Let me begin by saying that I love National Geographic magazine. A few days ago, I suggested buying subscriptions to it and Discover for schools where “intelligent” design is taught. For Valentine’s month, they featured an article on the science of love. At first I enjoyed it. Then something occurred to me. Not only was same-sex love not mentioned, very little could even apply to same-sex lovers. All of the science—pheromones, the purpose of climax, waist-to-hip ratio—centered on how humans developed these things all for the purpose of making other little humans. I have encountered that attitude often enough—it is, I think, a secular version of the old “sex is designed for procreation” pronouncements made by fundamentalist and other controlling churches.
And of course, baby-making is a perfectly valid and necessary purpose! But anyone who has ever loved a member of their own gender knows that there are other reasons to love. L’Ailee and I wondered whether that could be why gay love makes some people so very nervous. On the surface, at least, it has all the pleasures of passion, with none of the responsibilities of reproduction. (Anyone who knows a real same-sex couple, even a childless one, knows there are responsibilities for us, too—household, bills, health care, emotional support. But those things weren’t in the National Geographic article, either.
Ultimately, I found myself a bit upset at the blatant heterosexism. What Indians and Italians thought of love belonged. What gay and bisexual Americans thought didn’t. In their own backyard is a culture that they ignore. We may even have insights for the love doctors about non-reproductive reasons for love, but they need to quit trying to account for the origins of our “disease” that leads us to same-sex loving first! It’s annoying.
Thankfully, NG also has a forum about this.
The one part I totally agreed with is a statement about the article’s photographer, Jodi Cobb: “She came to see love as a human rights issue, particularly for girls.” I dearly hope to see young women in India and Muslim countries able to love freely within my lifetime. But American women, like my shero Victoria Woodhull, had to fight for that right, too. Some of us are still fighting. Some men are as well.
I try to remember that we’re luckier, that I’m luckier, than 90 percent of the world. When we first got this issue, we sat on our couch in our solid home, cuddling and reading by electric light, well-fed and well-clothed, and how lucky is *that*? After the love article was one about the endangered Kamchatka bear of Siberia. A picture of bear skulls and corpses flayed by poachers made me gasp and cry. I love bears! L’Ailee loves them, too, but these were *her* bears and *her* land and *her* desperate people. “That poor sick country,” she whispered. “I am so afraid…that when I can finally go home again, home will be all gone…” That was all she said about that. I held her tight, and we patted each other’s backs and cried, and then we just *kept* comforting each other. How blessed we are, even if science can’t and scientists won’t account for why just yet.