Nation e-Edition

Reconsidering ‘Abnormal Behaviour’

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:

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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Page 1 of 1 pages

Posted by Leonard B 1 year, 2 months ago
I fully agree. Mac meant well but got a little ahead of himself here. LB.

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Posted by Francis Blackman 1 year, 2 months ago
Well written Dr Charles!

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Posted by joy holloway-d'avilar 1 year, 2 months ago
Good one Adrian!!! and most of all, the facts do NOT support any of the religious mumbo jumbo, leave all that nonsense behind and deal with FACTS not wishy washy beliefs that change like grass blowing in the wind!

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Posted by Alvin Holder 1 year, 2 months ago
Hail Adrian,

Long time no see or hear. Nice article, but Mac is witty when writing, especially what happened at our favourite school between 1979 and 1985. He has expressed some concern within his text.

Also, when one of ours had to leave U.W.I. Hospital in Jamaica in 1989 for a reason (some explained in Mac's text in a witty way), followed by a loss in 2002.

We all should love our neighbours!


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Posted by Philip Archer 1 year, 2 months ago
Dr. Charles, thank you for the information, and for exposing Mac Fingall for the ignorant bigot that he is.

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Posted by Grey Stoute 1 year, 2 months ago
BRAP! Thank you, Dr. Adrian Charles. You are spot on!

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Posted by Brerlou King 1 year, 2 months ago
The irony is that probably neither Mac, nor Adrian, will persuade a single homosexual or heterosexual to change his or her orientation based on their writings. So what we are dealing with here is not the orientation and practices of individuals but the attitude of all the rest. In defense of the church it has been traditionally equally condemnatory of many heterosexual practices. The Catholic Church for example has condemned divorce and all forms of abortion, and all churches condemn promiscuity and extra-marital conception of children.
The whole homosexual debate has been raised because of a quite reasonable attempt by homosexual couples to have LEGAL acceptance of their unions by the state. On the other hand it is unreasonable of them to expect to change the attitude of the CHURCH, or any dominant religion, towards marriage. Contrary to the belief of many Christians and religionists, marriage is not an exclusively religious observance. Church marriages came late to our slave ancestors, and we have legal acceptance of common-law unions in Barbados to this day.
The solution is simple, but the politics is complex and daunting. Let the state remove from its books all laws related to the sexual practices of consenting adults, (consenting thereby excluding assaults,) and place all forms of civil unions between adults on equal footing with marriage. Strengthen the laws against ALL forms of statutory rape and abuse, including men boy associations, (pun intended). NAMBLA, for example is a criminal group, constitutionally dedicated to the conspiracy and promotion of criminal acts against minors.
Finally let the current rhetoric, such as the two current articles, be aimed at persuading the society to be more circumspect in sticking its collective noses into the practices of CONSENTING adults, behind closed doors.

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Posted by David Shepherd 1 year, 2 months ago
1. 'If we define "normality" as excluding unusual minorities, then blue eyes and left-handedness would fail to make the grade'.
The comparison of unmodifiable, innate physical attributes with post-puberty sexual behaviour is not valid. It's like comparing apples with oranges.
2. 'Homosexual behaviour may be immoral for some, but it is a minority variant of normal, found in many animal species'
Dictionary definition of abnormal: ‘Deviating from what is normal or usual, typically in a way that is undesirable’.

So, since the good doctor admits that it is a variant from the norm, the only way in which homosexual behaviour is *not* abnormal is if it is not construed as undesirable. Black people with functioning blue eyes are rare. As long as the eyes function properly, it is not an abnormality.
So, homosexuality is abnormal if it is proven to contradict the obvious function of the body in sex. The good doctor uses the example of manual stimulation during sex to prove that re-purposing organs for pleasure is harmless, but as we know, the human hands are functionally multi-purpose. In contrast, the human sex organs of each gender are specialised for union with each other.

Does the good doctor use his ear to eat food? Would he accept the same sexual use of the urinary passage as he does the back one? I think not.
To re-purpose specialised organs of each gender in a sexual relationship that *completely negates* their primary sexual function is abnormal. The abnormality is contradicts the normal function of a specialised part of the body.

If the tongue was never used for taste, that would be abnormal. As would the nose never being used to smell.

Homosexual relationships are not variations. They constitute a completely rejection of the specialised function of human sex organs. As such, they are an abnormality.

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