Monday, July 1, 2013

Is homosexuality an illness or not? Gay marriage proponents can't decide

Anyone who knows gay history knows that a gold-banner event for the formation of the modern gay community was the famous decision by the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. This presaged the broader de-pathologizing of homosexuality by medical professionals and eventually social workers and social scientists.

In the way gay activists tell the story, this was a key turning point because homosexuals were "normal," had "nothing wrong with them," and suffered from no "disorder" or "disability" or "illness."


That wonderful moment of history is being undone by the present-day gay lobby, however. Read the briefs submitted to the Supreme Court by the gay groups seeking to overturn Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. A central plank in their argument is that marriage cannot be restricted to male-female couplings merely based on the procreative distinction. They cited, as evidence, the fact that "infertile" heterosexual couples still have the right to marry.

Similarly, in California, the gay groups pushing for public funds for lesbian sperm banking have sought to normalize artificial reproductive technology for same-sex couples by pointing to the fact that infertile straight couples use sperm banks. Similar arguments surfaced later, in Washington DC, as the William Institute's faculty chair spoke of the importance of gestational surrogacy for gay male couples. We hear repeatedly that it's only fair for lesbians and gay men to avail themselves of sperm banks and surrogacy, because after all, infertile heterosexual couples do it.

But infertile heterosexual couples are infertile. They have a medical condition. Call it an illness, disability, or disorder -- whatever you choose to call it. It's a health malfunction. It's something that's being treated, the way one treats illnesses, with a medical intervention.

If homosexual couples are equated to infertile heterosexual couples, we're going back to the 1960s, before the de-pathologizing of homosexuality. You can't have your cake and eat it too, folks. If it's normal to engage in homosexual relationships then you can't justify using sperm banks or surrogacy to procreate, in cases where a gay man's testicles are functioning perfectly and a lesbian's uterus and eggs are fit for action. The fact that you're not interested in matching functioning testicles to a functioning uterus because you're gay is supposed to be NORMAL; if we start involving medical treatments for you, then you are reinforcing the notion that homosexuality is a defect. That undoes the whole de-pathologizing move of forty years ago.