Apr 142008
Authors: Mary Ackerson

Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the U.S. this week has heightened the controversy over gay rights.

An April 13 Washington Post article highlighted some of the ensuing developments within the gay community. One gay Catholic group, New Ways Ministry, held a conference in which speakers discussed what they would say to the pope if they had the opportunity.

“We invite you to spend a day, a meal, a weekend with us,” said Gregory Maguire, Massachusetts resident, in his message to the pope. “We don’t want to serve as a poster-family for gay Catholics. … We will just be ourselves, in all our confusion, aspiration, need and joy.”

A dire need in our world today is for the heterosexual community to come to a better understanding of gays, and Macguire’s response highlights a crucial component in this change. How can one logically oppose homosexuality and rights for gays without first building relationships with people in the affected community?

Most white, straight, people cannot personally relate to the experiences of gays, because both of their statuses are dominant in the U.S. They are on the privileged end of a power continuum, and the closest they can come to understanding what an underprivileged status feels like is by intimately befriending people who know first-hand.

The more, close, friendships one forms within the gay community, the less credible the “nurture over nature” and “chosen homosexuality” arguments become.

In reality, gays are naturally attracted to other people in a manner indistinguishable from straights.

I recently asked a group of gay men if they could describe what it is that attracts them to other men. They responded by asking me how I could first tell that I was attracted to boys. Upon reflection I realized that my natural attraction to boys had come without a thought since my first crush in pre-school, and the men then answered that this experience is identical for gays.

Imagine our society’s reaction if a new social norm was established that expected straight people to start feeling attracted to people of the same-sex, this is how gays are made to feel given our present social and legal norms.

The nurture argument holds even less weight when one considers that there are countless gay people whose childhoods were not disturbed by a lack of attachment to a parent, or any of the other environmental factors claimed to contribute to the “homosexual choice.” And there are countless straight people whose childhoods were afflicted by the worst of these outlined conditions.

In listening to the personal accounts of gay friends, one finds it hard to reasonably claim that they choose their sexual orientation. Many gays have suffered very real pain from those closest to them as a result of their decision to be true to who they are. That is often following many equally distressing years of attempting to conform. Others also experience ridicule or violence.

For as long as we withhold liberty and justice from gays, we are voluntarily choosing to oppress and marginalize them.

Mary Ackerson is a senior political science major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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