When Brandon Bartlett’s op-ed piece “Return to Rationality: Homosexuality and the slippery slope” was published in Mustang News, many felt uncomfortable and upset by it. Readers could sense the manipulation of his stance that arguments supporting homosexuality could also be used to support incest. Not that Bartlett would care about the readers’ gut reactions; he’s a man of rationality, claiming that homosexuality is “more deeply submerged in emotion” than most issues.
But rather than provide a detailed critical analysis, Bartlett tends to manipulate his way through generalizations and distance himself from the nuanced perspectives of homosexuality. His writing, while claiming to be logical in the most objective sense, fails to hide his own biases. To be clear, this article criticizes Bartlett’s use of incest to delegitimize homosexuality, rather than to tackle the debate of incest itself.
One of the most confusing aspects about the op-ed piece is that Bartlett doesn’t even really address homosexuality for a good portion of it. At least half the article breaks down what is supposed to be an analogy for the main topic: the drinking age and arguments that favor lowering it. Bartlett believes that arguing to lower the drinking age to 20 is a slippery slope because the same reasons to lower it to 20 could also apply to 19, 18, etc.
After five paragraphs spent on this topic, he says the same thing for the homosexuality versus incest argument. The four “core arguments” (which are extremely generalized by Bartlett) that homosexuality could be supported with could also be applied to incest. But because half of his article is spent talking about lowering the drinking age, all Bartlett really does with his key points is go “ditto” and leave it at that.
What he fails to consider are the highly nuanced implications of comparing homosexuality and incest. Rather than spending half of his article on an unnecessarily long example, Bartlett could have distinguished the reasons why incest and homosexuality are taboo, and more importantly, how they manifest differently. Instead, he chooses to gloss over the complicated notions and perspectives regarding both subjects on the insistence of pure logic.
Despite his insistence on objectivity through rationality, his own bias comes through loud and clear. He concludes that “not only does the logic not work, but by never creating a new border, we open wide the doors for things that are, at best, unhealthy.” The idea of accepting “unhealthy” forms of being in our society implicates homosexuality as on par with incest in its implied unnaturalness, a concept that has stigmatized the LGBTQ community for years. This confusing statement completely contradicts his intention to look at the issue objectively.
As a result, Bartlett leaves us with the ugly implication that, like his view on incest, homosexuality is inherently unnatural and that the current arguments for supporting it aren’t enough. It might be argued that he is merely critiquing the way in which support for LGBTQ rights is presented. But his failure to discuss incest and homosexuality with the detail they deserve sets up a weak basis for his own stance. Bartlett’s insistence on looking at a very real, very concrete human experience in an abstract way not only showcases his own privilege to be able to distance himself from the issue, but also presents an implicitly homophobic perspective whether he intends it or not.