What harm does homosexuality cause?
This question is one which generates way more heat than light. Those who want to persuade society that homosexuality is a sin know that they have to prove that homosexuality is harmful. At present they are failing.
The first kind of harm I will consider is the most straightforward - physical or medical harm. There is a paucity of reliable data available on the subject. So instead of incisive answers we get ideologically driven hate-tracts cobbled together with shoddy scholarship and methodologically flawed "scientific studies".
Exhibit A: Paul Cameron's famous pamphlet about the "Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do."
Now go read this thorough 12 part analysis of the pamphlet and all 34 references cited. Or this scholarly treatment of the same pamphlet. Read how Dr. Cameron uses studies without any scientific credibility, or extrapolates from sample data taken exclusively from STD clinics and voluntary respondents to surveys published in pornographic magazines to make generalizations about all homosexuals. Observe the highly selective use of data - even from his own studies. Then go and learn how Dr. Cameron has been thoroughly discredited by his peers, ejected from the American Psychological Association for repeatedly misconstruing the results of other people's research, and pays a non-peer-reviewed journal to publish his work in order to maintain a semblance of academic credibility.
Paul Cameron is not the subject of this post, but he is the most widely distributed writer on the supposed harm caused by homosexuality, and he is an example of the really poor quality of these arguments. When it comes to medical consequences there has never been a large, random, scientifically credible study done which compares the effects of homosexual sex with heterosexual sex. All the studies currently out there share a variety of flaws. They have too small of a sample size to be representative. They are non-random; most of the participants have come from STD clinics or voluntary respondents to surveys published in suspect areas like pornographic magazines. They are almost exclusively concerned with male homosexual behavior - there are no good studies of lesbian sex that I am aware of. They utterly lack a heterosexual "control" group, meaning there is no basis for comparison.
But even without accurate scientific data there is something we can say, which immediately discredits any suggestion that homosexuality is harmful (in a medical sense).
There is no sexual behavior homosexuals engage in which is not practiced in far greater numbers by heterosexuals. Anal sex, fellatio, cunnilingus, you name it there are far more heterosexual couples doing it than homosexuals every day of the week. Therefore any medical consequence which could be attributed to a particular sexual behavior when practiced by homosexuals would also be true of heterosexuals.
There are other kinds of harm, though, besides the physical. What about emotional or psychological damage? Does homosexuality cause mental harm?
Immediately, we are confronted with a problem. How can we demonstrate that homosexuality is a primary cause of mental distress? How do we separate damage done to a person by a society which rejects and despises them, from damage caused by the sexual orientation itself? There is no clear cut method. The mind is still in many ways a mystery, and we will probably never know all of the complex interactions which make a human personality. It is possible, as most neurologists are increasingly persuaded, that the human brain does evidence both sexual dimorphism (different brain structures based on gender) as well as sexual-orientation dimorphism. If this is the case, how will we measure mental health in people who are neurologically different?
One thing is certain: we won't measure it via psychological profiling. The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the DSM in 1973 because study after study had failed to prove the long-established clinical bias that homosexuality is pathological. Hundreds of psychologists working for over a hundred years with the active assumption that homosexuality is a disease failed in even a single case to demonstrate that homosexuality is mentally harmful. Indeed, when given anonymous psychological profiles psychiatrists have been totally unable to distinguish homosexuals from heterosexuals.
There is no mental health issue homosexuals suffer from which heterosexuals do not suffer from in equal or greater proportion. Thus we cannot say that homosexuality is mentally harmful any more than heterosexuality is.
If homosexuality isn't physically harmful or mentally harmful, perhaps it is socially harmful. Doesn't homosexuality ruin marriages, corrupt children, destroy the family unit, and lead to the dissolution and devastation of society?
If mental harm was a nebulous and subjective criteria to measure, social harm is even more so. What objective method can we possibly use to determine whether homosexuality is damaging to society? Ultimately, there is none. Anyone can allege anything is damaging to society and it would be very difficult to prove or disprove. Popcorn is bad for society. Prove me wrong.
The burden of proof, though, lies on those who allege harm, and fortunately, in attempting to prove their thesis that homosexuality is harmful to society they have said some outlandish things which undermine the credibility of the argument.
For example, conservatives routinely insist that marriage has ALWAYS consisted of one man and one woman in every culture and every religion for over 5000 years. Thus, permitting homosexual relationships (and even worse officially approving of them through legalized marriage) destroys an enduring and universal institution. The absurdity of this statement is unbelievable. Polygymy and its partner Polygyny are practiced and socially approved in a variety of cultures around the world right now. Consent, which is a HUGE factor in any marriage in this country, has no role whatsoever in an arranged marriage, which is common in many places and was the norm prior to the 20th century even in our culture. Marriage has more often been about kinship arrangements and the uniting of two families than about the uniting of two people - even in western culture. And same gender marriages have been normal in various cultures through Southeast Asia. Cultural Anthropology 101 easily debunks this ridiculous argument.
Indeed, could homosexual relationships possibly damage marriage any more than the soaring divorce rate, an epidemic of domestic violence, and good old-fashioned infidelity have already?
As for corrupting children - is a child with two dads or two mothers really worse off than a child with a single mother? Or two sets of remarried parents? Is there something specific about a parent's predilections in the bedroom that you can demonstrate has more effect on the child's well-being than, say, attention, or discipline, or affection?
There is absolutely no proof that homosexuality is any more harmful to society than heterosexuality. From where I stand heterosexuals are doing a bang-up job destroying society all on their own.
But there is another side to this whole question of harm. That is - aren't we doing measurable harm to our homosexual sons and daughters through discrimination? I'll take that up in the next post.