On Homophobia: The Elephant in the Room

The great danger in republics is that the majority will not respect the rights of minority.
                 — James Madison, fourth President of the United States 

In Avenue Q, some cuddly, Muppet-like puppets sing “Everyone’s a little bit racist,” and when puppets deliver that bit of philosophy, human fallibility gets a laugh; at least the characters in Avenue Q own their flaws. Admitting it is the first step to recovery but I recently saw this post on a friend’s Facebook wall in a thread about gay rights:

There are tons of things (in others’ behavior, in my children, in my husband and most of all in myself!) that I don’t think are right but I in no way think they are any less than me or anyone else because of it … Yes, some things are ‘good and some are less good’ in my opinion.

I’d like to probe deeper into this statement and ask the poster if one of the “less good” things is buttfucking.

Popular wisdom (which is neither) tells us that men think about sex every seven seconds. A 2011 article in Psychology Today explains that statement is impossible to measure because it is based solely on anecdotal reportage after the fact. And there are difficulties associated with conducting an adequate experiment because the results will be skewed. When someone tells you not to think about elephants, what do you think about?

But, for some reason, when it comes to gays, if people aren’t inappropriately associating homosexuality with pedophilia, bestiality, polygamy, gun violence and Nazis, they think about elephants. I mean sex.

My father recently said to me, when discussing my relationship with a man, “I don’t mean to offend you, Tommy, but it disgusts me.” (A similar mentality gives rise to statements like, “I don’t mind if people are gay. But why do they have to flaunt it in our faces?” As if holding hands on your porch is the same thing as giving a blowjob on Main Street in Disney World.) My response is: “Why are you thinking about me having sex?” That’s just creepy.

You see, what comes to mind when people think of the “tons of things” gay people do is “gay sex.” And when people think of “gay sex,” they think of buttfucking. They don’t think of love, hugs, kisses, cuddling, oral sex or even lesbians because the “gayest” thing, the most “unnatural” thing is sodomy (never mind that sodomy in its legal definition includes anal and oral sex – as well as bestiality in some places.) If straight pornography is any indication, heterosexual men and women enjoy buttsex just as much as the homos.

Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court ruling which struck down anti-sodomy laws regardless of gender or sexual orientation, levels the playing field between straights and gays, and that’s where feathers get ruffled. That decision was the result of a five-year battle in which the gay men (natch) arrested for “deviate sex,” John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, challenged their conviction with the support of Lambda Legal. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case after its denial in lower courts such as the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The majority opinion (in a 6-3 vote) was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy:

The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.

The case became a referendum on gay sex because anti-sodomy laws in the U.S. had been used to prosecute gay men. Straight couples didn’t count under Texas’ law; they could buttfuck all they liked without persecution or prosecution.

The dissenting justices in Lawrence v. Texas (Scalia, Thomas and Rehnquist — quelle surprise!) partly balanced their argument on the opinion that we have no right to privacy. The other aspect, in the dissent written by Scalia, claimed that the Supreme Court:

…has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda … [T]he Court has taken sides in the culture war, departing from its role of assuring, as neutral observer, that the democratic rules of engagement are observed.

In other words, sodomy is only bad if it is practiced by gay men. Scalia goes on to say:

[The Court] is seemingly unaware that the attitudes of [pro-homosexual] culture are not obviously ‘mainstream;’ that in most States what the Court calls ‘discrimination’ against those who engage in homosexual acts is perfectly legal.

Scalia seemed not to remember that it was just over a half-century ago that the “mainstream” thought segregation was acceptable. But, he’s not a “bigot” because:

I have nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means.

Well fuck my ass and call me a slut! (Sorry, Dad.) I thought the court system was one of our normal, democratic means, put in place by the Founding Fathers as part of a system of checks and balances to prevent any branch of government from having too much power. Forgive me, Justice Scalia, it’s obvious you DO have something against homosexuals because you seem resistant to equal protection under the law when it comes to them.

Clarence Thomas’ dissent was barely more reasonable, calling the law “silly” but defending it because he could find “no general right of privacy.” I would argue with Clarence Thomas by quoting the Ninth Amendment:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

In other words, just because the Constitution doesn’t grant you the explicit right to privacy, doesn’t mean no right to privacy exists. Dozens of other laws imply that we retain that right as one of our liberties. There’s also this from the 14th Amendment:

…nor shall any State … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In other words, if you’re allowing straight people to think about elephants, you can’t tell gays they aren’t allowed to think about elephants.

It’s important for me to note that though I am writing from my own perspective as a (mostly) gay man, there are many shades of grey. The LGBT acronym (standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) doesn’t even cover all of our “deviates” because within that spectrum there are also intersex people and others who refuse to limit themselves to classification. I self-identify as gay. And I believe we are whatever we identify ourselves to be. The bottom (sorry) line is, we all have the same issue with your feelings about the “things we do.” My bedroom is mine, so stay out of it. For almost a decade, sodomy has been legal for all happy, consenting parties of both sexes.


Greek VaseThe upcoming election concerns me for more than just the social issues, but when it come to those, Paul Ryan is on record saying he will fight the “gay agenda.” Since that agenda can be found in everything from the weather to school lunch rooms, fighting such an all-encompassing agenda means Ryan would cut off his nose to spite his  geeky face. Same-sex marriage, legalized in New York State in 2011, boosted the NYC economy by $259 million in its first year. For all their talk of jobs and the economy, GOP and Tea Party demagogues would rather argue that there is no separation of church and state when logic does not meet their fear. Ryan, speaking for his team in an interview with Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, said:

…we believe marriage is between one man and one woman… President Obama gave up defending the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, I mean, not only is this decision to abandon this law the wrong decision, it passed in a bipartisan manner, it is very troubling because it undermines not only traditional marriage but it contradicts our system of government. It’s not the president’s job to pick and choose which laws he likes. A Romney administration will protect traditional marriage and the rule of law and we will provide the Defense of Marriage Act the proper defense in the courts that it deserves.

I’m trying to figure out which Constitution Ryan is reading and which Founding Fathers he is picking and choosing to follow.

I don’t want anyone’s religion, nose, or peeping eyes in my buttsex. Nor in my relationship. I only want my civil rights. It doesn’t matter if you think “gay” is a choice. Or if you think gay sex is one of the “less good” things. There is nothing a gay person does which is any different from what a straight person does, except for sex with the same sex. The only problem with homosexuality is a generalized small-mindedness about sex. If anyone is thinking about me in bed and it disgusts them, that’s their problem. This is where liberals and conservatives disagree on social issues; liberals believe everyone deserves the same rights. That’s called “equal rights.”

We have a Supreme Court dominated by men who seem bent (sorry) on pounding away at our personal liberties. Every vote but the vote on The Affordable Health Care Act has been split 5-4 in favor of conservative ideologies. There’s a lot of talk about small government but very little in the conservative Supreme Court votes which protect the little guy from big government. Whoever wins the election will be appointing at least one new Supreme Court Justice. Gay marriage looks likely to come before The Court before we reach the new year. The New York Times op-ed contributor Michael J. Klarman argues:

A Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage would divide the nation roughly down the middle, much as the Court’s ruling against racial segregation, in Brown v. Board of Education, did in 1954. Yet, within two decades, the Brown decision was almost universally revered.

Our civil rights are now being judged according to what kooks think “mainstream” America wants, as if majority rule makes any sense when it comes to civil rights. Even our Founding Fathers, erroneously cited by Tea Party and GOP types who want to lay claim to rights they refuse to share, were fervent about equal rights. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, said in his inaugural address:

… though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression.

So let’s say you’re looking through your neighbor’s window and you see him shaved head to toe, covered in Nutella, masturbating to Babar. Peeping Tom Laws vary by state – and some states have none, which is why you find binoculars on the windowsills of so many high-rise apartments across New York City – but if you’re going to put your nose where it doesn’t belong… well… I won’t finish that metaphor. If your state has no Peeping Tom Laws and you see something you don’t like, that’s your problem. I’m pretty sure the Nutella guy is in the minority but he deserves his rights. You’re in the wrong for peeping and your opinion is of no use to anyone, though your derision may in some way make you feel better about yourself. Your hazelnut-covered neighbor is probably having a jolly old time and doesn’t want you riding his private elephant.

I cannot ask you to change what you think. So judge away. Just stay out of my fucking way while I get my marriage license.

If you don’t like elephants, don’t think about them.


About Tom Gualtieri

Tom Gualtieri (@TomGGualtieri)is a theatre artist with his hand in many disciplines: lyricist, playwright, performer, director, knitter. He maintains an ongoing collaboration with composer David Sisco. His solo play, That Play: A Solo Macbeth, was nominated for a 2013 Drama Desk Award.
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