Opinion: Homosexuality Will Never Be Eliminated. How About Eliminating Homophobia?

by Neela Ghoshal

A report published in June by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in collaboration with the Uganda National Academy of Sciences, could help reshape understandings of human sexuality – if African policymakers take the time to consider the report’s findings.

A Ugandan transgender woman in a town near Kampala, shortly before she fled the country. She left to escape the police harassment and violence she experienced after the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

 

Contrary to widespread belief amongst African lawmakers and ordinary citizens, homosexuality is neither a Western import nor a matter of choice. These are some of the findings the panel of African scientists revealed after reviewing hundreds of studies on same-sex attraction.3

But some African politicians seem too busy fomenting panic around homosexuality to pay attention to the facts, by, for example, spreading false claims that U.S. President Barack Obama is pushing same-sex marriage on Kenya and Nigeria.

Desperate to distract voters from real, unresolved problems, such as poverty, insecurity and corruption, many African politicians like to raise the specter of homosexuality as a mortal danger. In the name of protecting society, “traditional values,” or children, they pass deeply discriminatory laws.

Nigeria, under former president Goodluck Jonathan, slapped 10-year prison sentences on anyone who even “indirectly” demonstrates a “same sex amorous relationship.” In Uganda, before its Anti-Homosexuality Act was struck down on procedural grounds last year, a landlord who didn’t evict a gay or lesbian tenant could have been convicted for maintaining a “brothel.”

For the proponents of these laws, Obama is the latest bogeyman, with one Kenyan politician suggesting that if Obama so much as mentions the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people during his upcoming visit to Kenya, this might tear Kenya’s “social fabric.”

But the panel of well-respected African scientists roundly dismissed claims that homosexuality is imported, finding the prevalence of homosexuality in African countries “no different from other countries in the rest of the world”.

The panel concurred with a previous a finding by Ugandan scientists that “homosexuality existed in Africa way before the coming of the white man.” When these Ugandan scientists presented their report to President Yoweri Museveni in early 2014, he shamelessly ignored their conclusions, claiming their report justified the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The recent report notes that same-sex relationships and diverse gender identities exist even where laws are most repressive, and levels of stigma are highest. Criminalising LGBT identities or same-sex conduct simply won’t make LGBT people disappear.

Likewise, an approach to sexuality and gender that is in line with international human rights law will not open the floodgates to waves of Africans “converting” to homosexuality. Indeed, countries like the Netherlands and Sweden, known to be particularly open to sexual diversity, have no higher rates of homosexuality than any other countries in the world.

The scientists find that “… studies such as this show that young people can be friends with LBGTI youngsters without fearing (or their parents fearing) that they will ‘catch’ same-sex attraction from their friends. Such ‘transmission’ of sexual orientation simply does not happen.”

Nor should policymakers worry that LGBT people are a threat to children. The fear that gays are recruiting and abusing children is often offered to justify cracking down on homosexuality. However, the panel found “no scientific evidence to support the view” that LGBT people are more likely to abuse children than anyone else.

Instead, the panel, having examined studies of child sexual abuse, concluded that “most of the perpetrators are heterosexual men.” Rather than scapegoating homosexuals, the report suggests, governments should identify and hold accountable the real child abusers.

When given an opportunity to speak for themselves, LGBT people often emphasise that they were aware of their sexual or gender identity from an early age. Similarly, heterosexual people often develop romantic feelings toward the opposite sex from early childhood—they don’t “choose” those feelings, nor can they change them.

In examining the scientific literature, the panel says that, “Overall, the surge in recent confirmatory studies,” including those of twins and of similarities in chromosomes across a population group with a particular trait, “have reached the stage where there is no longer any doubt about the existence of a substantial biological basis to sexual orientation.”

If sexuality has a biological basis, the scientists ask – and if there is no evidence that LGBT people “recruit” or otherwise harm children – what could possibly be the justification for punishing people for their sexual orientation or gender identity?

African policymakers should ask themselves the same. And rather than wringing their hands about a US court decision on marriage equality, or tearing their hair out over purely hypothetical comments that Obama may or may not make, they should look at the very real social harms caused by homophobia and transphobia.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights – which, like the South African and Ugandan scientists who produced the report, can hardly be dismissed as Western – passed a resolution in 2014 condemning widespread violence on the grounds of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The commissioners expressed “alarm” that “acts of violence, discrimination and other human rights violations continue to be committed on individuals in many parts of Africa because of their actual or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity.” They cited “‘corrective’ rape, physical assaults, torture, murder, arbitrary arrests, detentions, extra-judicial killings and executions, forced disappearances, extortion and blackmail.”

The commission calls on African countries to end all violence and abuse on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The ASSAf report goes a step further in concluding that “As variation in sexual identities and orientations has always been part of a normal society, there can be no justification for attempts to ‘eliminate’ LGBTI from society.”

As the study shows, same sex attraction and gender variance have always existed and nothing will change that, no matter how many repressive laws are passed, how many LGBT people are raped, murdered, imprisoned, expelled from schools or evicted from their homes.

Instead of trying to “eliminate” LGBT people, why not begin taking steps to eliminate violence and discrimination against them?

Complete Article HERE!

Glad to Be Gay: The Long Lost, Pro-LGBT Film From 1961

Glad to Be Gay—in 1961

by

The Rejected, a 1961 documentary, is an unexpectedly positive curio: a TV program that set out to understand homosexuality, rather than condemn it.

Margaret Mead looks deadpan into the camera.The renowned sociologist is describing a world full of homosexuals—tribes in Siberia, isolated cultures in the South Seas, and even American Indian populations stateside.Her point: homosexuality “is found in people at every level of culture” and “it’s society that says that this is either good or bad behavior.”

While this may be common knowledge today, it was a bold statement to announce to a nationwide audience in 1961 when Mead filmed the segment for The Rejected, the first gay-themed documentary to reach the masses.

The Rejected aired on San Francisco’s KQED network on September 11, 1961, revealing an intriguing support of the LGBT community. But the footage had never been found—until now.

Archivists Alex Cherian and Robert Chehoski, who spent some six years researching and tracking down the 60-minute footage, finally found this illuminating needle in a haystack and made it available to the public.

“After searching with nothing to show but second hand reports about the film, I was ready to give up,” Cherian, an archivist for the J. Paul Leonard Library at San Francisco State University, told The Daily Beast. “When we finally managed to release The Rejected online in 2015, it made all the frustration worthwhile.”

“It was very exciting,” Chehoski, an archivist for KQED, told The Daily Beast. “I kind of couldn’t believe it. It’s a huge part of our history and just shows what kind of incredible work KQED was doing back then.”

“Being able to view this film really humanized homosexuals to a mass audience, most of whom probably felt they had never met a gay person in their life.”

The Rejected portrays gays as being just like everyone else, an ideal that would be a no-brainer today but was far from the norm in 1961.

Today, support for the LGBT community is at an all-time high. After decades of fighting for equal rights, the U.S. Government may finally make same-sex marriage a constitutional right.

These accomplishments were all but unfathomable when The Rejected was made in 1961.

“The main take-away is that society needs to change rather than the homosexual, which I think was a very bold message for that period—and a very accurate one,” Bob Connelly, a professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at American University in Washington D.C., told The Daily Beast. That attitude makes the film “incredibly progressive for its time.”

The Rejected relies on psychiatrists, lawyers, religious officials, and advocates to dispel the shame surrounding homosexuality.

The documentary features psychiatrist Karl Bowman, who discusses the Kinsey scale of human sexuality to educate Americans about the pervasiveness of homosexuality.

The scale ranges from zero to six: zero being exclusively heterosexual and six being exclusively homosexual, with the general population falling somewhere in between.

Bowman cites Kinsey’s research that one in six males are more homosexual than heterosexual along with other figures from the era. “Four percent of all adult males being completely homosexual and having only homosexual activity,” Bowman says in The Rejected.

For what it’s worth, a recent study from Gallup also indicates four percent of Americans identify as LGBT.

Bowman further expounds on the nuances of homosexuality. “Eighteen percent are more homosexual than heterosexual in their experiences after adolescence, and 37 percent have had at least one homosexual leading to orgasm after adolescence,” he says.

Even more shocking for its time was Bowman’s assessment that anyone trying to spot a homosexual based on appearance alone would fail greatly. And they’re not always “treatable,” he says in The Rejected.

Bowman is not the only voice of psychiatry in the film.

A letter written by famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud to a mother seeking treatment for her gay son is read in The Rejected. In it, Freud debunks the stigma surrounding being gay: “Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. No vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexual.”

Legal issues associated with homosexuality were also discussed in The Rejected by San Francisco’s district attorney. Religious leaders, such as the Episcopal Bishop of San Francisco and a local rabbi, addressed homosexuality—both stating that sodomy laws should be repealed and that homosexuals should be treated with love, not hate.

Most importantly, the film included the voices of openly gay men: Hal Call, Donald Lucas, and Les Fisher, three officials from the Mattachine Society, one of the earliest gay rights organizations.

“There isn’t a lot of visual footage of homosexuals from the early 1960s and earlier, especially footage that is as positive as this is,” said Connelly, who used the transcript of the film for his gay and lesbian documentary course since 2001. “Being able to view this film really humanized homosexuals to a mass audience, most of whom probably felt they had never met a gay person in their life.”

Instead of being a sensationalized, salacious depiction of gay-lifestyles, like many discussions during this time, The Rejected takes a “very measured, candid, scientific, and unemotional” approach, according to Connelly.

Surprisingly enough, the public’s reaction was mostly positive.

“The widespread reaction was that it was so significant in discussing this topic openly and candidly to a wide audience for the first time,” Connelly said. “I’m sure there was some negative reaction, but what I came across was a lot of positive responses.”

According to The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV, Variety praised the film for its “matter-of-fact down-the-middle manner, covering it quite thoroughly and, for the most part, interestingly. The San Francisco Chronicle also applauded the television station for taking on “the most taboo of all subjects—homosexuality, the permanent underground.”

Most notably, 97 percent of letters received to the station were in favor of The Rejected, according to The Prime Time Closet.

“It’s not just the script or direction that opens our eyes to a bygone era, [but] the implicit cultural assumptions on-screen make us realize that times have changed dramatically and we have cause to expect a better tomorrow,” said Cherian.

The Rejected can be viewed in its entirety on the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive
Complete Article HERE!