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Faeces, paedophilia and the fight against bigotry

Sat 24 Jun 2006 In: Politics and Religion View at NDHA

Part one of a two part feature, in which David Parrish looks back to the mid-1980s and reveals the most often-used arguments against decriminalising homosexuality. These days the right to form meaningful and lasting same-sex relationships, to legally engage in consensual sex, to be free from discrimination on the basis of our sexual orientation, is easily taken for granted. We have openly gay MPs. Same-sex couples can tie the knot in a civil union ceremony and there's a push to remove impediments to gay and lesbian couples adopting children. Compared to many countries around the world, New Zealand fares pretty well in terms of gay and lesbian rights, responsibilities and visibility. But what if you were instead being told that your gay life was essentially pointless and that you occupied no meaningful part in our society? What if it were being publicly proclaimed that death is the only solution to your perversion - a perversion that includes using faeces to lubricate your sex life? And that your same-sex attraction is really a cover, and that you're actually an agent of a global communist conspiracy seeking to spread its tentacles around the world, to control city councils and whole countries. And that you hunger to inculcate kindergarten children into your devious ways? In the lead-up to Homosexual Law Reform in 1986, as our parliamentarians wrestled with whether or not to decriminalise 'homosexual acts,' these kinds of claims weren't just the extreme views of a few fundamentalist nutters - uptight, church-going, neo-Nazis seeking the 'final solution' to ‘the gay problem.' Consider the following statement, aired right here in New Zealand: "A person committed to homosexual habits is a loose cog - his life is essentially pointless - he has no creative part in history - the end of his life will remove a bit of disorganisation from the social generator.” That was the considered view of Dr Paul Cameron, writing in the early ‘80s. Cameron is an American 'psychologist' whose work was imported by our religious right to help educate New Zealanders about us and our lives. Gays are "worse than murderers," he said around this time, "because "murderers commit a crime and are punished, but gays are promiscuous and do bad deeds all the time." He offered advice on dealing with the AIDS epidemic: "All practicing homosexuals should be required to register and their movements should be tracked," and "unless we get medically lucky in three or four years one of the options discussed will be the extermination of homosexuals." No matter that Cameron's membership of the American Psychological Association had been revoked in 1983 for violation of ethical principles. He was censured for misusing the data of pre-eminent sex researcher Alfred Kinsey; for making inflammatory and inaccurate public statements castigating homosexuals; and for inventing and distributing a news story claiming a homosexual assault on a four-year old boy, which never occurred, in order to garner public opposition to anti-discrimination measures proposed for gays and lesbians in Nebraska. An American judge once even accused Cameron of lying about homosexuals, saying he "totally distorted" data, which was "directly contrary to other evidence presented at this trial." And to seal his homophobic credentials, one cannot look past this Cameron gem: "Those addicted to homosexuality rapidly descend to activities that would be rejected by any animal." Cameron quickly became a poster boy in the New Zealand campaign to oppose homosexual law reform. His mantra: homosexual perverts, who behave worse than animals, should not be given free licence to practice and spread their evil habits. THE BIRTH OF THE CCC All this was perhaps a little harsh for Kiwi sensitivities so, through the miracle of Orwell-speak, Cameron's writings were transformed, given the respectable guise of 'compassionate Christianity,' and the Coalition of Concerned Citizens (CCC) was born. In 1985 the CCC produced the publication "The Social Effects of Homosexuality in New Zealand." Its abstract sounds reasonable enough: "This book... references homosexual and non-homosexual sources," and looks at "the arguments for and against legalising homosexual acts." But contrary to this impression of academic rigour, the booklet devoted just two pages out of fifty-five to the case favouring law reform. The Gay Task Force (GTF), the lead pro-law reform lobby group, challenged the CCC's one-sided polemic. This was at the height of hysteria, when anti-gay protesters, dressed like Hitler Youth, stormed Parliament and gays and lesbians crashed public meetings organised by 'concerned citizens.' In just two weeks, the GTF published its "Rebuttal of a Handbook of Homophobia." Its members pulled no punches. It addressed each of the CCC's ten commandments against law reform, and exposed Cameron's fingerprints throughout the homophobic treatise. Addressing the CCC's initial claim that the 'typical homosexual lifestyle' is harmful to the individual and to society and, as such, should not be encouraged, the GTF pointed out that the CCC neatly packaged its entire argument in that first point: “They talk of the 'typical homosexual lifestyle' as one of an addiction to bad habits, which have broader negative consequences. They reason, ‘homosexual behaviour does not procreate the human species,' which, ‘if logically extended to all, would lead to the extinction of society.' Thus, homosexuals are 'self-serving' in not having children. They make a particular exception for non-childrearing celibate heterosexuals, as they are not ‘an active force against marriage and family life.' (Interestingly, exactly the same rhetoric was poured into the media during the recent Civil Unions campaign by the uber-right Maxim Foundation and the likes of Brian Tamaki.) The GTF countered that that "there is no such thing as a typical homosexual lifestyle, any more than there is such a thing as a typical heterosexual lifestyle." The idea that homosexuality would bring about the extinction of earth's population is "entirely specious," said the GTF, as no one was proposing universally mandated same-sex desire. As for gays and lesbians being disruptive of family life, well, we have families too, reminded the GTF. SEDUCTION THEORY If homosexual behaviour were declared by law to be legal and valid, it would result in the spread of homosexuality in this country, said the CCC. This was perhaps the most flattering of the CCC's arguments, in that the growth of homosexuality suggests the development of an irresistible attraction to homosexuality by hitherto straight folk. "The CCC puts forward the ‘Seduction Theory'” said the GTF. “‘Impressionable young people' will be sucked in to gay sex with older men; and the 'Magnet Theory' - 'New Zealand could become a magnet for homosexuals around the world.' Cameron's own observations on gay men's sex lives support their argument. After all, ‘the typical homosexual lifestyle is one of constant cruising in a search for new talent.' And with the New Zealand dollar so low, selfish non-procreating gays with far too much disposable income would travel to New Zealand for cheap, perverted thrills.” (Echoes of this 'gay tourism' argument were to resurface during the campaign for equitable human rights legislation in the early 90s, when then-Tourism Minister John Banks publicly shuddered at the waves of homosexual tourists who would surely flock to New Zealand if that legislation were passed. It did, and they didn't.) The GTF, using actual academic research, noted that most men's first homosexual experience occurs with someone they know, and someone around their own age. In fact, it's straight men who are more inclined to lose their virginity to a complete stranger. Besides, for the CCC's Seduction Theory to be correct, a homosexual orientation must be "intrinsically deeply attractive to a much more substantial part of the population than at present have that orientation, and the impulse to heterosexuality [must be] inherently weak and easily be diverted." As for New Zealand becoming a gay sex Mecca? Adelaide certainly didn't. Gay sex had already been decriminalised there in 1972, years before other parts of Australia, and perversely enough, gays continued to congregate in Sydney and Melbourne, despite the risk of legal consequences. The relationship between the law and gay sex, it appeared, has no bearing on whether or where men will bonk each other. And, twenty years on, we're still waiting for that gay tourist stampede. BONKING LITTLE BOYS! The CCC, never above sleaze tactics, desperately tried to link decriminalised homosexuality with state-sanctioned paedophilia, not so difficult a task in the days when the pages of Truth newspaper were littered with salacious stories of the 'naughty British vicar and the innocent choirboy' type. "The proposed Homosexual Law Reform Bill," wrote the CCC, "will allow for homosexual acts upon young boys who are at an impressionable age, and... will compel acceptance of declared homosexuals under all circumstances, despite a broad level of public agreement to the contrary.” The CCC then took mid '80s New Zealand on a convoluted journey through the law regarding sex crimes, and concluded that the Homosexual Law Reform Bill would enable gays under the age of 21 to bonk 12-year-old boys, under the mistaken impression they were really 16. Surely this would encourage young gays, aged 19 or 20 - really just 'dirty old men' in training - to frequent schools in search of pre-pubescent prey? After all, Cameron's own dubious 'research' showed that gays, and in particular, gay teachers, were far more likely than straight men to abuse young boys! The GTF dispassionately explained the legal ramifications of the bill. It would "change the law so that it [would] treat in an objectively similar way those sexual activities which are objectively similar," regardless of whether the activity is gay or straight. Boys are provided the same protections from sexual abuse, as are girls. 'Mistake' as to age is only a defence for a defendant under the age of 21, if the alleged victim is between 12 and 16 years old, if he consented to the sex, and where the person charged was mistaken on reasonable grounds. These same conditions apply where the victim is a young girl. The CCC seemed to suggest that boys are inherently more vulnerable, needing additional legal safeguards. The 'weaker sex,' perhaps? Or is it that gay sex is simply so irresistible? The Homosexual Law Refrom Bill also sought to change the Human Rights Act to include 'sexual orientation' as a ground protected from discrimination. As things transpired, it wasn't until 1993 that this got through Parliament. But in the mid-80s the CCC was petrified that by disallowing discrimination in housing, jobs and in the provision of goods and services, God-fearing, decent New Zealanders might end up being forced to be neighbours with, or even to work with, filthy gays. And what's more, they wouldn't be able to complain about it for risk of censure by the Human Rights Commission. That's "social engineering," said the CCC, a 'new morality' imposed by the state. Wrong again, said the GTF. So long as you don't discriminate on the grounds listed, the Human Rights Commission wouldn't be interested, and freedom of expression is not curtailed. "The Bill does not impose a new morality but allows for pluralism - a tolerant acceptance of diversity. The opponents of the Bill are the imposers of a far more restrictive morality: everything is to be judged by their standards." "UNHAPPY, DISTURBED GAYS" But the CCC had more strings to its bow. Despite the claims of gay leaders, it said, “homosexuals are typically unhappy people, who often hate themselves and society, so that if homosexuality is accepted as valid it will tend to eliminate hope for those homosexuals who would really like to become normal.” So, we're not that ‘gay' after all! Of course, the CCC's starting point is that homosexuality is a disease, and, as such, can be cured. In spite of “pressure against this by gay propaganda” and the meddling of psychologists, “some of whom are themselves homosexual.” The CCC threw all pretence of academic rigour out the window, referencing an autobiographical work and some rather dubious studies - one notable piece of ‘research' compared the criminally insane and imprisoned gays, with college age heteros, concluding, not surprisingly, that 37 per cent of gays “admit to being emotionally or psychologically disturbed.” Being imprisoned doesn't do much for your self-esteem, apparently. The CCC did use the work of the more credible researchers, Bell and Weinberg, “referenced five times in the booklet and in every case misrepresented,” according to the GTF. “50 per cent of gays ‘admit to a sense of regret regarding their homosexual habits.' What the CCC doesn't mention,” said the GTF, “is that the authors also say that living in a society that rejects them is the main reason for their regret. This constitutes a vicious cycle of prejudice, one of the strongest reasons for homosexual law reform.” Notwithstanding societal homophobia, “gay men and lesbians are as adjusted and happy as anyone else, and many have special strengths as a result of the process of coming to terms with their socially disadvantageous orientation". David Parrish - 24th June 2006    

Credit: David Parrish

First published: Saturday, 24th June 2006 - 12:00pm

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