A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Quiet Bane, the Adults Are Talking

Some people don't actually want to discuss anything, they simply want to provoke a reaction. On the 'net we call them Trolls. But it is untrue that trolls do not have opinions; some might pick fights anywhere they can, but most prefer to do so with those they see as their political or philosophical enemies. A case in point is the discussion about homosexuality and gay marriage we're still having over at Sondra's blog:

Bane writes:

Funny how the same folks that would happily see a baby's brains sucked out through a hose always whimper when a deviant gets taunted.

Now, reread my words, which I wrote to piss you off, and prove me wrong.

Pathetic, obvious trolling. I didn't respond to him and I hope no one else bothers to either. Remember that responses are food to trolls while the brush-off is poison. Poisoning trolls is fun, cheap, and requires absolutely no effort.

Now David Scott, on the other hand, writes:

Thing that bugs me is the whole - "Can't help it" statement. Other than some rather shoddy pop science that is endlessly repeated by the media and lobbyists (and, oddly enough, is listened to by people who normally would not believe those people for a moment), there's really not much evidence for this.

I know multiple people who "switched sides" over the years, and it's been common throughout history as well. I had this argument with someone just a few weeks ago, and two of the three people he named as Famous Historical Homosexuals (Socrates and Nobunga) were both married, and had children!

That being said, most of the woman's requests are pretty reasonable, and I really have no problem with them-Hell, I think hospital visits, estates, and whatnot should be designatable by the person, hence civil unions. I have no problem with civil unions, as long as they are freely available to everyone.

Of course, what this woman really wants is social approval for her son, which no amount of lawsuits will provide (though the brainwashing seems to be progressing nicely).

If you disagree, I strongly encourage you to actually try to research this, with the evidence both for, and against. You'll find some interesting tidbits-most of the research "proving" the existence of genetic inclinations towards homsexuality was shoddy, and sponsored with its result in mind for one thing, and homosexuality has been quietly, succesfully treated for decades for another.

If all you can say to that is 'Bigot!', then, well, you're not being the best champion for reason...

I disagree with David about quite a lot of this. But his post is both civil and thoughtful, so it elicits from me a civil and thoughtful response:

Let me start by saying that my knowledge of this subject does not come from one conversation or something I read, but from knowing many people of many different sexual persuasions for all of my adult life. On this subject I'm probably as close to being an expert as a straight man can get.

My experience with homosexual friends has been much different from yours, David. This is most likely because the people I was dealing with had no fear that I was judging them; on deeply personal subjects you will always get a much different answer from someone who truly trusts you. In any case, none of the gay people I've known could have been "cured" of their homosexuality. You might have been able to teach them to act straight, but it would only have been an act (and some homosexuals go through most of their lives doing this). I assure you that the "cured" individuals would have routinely carried on some level of homosexual activity ... it just would have been "in the closet". I furthermore assure you that the "cured" people you've known are doing something similar.

Secondly, most homosexuals are not 100% homosexual; they experience at least some attraction to the opposite sex as well as to their own. Many are actually bisexual, experiencing full attraction to both sexes but simply preferring their own for one reason or another (I knew one guy who said "I could have sex with women all day, but I could never fall in love with one - they're too complicated"). When you point to men like Socrates you aren't pointing to evidence that homosexuality can be cured, but only to evidence of bisexuality. You might be able to shame or manipulate such a bisexual into taking only opposite-sex partners, but an attraction to their own sex would always remain in their nature.

When speaking of Socrates it's also worth noting that Classical Greek culture was much different from American culture; homosexual relationships were normal for all men. The very toughest of such men - Spartan Hoplites - were raised from the age of seven with a cohort of fellow warriors who were also their lovers. For the Greeks, your wife was for managing the household and providing heirs. Romance usually happened with other men.

All of this is not nearly as important, though, as simply treating other people with the respect due to all human beings. Remember that you're only being asked to tolerate, not to agree with or to like. As David insinuates, "social acceptance" is too much to ask of some folks ... but all people have a right to civility, equal opportunity, and equal protection under the law. If you're an American who can't accept that than you live in the wrong country.

Finally, religious objections to homosexuality are something that I've never found convincing (and not just because I'm a Humanist). The bible dictates many laws that we ignore in modern society, including the right for fathers to sell their daughters into slavery (Exodus 21:7), the forbiddance of wearing clothing made from two kinds of cloth (Leviticus 19:19), and a whole laundry list of others. Why the white-knuckled clinging to the stricture against homosexually while dozens of other laws are simply tossed away without a second thought?

Methinks the religious right doth protest too much.

Conversations like this happen on the internet all the time, particularly in that region of it we call the blogosphere. My opinions have been changed by clear, reasonable arguments put forth in a civil manner. I have swayed the opinions of others by doing likewise. But never have I seen trolling or nasty personal attacks win over an opponent. Insults are the final refuge of the defeated.

We all have something to learn here, and the world is definitely being made more free by the explosion of information and opinion the internet provides. But remember to be civil.

And also to poison trolls wherever you find them.