We are all equal, straight or gay

Date: November 17, 2009
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With the new law, South Africa joined the elite group of progressive democracies legalising same-sex marriage: the Netherlands, which passed the law in 2001, Belgium (2003), Canada (2005) and Spain (2005).
So why then do people like Rhema International Church Pastor Ray McCauley, and many others like him in the country, still oppose to gay relationships?
Conservatism as a political movement and a way of life, needs to come to grips with the reality of gay relationships in precisely the same way it came to grips with its errors regarding to racial segregation: own up to its mistake, and simply expand its moral boundaries to include gays and gay marriage.
Most older conservatives now acknowledge that they once erred in “keeping blacks in their place.” They should make the same acknowledgement for gays and their right to marry, and live happy, open and contented lives in each other’s arms, without fear or discrimination.
There are those who want to prove that homosexuality is a “deviant lifestyleÀ and are anxious to show that the rights demands are lopsided to the number of demanders, as though the right to fair treatment depended on a head count.
More than half of all people in South Africa oppose gays, even though three-fourths are otherwise supportive of gay rights in theory. Why all the passion and confusion?
There is a lot of misunderstanding about homosexuality, as well as flawed assumptions that gay people enjoy the same civil rights protections as everyone else. There are also many stereotypes about gay relationships.
The stereotype has it that gays are promiscuous, unable to form lasting relationships, and the relationships that do form are shallow and uncommitted. However, just like in straight society, where such casual relationships also exist, they are a small minority, existing primarily among the young. Indeed, one of the most frequent complaints of older gay men is that it is almost impossible to find quality single men to get into a relationship with, because they’re already all “taken”!
If you attend any gay event, such as a Gay Pride festival, you will find this to be true. As gays age and mature, just like their straight cohorts, they begin to appreciate and find their way into long-term committed relationships.
The values that such gay couples exhibit in their daily lives are often impossible to differentiate from those of their straight neighbours. They’re loyal to their mates, are monogamous, and devoted partners. They value and participate in family life, are committed to making their neighbourhoods and communities safer and better places to live, and honour and abide by the law.
Many make valuable contributions to their communities, serving on school boards, volunteering in community charities, and trying to be good citizens. In doing so, they take full advantage of their relationship to make not only their own lives better, but those of their neighbours as well.
So, having established the value of gay marriage, why are people so opposed to it? Many people actually believe that gays could simply choose to be heterosexual if they wished. However, the reality is that very few have a choice – any more than very few heterosexuals could choose which sex to find themselves attracted to.
Additionally, many people continue to believe right-wing religious propaganda that homosexuality is about nothing but sex, considering it to be merely a sexual misrepresentation. In reality, homosexuality is multidimensional, and is much more about love and affection. And this is what gay relationships are based on – mutual attraction, love and affection.
Sex, in a committed gay relationship, is a means of expressing that love, just the same as it is for heterosexuals. Being gay is much more profound than simply a sexual relationship; being gay is part of that person’s core identity, and goes right the very centre of his being. It’s like being black in a society of whites, or a blonde European in a nation of black-haired Asians. Yes, being gay is just that profound to the person who is. This is something that few heterosexuals can understand unless they are part of a minority themselves.
One of the most transformative social movements over our lifetime has been the battle for gay rights. The key to its great success has been the grass-roots phenomenon of exploding stereotypes by simply saying, “Yes, I am.” Each time the woman at the next desk or the guy down the street lets it be known that he or she is gay; it takes another brick out of the wall of division.
I have heard many say that things like “Marriage is a sacred institution,À “making love to another man betrays everything that is masculine,À  “the thought of gay sex is repulsive,À and “they might recruit.À
The idea that marriage is a sacred institution assumes that the state has the responsibility to “sanctify” marriages – a fundamentally religious idea. Here we’re dealing with people trying to enforce their religious doctrines on someone else, but by doing it through weakening the separation of church and state, by undermining the Bill of Rights. Not that there’s anything new about this, of course.
However, the attempt itself runs against the grain of everything – one does not truly have freedom of religion if one does not have the right to freedom from religion as well. It would seem to me that anyone who feels that the sanctity of their marriage is threatened by a gay couple down the street having the right to marry is mighty insecure about their religion and their marriage anyway.
“Making love to another man betrays everything that is masculine.À Well, I’ve known plenty of very masculine gay men, including champion rugby players and biker types, who, if you suggested that they were fairies, would likely rip your head off and hand it to you.
There was a long-honoured tradition of gay relationships among the tough and macho cowboys of the Old West, and many diaries still exist detailing their loving and tender relationships out on the range, and the many sacrifices they made for each other. Plenty of masculine, respected movie stars are gay. A society that devalues love, devalues that upon which civilised society itself is based – love and commitment.

So is this something straight men should fear from gay men? The vast majority of gay men prefer sex in the same emotional setting most of you do – as a part of the expression of mutual love and affection.

Oliver Meth is a researcher at the University of KwaZulu Natal Centre for Civil Society. This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service.

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