Thank you for your question.
First I’d like to tell you that you’re not alone. People who do not identify themselves as heterosexual have been struggling with legal, moral and societal issues ever since the beginning of modern society. Back in the Middle Ages, they use to call the people who used to amuse (entertain) the king a “fou du roi.” These “fools” where often non-heterosexual and so acted with a strong female personality as do some homosexual performers today who dress up as drag queens or female impersonators.
Because of the negativity surrounding same-sex attraction, most historical references were destroyed or people killed for writing or participating in them. But homosexuality, historically speaking, has been around for centuries.
Sexuality and religion has always been a difficult mix, even with heterosexuals. The church has always regarded people who abstain from sex as saints (virgins are highly considered by religious groups). All sorts of rules applied such as no sex before marriage, and once married, sex was supposed to be only for procreation purposes and not for pleasure, because sexual pleasure is regarded as a sin.
By comparing homosexual sexual activity to people having sexual relations with animals, your father is probably trying to simplify the issue because he disagrees with you and he finds homosexuality wrong. He is also mixing up abusive sexual power or rape with the terms sodomy and consensual homosexual sexual activity, which I will go over below. I imagine your father is using this comparison in the hopes that it will prompt you to change your sexual orientation or at least not being homosexual or not having homosexual sex. Many parents falsely believe that non-heterosexual development at puberty and during adolescence is something that can be influenced or modified (scared out of a teenager or cured by therapies).
Most homosexuals do not adhere to this theory, explaining that they experienced their sexual orientation as innate. They also argue that often their parents are both heterosexuals, and that the large majority of children adopted by homosexual couples have grown up to be heterosexuals. So the argument that it is a choice is difficult for homosexuals to understand. Most of them say that if it was a choice, why would they choose a difficult path? Why would they make a choice that classic society frowns upon, and a choice that made their teenage years so unpleasant?
Historians and early documentation show human beings as extremely violent towards each other, with regards to religious beliefs. People were executed for their beliefs (any belief or action that went against the church) or “Heresy” (an introduced change that conflicts with the previously established belief system) ; today we use guns and bombs to kill people, back then they used hanging and burning at the stake as methods of execution.
A book by Michael Rocke Forbidden Friendships : Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence , published in 1998 describes how in Florence, Italy, during the Renaissance sexual activity between unmarried men was commonplace. The book describes that because of declining population levels after the ‘black plague’ (14th centery), the deadliest pandemic in human history, church clerics set up an office in 1432 to investigate charges of sodomy (because they wanted men to produce offspring). In early modern England, approximately from 1550 to 1750, homosexual acts out of convenience were commonplace because woman were not allowed out of the family home, at school or at work or to be around men unless they were husband and wife.
Sodomy was the word used at the time in reference to anal sex and any other homosexual sexual activity. Justice systems still use it today, but usually it refers to cases of rape. Harriette Andreadis book Sappho in Early Modern England: Female Same- Sex Literary Erotics, 1550-1714 (2001) examines the status of Sappho and the Sapphic tradition in female literary creativity and same-sex erotic love in early modern England. Even back in Roman times, homosexual behavior existed: there are drawings and art objects that exist from that time like the Warren. You can read more about this by searching the Internet for “Homosexuality in ancient Rome”.
If we look at history, Catholics and Christians targeted African American people before the 1950 in America with segregation and Aboriginals have suffered mistreatment from religious institutions and the government, approximately from 1880 to 1940. All this is quite well documented. Canada forced young Aboriginal people (because adults where to hard to re-educate) to conform and attend religiously run schools that striped them of their culture and language..
The way Caucasian men control these religious institution still exist today, (woman are not allowed to be priests, or hold real authority, although a pressure now exist to make it so), a clear pattern appears that most religions, even today in the 21st century, have a great deal of difficulty accepting differences such as non-heterosexuality, non-traditional families or alternative thinking. What’s important for religious groups is the control they have over people, that they are THE belief system that must be followed, that they are THE ones telling truth, that their preaching and religion is right and that other religions are wrong or not as highly looked upon in the eyes of god. All religious groups are looking for money and power to increase their influence on people, and this hasn’t changed in over 500 years.
In Quebec, Canada, the Roman Catholic Church had a firm hold, controlling what people saw and what they thought using all kinds of method including radio, papers, books, schools and films to coerce the population, even the very poor, into giving money to the church and being faithful. Before television was introduced to Quebec, from approximately 1890 to the 1960s, the Catholic clergy basically controlled cinematography and priests were making “documentaries” (propaganda films).
It was only in the 1960′s that the Quebec government started to control health care and education systems from the Catholic Church. This ended what historians and intellectuals call the “Révolution Tranquille”).Be sure to read alterheros.com section about culture and religion and homosexuality you could find some interesting perspectives on this issue.
The example above shows how humans and society take a long time to evolve, to change their mind set and to see things as “normal”. Humans are creatures of comfort. This means that we as a race like the stability associated with what the majority of people around us look like, behave, do, think and live their everyday lives. Anything that is not normal (meaning within a protocol of how things work in the majority, or within what that person is used to seeing) or anything different than what our religion or culture have led us to believe can be disturbing to some people.
Something that is not normal is then considered different, and so we treat it as a negative – bad, wrong, immoral or illegal. These are how are laws and justice system came to be; not throwing garbage on the street, wearing a seatbelt while driving, not damaging public property… these are all things that humans do that makes life in a society work or not work, but these laws or regulation apply broadly to everyone regardless of gender, ethnic origins, age and so on. The system become faulty when there are laws (that used to exist in Canada and still apply in many US states) targeting certain groups such as homosexuals but that have nothing to do with societal benefits at large and are based solely on a belief system (religion or otherwise).
What is reflected in Canadian law is that two consenting young persons can have sexual relation with each other if the age difference is minimal (this is because of the differences in sexual maturation in adolescence ) and if there exists no difference in authority or position of power or dependency. A clear example of abuse or rape is an adult having sexual relation with a child, because they lack the capacity to freely consent; or an adult who is in a position of authority such as a teacher with a teenage student; or a doctor with a patient or a camp counselor with a camper.
Canadian courts have rarely prosecuted cases where two consenting teenagers have had same sex, sexual relations even if the parents have complained to the police… However, according to the current law, an 18 year old male having a consensual relation with his 15 year old boyfriend is a case where prosecution is doubtful because of the near-age exemption of 5 years (even if the age of consent for sexual relationship is now 16 in Canada). In another example, a 19 year old hockey coach could be prosecuted for his sexual relations with a 17 year-old player (because there exists a difference in authority and this could be seen as an abuse of power even if the two are consenting and of the age of consent).
Sexual attraction or having sex with many types of animals, has been named zoophilia and individuals as being zoophiles.Your question is focusing on the part about consent. In my opinion having sexual relations with people (children, mentally handicapped, etc.) or animals who are unable to truly consent is wrong. Having sexual desires or sexual fantasies is one thing, acting out or having intercourse is another.
Some homosexuals feel a need to portray or show their homosexuality by dressing up like drag queens, expressing themselves in perceived stereotypical manners or living with other homosexuals in what they consider a safe space or village environment. Some people have the need for this external demonstration; especially homosexual people who have delt with harassment, psychological, verbal or physical abuse or non-acceptance by their peers, family or society. So, for some non-heterosexuals their queerness represents just their sexuality, nothing more. Yet, for other non-heterosexuals, their queerness takes a major role in their lives and they feel more comfortable living within it everyday: it is the foundation of their personality and how they feel comfortable living their lives. Furthermore, there exists a lot of misunderstanding within the community itself; issues of racism, gender, beauty expectations and so on.
The reality is that most non-heterosexuals live very “normal” and average lives, like most everyone else in the population: they get up in the morning, go to school or work, etc, etc. They are doctors, plumbers, office workers, sales people, lawyers, truck drivers, business owners, artists, farmers and so on. Queer people exist everywhere but so do people who have prejudices against others, for example some Caucasians in North-America who have racist biases against specific groups of people e.g. Blacks and Hindus are taxi drivers, Filipinos are cleaning woman and Chinese or Pakistanis are convenient store owners. To say all gays have Aids or to only see them as hairstylists and drag queens is also a bias, basically a prejudice which is a form of racism.
Since 2001 after 9/11, their seems to be a resurgence of both religion and the number of people who actively participate in religious behavior in the United States, as well an increase in intolerance towards difference, be it skin color, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. After September 11th, Muslims, Arabs and others from the middle east living in the USA were forced to report to authorities, and 80,000 Arab and Muslim immigrants were identified and fingerprinted. Those who didn’t comply were arrested.. A push towards war and conflict has just heightened these factors, instead of bringing humans together, it seems we have gone backwards in the past few years. Let’s hope young people like yourself will be the generation, “millennial”, who will be outraged by all this nonsense and push for major change, peace and tolerance in the world. Because of prevalence of all news channels like CNN, CBC and news feeds on the Internet, it is easy to become overwhelmed by all the negative news concerning what’s going on in the world, including religion vs homosexuality. It’s important to sometimes disconnect from all this and just try to stay positive and to participate any way you can to things that are more constructive. That can mean going out and volunteering at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen or helping handicapped people or planting trees or writing e-mails or letters to people you admire that you have heard of on the Internet or seen on the news who are making a difference… All this can be done in a non-religious setting – then you are doing something positive and you are making change happen.
Unfortunately you cannot change the views or opinions of your parents, sibling, extended family, or friends… This is true especially if your family is very religious. Being surrounded by people who do not support you in attaining a personally fulfilling life is very difficult for any young person. However, most youth have to rely on a parent or family member for shelter and school and that often makes their lives very unpleasant, until that young person gets the education and the job they need to make some money and live on their own. For some youth in certain countries where religion and family is an integral part of life and their society, these steps of being autonomous are much more difficult to attain. Some youth find their situation so unbearable that they run away from home or leave their communities for large urban centers or even another country. Unfortunately in many cases, these young people live in poverty, have a difficult time continuing their education and they sometimes fall into a life of homelessness, prostitution, poverty and drug use. It’s really important to get a good education, even if it may be biased because you’re at a Catholic or Christian high school or college. If this is not of your free will, you have to become a good actor for a few years, and once you are ready for university, if your parents are accepting to support you financially, you can have a discussion with them about going to university in a larger community or attend a program that would give you the tools needed to get you working.
It is normal for you to fell frustrated in the face of a world that seems against you and your own personal struggles… Find out about and hang out with people like you, make a lot of good friends, surround yourself with well-informed people who are open-minded and opinionated. People who push for change, are socially minded, against racism, against the war, care about the environment, think intelligently and alternatively, who have opinions and values concordant with your own…. You need a strong support system and to surround yourself with the right people… It won’t be easy to meet these people especially if you live in a small town or are at a religious learning establishment, such as a catholic high school. But you can still participate in discussions, and student groups, go to conferences at your local community or university center (many times they are open and free to the public). Go to and participate in presentations and workshops about diversity, social change, etc. I imagine that at 17 you’re almost finished with high school, and you’re in the perfect age range to seriously look at your future: this may include college or university in a larger city center like Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal or other large urban center, where you will have access to a diverse range of people.
To conclude, I know that my opinion is very one-sided. I believe religion has little to teach us about tolerance, fairness, scientifically-based judgments, and freedom for all persons to enjoy life and have happiness. Religion is a belief system involving storytelling and scriptures, written over 1000 years ago that have been transmitted, translated and interpreted many times. It is clear that religious institutions from the start have exhibited a lot of intolerance and have demonstrated a long-standing fear of difference. As general modern society moves forward quickly, it seems most religions remain stuck in the past. I know many people who consider themselves as Catholics or Christians or Protestants or Jewish, but take their religion lightly, e.g. they have their children baptized or have their bat/barmitzva, they get married or join a union, a church or synagogue, they may go to church at Christmas with their children and go to people’s funerals or wakes, but apart from that, religion is more of an accessory in their lives than anything else.
Good luck in your search for self-fulfillment and happiness, and please don’t hesitate to write back if there are other unresolved issues,
JP, for AlterHeros