Most homophobes have been really getting smarter lately about cleaning up their language, trying to make it seem like they have more going on than just a knee-jerk disgust at difference that leads them to be hateful and cruel. But thankfully not all! South Dakota state representative Steve Hickey is proud to wear his attraction/repulsion obsession with anal sex—a behavior he equates with homosexuality—out on his sleeve. In a letter he sent to the Argus Leader in front of a court challenge to same-sex marriage (which they haven’t yet published, but he also shared on Facebook), Hickey lets us all know that he loves to think about anal sex. He’s against it, but he loooooooves thinking about it, long and hard.
Consider this an open letter to the medical and psychological communities in South Dakota. The subject is homosexuality, which is about to be a front-page topic for the next few years in our state. I’m asking the doctors who practice in our state, is the science really settled on this issue or is it more the case that you feel silenced and intimidated?
This is the general theme of the letter: He knows that because he thinks anal sex is gross (and what he means by “homosexuality” is anal sex, as you’ll soon see), then is must therefore be bad for you, and a secret cabal of gay fascists are hiding the truth. Never mind that secret cabals are routinely bad at getting doctors to agree to pretend what’s bad for us is good for us. Cigarette smokers, heavy drinkers, people who love having unprotected sex and fans of sugary desserts are all people who have greater numbers and representatives on both sides of the aisle, and yet somehow they haven’t been able to bully doctors into pretending their unhealthy choices are good for them. But Hickey refuses to admit that the reason doctors don’t seem worried about anal sex is that there’s no real danger in it if you do it right.
Certainly there are board-certified doctors in our state who will attest to what seems self-evident to so many: gay sex is not good for the body or mind. Pardon a crude comparison but regarding men with men, we are talking about a one-way alley meant only for the garbage truck to go down. Frankly, I’d question the judgment of doctor who says it’s all fine.
See what I mean? Even though it’s a lesbian couple that is challenging the ban on same-sex marriage, Hickey is focused single-mindedly on the image of a man having anal sex with another man. And, of course, that’s hardly the only problem with his equation of “gay” and “anal sex”. Straight couples have plenty of anal sex. Some gay men don’t have anal sex. Hickey isn’t throwing a fit because suppositories and enemas are for sale, even though those also violate his “one-way alley” theory of how the colon is supposed to work.
South Dakota docs, it’s time for you to come out of the closet and give your professional opinion on this matter like you capably and responsibly do on all the others. Somehow the message we are presently getting from the medical community is that eating at McDonalds will kill us but the gay lifestyle has no side effects. Truth be told it seems self-evident the list of side effects would read far longer than anything we hear on a Cialis commercial.
He neglects to say what he thinks the “side effects” of the “gay lifestyle”—which he equating with anal sex—are, but sadly, I have a good idea what he’s talking about. There’s this widespread myth amongst the religious right that there’s a disease called “gay bowel syndrome”, a myth that has been thoroughly discredited.
But regardless of the specifics, you see this line of reasoning a lot on the right, that health and their definition of morality are intertwined, and that making choices contrary to their specific religious beliefs about sexuality must result in poor health. You see the same thinking when it comes to abortion. The blunt fact of the matter is that abortion is less dangerous than childbirth nearly every health measure. Childbirth has higher risk of injury, death, and even mental illness, as postpartum depression is a serious problem. But anti-choicers keep insisting that it’s abortion that is dangerous and that you’ll develop mental illness, breast cancer, etc. if you get abortion. They also pretend that the facilities where first trimester abortions are performed—even just the ones done with a pill—need a full surgical suite, something you don’t even need for complication-free childbirth. (Though this is not an argument for home birth. Birthing centers are equipped to give women a homey birthing atmosphere but can have an ambulance on standby, should you need to be rushed to where you can get access to a full surgical suite.) It’s all very Old Testament, imagining that there’s a god dishing out disease to punish and control.
“It’s not hate for a physician to speak up about something that is harmful to human health,” whines Hickey. Yes, that is true. But it would totally be hate for a doctor to make up negative health effects that do not exist in order to torment and frighten people for their private sexual and relationship choices. And that’s what a doctor would be doing if he claimed, utterly falsely, that being gay or having anal sex or having an abortion makes you sick. Being gay or having anal sex or having an abortion is not immoral. Lying to people in order to try to control their sexual choices, however, really is.