Tuesday, February 20, 2018

On sexual orientation


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Human homosexuality and bisexuality, historically, have been well documented parts of, and accepted by, established civilisations, as were polygamy and polyandry. Indeed, pederasty in ancient Greece was openly accepted by the public as the norm, with older men consorting with openly willing post-pubescent boys. There are even pictorial records of homosexuality in ancient Egypt. Homosexuality, however, has also been proscribed, with the most severe of sanctions in religious scripts from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Qur'an.

There is no ambiguity about the message of the words of Leviticus 18:22 or Leviticus 20:13.

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination". "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Or Romans 1:26-27. "For this reason God gave them up to passions of dishonour; for even their females exchanged the natural use for that which is contrary to nature, and likewise also the males, having left the natural use of the female, were inflamed by their lust for one another, males with males, committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was fitting for their error."

Or Qur'an 7:80-84. "Do you commit such indecency in a way that no one has preceded you in the worlds? You approach men lustfully instead of women. Truly, you are a nation who exceed. The only answer of his nation was: 'Expel them from your village. They are people who keep themselves purified.' We saved him and all his family, except his wife, who was made to remain, and we rained down upon them a rain. So look how was the end of the evildoers."

Perhaps what must certainly be the ultimate in homophobia was the systematic murder of homosexuals by Hitler (raised a Catholic) and his Nazi psychopaths, greatly overshadowed by his murder of millions of Jews from throughout Europe. Even in our times right wing fundamentalist Christians in North America openly spout their venom about HIV and AIDS being a curse on people for homosexual behaviour while violence is rained down both verbally and physically in Jamaican "culture".

There are, however, some facts that simply cannot be denied. Homosexual behaviour amongst unrelated animals, especially birds and mammals, has been observed in the wild under natural conditions. Second, homosexuality has been known throughout recorded human history. Third, many homosexual and bisexual persons in western liberal democracies have made significant contributions to society.

One inevitable conclusion that may be drawn is simply that homosexuality and bisexuality are natural phenomenon of the manifestation or expression of human sexuality and, while less frequently occurring, must be as natural as heterosexuality.

There is, of course, the counter argument that it is unnatural it is against nature and therefore the natural law the sort of medieval thinking of Aquinas. This argument is noisily presented by religious groups, even by the odd born-again American televangelist who was having a bit of something on the side. Some religions have even softened the condemnation with accepting the reality of homosexuality the sort of loving-the-sinner approach but hating the act of sodomy. How do they justify celibacy when it would be equally unnatural not to behave naturally? To be celibate is to be biologically useless as potential genetic combinations are simply lost (at least officially). While some scientists and thinkers may be somewhat reluctant to extrapolate from animal behaviour to human behaviour, many must agree that although a clear genetic basis has not yet been proven differences in microanatomy of human brains suggests a possible physical link between hormones/brain wiring and sexual orientation.

In Trinidad and Tobago it is hardly likely that the society will progress much beyond the hard and irrational prejudice and non-acceptance of the fact of variability of basic human behaviour as modulated by cultural influences. Religions of all flavours thrive in our society, all forgetting history and the roles of the various religions in the power structures of countries. Most forget that values shift in time and that religions, particularly monotheistic Christianity and Islam, condoned or actively participated in warfare, slavery, torture, oppression and genocide and their leadership continues to be male dominated.

There is always some variation of meanings of scriptural text but the theme of Romans permeates custom in the monotheistic religions natural use of the female. Reflect on the term.

Might it not mean the manifestation of deep Y chromosome-generated-male insecurity? After all, parthenogenesis and male-to-female sex reversal is known in vertebrate animals, some species of which actually occur in T&T. The next time you eat a big grouper steak, note that it may once have been male!

And while the Equal Opportunities Act Chap. 22:03 loftily seeks to prohibit discrimination and promotes equality between persons of different status, it neatly enshrines another form of discrimination by explicitly stating in the interpretation clause that the word sex "does not include preference or orientation". Forget the rights of privacy enshrined in Section 4 of the Constitution!

Julian Kenny is a biologist and

natural history author. He is a former UWI Professor of Zoology and Independent senator