we must even debate things we do not agree with

Yesterday I was surprised to find that some people made a group on facebook criticising the bbc for opening up a forum in which people could debate the Ugandan law to execute gay people. it’s bizarre how some people, mostly on the right, use every opportunity to attack the bbc, but completely miss the point at the same time. Of course, any law to execute gay people anywhere is abhorrent*, and anyone supporting such a law must be short of a brain, but surely everything must be fair game for debate. Otherwise, things become absolute truths, beyond debate, something which I see as very unhealthy. Nothing in science is a fact: things like evolution, the idea that the world is round (like an orange!) or global warming are still theories and open to debate, although the evidence for each of these is so great that they’re very unlikely to be disproved. Nevertheless, none of these things are beyond debate, and nor should anything else be seen as such. Hence you cannot criticise the beeb for opening up debate.

What can be criticised, however, is the underlying issue. We all know, of course, that being gay is noot an abnormality, but something quite natural. Nor is it something you choose to be, but you’re either born gay or straight or bi. During the course of my googling, I found that the Ugandans are being funded by the American right, including at least two senators and several fundamentalist organisations. They are, in part, basing their biggortry on the work of an American, Richard cohen, cohen argues that gay people can be ‘cured’, that they chose to be straight if they so whish. This, of course, goes against all the psychological evidence on the subject, and indeed in 2002 cohen was expelled from the American Counseling Association for, among other things, ” seek[ing] to meet [his] personal needs at the expense of clients”. In other words, he was trying to manipulate the data to meet his own agenda. From this, and from the way in which Cohen thereafter termed the ACA a ”gay-affirming club”, we can see that this man is no scientists and is acting out of motives other than the search for truth.

Indeed, Cohen describes himself as Ex-Gay; he speaks of wanting to give people the choice to be heterosexual if they so whish. In an article entitled ”born gay? No way” in the New Statesman, Cohen states that ” I am pro-choice regarding homosexuality. If someone wants to live a gay life, that needs to be respected. If someone wants to change and come out straight, that too needs to be respected. Let us practice true tolerance, real diversity, and equality for all.” Yet beneath this message is the presumption that homosexuality is wrong, and something to be corrected. In other words, it’s fascism masquerading as liberalism, belief masquerading as science.

It doesnn’t end there. The Ugandan law is being funded and supported by American right-wing senators. Both the Ugandan ptesident and vice-president are members of a secretive American religious organisation known as ‘the family’, which has very conservative (read fascist) views on gay people. it boasts at least two US senators as members who were instrumental in steering American money to fight AIDS in ugannda into funding abstinence-only schemes. Moreover, several American churches are involved, to whom cohen is a cause celebre.

Does this not strike you as absurd? We have these crackpots in the states claiming that homosexuality is a choice, coaxing Uganda to pass an utterly biggoted law, justifying their beliefs through a mixture of quack-science and religion, and refusing to listen to anyone who tells them they’re wrong. I have many gay friends; indeed, my own relationship wilt Lyn isn’t exactly straight, is it? I am very concerned, with the most powerful state on the Earth influencing others in such an illogical, bigoted way, about where this will all end.

So of course such things must be debated, if only so we go beyond the headlines. Debate leads to research; and only through research can you find the truth. * capital punishment is barbaric for whatever reason

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