When government has a say in how consenting adults may behave in the privacy of their bedrooms, it has too much power over its citizen’s choices. Government’s job should be governing economies and policies and environments, not ruling people or policing morality.
But we see in Africa that when government officials can’t fulfil their promises, they turn to governing what isn’t theirs to govern. These politicians divide and conquer; they put up scapegoats and play on myths and fears, recklessly endangering the most vulnerable and misunderstood people in society.
When they are asked to dispel the myths behind prejudices like homophobia – which would expose that they’d exploited those myths and prejudices for votes as well – these types of governments hide behind the excuse that the majority has no tolerance for same-sex relationships; therefore, the gays should perish as per the demand of the majority.
But where do we draw the line on the majority’s power? If the majority can decide that a man should be burned to death for loving another man, then why can’t the majority also be called upon to decide, when a woman is raped for example, whether it was her fault for wearing clothes that indicated she “wanted it,” or whether her attire and make-up that day was that of a modest, “decent girl” who wasn’t out to provoke and tease male lust? Why, for that matter, couldn’t the majority be called upon to decide whether all men should be castrated seeing as they cannot (and should not, it would seem) help raping women who wear anything more revealing than a brick house? Why are there never majorities convened on the issue of general male culpability where rape is concerned? I digress.
How much power should the majority have over human experiences? If a gay man’s right to say “Yes” to personal happiness is up for public discussion and may endanger his life and the life of his relatives, then we’re a step away from having a woman’s right to say to say “No” to personal violation also being up for public discussion. People say that gay rights are a slippery slope to immorality. But whatever they imagine immorality to be, it pales, pales in comparison to the very real violations currently perpetrated against very real people.
When the majority has the power to make sexual choices for adult citizens, then no individual has sexual autonomy or self-governance. Majorities are groups of individuals that happen to be invincible at that moment because they’ve got numbers on their side. In principle, that power is an illusion because, like the gay man and the rape survivor, not one of those individuals comprising that majority ultimately has the power of self-determination, and any of them can end up on the receiving end of the majority’s prejudice. Power ultimately belongs to some shifting “majority”; depending on who and on whose altar he needs to sacrifice on that day, a politician will shift the power to decide to whichever group of individuals is least likely to see that they have no individual rights themselves, let alone the power of some supposed majority. Their vulnerability is eclipsed by their immediate context in which they feel morally superior and enjoy the safety of numbers. Straight-identified people don’t feel threatened by anti-gay laws, so they can be used by prejudiced politicians to decide quickly without thinking deeply. If they knew what was at stake, they would know how dangerous (and dangerously false) that power is. Because whatever majority the individuals comprising that majority think they’re part of, it’s a mirage that could and eventually does betray them.
When the South African government was asked why it didn’t condemn the anti-gay laws of other countries, the excuse given was that the other countries’ autonomy must be respected. But we have just seen that when the majority can decide what happens in the privacy of an adult’s bedroom, then no individual truly has sexual autonomy or the power of self-governance; you can multiply those individuals into a so-called majority and stack them into a so-called government, but they have no more autonomy as a group with titles and offices than they did as individuals without titles and the offices. In the absence of a noble social contract that protects the rights of each person, rulers use brute force for they too have no real power. Hence, we have dictatorships thriving wherever individual human rights are not thriving. Tell me how homophobic your environment is and I will tell you your political destiny.
If you tolerate an environment where it is not okay to be gay, you deserve everything such an environment brings with it and it can be hell on earth.
The fight for gay rights is a fight against dictatorships. It is a fight for your freedom, no matter who you are or what you currently believe about gay people.