Is Homosexuality Something Worth Talking About?


We begin with a line taken from an interview conducted by Cleopatra. The backdrop is an interview of a gentleman named Kizito which featured on Zed Corner in 2015. In this interview Kizito makes known his gay sexual orientation. Commenting on the matter, one of the respondents says ‘homosexuality is abnormal…we do not even need to talk about it’. It would be fair to say that this is a position shared not by one, but by many Zambians. One just needs to look at commentaries whenever issues of homosexuality come up. An example of this can be seen in one of the comments given to an article written by this author titled “Is Homosexuality a Political Weapon of Choice?” Commenting on the matter, one of the respondents writes “very useless topic... homosexuality does not put food on anyone’s table unless you are Mr Lee’s boyfriend. Let’s discuss development, not becoming bedroom policemen and women.”

Putting the question of Mr Lee’s boyfriend aside, let us for a moment think about some of the reasons why some take this position – of not wanting to talk about the subject of homosexuality. Perhaps it could be that homosexuality is so immoral that talking about it would encourage others to indulge in it (this can for instance be seen in the remarks given by a respondent in the Zed Corner video interview mentioned above). Also, it could be that the topic of homosexuality is so unimportant that talking about it signifies a case of misplaced priorities on the part of those who talk about it, seeing that we have other pressing issues such as the economy and cost of living. This line of thinking can for instance be seen in the above given comment. As a matter of fact, one can see this reasoning popping up a lot whenever issues of homosexuality are brought to the fore.

As a way of exploring the first reason for not talking about homosexuality, one may ask, is it really the case that if something is immoral then we must not talk about it? Let us assume for arguments sake that homosexuality is indeed immoral and evil. Would this be a good reason for not talking about it? We may perhaps get guidance on how we proceed answering this question by turning to the Christian Bible. For at least 362 times, the Bible talks about the immoral things that we ought not to do. As a matter of fact, out of the 10 Commandments, 9 tell us about the morally inappropriate things that we ought not to do (see Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21). The lesson we may pick here is that just because something is perceived as being immoral, this does not in itself exclude that thing from being the subject of conversation. We can see here that the reasoning that if something is perceived as immoral, then we must not talk about it, is problematic even from the Biblical point of view. As has been exemplified, the Bible itself tells us a lot about the immoral things that we are not supposed to do as Christians. Anyone familiar with the Bible will attest to this.

Turning to the second reasoning that talking about homosexuality is unimportant and useless seeing that we have other important challenges such as the economy and cost of living etcetera. Let us agree for a moment that talking about homosexuality is useless or unimportant. Would this eliminate it as something to talk about? Let us pause here and think about how often we gossip about others for instance (here I am only referring to the majority of us who do so). It seems talking about the economy or cost of living is more important than gossiping, but most of us go ahead and engage in gossiping anyway. Perhaps this explains why issues of homosexuality inspire a lot of talking whenever these are brought forward despite our thinking that these issues are unimportant and useless. Could it be that as humans we are endowed with the capacity to talk about so many things (some important and others not so important) at any given time? Think for a moment about how many things you have talked about in the last 24 hours. Of those things how many times has talk about the economy featured? Of course you do not need to feel bad if such a talk hasn't even taken place at all (you are not alone here). Does that mean that the economy is not important simply because it has not featured in your talk in the past 24 hours? The obvious answer is that talking about other things which are not economic does not necessarily imply that the economy is not in any way important. This simply speaks to our nature as humans. That we are beings endowed with the capacity for language and that we utilize this capacity by talking... talking… and sometimes by talking too much as we are doing now.
Jokes aside, to stress the forgoing point, talking about other non-economic issues does not necessarily imply that we do not prioritize the economy. It simply implies that as humans it is in our nature to talk about a wide variety of things. Think about it, we talk about work, family, friends, religion, school, careers, books, movies, music, holidays, traveling, cars, and partners. Sometimes we even talk about ghosts and witchcraft. The list is extremely endless. As humans we talk, we sometimes even talk about talking as we are doing right now.
As a way of continuing with our talking, let us now talk about some of the possible reasons why it is important to talk about homosexuality. Firstly, it is important to talk about homosexuality for the reason that it is clear that homosexuality matters to us. That the subject of homosexuality matters can be seen in the attention and responses such issues are given whenever these come up. Just to be clear this attention can either be positive or negative. Positive in the sense that some may sympathize with, or indeed be indifferent with regards to persons that identify as homosexual. Negative in the sense that some may find homosexuality morally repugnant. The bottom line is that we talk about things whether it is the case that we like these things or dislike them. In other words, liking or disliking something is not a necessary condition for talking or for not talking about something.

Another reason why talking about homosexuality is important is that doing so may help us to realize our own mistakes – if any – in reasoning. In other words through talking about it, we may realize that our beliefs about homosexuality are based on falsehoods. For instance, a lot of people hold the belief that one of the things that makes homosexuality morally wrong is that animals do not engage in it. However scientific research on the matter shows that homosexuality is also present in non-human animals. For good measure, let us for a moment assume for purposes of argumentation that animals do not engage in homosexuality, would this still make homosexuality morally wrong? Of course the answer here is no. To see why this is the case, let us consider the following question. Does the fact that non-human animals do not engage in football, basketball or tennis, make football, basketball or tennis morally wrong? Well, your guess here is as good as mine. So even if it is the case that animals do not engage in homosexuality, this does not necessarily make it morally wrong. It seems we would have to look for other reasons that make homosexuality morally wrong. This is so because most people would agree that it is better to believe that something is wrong based on accurate information, than to believe that something is wrong based on falsehoods. As such, we can say that talking about something is one way in which we can test the basis for our beliefs.

Another reason why it is important to talk about homosexuality is factual. Let's face it, despite homosexuality being illegal and punishable by law, it is a fact that we have persons that identify as homosexual within our context (in the same way that we for instance have people who brew and sell Kachasu, despite it being illegal to do so). In one way or another it is imperative that we talk about this issue at a much deeper level. Some of the possible talking points include, but not limited to the following: what exactly is homosexuality? How does it differ from heterosexuality? Is this difference significant from a moral point of view? Are people born homosexual, or is it something they learn to become? Do people choose to be homosexual or heterosexual? Is Homosexuality morally wrong? If so, what makes it morally wrong? We look at these questions in our next conversation.

About the author.
Emmanuel Phiri holds a PhD in Applied Ethics. He is a researcher and expert on issues of sexual orientation. He is currently serving as researcher and lecturer at the University of Zambia. You may reach him for comments at