|Toleration of gays a product of modern medicine? |
Half Sigma recently bashed the gays. And by bashing the gays, I mean noticing the negative consequences of tolerance of homosexuality, both to homosexuals and to everyone else. Half Sigma blames the AIDS plague on homosexuals. I'm sure he's right - if there were no gays, there would be very few HIV+ people, at least in the West. And if homosexuality was still suppressed as it was in the past, most gays were still in the closet, and vice cops were keeping a lid on promiscuous gay behavior, the HIV epidemic would be much less prevalent than it is now. It might even be non-existent.
You can say that the problem is gay promiscuity or unsafe gay sex rather than homosexuality per se, but the two are hard to separate. Gay men are, first and foremost, men, with promiscuous instincts, and promiscuity is what happens when a bunch of naturally promiscuous people want to fuck each other. If women had the same inclinations as men, heterosexuals would be equally promiscuous (though still not as likely to transmit HIV because vaginal sex is less likely to do that), but they don't, so they aren't.
Besides the direct tragedy of people dying AIDS, the AIDS population is a reservoir of other diseases that can affect anyone. For example, the AIDS epidemic has played a role in the reemergence of tuberculosis, which can affect people who don't show up in the HIV statistics. Treatment for HIV and related conditions has been expensive, and not all of the expenses have been borne by the direct victims - tax dollars pay for antiretrovirals too. And HIV research has sucked up many research dollars that could have been spent on other things. Chances are that other people have died because the funding for research that would have saved their lives went to HIV instead, although there's no way to know who suffered in this case.
The price of tolerating homosexuality has not been cheap.
But it has been bearable. We have been living with all of these problems, are for most of us they are fairly minor concerns. The costs have mainly accrued to the gays themselves, and they show no indication of wanting to go back into the closet. Excepting the unlucky few heterosexuals who have suffered from AIDS or related illnesses, most of us have much bigger problems than the costs of homosexuality and HIV. I'm not going to say that I'm pro gay-rights, but the issue is unimportant enough to me that this is the first time I've mentioned it on this blog.
But what if there had been a gay rights movement 100 years previously?
Here's an excerpt from a bio of a "clap doctor" who specialized in treating promiscuous gay men:
n the mid-seventies, Sonnabend's office was crowded with people suffering from syphilis and gonorrhea of the penis, the mouth, the anus. Chlamydia was also rampant in the gay community. But there was a lot more than the clap walking through Sonnabend's door. Hepatitis B was almost epidemic, and even tuberculosis was making a comeback. Oral and anal herpes were so common they barely were worth a mention to those infected. Sonnabend thought the gay population, at least the slice of it he was seeing in the Village, was clearly sicker, with stranger diseases, than the populace at large.
In the late seventies, a new wave of disease hit his community parasites. Amebiasis, giardia lamblia, shigellosis, and cryptosporidium, a parasite that usually inhabits the bowels of sheep. These enteric diseases are caused when certain organisms get into peoples, gastrointestinal tracts. How they were getting there was no mystery. The parasites are present in fecal matter. Anal intercourse increases the chances of the parasites infecting one or both sex partners. But the growing popularity of rimming, or oral-anal intercourse, in the late seventies provided an almost perfect vector for these parasites to enter parts of the body unaccustomed to their presence.
Note that this was in the seventies, before the HIV epidemic.
1970s medicine was capable of treating or at least managing most of those diseases - a course of antibiotics would take care of most STDs. Being gay or living among gays was harmful, but tolerable. But, in an earlier era, unrestricted homosexuality would have been a complete disaster. Diseases that are curable with few pills would have been fatal or very harmful. More so when you throw AIDS into the mix. Prevention would have been much more difficult because there was no such thing as latex condoms. I'm not sure if they even had anything capable of making sex safe, but if they did, I'm sure it felt like f*cking a saddlebag, so people wouldn't have used it. Fecal parasites would have made their way into the water, so everybody would have suffered from giardia and other parasites spread by rimjobs.
I quote Michael Blowhard again:
Modernism: Endless experiments based in theory and speculation, very few of which work out. Tradition: Practices based in experience that almost always succeed.
Indeed, the gay rights experiment would have blown up in the faces of our ancestors if they had tried it. The traditional position is still right, but it's not as right as it used to be. Technology has enabled us to break with tradition at a tolerable cost.
"Us" meaning first-world Westerners. In poor countries, they're no more tolerant of gays than our "benighted" ancestors. I've spoken to people from rural, third-world backgrounds who absolutely loath gays and would consider it just to kill them. In their countries, medical treatment for giardia, chlamydia, or tuberculosis is harder to come by, let alone expensive, cutting-edge antiretrovirals. If they opened up bathhouses, the results would be about the same as they would have been in 19th century America. Is it a coincidence that they both couldn't handle and don't tolerate homosexuality? I don't know, but it's probably just as well.