Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Times: Blog: Students' View: We're human beings, not human doings

Tuesday, 5th January 2010 by Stephanie Calleja

"Is life not a hundred times too short for us to stifle ourselves?" - Nietzsche

I was raised in an unduly conservative environment. That is to say, my mother, being the overprotective individual that she is, always took me to church on Sundays and to Catholic doctrine on Tuesdays and Thursdays, never leaving my side until she would see me entering the building. I wouldn't dream of watching television after eight-thirty in the evening.

She would never switch off my bedroom lights until she would hear me utter my bedtime prayer. I'm 19 and my curfew still hasn't been lifted, so you get the idea. The point I'm trying to make is that all these limitations have, to a great extent, constricted my beliefs.

This ‘tunnel vision', as I like to call it, is the reason why unbeknown to my mother, when I was fifteen, I had gone to the cinema to watch Brokeback Mountain, and unknowingly spent half the movie with my face buried in my hands. The idea of two men loving each other in that way grossed me out to the point of feeling queasy. To add fuel to the fire, my friend was accompanied by her two gay friends, and that had really keyed me up.

If it wasn't for one of those two gay people, who eventually became a really close friend of mine, I would still be in the dark about homosexuality and a handful of other taboos constituting the evolutionary puzzle.

About a fortnight ago, I was sitting in a café situated near University, a pen in one hand (which I fervently clicked until the spring reached its elastic limit) and a notebook in the other, tensely waiting for two students to show up. I had been assigned to write an article about the re-launching of the LGBT society at University.

I knew what I had to ask and when to ask it, yet I let that unrelenting fear of wrongdoing override me. The two gay students made an appearance, the atmosphere simmered down to informality, and the interview turned out to be amusing, to say the least.

One thing I realised while I was re-reading the transcript of the interview was the constant referral to the word ‘love'. Quite a cliché, I know. One particular comment that struck me was: "People should seek love of themselves and of others. Whoever we are, we should never give up trying to find love." That got me thinking. The fact that I used to consider people belonging to the LGBT community ‘different' says more about me than it says about them.

Sexual orientation is merely a component of one's identity. There are so many other qualities that make up a human being: honesty, morality, self-acceptance, compassion, affection. The list goes on. Regardless of our sexuality, each of us needs the same things and is equally deserving of them.

Another thing which has been consuming my thoughts is the issue of gay marriage. I see marriage as a civil right, and not as a religious privilege. So, when I read the strong statement issued by the Imam in Malta about permissiveness of homosexuality (among other things) incurring the wrath of God, I cannot help but wonder why two straight people who don't love each other have more of a right to be together than two gay people who are sure of their love for one another. The only queer people are those who don't love anybody, as writer Rita Mae Brown has righteously said.

Uganda's same-sex marriage ban, which is one of the most ruthless anti-gay legislations I've ever encountered, not only outlaws gay people, but is also criminalising to straight alleys who fail to report any gay people they might know. Isn't the whole point of marriage to establish some sort of socially recognised relationship that will enhance a couple's emotional status?

Then there's the argument against children being raised by gay parents. I've recently come across several studies conducted by the American Psychiatric Association which show that the optimal development of a child is not based on their parents' sexual orientation, but on the intensity of their connection with "committed and nurturing adults".

I also came across the studies conducted by Evelyn Hooker, an American psychologist who, upon administering the Rorschach Ink Blot Test, the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), and the Make-A-Picture-Story (MAPS) Test to thirty homosexual males and thirty heterosexual males, found out that both groups are psychologically similar. Her studies had a major say in the American Psychiatric Association's decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness.

Thankfully, these baleful barriers are being demolished, and it is not just due to mainstream empathy. Fostering a culture of acceptance will undoubtedly continue the legacy of people such as Harvey Milk, whose determination was larger than life, and whose cause of rebellion was more than justifiable.

Stephanie Calleja is a second-year B.Communications student and Events Editor of insiteronline.com

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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