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Homosexuality and Objectivism

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I suppose you who believe that homosexuality is moral feel the same about bestiality?

Jordan,

That's a hell of a question and it needed asking.

I think it shows the silliness of trying to force-fit life to morality instead of deriving morality from life. The statement "homosexuality is moral" sounded really weird to my ear. It sounded like "having six toes on one foot is moral" or "being born beautiful (or ugly) is moral." Some things are not chosen.

Morality (ethics) deals with volition. Some homosexuality is chosen. Some is not. It's an oversimplification to force it into one side or the other.

I think that the Objectivist view of emotions requires that homosexuality be chosen. See my reply to studiodekadent.

Darrell

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I suppose you who believe that homosexuality is moral feel the same about bestiality?

Jordan,

That's a hell of a question and it needed asking.

I think it shows the silliness of trying to force-fit life to morality instead of deriving morality from life. The statement "homosexuality is moral" sounded really weird to my ear. It sounded like "having six toes on one foot is moral" or "being born beautiful (or ugly) is moral." Some things are not chosen.

Morality (ethics) deals with volition. Some homosexuality is chosen. Some is not. It's an oversimplification to force it into one side or the other.

I think that the Objectivist view of emotions requires that homosexuality be chosen. See my reply to studiodekadent.

Darrell

You are quite correct. And this is why most babies starve to death before the age of two, when they can be convinced using reason that drinking milk is good for them. We have no values except those which we choose by act of will.

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I suppose you who believe that homosexuality is moral feel the same about bestiality?

Jordan,

That's a hell of a question and it needed asking.

I think it shows the silliness of trying to force-fit life to morality instead of deriving morality from life. The statement "homosexuality is moral" sounded really weird to my ear. It sounded like "having six toes on one foot is moral" or "being born beautiful (or ugly) is moral." Some things are not chosen.

Morality (ethics) deals with volition. Some homosexuality is chosen. Some is not. It's an oversimplification to force it into one side or the other.

I think that the Objectivist view of emotions requires that homosexuality be chosen. See my reply to studiodekadent.

Darrell

You are quite correct. And this is why most babies starve to death before the age of two, when they can be convinced using reason that drinking milk is good for them. We have no values except those which we choose by act of will.

Are you a baby?

Darrell

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I think that the Objectivist view of emotions requires that homosexuality be chosen.

Darrell,

This is a correct conclusion if you accept that Rand's theory of emotions is correct. The trouble is that parts of her theory are correct, parts are flat-out wrong and a huge amount is missing. But what Rand got right is insightful.

That is why I remain an Objectivist and say she had a problem of scope.

The vast amount of evidence being accumulated by cognitive science bears this evaluation out. If you like, I can point you in some eye-opening directions. Here is a fun and easy one from Harvard University that I have mentioned before where you can get your own data from your own mind:

Project Implicit

(Choose "Demonstration" and keep going.)

Michael

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I suppose you who believe that homosexuality is moral feel the same about bestiality?

Jordan,

That's a hell of a question and it needed asking.

I think it shows the silliness of trying to force-fit life to morality instead of deriving morality from life. The statement "homosexuality is moral" sounded really weird to my ear. It sounded like "having six toes on one foot is moral" or "being born beautiful (or ugly) is moral." Some things are not chosen.

Morality (ethics) deals with volition. Some homosexuality is chosen. Some is not. It's an oversimplification to force it into one side or the other.

I think that the Objectivist view of emotions requires that homosexuality be chosen. See my reply to studiodekadent.

Darrell

You are quite correct. And this is why most babies starve to death before the age of two, when they can be convinced using reason that drinking milk is good for them. We have no values except those which we choose by act of will.

Are you a baby?

Darrell

I don't get hungry because I have formed the rational belief that eating is good for me, and neither do you, nor does Leonard Peikoff.

Rand's theory of values is inverted. Values are a bottom-up biological affair. Our values become more and more abstract and complex as we age, just as our concepts become more and more complex. But our values, just like our thoughts, come from the perceptually given. Babies like sugar because of their biological nature. They learn to like more and more complex foods as they age. The same with sex. We find the smells, touch and shape of other humans to be attractive. That becomes integrated into a sex drive as we age.

No person chooses to find the smell of a man or a woman attractive. That is inborn. The purpose of an explicit ethical theory is to help us when the values we develop seem to conflict. Not to provide us with values. No one chooses life at 16 years of age and then developes a hunger drive, an need to play, or attraction to the bodies of others. If a person is attracted to people of his own sex and he can achieve his other values while gratifying his inborn sexual preference then his value life is an integrated whole and he is perfectly moral.

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The question of whether homosexuality is a "choice" or not misrepresents the issue. Homosexuals have no more control over which gender they are attracted to than heterosexuals are. Homosexuality, in and of itself, is a psycho-sexual orientation toward one's own gender. An orientation one does not "choose," but develops. The only choice involved is whether to honor or to betray one's authentic orientation. Either way, it does not change reality: as it is said, A is A.

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The question of whether homosexuality is a "choice" or not misrepresents the issue. Homosexuals have no more control over which gender they are attracted to than heterosexuals do. Homosexuality, in and of itself, is a psycho-sexual orientation toward one's own gender. An orientation one does not "choose," but develops. The only choice involved is whether to honor or to betray one's authentic orientation. Either way, it does not change reality: as it is said, A is A.

Edited by Michelle R

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I think that the Objectivist view of emotions requires that homosexuality be chosen.

Darrell,

This is a correct conclusion if you accept that Rand's theory of emotions is correct. The trouble is that parts of her theory are correct, parts are flat-out wrong and a huge amount is missing. But what Rand got right is insightful.

That is why I remain an Objectivist and say she had a problem of scope.

The vast amount of evidence being accumulated by cognitive science bears this evaluation out. If you like, I can point you in some eye-opening directions. Here is a fun and easy one from Harvard University that I have mentioned before where you can get your own data from your own mind:

Project Implicit

(Choose "Demonstration" and keep going.)

Michael

I am doubtful of the results of cognitive science. Too often, people who call themselves scientists engage in wild extrapolations from very rudimentary facts. I took the religion test since it was at the top of the list of tests and the results were neutral. I don't know what that means other than possibly that my emotional response to Judaism is consistent with my intellectual view of Judaism. Or, perhaps it simply shows that I was able to separate the sorting tasks in my mind as being unrelated.

At any rate, I understand that there is some cognitive lag between one's philosophy and one's emotions. It takes time to change gut responses. However, that by itself does not invalidate Rand's theory. I would like to know what, in particular, you find objectionable about her theory. Simply saying that some parts of her theory are "flat out wrong" does not make it so. I can't respond to your assertions if you don't specify your position in more detail.

Darrell

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Darell,

You obviously did not take the racism test.* This is just a suggestion, but I would get familiar with at least a small part of the material in cognitive science before dismissing it. There is a lot to learn, not a little.

Rand's errors in her theory of emotions? I have written about them often here on OL. Here are a few just off the top of my head:

1. The emotional capacity is tabula rasa at birth (except apparently the pain-pleasure mechanism).

2. All emotions are subconscious reactions to consciously chosen values.

3. All emotions, although operating at the subconscious level, can be programmed by conscious effort.

There's more but that will do for starters.

* You can find a good description of some results from this test in Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I don't have the book handy, so I can't give you the page numbers.

Michael

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#9:

We can't pretend that characters actions or motives [in a work of fiction] mean anything other than what the author intended them to mean.

Not necessarily. They mean what's on the page, and this need not be what the author had in mind. If the author is technically successful the two will coincide, but that isn't a matter of definition. Here we have a case in point. We may be sure that Rand didn't intend to suggest homosexuality when she wrote intense male friendships, but this hasn't stopped generations of her readers from wondering.

#11:

If homosexuality is moral because it is just a "sexual preference" so is bestiality.

Leaving aside tricky questions about what you mean by "moral," nobody has said because. The correct conjunction is "and": homosexuality is moral (or not in the domain of morality at all, which seems to be the majority position here) and it is just a preference.

#14:

...[branden couldn't have built a successful therapy practice if he was down on queers]...

Don't see why not. A therapist could limit his practice to heterosexuals (who are quite numerous, even on the westside of LA) or the kind of homosexuals who will put up with condemnation. Albert Ellis, Edmund Bergler and George Socarides all became famous doing the latter.

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Interesting topic. I agree with Ayn Rand's view on homosexuality.-I am sure much to the chagrin of most other objectivists. As another individual posted elsewhere; why not then bestiality......or man-boy love, or intimate man-plant relationships, etc etc etc... I think the current objectivist movement has, sadly , condemned Ayn Rand for her insight into homosexuality. Have you ever stopped to think that like the other tenants of her philosophy that she was actually right about homosexuality, too?

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I don't get hungry because I have formed the rational belief that eating is good for me, and neither do you, nor does Leonard Peikoff.

Rand's theory of values is inverted. Values are a bottom-up biological affair. Our values become more and more abstract and complex as we age, just as our concepts become more and more complex. But our values, just like our thoughts, come from the perceptually given. Babies like sugar because of their biological nature. They learn to like more and more complex foods as they age. The same with sex. We find the smells, touch and shape of other humans to be attractive. That becomes integrated into a sex drive as we age.

No person chooses to find the smell of a man or a woman attractive. That is inborn. The purpose of an explicit ethical theory is to help us when the values we develop seem to conflict. Not to provide us with values. No one chooses life at 16 years of age and then developes a hunger drive, an need to play, or attraction to the bodies of others. If a person is attracted to people of his own sex and he can achieve his other values while gratifying his inborn sexual preference then his value life is an integrated whole and he is perfectly moral.

You're confusing the concept of urge with the concept of desire. I've heard that ethylene glycol (antifreeze) is sweet smelling and tasting. At the same time it is very toxic. In fact, I've heard of people using it to poison their neighbors' dogs when they have found those dogs annoying (which is illegal, btw). The ethylene glycol smells sweet so the dog forms an urge to eat it. The dog cannot form the concept that the ethylene glycol is toxic and should be avoided, so the dog acts on its urge, eats the ethylene glycol and dies. A human on the other hand, might have an urge to eat the ethylene glycol, based on its smell, but does not form a desire to eat it because he knows that it is dangerous and has no nutritive value. He correctly reasons that the negatives outweigh any positives, and avoids taking an improper action or forming an improper emotional response.

Human values are not a hierarchy of urges. A small baby might eat ethylene glycol (or other household chemicals) but that is not a fair comparison. We are discussing fully formed adult human beings that are capable of analyzing their urges in the light of their value hierarchy and properly judging trade-offs. An adult human that engages in homosexual behavior or forms a desire for engaging in homosexual behavior does so as a result of the conscious choices that he has made in the development of his value hierarchy.

One might argue that some people are born with a greater urge than others to engage in homosexual behavior, but that does not absolve them of responsibility for their actions. Some people may be born with a greater urge to cheat on their spouses, have sex with children, have multiple sex partners, or murder someone, but that does not make such actions moral. If people are nothing more than a hierarchy of urges then morality is impossible.

Darrell

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The question of whether homosexuality is a "choice" or not misrepresents the issue. Homosexuals have no more control over which gender they are attracted to than heterosexuals are. Homosexuality, in and of itself, is a psycho-sexual orientation toward one's own gender. An orientation one does not "choose," but develops. The only choice involved is whether to honor or to betray one's authentic orientation. Either way, it does not change reality: as it is said, A is A.

That is not true and it is a very damaging notion to put into the minds of young people. People young and old are capable of having an urge to have sex with people of the same or opposite sex. But to state, effectively, that one must honor one's urges is to sell that person short. A person should examine his urges in the light of his value hierarchy and decide whether it makes sense to follow those urges or not. If a person has an authentic urge to kill someone, should he honor that urge?

Darrell

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The question of whether homosexuality is a "choice" or not misrepresents the issue. Homosexuals have no more control over which gender they are attracted to than heterosexuals are. Homosexuality, in and of itself, is a psycho-sexual orientation toward one's own gender. An orientation one does not "choose," but develops. The only choice involved is whether to honor or to betray one's authentic orientation. Either way, it does not change reality: as it is said, A is A.

That is not true and it is a very damaging notion to put into the minds of young people. People young and old are capable of having an urge to have sex with people of the same or opposite sex. But to state, effectively, that one must honor one's urges is to sell that person short. A person should examine his urges in the light of his value hierarchy and decide whether it makes sense to follow those urges or not. If a person has an authentic urge to kill someone, should he honor that urge?

Darrell

I said orientation, not urge. The two words have entirely different meanings. Don't tell me I said something I didn't say in order to lend legitimacy to your own mistaken views.

In fact, your "sexuality is entirely a choice" argument is the one that is dangerous.

Did there ever come a point where you said: "I'm going to choose to be sexually oriented toward women!"?

No. It developed without your consent as a part of your individual nature.

Furthermore, I have never said a homosexual MUST engage in sexual relations with people of his own gender, just as I wouldn't say a heterosexual MUST engage in sexual relations with people of the opposite gender. Many homosexuals refuse to sleep with others of their own gender for health/religious reasons. If they value their religion or the minimization of certain health risks over finding a person to spend their life with, this is their choice to make, and I won't give them grief about it. But this does not make them non-homosexuals.

You seem to be subscribing to the Sartrean notion that humans create their own natures from the ground up, which is nonsense in the light of psychology and genetics. Humans work with what they're given to create their identities.

Edited by Michelle R

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One might argue that some people are born with a greater urge than others to engage in homosexual behavior, but that does not absolve them of responsibility for their actions. Some people may be born with a greater urge to cheat on their spouses, have sex with children, have multiple sex partners, or murder someone, but that does not make such actions moral. If people are nothing more than a hierarchy of urges then morality is impossible.

You are simply begging the question that homosexuality is immoral. On what grounds do you compare it to murder?

And you are correct that an urge is not an emotion. But the pleasure and joy of the satisfaction of an urge is. If we can satisfy our urges in the futherance of our long term happiness, then we are acting morally.

No value that brings us joy is divorced from the satisfaction of urges. We build our values from the bottom up, just as we do our knowledge. Pleasure>Joy>Happiness = Percept>Concept>Integrated Mind.

If you are heterosexual, it is because you have certain urges that you discovered when you started masturbating. If you only started finding women attractive after you read Rand, then you are not human.

Of course there exist poisons, some of which taste sweet. And of course our urges can lead us to self destruction if they are not examined. But the urge comes first. Then the realization that urges are not an automatic form of cognition, then the development of an ethical theory. This is bottom up. No person ever started to develop urges because he found ethics. And without urges, you would never come to value anything at all. The prcoess of growing up is the process of integrating and delaying your urges to find ever more complex and satisfying and encompassing joys.

Values emerge from the bottom up. A system of ethics allows us to integrate those urges. You have to show that satisfying homosexual urges cannot be done without conflict in order to show that homosexuality is unethical.

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Homosexuality is not an urge. I've known heterosexuals who have found themselves attracted to a man and felt the urge to have sex with him. This did not make them homosexuals. They were heterosexuals who had a homosexual urge, but homosexuality itself, like heterosexuality, is a psycho-sexual orientation.

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Branden, as also noted, seconded Rand enthusiastically on this [homosexuality] for as long as he was associated with her and for at least 20 years thereafter. Since it was more in his line and since he had more to do with live audiences, he had plenty of occasions to say so.

If he did it was before 1976 when I started observing him in action covering multiple forums and contexts. He was ambivalent about it at worst and didn't think a therapist could do much about it regardless. Whatever his attitude before the break with Rand, he could not subsequently have had a successful California psychotherapeutic practice involving multiple groups of clients going all at once--he had had about 3500 clients by 1976--for probably well over a decade, maybe two. The clients by and large would not have come to him as a therapist nor would they have attended his Intensives in the late 1970s and 1980s. This especially applies to "enthusiastically" and "disgusting," the former by you and the latter by Rand.

--Brant

At TOC's Summer Seminar Branden was asked a question about his claim of having changed the sexual orientation of a homosexual young man in his therapy practice in New York City. At that session he stated that the person had changed his orientation. I can give you which Summer Seminar it was. He was interviewed by Duncan Scott for Duncan's Objectivist History Project. Nathaniel Branden gave a lecture in his Basic Principles of Objectivist Psychology with a discussion of homosexuality in the lecture. I am having a senior moment so I can not remember the year of this discussion.

I can assure you that he did it with someone who had chosen homosexuality for whatever reason in the first place. He did not do it with anyone who was a natural, genetically derived homosexual. Let's just say human beings are extremely complex. We do not know if it was a real or faux change, either, and neither did Nathaniel Branden. For all his years as a therapist, Nathaniel has no data. He has had thousands upon thousands of experiences with his clients. Note that he did not make a generalization. The generalization he did make was that it was an extremely difficult thing to do and he was ignorant of the causes of homosexuality. For the last I think he was being disingenuous, not wanting to continue with the discussion. It may have been the second Reason interview (1974) and/or something more recent I cannot recall.

--Brant

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You obviously did not take the racism test.* This is just a suggestion, but I would get familiar with at least a small part of the material in cognitive science before dismissing it. There is a lot to learn, not a little.

I am familiar with a great deal of the material of cognitive science, and that is why I feel comfortable dismissing it in this case.

Rand's errors in her theory of emotions? I have written about them often here on OL. Here are a few just off the top of my head:

1. The emotional capacity is tabula rasa at birth (except apparently the pain-pleasure mechanism).

2. All emotions are subconscious reactions to consciously chosen values.

3. All emotions, although operating at the subconscious level, can be programmed by conscious effort.

1. I don't recall Rand stating that "emotional capacity is tabula rasa at birth."

2. She said that emotions are subconscious reactions determined by a person's values. She did not say that the values must have been consciously chosen. In fact, she stated in many places in her books that people often fail to consciously examine their values and therefore simply accept what others have said or what they have grown up believing.

3. She never said that. She said that emotions are subconscious reactions determined by a person's values. That is much different than saying that one can program one's emotional responses directly. For example, she never said that a person could be happy if he received a million dollars just because he told himself to be happy in that case. She recognized that a person would not be happy in such a case if the way he got the million dollars was illegitimate.

Actually, I think Rand's theory of emotions is one of the strongest parts of Objectivism.

Darrell

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I would think a homosexual Objectivist, like a heterosexual Objectivist, would consummate his feelings for a person he respected and who shared his vision of existence.

As to 'changing homosexuals,' there is a test any heterosexual person can take to test the legitimacy of it. Would any amount of reconditioning orient you, sexually and emotionally, toward your own gender?

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I would think a homosexual Objectivist, like a heterosexual Objectivist, would consummate his feelings for a person he respected and who shared his vision of existence.

As to 'changing homosexuals,' there is a test any heterosexual person can take to test the legitimacy of it. Would any amount of reconditioning orient you, sexually and emotionally, toward your own gender?

Instead of treating the homosexual like an unthinking animal that needs to be reconditioned, you might try to convince him that being homosexual was not in his rational self interest.

Darrell

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I would think a homosexual Objectivist, like a heterosexual Objectivist, would consummate his feelings for a person he respected and who shared his vision of existence.

As to 'changing homosexuals,' there is a test any heterosexual person can take to test the legitimacy of it. Would any amount of reconditioning orient you, sexually and emotionally, toward your own gender?

Instead of treating the homosexual like an unthinking animal that needs to be reconditioned, you might try to convince him that being homosexual was not in his rational self interest.

Darrell

Only if that were true and any of your business.

--Brant

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I grew up in Russia, where putting an arm around a person's shoulder is not viewed as a "faggoty" gesture. I see that in North America it is so. That is the only reason why I disrespect homosexuals - they created a barrier among men by redefining the meaning of friendly hug. Obviously when Ayn Rand wrote about Wynand and Roark she did not even think that their interactions could even be perceived as effeminate or homosexual. That's all right, whoever suggests so only reveals something about himself.

So why don't you just say it: I am gay. You'll find out that nobody really cares.

Of course there are mixed messages. Leonard Peikoff is notoriously effeminate. There is the question in Rand's novels of what the prettiest man in the world, Ragnar Danneskjold, was doing with all those men on that ship. Danneskjold tracked down Rearden in the dark woods only to give him a package. And then, of course, there is the yacht affair between Wynand and Roark, with Wynand enjoying the power he held over Roark's body.

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I would think a homosexual Objectivist, like a heterosexual Objectivist, would consummate his feelings for a person he respected and who shared his vision of existence.

As to 'changing homosexuals,' there is a test any heterosexual person can take to test the legitimacy of it. Would any amount of reconditioning orient you, sexually and emotionally, toward your own gender?

Instead of treating the homosexual like an unthinking animal that needs to be reconditioned, you might try to convince him that being homosexual was not in his rational self interest.

Darrell

Aligning one's life with one's authentic nature is not in one's rational self-interest?

There's a reason homosexuals who try to live as heterosexuals end up, by and large, embittered and miserable.

As Ayn Rand said, you can evade reality, but you cannot evade the consequences of evading reality.

Let's take a hypothetical case: Let's just suppose that being a homosexual would serve your rational self-interest. I'm not saying it would, this is just a hypothetical to serve for this thought experiment. Would any amount of 'convincing' orient you sexually and emotionally toward other men? Would not your mind scream against it, because it is against your authentic nature?

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Homosexuality is not an urge. I've known heterosexuals who have found themselves attracted to a man and felt the urge to have sex with him. This did not make them homosexuals. They were heterosexuals who had a homosexual urge, but homosexuality itself, like heterosexuality, is a psycho-sexual orientation.

Well, that's like saying wanting to eat at a fine restaurant is not an urge. Of course the urge is hunger, and the stimulus is the taste and smell of the meal, or the memory of that taste and smell, and how it satisfied past urges.

Sexual attraction is based on feeling horny and on the smell or look of an attractive person, or the memory thereof. Sometimes this urge is toward a person of the same sex, and thus it is called homosexual.

The question is, do our sexual urges arrive from the bottom up, from our nature, from sensations, or do they come from the top down, from the decision that we wish to be rational people, which makes us decide for no reason other than pure reason that we want to sleep with Dagny Taggart, which then makes the curve of her breasts and the musk of her pubic hair smell good? Sorry, the top down theory is absurd. ("Let's take a hypothetical case: Let's just suppose that being a homosexual would serve your rational self-interest. I'm not saying it would, this is just a hypothetical to serve for this thought experiment. Would any amount of 'convincing' orient you sexually and emotionally toward other men? Would not your mind scream against it, because it is against your authentic nature?") It contradicts Rand's bottom up theory of knowledge, and to hold the top down theory of value shows a serious lack of introspection and self knowledge.

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I grew up in Russia, where putting an arm around a person's shoulder is not viewed as a "faggoty" gesture. I see that in North America it is so. That is the only reason why I disrespect homosexuals - they created a barrier among men by redefining the meaning of friendly hug. Obviously when Ayn Rand wrote about Wynand and Roark she did not even think that their interactions could even be perceived as effeminate or homosexual. That's all right, whoever suggests so only reveals something about himself.

So why don't you just say it: I am gay. You'll find out that nobody really cares.

Of course there are mixed messages. Leonard Peikoff is notoriously effeminate. There is the question in Rand's novels of what the prettiest man in the world, Ragnar Danneskjold, was doing with all those men on that ship. Danneskjold tracked down Rearden in the dark woods only to give him a package. And then, of course, there is the yacht affair between Wynand and Roark, with Wynand enjoying the power he held over Roark's body.

You disrespect homosexuals because heterosexual men in America are paranoid about how others perceive them?

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