study of 64 volunteers, strongly indicate[s] that most homophobic males (54%, but up to 80%) have a detectable homosexual component in their psyche and that their homophobia reflects the concept called "projection" [or the transfer of qualities or features one hates in oneself onto others] in psychiatry”.  I make mention of studies such as this one not to present their conclusions as verity, though the evidence seems strong, but as “food for thought”. My hope is that my readers can put into perspective or gain some insights into the virulence, vehemence and violence that seem to characterize anti-gay/lesbian forces. If we are to wage a successful fight for gay/lesbian rights we need to be aware of all the contours of this issue.
There are some common misconceptions and faulty arguments put forth by anti-gay forces. Here I will deal with some of these. The most common argument used to condemn gay people is the idea that same sex relations defeat the purpose of reproduction. Closely related to this idea is the notion that female sex organs are expressly to be used for intercourse with that of males and vice versa. This begs the question as to how much of the time humans engage in sex for purely reproductive purposes? Also, when humans engage in heterosexual intercourse, do they always engage in the activity in a manner that would lead to pregnancy?
Furthermore, both male and female sex organs also act as conduits for the ejection of urine. An elephant uses its nose both to breathe and to bathe. Humans use their limbs in many different ways. In soccer, players frequently use their heads to hit the ball. My point is that people as well as animals use their body parts in many different ways. So to say that people can only use their genitals in a certain way and only with the opposite sex is, in fact, not only unnatural but also myopic. In fact, there is ample evidence that homosexuality has existed throughout human history in diverse cultures, societies and places. However, it was something was considered an activity one did rather than a main marker of identity. Michael Foucault described this phenomenon within Western culture, in regard to sexuality, of becoming what you do in the following way:
Homosexuality appeared as one of the forms of sexuality when it was transposed from the practice of sodomy onto a kind of androgyny, a hermaphrodism of the soul. The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species.
This is not to say that this makes homosexuality right but it does show that its occurrence is not uncommon and that therefore its supposed uncommon occurrence makes it abnormal. Moreover, humans as a species have separated themselves more than any other from the animal or “natural” world exactly because we seek to shape our surroundings to our will rather than allowing the opposite. Automobiles, cellular phones, private property and nuclear weapons all stand as monuments to both our genius and our folly.
Another branch of the argument from nature is that homosexuality is not inborn but a learned behavior. In fact there have been a number of studies done, especially recently because of the rise of bioengineering and the techniques it has spawned, that test whether or not homosexuality is inborn or learned. To cite one study, conducted by Northwestern University psychologist Michael Bailey and Boston University’s Richard Pillard entitled “A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation”, it found, after comparing fifty-six identical twins, fifty-four fraternal twins and fifty-seven unrelated adopted brothers, that “homosexuality is highly attributable to genetics: by some measures up to 70% attributable”. The study broke down its findings thusly: for adoptive brothers there was a gay to gay concordance rate of 11%, for fraternal twins the rate was 22% and finally for identical twins 52%.  I must, however, caution that humans are extremely complex creatures that can be affected at least as much by their environment, likely more so, than by genetics. Or as J. S. Mill put it:
Human nature is not a machine built after a model, and set to do the work exactly proscribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing . . .
Also, even if homosexuality is wholly a matter of genetics it seems more likely than not that it involves a number of genes. Thus, trying to isolate “the gay gene” may turn out to be a quixotic quest. Clearly, though, the body of evidence in the field of genetics dealing with this issue has proven its worth. Beyond that, the field of psychiatry has long held that “homosexuality is immutable and non-pathological”.
That homosexuals spread disease is also a part of the rational for denying gays their rights and even recognition of their existence. However, According to a 1998 report covering 25 states by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
In the most recent full year from which overall trends in these states can be examined – 1995 to 1996:
· HIV diagnosis declined slightly among men (-3% from 10, 762 to 10,395), but increased among women (+3% from 4,126 to 4,253).
· HIV diagnoses declined slightly among African-Americans (-3% from 8,569 to 8, 300) and among whites (-2% from 5,093 to 4,966), but increased among Hispanics (+10% from 971 to 1,070).
· Amongst young people in these states (13 to 24 year olds), the majority of infections were diagnosed among African Americans and women. Thus of the 7,200 cases of HIV reported . . . from January 1994 to June 1997:
· 44% (3,203) were female
· 63% (4,566) were African-American and 5% (394) were Hispanic
· At least 26% (1, 886) had heterosexually acquired infections, 31% (2, 270) were in men who have sex with men, and 6% (449) were in injection drug users
From these statistics we can see that rates of HIV infection for gay men (31% out of 7,200) is nearly that of heterosexuals (26% out of 7,200) and that the most highly affected groups are women and people of color. In fact, the report later goes on to note that:
Because many cases of HIV infection initially reported without risk information are later determined to be related to heterosexual contact, those numbers likely underestimate the true number of individuals diagnosed with heterosexually acquired infection.
So, if as the religious right, but many others as well, claim that gays are paying for their sins and that we should let them suffer the consequences, then what are these folks to say to women and African-Americans? Should they, as heterosexuals, have to suffer the consequences or just gays? What is to be done about intravenous drug users? Some would say they all should pay for breaking the mores of god and mammon alike but the reality is that such callous and cavalier attitudes not only work to make HIV sufferers in general, but gays in particular, invisible but likely has led to much needless suffering. While it is OK for religion to concern itself with the sexual mores of society, the job of a well-ordered and smooth functioning society is to look after the overall well being of all its members and not, as the religious right would have it, impose the faith based views of one group over everyone else.
Another common argument presented condemning homosexuality from a religious standpoint is that it goes against the word of God. Because Christianity in general, and Protestantism in particular, is the dominant creed within this country I will for the sake of time restrict myself to dealing with Christianity’s condemnation of homosexuality. However, in general, whether it is the god of the Bible or the Koran or any other deity, please keep in mind that what is moral or right ethically is independent of who offers support for or commands it. In other words, moral standards are not set they are either endorsed or not endorsed. Here I will quote Walter Wink, Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in
The crux of the matter, it seems to me, is simply that the Bible has no sexual ethic. There is no Biblical sex ethic. Instead, it exhibits a variety of sexual mores, some of which changed over the thousand-year span of biblical history. Mores are unreflective customs accepted by a given community. Many of the practices that the Bible prohibits, we allow, and many that it allows, we prohibit. The Bible knows only a love ethic, which is constantly being brought to bear on whatever sexual mores are dominant in any given country, or culture, or period.
The very notion of a "sex ethic" reflects the materialism and splitness of modern life, in which we increasingly define our identity sexually. Sexuality cannot be separated off from the rest of life. No sex act is "ethical" in and of itself, without reference to the rest of a person's life, the patterns of the culture, the special circumstances faced, and the will of God. What we have are simply sexual mores, which change, sometimes with startling rapidity, creating bewildering dilemmas. Just within one lifetime we have witnessed the shift from the ideal of preserving one's virginity until marriage, to couples living together for several years before getting married. The response of many Christians is merely to long for the hypocrisies of an earlier era.
I agree that rules and norms are necessary; that is what sexual mores are. But rules and norms also tend to be impressed into the service of the Domination System, and to serve as a form of crowd control rather than to enhance the fullness of human potential.
While what the Bible says seems damning at first glance, a careful reading might show something different. It is this “careful reading,” that Dr. Daniel Helminiak gives the bible in his book “What The Bible Really says About Homosexuality.” His overarching thesis is that the Bible does not really condemn homosexual relationships as such. To show this he argues from two supporting thesis: First, that a contextual or historical-critical reading rather than a literal reading of the bible is the way the to get at what is really being said and second, as he puts it, “the Bible does not provide the last word on sexual ethics. In my mind, the matter is more complicated than that. Historical, cultural, philosophical, psychological, sociological, medical, spiritual and personal factors all come to bear on the matter.”
Of course, it is the first of the two points where the issue hinges for the average Christian since how the Bible is to be interpreted has profound implications for belief. The most seemingly damning of the passages in the Bible in regard to homosexuality can be found in Romans Chapter 1, verses 18 to 32. Analyzing these verses Dr. Helminiak looked at the vocabulary the Apostle Paul used, the structure of the writing and the overall purpose of the “Letter to the Romans.” His main point is that the Greek word physis, meaning nature, and its derivatives as used by Paul throughout these passages does not mean “Nature” as in the “Laws of Nature.” Indeed he writes:
For Paul, something is natural when it responds according to its own kind, when it is as expected to be . . . Rather natural refers to what is characteristic, consistent, ordinary, standard, expected and regular. When people acted as was expected and showed a certain consistency, they were acting naturally. When people did something surprising, something unusual, something beyond the routine, something pout of character, they were acting unnaturally. That was the sense of the word nature in Paul’s usage.
To bolster his case Dr. Helminiak points out that in Romans Chapter 11 verse 24 Paul talks of God acting in a para physin (unnatural) manner when he “grafted the wild branch of the Gentiles into the cultivated olive tree that is the Jews” Obviously what is meant is not that God is doing unnatural, meaning bad, acts but that he is doing something, grafting a wild branch into a cultivated tree, which is not usually done. Thus, just as Paul spoke in this manner about God in this instance, he must have been speaking in the same vain when he spoke of homosexuality earlier in the same letter. Or else, why would he use the same terminology if what he really meant was to morally condemn one (homosexuality) and not the other (unusual tree grafting)?
Drawing from his historical-critical perspective, Dr. Helminiak reminds his readers that Paul lived at a time when Stoic philosophy was everywhere in the
Paul does not use the term “nature” the way the Stoics did. Paul’s usage is concrete; the Stoic is abstract. Moreover, although Paul is aware that sex para physin would refer to non-procreative sex, including same-sex acts, he certainly is not concerned about procreation. Paul was expecting the speedy return of Christ, the end of the world, so nowhere in his writings does he show concern for procreation.
In sum, when read contextually the supposed condemnation of homosexuality found in Romans is not quite that at all. The vocabulary Paul uses suggest a concern over purity rather than ethics. This is evident by the way the passages are constructed in that what is regarded as a sin or morally wrong is divided from what is socially frowned upon, for reasons of purity, such as homosexual activity. Then, when these verses are placed within the flow of the whole letter it is apparent that “Paul’s purpose is to teach that in Christ the purity concerns of the Old Law no longer matter and they should not be dividing the members of the Christian Community.”
The upshot to all of this is that there are apparent instances of gay love in the Bible itself. I Samuel Chapter 18, verse 1 to 4 (KJV) reads thus:
1) And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2) And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house. 3) Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4) And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.
Later in I Samuel Chapter 20, verse 30 King Saul gets mad with Jonathan over his relationship with David:
30) Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother's nakedness?
But it seems that King Saul’s protestations did not have any affect (verse 41 and 42):
41) And as soon as the lad had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times; and they kissed one another, and wept with one another, until David recovered himself. 42) Then Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, `The LORD shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, for ever.'" And he rose and departed; and Jonathan went into the city.
It would appear that the Bible’s apparent condemnation of same sex love is not the airtight case Falwell, Robertson and his ilk would have us believe. Surely any contemporary reader could not help but “read in between the lines” when looking at these verses and surmise what the nature of the relationship between these two men likely was. Like it or not, the Bible is an imperfect historical document which has many messages. Clearly much depends upon what the reader is looking for rather than what is truly being said. It is difficult to figure out intent or what is meant when dealing with each other person to person much less trying to do so across centuries when the world the writer inhabited has long since ceased to exist. Thus, Dr. Helminiak is certainly correct in assuming that a historical-critical reading of the text is the best way to figure out the intent of those who long ago wrote these words.
Now the question still remains, why should we support gay rights? Well, as Dr. Wink touched upon we live in a highly materialistic and commercialized culture that sends two conflicting notions of human sexuality. On the one side you have the monogamous, heterosexual, two parent, 2.5 kids, nuclear family, commonly pushed by the family values crowd, that is considered the ideal. Of course, if you are gay, lesbian, even single and unattached or single with kids, then you are seen as abnormal, deviant or eccentric. It is with this mindset Jerry Falwell can say:
Minority status for homosexuals will guarantee them an equal place at the table with women, Hispanics and African-Americans in matters like affirmative action, job quotas, financial benefits for same-sex partners and much more. For the first time in American history, it appears we will soon be rewarding persons for their misbehavior. 
As I showed previously, claiming that homosexuality is immoral cannot be logically supported. Simply, an act can only be considered bad if it really does harm. What goes on between two consenting adults can hardly be shown to be harmful especially in light of the fluidity of human sexual mores and practices. Notice that Mr. Falwell in his comments expressly seeks to keep gays from, though they’ve also fought for these, benefiting from the hard won redresses from past injustices suffered by other oppressed groups. His comments then are as much of a political and economic nature as they are of a moral nature. He later reveals that:
For Christian schools, churches and other ministries, tax-exempt status could eventually be denied to those who do not hire a quota of gays and lesbians as teachers, pastors and workers.
Moreover, as discussed earlier, the bible at worst frowns upon homosexuality for reasons of purity rather than any moral condemnation. It would be interesting to note how Mr. Falwell would deal with David’s, the greatest hero in the Bible other than Jesus, apparently homosexual relationship with King Saul’s son Jonathan.
Alicia Pedreira is an example of what logic of people like Falwell and Robertson leads to. Alicia was working at the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children until on
The rise of capitalism, as Fredrick Engels noted in the “Family, Private Property and the State,” meant that the family had to take on a form and roles unlike any other era. For one, capitalism, being based on private property, needs more than any system prior to it, a way to determine inheritance. Hence marriage, monogamy (to insure paternity) and the cult of domesticity thrust upon women. Two, as a system existing for profit it also uses the family as a way to externalize the cost of replenishing and reproducing labor. What this means is that marriage has become a means of making women responsible for refreshing the current labor force (meaning ensuring workers are fed, come to a clean home, clean clothes . . .etc.) and raising the next generation of workers. All at little or no cost to Capital. It is here where notions such as “the women’s place is in the home,” the man as breadwinner, and “personal responsibility” find their locus. The internal dynamics of the family and its place within the larger society is thus greatly affected by the demands of Capitalism. It is easy to see how homosexuality would throw this important economic site off kilter both because of the lack of literal reproductive ability by same sex couples and the ideological undermining of the desired norm. Moreover, as David Nibert notes:
How people produce and distribute goods and resources strongly affects how they organize their society, and how they relate to one another, as well as the ideas they shape about what constitutes acceptable behavior.
What the fight over gay and lesbian rights has done, looked at still in other ways is to challenge prevailing kinship norms in an even more powerful way than the rise of single parent households. Gay and lesbian couples have increasingly sought to become parents and be recognized as such. As couples, gay and lesbians mirror the nuclear family upheld by societal norms but in doing so underline what I call the ‘commonality of difference.’ Meaning the idea that two people can form a couple, have children, hold middle-class values and yet be gay or lesbian. For many this strikingly similar but yet, in their eyes, twisted model represents an alternative. An alternative that strikes at the heart of their belief on how the world should be ordered and who should be at the pinnacle of that order. Mark Blasius comments that
lesbian and gay politics, then, has problemitized not only the normative status of hetero/homosexuality and the instances of power exercised on the basis of this normativity as hetero sexist domination and homophobic subjection but the entire installation of sexuality into a regime of truth and how historically, it has become a technology of government—techniques through which people are governed and how they come to understand themselves and their own agency.
It is apparent that by hijacking the heterosexual standard of the family, gay and lesbian couples represent a threat to the religious right and their allies in government. For what is feared is the lost of its most powerful mechanism of moral authority through the erosion of the traditional family model and its underlying patriarchal structure.
On the opposite end of what can be termed the “family values-complex” you then have this hyper-sexualization of culture where sex is something everyone is doing and doing a lot. What this means in this society is that sex sells and is sold. Vanity Fair or Redbook sits side by side with Playboy/girl or Hustler. Human sexuality is de-contextualized, depersonalized, objectified and converted into raw materials for profit. The “family values-complex” sits side by side with the sex industry and its fellow traveler Madison Avenue or the advertising industry. Under such conditions, how, specifically, are sexual practices that are deemed deviant or abnormal handled? Until recently, when same sex love is not being parodied it is either treated as too taboo to mention or depictions of it are grotesquely distorted or it is sold, in real life or through images and prose within the confines of a niche market. There also is the overall tendency for sexual practices not acceptable in the mainstream, but not necessarily immoral, such as fetishism or cross-dressing, to be shoved into an underground existence.
For gays and lesbians, as for other historically oppressed groups, the role that class plays is to greatly limit progressive change whether it is social, political or economic. Specifically, the class divisions generated by capitalism, a system characterized by the enrichment and dominion of a few over the many, necessitates a continual war, sometimes hot or sometimes cold, between classes. Granted, Capitalism did not invent nor does it hold exclusive rights to racism, sexism or homophobia, it does however, continually breathe new life into the worst in us because of its unique and historically unprecedented imperative to insinuate itself into all aspects of nature and human life in ways that lead or lend themselves toward social, political and economic stagnation not to mention environmental degradation. The end result is a culture characterized by extreme commercialization and alienation that is ripe for scapegoating, discrimination and violence (remember Mathew Sheppard) when what is desperately needed is the opposite. Capitalism, however, must continually create divisions within society or exacerbate existing ones in order to survive. Consequently, “citizens . . . allow themselves to be oppressed in proportion as hurried by blind ambition, and looking rather below than above them, they come to love authority more than independence.” But in the end, as George Bernard Shaw put it:
...Capitalism drives the employers to do their worst to the employed, and the employed to do the least for them. And it boasts all the time of the incentive it provides to both to do their best! You may ask why this does not end in a deadlock. The answer is it is producing deadlocks twice a day or thereabouts.... The reason the Capitalist system has worked so far without jamming for more than a few months at a time, and then only in places, is that it has not yet succeeded in making a conquest of human nature so complete that everybody acts on strictly business principles.”
What this means for gay folks is the same as what it as meant for people of color, immigrants and women, the denial of basic political, social, and economic rights accompanied by a state that increasingly exhibits its authoritarian face. Human rights does not only include political rights such as the right to free speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion and so forth but, the right to adequate food, housing, clothing and medical care.  In other words, the acknowledgment of social and economic rights as being on par with political rights. Not, as John Locke would have it, the inviolability of property rights to the point of stripping democracy of its content if not its procedures but, as Mill would have it, individual freedom, though not of the hyped up and distorted strain prevalent in
It is precisely because the political structure of the
Taking the last of Dubois’s options to be the correct path, there then are a number of reasons to support gay rights. First, if homosexuality is inborn or hereditary, as science at present seems to affirm, then denying gays their elemental rights is no more rational or morally correct than denying these same rights to someone for being short or bald or for any other genetically determined attribute.
Second, a successful fight for gay rights would mean the end of the stigmatization and concomitant discrimination over what essentially is a lifestyle choice. No more half measures like ex-president Bill Clinton’s disastrous “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” that actually led to more gays and lesbians being unfairly booted from the military. No more “coming out of the closet” or worse staying locked in and living in fear. No more fractured families and lives. No more violence against gays and lesbians. More, however, freedom of sexual expression for gays and lesbians that likely would also mean freedom of sexual expression for all. To paraphrase J. S. Mill, freedom of thinking is not necessary simply to create great thinkers but to “enable average human beings to attain the mental stature which they are capable of.” Likewise, freedom of sexual expression is required not only for the liberation of gay/lesbian people but for the sexual emancipation of all whatever their sexual preferences and as long as these do not harm or impinge on others.
Third, gay and lesbian rights would mean that a public health issue would be dealt with as just that. This means the de-politicization of HIV/AIDS which, in turn, would fully allow society to deal with the public health crisis that is HIV/AIDS though education, proper treatment and well-funded research.
Finally, as a system that seeks to divide and conquer, capitalism uses homophobia, as well as racism and sexism, to both super-exploit the victims of discrimination and as a way of throttling social change by keeping working class people divided. The “Willie Horton” presidential ad campaign of George Bush sr. is a perfect example of this strategy at work through the use of racism that tapped into white fears of the black male as predator. Alicia Pedreira shows what this means to gays and lesbians in terms of life’s opportunities killed and The “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996” by supposedly getting single, largely Black and Latino women to find non-existent jobs or jobs at poverty wages, shows what this amounts to for women. In short, it means an attack on the rights and conditions of life for these groups and ultimately for all of us, because of the continual creation of a reserve army of the poor driving down wages and, more to the point, the greatly diminished ability on our part to even hope to combat the consequences of the system, such as the yawning gap between rich and poor, because of lack a of solidarity. As Jean Jacques Rousseau warned,
despotism tolerates no other master, wherever it reigns; the moment it speaks, probity and duty lose all their influence, and the blindest obedience is the only virtue to slaves.
If it is true, as Karl Marx remarked, that the dominant ideas of any age are the ideas of its ruling class, then the divisions nurtured by Capitalism amongst the groups that would oppose it, namely the working class, are very destructive for two important reasons. First because of the lack of solidarity and concomitant isolation these divisions themselves represent and second, because of the internalized oppression the system’s victims acquire from the prevailing notions, mindsets, perspectives and outlooks that are projected upon them from on high. Under these conditions all oppressed groups must first cut through the thicket of ideologies that serve the interests of the ruling classes before taking the path, whether revolutionary or reformist, toward social and economic change.
Some have argued that, by approaching the fight for their cause as separate entities, historically oppressed groups, such as gays and people of color, weaken themselves by highlighting their separateness from society at large as well as from humanity in general. As a result, it is maintained, their struggle in time becomes a demand for special rights. While I fully recognize the weaknesses within what is commonly referred to as “identity politics”, it must be remembered that these groups are compelled to fight for their rights precisely because they have been excluded by the larger society and that, therefore, this struggle invariably must, out of necessity and because of “the facts on the ground”, originate from outside the predominant or mainstream discourse and structures of society. Trying to do otherwise more often than not leads to frustration, half-measures, co-option, or, at times, complete capitulation. What should occur is that the struggles of gays/lesbians coalesce with those of other groups, such as the anti-war movement and the global economic justice movement, in the fight against elite hegemony and oppression. Support for gay rights is not only the moral or ethical course of action because all of us deserve the same rights and protections as any other member of society but also because solidarity among blacks, whites, women, gays and other groups, which the system must seek to continually undo if it is to survive but we must reinforce and expand, is the only way we are going to achieve a fair, just and environmentally sustainable society. Ultimately, the fight for gay and lesbian rights is a fight for human rights.
1. Stewart, Robert M. ed.
2. Helminiak, Daniel A. What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality.
3. Holy Bible, King James Version (1611). American Bible Society,
4. Garber, Marjorie. Bisexuality and The Eroticism Of Everyday Life.
5. Blasius, Mark. Gay and Lesbian Politics: Sexuality and the Emergence of a New Ethic.
6. Richards, David A. J. Women, Gays, and the Constitution: The Grounds for Feminism and Gay Rights in Culture and Law.University of
7. Reinisch, June M. The Kinsey Institute New Report On Sex.
9. Press, Eyal. Faith-Based Furor. New York Times Magazine,
10. Somerville, Siobhan B. Queering the Color Line: Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture. Duke University Press, Durham 2000
11. Nibert, David. Hitting the Lottery Jackpot: Government and the Taxing of Dreams, Monthly Review Press, New York 2000.
 Garber p 249
 Reinisch p 13
 Garber p 320
 ibid p 7
 For an interesting exposition of this duality of identity amongst transplanted African peoples refer to Black Skins, White Masks by Franz Fanon.
 Richards p 377
 Stewart p 20
 Stewart p 27
 Stewart p 24
 Stewart p 29
 Stewart p 31
 Stewart p 351
 See his work “Essays on some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy (1844)”
 Burr pp. 47 - 65
 Stewart p 122
 Helminiak p 19
 ibid p 79
 ibid p 80
 ibid p 84
 ibid p 77
 Holy Bible (KJV) p 289
 ibid p 292
 ibid p 293
 Falwell, Jerry. http://www.liberty.edu/chancellor/nlj/July1999/Coverstory3.htm
 ibid p 1
 Press, Eyal. Faith-Based Furor. New York Times Magazine,
 Nibert p 15
 Blasius p 46
Stewart p 207
 For an expanded description of what exactly are “human rights” please refer to United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
 Stewart p 209