In a post-homophobic society how will sexuality evolve?
By Peter Tatchell
Labour Briefing –1 October 2019
In the UK and other western societies there is now ever greater acceptance of same-sex love and sexuality. Over the last two decades, public understanding and support for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people and their human rights has soared. According to the British Social Attitudes survey, the number of people who think that homosexuality is ‘mostly’ or ‘always wrong’ is down from two-thirds in the late 1980s to 16% today.
If this trend to embrace gay equality and relationships continues, what will it mean for the future?
We know that human culture evolves. Sexual behavior is part of culture and therefore it too has evolved – and it will continue to evolve in years to come.
If we eventually transition to a post-homophobic society where being LGB is no longer an issue, how will this transition to equality and respect for LGB people affect the expression of sexual desire, behavior and identity?
We already know, through a host of diverse sexual behaviour surveys, that bisexuality is a fact of life, and that a significant and growing proportion of the population are open to both opposite-sex and same-sex attraction. Over 20% of UK young people aged 16-24 say they’ve had sex with a person of the same gender, as reported in a poll for The Observer. This is double what it was 20 years ago. And a YouGov poll found that 49% of young people say they would not define themselves as 100% heterosexual.
If pattern carries on, what are the long-term implications?
As societies transition to a non-homophobic future, and as taboos around same-sex relations recede, many more people are likely to have same-sex relationships, even if only temporarily or experimentally.
The demise of homophobia is also likely to make redundant the need to assert and affirm LGB identity. Historically, LGB identities are largely the product of prejudice and repression. They are a self-defense mechanism against homophobia and biphobia. Faced with the persecution we have suffered because of our sexuality, we’ve had to assert our right to be LGB. Hence the emergence of a LGB identity and the LGB rights movement.
But if, in the future, one sexuality is not privileged over another, and if same-sex attraction is accepted as part of the natural spectrum of sexuality, then surely the need to assert LGB rights and identity will decline? The need to affirm one’s heterosexuality will also recede.
If no-one cares who loves who, or who has sex with who, the need for a LGB identity will diminish over time. A person’s sexual orientation won’t have the social relevance and significance that it has today.
With the demise of straight supremacy, the impulse and rationale for asserting sexual orientation differences and boundaries will disappear.
As we evolve into a more sexually enlightened and accepting society, homosexuality and heterosexuality will begin to fade as separate, exclusive orientations and identities. The majority of people, will be open to the possibility of both opposite-sex and same-sex desires, even if they never act upon them. It simply won’t be an issue.
Equally, people will no longer feel the need to label themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight, because in a post-heterosexist society no-one will care about a person’s sexual orientation. It won’t matter individually, culturally, socially or politically. Desire and love will transcend sexual orientation. We will no longer have to fight for LGB rights. We’ll all be free and equal humans.