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Normalcy based on perception

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, November 15, 2007

The vast majority of human beings are heterosexual. (Surprising, I know!) In fact, it is estimated that only three percent of the population are born homosexual. We are a minority, but we are not abnormal.

Normality is a funny thing. Social norms are constructed by society, and those who adhere most closely to those norms run society. They are created by those in power and are used to sustain their dominance. That leaves us with a whole bunch of white, upper class, heterosexual men telling women not to vote, telling blacks not to go to school, and telling homosexuals that they should “Go to Hell.” Homosexuality is uncommon. Rarity, however, does not imply that something is disordered.

Homosexuality is a product of natural forces, both biological and social. Variation is a normal part of the natural world. It is a natural, normal variation. The Church made it abnormal only through its teachings. What all this means is that homosexuality is as normal as heterosexuality. It’s just less common. The only reason people think homosexuality is bad is because society tells them it is. We call this social ideology “heteronormativity,” a word that refers to the marginalization and devaluing of the homosexual and homosocial experience. The Catholic Church reveals itself at a heteronormative institution when it perpetuates this myth that homosexuality is “deviant” and “disordered.” Heterosexuals are pretty much in charge of everything, in particular the government and the Church. (But, not MTV!) Heterosexuals shape, construct and define what is normal and “ordered.” The Catholic Church presupposes that the natural “order” of things is reproduction. They’re heteronormative. The Church ignores that three percent of the population was created in God’s image to have sex and fall in love with people of the same gender. Only if you ignore that many sexual practices are not intended for reproduction can you reduce the purpose of sexuality down to reproduction.

The heterosexual patriarchy of the Church ignores minorities and oppresses them through its construction of normality. If the Church was run by a bunch of gay men, then the natural “order” of things might have been Project Runway on Wednesdays and 80’s dance parties on Fridays. But, it wasn’t. So instead the natural “order” of our society is that women don’t get to be priests and that homosexuals are “disordered,” at least from the myopic perspective of an archaic, inflexible religious institution.

Dan Savage


Vassar College

Nov. 14