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Mark Ellse: A moderate stance on homosexuality


If one is socially conservative one can find one’s position caricatured. It can then become the caricature, rather than position itself, that is the subject of attack.

Living within one’s means is caricatured as austerity. Having reservations about some aspects of immigration is xenophobia. A cautious word about the Wahhabism is Islamophobia. And if one’s endorsement of gay marriage is not absolute, it is, of course, homophobia.

The parody is inevitably unattractive and one can see reasons for it being subjected to wrath. This wrath can be extreme. The screams of “Scum! Scum! Scum!” directed at Douglas Carswell for his support of controlled spending, look very much like what one would imagine hate speech to be.

If we are to make the case for a position that is different from the Left, we need to be just as circumspect as they are about vocabulary.

What is, for instance, our own position about homosexuality? In an era when the argument over the status of marriage has been lost, is there a demurring position that it is possible to take? The root of the word homophobia is a morbid fear, just as arachnophobia is of spiders. It is not a good working definition and certainly not the way that the word is used nowadays.

Merriam-Webster describes homophobia as an irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. It’s not a bad definition. Around the world one can see disturbing examples, inside or outside the Islamic world.

Masha Gessen describes events in Russia that all readers of this blog would abhor. On the other hand, one sees an unreserved love for things gay, perhaps I should say LGBT, if one looks at the views of other political parties. The Greens extend this to LGBTIQQ and look likely to embrace polyamory, though I confess I shall take a while to get used to the concept. This is the arena of Gay Pride and the loud, outrageous promotion of alternative lifestyles. Though the word is used in a different context, it is not unreasonable to describe this position as homophilic a love of things homosexual.

But how on earth can I describe my own position as I try to steer between the Scylla of phobos and the Charybdys of philos? I am driven to take the word homomoderate as the best descriptor of my course.

We cannot duck the wide religious and cultural tradition that speaks against homosexuality. On the other hand, as I have said elsewhere, even if we do not have that particular sin on our list, we have plenty of others as bad. Our own lives often reflect our weaknesses ra the than the things we would wish to do. Even were one of the opinion that homosexuality should be roundly condemned, what should one do about adultery and fornication? Few of us have a clean slate. A homomoderate position regards different sexual sins as having the same gravity. What could be more equal?

I have a huge number of friends in the musical world who are gay. Some are close friends as well. Heterosexual marriages can be self-contained.

Gay men sometimes talk with greater openness and acceptance. One or two gay friends are in happy settled relationships but none support gay marriage. They see it as something that has polarised the debate and society, something that they would have preferred to avoid. Are they not homomoderate?

Almost none of my gay friends deny at least some attraction to women. One, a confirmed bachelor type, said something to me the other week about fancying his cleaner.

‘But you’re gay, Matthew,’ I said.

‘Indeed,’ he replied, ‘but the more I think about it, the more I realise that homosexuality is really only delayed adolescence.’

This is far from the Stonewall line, pushed by the young and sexually active, tempered little by age and perspective. The homomoderate view is that we are all sexual, that all sorts of sexual options may well be available, that experience and inhibition have roles to play but the vast majority of us have quite a lot of choice in how we apply our sexuality. Is that not freeing and ennobling, and something that one can teach any child?

There are some obvious disadvantages to the gay lifestyle. Drug taking is more in gay relationships. The level of sexually transmitted disease is much higher because promiscuity is more the norm. Even if one were to regard gay marriage as the best option for a gay relationship, sexual fidelity is not a component of gay marriage for the simple reason that one cannot define anything equivalent to adultery. The advocates of gay marriage say that it will improve things. We shall see. The position of children is going to be difficult in a gay relationship. They cannot be the natural children of both partners and both partners cannot have the biological instinct to preserve their own offspring.

Any solution is a compromise. Not great: not awful. Homomoderate. But love gays? Of course we do! Not all, but we don’t love all straights. But our sons or our daughters, were they to reject all of the above, would we love them? Of course we would. What parent couldn’t?

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Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse is a physicist and author. He is a former headmaster, independent school inspector and A level chief examiner.

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