by Simon Sheppard
originally published 6/14/2010
Ah, the things you learn from debates on online message boards….
The following post, a classic from somebody named Don, is worth quoting verbatim: "Homosexuality is a harbinger of a cultures destruction. Every major fall of civilizations that crumbled seem to follow a pattern, Aztec, Maya, Greek and Roman. Homosexual acceptance precedes destruction in a more advanced stage than does divorce in historical civilizations. Basically, both are components of a societal destruction, but homosexual acceptance creates a stage of decay which is virtually inevitable."
Now, overlooking for the nonce the overreaching, awful prose style, what we have here is a staple of frothingly homophobic discourse: Acceptance of queers leads to all societal hell breaking loose. There's just one thing wrong with Don's version of the decline and fall of great civilizations, though. It's an idiotic lie.
A reasonable person would post back, pointing out that the Aztecs, whom Wikipedia points out "were extremely intolerant of homosexuality," were conquered by a crucifix-waving murderer from the home of the Spanish Inquisition. And, what's more, that Cortes' triumph was expedited because of the religious beliefs of the Aztecs themselves, not because the Mesoamerican warriors were all lounging around in caftans, eating armadillo quiche and watching reruns of The Golden Girls. And yes, though the relatively more tolerant Mayans even painted homoporn on the walls of caves, ever-handy Wikipedia points out "for sodomy you would be condemned to death in a fiery furnace." In any case, among the many possible causes historians have considered for the dissolution of the Mayan Empire, cocksucking would have to rank far, far down on the list.
Ancient Greece was riven by conflicts between the city-states—one must assume it wasn't over the issue of same-sex marriage—and was for a post-conquest time ruled by Alexander the Great, who was reputedly, um, light in the sandals.
And Rome? It reached its perhaps greatest moment under the Emperor Hadrian, lover of the handsome Antinous. It was three hundred years later, after being Christianized and having banned homosex, that Rome actually fell.
As Ren used to say to Stimpy, "You EED-I-OT!"
It is true that some of this stuff may be kind of open to debate. Kind of. Historically minded homophobes often fall back on the work of Edward Gibbon, whose magnum opus, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published during the decade following American independence, back when scientists believed the plague was caused by "bad air"…or Jews. (Neither do they cite Gibbons' assertion that the spread of Christianity in fact contributed to imperial decline. But then, one gets the distinct feeling they base most of their views of ancient Rome on bad gladiator movies.) And homophobes often cite a highly tendentious scholarly book, Family and Civilization, which is older than even I am, fer chrissakes, and handily predates the modern gay rights movement and the integration of queers into advanced industrialist societies. So the 'phobes do have some documentation, fucked though it may be.
But if historical accuracy were a priority, the diligent fag would mention that the modern idea of "the homosexual" simply didn't exist in ancient Greece or Rome, though that wouldn't put the "Decline" myth—hard to kill as bedbugs—to rest. If one were to go the reductio ad absurdum route, one might point out that it would be downright simple-minded to attribute the fall of Nazi Germany or the U.S.S.R. to rampant homophobia. One might also point out that a culture like the Aztecs, which punished passive anal sex by pulling the offender's guts out through his butthole, was closer to Fred Phelps' vision than Elton John's.
And if perchance homo-hanging Saudi Arabia does in fact outlast the Netherlands, one might reasonably ask if most of us—even Don—would rather move to Riyadh than Amsterdam. (Or, come to think of, whether Aztec human sacrifice was truly a folkway worth preserving.)
But basically, none of that matters. Because most hardcore homophobes couldn't give a shit about a fair-fight debate. They tend to be a mob of faith-based yahoos who are actually looking forward to doomsday, not merely because they'll get to go to Heaven, but even more deliciously, because they'll get to watch the rest of us fry in Hell; the Left Behind books are their eschatological version of S/M porn.
So when some hetero-supremist dude says, "Most if not all experts agree that kids don't do as well with same-sex parents as in het households," it mattereth not that if you point out that most if not all experts say that's not so. When some guy claims, "You don't see homo animals," the Reasonable Debater can summon all the boinking-bonobos biological data in the world, but it won't make any difference. See, it fucking doesn't matter. The worldview of homophobes is largely truth-free. Sorry, I don’t want to sound absolutist, but there it is.
Sure, there are plenty of stupid fags around, too. But claiming that Celine Dion is a great singer does not harm others the way that ignorant homo-hatred does.
Its not that I'm opposed to reasoned discussion. The "AIDS is not a gay disease" trope, for instance, is somewhat contradicted by the disproportionate number of cases, at least in the West, attributable to unprotected male/male screwing. As long as someone doesn’t merely use that as a queer-bashing weapon, it's something, yes, worth talking about.
But, sorry, "Buttsex caused Rome to fall" is not. Worth. Talking. About. Not.
So which is it, really? Do anti-gay attitudes really not have much of an evidentiary leg to stand on? Or are hardcore homophobes so bone-jarringly ignorant that they couldn't find their evidentiary legs with both hands?
Well, yeah, both.
And it's insulting, really, for antigay assholes to assume that we pro-homos aren't bright enough to know better.
I have to confess that I do spend more time than I should posting pseudonymously to online message boards. And recently one guy accused me of displaying "disdain" to my opponents. I, of course, did the gentlemanly thing and protested that I didn't really feel intellectually superior to some drooling drunk in Dubuque who couldn't tell the Aztecs from the hole in his ass.
But the truth is that though, no, I don't disdain those born with substandard IQs, or folks who, for one reason or another, never got their GEDs. Unless.
Unless they can't be bothered to Yahoo "gay animals" or "Aztec homosexuality" before they bloviate, smug as Sarah Palin. Unless they're proudly, almost defiantly, ignorant in their homophobia. Unless, when confronted by actual facts, they can't bring themselves to say, "Well, yeah, I might have been wrong."
Then I don’t just have disdain. I have full-blown contempt.
And that's so wrong, because Bad Attitude is, as we all know, precisely what caused the Fall of Rome.
copyright 2010, Simon Sheppard