Friday, June 11, 2010

Friends that the gay community doesn't need

What the gay/lesbian community needs, as Andrew Sullivan (among others) points out, is friends in the mainstream. In 1992, only 42% of Americans personally knew someone who was gay or lesbian. Today, 77% do, and they also see that their gay/lesbian friends are completely normal, honest, straightforward people. That in itself accounts for the change in attitudes towards gays in the US (and, earlier, in Europe).

What the community does not need is a self-appointed activist who writes in a national newspaper that "homosexuality may sometimes have a lot to do with paedophilia, and, further, that if it is based on mutual consent, it is no big deal."

I certainly would not want a man who believed this teaching undergraduates. From Abi's blog, I see that this man, Ashley Tellis, has been sacked from his teaching position at IIT Hyderabad. Below is the comment I posted on Abi's blog:

I don't know what went on at IIT, but I agree with chitta. Please read that article by Tellis before making up your mind. This is not about gay rights. It is about paedophilia. When gay rights activists, all over the world, are struggling to remove conservative conceptions that gays are sexual perverts, Mr Tellis says "homosexuality may sometimes have a lot to do with paedophilia, and, further, that if it is based on mutual consent, it is no big deal."

Elsewhere he glories in his own paedophile activities with a Nepali boy: the article used to be here but seems to be gone now.

A man who thinks paedophilia is "no big deal" should not be teaching undergraduates: I wouldn't want my son in his class. A man who has admitted to paedophilia should be in jail. [Update 12/06/10: The article in question is here and he did not quite admit to paedophilia: he leaves it a little ambiguous. See comment 7 below.] And portraying this as a case of victimisation of gays does no service to the gay rights cause, and indeed, could do a great deal of damage by reinforcing negative (and, in the vast majority of cases, false) public stereotypes of gays.

To add to that: in the case of minors, "consent" makes no difference, for a variety of reasons, only a few of which he touches on (dismissively). But this is not, in my opinion, a topic worth arguing about. Paedophila is off-limits. Conflating paedophilia with gay rights is the very last thing that gay activists need at the moment. (Besides, as Tellis himself points out, most paedophiles are heterosexuals: so why make that conflation at all?)


Sivaramakrishnan said...

Personally, I find it(the man-boy article) to be a very thought provoking article, where he has expressed his personal viewpoints, and a very liberal approach to the subject (too liberal for many minds). I would say that academic freedom must be granted to Tellis to voice the views that he did. One cannot berate him for that. Maybe he should have behaved a bit more responsibly, considering his position. It is also understandable that an institution primarily aimed towards teaching undergraduates(a significant fraction of whom are minors!) did not see it fit to have him on the faculty because of his views. In short he brought it upon himself(iff the decision to dismiss him was based on the Man-boy article).

Lets get one thing clear, we're all against paedophilia -- in the sense that none of us is for exploitation of children(in any form, including sexual). I do not know how much validity Freudian theory has. But we all know that humans reach puberty far before they are legally adults. This raises the question of whether they should be allowed to indulge in sexual activities or not. 18/21 as the legal age completely neglects this fact. So it's not as black and white as it seems.

Connecting this to gay rights seems a case of overzealous sensationalistic reporting. But we can't be sure till admin from IIT-H gives a reason for it's actions.

But I do not see anything wrong in Tellis, the academician expressing his views in public. Then again, I'm also not sure if he should have been sacked if it is true that the students are okay with him. Which raises the most important question -- Does someone have the freedom to offer views which might be far too progressive for the society to accept(or just plain mad :P... there's a fine line which each one draws for him/herself), so long as he does not for them on others who dont accept it ? We don't know if there has been even a small incident in which any student has been victimised. Whom/What are we(as a society) trying to protect by sacking Tellis ?

Anonymous said...

Good post.

Ashley Tellis is a rabid gay activist, not just any gay activist. His profile was banned on facebook, for putting up an obscene image of his body part as his profile image. Apparently, he got back his profile but was "forced" to remove that offending picture.

This guy is not a "rights'" activist, but a rabid self-lover who not just stretches the acceptability factor in society, but defies the rational.

Liberals are advised to stay away from "endorsing" his "rights"!

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Sivaramakrishnan - there is a big difference between two teens experimenting (which in my opinion should be discouraged, but not criminalised) and an adult having sex with a teen (which should be criminalised, and is). The latter is exploitative because the adult is in a position of power. This can also be true of two teens, but teens should be at worst regarded as juvenile offenders and not as criminals. I certainly don't agree with the policy in several US states of branding two teens who had sex paedophiles for life, even if those teens went on to marry and never committed any other "offence".

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Anonymous -- I know what you say about the FB photo is true, but I'd rather not get into unverifiable personal attacks of this kind. Links to his writings, which may make your point, are preferable.

km said...

Even the school's officials can't confirm if he was sacked or if he resigned?

Ha. Babuspeak at its finest.

Anonymous said...

Tellis is entitled to have his views as long as they don't encroach the law of the land. Having said that, his retorts to comments for his article ( are unbelievably disgusting and unbecoming of an academic. I would be OK with a person holding similar views as Tellis' teaching my kids, but certainly not OK with a person who responds to responses to his views in that rabid, disgusting manner teaching my kids. He has lost his head at the obvious reservations that people would have at his unconventional views. The disciplinary council of any teaching institution should deem it fit not to let him teach.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Update: the article mentioning sex with the Nepali boy is here (last paragraph). But he says "all we did was kiss, deep" (though that is disturbing enough when it is a "man-boy" act). He also says "we were young", so it is possible that they were the same age. At any rate, it is not quite an admission of having been a paedophile. But there is no question, to me, that it is an attempt to glorify paedophilia.