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Peter Tatchell says homosexuality 'isn't natural'

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William Crawley | 23:01 UK time, Saturday, 5 July 2008

2006_0556.JPGWe'll be discussing Archbishop Alan Harper's comments about biblical hermeneutics and the theology of Richard Hooker on tomorrow's Sunday Sequence programme. Archbishop Harper has argued that his church will need to revise its traditional teaching about homosexuality if new scientific evidence reveals that homosexuality is a "natural" aspect of a person's identity. The primate does not explain what he means by "natural", but we may assume that he is referring to studies suggesting genetic, hormonal, brain-structural or other physical bases for homosexuality. Many gay campaigners will receive Alan Harper's comments as a progressive move towards the acceptance of same-sex relationships. But not all.

I am not aware of any direct response, as yet, to the archbishop's speech by the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell -- who, incidentally, will be visiting Belfast this month to deliver the Amnesty International Pride Lecture. But Peter Tatchell challenges both the claim that homosexuality is a 'lifestyle choice' ('[N]o one sits down one day and chooses to be gay (or straight). Sexual orientation is not a choice like choosing which biscuits to buy in a supermarket. We don't have free will concerning the determination of our sexual orientation.'), and the idea that homosexuality is only acceptable if it is shown to be (in some sense) 'natural'. Read his argument in this article.

Money quote:

'Despite obvious theoretical and empirical weaknesses, the claims that certain genes cause homosexuality have been seized upon and vigorously promoted by many in the lesbian and gay rights movement (especially in the US). The haste with which these unproven, questionable theories have been embraced suggests a terrible lack of self-confidence and a rather sad, desperate need to justify queer desire. It's almost as if those pushing these theories believe we don't deserve human rights unless we can prove that we are born gay and that our homosexuality is beyond our control: 'We can't help being fags and dykes, so please don't treat us badly.' This seems to be the pleading, defensive sub-text of much of the pro-gay gene thesis.'

'Surely we merit human rights because we are human beings? The cause of our homosexuality is irrelevant to our quest for justice. We are entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of whether we are born queer or made queer, and irrespective of whether our homosexuality is something beyond our control or something freely chosen.'


  • Comment number 1.

    Once again as is inevitably the case, the cleric gets it wrong. "... a rather desperate need to justify queer desire." Dead wrong. It is an attempt to explain behavior based on the limited real knowledge we have accumulated so far based on impartial investigation of the facts That's what science does. Unlike theology, it is subject to further investigation to strenghten, modify, or refute its assertions. Religious dogma is unyielding, purported as a timeless truth handed down from god. Religion does not debate, it stakes out a position and defends it against all assailants. For religion to debate is to entertain the possibility that it is in error, something religion by definition will not do. For to be in error in one area of its claimed intellectual monopoly on truth is to open up the possibility that it is in error on other areas, even all areas of what is truth. This is not an issue of human rights, we are talking about, it's the eternal battle of religious dogma against scientific facts resulting from rational investigation and logical deduction. We would not confer special human rights on pathological mass murderers even if we knew the biological reason behind their actions, we'd lock them away forever in institutions for the criminally insane to protect society or we would execute them to preclude any possible future murders they'd inevitably commit if they ever got free. This is a subversion of the real issue. There are far more serious questions at stake here than homosexuality such as did God create man in his own image or did man create god in his own image.

    BTW, if you believe in a rational universe ultimately one of cause and effect as I do (during my waking hours) then you conclude that you have no real choice of which biscuits in a supermarket to buy. That is also an illusion, the same delusion of free will the theologian clings to about homosexuality and sin out of his own desperation to defend the now virtually underfendable theology.

  • Comment number 2.

    It'd be interesting to gauge reactions to Thatchell's comments here. I actually agree with a lot of wht he says, but the implications are scary. What he is saying is not that the 5% or so of people who are born gay should be given all the help and support that they need as they come to terms with who they are, with who God or nature has made them. He is saying that a predisposition one way or the other can be overcome ... several times! He does not actually seem to consider switching from gay to hetrerosexual as an option (except in the interests of collecting. aother experience) . This is actually the tenor of a lot of talk from the gay lobby. They want to see themselves as constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing their sexual identities. And they seem to think, judging from Thatchell's comments, that the more that dynamic is going on, and the more people there are wh are doing it, the better. It is at this point that the discourse of the gay lobby, in so far as this is what they are saying, becomes deeply subversive of social cohesion. The main (or indeed only) reference point is myself, and whatever I want myself to be, and whoever I want to have sex with and however long I want the arrangement to last. There is no long-haul commitment to "the other" (of whichever sex- that's not the issue at the moment). My only commitment is to my "self" - that is to the "self" that I happen to want to be at any given time. This is the me-centred quicksand that certain members of the gay lobby (not all homosexuals!) want to plunge us into. The Christian church must not be so naive as to imagine that their agenda is all about helping people to be themselves as God made them. We must listen to the voices of those who insist (as even Peter Thatchell does, in fact) that this so-called natural predisposition can be challenged. If it is to be challenged, however, it should not be in the pursuit of an undetermined, open-ended and multi-variable sexual "identity", but in the interest of social cohesion and stability for the families that we are nurturing.

  • Comment number 3.

    When did Peter Tatchell become a cleric?

  • Comment number 4.

    About the same time Iris Robinson became a psychiatrist.

  • Comment number 5.

    How does a "open-ended, multi-variable sexual identity" threaten social cohesion?
    There are plenty of fuctioning families made up in any number of ways. 2 lesbian mothers, 2 gay dads, communal living - with any number of different adult role models, of whatever sexual persuasion.
    The stable family life of mum, dad and 2.4 kids doesn't always turn out particularly stable anyway.
    Each family (no matter how it is made up) is unique, and there is no reason to think that sexual preference, which is a private choice, should have any bearing on other areas of that persons life - e.g. suitability as a parent.

  • Comment number 6.

    When did unnatural human behaviour become a human rights issue.


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