3 min

An argument that helps the creeps

How do we argue with this rightwing wacko?

Credit: Xtra files

You have to love to hate the Alliance Party. My deep love/hate relationship with them started when they first named their party the Canadian Reform Alliance Party – yep, that’s CRAP for short.

And they just keep doing it again and again, getting in the spotlight through their outrageously intolerant remarks, usually directed at one of their favourite minorities – immigrants, people of colour, gay men and lesbians.

The latest round came from Dr Grant Hill, a Canadian Alliance member of Parliament, who is running for the party’s leadership, and who has caused quite a stir with his view of gay men (lesbians apparently, don’t figure anywhere on his radar screen).

As Hill explains, “I’m not anti-gay.” In fact, some of his patients are gay. He just has problems with “the homosexual lifestyle,” which in his view, is unhealthy.

The homosexual lifestyle, according to Hill, leads to HIV, hepatitis, parasitic infection and gay bowel syndrome. As a doctor and a man of science, he has insisted that his views are not political or religious, just medical fact.

When Parliament was debating the inclusion of sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act, Dr Hill could be found reading from his medical textbooks about gay bowel syndrome: “My specific problem with this bill is that it will produce and allow the promotion of an unhealthy lifestyle.”

Now, the problem for gay folks, and anyone else concerned with basic equality rights, is how to argue with this rightwing wacko. Most of the arguments that we would have to make to refute Dr Grant’s allegations are, unfortunately, insidious.

Like the argument that most gay men actually aren’t promiscuous, but living in loving and monogamous relationships, with a nice house, a picket fence and 1.4 dogs. We could cloak ourselves in respectability by appealing to the norms of monogamy, domesticity and the nuclear family.

It’s an argument that creates two kinds of gay folks – good monogamous ones who deserve rights and recognition, and bad promiscuous ones who are ruining it for the rest of us. It’s an argument that we have seen before – an argument about closing the bathhouses, distancing ourselves from drag queen’s and bull dykes and transgendered people who will never assimilate into mainstream culture.

It’s an argument, used before by conservative gay folks, that disavows a politics and culture of sexual freedom and self-determination.

Or, facing off against Hill, we could argue that heterosexuals have unsafe sex, too. Straight folks have anal sex – in fact, it’s apparently quite in vogue these days. And lots of them have unsafe sex. So we might say: Stop picking on us, and go pick on these folks.

This, too, is an argument that cedes too much ground. It’s an argument that concedes that anal sex may actually be a bad thing. It’s an argument that denies the importance of sexuality, not only to gay men and lesbians, but to straight folks, too.

Or we can arm ourselves with the medical facts, and try to refute Hill claim by claim. Meet facts with facts.

But standing behind the veil of science, as Dr Grant does, only serves to elevate his argument to one of science. It becomes a debate between scientists, of competing medical claims, like whether or not Vitamin C really does help boost our immune systems. And it lets Dr Grant get away with his claim that his position is not about politics, religion, morality or intolerance.

The problem is that Dr Grant is simply another social conservative, trying to stand behind the claims of science. He’s another in a long line of conservatives who are trying to stop the so-called gay agenda.

The problem in railing against him is that we have to be careful we don’t actually help his case. We should make sure that our arguments don’t undermine our agenda – an agenda that must include an affirmation of sex and sexuality, of sexual freedom and the right to sexual self-determination.

Brenda Cossman is a member of the board of Pink Triangle Press, which publishes Xtra.