Reconsidering ‘Abnormal Behaviour’
Tue, August 13, 2013 - 4:03 PM
Dr Adrian Charles is a medical doctor in Barbados who wrote this article in response to Mac Fingall's column in the SUNDAY SUN titled Abnormal Behaviour.
Though I am not a specialist in sexual health, I was moved to write this in response to a column written by Mac Fingall, and published in the Nation Newspaper: http://www.nationnews.com/articles/view/abnormal-behaviour/
In his column, Mr. Fingall said that he would not address the issue of homosexuality's morality. Instead, he chose to focus on physical and practical issues surrounding same-sex partnership.
Unfortunately, many of his claims were drastically misinformed.
To summarise some of his claims:
- Discussion of same-sex marriage, "if allowed to dominate", "could spell the end of the world";
- Homosexual sex cannot be seen as normal, because that's not the way the body was designed;
- Probing and "invasion" of the anus results in damage, incontinence, and the need for the individual to wear diapers;
- HIV is caused by faeces getting into the bloodstream, resulting in AIDS;
- AIDS is a punishment for going against the natural wishes of God;
- The vagina is perfectly placed for pleasure;
- Being raised by a gay couple is "sure to overpower" a child, resulting in "unnatural behaviour".
Spoiler alert: these are all false claims. Every one.
I staunchly support the right of Christians to live by Biblical purity laws if they see fit— abstaining from Biblical "abominations" or taboos, including the eating of shrimp and pork; physical contact with menstruating women; and homosexual sex.
I have absolutely no quarrel with Christians' disapproving of various sexual practices based on their reading of scripture.
That said, I do think it important to defend homosexual people against mistreatment on the basis of their sexual orientation; and I think it crucially important for us all to recognise and correct false statements where they occur.
Biblical law can stand on its own; it does not need mistruths to justify it.
So, let's examine the listed claims.
Homosexual sex has been prominent or dominant in various societies over the centuries; it's not a new invention. At no point has the population ever been in any danger of dying out due to homosexuality. Ancient Greek civilisation was famous/ infamous for its mainstreaming of man-boy sexual practices that would be abhorrent to most modern people; their civilisation flourished, and continues to this day. If we think about it, homosexual sex would only usher in the end of humanity if it was both contagious, and made people infertile. Neither is true. "Gayness" isn't catching; and gay people can and do have children, so extinction is not a danger that we face from this issue.
Homosexual behaviour may be immoral for some, but it is a minority variant of normal, found in many animal species. If we really restricted ourselves to behaviours that the body seems "designed" for, we would have to abandon sitting in chairs, driving, the use of spectacles, and television. If we define "normality" as excluding unusual minorities, then blue eyes and left-handedness would fail to make the grade. Any non-moral definition of normality that excludes homosexuality quickly becomes obviously silly if we turn that same metric in the direction of other common human behaviours and characteristics. To me, that would seem to make such a classification practically useless!
Violent sexual damage to the anus can cause all kinds of problems, it is true; but, as far as I know, ordinary anal intercourse does not. Sphincters are muscle, not elastic bands. Stretch doesn't turn muscle into wobbly goo; if it did, yoga (or pre-exercise stretching) would be a terrifying event! Besides— shall we really judge all homosexual sex on that basis? What if we were to turn that same lens on heterosexual sex? Shall we judge ordinary man-woman relationships on the basis of the results of ultraviolent heterosexual rape, or other extreme heterosexual acts? Over the years as a doctor, I have seen no shortage of women with damaged wombs and bladders as a result of birth injuries in previous generations; but none of my gay patients over the years have had to wear diapers because of sexual injuries due to ordinary anal intercourse. None.
HIV is not spread by faeces. It's spread by a virus. Contact with faeces is not necessary for disease transmission.
HIV can be transmitted by (partial list):
- anal sex
- penile-vaginal sex
- breast milk
- blood transfusions with unsafe blood
- sharing needles for drug use.
Different modes of transmission are common in different parts of the world. It's not a "gay disease", and it's not a divine punishment meted out to gay people. Straight people get HIV. Innocent people get HIV. Newborn infants get HIV.
As many women could tell you, the vagina is not necessarily perfectly placed for pleasure. In fact, 70% of women cannot reach climax without additional genital stimulation during intercourse, because the vagina is imperfectly placed for their pleasure. That shouldn't matter; we can easily give things a "helping hand", so to speak. But, according to Mr. Fingall's logic, that would be unnatural and abnormal, because it isn't in keeping with the body's "design". By Mr. Fingall's logic, 70% of women should be denied optimal marital satisfaction based on an obsolete, excessively-narrow view of normality.
Finally, with respect to gay adoption: sexual orientation is not a switch easily flipped by environment. If it were, then surely straight people would never have gay kids, and homosexuality would have died out? This issue has been thoroughly studied in multiple countries, and being raised by a homosexual couple does not result in problem behaviour for children. Further, being raised by a gay couple is much, much better for children than being raised in an orphanage, which is what many children currently face. Being raised in institutions is demonstrably very bad for children. If all suitable children currently in orphanages were placed with stable, committed gay couples tomorrow, they'd be much, much better off than they are now.
In the end, none of these points should be expected to persuade someone who believes on religious grounds that homosexual sex is wrong. That said, I feel strongly that we should avoid supporting our beliefs with falsehoods. A scripturally-based belief should be proclaimed proudly as such, with no trumped-up, incorrect falsehoods used to prop it up; and secular folks should have accurate information available to them, to inform secular laws and policies.
Believe what you will morally, but let your facts be accurate.
Dr Adrian Charles is a medical doctor in Barbados
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