In Defense of Homophobia
Jonathan I. Katz
Homophobia is the moral judgement that homosexual behavior (most of the arguments in this essay refer specifically to male homosexual behavior) is wrong. Homophobia is not like ethnic, racial or religious prejudice, which deny the intrinsic moral rights and value of other people. Rather, it is a moral judgement upon acts engaged in by choice.
If you are religious, you probably agree with the homophobic position, because most major religions make this moral judgement. The Jewish and Christian Bible describes homosexual activity, in most English translations, as an ``abomination''. This condemnation is found in the Book of Leviticus, along with condemnations of incest and bestiality. Unlike homosexuality, there has been no organized effort to win approval for those sexual sins, which are condemned by almost everyone. The same word is used to condemn moving boundary markers, a grievous sin in an agricultural society.
If you are a rationalist, you ask for logical explanation, beyond the word of the Bible, and beyond the revulsion which most people feel. Why have most cultures adopted this attitude? The rationalist does not accept any book as the word of God, but regards it as the embodiment of traditional wisdom. He cannot reject it out of hand; he must ask why traditional wisdom came to this conclusion.
Recent medical history provides a convincing argument. HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, has been present, and occasionally found in the human population, for about half a century (a few sporadic AIDS cases have been identified as far back as the 1950's, or even earlier). Yet they were quite rare; the modern AIDS epidemic began suddenly about 1980. Its first victims were promiscuous homosexual males; it was initially called ``Gay-Related Immune Deficiency''.
In America attitudes towards homosexuality changed in the 1970's. It went from a private, furtively practiced, vice to an open and accepted subculture. In many circles, ``sodomite'' ceased to be an insult. This acceptance led to the toleration, and wide practice, of gross homosexual promiscuity. HIV, falling onto that fertile soil, made the AIDS epidemic. Even before AIDS was recognized, practicing homosexuals were notorious for a high rate of venereal diseases.
The religious believer may see the hand of God, but both he and the rationalist must see a fact of Nature. The human body was not designed to share hypodermic needles, it was not designed to be promiscuous, and it was not designed to engage in homosexual acts. Engaging in such behavior is like riding a motorcycle on an icy road without a helmet. It may be possible to get away with it for a while, and a few misguided souls may get a thrill out of doing so, but sooner or later (probably sooner) the consequences will be catastrophic. Lethal diseases spread rapidly among people who do such things.
Unfortunately, the victims are not only those whose reckless behavior brought death on themselves. There are many completely innocent victims, too: hemophiliacs (a substantial fraction died as a result of contaminated clotting factor), recipients of contaminated transfusions, and their spouses and children, for AIDS can be transmitted heterosexually (in America, only infrequently) and congenitally. The icy road was lined with unsuspecting innocents, who never chose to ride a motorcycle. Guilt for their deaths is on the hands of the homosexuals and intravenous drug abusers who poisoned the blood supply. These people died so the sodomites could feel good about themselves.
At present, HIV testing has reduced the risk of infection by transfusion almost (but not exactly) to zero. However, should a new lethal blood-borne virus arise, it will not be detected, and a test developed, until thousands of people have been infected. Experience with HIV shows that the environments of homosexual promiscuity and intravenous drug abuse can readily turn a single infection into an epidemic.
The homophobe does not engage in violence against homosexuals. Repelled, he stays away from them. Homophobes are divided on the wisdom of laws against homosexual acts. Some believe laws are a good way to reduce their frequency and damaging consequences. Others, probably the majority, believe that outlawing these acts is futile, just as outlawing drug abuse may be futile, and that laws may lead to destructive witch-hunts. These homophobes believe the best approach is moral condemnation, which is the approach our society now applies to many other destructive practices, such as adultery, alcohol and tobacco abuse, and suicide. Moral condemnation will not extirpate them, but neither can the law; a climate of disapproval may reduce their frequency and their harm.
What of those cursed with unnatural sexual desires? Must they forever suppress these desires? Yes, but this is hardly a unique fate. Almost everyone has desires which must be suppressed. Most men and women think adulterous thoughts fairly often, and find themselves attracted to members of the opposite sex to whom they are not married. Morality requires them to suppress these desires, and most do not commit adultery, though they feel lust in their hearts. Almost everyone, at one time or another, covets another's property. They do not steal. Many people feel great anger or intense hatred at some time in their lives. They do not kill.
I am a homophobe, and proud.
Post-Script October 17, 2003: The homosexual movement is now campaigning against blood drives, because blood banks do not accept blood from men who have engaged in homosexual acts. This is ``discrimination'', the campaigners say (see, for example, Washington University Student Life October 17, 2003). Of course it is discrimination; the blood banks are discriminating against blood at risk of contamination with HIV, which would give the recipients the fatal disease AIDS. Intravenous drug abusers are also rejected as donors, for the same reason. People who have lived in the United Kingdom are now rejected because they are at (much lesser) risk for CJD. Some discrimination is wrong. Racial discrimination, for example, is almost invariably unethical (and generally illegal) because race is unrelated to the ability to do a job, study, fulfill a contract, or almost any other activity of daily life. Some discrimination, however, is both justified and necessary. For example, it is quite appropriate for a basketball team to discriminate among applicants on the basis of height, agility and stamina, for a prospective patient to discriminate among doctors on the basis of their academic qualifications and past record of practice, and for a blood bank to discriminate among prospective donors on the basis of the statistical risk that their blood is contaminated with infectious diseases. In order to satisfy their demand for full acceptance by society, the homosexual movement demands to kill some transfusion recipients by infecting them with AIDS, or to kill patients who need transfusions by making it impossible for blood banks to collect blood. Or, perhaps, this was just a joke. But I think not. Post-Script October 9, 2005: In recent weeks this essay has been the subject of controversy at, and even beyond, Washington University (see, for example, recent issues of Student Life). A number of critics have asked if monogamous homosexuals are also culpable. Quite apart from the question of the definition of monogamous (sexual contact with only one person in a lifetime? serial monogamy? some cheating? etc.), I suggest the following analogy: A man joins the Ku Klux Klan. He is not violent, and would never hurt a fly; he just wants a safe place to express his racist feelings. Is he culpable for the Klan's past acts of violence? I believe that even though he is not criminally responsible for acts that occurred before he joined, he is morally culpable for joining the Klan. The Klan has blood on its hands, and anyone who joins must share the guilt. So, too, with the homosexual movement.