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Bill Roundy

December 1997

A DEFENSE OF THE UNNATURAL

"Hey, Jupiter -
nothing's been the same
so are you gay?
are you blue?
I thought we both could use
a friend to run to..."

-tori

So, was Jupiter gay? Of course not. He got it on with numerous members of both sexes, but reserved a special place for little Ganymede, the boy cup-bearer that he seized from Earth (the only one of Zeus's many, many lovers allowed to stay in Olympus, it's worth observing).

What does this have to do with anything? Well, stay with me for a little while...

Right-wingers have been heaping the abuse on homosexuals for a long time now; we're perverse, immoral, disgusting, but most of all: Unnatural. That's what they sling in our direction. Unnatural. Homosexuality is supposed to be an offense against nature and against God.

Gay rights activists have responded in predictable fashion: they deny the charges. We've got some pretty good evidence to back up our natural claim, too. Brain studies show a biological difference in the brains of gay men, there's evidence of a genetic link, and virtually every mammalian species shows some incidents of homosexuality. Hell, there's a pair of lesbian geese at the National Zoo in D.C.

BUT. This claim isn't winning us any friends. Sure, it helps in the civil rights arena, IF we can establish that homosexuality is not a choice and is biologically determined. But that's in the court. Biological evidence isn't going to change the minds of real people. Today in the Athens-Banner Herald, a letter to the Editor claimed that homosexuals should have no "special rights" because homosexuality is a cognitive choice, "like bestiality, pedophilia, and Nazism."

I'm not going to argue the point. I'll concede. Homosexuality IS unnatural. It violates our animal nature. So what? Who cares?

"Natural" does not equal "Good." Nature is hurricanes, mosquitoes, and random death from plague and predator. Our most natural instinct is anger; our most natural desire to fight. Greed, unthinking lust, and cowering in fear from the lightning are the most reflexive, basest parts of our nature. It is our *unnatural-ness* which makes us human. Everything which makes us special, that separates us from monkeys or dogs, comes from our ability to transcend our animal nature, to say NO to our instincts. To my friend at the Banner-Herald, I would admit that homosexuality is a "cognitive choice"...just like charity, beauty, and philosophy.

Air conditioning is unnatural. Hothouse flowers are unnatural. Good god, what the hell is POETRY if not unnatural? Why would any animal deliberately order its sounds in a manner which is aesthetically pleasing? It is not a natural instinct. The quest for beauty is a learned, unnatural, artificial construct. And it is what makes me human.

Homosexuality has almost never been regarded as "natural." It has always inspired a mix of religious awe, fear, and hatred. Zeus had dealings with boys. So did Apollo. Orpheus, after he failed to raise his wife from the Underworld, turned to boys for comfort. The Thracian women tore him apart because he wouldn't sleep with them, preferring dicks to fleshy females. These are *major* Deities and Heroes, primal archetypes in the human imagination. They have homoerotic overtones because homosexuality is central to our desire to leave the natural world. These oldest stories resonate with us because they deal with the most important of things. Heterosexuality explains nature: why does winter come? Because Hades seized his wife and forces her underground for six months of the year. Homosexuality explains the Gods: how do they stay immortal? They drink from the cup of Ganymede, male lover of Zeus.

The greatest shamans of the Americas combined male and female characteristics. Homosexuality was a sign that you were different, touched by the spirits. Being gay doesn't have to be Unnatural, it can be Supernatural, or it can transcend nature.

We're not giving into our primitive, preserve-the-species, go-forth-and-multiply" instincts. Instead, we seek something a little more sublime, seeking a reflection of ourselves in the body, and soul, of another.

If that's too cheesy and metaphysical for you (it sure is for me), how about this: Homosexuality might be unnatural, but that doesn't make it wrong. That doesn't make it a target for condemnation (condom nation?). Our ability to create, to learn about and change the world, is fundamentally unnatural. We weren't built to sit at computers and type. We evolved to hunt the plains, to war with neighboring tribes, and to be eaten by predators when we got old. We don't need that any more. We can leave our evolution behind, and create our own needs, fulfill our own desires, not just fulfill some "natural destiny" left by our animal forebears.

I like things that are unnatural. I like cars, and books, and air-conditioning, and dating other men. I paint my nails blue, green, purple -- all unnatural, and I get uncomfortable when I have to take the polish off and I'm stuck with these clear, fleshy things at my fingertips. The artificial just looks better. It's more decorative, and it's more relevant to my life than Nature can ever be.

Maybe I'm totally off my rocker. Maybe my sexuality has been biologically determined. But you know what? IT DOESN'T MATTER. It doesn't matter if homosexuality is a choice. It doesn't matter if it's genetic destiny. We should not be put down, shut up, or discriminated against for any reason. We should celebrate our difference, flaunt our loves, natural or not. Debating our "naturalness" isn't going to help.

That's all. Rebuttals? Comments? Questions? Fan-mail? send e-mail to roundywc@hotmail.com I'll try to respond.

-bill


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