A few days ago, I talked about how Ayn Rand's views on gender, although controversial, were essentially right. Today I'm going to talk about her views on homosexuality, and how they weren't just wrong - they were abhorrent.
Despite never elaborating on the reasoning behind it, Ayn Rand has infamously referred to homosexuality as "imoral" and "disgusting". This attitude has, unfortunately, impacted the Objectivist movement, with intellectuals like Branden and Peikoff waiting until after her death to publicly disagree with her views. Even now, with the exception of a few notable intellectuals like Chris Sciabarra and Michael Hurd, most Objectivists have resigned themselves to simply saying that "homosexuality is morally neutral". This is lazy, and wrong.
It is true that there is a genetic, amoral aspect to homosexuality. We don't fully understand the causality of it, but there is an undeniable influence of genetics in sexual preferences. This is evidenced by a well documented hereditary component to homosexuality, and its presence in other species of animals. Like most common traits, it probably had an evolutionary purpose at one point - attenuating violent competition for mates inside the same group comes to mind, but doesn't fully explain it.
To the extent that it is innate, sexuality is morally neutral. As usually is the case with human behavior, however, genes aren't the only relevant factor. Nurture plays a significant role - namely, what we experience during childhood, when we're formulating metaphysical value-judgements that will shape our understanding of the world for years to come. This is evidenced by the effect that traumatic events, like sexual abuse, play in shaping one's sexuality.
To the extent that one's sexuality is based on a sense of life shaped by experience, it has the moral worth of those experiences - and to the extent that one's sense of life has been distorted by traumatic events, it is evil. I believe Rand's views are based on the evasion of the innate aspect, and a misinterpretation of the role of experience and choice. To her, there seems to be a metaphysical standard of male-and-female relationships, defined by the biological process or reproduction, that can only be "distorted" by traumas and the adoption of bad values.
There is no such standard, nor any equivalence between gay and straight relationships - they are metaphysically different. The first one is a relationship between very different beings, who don't understand one another as well, yet bond on a very essential level, and thus integrate their different natures. The other is a relationship between more similar beings, with more subtle differences to explore, based on a much more accurate understanding of one another. The first can also create new life, while the latter cannot, and this is not a superficial difference - it changes the temporal scope of the relationship from "until we die" to "until our last descendant dies". The purpose of Man's life, however, is not to reproduce, but to achieve happiness.
There also isn't any equivalence between a healthy gay relationship, in which both parties have properly acknowledged and developed their sexual preferences, and a gay relationship based on one party's unaddressed psychological traumas. The first one is a life-supporting relationship, in which both people are objective values to one another. The latter is the exact opposite, as the very continuation of such a relationship relies on the evasion of the original trauma. This same difference, however, is also true of straight relationships.
Looked at through the proper lenses of Man's wellbeing as the ethical standard, gay and straight relationships aren't two contradictory standards. One isn't "a version", or "a distortion" of the other. Much like masculinity and femininity, homosexuality is not "the lack of heterosexuality", or vice versa. They are entirely different types of relationship, based on different types of love, and suitable for different people in their pursuit of selfish, rational happiness. To judge one based on an arbitrary universalization of the other, as Rand did, is an instance of consciousness being given primacy over existence.
The difference between philosophy and religion is that the first is based on ideas, and the latter on idols and imagery. Ayn Rand made mistakes, some of which were very, very reprehensible - and this was definitely one of them. The answer is not to engage in determinism, and say it was a "consequence of the times she lived in", nor to avoid the subject by explaining it away with simplistic statements. The subject of sexuality, and its philosophic significance, is neither simple nor unimportant, and should be treated accordingly. The answer is to condemn her choices, publicly and unapologetically, on the basis of the very moral principles she discovered, so that we can start dealing with the subject rationally.
- March 31st, 2020