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Giving gay thanks

November 2008


Presumably well-intentioned advocates will often argue on behalf of pro-gay policies or legislation by using the argument that it is unfair to discriminate against gay people because “they can’t help it, they were born that way.” Indeed, some explicitly assert that given society’s pervasive anti-gay attitudes, “nobody in their right mind would chose to be gay.”


Positing that a homosexual preference is akin to a regrettable birth defect may sometimes be effective at evoking pity and providing legislators and policy makers with the political cover that allows them to take a “pro-gay” position. It is thus sometimes tempting to play up our status as hapless victims.


But anyone who suggests that being gay is truly pitiable misses the fundamental lesson of gay liberation: it is society’s anti-gay attitude — not homosexuality — that is lamentable.


This Thanksgiving season provides us with an opportunity to reject the role of victim and reflect on the many reasons to give thanks that we are gay.


First, embracing our gayness allows better access to gay sex. Perhaps this seems an obvious point, but many men and women still live in terror of acting upon their homosexual feelings. One sex worker acquaintance of mine reports that the majority of his business comes from middle-aged men trying homosex for the very first time; they’ve long wanted to, and no doubt fantasized about it endlessly, but fear and internalized anti-gay feelings have stunted their sex lives. Those of us who’ve managed to conquer and reject the anti-gay messages we receive all our lives — perhaps now often less brutal, but no less pervasive — can be thankful that we are rewarded with access to a more fulfilling sex life.


Second, by living outside society’s sexual mainstream, we win a revealing perspective on the foibles and failures of traditional sexual values. While fewer heterosexuals proclaim the wife/woman to be the literal sexual property of the husband/man, sexual possessiveness and jealousy are still, shockingly, promoted as positive values. OJ Simpson can ask, with a straight face, “If I did kill her [wife Nicole Brown], doesn’t that prove how much I loved her?”


Less dramatic, but still as misguided, is the chatter on television talk shows, wherein sexual non-exclusivity by one member of a couple is unquestioningly equated with betrayal. Such attitudes inherently breed resentment, as one’s partner becomes seen as an impediment to a more adventurous sex life; indeed, many husbands can, and do, rudely refer to their wives as “the old ball and chain.” What a dreadful metaphor for a relationship! Spouses who truly love one another will encourage each other to seek out and enjoy the sex each wants, whether it be as a couple, or with others. As gay people, we can be thankful that we’ve got a heads up on recognizing that jealousy and possessiveness signal not love’s presence, but rather love’s absence.


And finally, by learning to trust and value our own judgments and selves in the face of an often disapproving world, we gain insight into all sorts of ways society creates and maintains destructive lies and distortions. By embracing that which we were taught to despise, and finding it to be good, we can learn to question those clerics or doctors or politicians who proclaim that gay sex is wicked or sick or dangerous. Our homosexuality has the potential to give us a healthy, heightened skepticism about all sorts of fear mongering, a particularly useful perspective is these increasingly authoritarian times.


As we sit down to turkey and pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, let’s dedicate ourselves to renouncing the tactic of playing victim and instead proclaim to the world the many reasons we can give thanks for being gay.


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