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Speakers challenges social conception of homosexuality


Dr. Bill Albertini explaining the meaning of equality for the LGBTQ community.

Queer is not normal, nor should it strive to be, University associate professor Bill Albertini told students in a discussion of same-sex rights and marriages Wednesday night in Olscamp Hall.

Stressing his support for gay marriage rights, Albertini also sought to dispel notions that “normal” should culturally mean something is “correct” in a society.

Thus, freedom and legal protection for all citizens should be the ambition for the LGBTQ movement, he said, rather than specifically focusing on same-sex marriage as the final goal.

“There’s a group of people who don’t necessarily want to get married but still deserve these rights and benefits from marriage,” Albertini said.

The discussion comes a week after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which federally limits marriage to being between a man and a woman. This prompted a large wave of support for same-sex marriage on social media sites like Facebook, as many users including Albertini changed their Facebook profile pictures to an equal sign to demonstrate solidarity with the movement.

Albertini, however, warned against utilizing wide-sweeping arguments of false equivalency.

“Who are gays like, then, if they’re like everyone else?” he asked. “I feel like that’s a really short-hand version of equality.”

Sophomore Liz Grabski agreed, and said the broader fight for equality means more than just the debate about same-sex marriages.

“Marriage equality is about sexual orientation … but a lot of the rights we need to fight for are for different kinds of people,” Grabski said. “There’s a ton of discrimination on a social level than on an institutional level.”

Albertini spoke at length against what he described as “phobic” arguments in opposition to same-sex rights.

“We as a culture tend to measure ourselves against what other people should do,” he said.

Instead, he argued for a wider range of moral acceptance. While some consider certain actions morally questionable, Albertini said consenting, rational adults should have the freedom to make their own decisions without receiving judgment from others, so long as their actions don’t impinge on another person’s happiness.

Criticisms against same-sex marriage often include the idea that such institutions are not religiously or historically “normal,” and thus should not be accepted, but as it turns out, Albertini said, this may not be the case.

The professor cited various social historians who argue that the idea of homosexuality and even heterosexuality were invented in the mid-1800s. At this point in history, legal and medical changes as well as a rise of psychologists’ focus on the internal self prompted a shift from attention to a person’s actions to one’s identities instead, he said.

“It doesn’t mean people weren’t having same-sex affairs,” Albertini pointed out. “Nineteenth century was crazy kinky.”

While engaging in same-sex acts may have been considered “wrong,” the idea of identifying as a homosexual or heterosexual person was relatively new, he said.

These newfound labels presented new opportunities for gay rights supporters, but can also demonstrate challenges as well, sophomore Rachel Minarcin said.

“The identities and labels are important to an extent … it’s important to have them now because from here we can have rights,” she said.

Such labels could provide chances for further prejudice, Grabski said.

“Having these identities as the entirety of the person and not just their acts allows people to discriminate against those people,” Grabski said.

The debate between whether to focus on broader cultural shifts or specific, tangible goals like promoting same-sex marriage can be a difficult decision and often varies by different groups in the country, said sophomore Kyle Shupe, of Delta Lambda Phi, hosted the event and invited Albertini to speak. He reiterated the speaker’s concerns of misguidedly equalizing certain individuals.

“You’re reinforcing the heteronormative standard of ‘you have to be like us,’” Shupe said.

Despite such drawbacks, Grabski said the push for same-sex marriage maintains particular importance in the gay community because it would “normalize people on queer culture.”

“People wouldn’t grow up thinking it’s bad or unnatural,” she said. “It’s good that it’s out there and people are showing so much support, but it’s a privilege.”

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