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Stop justifying prejudice against homosexuals

Richard Friedman | Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Reading the Oct. 13 issue of The Observer, I found the letter from Cody Groeber to be incredibly upsetting. Not only was its portrayal of homosexuality wrong, but so were his views of how homosexuality is to be viewed politically and religiously. To begin, Groeber states the clich̩ phrase that as Catholics we must distinguish between the person and the act. He then uses this idea to contradict both Lance Gallop and The Princeton Review. Upon my last reading, however, I saw no mention of sexual acts in either. Gallop stressed an acceptance of the homosexual as a human Рthe person as whole. And he encouraged us to accept this person and the struggles they go through coming out by supporting them both on a personal basis and on a larger community-wide basis. No sexual acts happen with either of those things.

Similarly, The Princeton Review contains no implication of sex in the question “Is there little discrimination against homosexuals?” To look at that question and say that it is okay to say “yes” because morally we should not accept homosexual acts is to distort the question and merely attempt to justify a prejudiced response. If I asked if there is discrimination against Muslims at Notre Dame would it be justifiable to say “yes” because they may or may not follow many Catholic beliefs? I doubt anyone would say it is.

It seems to me that many heterosexual people seem to conceive homosexuals as being much more sexually active than others. However, I know of no direct correlation between sexuality and sexual acts. I realize that Groeber brought this up when he said that we all should struggle against this “hyper-sexualization” of society, but people never try and justify discrimination or intolerance of heterosexuals based on their sexual past.

Several bishops and others have tried to justify denying communion to homosexuals based on the reasoning that their sexual acts are a sin, but I have never yet heard of a proposal to screen out heterosexuals based on their sexual actions.

Perhaps the question goes down deeper, to a place people prefer not to go (as our President did when he skirted this question in the debate). Is homosexuality a choice? Do gay men choose to be attracted to men instead of women? Or is it some kind of disorder to be treated? I can state unequivocally that homosexuality is not a choice or a disorder. I never chose to be gay and neither did anyone else I know. In fact, the question itself is absurd – why would anyone choose a life of discrimination, hardship and pressure? Why would I choose to have to deal with questions about whether or not it is safe to hold my boyfriend’s hand in public instead of just having a girlfriend and never having to worry? Likewise, by definition a disorder must cause problems either for the person or society. As far as I know, most of the problems related to homosexuality are for the persons themselves – and these are caused by society’s reaction, not by homosexuality.

Many who speak publicly on this topic like to talk about having to walk a fine line between accepting people for who they are and going overboard and becoming activists or prey to the “gay agenda.” Unfortunately, however, this is a completely biased view. I’ve been gay for almost 24 years now and out and active both in my free time and in my studies of homosexuality for almost five and I have yet to find any evidence of this “gay agenda.” In fact, all I have found are confused and hurt people looking for acceptance and equality. None of the homosexuals I have met are looking for any special privileges, but rather are searching for someone to stop discrimination and finally put a policy of true acceptance and love for all of God’s creatures into practice.

By not doing so, all that is being accomplished is a policy of hate, injustice, and pain. How would you feel if you were suddenly told your eye color was unacceptable in today’s society? Or that because you and your partner have eyes of that color, you can not marry or see him as he is dying in the hospital? Few would accept that. Just as we have come to realize our past mistakes in our treatment of people of other races, ethnicities, religions and many other things, it is time for us to truly accept homosexual people.

Next time, instead of trying to justify prejudice with religious or political rhetoric look inside yourself and think of how you would want to be treated. If you were gay, would you want people telling you something is wrong with you? Or would you want them to accept you and to treat you as their equal and to leave your personal life, sexual choices and personal relationship with God to yourself? I think we would all chose the second.

Richard Friedman is a former Viewpoint columnist and occasionally writes guest columns. He can be contacted at rfriedma@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.