First Published: In Struggle! No. 228, November 25, 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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For some time now, IN STRUGGLE! has paid particular attention to the fight against the repression of homosexuals. The newspaper has actively countered the anti-gay attacks of the far Right like the infamous 1978 speaking tour by Anita Bryant calling for homosexuality to be banned. We figured out very early on that these reactionary campaigns were part and parcel of a broader offensive by the Right to get rid of democratic rights. The recent victories of Art Eggleton as Mayor of Toronto and Ronald Reagan as President of the United States show how the Right is adept indeed at exploiting anti-homosexual biases and the time-worn theme of standing up for Family, Country and Religion to help get their retrogressive programme over.
On balance, therefore, we feel that we have been able to play a basically positive role in the struggle against anti-homosexual prejudices and repression. Unfortunately, this is all the more true in a relative sense because a very large number of unions, community groups and national minority organizations still refuse to defend homosexuals. In fact, many, including those which claim to be for socialism and Marxism-Leninism, go so far as to spread the crudest prejudices about gay people and their sexuality.
The work we have done to date has obliged us to develop our own position on homosexuality and the attitude to take towards it in greater detail. Up to this point, IN STRUGGLE! has opposed discrimination against homosexuals mainly in terms of upholding democratic rights without taking a more definite stand than that on homosexuality itself.
An appeal was thus made to our readers a few months ago to help us clarify our views. The response was quick and fruitful. Over thirty letters were sent in; a dozen of the best ones have been published. So where are we at now?
We still have not adopted a more definite stand on homosexuality. However, the arguments we have seen and heard so far designed to demonstrate that homosexuality is an invalid form of sexual activity (and indeed something to be condemned) fall much more into the category of prejudices than that of scientific analysis. Take, for example, the argument that homosexuality is neither normal nor natural. As Tim McCaskell explained very convincingly in issue 226, a consistent Marxist cannot accept arguments about things being unnatural or abnormal until and unless the phenomenon being so labelled is looked at in the context of the particular society which engendered it.
Societies, or to be more accurate, ruling classes get to define what is normal and what is not. What is considered normal at one time in history ceases to be viewed as such in a later period, or vice-versa. In today’s capitalist society, it is “normal” to have a million people unemployed in Canada while there is a crying need for housing, hospitals, food and so on. Does that mean we should simply accept it as normal? Obviously not. Inversely, it was not that long ago that it was considered “abnormal” for a woman to work outside the home and not to devote all of her time to the education of her children. Similarly, young people engaging in pre-marital sex were the exception rather than the rule. Those who got caught were subject to general disapproval by society. Are not both these things now widely seen as completely legitimate ways to behave and rightly so?
The same is true of the argument that homosexuality is not natural because it does not reproduce the human species. The distinction between sex and the function of reproducing children is nowadays generally accepted in both theory and practice. The usage of contraceptive devices by the overwhelming majority of the population is unmistakable proof of that. Surely there is no justification for making an exception for homosexuals and insisting that they and they alone must not separate sex and procreation.
The more we study homosexuality seriously the more we are struck with the mass of prejudices that surround this social phenomenon which prevent any scientific analysis from being made of it. What is even harder to figure out is why so much frenzied effort has gone into suppressing homosexuals at least since the end of the 19th century. This is all the more important because communists have not exactly been free of error on this issue either.
The Marxists of the Second International and the Bolsheviks were among the staunchest defenders of the rights of homosexuals. Unfortunately, the laws adopted by the Russian revolutionaries in 1917, which authorized homosexuality were knocked down again in 1934. From that time on, one would be hard put to argue that the international communist movement has played the role that it could and should in defending the rights of homosexuals.
We intend to continue snd in fact to step up our participation in the struggles of homosexuals for the recognition of their right to the sexual orientation of their choice and the elimination of all discrimination due to that choice. Our Organization is not promoting any particular form of sexual activity. We recognize that this is an area where the freedom of individual choice must be respected as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. And we will continue to study the question of homosexuality with the goal of overcoming all the unscientific prejudices about it which remain rampant.