What is ‘the norm’ when it comes to sexuality?

ca p14 adj INLSA Eusebius Mckaiser

In a weekend newspaper, former journalist Stephen Mulholland asserted that homosexual relationships “are neither the norm nor ultimately desirable”. It is important to deconstruct Mulholland’s publicly flaunted bigotry.

I say his view is asserted because arguments – even poor ones – require supporting premises and evidence before they can be called an argument. It was only during an interview with me on 567 Cape Talk and Talk Radio 702 that he fully exposed his dated self: homosexuality, I was told, correlates with psychiatric challenges; furthermore, many straight parents experience mental anguish when they learn of a child who is gay.

As for “the norm”, he chuckled when I asked whether he is merely referring to “norm” in a value-neutral statistical sense (gays being in a minority in society) or whether he meant the word to carry negative moral judgement also. I was accused of trying to be academic before he sheepishly denied making a moral judgement, merely pointing to a statistical prevalence in society. If you wonder about the “(not) ultimately desirable” bit: men and women are biologically designed to procreate, and a world of gays would mean that future homophobes – presumably tragically – will not be born.

Mulholland’s various claims are a smorgasbord of irrational delights.

First, it is dishonest to pretend you only mean “the norm” in a statistical sense. After all, geniuses like Mulholland are in a statistical minority. Who would write a column pointing out it is not “the norm” to be a genius, to be left-handed or to be born a Siamese twin? We are not moved by random observations of minority occurrences in nature. We are, of course, moved by statistically unusual behaviour that disgusts us. So Mulholland should simply come out with his true feelings about “statistically rare” gays.

Second, we do not only use bodily organs for biologically designed purposes. If so, does Mulholland also find it “not ultimately desirable” that his wife might wear earrings? I do not think her lobes were designed for that purpose? Also, if sex is only for procreation, has Mulholland ever had recreational sex? If he has, he must be disgusted with himself for going against the natural order of things. And it sadly needs to be pointed out that gay persons’ sexual organs are not incapable of bringing about newborn babies.

Third, even if sex was the biological purpose of our sexual organs, so what? Why should we decide moral right and wrong by looking at biology? It is weird to imagine that moral questions can be settled by looking at what occurs most widely in the animal kingdom. If I have the natural instinct to kill my mom-in-law, should I go ahead and do so? If I have a genetic propensity for obesity, is it compulsory for me to eat a truckload of KFC? No moral debate can be blunted with simple observations about evolution or genetic predispositions. So this slavish reliance on biological argument is “not ultimately desirable”.

Fourth, there is simply no evidence that homosexual teens, in virtue of homosexuality, are more prone to mental illness. The only gay teens who might try to commit suicide are those, like a young person I know, whose families’ homophobia become too much for them to endure. Homophobia, not homosexuality, causes anguish.

Finally, I am heartened by the majority of readers, tweeps, Facebook friends and radio listeners who also came down hard on Mulholland. But I am disturbed by a minority who supported his views. Not because they are not entitled to disagree with the rest of us, but because I wonder if they would also support Mulholland’s free speech rights uncritically if his next article says this: “It is neither the norm nor ultimately desirable that my white daughter should bring home a black husband even if it is their right to be in love.” How would you react? (My nasty daydream, of course, is that in an actual story of this kind, the white Mulholland daughter comes home flaunting her gorgeous, busty, black lesbian wife, Noxolo!)

l McKaiser is author of A Bantu in my Bathroom.


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