Homosexuality Is Not Against Nature, Homophobia Is

Written by December 24, 2013 11:34 pm 14 comments

The biggest challenge the LGBT community faces on forums is not the usual schizophrenic hate-speech. It is the more insidious menace of educated people, whose starting point is a fundamental dislike for homosexuality, who (ab)use selective scientific facts to spread malicious misconceptions in a country with inadequate awareness of the issue. The article in The Hindu titled “It is ‘nurture against nature’” by Mohana Krishnaswamy is a textbook illustration of this threat. (Editor’s note: The Hindu has retracted the article. A cached copy is available here).

The article is not an objective evaluation of the arguments. The author’s agenda is transparent: to subtly depict LGBT people as a threat to humanity. It is a clarion call to actively repress, through criminalization, the emotional and physical reality of a sexual minority. Why else would she liken being gay to “terrorism and suicidal tendencies”? Perhaps she realized her advocacy so closely mirrors the Nazis who liquidated homosexuals in death camps to “eliminate undesirable traits… [from] the most evolved species on earth” (her words), that she felt the need to distance herself from eugenics in her extended preamble.

Any morally honest reader would have numerous objections to this article. These are mine:

  1. Sexuality is not “environmental”: Genetics plays a huge role, which the author admits. It is also a complicated result of epigenetic, pre-natal, and psychosocial factors during early infancy. To single out one (absolutely baseless) aspect of the law in a country as a strong determinant of sexuality, is beyond absurd.Even if it is mildly environmental, that doesn’t make it more malleable than other hardwired traits! By analogy, “height” is only partly hereditary; “environment” also plays a role, like childhood nutrition, emotional security, exercise etc. But it would be bizarre to suggest that height can be changed during adulthood, or that criminalizing shortness (and the consequent societal attitudes) can mould society to change people’s heights. This author claims no better.
  1. Sexual orientation cannot presently be altered: Every single study claiming to “cure gayness” has been debunked. “Corrective therapy” is banned in several countries because of the clearly established trauma of trying to forcibly suppress or alter sexuality. Exodus International, one of the largest proponents of ex-gay therapy was forced to close and apologize “for being part of the system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt.” Same with former leading psychiatrists. Decriminalizing gay sex cannot convert straight people into gay. And if 377 is upheld, gay people will remain gay! It is simply impossible to “encourage people” to be gay/straight. Show me a credible scientific study (NOT pilot studies, or self-reported anecdotal evidence) demonstrating otherwise, and I’ll eat my shoe.
  2. Homosexuality is not “unnatural”: What on earth does “natural” even mean? Found in nature? Homosexual bonds are a natural part of life in virtually every other species, and found in every culture and society in human history. Does “unnatural” mean it doesn’t serve reproduction? Neither do male nipples, should we hack them off? Nature is simply too diverse and heterogenous, and it is the author’s antediluvian notions of strict male/female binarity that is unnatural to this planet. A single blade of grass can have up to 12 different genders. And even if the author wants to restrict morality to only what serves reproduction, then rape, adultery, infanticide, child abuse and cannibalism are quite “natural”. Does she endorse them?
  3. Even if it is “unnatural”, so what?! Should the author give up vaccines, her clothes and her spectacles because they are “unnatural”? Genetic mutation is perfectly normal, and many people are born different, e.g. tall, left-handed, extreme flexibility, with photographic memory, or “with six fingers”. If the author is uncomfortable with deviations from the norm, she’s the one who probably needs counseling.
  4. Homosexuality causes no harm: To label something undesirable, one needs to demonstrate objective, secular harm. Terrorism, suicidal tendencies etc. cause concrete harms, and are hence problematic. What exactly are the secular harms of being gay? Throwing vague moralistic labels like “unethical”, “unnatural” and “improper” does not make it so. Masturbation (heck, even being left-handed) was once considered “improper conduct”. Today’s homophobes are simply the modern equivalent of the sex-obsessed puritans of old.
  5. Traditional marriage is not endangered: We have case studies of over 20 countries that recognize marriage equality. On Friday, a Federal judge in Utah struck down a ban on marriage equality because Utah “failed to show how gay marriage would affect opposite-sex unions”. Does the author have any actual evidence for her fears, beyond doomsday insinuations?
  6. “People exhibiting homosexual behaviour” are NOT “prone to AIDS”: That statement is so misleading, the author’s medical license needs to be revoked! HIV/AIDS spreads due to unprotected sex. Case studies like South Africa suffice to conclusively demonstrate that if you don’t take precautions like wearing a condom, you are at high risk of contracting HIV regardless of whether you’re having gay or straight sex. Yes, the odds of contraction are lower in the case of vaginal sex, but the vast majority of HIV positive people in the world are in poor countries, andare heterosexual. In India alone, of all HIV/AIDS contractions 80% are through heterosexual contact. In developed countries, there are sociological reasons why it is more prevalent certain groups, viz. the complete lack of sex education and awareness about condoms and disease, the risk of jail sentence or deportation for those who seek medical counsel etc. In the US, African and Hispanic Americans have much higher rates of HIV/AIDS. Does that make being black inherently wrong?

It is a sign of progress the bogus claims of “homosexuality is against Indian culture” or “humanity will eventually go extinct” weren’t made. Ultimately, all of this boils down to one fundamental question: Do we live in a society where the fundamental inalienable rights of all citizens are respected? Just as the author has a democratic right to propagate misinformed homophobic views, I have a right to share my life and love with someone, whatever my gender.

The story of my nation has been the long march to redeem that tryst we once proudly declared with destiny. At every stage, when Sati was abolished; when so-called untouchables entered temples, we faced the forces of fear, blind tradition and ignorance, breaking the world into fragments with their narrow domestic walls. And we overcame them.

And so we shall, again.

From my heart to yours,
Arvind Raghavan

An Indian citizen

This post was written by:

- who has written 1 posts on Nirmukta.

I am perennially curious. An art lover, insatiable reader, excitable debater and would love to argue with you over (literally) any topic under the sun, and learn anything you can teach me. My ethos: Be vehemently irreverent, but universally respectful. Focus on ideas, not personalities. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Treat credentials as completely irrelevant to the validity of the argument.

14 Comments

  • Very well written article. I think you covered all the points and successfully countered them with rational arguments. Each time we see such a bigoted and discriminatory (not to mention scientifically wrong) article, I think it is the duty of every right-thinking rational person to take issue with it publicly and counter it like you have done. Battles fought on the field have their place in this world; but much importantly, so do the battles fought with words, against enemies of reason.

    • Arvind Raghavan

      Thank you, Mr. Ketkar. I think you’re spot on, the true danger is misinformation. And more of us need to speak out on the facts, whatever our politics and beliefs.

  • Thanks… Too good!

  • I would just think that point number 5 (Homosexuality causes no harm) coupled with the right to privacy (which is a fundamental right recognized by all modern civilizations and also guaranteed by the Indian constitution by way of right to life and liberty) should be sufficient reason to decriminalize homosexuality. However, I totally agree with all your observations, Arvind.

    • Arvind Raghavan

      Thank you very much. As you rightly point out Mr. Vikram, the right to privacy is paramount to this discussion. It is so ironic that the same court ruled marital rape to be legal, because privacy of the bedroom was sacrosanct!

  • V. Balakrishnan

    This is an excellent article by Mr. Arvind Raghavan. It says just about all that needs to be said on the matter, in a commendably crisp and unequivocal manner. I had not read until now the original article, “It is ‘nurture against nature'”, that inspired this piece. So I went back and read it. I must admit that I haven’t read a more laughably outrageous caricature of a purportedly scientific analysis for a long time. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read the author’s glib take on “natural” versus “unnatural”. I found the whole article quite hilarious, all the more so because the author presumably meant it to be serious, while it was replete with entirely unintended humour. But, as Mr. Raghavan rightly points out, this sort of seemingly authoritative disinformation is indeed an insiduous menace. It does genuine disservice to society by spreading misconception, reinforcing ignorance, abetting bigotry, impeding justice and encouraging repression, among other deleterious effects. Dispassionate but firm rebuttals like Mr. Raghavan’s article must be disseminated more widely.

    • Arvind Raghavan

      Mr. Balakrishnan, thank you, I could not have put it more succinctly! It does exemplify Poe’s Law: “It is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between extremism and a parody of extremism. Even our media, while sympathetic, prefers sound-bites and controversy over a responsible dissemination of facts. We need as much support from fair-minded and critical readers such as you to help spread awareness.

  • We seek your permission to republish this excellent rebuttal on the Orinam blog, where it will be archived with other critiques such as http://orinam.net/violence-of-irrationality/

  • The Hindu has retracted the article. See http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/Readers-Editor/when-inaccuracies-hurt-media-pluralism/article5515749.ece

    Thanks to you and other readers/bloggers whose outrage swamped social media and, apparently, the desk of The Hindu’s editors.

    • Arvind Raghavan

      Thank you very much! This is truly heartening news, especially to occupy the year end column!

      I would be glad to have my rebuttal shared, still. Much detailed clarification is still required to inveigh against the tide of misconception that persists. I have contacted the admin using the form on your website. Many thanks!

  • I read this all quite late, but I am more than amused with the kind of scholarship displayed by Ms. Mohana Krishnaswamy in her original article. She deserves a pat on her back for writing an article interspersed with profound scientific knowledge, thorough inquiry into the naturality of human sexual traits and
    And this, given her extremely busy schedule with TV serials, Movies, cultural events, dubbing and recording, is a Pythagorean task well executed.
    Although she hasn’t clarified this, her article makes it evident that owing to her busy schedule in media, she has not had the time to invest into any kind of research, reading, knowledge updation or anything that has happened over the past couple of decades regarding variant sexualities or human sexual behavior. But unavailability of time to research and study should not deter the spirits of an ambitious writer of the likes of Ms. Mohana K.
    Here we have an authority about what is natural and what isn’t, what could be passed as normal and what would be abnormal, what is a potential threat to spreading of HIV/AIDS, etc. However, disregarding the potential opportunity of having a curative solution for all the plight, self-denial, social-rejection, emotional tyranny and suicidal tendencies that the LGBT community undergoes, we choose to discard her as judgmental, biased, ignorant and even hilarious.
    At the outset, we must congratulate her for being so vocally supportive of the Supreme Court’s decision of re-criminalization of consensual sex between adults in private.
    And given that she has a qualification in paramedicine, no matter how long ago she divorced from medical practice and supplementary research and knowledge upgrading required by the field, it is in our collective welfare that we seek solution to our problems with Ms. Mohana K.
    Now, Ms. Mohana K., after re-criminalizing homosexuality, what according to you is the next step to curb this so-called unnatural trait of homosexual desire? Are we going to safely assume that if Sec377 continues to remain as it is, in the next 100 odd years people will give birth to lesser number of homosexuals? Or does that imply that homosexuals should live a life of celibacy, which would automatically reduce the amount of nurturing effect that homosexual acts have upon heterosexuals who suddenly choose to be homosexuals for the want of being variants.
    How are we to believe that after 11-Dec-2013CE the sun will always set upon a heterosexual world?
    We seek your expert advice on these matters of deep concern to our LGBT community and we are sure, Ms. Moahana K, you would be sufficiently willing to offer help.

  • A wonderful and well written article. You articulated your points very well.

  • So glad to read such a clear and rational article. Another significant if not a bigger issue that often isn’t brought to fore whilst discussing lgbit issues, is the question of transgender rights- especially transexuality.

    While L,g, and b are sexual orientation rights, transex is an issue of basic sex/gender identity. A transmale or female cannot change his/her gender yet in this country! Only in the state of tamil nadu, there’s this half-hearted maneuver of calling transfemales as the “third gender”! I find it highly disappointing. Also, what about transmales?
    For a human who’s done with the sex-reassignment surgery with respect to his/her identity should simply and correctly be identified legally as the gender they’d painstakingly been treated for.

    With love and regards
    A girl who wishes to see her true identity reflected legally and hopefully, in the mindset and hearts of the society.

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