October is historically LGBTQ History Month, but we’ll really learn a lot that’s useful every day from recent anti-LGBTQ history. Most importantly, when we look back at it, we learn that there’s nothing new today that’s being said about LGBTQ people by their detractors.
Yes, that’s nothing — nothing at all — because anti-LGBTQ people have nothing new to say. If something sounds new to you in your experience, at least recognize that it’s been said over and over before.
It’s all been said for at least the last half-century. There are no new arguments that we haven’t heard for generations whether they’re religious, psychological, historical, gender-based, or those that cite “traditional” values or something else “traditional.”
Let’s start with religious arguments. New? Nothing.
All the Bible passages have been discussed now for multiple generations. And the reality is that each of the passages regurgitated again and again to argue against “homosexuality” (a concept not found in the Bible) have probably at least three to five different interpretations in Biblical scholarship.
What’s quite striking is that only one of the multiple interpretations of these verses is anti-LGBTQ people. Why that one is popular among regressive religion reflects the fact that the most popular interpretation of any scripture of any kind in any culture will be the one that supports the culture’s current prejudices.
As cultural prejudices change, other interpretations become more acceptable. And that’s been happening for over fifty years in terms of these passages.
Take our culture’s changing view on slavery, which so many passages in the Bible support. In those passages, it never says slavery should be abolished. It was the rise of the abolitionist movement that began to question traditional pro-slavery interpretations of the Bible, pointing out that there are other ways to understand it.
The largest U.S. Protestant denomination emerged in 1847 to protect pro-slavery Biblical interpretations that supported the economic system. 150 years later, they apologized.
If religious people really want to study and understand these passages rather than just use the Bible to confirm their prejudices, all the information has been available for over half a century.
And this applies to all religious traditions and all of their scriptures and histories.
The historical fact is that in every one of the “isms” we identify as religions today (Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.), there have been times in their histories when they’ve accepted LGBTQ people and times when they haven’t. All claims that one of the religions has always been or taught something are ahistorical.
The varieties of so many of the beliefs and practices on any subject in each of these isms are great and dependent upon cultural influences. So there’s very little all members of each one have agreed upon.
That means that choosing a position and saying that it’s what a religion or scripture teaches about LGBTQ people is a decision based upon one’s previous biases and assumptions. It arbitrarily ignores or declares heretical the vast history of alternatives to one’s preferred view of the “ism.”
That also means that any claim that something is “traditional” either religiously, nationalistically, or otherwise is merely the picking and choosing of a viewpoint by ignoring all the historical alternatives to how one just wants things to be. And, remember, historians for generations now have already traced the history of the varieties within all these “isms.”
New arguments from psychology? None. All debunked.
Back in the 1970s the mainstream professional psychological associations rejected the view that homosexuality was an illness to be treated. Since then their stands have not only strengthened, but they’ve rejected as unprofessional and harmful any attempts that right-wingers make — fortified mostly again by religious interpretations — to do what they call therapy to change the sexual orientation of anyone.
Since then, more professional organizations in the fields of medicine and education have agreed. So, to call these abusive attempts at the brainwashing of LGBTQ people “therapy” is worse than a joke — it’s enabling damage.
Because the professional organizations consider it unethical, stuck anti-LGBTQ people have had to form their own little groups to push their long debunked, outdated, prejudicial views. They can sound, thereby, scientific in their claims about LGBTQ people rather than just admitting that their position is only rooted in their personal unfounded beliefs and prejudices.
Back in 1999, eleven of the major professional organizations worked together to issue a joint statement expressing their concerns about the harassment of LGBTQ youth, and condemning all the brainwashing techniques falsely called “therapies” with words like “conversion” and “reparative” in front of them as harmful and ineffective.
New arguments from the other natural or social sciences? Nope. All the fields have rejected anti-LGBTQ claims and moved on.
For more than the last fifty years, anthropologists and sociologists have noted that the wide varieties of acceptance and rejection of LGBTQ people vary across time and cultures. Homophobia and anti-LGBTQ views are not universal, inborn, or necessary for a society’s successful functioning.
The actual long histories of the acceptance of same-sex activity, for example, in many cultures have been suppressed by buying into prejudices spread in the colonialism of European conquerors. The acceptance of gender-variant and other forms of transgender people — including, in many cultures, the fact that those who did not conform to male/female gender binaries were viewed as holding a higher, even sacred, status — has been fully documented.
Observations of animal behavior have shown us a plethora of examples in numerous species of the scientifically naturalness of same-sex behavior and coupling. It’s one of the variations of animal life.
And the claim that “traditional marriage” is the coupling of one man and one woman is historically just false, even laughable. Polygamy of various forms was more “traditionally” common — as evident, for example, even in Biblical texts.
None of this means that we’ll hear the end of the regurgitation of all these old debunked arguments soon much less this LGBTQ History Month. They’re all just too conveniently useful as ways to cover up the underlying prejudices, sexual orientation and gender confusions and fears, and other motives of those who use them.
But none of them, remember, not one of them, holds water.
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas where he taught for 33 years and was department chair for six years, Robert N. Minor (he/him), M.A., Ph.D is the author of 8 books as well as numerous articles and contributions to edited volumes. He is an historian of religion with specialties in Biblical studies, Asian religions, religion and gender and religion and sexuality. His writing has been published in Whosoever since 2005 and he continues to speak and lead workshops around the country. In 1999 GLAAD awarded him its Leadership Award for Education, in 2012 the University of Kansas named him one of the University’s Men of Merit, in 2015 the American Men’s Studies Association gave him the Lifetime Membership Award, and in 2018 Missouri Jobs with Justice presented him with the Worker’s Rights Board Leadership Award. He resides in Kansas City, Missouri and is founder of The Fairness Project.