"We are left with one central proposition, one basic contention upon which the whole controversy is built: We think homosexuality is bad, and our opponents think it is not." --Peninsula, page 5
THE HARVARD CAMPUS is buzzing about Peninsula's long-awaited, 56-page special issue on homosexuality. Alejandro E. Reuss '93 called it "bigoted." Adam D. Feldman '95 decried its "hate and innuendo." An outraged Sandi L. Dubowski '92, co-chair of the Bisexual Gay and Lesbian Students Association compared Peninsula to the Klu Klux Klan.
But while the issue was clearly hurtful, clearly offensive to many of us who disagree with its central proposition, it was not hateful. It was well within the bounds of intellectual discourse. Time and time again, Peninsula's writers deny that their opposition to homosexuality was motivated by hatred. They affirm and reaffirm that "We have no coercive capabilities; we wouldn't use them if we did." They make arguments--weak arguments, we think, but arguments nonetheless. To dismiss this issue as mere gay-bashing is simply unfair. The virulent ad hominem attacks proferred after the issue's publication, while understandable, were entirely unwarranted.
THAT SAID, we still have a huge, irreconcilable problem with Peninsula. They think homosexuality is bad, and we do not. For us, the issue is very simple. We don't care whether consenting adults choose same-sex or opposite-sex partners. We know that gays are perfectly capable of being happy, perfectly capable of being in love, perfectly capable of being good citizens, perfectly capable of being good parents. We don't care whether homosexuality is ingrained, conditioned, or a combination of both. We don't think homosexual acts are necessarily immoral. Peninsula disagrees.
In its 14 articles, Peninsula makes lots of arguments, most of them riddled with inaccuracies, inconsistencies and irrelevancies. But for the most part, Peninsula's basic opposition to homosexuality boils down to two points:
1. Family Values. Here's how Peninsula explains the problem: "Parents are the ultimate role models. Just what kind of parental role models will homosexuals be?" (Page 25) The answer is, once again, quite simple. Gays who are good people will be good parental role models.
Peninsula denies that any homosexual--no matter how good an individual--could ever be a better parent than a heterosexual. In fact, he denies that homosexuals can be parents at all. In other words, child-beater Joan Crawford was a better mother than Professor of English and American Literature Barbara Johnson would be. Child-killer Joel Steinberg was a better father than Plummer Professor of Christian Morals the Rev. Peter J. Gomes would be. We think this is pure nonsense.
Like Peninsula, we are concerned about the disintegration of the American family. But its problems have nothing to do with homosexuality. They have to do with teenage mothers, absent fathers, abused children, drugs, alcohol, crime, poverty, divorce, lousy sex education, the breakdown of personal responsibility. We don't see Peninsula devoting 56-page issues to these problems.
2. Naturalistic Fallacies. From cover to cover, Peninsula offers observation after observation about homosexuality in the real world. Some of these observations are absolutely unsupported, not to mention profoundly ignorant: homosexuals can't be happy, homosexuals have identity problems, homosexuals can't experience true love. Others are based on carefully selected, wildly disputable psychological and sociological "evidence": homosexuals are neurotic, homosexuals choose to be homosexuals. Others are basically indisputable: homosexuals can't procreate, homosexuals risk contracting dread diseases.
But none of these observations come close to demonstrating that homosexuality is "bad." Imagine that all gays were, in fact, "not truly happy, despite whatever facade they might display." (This assertion, by the way, was probably the dumbest comment in the entire magazine.) What would that prove? Only that homosexuals were unhappy. Not that they should be unhappy. Not that homosexuality was in any way "bad."
Practicing gay sex can be dangerous. That doesn't make it "bad." Being a police officer can be dangerous, too. Peninsula thinks homosexuality is "unnatural"? Who cares, so is Astroturf. And cow manure is natural. Peninsula's writers should think carefully before they equate their version of "unnatural" with "bad." What is not necessarily what ought to be. And Peninsula's self-proclaimed experts on love, sex, marriage and Freud don't seem to have much of a clue about what is, anyway.
THE PROBLEM, of course, comes down to defining what is "bad." And it quickly becomes obvious that lurking behind Peninsula's convoluted arguments lies an poorly disguised faith that homosexuality is bad--read: immoral--because God says so. (Peninsula seems to have a direct hot line.)
We're not sure why Peninsula went through such pains to try to hide these sentiments, but in any case, we certainly don't share them. Before we would deem a private behavior "bad," we would want to see evidence that this behavior significantly harms either society at large or the persons that chose to partake in it. Homosexuality doesn't. We don't believe homosexuals are any less well-off as a result of their sexual orientation.
We prefer Peninsula's sympathetic "Caritas" to gay-bashing campaigns, but both methods operate from the same flawed assumption: that homosexuality is a moral fault that should be corrected. Peninsula is free to draw whatever conclusions it wants from this assumption. We feel equally free to reject those conclusions.
Peninsula's editors do try to make honest, reasoned arguments.
Those arguments, however, are totally unconvincing.
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