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No place in same conversation for gay rights and civil rights

The gay rights debate continues in public and on social media, as the thorny subject of comparing the issue of same-sex marriage and gay rights to the Civil Rights Movement and the racism experienced by blacks over the centuries raises the ire of some former civil rights campaigners.

We must all be patient. Society is still evolving in many directions and one of the inevitable outcomes is social change. As we have overcome the legislative hurdles of discrimination and have broken the back of overt racism, the question emerges: is the new kid on the block and barometer of social change the acceptance of gays?

Bayard Rustin, a gay man who was very instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement and principal organiser behind events such as the March on Washington, which featured the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr's famous “I have a dream speech” and his passive-resistance movement, said in a 1986 speech, “the new n*****s are gays”.

Was Rustin correct or just frustrated?

He was also quoted as stating that sexual preference was a private matter. Although his comments were not entirely contradictory, they do reveal a dance on both sides of the argument, which justifies the question of whether the issues of racism and sexual liberty are to be equated and should the movements be considered as equal?

Put more bluntly to those who are civil rights activists and who are steeped in history was the 400 years of the Atlantic slave trade, followed by Jim Crow laws, may one include the Holocaust of the Jews in Nazi Germany to be now morally compared to the oppression of homosexuality?

Each of us as a human creature was born with a racial or ethnic coding, with some who may appear to blur the lines through mixing. Notwithstanding, our DNA coding is a clear and irrefutable stamp of who we are and would, therefore, be rational for everyone to be true to that coding and be equally identified because they have no choice in the shape of their eyes or the colour of their skin.

To be consistent, the same test would have to apply equally to sexuality. For sexuality to be equally identified with race would mean also being predetermined about inclinations and having no choice but as a decree of nature. Undoubtedly, there is a percentage of the population of male and females similarly who would naturally blur the lines and, given the hormonal factor influencing fetal development, the manifestation of their sex can predispose their behaviour and sensitivities, and even appearances, to be opposite to their genital make-up. Additionally, social rearing and nurturing also play a role in how one perceives themselves and feels as a sexual being.

We live in a world of other-directedness where popular culture influences what people think or do. Other directed societies where peer acceptance is a driving force affect every facet of society in which multitudes are driven by fashion centres and media. Popular lifestyle rather than custom fosters trends and one can unwittingly in the same process choose a sexual lifestyle — not because of inclination, but because they can and because it is acceptable or even fashionable.

Heterosexuals are not immune and are also affected by trends that are spawned through media. Being really attuned to one's self or true to one's own convictions, as in being centred or inner-directed, is the road less travelled.

We all know of the case of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who rose to become a leader of a branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, but later to be discovered to have lied about her parentage. She is now jobless, but more importantly, she underscores the point that one cannot choose to inherit the identity of a race of people who have suffered simply because it is politically correct or because it is fashionable to be seen on the right side of history.

I cannot call myself a Jew and work for B'nai B'rith International simply because I sympathise with the Jewish struggle; nor can a Jew call himself a black man out of similar sympathy. There is undoubtedly a huge element among the gay community and, possibly the vocal majority, who are not gay because they are hormonally or genetically preconditioned or irretrievably driven, but have become so because of a trend where it is more acceptable. As a result, there seems to be far more bisexual content in the LGBTQ community than the numbers of purely dedicated homosexuals.

We do not need to be testing as in the days of Nazi Germany to determine who is a bona fide gay by examining the width of their noses or other physical characteristics. We live in a world that is trying to embrace diversity, which inevitably will mean embracing each other's struggles as well.

It is sufficient to acknowledge the need and right of everyone to be free without conflating issues or robbing the reputations of a person's struggle to justify a new challenge to human liberty.

Child slavery was a huge issue for 19th-century England and still is in many countries such as Bangladesh and other parts of Asia. It has been going on for centuries unabated and is yet another frontier of the liberation struggle to be conquered. Included in that subject is the age of sexual freedom or consent, where there is some consideration of lowering the age once again.

However, for sexuality, unlike the issue of skin colour or age of consent, which are visible characteristics upon which historical discrimination and oppression have been practised, more than half of the global population views sexual matters in a moral context. This is harder to shift. As an experiential fact, and as demonstrated in books such as The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave and the 19th-century abolitionist movement, it was not until the moral indignation was raised in the white community that the notion of ending slavery and the idea of equality of all mankind caused the anti-slavery movement to succeed.

The abolitionist movement was religious and therefore underscores the difficulty in getting that same religious choir using the same hymnbook to now equate same-sex marriage as an equivalent human rights struggle.

The pendulum for this generation will swing only far enough to the Left to afford everyone the freedom to live as they choose. But to ask society at large to alter its sense of morality or belief, is a chasm too wide to cross.

This argument is not about the sublime subject of love, for which there are no boundaries or limitations for the heart to cross. Love is boundless and has no form or gender. There is no such thing as male love or female love; there is only oneness in love.

This is purely a subject that will be determined by “public morality”, which is tied to the philosophy of life that flows with the beliefs and value systems of each society.

Activist: Bayard Rustin, a gay man who was very instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement

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Published November 16, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated November 16, 2017 at 7:21 am)

No place in same conversation for gay rights and civil rights

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