The problem with the PM's position on marriage equality

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How Kevin got his groove back

The Prime Minister's response to a Pastor's question on gay marriage on Q&A on Monday night has gained widespread support on social media, but will it translate in the polls?

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So Kevin Rudd’s gay marriage performance on ABC's Q&A has gone ‘viral’.

It is Rudd's ‘Bartlet moment’ according to the Guardian - referring to the fictional Democratic President Josiah Bartlet in Aaron Sorkin's long running political wet dream The West Wing. ‘Answer of the century’ said one #qanda Twitter commentator.

But was anyone listening to what he was actually saying?

Matt Prater: questioned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on his gay marriage stance.

Matt Prater: questioned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on his gay marriage stance. Photo: Screen grab, Q&A

Let’s break down Rudd’s argument, which is fairly easy to do ever since he began illustrating his rhetoric with obscene hand gestures.

Firstly, Rudd said, he believes people are born gay. According to ‘the science’ this means that being gay is ‘natural’.

God this is nonsense.

Prime Minister kevin Rudd; his response has been positively received.

Prime Minister kevin Rudd; his response has been positively received. Photo: Screen grab, Q&A

Sexuality is a spectrum, something that anyone who has escaped the straight jacket of sexual guilt, self-abnegation and denial that pervades so much formal religion would be already aware of.

There are not just gay and straight people, although there certainly are those who identify exclusively as one or the other, or have decided to hate one or the other identity and pretend they have never even flirted with different parts of the spectrum of desire laid out before all of us every day of our lives everywhere all the time.

‘Gay’ and ‘straight’ are historically bound nouns and legal constructs and have no biological foundation.

There is no gay gene, just as there is no Labor party gene or Queenslander gene.

Biological predisposition stems from our species having to adapt to our environment over millions of years.

But for all of prehistory there was nothing in nature prohibiting the exploration of sexuality and desire – there were no priests or social conservatives in the Paleolithic age whose diktats our primitive ancestors needed to conform to on pain of death.

A human being is full of diversity and mutation and curiosity and it would take a million years of ruthlessly favouring or persecuting some narrow part of the spectrum of sexuality for anything like a 'gay trait' to emerge in our genetics.

The fact is – homosexual and heterosexual are legal definitions and obeying or breaking a law does not suddenly recode your DNA.

The law also defines marrieds and unmarrieds – a lifestyle choice that is (hopefully) linked to desire. Is there a ‘married’ gene? Is there a jaywalking gene or a fly-tipping gene?

But let’s go back to the word ‘natural’, one of the most abused, meaningless adjectives in the language.

Given appeals to science in the gay marriage debate are completely bogus, what are people trying to say when they talk about ‘natural’ in this context? It could be something like – it’s not what people normally do in our legally and religiously limited culture (a tautology that appeals to a rule to justify a rule). Or, more probably—it’s not what we used to do when we lived in the trees or for instance roamed the plains of the Rift Valley catching waterfowl with stone axes. That kind of 'natural'.

Even given this absurd definition, why would anyone aspire to be ‘natural’.

Civilisation is about escaping a state of nature -- because appeals to what is 'natural' should also include demands for more killing, raping, infant cannibalism, incest, intimidation, greed and violence.

We hold up clothing, language, money and other technology as evidence of civilisation, but when it comes to sexuality, relationships and pleasure we seem to incongruously look back to the animal kingdom.

Given that a measure of thoughtfulness beyond the grunts and howls of animal behaviour is our general standard for judging the good in virtually every other human endeavour, let’s just for fun apply this standard to sexuality and see what happens.

Recent science shows heterosexuals aren't even making conscious choices about who to form relationships with -- blind trials with smelly laundrydemonstrate that immunogenetics can be unconsciously communicated through sweat.

All evidence shows that heteros pick mates with complimentary rather than overlapping immunogenetics, probably to increase their children's resistance to viruses. Most heteros are simply picking a complementary piece of DNA to fuse with rather than bonding over higher qualities like intellect and compassion.

So, I would like to argue that heteros, if they are indeed more 'natural', also apply less free will to their relationships. 

Hetero relationships are also, in our current climate of persecution and shunning, more obvious, less thought provoking, easier and therefore lazier. Apply those adjectives to other marks of taste like food, music, literature and film and you begin to see that heterosexuality in its tightly defined modern form is definitely not the civilised choice. It is the Doritos or the Coolabah Fruity Lexia of sexuality.

I say that as an embarrassed 'hetero' myself.

Which leads us to the second pillar of Rudd’s much-lauded argument. He said that because people are ‘born gay’ that they deserve then to get some basic legal recognition for their relationships– civil unions, partner visas, etc.

Basically full citizenship is for 'natural' people, and 'unnaturals' are subordinate.

But legal protections and citizenship rights are marks of a mature civilisation. They are for people who have risen above a state of abject nature and monkey instinct–through education and the development of critical faculties. 

So if anyone deserves the legal protections of civil unions it should be people who are able to define their love without reference to the habits of wild animals or just a vibe they pick up from some immunogenetically complementary laundry.

I know Rudd was attempting to respond to a question asked by a Christian pastor, but this debate is bigger than biblical hermeneutics.

Perhaps another question for the next Q&A then: why do boorish tyrant heteros trying to enforce their not-very-thoughtful forest floor understanding of sexuality on the rest of us deserve to have their own relationships blessed with the legal protections and citizenship rights of a civilisation founded by smart, caring, compassionate, sexually curious people?

#qanda?

 

 

49 comments

  • I'm sorry, but were YOU listening to what he said? His exact words were "If you think homosexuality is an unnatural condition, then frankly I cannot agree with you based on any element of the science." He's saying that homosexuality is not unnatural. It's also not unnatural to be bisexual, or pansexual, or polysexual, or asexual, or any other type of sexual. The question was specifically about gay (homosexual) people. Just because his answer was centered on that doesn't mean he's dismissive of the other points along the spectrum of sexuality. I don't really understand what you're arguing here. It pretty much sounds like you're trying to disagree without really disagreeing just to get more page views on your article.

    Commenter
    isochronous
    Date and time
    September 04, 2013, 2:15AM
    • Spot on isochronous! Not to mention the time constraints of #qanda

      Commenter
      Jax
      Location
      Brunswick East
      Date and time
      September 04, 2013, 9:37AM
    • An interesting article although somewhat convoluted in making it's points.

      I do agree that human sexuality is not as straight forward as the labels society uses to describe sexuality such as Gay Straight Bi Transgender etc... and yes given freedom humans will experiment however as a 47 yo gay man I firmly believe genetics certainly are a huge influence on human sexuality.

      In western society you could try to argue that there are social influences encouraging same sex behaviours however this doesn't explain the prevalence of same sex attraction or transgender people all over the globe often in strict tribal or religious societies where such behaviours would be unacceptable - why would anyone subject themselves to potential bigotry and violence other than acting on a natural urge?

      Rudd's response was brilliant beacuse he played the god botherer at this own game by quoting that slavery was natural ie if religious zealots wish to quote the bible when it suits their narrow minded agenda then it cuts both ways.

      Delusional religious beliefs aside I don't think anyone wants to be labled however this is what our society currently offers when it comes to marriage which is discrimination in it's purist form, maybe once there is equality the lables may start to dissapear.

      Commenter
      George
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      September 04, 2013, 9:51AM
    • It would seem that slavery is natural. 1% of all humans have 99% of all the money.

      What do you think the rest of us are?

      Commenter
      cranky
      Location
      pants
      Date and time
      September 04, 2013, 10:20AM
  • And I believe that by "natural" he means that there is some physiological basis for sexuality, which, specific genes or no, there is evidence to support. You have to remember that there are around 20,000 protein-coding genes in the haploid human genome, and many traits are expressed via not single genes, but by combinations of certain genes. We may have decoded the human genome, but we are a long way away from understanding what every gene does in the process of forming a new human and his or her personality. Human traits also express themselves differently in different environments - the uterine environment can greatly effect how certain traits are expressed. If sexuality were purely a function of environment with no genetic basis, then conversion therapy would actually be a workable thing, rather than the abusive and doomed-to-failure process that it's proven to be. Here's an excellent article with some information you should really familiarize yourself with: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biology_and_sexual_orientation

    Commenter
    isochronous
    Location
    Atlanta, GA, USA
    Date and time
    September 04, 2013, 2:23AM
    • I find your article a little on the offensive side.
      This is because it is hormones that make us "female" or "male".
      These hormones DO have an effect on our brains.
      To say anything else, would also mean we would also have to say ..our hormones, for example,... insulin didn't have an effect on our glucose and our bodies etc.
      Sex hormones ARE in all animals, and have an effect on how they behave, along with other things.
      In some humans, mutations happen.
      These mutations can change the way humans behave.
      So, what I'm saying here is that variations in the way sex hormones are produced, can alter a persons behaviour.
      And of course environment alters humans behaviour too.
      So it is wrong and offensive to say that sexuality is a "spectrum".
      Some people are born with hormones and enzymes that have made them biologically "gay" .
      And yes..some people may choose their way of behaving sexually.
      But is offensive to those who truly have no choice because of their hormone and enzyme mix to say some people are "not born gay"
      These are the people Rudd is speaking of.

      Commenter
      Former Med
      Date and time
      September 04, 2013, 8:39AM
      • 'biologically gay' is not a fact.

        The suprachiasmatic nucleus region of the brain has been shown to be larger in gay men than straight men.
        The VIP SCN nucleus of the hypothalamus in the brains of gay males has shown to be larger than in the brains of straight males.

        # I reckon if you examined the brains of people that had grown up in broken homes that their brains would be wired a bit differently as well.

        Commenter
        Alex
        Location
        Finley
        Date and time
        September 04, 2013, 9:20AM
    • 'this debate is bigger than Biblical hermeneutics.' Well, actually, it's not. If we can get past the Biblical hermeneutics then the debate will be over, and we can all get on with it, putting sexuality out of the reach of those who think they can impose their antiquated beliefs on others.

      Commenter
      Bazwat
      Date and time
      September 04, 2013, 8:52AM
      • Your article seems to suggest people aren't 'born that way' but choose to act on a desire.

        I am straight and was born this way. How do I know this? I have no desire to shag a bloke. I have no problems if someone wants to do so, or if they swing both ways.

        Commenter
        Peter for PM
        Date and time
        September 04, 2013, 9:03AM
        • Good golly, you're brave venturing into this territory.

          Unfortunately your premise if followed by what can only be described as utter nonsense. Left the shores of reality on this one.

          Commenter
          Austin
          Date and time
          September 04, 2013, 9:08AM

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