“I am no longer content to accept the crumbs from the table”
Ian Hunter, Australian gay politician, 2009
It is the conviction that the world around us can be understood with reason and our senses that revealed to us that all men are equal in their ability to use these two tools and that, therefore, they all equally deserve respect and the rights which were named, conclusively, human. Rights that should be ascribed to every person born, that shouldn’t necessitate legislative regulations to be consolidated, but only, with the most careful moral and legal judgement, be retracted when necessary. This rational view of the human experience, showcased by the Presocratics and the Sophists and revived during the Renaissance in Europe, was the idea that offered resistance to the theocratic view of the privileged authority of a messiah or a priest, who claimed abilities unique in their communities and an access to knowledge the rest did not have. Centuries later, today still, these same obscurantist voices try to counter the forces of progress; forces that have passed over Greece for a few decades.
The issue of homosexuality should be banal. And it is. At least for those of us who deem it obvious that the sexual orientation of our neighbors doesn’t intrude on our lives and, therefore, it’s not in our hands to reprehend them for the way they act or give them permission to practice rights we consider given. It’s as boring as it is unavoidable to get angry with the church’s contempt every time the issue of homosexuality enters the limelight.
The priests’ contempt is usually expressed in the so-called “unnatural” behavior of homosexuals –in the claim that not even the animals behave this way. Someone should inform these ‘naturists’ that almost one tenth of the mammals display homosexual behavior (8% of rams have long-term homosexual relationships) and that the hereditary origin of sexuality is something that you don’t discover gazing on your ceiling or reading a book written for uneducated shepherds of the year zero, but doing scientific research, which has already shown with relative precision the connection of such behavior with the human genome. But what would be the reason to blindly copy the processes we find in nature when we make decisions as individuals or as a polity? When Darwin presented his theory of evolution of the species he didn’t offer a manifesto on how we should procreate, but simply an explanation of the way by which humans came to their present form. It was the distorted practice of the so-called “social Darwinism” that led to the vulgarities of eugenics –an ideology based on the ‘survival of the fittest’ (a phrase that didn’t even originate from Darwin). The study of nature gives us only an explanation of how something happens, not instructions on what it is we must do. That remains on us to decide; firstly morally and secondarily politically.
We also hear misleading claims in the manner of “oral sex causes cancer” with which they want to convince us that they care about the health of the sinners. The fact that oral sex is not something that only homosexuals do (nor is it necessary in such a relationship nor is it impossible to be done safely) should be enough to illustrate that behind the scientific-like appearance, homophobia and hatred abide. They fail to understand that the sexual act is the least important part of the discussion. It is true, of course, that religions have an obsession with sex –especially monotheisms. But, as Hitchens said, homosexuality is not a different way to have sex; it is a different way to love.
This is why the meek smiles of modern priests and the gentleness of their apparent sympathy, when they utter little gems like “we love the sinner, hate the sin”, don’t convince anyone anymore except the most gullible religious ones or their ‘fellow travelers’ in hatred and prejudice. They forget that homosexuality is not something one does, but something one is, revealing the redundancy of the aforementioned phrase, since action and trait cannot be separated. Evident proofs of their hypocrisy are the funereal bell tolls of churches the days before the Greek parliament was to decide for the expansion of the civil partnership institution for gay couples, while the were left silent for the deaths of refugees, the signings of memorandums and the very many expressions of “overzealous attitudes” of the state -like the extreme case of the murder of the unarmed teenager Grigoropoulos- or of the parliamentary fascism -as in the case of the murder of Fyssas by their neo-Nazi comrades. The sounds of bells in these cases, was a showing of their power (which they have largely lost but reminisce with grim nostalgia), might have some kind of usefulness, or at least some emotional impact.
We also hear them raving that if we accept the homosexuals then we might as well accept bestiality or pedophilia. But homosexual relations concern consenting adults. Neither children nor animals. The defense of human rights is made on the basis of individual choice and personal responsibility, not the encroachment of the liberties of others. Therefore, one cannot lead to the other. The confusion between homosexuality and pedophilia belongs to ignorant minds that cannot understand that pedophilia is rape while homosexuality is, as said before, a way of loving. As for the ‘dangers’ children risk beside them, homosexuals have been raising children for millennia, they were just doing it while hiding their sexual identity, exactly because of the persecution they receive in not so open societies; which should belong in the past. And moreover, it’s been shown that children raised by parents of the same sex don’t fall short at all in physical or mental health in comparison to those raised by a man and a woman.
But let’s not pretend that it’s only the religiose that have homophobic minds. The Greek Communist Party (GCP) has repeatedly taken a clear stance against instituting gay rights, either with the fact that “they are not interested in the matter” (as their members inform us for years now) or by voting ‘no’ to the extension of the civil partnership to accommodate homosexuals. One of their arguments is that the state has the role of the lawgiver only concerning the instituting of a relationship that leads to childbearing. They would have to explain then why the state allows people who can’t or won’t make children marry and enjoy the tax reliefs and healthcare benefits, mongering the budget and the rights of the heterosexual proletarian family man.
According to the GCP’s rhetoric the civil partnership is unfair because it perpetuates the inequality that the marriage of heterosexual couples creates and extends it to the homosexuals! What inequality, you ask? The healthcare inequality caused by the fact that if a spouse is working and therefore has healthcare (in Greece you can’t have public healthcare if you are not employed) the other spouse, if unemployed, receives some healthcare benefits as a “protected member of the family”, instead of having healthcare in any case, even if unemployed and single. Unless this gross inequality is corrected, they say, any regulation that is made, not only is it not a solution towards equality of rights, but it is worsening the general position of those without healthcare. So, until all relevant issues are resolved (relevant, here, are all issues of human rights) it is hypocritical of the Greek society to pretend it cares for minorities… Moreover, the most important issues have to be solved first. E.g. the refugee problem, which entails people losing their lives, should be addressed before the ‘insignificant’ issue of the homosexual marriage.
Either because of homophobia or ideological fixation (where the ideological purity, for the GCP, becomes a reason to boast, whatever the cost) or because they are chasing votes from the now mostly old supporters of the Party who might dream the return of the dowry law, the GCP has lost the right to be called radical or progressive and has rightfully taken a place alongside the reactionary forces of an admittedly conservative society –next to the church, the far-right (who also voted ‘no’) and the superannuated generations of a mentality phobic to anything new.
Once more, the logic of “all or nothing” reveals the utopian character of the GCP’s thought, which is not willing to help one part of society to gain the recognition from the polity it deserves, with the rationale that there are more important problems at this moment –“is this what we should bother with right now?” Of course, to say that you will first deal with the most important issue of the day (who will decide which that is?) and then the secondary ones (only hatred, or maybe fear, might deem secondary an issue of human rights) means to never do anything. Because, if you expect the perfect solution to fix everything, it will never come; and you will lose the chance to help real people in need right now. It is true that homosexuals are not the only vulnerable social group and the victims of ridicule and oppression, as it is also true that it would be fair to have universal health care even for unmarried unemployed citizens, but the insistence to demand the correction of all the injustices and the claim that anything else is hypocritical or even counter-productive to this cause, rather creates the impression that the reason for refuting the measure is other than the stated. Why shouldn’t we solve a problem, however small, when we can?
Another thing was heard from members of the GCP; that the cohabitation pact opens the road to adoption by homosexual couples (another argument they share with the church). Let’s abandon any further argumentation on the issue of children grown by homosexuals for another time, and let’s consider their relevant objections as if they’re valid. It is again irrational to not vote something now because of something you think will happen in the future. The cohabitation pact does not include the right to adopt children, as has been concluded statedly by ministers of the government and legal experts. Besides, if the only objection to the pact was the issue of adoption (something that wasn’t even argued for in parliament), it’s like saying that they’re doing something wrong now simply for fear of it leading to something wrong later.
And one last thing. Ireland made a grave mistake when it decided the voting of a law to allow civil union for homosexuals with a referendum. The majority must never be given power to decide on the rights of a minority. Minority rights should be advanced through the parliamentary system. I imagine the Irish knew very well in advance the pulse of the society and by offering a referendum they obtained the public concession in order to pass a controversial law without anyone being able to condemn it with any sort of demand, since the people decided the law was fair. But they set a dangerous precedent for other countries, where homophobes and other reactionary elements could invoke the Ireland case to demand a referendum, knowing that this time the result would be the opposite (like Slovenia did).
But the fact that the majority of the citizens no more than a hundred years ago would disapprove of marriage between a white man and a black woman would not make the ban of mixed marriage fair. This majority of a hundred years ago still lives among us. Why ask them?