Monday, October 12, 2009

Banana Sex

An interesting cognitive dissonance exists within some anti-gay circles. Having caught on that it's not cool to be a bigot these days, some anti-gay people are more concerned that they might appear to be a bigot than they are with actually being one. Some of them say really shitty, offensive, and hurtful things and then back up with their hands in the air as if to say "Whoa, I'm not a bigot or anything though." It's sort of like those friends we all have who will mock our new haircut and then say "Don't get mad, I was just joking."

In the same way, some anti-gays retreat from their more bold, yet honest(?), statements and re-frame their message as one, not of hatred or dislike, but of love and respect.

Let's explore this theme today.

Generally, heterosupremacy is the belief that heterosexuality is the default, superior sexual identity. To the extreme anti-gay, two circles represent human sexuality. Inside the circle representing "normal" sexuality, is heterosexuality. Inside the circle marked "Other," are homosexuality, bestiality, adultery, incest, polyamory, and every other sexual identity or behavior that is Not Heterosexual. Heterosexual sex within the bounds of marriage is centered and any sexual behavior or attraction that is Not That is marginalized. Extending this idea further, and demonstrating no capacity or willingness to make distinctions, sexualities and behavior that are not heterosexual are lumped together as equivalent.

As a demonstration, we only need to look at our reliably anti-gay friend the Playful Walrus. In a post questioning why Harvey Milk should get a day of honor in California, Walrus equates a consensual sexual relationship between two people of the same sex with, well, sticking inanimate objects in one's ear:

"So because he was attracted to men and/or because he engaged in homosexual behavior, he should be honored with a special day? What if someone who announced that he likes to stick peeled bananas into his ear gets elected - should he get a special day, too? What's the difference?"

He has to genuinely ask what the difference is between banana-ear-poking and two guys having sex? I waver between helping Walrus out and even dignifying his asininity with a response. For, even a cursory examination of the two practices reveals a multitude of differences, the most important being that "homosexual behavior" generally occurs between two human beings and has been marked by society as a variation significant enough from the "heterosexual norm" to justify discrimination, violence, and oppression.

And, well, banana-ear-poking (he he, banana, get it, guys? Get. It?!), that has what to do with what, again? Maybe I missed this somewhere in my edjumacation, but has society had a strong historical contempt for and aversion against people who stick bananas in their ears? Have people who stick bananas in their ears faced widespread intolerance, stigmatization, discrimination, witch hunts, violence, and murder throughout history? And, despite that historical oppression, has an open banana-lovin' politician been elected in a banana-tolerant jurisdiction anyway?

The point of Harvey Milk Day is not to celebrate the fact that he fucked other men. The point is to acknowledge the reality that LGBT were, and are still, oppressed in some ways and thus, to recognize "the social contributions Harvey Milk made to our nation as a civil rights leader." The only person incapable of seeing Harvey Milk Day about anything other than his sex life is Playful Walrus, and other anti-gays, who apparently cannot think of homosexuality without becoming fixated on what two bananas dudes do together in bed.

So Walrus' "analogy," in short, is heterosupremacy in action. By equating the non-heterosexual orientation of homosexuality with sticking fruit in ears, he effectively centers heterosexuality and collapses all other behaviors and sexualities into one equivalent, aberrant blob.

Yet, one when combines Walrus' hetero supremacy with some of his other hetero supremacist statements like "We have somehow allowed a tiny minority to enshrine in law that a 'sexual'* act that does nothing tangible except spread disease and injure the participants is the equivalent to a sexual act that has perpetuated society for all of human existence and created almost every single one of us" with his statement that "there are even those of us who see nothing wrong with homosexual behavior....We are tolerant," we see a truly bizarre cognitive dissonance.

Walrus clearly does see many things "wrong" with "homosexual behavior," not the least of which that it "does nothing tangible except spread disease." Yet, perhaps fearing being called out as a homobigot, he backs up with his hands up and insists that he sees "nothing wrong with homosexual behavior" and that, incredibly, he is "tolerant."

I don't generally find it useful to suggest that anti-gays are bigots. I like to think that people mean well and approach the debate with an open-mind and a modicum of sincerity. Although, when people flippantly suggest that there is no difference between "homosexual" behavior and sticking a banana in one's ear while claiming to be tolerant, I think it is worth pointing out that maybe one's definition of "tolerance" deserves re-examining. I think that, oftentimes, homo-bigotry is an observable fact in reality no matter how much anti-gays insist that they love us, they really really love us.

Unfortunately, I also know that the quickest way to get our substantive arguments dismissed is to call out bigotry when we see it. Anti-gay individuals and organizations have a lot invested in believing that They Are Doing The Right thing. So, they re-frame reality and perpetuate the message that when other people call them bigots, they are being persecuted. And so, when some anti-gays read my above discussion of how gay sex is, actually, nothing at all like sticking a banana in one's ear, I suspect that all they see is "Bor, beven a bigoted bexamination of the two bigots beveals a bigittude of bifferences..." and so forth. Once the b-word is suggested, panic ensues!

So, I can only offer a suggestion. Those opposed to LGBT rights and who devote their online and/or professional presences to doing so, think about what you are saying. Chances are, if you're comparing a sexual relationship between two adults to sticking inanimate pieces of fruit in one's ear, maybe it's time to re-think your overall opinion of what homosexuality is. Think really really hard about why that could be considered asinine and construed as bigoted. And remember, being called a "bigot" isn't the point. The point is that your words, on top of being absurd, can also be hurtful. And that's something a decent, and logical, person would care about.

*I'm not sure why Walrus put scare-tastic quotes around "sexual" in reference to gay sex. If the implication is that gay sex is not Real Sex, my response is (a) then why does he spend so much time writing about something that is not real and (b) who died and made Walrus the Decider of what constitutes Real Sex.

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