Montreal, June 15, 2008 • No 257




Gennady Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist and philosophical essayist, and is Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator. He lives in Chicago.




by Gennady Stolyarov II


          Here, I make an appeal to everyone on the political Right—which I will define below—to cease attacking homosexual individuals as immoral, obscene, vicious, flawed, self-destructive, or unnatural. Furthermore, while I denounce any governmental conferment of special privilege upon any group whatsoever, I also urge a cessation of all attempts to render homosexuals legally less protected in their basic individual rights than any other person.


          I make this appeal as a highly socially conservative heterosexual who has the utmost respect for the institution of marriage as traditionally defined. I have, too, in the past argued a comparatively moderate position in criticism of homosexuality. While I did not consider homosexuals evil or deserving of hatred or insults, I did believe that homosexual behaviors and their open manifestation were more harmful than restraint from such behaviors and manifestations. Thus, I urged homosexuals themselves to confine themselves to "the closet" or to actively resist whatever temptations they might have had. Also, while I never advocated anti-sodomy laws or legal restrictions on the rights of homosexuals, I did wish to keep the term "marriage" confined to a union between one man and one woman—while extending full civil unions to homosexual couples. These earlier positions of mine were expressed in "Homosexuality: A Chosen Harm" and "A Rational Defense of Marriage."

          I no longer hold the positions described above, and I believe that any future public blanket criticism of homosexuals—however well-intentioned such criticism might be—will do far more harm than good. Moreover, I urge the withdrawal of all objections to homosexual marriage or open manifestations of homosexual preferences—provided that those manifestations are done civilly and in accord with the same expectations of good taste as accompany manifestations of heterosexual preference.

          I address this essay to the political Right, broadly defined. The Right consists of all persons calling themselves Conservatives, Libertarians, Objectivists, Anarcho-Capitalists, Constitutionalists, Traditionalists, Federalists, or any combination of the above. Some of these individuals have already come to terms with the relatively recent open manifestations of homosexuality in Western societies. But many on the Right have yet to recognize that these open manifestations are a highly welcome development and will actually be conducive to the increased prevalence of moral behavior. I hope to outline here some of the arguments that helped me arrive at this conclusion.

Argument 1. Every homosexual is an individual and should be judged individually

          Most of us would agree that it would be absurd to judge or form even a semi-complete impression of a heterosexual person solely on the basis of his or her preferences and relationships in the sexual realm. There is far more to a person than sexual orientation—and most of a person's everyday public dealings, conversations, interests, and pursuits have nothing to do with sexuality. What is true of heterosexuals is equally true of homosexuals. By thinking of homosexuals simply in terms of what they do in their bedrooms—which we should not be thinking about anyway, out of respect for their privacy—we neglect to consider the individuality of each self-proclaimed homosexual. Many of these individuals may be highly intelligent, productive, and friendly; they might have values to offer us which we would gladly accept for their own sake—values that have nothing to do with what goes on in any bedroom in any part of the world. To reject productive exchanges of material, intellectual, and emotional values based on considerations that are tangential at most—such as sexuality—is self-destructive on the part of those undertaking such a rejection.

          Moreover, while the best evidence available to me suggests that certain homosexual practices pose a risk to individual health, this is also true of certain heterosexual practices—and the dangerous practices in question are performed by heterosexuals perhaps as often as they are performed by homosexuals. To condemn homosexuality per se on this basis is unwarranted, as such a condemnation would once again neglect the individuality of every homosexual. After all, each homosexual is a thinking, rational being who is capable of using his or her own discretion to determine which practices are risky and which are not and to choose practices that maximize his or her own expected longevity. I do not prescribe what those choices ought to be, as I simply do not know enough particulars of any given person's situation and do not care to intrude.

          But the assumption that every homosexual necessarily engages in self-destructive behavior neglects to consider the context of every individual homosexual's situation. Certainly, some homosexuals do behave in ways destructive of their own health—but so do many heterosexuals, and this is not to be taken as a criticism of all individuals with these sexual preferences. Just as it would be absurd to condemn all alcohol-drinkers just because some drink to the detriment of their health, so it would be incorrect to suggest that all homosexuals disregard their health and physical well-being. Responsible homosexuals are likely as prevalent among the homosexual population as are social drinkers among the alcohol-consuming population. It is the irresponsibility that needs to be discouraged, not the homosexuality or the consumption of alcohol. There are two ways to discourage irresponsibility. One is in the general philosophical sense—recognizing why irresponsibility as an abstract idea is undesirable in all cases where it exists. The other is a recognition of a specific instance of irresponsibility, as demonstrated by a specific individual's actions. Neither allows condemnation of a whole broad group of people or a whole class of behaviors without unambiguous evidence that all the behaviors condemned are in fact irresponsible. This is evidence that none of us may have—as it would involve knowledge of the details of every homosexual's personal life. Such knowledge would overwhelm even the greatest busybodies by its sheer volume.

          Thus, instead of judging people as homosexuals or heterosexuals, it is far more reasonable to judge them as individuals, based on all the publicly known dimensions of their lives. There are certainly some homosexuals who are highly unpleasant and even evil in their behaviors. But this is also true of some members of any group of individuals defined on a racial, cultural, ethnic, professional, philosophical, religious, or political basis. The fact that the world is peppered with bad people does not justify per se condemnation of homosexuality.

Argument 2. Most homosexual behaviors are non-coercive, and thus not a justified focus for the energies of right-wing reformers

          Most acts that two consenting adults perform in private do not harm any other person. What a homosexual couple does—even if it is somewhat damaging to the health of those involved—does not affect my health or your health in any way. There are indeed instances of immoral homosexual behavior, but they do not arise out of homosexuality as such. For example, a married man with children who abandons his family and neglects to support it in order to have a homosexual love affair is violating a promise he explicitly made to his family. He is thus guilty of dishonesty and a breach of contractual obligation, and he can be condemned on that ground. But if he were to abandon his family to have a heterosexual love affair, his vice would be no less for it. It is the abandonment, not the homosexuality, that is the issue here. If this man were romantically unattached and had no spouse or children, he could engage in any affairs he pleased without hurting any outside parties. If he were reckless, he might still hurt himself, but this is not the concern of anyone except those of his friends who deeply care for his welfare.

          From the perspective of outside parties—especially political activists on the Right—it would be absurd to expend tremendous energy on attempting to suppress a non-coercive behavior when many genuinely coercive behaviors abound. Governments keep getting bigger and attempt to suppress ever more economic and personal freedoms. When the government is stealing one's money by stealth via inflation, imposing burdensome taxes and regulations on every front, screening all passengers at airports—sometimes to the detriment of their dignity and always to the detriment of their convenience, and arresting six-year-old children, why should anyone expend one iota of resources on attacking individuals who harm no one in the choices they make? If those on the Right truly desire to meaningfully improve quality of life in the Western world, they should target the coercers first—be they actual violent criminals or the police-state governments that are emerging, often with the tacit consent of self-proclaimed "conservatives." Why worry about what other people do in their bedrooms, when some highly powerful, brutal, and militant people want to take away your liberty, your property, and—if they had the chance to do it—your life?

"Many on the Right have yet to recognize that relatively recent open manifestations of homosexuality in Western societies are a highly welcome development and will actually be conducive to the increased prevalence of moral behavior."

          Moreover, if many homosexual couples wish to call their relationship a "marriage" and to have it treated as such by law, those on the Right need to recognize that this it at best a semantic issue and not a case of genuine coercion against anybody—as anybody is still free to characterize any relationship using any words whatsoever. If one wanted to, one could call a homosexual union a "triggfljig," and no harm or penalty would result from it. Moreover, the existence of a legal class of homosexual marriages would not change the fact that homosexual marriages are different from heterosexual marriages just by the fact that different gender compositions are involved. The existence of homosexual marriages would not alter the nature of heterosexual marriages, nor would it render heterosexual marriages any less stable, respectable, or important. Besides, if "marriage" is used non-traditionally in legal documents, this would not make said documents any less readable or comprehensible than they already are.

Argument 3. Open homosexuality is safe, but repressed homosexuality is dangerous

          The public attacks against homosexuality by some on the Right will not likely convince many homosexuals to stop engaging in homosexual behaviors. Even the outright prohibition of alcohol consumption in the 1920s did not stop and likely increased actual consumption of alcohol. What can mere harsh criticism do, then, to stop the behaviors being criticized? Granted, the public attacks do have an effect, but that effect is often the opposite of the criticizing moralists' intentions.

          Instead of deterring homosexual behaviors, public attacks against them simply drive them underground and encourage them to be manifested in bizarre, perverse, and sinister ways. If homosexuals are deterred by the threat of public criticism from trying to find willing adult partners, some of them might try to express their desires nonetheless, but on individuals from whom they fear no physical or social retaliation—namely, children. Many a repressed homosexual has sought a position of power, influence, and respectability—seeming to his neighbors to be a person beyond reproach—and then capitalized on this to viciously abuse the most innocent human beings. Hence the 0.2 percent of Catholic priests who have sexually violated children. The children have insufficient physical strength to repel the vile pedophile, and if they were to complain of their treatment, their allegations against a spiritual leader and "model member of the community" would rarely be believed. If the pedophile Catholic priests were, earlier in their lives, socially permitted to openly communicate their homosexual desires to adults, they might have safely chosen different life paths, and horrendous tragedies would have been averted.

          Moreover, repressed homosexuals—in order to "prove" to the outside world that they are not homosexual—often get married, have children, and then betray their families in disgusting ways—disgusting, because adulterous, not because homosexual. A case in point is Ted Haggard—a prominent Protestant minister caught soliciting favors from a homosexual prostitute. Another is the deservedly well-publicized fall from grace of Idaho senator Larry Craig, a married man and opponent of gay rights, caught requesting homosexual favors in an airport bathroom. Not only did Craig commit a gross injustice against his family; he also deceived millions of voters by fundamentally misrepresenting his views—i.e., lying to them. I have nothing against homosexual ministers or senators—but only if they openly admit to being homosexual and do not thereby violate their promises or engage in deception. Both Ted Haggard and Larry Craig might have led perfectly respectable lives if they had admitted to being homosexual from the onset of their careers. If encouraging the repression of homosexuality leads to the violation of such a basic virtue as honesty, then surely such repression cannot be consistent with morality in any sense.

Argument 4. The societal legitimization of homosexuality will lead to stabler homosexual partnerships

          If homosexuality is associated by many today with serial relationships, rampant infidelity, perversity, and self-destructiveness, this is not because of any acts inherent in homosexuality per se. Rather, it is due to the precarious social status of homosexuality. Having no bulwark of permanence upon which they can rely—such as the institution of marriage—many homosexuals feel like a permanent, fulfilling relationship is not available to them. Therefore, they conclude out of desperation that they might as well behave recklessly, because this is the only way—they think—that they will be able to act on a preference so fundamental to their identity.

          I submit that monogamous, lifelong homosexual partnerships are possible—and I am personally aware of the existence of several of these. In such relationships, homosexuals can be just as physically safe, economically secure, and morally respectable as lifelong monogamous heterosexuals. But many—both on the Left and on the Right—fail to recognize that the primary advantages of marriage and family relationships of any sort are not romantic, sexual, or even emotional, but rather economic. A family provides the requisite substructure for leading everyday life in a secure, predictable manner. From that foundation, individuals can realize their own aspirations in other spheres of life, secure in the knowledge that their world will not fall out from under them—that they will not be thrown out to fall prey to the vicissitudes of social flux. The composition of a family matters less than its stability—a stability that often leads individuals to become happy with their place in the world, cease trying to "find themselves" through reckless experimentation, and get to work actually improving their lives in incremental but effective ways.

          When the option for homosexuals of forming a permanent, stable family is not fully open by law and discouraged by social pressures, is it any wonder that some of them turn to debauchery and go through a lot of failed relationships instead of looking carefully for one that works and making a commitment to work through all of its difficulties? Moreover, if their very identity as homosexuals is attacked, some of them may—in a spiteful backlash—mistakenly conceive of all the attributes of their attackers as undesirable. Since many critics of homosexuality do lead fulfilling lives and have stable lifelong relationships, many homosexuals mistakenly come to see those attributes as undesirable, simply because their critics exhibit them.

The Ennoblement of Homosexuality

          Instead of seeking to eradicate homosexuality—an impossible and counterproductive task—those on the Right truly concerned about increasing the prevalence of moral conduct ought to focus on cultivating a respectable homosexuality—with an emphasis on the high standards of fidelity, commitment, permanence, civility, level-headedness, and long-term thinking. Right-wing activists should encourage the emergence of stable homosexual families that might become bulwarks of morality, prudence, and economic support for their members—as many heterosexual families have been throughout history. Many homosexuals already behave in this manner and need less encouragement than some of the more reckless heterosexuals—examples of whom are too frequent to require special mention.

          In fact, the Right should welcome homosexuals into its ranks and seek to enable more of them to understand and support the principles of individual liberty, self-responsibility, limited government, reason, free markets, and technological progress. In doing so, we will gain valuable allies in the battle against compulsion—the true enemy of all good people in our time.