Right-wingers are up in arms this week after Maybe He’s Not Gay, a horrific “guide” to homosexuality written by extreme homophobe Linda Harvey, was removed from the digital bookshelves of Amazon.
It’s not entirely clear why the book’s no longer available on Amazon. Back2Stonewall initially reported that Amazon made the decision themselves after reviewing the book’s borderline abusive content, while Queerty says the publisher made the final call. The anti-gay Illinois Family Institute and the Christian Post say that Harvey herself asked for the book to be taken down after it received an influx of critical reviews from, you know, intelligent and reasonable people.
“I saw the rotten reviews, a smear campaign by those who had not read the book, and the publisher attempted to get Amazon to pull the ad hominem reviews, but they were not immediately responsive,” said Harvey.
“So, since the book is brand new and I didn’t want it to be harmed by this uninformed and vicious campaign stimulated by ‘gay’ bloggers, I decided to pull the page for now.”
Harvey also told CP that Amazon left the option open to put it back online and that she and her publisher “will probably re-post it in the near future.”
Jeremy Hooper reported that while the book costs around $10, the toll it will take on the LGBT kids who have to deal with bigoted, toxic parents who read Harvey’s vitriol is far greater.
While this is an easy book to judge by its cover, I decided to buy it and dive into it so that 1) no one else has to and 2) we can all see just what we’re dealing with.
Is the book really as vile as it sounds? Let’s find out.
As she introduces the book, Harvey describes homosexuality as “an emperor without clothes,” claiming repeatedly that gay people’s “feelings” (I can just hear her saying it in a mocking voice) are totally misguided and don’t actually reflect facts or represent the “truth” — which is, apparently, that nobody can be gay.
The “factual” pillars she believes we’re violating are that being gay hasn’t been proven to be genetic and that there are “risks” associated with homosexuality — as you may have guessed, she throws around lots of outdated data and incorrect stereotypes about HIV/AIDS. (Chapter 4 is called “Friends Don’t Let Friends Be Gay,” and it’s all about gay sex. Which religious conservatives seems rather obsessed with…)
Here’s a pseudo-thesis statement:
If it’s not genetic and some people think there are some real risks and problems with homosexuality … then why can’t there be reasonable discussions about it? Wouldn’t that be reasonable, compassionate and… tolerant??? Maybe being gay isn’t “who they are.” Maybe their feelings have just had a head-on collision with facts.
She makes the argument that “our ancestors” throughout history opposed homosexuality, and she gets really tripped up trying to decide whether or not homosexuality is genetic, i.e. fixed at birth and unchangeable.
If there’s no reliable research supporting the claim that being gay is inborn — then why can’t we still allow open discussions in our schools, universities, legislatures? Can an opposing opinion still be allowed without name-calling? Without people being called hateful, bigoted, intolerant? Without fines, job loss, public humiliation? (Yes, those things are happening!) Can we listen to other voices on this issue, in an attempt to find the truth? And if we aren’t willing to do so, what does that say about us?
First, there are plenty of reasons to believe that homosexuality is at least partially inborn, even if we don’t have a “gay gene” to point to, and we’ve known that for ages. Second, why does it matter if it’s a choice or not? Many people choose to be religious, and yet we constitutionally protect them from religious-based persecution (not something we can say for LGBT folks), no matter what critics say about the Affordable Care Act. Even if a person chooses to be gay, why are they any less worthy of being protected from discrimination?
She also has a fit about the incongruity between a gay sexual orientation and reproductive abilities — namely, she’s freaked out that gay men are still generally capable of impregnating women, and lesbians are still capable of becoming pregnant:
And they will never be able to be impregnated by their chosen partners of the same sex. They will never be able to conceive and bear children as a same sex couple. Isn’t this a colossal error, if indeed homosexuality has always been normal and natural, and we today are the ones finally enlightened enough to grasp this? Doesn’t this severe limitation contradict the popular narrative?
That’s a great question to pose to the millions of straight people who are unable to conceive children. Equating sexual orientation with biological functions is offensive on so many levels — and to people on her side, too!
The part of this that made me start to hyperventilate is when she compared homosexuality to skipping class, being overweight, cheating on exams, cheating on a spouse, or even developing an eating disorder: all behaviors she considers “not genetic, high-risk, and changeable.”
(There are so many problems with this logic. So. Many.)
But that’s the argument she uses to claim that homosexuality is probably not inborn, but merely a bad choice that some people make and can be counseled out of. Take a look:
Some girls — even a few boys — develop eating disorders. Why? What in the world could make a person intentionally starve herself? One would think, since this is so obviously a bad idea, that all you have to do is point out this fact to an otherwise smart person, and they’ll snap out of it — right? But it turns out, it’s not that simple. Sometimes it takes years of counseling to get a person to eat. Think about that. To get a person to eat, the most basic human desire we have. And in the meantime, serious damage can be happening to her skin, hair, heart and other organs. Why do we not think people could be deeply deceived — emotionally — about other things? Things like their perceptions about who they are attracted to? Things like sex and gender identity?
Next up, Harvey claims that accepting homosexuality will “shake the foundations of human culture.” And that it’s already happening! (The horror!) She offers a long list of the horrible, horrible consequences of greater acceptance of LGBT folks. While the list is too long to post in its entirety, here are some of the gems:
Are you KIDDING me? Are we obligated by law to favorably accept it when people of any sex confess crushes on us? Is this how Linda Harvey was raised? Is this how Christians mate? Someone fill me in.
- Someone may confess a gay “crush” on you, whether or not you have any interest, and if you aren’t polite, even if they are quite aggressive, you may be accused of bigotry and discrimination. In fact, being repulsed by a gay person’s pursuit of you will no longer be an acceptable reaction. You won’t have a choice — it won’t be “cool” and it may also go against the school or company rules on discrimination and you will become the “bad guy” who is expelled or fired.
- You may get a summer job where you are in contact with practicing homosexuals, and you may be forced to listen to them describe their homosexual relationships, even if you don’t want to. Complaining may result in a charge of discrimination, a demotion or even being fired.
Hey, you know what shouldn’t be discussed at summer jobs? Or any jobs? Sexual relationships. Same-sex, different sex, I don’t really care. If you work in the cubicle behind me, I’m not gonna talk about my gay sex life at the water cooler. And if I did, I would be the one getting fired, not you for not wanting to hear about it.
- Same sex marriage will become legal and you will be expected to attend and applaud these weddings, and to introduce partners to your family and friends.
Who the hell is holding a gun to your head and telling you to attend your gay nephew’s wedding? There’s a very simple response in this situation: Politely decline and keep your homophobia at home. Send a gravy boat or something.
If you think this is a real problem, then you are the problem.
- It will become illegal to say anything against homosexuality even in church or even to your own children.
Hi. I’m Freedom of Speech. I’m not going anywhere. Nice to meet you.
- You may belong to a health plan where the doctor or counselor assigned to you is homosexual and also the same sex as you. If that makes you feel uncomfortable during physical exams, too bad.
What does that even mean, “too bad”? Do you lack the ability to find a new doctor? Did I miss the part where we are all assigned one doctor at birth and may never, ever switch? Get over yourself. Nobody’s checking you out during your physical.
- No one will be allowed to joke about men who want to wear dresses or women who have beards, and restrooms and locker rooms will be non-gendered.
Oh, poor you! You won’t be able to publicly degrade other people anymore? How heartbreaking! Who will play you in the Lifetime movie?!
There’s a counter-argument to all of this that you often hear from the pro-LGBT-right side: people can hold whatever anti-gay beliefs they want, but those beliefs shouldn’t affect human rights. However, Harvey tries to tackle that as well. She whines about how schools may start teaching kids about the contributions of LGBT people and how ex-gay therapy is slowly being outlawed around the country. She writes that this is a sign that “new standards of morality” are being shoved down people’s throats.
Oh, and she’s really terrified of bisexuality.
She also whines that acceptance of homosexuality will lead kids to start wondering about sex, and having sex earlier, and that we’ll all have to accept it. Wrong, wrong, wrong. If your child sees a same-sex couple and their first question is how that couple has sex, you need to have another conversation entirely.
We push heterosexuality on our children practically at birth through fairy tales and Disney movies that nearly always feature a love story between a prince and a princess. Is a kid’s first instinct to think about how Cinderella and Prince Charming have sex? Would that change if we introduced Princess Charming? No, it wouldn’t.
The kicker comes in the third chapter: “Why No One Is Born Gay.” (Sigh.) Here, Harvey all but admits that she’s really just freaked out by this “gay” phenomenon that she doesn’t understand. She talks about how same-sex sexual activity (like the infamous kiss between Britney Spears and Madonna, of all people) can occur regardless of sexual orientation and she condemns promiscuity of all kinds, showing that she’s not really so afraid of homosexuality, but of “sexual deviance” and “experimentation” at large. Not surprising.
Homosexuality is really a rebellion against the norm, against most or all norms. It’s one type of behavior that some people today are saying should be explored by anyone who wants to. And the person doesn’t have to call himself or herself a homosexual. It’s called “fluid” sexual behavior and feelings, or being “queer.” That’s not my word, but theirs. That is, go into the homosexual life if a person wants, or heterosexuality, or bisexuality. Change genders or have an undefined gender, or do whatever you want, whenever you want. This is what is being promoted. Not long ago, such recklessness would have been unheard of and considered what it quite logically is: a recipe for personal chaos and disaster. Others are proposing widespread acceptance of bizarre practices like sex between people and animals, or sado-masochism, which combines violence and sex. Finally, some people believe that the criminal penalties that exist for sex between adults and minors should be eliminated, and that even children should have sex. More chaos, damage and disaster.
Nobody’s promoting bestiality or pedophilia — and plenty of straight people engage in BDSM. This is just fear-mongering wrapped in the guise of valid criticism.
Finally, she reverts back to the ultimate right-wing Hail Mary: Convert! Convert!
Harvey says that “hundreds” of organizations in the U.S. can help gay people work through their feelings and turn straight, and that plenty of “converted homosexuals” will tell you that it really works. Never mind that the most prominent ex-gay organization Exodus International shut its doors and its president said homosexuality is unchangeable — Harvey says he’s not a good representative of the ex-gay movement because “there seems to be a lot of confusion going on in his life.” If you insist…
Later, she defends parents who kick their gay children out of their homes. She suggests that children whose parents don’t try to shield them from homosexuality will commit suicide. She says that it’s the responsibility of churches to try to warn people about homosexuality. She suggests that gay teenagers are the victims of broken homes or sexual abuse. She waxes poetic on Sodom and Gomorrah. And finally, she says that God is the answer to a troubled life of homosexuality.
I know that this book is not the only one of its kind, and that pulling one title (almost) off the market isn’t going to erase this kind of extreme homophobia. But that shouldn’t stop us from tearing apart every messed-up argument these Christians try to make, if only to show the closeted gay kids out there that people like Linda Harvey are not the majority. There’s hardly an ounce of truth in this book, even if right-wing extremists have convinced themselves otherwise.
I can’t change my sexuality, Ms. Harvey, and clearly, neither can you.