There was a furore a couple of weeks ago because (according to what I read) an advertising company, Adshel, took down advertisements that sponsored safe sex between homosexual men. The pictures featured a real life couple in a half-embrace, with one of the men holding a condom.

As a result of the uproar, the ad was re-placed.

What interested me most was the use of the word “homophobic” to describe any person who denies that homosexuality should be considered a valid lifestyle choice [1]. One pertinent page on Facebook was titled: “Homophobia – NOT HERE – Adshel caves to homophobic pressure.” (Note the use of the word “caves”; draw what inference you will about its connection to Adshel’s courage and the nature of the pressure.)

The title appeals to the emotions: the word “homophobic” is not innocuous; it is pejorative, implying that the subject is ignorant, closed-minded, and hateful: a bigot. Human nature is fascinating yet often nauseating: thirty years ago, the people who called for toleration of homosexuality were a minority. They were attacked but to the credit of their courage, persevered. Now the opposite is true: those who say that homosexuality is not beneficial for individuals or for society – even if they don’t go so far as to say that homosexuality is wrong – are insulted by the very people who previously called for toleration. This is human nature: when we’re in the majority, we feel safe enough to ignore or reject those in the minority.

Attacking a person because they are different creates only enmity.

Bona fide tolerance only develops through mutual respect of every person, even if we think the other’s opinions are wrong. For example, I believe that the chap who egregiously denies that the WWII Holocaust happened – David ..? – is completely wrong – but insulting him won’t change his beliefs: maybe nothing will. Tolerance does not mean we accept another person’s beliefs as true; only that we accept their freedom to hold those views.

In any case, we can never change someone’s opinion through force, coercion or abuse: we can merely silence them; and that temporarily. A person will only truly change from the inside out: their beliefs have to change, which means they have to think about it, assuming their will or pride doesn’t stop them, and only mutual respect can be the basis for a rational debate. If we insult someone we’ve neither won the argument nor the person. All we’ve done is shown that we are intolerant: their opinions are different from what “everyone knows”, so they must be stupid or sociopaths, and aren’t to be treated as we’d want to be treated.

Invective such as “homophobia” creates a picture of the person as an object, an enemy; not as a fellow human being. It is the lowest form of argument; the ad hominem – attack the person, and the problem or the objection they raise will seem as ridiculous as they are. But we haven’t dealt with their objection, and facts don’t change: they are true no matter who affirms or rejects them [2].

Labels are handy for food and medicine; for items in tins. Not for people. Don’t call me gay, or schizophrenic, or an engineer. These labels do not – should not – define us. We are more than our sexual orientation, our mental health or our job. We all are humans with our own individual beliefs, desires, fears, and hopes.

By tarring people with labels, we create stereotypes. In the book Flash for Freedom, one of the characters said about a person who had misunderstood him, “He was a man of principle and conscience. His only fault lay in his inability to perceive that I have both commodities also but I don’t allow them to blind me to reason, I hope.”

I don’t recall who said, “We find comfort among those who agree with us; growth among those who don’t”; however, they are correct.

By the way, to those who think I’m attacking people with a homosexual orientation, this post is about how all of us have the capacity to mistreat others. Moreover, I’ll say what I’ve said before: I’d rather be homosexual than proud.

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Endnotes

1. “Valid”, in the context used by supporters of homosexuality, means worthy of public support and endorsement, rather than correct, accurate, or appropriate, the context in which science uses the word.

It would also be worthwhile to ask, do people who say that homosexual orientation is genetic or neurological also say that a homosexual lifestyle is a choice? The two aren’t mutually exclusive: a person can have a genetic predisposition toward a personality type, which means some people will be by nature reserved or outgoing, dominant or submissive, energetic or phlegmatic, cheerful or solemn, loud or quiet, curious or laissez-faire. None of these is wrong, but any natural trait can become a positive or negative characteristic: a dominant, self-confident child can become domineering and arrogant; or a relaxed, phlegmatic child can become lazy or careless.

2. Have you ever noticed that the verbal attacks are formulaic and stereotyped? For instance, “self-righteous bigot” usually used of a person with a religious belief; “high-powered rifles” used against those in favour of killing animals, even for conservation purposes (such as a superabundance of kangaroos). By parroting these formulaic pejoratives the speaker shows that they may have absorbed too much of the beliefs of others; either that, or their forté isn’t inventing invective.

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