Tuesday, 16 September 2014

There's nothing wrong with being gay (a gentle disagreement with Stephen Fry)

Stephen Fry is a good fellow.  He has done wonders for the acceptance of homosexuality and his brave openness about his depressive illness is also admirable.

But, being the gadfly that I am, I find myself somewhat disagreeing with Fry regarding some of his past statements about homosexuality.  I hope it that explaining these disagreements will prove informative.

A few years ago Stephen Fry suggested that religious people should not worry about being forced to hold religious ceremonies for same-sex couples.  Fry said that, after all, religious institutions aren't forced to marry people who were previously divorced.  "That's a very good analogy" said Fry.

No, I really don't think it is a very good analogy.  Putting aside the question of compulsion on the matter of religious weddings, it's really not on to compare any marriages between couples of the same sex with marriages involving divorcees.  Now, I know what Fry is trying to say, but this example does allow for the labelling of same-sex marriages as somehow morally or socially inferior.  It shouldn't, because there is no need to consider marriages involving divorcees as inferior, but it's not helpful to mention all same-sex marriages in that context.  The appropriate comparison is, of course, with same-sex marriages involving divorcees!

I just can't go along with any concession, even for the sake of argument or analogy, on the matter of the moral and social status of the marriages of same-sex couples.  No ground should be given!  We should, in my view, politely but firmly insist on full equality, and the sooner that religious people have full marriage equality the better, and that means religious weddings.

Now I shall wander onto matters of some delicacy.  Some may wish to stop reading at this point, especially, as they say, if you are "at work".  It's about sex.

In a documentary ("Out there") on the status of homosexuality and the lives of gay people around the world Fry encountered a pretty frightening Ugandan preacher who was furiously against homosexuality.  This preacher at one point was ranting on about the awfulness of anal sex.  Fry responded by saying that he (Fry) had never performed that sexual act.  This rather startled the preacher.  It also rather startled me.

What Fry does in bed (or anywhere else) is, of course, none of my business, and Fry is perfectly correct to describe the variety of homosexual experience.  But I could not help thinking that Fry's position [sic] seemed as if he was saying that he didn't do that dirty thing, that, in a way, Fry was one of the "clean" gays who didn't mess about with bottoms.

I am absolutely not saying that was Fry's intention.  But I was left uncomfortable with Fry's statement being open to that interpretation.

I am gay.  I am actively gay.  I have sex.  I have anal sex.  I think it's rather good, actually.  I don't think we should ever be even the slightest bit defensive about our blissful buggery.  There should be no shame, just the etiquette as any conversation about sex.  In fact, let's be more open about it.  If a straight couple mention a session of bouncy fun, let's mention that gay couples can bounce as well as anyone.

So, my disagreement with Stephen Fry is really not that strong; it's only a matter of emphasis.  However, my position on same-sex marriage and same-sex sex is extremely simple: We are, in every way, as Good As You.


@blamer said...

Oh SZ it's been too long :)

On "a very good analogy" your disagreement with Fry is the crux of moralizing-in-principle. In moral discussions "I disagree with your choice of language" is exactly "I dont happen to agree with your moral stance". Fry would be better to have used a concrete example: to Fry it's permissible for religious people to reject his request that they please marry him to to his same-sex partner.

Fry is talking about any holyman (almost always male) choosing to marry a couple in the only way that man can: say, according to say his Anglican Rites. Do people know that asking a State for a marriage license involves naming the specific religious-authority? Presumably this is so the State can verify *that* religious-organisation is in fact officially recognised, which is to say: State-endorsed for conducting a legally-defensible marriage-union.

On anal sex, this simply isnt a gender-prefence issue, just look at any porn site for straight men. All genders have bums. As an aside, there is evidence within the social sciences that tells us why "level of disgust" is a good predicter of how an individual will vote politically. So on a population level there's no surprise to me that their's less bum fun to be had with those on the political Right. And zero suprise that specific Lefties can whole-hearted agree with specific (ancient) religious sexual taboos.

Steve Zara said...

It's been a long time!

"Fry it's permissible for religious people to reject his request that they please marry him to to his same-sex partner."

Yes. No need for analogy at all.

As for anal sex, I don't think Fry agrees with the taboo, but I do wonder if it's in his thoughts.