Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gay is the New Left Handed

So roughly 10% of people are left-handed. Maybe less, depending on who you ask. And in centuries gone by, it was generally decided that left-handedness was a sign of evil. People quoted scripture to "prove" that God didn't approve of people eating and writing with their left hands. Therefore, good Christian parents and schoolteachers took it upon themselves to stifle any tendencies in their children towards left-handedness. This included tying their left arms to their sides or behind their back, to force them to use their right hands. In the 1600's, when witch trials were prevalent, lefties were often accused of witchcraft (and convicted, and executed) for no other reason than their dominant hand.

In the Bible, Matthew Chapter 25 sees Jesus telling about Judgement Day, when God separates the nations into two group: the "sheep", who go to heaven for their goodness, are gathered on God's right side. The "goats", those doomed to Hell, get to gather on God's left side. The implication was clear. Left=Devil, right=God. Therefore, lefties were evil.

Even today, there are subtle reminders in our languages of the generally negative view held on left-handedness. "Gauche", a term generally understood to mean tacky or inappropriate, is literally the French word for "left". Sinister also literally means left-handed. Say the right thing, but in the wrong way? That would be an example of a "left-handed compliment". Bad dancer? You must have... say it with me... two left feet.

And so it goes. It makes a certain amount of sense, sociologically speaking. Lefties are the minority. Anthropologically speaking, the majority in any society gangs up on the minority and demonizes them. Sometimes they use religion as an justification, sometimes they use more practical and mundane reasoning to ostracize these heretical creatures.

We saw examples of this "us versus them" mentality in race relations, as "minorities" were grouped together to mean anyone non-white. Ironically, if you group all those non-white people into one group, they actually make up the majority in many cases. But to outnumber a group, throughout history, is to claim not only superiority in numbers, but moral superiority as well. "Our way of life" gets threatened any time a minority group rises up and demands equal footing. We saw in the 1950's and 60's, as civil rights became an issue, white people (the majority) fret over their way of life being in jeopardy as the minority (non-whites) began to insist on losing their second-class status. White leaders railed against this threat to the status quo, warning all that to allow blacks and whites to intermingle unchecked would bring about the ruin of civilized society. Forty years later, in lieu of the aforementioned Apocalypse, it must be admitted that allowed equality among the races was not the undoing we were warned it would be.

In 1997 it was discovered once and for all that left-handedness is a genetic trait. They mapped it in DNA, and this is significant because it established once and for all that left-handedness was not some scheme cooked up by evil people. It was not a subtle sign to other evil doers. It was a predisposition - a tendency from birth to favor the left hand and foot. In lefties, there was a natural grace and skill demonstrated on the left side that the right could not match. Pretty much exactly the same as everyone else, only reversed.

Left-handedness was not contagious. It was not a flaw. It was not to be discouraged in children. It was not harmful to others. It didn't make one less religious, less honest, less wholesome. There was simply no downside to being left-handed, other than managing to successfully maneuver in a right-handed world.

I know, I know: so what, right? What does ANY of this have to do with the gay thing? We're not talking about something as innocuous as how you sign your name here, are we?

Are we?

Let me ask you this: if you have gay and lesbian friends, family or co-workers, what part of their lifestyle has been forced onto you? Have they made you watch them having sex? Probably not. What about lurid tales of their bedroom escapades - have they forced you to listen to those? I doubt it. Have you ever seen a homosexual passing out literature on the glories of sodomy at the local grade school? I think not. So if they haven't forced you to watch them actually practicing their homosexuality, they haven't forced you to listen to them describe it, and they haven't tried to indoctrinate your kids, how has their sexuality impacted you?

Simple answer: it hasn't. Other than the you knowing they're gay, you have nothing to go on. The "Gay Agenda", as far as I can tell, consists of much the same stuff the Straight Agenda does: Get up, go to work, pay your bills, spend time with friends and loved ones, try to be happy. Lather, rinse, repeat. I know they aren't planning world domination. They're way too outnumbered. And just to revisit the "gays around your kids" thing... did anyone NOT have a gay teacher at some point? Maybe they didn't announce it ("Attention class, I am a practicing homosexual, and if you'd like to know more, I have an array of colorful pamphlets to fill you in"), but you just knew. The stereotyped lesbian gym teacher, the sensitive and perhaps even effeminate male English teacher or drama coach... we all had some exposure to homosexuality in our childhoods. Before we became sexually aware ourselves, the fact that someone was gay was probably a non-issue. We didn't understand it, we didn't care. We heard things and people called "gay" by our classmates to indicate they were bad. By the time we actually understood what "gay" really meant, we had associated so much negativity with it, that it was hard to be objective when dealing with actual homosexuals - people who not only admitted being "gay" but seemed to be proud of it. Add to all that some Bible verses that make God seem displeased with gays, and you've got all the makings for a good old-fashioned torches and pitchforks mob.

And that's what we got with Proposition 8. Prop 8 amends the California State Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. No doubt the courts will chew this up and spit it out like so much bubble gum. It's a blatant attempt to single out the gays from having the right to marry. The opponents of gay marriage say that they're "defending" traditional marriage. I'm sorry, but you force me to call bullshit on this one. Traditional marriage? Does that mean I'm legally allowed to beat my wife now? Traditionally, that was the deal. What about divorce? In the traditional context of marriage, divorce was not just frowned upon, it was illegal. And yet there was no mention of abolishing divorce from the "traditional marriage" crowd.

Then they tried to scare us with the best possible weapon, and it worked: kids. If Prop 8 fails, and gay marriages continue, we were told, kids will be forced to learn about/accept/go to gay weddings. All your wholesome upbringing as parents will be undone. Teachers will be teaching your little Johnny and Mary all about the wonders of sodomy, complete with full color slide shows. All this is rubbish of course. But just like the makers of "Poltergeist" and "The Exorcist", the anti-gay marriage crowd knew that the quickest and easiest way to freak people out was to put some innocent kid in jeopardy. So they cooked up some fantasy scenario where your kid gets systematically corrupted, indoctrinated with "gay is good, gay is normal, gay is fine", until they run home from school and proudly announce "Mommy, Daddy, I'm GAY!" To the parent who feared such a scenario, I say relax: that won't happen until the second year of college.

So gays today are pretty much the lefties of a century ago: outcasts, demonized, a threat to your wholesome Christian world. I wonder, when we finally isolate the DNA nugget that determines sexual preference, will we then finally let it go? Or will we then seek out a new minority to demonize? I suspect the latter. But until then, we always have Massachusetts. Interesting to me, that Massachusetts was in many ways the birthplace of our nation's freedom. In Lexington and Concord, colonists took up arms against British soldiers - representatives of what was at the time the most powerful empire on the planet. These colonists had no military training. What they had was a belly full of being pushed around. In Boston Harbor, other colonists let it be known that they had had enough as well. Massachusetts has a history of taking a stand against tyranny, and it is fitting that this state, if no other, represents the vocal minority demanding that gay marriage be legal. I suspect that after a few years of gay marriages squeaking through, we will finally realize that married gay people in America is not the sign of its undoing, any more than desegregation was in the 1960's.

The majority throughout our history had threatened us with doom whenever the status quo is upset. Society, they would have us believe, is a house of cards, ready to collapse at a moment's notice. We must therefore tread carefully, loathe to upset the delicate balance. But from the abolition of slavery through women's suffrage, on through McCarthyism and the civil rights movement, we have seen our status quo adjust itself to society's revelations. We have, over the past two centuries, evolved from a nation where only white male land owners had a voice to one of remarkable equality. And while we are certainly not perfect, and while injustice still rears its ugly head, we have refined our understanding of what freedom really means.

There will be gay marriage. All that Prop 8 did was delay it. It is a temper tantrum thrown by those scared of change. Some people will never accept gay marriage, any more than they accept interracial marriage. But the laws of the land insist on freedom for all, and even if it takes a few more years. Massachusetts will serve as it has in the past, as a voice crying out for change in the wilderness. And as state after state takes up the battle cry, we will once again emerge from the cocoon of our own fear and ignorance to blossom into a more perfect union.


NLDavis said...

I anxiously await the day when the DNA variation that determines sexual orientation is isolated so that it is proven once and for all that being gay is not a choice, unnatural, wrong or something that can be changed. Unfortunately, as you pointed out, that will just lead to another minority group being demonized and discriminated against. It makes me so sad that despite all the problems facing the country and the world today, people dedicate more time to singling out others and trying to impose good ole' Christian family values on everyone than to stamping out hunger, poverty and pollution.

YodaSD said...

Nice post - and I agree 100%. As an ambi-leftie who writes with his left hand but throws with his right, I've always thought the spread in handed (righty, ambi, lefty) behavior and gay behavior (straight, bi, gay) was striking.

I do take minor issue with one thing you say though. From what I've seen and read, both gayness and being left handed are likely to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People occasionally get freaked out by the phrase "environmental factors" because it sounds like it's a choice made after you're born. It's not - these environmental factors are hormone levels in the womb, stuff like that. My ill-informed guess is that that's why there's such a spread in behavior - it's a recipe not a switch.

In other words, it might be partly caused by your dad, probably more likely caused by your mom in some way, but it ain't down to you, and it ain't wrong or somehow sinister.

Anonymous said...

At last a discussion and forum on this subject...I have been reading around this for years and i think that YodaSD is right to relate handedness to orientation through 'environmental' factors, but i am very much of the 'born that way' school of thought, as I will explain below:

I conclude that left handedness, footedness etc., (just like sexual preference), is clearly not in simplistic terms 'genetic' (from identical twin studies) but both conditions reflect neurological changes caused by placental hormone levels/balance [testosterone being the main one seen to have wide ranging effects - hence the variance in the rate of female homosexuality and high correlation of lesbian left handedness; other variants are seen in terms of sporting ability, sexual preference, even 'handedness' or 'brain structure' as I would call it... all as a result of some as yet completly undefined chemical effect from amniotic fluid or foetal blood supply that physically affects the actual foetal brain structure to varying degrees of, in simple terms, female or male traits.

This theory has yet to be proven but is a logical conlusion if one considers the sum of the studies undertaken (identical twins, pattern of homosexulaity amongst brothers, etc, etc, etc.).

This subject should be given greater public awareness by the scientific world in the form of introductory documentaries to help prepare the public, religious establishment and entrenched media in the hope of removing ill-informed superstitious prejudice; the same that used to affect left handers all those years ago.

This is another example of ignorance, and ancient religion, holding long estblished inaccurate, non-scientific views about the humn condition.

Science has always had to be cautious in demonstrating beyond doubt that a theory holds true but just as tested example and logic both bear out 'evolution' the subject of external "hormonal et al" factors should be seen as a further method of variation. Although this can be seen in action, much is unknown about how, though I am in no doubt there are sure biogical evolutionary reasons why this process occurs. It is seen in efffect in studies of left hsndedness and birth rate increases of the condition in times of violent war in studied African tribes; the reasons and potential for stress during pregnancy to affect hormonal levels in the foetus needs to be studied.

Pre-natal hormone effects must also be examined with more focus and a realisation of a possible impact on a more complex evolutionary 'nature and a pre-nurture external influence' process (e.g. why does rhness dominate, leading to why ancestors/apes have less left to right side handedness variation re: tool use, language etc), and its effect on the growing understanding of evolutionary psychology.

Finally, the external affects of hormones on the developing foetus should be obsrved and studied more amongst all higher mammal species...especially where handedness and homosexual traits are commonplace. I believe such effects in animals will reaffirm much of the variation shown in human brain structure.

This subject must not remain the domain of the pseudo science - a past of flawed 'psychiatry' and 'electro shock therapy' in the hold of early human religion and evolving sexual morality. Religion itself I would argue is constantly evolving and will have to in order to have any relevance in light of the problems facing mankind (the environment, need for increased population/birth control etc).

I am sure that some in the gay community will not like my notion that 'gayness' in all its forms, as a naturally occuring variant - one with certain biological reproductive restictions that reduce its occurence on the basis that DNA primarily functions to reproduce itself.

A more serious and likely moral dilemma lies I would suggest, not in the treatment of a decent gay person (though I fear this possibility in terms of parental choice in the future) but instead the treatment of an individual whose brain configuration makes them prone to sexual or violent behaviour - universally condemned. There is no doubt that in the future there will be the ability of the state to treat such 'variant defects' and unfortunately perhaps 'others' (for better or for worse!) at birth, just as some parents are already trying to select the sex of a child, perhaps then too with further ignorant prejudice, parents will play god their child's sexuality.

Chemical sterilisation re: sex drive of so called sex offenders, as an example, makes society's choices over control of minority groups so much more of a debating point.

I hope to exploit all these moral questions in a novel - hopefully one I will publish before some of these predicted changes to our understanding of human variation, the brain (L v R etc) and its orientation are known.

Just like the ocean or outer space, this is a major area in need of exploration.... too the protection of the planet from ourselves!

Hunger, poverty, pollution, the age old ills added to which we now face global warming and mass species extinction...I would hate to see Revelations proved right but 'logically' it is looking that way!

Keep up the debate to educate the masses.

Paul Rogers - Environmental Health Officer - UK