Gay rights are not just for gays. They are essential for every sexual person in America, regardless of orientation.
As far as the anti-sex Right is concerned, sexual orientation isn’t about straight vs. gay–it’s about clean sex vs. unclean sex–and your orientation may very well be “unclean.”
Gay rights will continue to be a primary battlefield in the culture wars of this decade. Consider the many ways in which sexual orientation is already the turf for clashes between progressives and conservatives: gays in the military, gay marriage, gay adoption, “reparative therapy,” gays and jury duty, media portrayals of gays, and the ordination of gay clergy.
These issues are not just about gays. So-called “gay issues” are about anyone who wants the option of making non-traditional sexual or lifestyle choices; for example:
- Employment discrimination: You can lose a promotion because co-workers are uncomfortable with your non-job life choices.
- Housing: You can be denied the apartment of your choice because landlords disapprove of your living arrangement.
- Custody battles: You can lose your children because of your unconventional sexual interests.
- Suspicion: You can be denied security clearance or other job responsibilities because you are peceived to be vulnerable to being blackmailed about your non-traditional lifestyle.
Whether they explain their concerns as religion, public safety, children, or something else, movements that restrict the rights of gay people are an important refuge for people who want to restrict EVERYONE’S sexual rights. Those who are most against homosexuality are also typically opposed to people reading Playboy, getting abortions, and going to swingers’ clubs–all deeply heterosexual activities.
Sexually anxious people instinctively sense that gays’ celebration of ambiguity and their challenge to conventional rules are a threat. They’re right: gays do threaten the traditional agreement that everyone must hide their sexual interests, and must compromise them for the sake of personal security and external “success.”
And so in Florida, stable gay couples can’t adopt children, and one has to pretend to be a single parent to do so. A Washington man whose partner of 27 years died without a will could not inherit his own home and business when an Appeals Court ruled that they couldn’t have acquired property together. Continental Airlines last year refused to board a lesbian couple and their kids without permission from the kids’ father–who didn’t exist because the kids were conceived with donated sperm. And even in San Francisco, when a gay HIV+ man recently complained to his landlord about being threatened by another building resident, he was told to arm himself, rather than given the legally-required mediation.
Sexual conservatives believe they have the legal and moral right to not have to think about eroticism that makes them uncomfortable. They therefore demand limits on the sexuality of the entire community, everything from nude beaches to adult bookstores. Gays’ very lives are an affront to such people: although gays aren’t more sexual than the rest of us, they’re often more open about the importance of sex in their lives, more willing to risk their job, friends, apartment, even safety to fulfill their sexual destiny. How many of us are walking around telling our boss, landlord, and sister exactly what role sexuality plays in our lives?
Many anti-gays want limits on others’ sexuality to reduce their own internal anxiety. They disguise their personal desire for these limits by referring to public policy (or religious) concerns, but that doesn’t address what’s really driving them.
Such people are looking for the psychological safety of some limits. They’ve been retreating for years, watching as one taboo after another falls–from premarital sex to oral sex, from vibrators to S/M. They’re desperate to feel that there is some line between normal and abnormal, something that makes them safe and superior. They need to maintain society’s right to censor somebody’s sexuality, regardless of who that sacrificial lamb actually is.
Since anti-gay organizations are where many anti-sex people now congregate, the anti-gay agenda is of great importance to every sexual person. The stronger these anti-sex people get, the more ambitious their plans become. We’ve already seen how they have used their recently acquired power in the school system: mandatory abstinence education, creationism, prayer at public events, and posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms.
Sex-positive people must expose the anti-sexualism hiding in the anti-gay movement, for this movement is using public policy tools to restrict the sexual choices of all people:
- Zoning laws (to close down strip clubs and adult bookstores)
- Sodomy laws (to punish non-reproductive sex, including group sex)
- Obscenity laws (to control what music we can hear)
- Mandatory Internet filtering: (to control what we can see in public and college libraries)
- Anti-condom AIDS education programs (to punish teen sexuality)
Where are you going to hide? Only two years ago, a Minnesota man faced prosecution for private, consensual, heterosexual–and still illegal–sodomy. Last year, the Phoenix city council shut down the city’s 6 swing clubs, saying they undermined public safety and morality. And in Montclair, New Jersey, 65-year-old Marian Ruben was arrested when she tried to pick up her photos. She had taken nude pictures of her happy granddaughters, age 3 and 11. She has been suspended from her job as a social worker, and has legal costs of $25,000.
The government has passed a law (challenged by the ACLU and others) which would allow minors who claim to have been harmed from exposure to legal adult material to sue its producers or distributors. How many adult films, bookstores, magazines, or websites will remain for you to enjoy when such a law is enforced? The government also passed a law requiring public libraries to install internet filtering software on computers so that adults cannot see anything considered “harmful to minors” (and you know how broad that now is). Shall we reduce the Web to content fit only for 6-year-olds?
I don’t want anyone creating a culture in which my sexuality can be controlled–and neither should you. Therefore, we should oppose the creation of a culture in which anyone’s consenting sexuality can be controlled–such as gays’. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re into sodomy. If America can criminalize sodomy, it can criminalize any kind of sexuality–commercial, contraceptive, collegiate, whatever.
It was only a few decades ago that single Americans weren’t allowed to buy condoms. Recent laws prevent doctors from talking about abortion, and criminalize the creation of pornography using adults who look like minors. Anything can happen when sexual fear or disgust drive political decisions.
Although the anti-gay movement sees gays exclusively in sexual terms, the movement is about more than sex–it’s about whether or not people will be forced to live according to the moral ideas of others. Sound relevant to your life?
The anti-sex people are after all “perverts,” not just gays. And if you read Playboy–or this website–you’re one of those “perverts” they’re after. Just as the Inquisition persecuted even small heresies, and Hitler went after people who were only 1/8 Jewish, the anti-sex movement is coming after all perverts. To them, you’re as good as gay.
So you must care about gay rights. You can do it because it’s the right thing to do–but you don’t have to. Do it because if gays’ rights are tenuous, so are yours.