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Gays natural part of human continuum

Years ago on an oppressively humid night in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I was out walking the streets, sweating in the sultry air, when I noticed some young guys strolling ahead. They had that certain graceful swing to their gaits, that certain chatty lilt to their voices that straight men immediately sense as peculiar.

But I also was aware that I had seen these same exact guys before all over the world. In Tempe, Ariz., where I lived for many years. In Saudi Arabia, where I lived for many more. And in far-flung big cities, rural villages and remote outbacks in my random travels throughout the globe. Of course, you can’t reliably identify all gay men by sight, but — and straight guys know what I’m talking about — they often exude something undeniably identifiable.

My evolving awareness that gay people are everywhere, and that their mannerisms, vocal styles and distinctive presences can seem uncannily similar, almost identical — anywhere — started to change my attitudes. If something were unnatural, it seemed to me, it wouldn’t be so uncommonly common and evenly distributed throughout our planet, as studies suggest.

I started to become convinced that homosexuality — male and female — is less a kind of pathology than just a natural part of the broad continuum of human sexuality. Some men are macho in the extreme, some soft and gentle; some women are ultra-feminine, some aggressively butch. It’s a wide natural range, and, as we know already, sexual passion hardly resides in a narrow environment of “normal.” For each and every person alive or who has ever lived, those core facets of our natures are or have been experienced in completely unique and widely divergent ways. Some of us sing like meadowlarks; others are tone-deaf mutes. Why should it be any different with human sexuality?

This is relevant now as the country struggles with developing a consensus view on same-sex marriage and whether religious objections to homosexuality and, thus, persecution and marginalization of gays on religious grounds should be protected by law.

What is rarely uttered but is the crux of the matter is the widespread sense in this country and others that there is just something abnormal, meaning wrong, with homosexuals. Yet, if we take the time to read about this issue, we discover that about the only thing demonstrably different between straights and gays is whom they choose to love.

Reputable studies show that gays are just as very highly unlikely as straights to be sexually attracted to children or be sexual predators, and there’s zero evidence that children raised by same-sex couples develop special problems.

And pedophiles, by the way, are rarely homosexual. If you take sexual orientation out of the equation, homosexuals and heterosexuals are pretty much the same by most standard measures. We all want love and acceptance.

This is not new. In 1975, the American Psychiatric Association began challenging homosexuality’s stigmatic history in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), one of the two most widely used such texts in the world. In 1987, homosexuality as a disorder was removed outright from the DSM. The American Psychological Association and other mental health groups also depathologized homosexuality years ago.

On its website today, the American Psychological Association states, “Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience.”

Fear of the “other” is a normal human caution. But, we should remind ourselves, it is also the mother and father of prejudice.