by Ron Suresha
Population experts have announced that in 1999 the "six billionth child" will be born. The implications of this news are disturbing not merely from a statistical viewpoint -- just one hundred years ago Earth's population is estimated to have been 1.7 billion -- but more crucially from an ecological viewpoint. Our planet staggers under the burden of so many humans, whose increasingly consumer-driven overconsumption is stripping the very life from Gaia.
Evidence of the effects of overpopulation is everywhere and incontrovertible. Environmentalists point to overcrowding as the root cause of air, earth, and water pollution causing increased loss of natural resources resulting in cataclysmic loss of biodiversity. "The planet's sixth great mass extinction is already in progress, experts warn," according to the February 1999 National Geographic, and humans are the source of that extinction.
We may already be aware of these problems to the extent that they are woven into the fabric of our daily lives. Sadly, however, most people are ignorant of overpopulation's effects. Even worse, they don't make the connection between their acts of copulation and the rapidly approaching worldwide catastrophe.
Granted, there is a certain logic to the Vatican-held belief that the problem is rooted in mis- or under-utilization of existing resources rather than overpopulation. Yet there is no compelling reason to expect our Earth to support even more human life which at this moment, for the vast majority of this planet's inhabitants, is gravely degraded. Contrary to what many religious zealots say about the right to life, God's admonition in Genesis to "be fruitful and multiply" was directed not at humans (who had not even appeared on the scene yet!) but at fowl and creatures of the sea.
Most heterosexuals never in their lives question their "God-given" ability and presumed right to bear as many children as possible. Straight morality teaches that it is the "natural" and "normal" thing to do. How ironic that one of the most complex of living organisms, the human body, revered by the world's great religions as holy and sacred, is most usually treated with the least awareness of the repercussions.
On the other hand, homosex -- sexual activity of any kind between same-gender partners -- is nonreproductive. Of course, there are plenty of gay men and lesbians who have had straight sex or insemination leading to childbirth -- I omit bisexuals here as they are predominantly reproductive. Thus the stemming of overpopulation and the resulting conservation of limited resources must be considered a valid reason for condoning -- indeed, accepting -- same-gender sexuality. Does it not follow: more homosex = fewer offspring = more resources?
One wonders why so little thought has been given to this relationship between homosex and population control. An interesting sidelight is the "non-policy" of population control groups, like ZPG (Zero Population Growth) and NPG (Negative Population Growth), regarding the nonreproductive characteristic of homosex. These organizations would appear to be our natural allies, yet neither has targeted outreach to or appealed for support from the LGBT community specifically. Outreach to the gay community is definitely in order. During the past decade, more lesbians and gay men are parenting children than ever before. This trend is due to several factors -- more favorable adoption laws for same-sex coparents along with the birth parent, guardianship laws for same-sex couples, and adoption laws for single gays and lesbians.
The gay and lesbian parents whom I know personally -- and I want to mention here that I'm very fond of my partner Michael's two boys, who live with their moms -- do hold their relatively newfound position as childbearing/ childrearing citizens as most precious -- which undoubtedly it is. And I speculate that most lesbian couples have only one or two kids. Yet how might the view of population control groups -- that it is preferable for more people (in general, not just gays) to adopt children rather than reproduce -- be accepted by the gay community?
There is a marked rise in the number of lesbians who are birthing children, often using insemination from gay friends or sperm banks. How should we view this relatively new reproduction trend in view of our world and our gay community? It is difficult to imagine that the several hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of same-gender couples who are making babies are contributing heavily to the overpopulation of the world. In fact, it's likely that the offspring of same-sex couples (which are predominant in developed Western cultures) would grow up more environmentally aware than their average straight-parented counterparts.
Yet there is something at once comic and scary about the recent assimilation by lesbian and gay couples of the baby-making mentality. One lesbian writer has declared, "The trend of lesbians birthing children signals the end of lesbianism as we know it." Personally, I'm in no position to continued on page 26comment about neo-lesbianism, but it gives me pause to think that there are even fewer people not bearing children.
Even more affecting is the somewhat paranoid yet no-so-very-far-flung notion, from a radical queer I know, who believes that lesbian childbirthing, along with AIDS, is part of a vast white Christian male right-wing conspiracy to eliminate all nonreproductive Americans, as well as gay culture.
In my admittedly more moderate view, just because everybody else in the world is having kids doesn't make it right; in fact, something that everybody else wants is automatically suspect. However, the mere popularity of making babies doesn't make it intrinsically wrong, either. It's simply that creating more mouths to feed on our milked-dry Mother Earth deserves more thought than the mere act of insemination requires.
Gay men, lesbians, and transgendered people should consider the far-reaching beneficial effects of not having kids. For some, like myself, the desire to not have children precedes, and feeds, a later decision to come out as gay. We need to recognize and affirm that the inclination/decision not to have children is utterly valid and purposeful. Furthermore, these "barren" spiritual warriors who dare to not conform -- as well as straights who also limit their childbearing -- should be honored by everyone for "doing their part" for population control. This brave decision, which is of benefit to all living beings, is made out of respect for our Gaia from whom we gained life, and in hope for the future of our children.
Ron Suresha is an ex-poet and ex-editor living in Boston.