Why Homosexual Behavior Is More like
Consensual Incest and Polyamory than Race or Gender
A Reasoned and Reasonable Case for
Part 1: The Initial
by Robert A. J. Gagnon,
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formatting and pagination go to the pdf version
On Apr. 29 the U.S. House
of Representatives passed the so-called “Local
Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act”
which places “sexual
orientation” and “gender identity,” “real or perceived,” alongside of
“race,” “national origin,” “gender,” and “disability” as benign conditions
for which society should provide special protections in federal law. Those
who oppose homosexual practice are, by analogy, implicitly identified in
law as discriminatory bigots, akin to racists and misogynists.
problem is that the analogy to race and gender doesn’t work well. Race and
gender are 100% heritable, absolutely immutable, and primarily
non-behavioral conditions of life, and therefore, intrinsically benign.
Homosexuality and transsexuality are none of these things. While there
probably are some biological risk factors for some homosexual development
and even transgenderism, science has failed to establish that
homosexuality and transsexuality develop deterministically like race and
gender. Even the Kinsey Institute has acknowledged that at least one shift
in the Kinsey spectrum of 0 to 6 is the norm over the course of life for
those who identity as homosexual (75%). Most importantly, unlike race and
gender, homosexuality and transsexuality are in the first instance
impulses to engage in behavior that is structurally discordant with
embodied existence (as male and female). They are therefore not
intrinsically benign conditions.
contend that a better analogy (i.e., with more points of substantive
correspondence) can be made between homosexuality and transsexuality on
the one hand and polysexuality (an orientation toward multiple sexual
partners) and incest (here I am thinking of an adult-committed sort) on
the other hand. The latter are, after all, two other sexual behaviors that
are incongruent with embodied existence that, despite such incongruence,
can still be conducted as committed, caring relationships between adults.
Polyamory has the
added similarity of being connected to a sexual orientation
(polysexuality, from polu meaning “much,” pl. “many,” here an
innate orientation to multiple concurrent sexual partners).
If incest and polyamory are indeed better analogues to homosexuality and
transgenderism, then it is clear that placing the latter alongside race
and gender as conditions worthy of special protections and benefits
becomes, well, misplaced.
making these remarks, I trust that people of faith know that it is just as
wrong to hate and commit violence against persons who engage in
adult-consensual relationships with close kin or with multiple partners as
it is to hate persons who engage in same-sex intercourse or who otherwise
attempt to override their sex or gender given at birth. It is not right to
hate anyone or commit violence against anyone.
regards a logical connection to polyamory, the limitation of the number of
persons in a valid sexual union to two persons at any one time is
predicated on the natural “twoness” of the sexes, “male and female” or
“man and woman.” This was certainly Jesus’ view in Mark 10 and Matthew 19,
where he cited “God made them male and female” (Genesis 1:27) and "For
this reason a man ... sticks to his woman and the two become one flesh"
(Genesis 2:24) as the reasons for
overthrowing concurrent and serial polygamy. (Note that the Jewish
community at Qumran made a similar point about how "male and female" in
Genesis 1:27 implicitly ruled out polygamy.) Polyamorous behavior and
homosexual behavior alike violate the natural pair constituted by the
existence of two primary, complementary sexes, even when they are
conducted in the context of consensual, adult-committed relationships. The
very sex act itself, which accommodates only one act of penetration at a
time, illustrates the essential sexual twoness of a sexual bond
predicated on two (and only two) complementary sexes.
regards a logical connection to incest, incestuous behavior and homosexual
behavior alike violate a requisite principle of embodied otherness within
embodied sameness, even when such sexual behaviors are conducted
consensually between committed adults. Incest is sex between persons who
are too much structurally or formally alike as regards kinship. The high
risk of birth defects that attend incestuous births is merely the symptom of the
root problem: too much identity on the level of kinship between the sexual
partners. That is why society rejects incestuous sexual relationships even
when it occurs between consenting adults who either cannot procreate
(whether because one partner is infertile or because both partners are of
the same sex) or take active birth-control precautions. The structural
impossibility of births arising from homosexual intercourse is likewise
not so much the problem as the symptom of the root problem: namely, too
much formal or structural identity between the participants and not enough
complementary otherness, here as regards sex or gender.
2 I will look at what disproportionately high rates of measurable harms
associated with homosexual relationships indicate for the unnatural
character of homosexual relations.
For Part 2:
What Disproportionately High Rates of Harm Mean go
For Part 3:
The Illogic of Homosexual Unions go
For Part 4:
Responses to Counterarguments go
Robert A. J.
Gagnon, Ph.D. is associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh
Theological Seminary, author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice:
Texts and Hermeneutics (Abingdon Press) and co-author of
Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Fortress Press).