Someone has said that here in KD we like to rehash issues over and over again without letting things rest. I will fall to the temptation of doing it here with the hope of shedding light from a different angle.
Recently there was a furore over an ad that was posted here which got me thinking about attitudes of us gay men towards our own kind. Surprisingly some people found no problem with the writer of the ad saying he wants a gay man with an eye for chicks, or whatever derogatory remark he put on there. Some, I suspect, did so because they are acquainted with the poster of the ad and wanted to show solidarity to their friend, but for others, I do not choose to fathom the reason behind it. (Even writing about it now still gets me thinking, WTF! What does that even mean? I am gay and now I am supposed to have an eye for chicks? I can’t do everything!)
It is discriminatory, plain and simple. If we accept this as reasonable, then we should really not have a problem with, for example, bakers who say they won’t bake a cake for a gay couple; neither should we be outraged when gay people or anyone else with any characteristic in the minority of any society get fired from their jobs or denied a loan or evicted from their homes because they don’t identify with the majority.
It is wrong. It is social injustice. Some people hide behind the homophobic environment we find ourselves in as an excuse but failing to see that by so doing, we have adopted the language of the oppressor and use it on ourselves. For some, I believe the lack of consternation to what I perceive to be a vile post stems from an unwillingness to confront and challenge the status quo – a fear of asking questions of the way things are, demanding reasons why things cannot be another way, and a lack of courage to discard it when it fails to provide a reasonable explanation. This is a process that is found in progressive societies which is still sorely lacking in developing ones. We are lost in the mantra ‘as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be…’, not acknowledging that in that regard, slavery will still be acceptable, women would still be considered property and advances in science and technology would not have happened.
It is this unwillingness to challenge to status quo that I wish to address today. I hope in an amateurish way to trace the origin of some of the beliefs we hold and offer ways by which we can start to form new ideas about them.
What we believe today about the world stems from what we learn as children. These lessons are explicitly taught by our parents, teachers, elders and religious leaders and learned implicitly by observations we make of the nature of our world. With regards to homosexuality in our society, it is needless to say that before it was popularised by criminalisation, it was not visible in our society, and when it was, it was only seen as a taboo. And that is what we learnt. Added to this is the message from our various religions which considered it a sin punishable by death and hell (look at Sodom and Gomorrah). Furthermore the limited science taught us then that we only have male and female binary sexualities that should only do what male and female do. For some of us, we faced the addition of being teased by our mates and people of our generation. The effect of all this was to make us doubt the truth we knew about ourselves. The more we were taught and bombarded with this information from the schools, churches, homes and the media, the more we believed there was something wrong with us, till we got to the point (for some of us) when we decided to take action and fit in before things got out of hand.
For some of us, it became a matter of “straightening” our limp wrists, staying our hips that swayed while we walked, quietening those talking hands, deepening our squeaky voices and a host of other measures. Those were however just the outward manifestations. They were preceded by a deeper change within our minds of loathing the very thing which we are because it made fitting into the reality of the society we lived in harder. We learnt the lesson so well taught by our environment and we imbibed it as truth. It was essential to do so because our personal safety and survival depended on it. We had to give up our very nature up because it was the reason why we were always falling into sin, being the victims of bullies and failing to meet expectations. Therefore we learned to hate it, to avoid it, kill every bit of it in us, and not only that, we hated seeing it in others and kept our distance from whoever we spotted it in. Still others went further than avoiding it and spoke out against it, condemning it with all the fibres in their being in a bid to show the world they fit in. A form of overcompensation. This is what I believe gives rise to what is referred to as Internalised Homophobia. This is something we must all confront in ourselves. I know I have.
These inputs from the outside world filters in deep within ourselves that even when we give in to the strong desires of the flesh, we feel guilty about it and seek atonement. So we find ourselves in a battle which ironically was also described in the bible between the desires of our flesh and the need to be good members of the society. Some of us, I have observed, just go with the flow, not giving any mind to each side. Some on the other hand have decided (or maybe just continued with the default position) to go with the lessons we learnt growing up and persist with the battle of trying to achieve whatever prize lies in store for them when (or if) they eventually conquer. Another group have however decided to do what I feel we need to do before we surrender ourselves completely to this situation we find ourselves in. That being to ask of society or whoever wants us to be different from what we are to give us reasons good enough to make us abandon our very being and be like them.
I consider giving up oneself to appease others a great personal sacrifice akin to crucifixion on a cross, and as we are not all messiahs, I believe it should be done for cogent reasons. That is why we need to confront everything we have learnt and ask the difficult questions. Why is it considered abnormal to be gay? What is wrong with a man loving his fellow man or a woman having sex with her fellow woman? Why should marriage only be between a man and a woman? The Holy Book says being gay is a sin – why is that? Who wrote that book? What evidence does it have? Who is the God that said so? How do we know he even exists? Why must I have sex only after marriage? Why should I only marry one husband or wife? These I believe are questions we should ask and find reasonable answers to, otherwise we would live an unexamined life which I think is a great tragedy.
So far I have not seen any reasonable answer to any of these questions from religion. As Alan Sokal puts it (some of us are familiar with this by now):
“Each religion makes scores of purportedly factual assertions about everything from the creation of the universe to the afterlife. But on what grounds can believers presume to know that these assertions are true? The reasons they give are various, but the ultimate justification for most religious people’s beliefs is a simple one: we believe what we believe because our holy scriptures say so. But how, then, do we know that our holy scriptures are factually accurate? Because the scriptures themselves say so. Theologians specialize in weaving elaborate webs of verbiage to avoid saying anything quite so bluntly, but this gem of circular reasoning really is the epistemological bottom line on which all ‘faith’ is grounded. In the words of Pope John Paul II: ‘By the authority of his absolute transcendence, God who makes himself known is also the source of the credibility of what he reveals.’
“It goes without saying that this begs the question of whether the texts at issue really were authored or inspired by God, and on what grounds one knows this. ‘Faith’ is not in fact a rejection of reason, but simply a lazy acceptance of bad reasons. ‘Faith’ is the pseudo-justification that some people trot out when they want to make claims without the necessary evidence.
“But of course we never apply these lax standards of evidence to the claims made in the other fellow’s Holy Scriptures: when it comes to religions other than one’s own, religious people are as rational as everyone else. Only our own religion, whatever it may be, seems to merit some special dispensation from the general standards of evidence.
“And here, it seems to me, is the crux of the conflict between religion and science. Not the religious rejection of specific scientific theories (be it heliocentrism in the 17th century or evolutionary biology today); over time, most religions do find some way to make peace with well-established science. Rather, the scientific worldview and the religious worldview come into conflict over a far more fundamental question: namely, what constitutes evidence.
“Science relies on publicly reproducible sense experience (that is, experiments and observations) combined with rational reflection on those empirical observations. Religious people acknowledge the validity of that method, but then claim to be in the possession of additional methods for obtaining reliable knowledge of factual matters — methods that go beyond the mere assessment of empirical evidence — such as intuition, revelation, or the reliance on sacred texts. But the trouble is this: What good reason do we have to believe that such methods work, in the sense of steering us systematically (even if not invariably) towards true beliefs rather than towards false ones? At least in the domains where we have been able to test these methods — astronomy, geology and history, for instance — they have not proven terribly reliable. Why should we expect them to work any better when we apply them to problems that are even more difficult, such as the fundamental nature of the universe?
“Last but not least, these non-empirical methods suffer from an insuperable logical problem: What should we do when different people’s intuitions or revelations conflict? How can we know which of the many purportedly sacred texts — whose assertions frequently contradict one another — are in fact sacred?”
Given the above, I have no qualms concluding that religion has not provided enough proof for me to justify my not being what I know in my mind to be true. We were told a lot of things as children, ghosts, Father Christmas, fairies, witches and wizards etc. We have never seen them; some we have learnt to stop believing, others we inexplicably cling on to. Like someone said, ‘If you tell me why you don’t believe in another man’s God, I will show you why I don’t believe in yours’. Another has said that the atheist is just like the monotheist, the only difference being that he believes one god less.
A lot of people have issues with gay marriage; this sadly includes some gay people. Part of the reason is because it is not what we have learnt or been taught and we have accepted that world as it is. Some say marriage is ordained by God, an argument which is laughable now in the light of the above quote by Alan Sokal. Marriage is essentially a manmade institution which has been used in various societies for various reasons like establishing ties between kingdoms or influential families, financial gains and the like. Personally, I believe it is a means for essentially showing society who you want to have sex with and appeasing her father so that he agrees to part with his precious daughter. If it is manmade, then in an equal society, everyone should have a right to marry and get the benefits that accrues from such unions. If heterosexual couples get benefits from government for their attraction to each other following their natural disposition, why should the same not be accorded to the homosexual couples? Is our love different from theirs? Again no cogent answer has been given to this question. Rather arguments about no offspring from such unions come up (as if there are no infertile couples), about children needing a father and mother (as if there are no single parents or as if two parents of the same sex are not better than one of any sex going by common logic), about it destroying traditional marriage (as if any straight person is being forced into gay marriage), or that about gay men not being monogamous (as if all straight men are faithful, as if swingers don’t exist, as if it is anybody’s business how any two adults have decided to handle sex within their marriage).
It is easy to see why some of us are afraid of overtly effeminate guys. I use overtly because we are all effeminate or masculine no matter how much we try to hide it. But with a renewed thinking, we should realise the origin of the fear. It is because we have been conditioned to be so and presenting it as wisdom is lying to ourselves. It is true indeed that there is the antigay law, but it is the law that we should challenge and not our fellow gay men. It is easy to then see why that ad was offensive. This not only applies to effeminate guys, views have been expressed about lesbians, transgender etc. These also stem from failing to confront what we have been taught about male and female sex and gender and roles etc.
In this regard there are many issues. As a medical student, there was a lot of bullshit I didn’t understand (and I am now glad I did not) about which gender to raise a child born with sex organs that can’t be categorically said to be male or female. The issue was of course trying to avoid a situation of raising a boy as a girl and vice versa. However given what we know now about transgender people and homosexuality, it is easy to see how this can be a quagmire especially when it is taken into account that the decision is usually made without the consent of the only person who matters, which is the child. We already know there is a difference between someone’s sex and gender. What we need to ask is why will boys be boys and girls behave like girls? Is it because girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice and boys are made of sticks and stones? Is it inborn or is it a learned behaviour? If it is inborn, then why are there some boys that behave like girls? Is it possible that though they have the male sex organs, they also have the same behavioural template as girls? And even if it is learnt, why do some girls learn to act like boys and vice versa? The whole point of all this being that if all these are beyond anyone’s control, why do we feel uncomfortable with people that exhibit some of these varied tendencies. Is it because they are inherently bad or is it because we have been told to do so?
The idea behind this is to get us all to think and challenge what we have been told in years past and discard them if they do not give adequate reasons. Or even if we don’t discard them, develop a healthy level of skepticism to the various doctrines they would force down our throats. These have taken years to form and will not be changed instantaneously. It requires a searching mind that constantly asks questions, is willing to consider opinions different from what you already think you know. Take a look at churches and how they get converts. They preach and get you to accept the premise of sin and salvation through repentance. But they don’t stop there because they know that it will be easy to fall back to your old ways when the euphoria and spiritual atmosphere laden with messages designed to convict you of your sins fades. The next step is to follow you up: Bible classes, prayer meetings, fellowship meetings and what have you. Some less scrupulous ones entice you with desires of the eyes or flesh by sending a ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ just to keep you. The whole goal is indoctrination, because it takes a constant exposure to their views to make it take root deep within and reduce the chances of apostasy.
This is what has been going on in our lives with regards to homosexuality, and to root it out requires similar exposure to a different way of being. That is why visibility of gay and alternate lifestyles in television is important. That is why blogs like Kito Diaries and the numerous gay blogs, vlogs and channels on social media are important. That is why cases challenging injustices to minorities are important. They help show there is another way which is acceptable and can coexist with the already established. They offer an alternate world where we can immerse ourselves in our re-education and journey to self discovery. I grew up through my teenage years believing I was the only man in the world who was attracted to men. This was in the days before the internet became widespread; now you have to live under a rock not to know that there are gay people who are living wonderful lives. We need to continuously engage ourselves in literature, programmes and articles about homosexuality, learn more about it and interact with fellow gay men. That is the way we can start to change, gain a different more fabulous worldview and accept ourselves as normal.
This is also why it is important that we hail people who are brave enough to come out and show the world that we exist and can make useful contributions to the society and not say stuff like, “Why do gay people need to come out? Straight people don’t.” It is because we need to have these people as beacons we can look up to in the moments when our resolve to live as confident LGBT individuals starts to fail. We need to constantly challenge our thinking. Constantly question what we have been told and assumed to be true. I believe a lot of arguments on Kito Diaries can be curtailed if we adopt this approach of opening our mind to different views, not holding unto them as if they are the key to our family fortune and personal happiness, and certainly not by insulting the originator of an opposing view point. In the process of seeking or coming closer to the truth about our very existence and nature, we should use superior arguments against opposing viewpoints and not abuses.
As humans, we live our lives based on what we believe to be true. The beliefs are numerous and vary, depending on our world view. These beliefs (I recently learnt) also determine how we respond to a given situation or event. Sometimes they are personal but other times they affect others. One philosopher brought up the issue of epistemic responsibility which is essentially saying that people should be responsible for their beliefs especially if such beliefs can affect others. Given that responsibility, it becomes necessary that we ensure they are based on sound knowledge. Believing something does not make it true. I say this because I have seen arguments on this blog for which the sole premise is essentially based on the belief of the interlocutor. We all know about the people that believed polio vaccines were made to cause sterility in the country and the resultant setback in the global effort to eradicate the disease. In my profession, I have seen countless cases of people who believed in traditional therapies with disastrous consequences. Bringing it closer to home, some religious beliefs have led to murder, lynching and suicides of the LGBT people. Is it not right to expect that those beliefs stand up to scrutiny before championing them? Should we continue to participate in ideologies that condemn us at every turn, have caused so much anguish to ones just like us and also provide justification for our persecutors?
It is true that there is the law, but it should not prevent our personal development. And when we believe ourselves to be true, we can look for other solutions to our challenges rather than hiding. Why can’t we have a block of flats populated only by gay men so that we don’t have to ask for ‘ultra straight acting gay men with an eye for chicks’ when looking for flat-mates?
I wrote this because I feel there is a need to call us to challenge what we have been told in the past; a requirement for us to infuse our being with every argument for and against all aspects of homosexual existence, an imperative to develop a new philosophy for our lives that reflects the truth we know about ourselves and not that predicated on norms developed by people who would not see us thrive. Like new converts to a religion, we need to read the ‘Word of Homosexuality,’ and meditate on it day and night so that it will permeate every fibre of our being and root out the contrary spirits that have been lodged there over the years.
Written by Dimkpa