We live in a world where Daniel Zamudio, a 24-year-old, openly gay Chilean, gets beaten to death. A world, where dozens of countries still execute humans for their queer sexual identity and even in so-called ‘civilised counrties’ some people see homo-, inter-, and transsexuality as a disease.
The arbitrary moral convictions of this world, however, are not merely – or not at all – based on nature, but are socially and rationally constructed. So, when even top-ranking politicians like Mahmud Ahamedineschad proclaim that homosexuality is “against the human spirit and humanity”, we have to ask ourselves if there is any argument supporting this claim.
The argument from nature
An argument often made against queer sexual identities is that it is unnatural and therefore immoral. Firstly, defining what is natural seems to be difficult. Are bombs natural, or silicon breasts? One could circumvent this argument, by using Thomas Aquinas statement that sexual intercourse would be moral, if it aims at “natural” procreation.
Besides the fact that this obsolete argument would prohibit fellatio, protected sex, and intercourse for mere pleasure, it is an archaic religious argument, which is outmoded especially in modern, liberal and secular states.
Moreover, it seems to me intricate to define nature in a world where everything somehow originated from nature. Therefore, I would rather suggest that any act or invention ought to be in harmony with nature.
By the way, in a world where overpopulation is one of the acutest threats, nobody should worry that our human race will extinct due to ‘unnatural sex’. Secondly, for example, homosexuality may not serve procreation, but it is certainly not entirely unnatural.
Scientists are not completely sure about the origins of certain sexual identities, but many claim that sexual identities can be ingrained in our genes. Hence, it would be fallacious to reason that certain sexual identities are a mental disorder which should be cured or maybe even exorcised.
One can find plenty of species across this world who are not prone to have mental diseases and still have homosexual predilections. Our relative the Bonobo ape, for instance, spends the majority of his leisure time – pretty much his entire life – with carefree homo- and heterosexual copulation.
Even if it was true that homosexuality has a psychological origin, we should not forget that we are all creators and participants in this society, where these alleged mental disorders sprout. In this case, it would be hypocritical as well as self-destructive to stigmatise the outcome of this society instead of challenging the roots of the problem.
In addition, given that queer sexual identities are not a disease, it seems to be more harmful, even dangerous, to suppress someone’s intrinsic physical urges. Is it a coincidence that most suicide bombers come from a society where a lack of women due to polygamy created a frustrated, sexually unfulfilled stratum of young men?
Society is indeed the keyword here, since many scholars, such as Michel Foucault, have argued that societies along with their science, class relations, and convictions create their own sexual categories and differ in their approach to queer sexual identities.
The ancient Greeks, for example, never had a term or concept representing homo- or heterosexuality. Even Greek Gods, such as the promiscuous Zeus, were not always too choosy about the sex of their inamorata or beloved. No surprise that Alexander the Great, Zeno of Citium, and many others followed the voluptuous paragon in this aspect.
Another common argument against queer sexual identities arises when people see children involved. Some people believe that homosexuals have a bad influence on the sexuality of children, especially when they are raised by homosexuals. The truth is: there is no scientific evidence for that at all.
The argument for queer sexual identities
Would not every moral system argue that everybody should express his inclinations as long as it does not harm any other participant in this world in the short or long run, unless the participant gets harmed voluntarily?
It would not conflict John Stuart Mill’s philosophy of utilitarianism, which aims at the maximisation of happiness, preferably without being at the expense of someone else’s happiness. Neither would it contradict Immanuel Kants’s categorical imperative, since the maxim could be willed in every possible circumstance.
This approach could legitimise almost every sexual identity or penchant. Even sadomasochism could be defended, in contrast to pedophilia, which may involve the involuntary and damaging participation of someone else.
The last resort
The last resort to retort this argument is by referring to Joel Feinberg’s “offence principle”, which states that freedom of expression should also take psychological and indirect harm into consideration.
Certain sexual identities are causing psychological harm to other people, and the freedom of those sexual identities implies a drawback to the freedom of others, so the argument goes.
Although it is to a certain degree depending on the historical and social context, what is considered to be a psychological harm, the question arises whether this harm is rather caused through one’s own conservative condemnations.
The argument from the “offence principle” can merely be maintained, if there is any argument supporting psychological harm other than a resentment due to socially determined convictions or because of a superficial tradition of aversion. And this is, as I have written above, more than unlikely.
I wish this world would question history and society more intensely, so that there would be no more 24-year-old men getting beaten to death because of having a diverse sexual identity or whatsoever.
Or in Plutrch’s words: “the noble lover of beauty engages in love wherever he sees excellence and splendid natural endowment without regard for any difference in physiological detail.”