All of us are no doubt familiar with their chant: “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to us! ” Members of the gay rights organization, Act Up, sounded this battle cry as they fought for basic human rights against social injustice and marginalization. It was true. Gays and lesbians were and are a part of our society, but as evident in today’s world, though many gains have been won in their struggle, society has not yet fully embraced members of this community as equal members of the world community.
In this paper, I will argue why I believe society’s discrimination against homosexuals is morally and ethically wrong, and how acceptance of these persons can make for a stronger society. Society’s Views To start my discussion of the struggle of homosexuals in our present society, I first want to look at the historical perspective on homosexuality.
In his book, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, author John Boswell highlights research done on ancient Roman culture rather than Greek. Of course, it is the Greek antiquity where most research has been done and most of the prevailing attitudes regarding sexuality gets its foundation, Boswell, however, shows how the Roman cultural heritage differs in regard to sexual understanding, practice and acceptance.
For instance, it was not illegal for consenting adults to pair with individuals of the same sex in life-long relationships. Boswell shows how, by misinterpretation, others have come to conclude that homosexuality was a crime. He argues intelligently and gives credible support to show that the Roman law applied to those adults who would choose children as partners, and thereby engage in pedophilia. This was not a blanket law against homosexuality.
“Indeed, if there was a law against homosexual relations, no one in Cicero’s day (famed Roman writer, statesman and orator) knew anything about it, including Cicero himself, whose knowledge of Roman law was exhaustive. “1 The author continues to expound on this issue by citing how in his writings the emperor ridicules friends of his, several prominent male citizens, of being male prostitutes in their youth, but never even hints of this alleged practice being illegal. So widespread and accepted was homosexuality that the author concludes:
Homosexual acts could hardly have been illegal in Augustan Rome, where the government not only taxed homosexual prostitution but accorded boy prostitutes a legal holiday; and it is virtually impossible to imagine any law regulating homosexual activities in the Rome in which Martial (first-century Spanish-Roman poet) wrote: not only does he mention by name numerous prominent citizens having homosexual affairs, often listing their partners, but he frankly admits to engaging in such activities himself. 2
Given the evidence that ancient practice so greatly differed from current society, at least in ancient Roman culture, now we must consider how we arrived at the existing societal attitudes I am seeking to discredit. As I mentioned earlier, most of our current thoughts about sex in general and homosexuality in particular come from Greek antiquity, and especially St. Augustine of Hippo. In fact, it was Augustine, “more than any other single writer who determined the sexual attitudes of the Christian West.