The History of Homosexuality: Beyond the Pale

256px-Gay_Rights_are_Human_Rights_%285823033786%29 The History of Homosexuality: Beyond the Pale

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The early queer rights movement was flawed for many reasons. Not only did it marginalise the most visible members of the community — who had historically born the biggest brunt of discrimination and persecution — they also opted for a soft approach to addressing civil injustices which rankles with hindsight. Most of the early arguments in favour of decriminalising homosexuality posited that queerfolk led sad, miserable lives, and deserved society’s pity, not its contempt. The advocated tolerance, not acceptance. Queerfolk should be allowed to move freely in society, but nobody envisioned them ever being fully part of it. The idea of queerfolk being fully integrated into society was beyond the pale, and too much for the early activists to hope for.

The LGBT emancipation movement has grown in leaps and bounds over the last sixty years, but the choices made by the early activists are still with us. Cause and effect is still confused when it comes to trans* narratives, for example: plenty of right-wing activists who want to revoke the slim rights queerfolk have won point to high suicide rates in the transgender community as evidence that trans*folk aren’t equipped to serve in the armed forces, teach in schools, or hold any number of other positions, without considering the effect of a lifetime of discrimination on a person’s will to live.

256px-Bangalore_Gay_Pride_Parade_%2824%29 The History of Homosexuality: Beyond the Pale

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Much of the early arguments in favour of the decriminalisation of homosexuality were equally illogical: queerfolk were like “normal” people (they used that word) in wanting to be productive members of society; but they weren’t like normal people because so much was denied to them (and of course it was society doing the denying, creating an ouroboros wherein society penalises queerfolk for being different and then illustrated their difference by pointing to the penalties). Queerfolk were just like you in wanting to be productive people with houses and jobs and families, but not like you because they were criminalised; or, afterwards, still unable to maintain a home without threat of eviction, or unable to create a family with any legal standing.

This confusion between cause and effect, “normality” and the creation of “abnormality,” is still problematic today. The “just like you” argument was extremely effective when it came to same-sex marriage, but we need to move past it in order to become fully equal — LGBT rights shouldn’t be predicated on queerfolk acting and thinking the same way heterosexuals do (like there’s only one model of heterosexuality, anyway). “Love is love” might be a noble and valid sentiment, but does it really go far enough to address the myriad ways queerfolk have their basic rights to education, work, and housing infringed?

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