Tuesday, November 25, 2008

God and Gays

I've just read a fascinating book called Biological Exuberance. by Bruce Bagemihl. It's about homosexuality in animals. Many of us have witnessed homosexuality in domestic animals - cats, dogs, sheep, bulls, etc. I had no idea that it was widespread in wild animals. According to Bagemihl, homosexual behaviour has been observed in Mountain Sheep, Mallard Ducks, Ostriches, Lions, Buffaloes, Female Cheetahs, Bottlenosed Dolphins, Grey Whales, Gorillas, Giraffes, female Grizzly bears, Canada Geese, Monarch Butterflys, and the list goes on and on.

I realize that for some readers this will be a topic to avoid at all costs. Homosexuality is morally wrong; It's not natural; It's against God's law; It's just plain disgusting; Etcetera. Obviously it's only a minority of individuals of each of these species that engage in homosexual behaviour, just like with humans. Otherwise there wouldn't be enough progeny to continue the species and it would go extinct. But you may be interested to know that humans are not the only species where same sex pairs adopt and raise youngsters. Female Grizzly Bears sometimes pair up and raise cubs. Pairs of male Black Swans are actually more successful than heterosexual Black Swans, because their combined strength makes them able to build bigger nests, and acquire the largest and best quality territories. Bagemihl says that there are at least twenty species documented in which same sex pairs have successfully raised young.

I've always thought that the most important criterion for the ability to be a parent was to love and care for one's children. In my book, it's better to be raised by loving same sex parents than neglectful or abusive heterosexual parents. But in the recent U.S. elections, people voted in Arkansas to make adoption by same sex parents illegal and voted in California to prohibit same sex marriages.

I used to think that the whole same sex marriage issue was trivial. Why were Fundamentalist Christians making such a big deal about it when there were real issues to contend with, like the loss of biodiversity, global warming, and growing inequality? What difference does it make if homosexuals can or cannot marry? No church is going to be forced to marry same sex couples. The way I see it, this whole thing is a wedge issue, used by the Republican Party in the United States to manipulate Christian believers into supporting and campaigning for their candidates. Karl Rove is an atheist, but he learned how to motivate Fundamentalists to volunteer their time and money to support George W. Bush in two presidential elections.

But after the latest elections in the States a protest movement has sprung up. Gays in California and elsewhere in the U. S. are angry about Proposition 8. They see it as a human rights issue. I admit that this whole issue makes me nervous because the more that it's championed the more vociferous the backlash from Fundamentalists, and the easier it is for right-wing politicians to use it to their advantage by motivating their religious base. Even writing about this topic is risky as I am certain to turn off a number of readers by doing so.

But for what it's worth, I think that the fact that homosexuality is widespread in the animal kingdom, as documented by biologists and other close observers of wild animals, has important theological implications. If the practice is widespread in other species then who's to say it's not natural? One can argue that it's a moral question when it has to do with humans but is it really morally wrong for same sex giraffes, and lions, and butterflies to get it on? And if it's not a moral issue for them why is it a moral issue for humans? Why don't we save morality for behaviour that helps or harms people rather than consensual activities that adults do with each other for their own enjoyment?

And if homosexuality occurs throughout the animal kingdom there must be a reason. Why does God create homosexual animals? I think a lot of people will refuse to accept the evidence in Bagemihl's book because they see homosexuality as a defect. And if it's a defect, how could God be responsible for it? That's why they think that people are not born gay but choose to be that way. Because God couldn't possibly have created them to be that way. But think about it for a minute. Why would anybody choose to be gay? There's no advantage to it. You're virtually guaranteed to be despised and ostracized if people find out. It makes it way harder to have a decent life and raise a family.

I don't remember any time in my life when I chose to be attracted to the opposite sex. It's just the way I've always been. I would think that the same would go for gays. If God created straights to be attracted to the opposite sex then God created gays to be attracted to the same sex. I'm not sure why, but how could it be otherwise? We can't always understand God's creation but that doesn't mean we shouldn't respect it in all it's manifestations.

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