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Is homosexuality considered moral or immoral by Objectivism?

asked Aug 25 '10 at 12:35

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

edited Sep 17 '10 at 11:40

The short answer to the question, as phrased, is, "no, homosexuality is not considered moral or immoral by Objectivism."

For additional detail, see Greg's answer!

(Sep 17 '10 at 15:40) Robert Nasir ♦ Robert%20Nasir's gravatar image


Asking if homosexuality is considered moral or immoral by Objectivism is sort of like asking if having brown hair is considered moral or immoral. Or, more appropriately, it is like asking if heterosexuality is moral or immoral. One's sexual orientation is a part of one's nature, not a choice. One doesn't choose to be gay or straight (or bi or whatever), one simply is. This is why many religious fundamentalists insist that homosexuality is a choice, because if it is a "God-given" part of one's nature, than it cannot legitimately be viewed as immoral.

What matters from a moral perspective is not one's nature, but whether or not one acts in accordance with one's nature in pursuing one's long-term self-interest. If an individual is homosexual, then that individual's ultimate happiness and well-being are intimately tied to finding a partner of the same sex, provided the individual is in the market for a partner. It is not only moral for that individual to live "out" as a homosexual, I would argue it is heroic in the present context. Open homosexuality, which today constitutes an expression of one's moral right to pursue one's happiness regardless of others' opinions or wants, garners such opposition that, in my mind, it constitutes an active defense of (explicitly or implicitly) the Objectivist morality.

It is not only moral to act in accordance with one's nature in order to promote one's rational self-interest, it is immoral to do otherwise. To live as a straight person when one is really gay constitutes deception toward one's friends, family, and most likely even oneself. It is an evasion of reality, one of the highest forms of immorality in the Objectivist framework. It is akin to pursuing a relationship with someone, not out of love, but out of pity, obligation, or indifference. It can only lead to misery for the individual as well as those around them. Empirical evidence of this unfortunately becomes available all too often.

The point is that homosexuality (or bisexuality or whatever) is neither moral nor immoral, rather living in accordance with one's nature in pursuit of happiness determines the morality of one's romantic and sexual endeavors.

answered Sep 16 '10 at 19:48

ryankrause's gravatar image

ryankrause ♦

If you can tell me why you chose to be heterosexual — which means, tell me in explicit terms why you chose to be attracted to members of the opposite sex — then you have the right to judge people who are homosexual. I can't tell you why I first started noticing that girls were cute, though I could tell you precisely when I did. The process, for me, was automatic. It's automatic also for gays.

It's a different question whether it's an emotional defect, disorder, mistake, or whatever. Something can be automatic and unconscious, but still be mistaken. That's not at issue. The question is whether homosexuality is moral or immoral. To that, the answer is emphatically that it is moral to be gay, if you are. And, by simple obversion, it is wrong to act straight if you are not. (I am leaving aside family and other social issues, which might change the situation.)

People often remark that having a homosexual orientation is different from acting on it. The former military policy of "Don't ask, don't tell" was based on this idea: it was okay to be gay, just not to act on it. I couldn't disagree more profoundly: if you are gay, it would (in the normal situation) be immoral to act straight.

By the way, I know gay couples who have been in loving relationships for many years in all the same sorts of ways that straight couples can be. Whether or not homosexuality is a perfectly healthy psychology, some people do very well with it... better than a lot of heterosexual couples.

answered Oct 14 '10 at 03:40

Robert%20Garmong's gravatar image

Robert Garmong ♦

edited Oct 14 '10 at 03:50

What is homosexuality?

In my experience, and according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, "homosexuality" has two meanings: (1) the quality or state of being homosexual and (2) erotic activity with another of the same sex [i.e., behavior expressive of that orientation].

What, then, is the moral status of homosexuality according to Objectivism?

The first thing to be said about this question, as Leonard Peikoff says in this podcast, is that

...philosophy has no view in regard to specific kinds of sex. A scientific study of sex, different kinds of sex, their motivations, and results would be required. There's nothing in philosophy that will tell you about this question. I once asked Ayn Rand -- I think I mentioned this in OPAR -- "What does philosophy have to say about sex?" She said, "Only one thing: that it’s good." [Transcription and emphasis mine.]

To illustrate this point, observe what one would have to know in order to judge homosexuality.

To judge it with respect to the first meaning (the quality or state of being homosexual), one would have to know: Is it directly chosen? Or is it innate? Or is it developed? If it's developed, is it developed deliberately or automatically? Does the process entail evasion or dishonesty?

To judge it with respect to the second meaning (behavior expressive of the homosexual orientation), one would have to know all of the above and more: Is it a healthy state? Can it be changed? If it's unchosen and unalterable, but unhealthy or suboptimal, then what is the best course of action?

Philosophy can tell you that sexuality is neither directly chosen nor innate because desires are not directly chosen, but are products of ideas, which are not innate, but acquired. The remainder of these questions, however, belong to the field of psychology.

Do any prominent Objectivists have views on this issue?

Ayn Rand had distinctive views on psychology and sexuality (including homosexuality), which are not part of her philosophy of Objectivism. They can be found in some of her articles, articles which she endorsed, and have been recounted by Leonard Peikoff. Leonard Peikoff has also related some of his own views. For those who are interested, below are some relevant resources. Please leave a comment if you have found others and I will add them.

Ayn Rand Lexicon (See also its sources): Tabula Rasa, Instinct, Emotions, Free Will, Happiness, Love, Sex, Femininity (Also addresses masculinity)

Leonard Peikoff's Podcasts:

Leonard Peikoff's Lectures:

Leonard Peikoff's Radio Shows:

  • At the end of his answer in Love, Sex and Romance, Peikoff said, "I had a whole radio show on this, and it's still available." In the context of his answer, it's unclear whether he was talking about homosexuality or "special rights". I have not found this particular radio show.

answered Oct 20 '10 at 16:22

BMV's gravatar image


edited Oct 20 '10 at 23:13

I agree with Ryan Krause, but it should be mentioned that this topic has been a matter of bitter controversy amongst Objectivists over the years. I still haven't heard any prominent Objectivist intellectual come out (ahem) and say there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, and that it is a perfectly natural element of overall human sexual diversity.

Many have either condemned it, or called it a form of mental illness, including Ayn Rand herself (who described it as "disgusting"), Nathan Branden (who implied it was an irrational deviance in at least one article), Leonard Peikoff (who called it a "developmental disorder"), and Edith Packer (who described it as a disorder, based presumably on the fact that some of her patients were gay, apparently not making the connection that this implied that the fact that she also had straight patients implied that heterosexuality was a disorder too.)

answered Sep 23 '10 at 23:41

BradAisa's gravatar image

BradAisa ♦


I have heard some prominent Objectivists discuss the subject. Leonard Peikoff has a podcast from May of 2009 (I think) in which he says that homosexuality is not moral or immoral (although he says some bizarre things about "queens"). I'm pretty sure I've heard Yaron Brook talk about homosexuality in terms similar to those I used above. Ultimately, though, I agree with you; there has been far too little discussion, one way or the other.

(Sep 24 '10 at 00:35) ryankrause ♦ ryankrause's gravatar image

I've heard Peikoff speak about homosexuality a few times on the podcast, and he doesn't seem to bear it any ill will, as far as I can tell. Though that's just my estimation based on the podcast.

I don't know any of Brad's quotes off hand, but I'm not dismissing them, either. I think that they're likely born of ignorance as to homosexuality's nature, and thinking it a psychological ailment was a common belief back then.

(Sep 24 '10 at 18:39) infallible ♦ infallible's gravatar image

I doubt Peikoff holds any ill will to particular gay people, I was just referring to his comments on homsexuality. For example, I once met a social acquaintance of his that seemed pretty gay to me. There seems evidence to suggest Frank O'Connor's brother was gay, yet the O'Connors had warm relations with him. Etc.

(Oct 10 '10 at 21:55) BradAisa ♦ BradAisa's gravatar image

I don't see how you can make the claim that homosexuality is innate and remain true to the beliefs of Objectivism. "Since man has no automatic knowledge, he can have no automatic values; since he has no innate ideas, he can have no innate value judgments." - Ayn Rand

(Oct 14 '10 at 23:03) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Homosexuality isn't a value judgment or an idea, it is a state of nature.

(Oct 19 '10 at 01:13) ryankrause ♦ ryankrause's gravatar image

What would it mean to say that a sexual orientation is a state of nature? Because sexual desires are emotions (products of value-appraisal), I think that statement does imply that man has innate ideas about men and women, which does contradict Objectivism.

(Oct 19 '10 at 13:19) BMV ♦ BMV's gravatar image

Being sexually attracted to a particular sex is a biological and physiological process. Who you choose as a partner, and what personal characteristics you find attractive are value judgments. I'm not attracted to the female body because of a value judgment. I'm attracted to the female body in the abstract because it is an innate quality of my psyche. The same holds true for homosexuality as for heterosexuality.

(Oct 19 '10 at 21:54) ryankrause ♦ ryankrause's gravatar image

How do you know that? And how does your position that there are innate desires not contradict Objectivism?

(Oct 19 '10 at 22:52) BMV ♦ BMV's gravatar image

You're showing your age, man! That homosexuality is in no way immoral has been standard-issue Objectivism since at least the mid-90s, and probably since 1980 or so. As for full-on acceptance of the gays among us, without squigginess or weird feelings, it probably took a couple of really smart gay/lesbian Objectivist philosophers to make the Old Guard change their minds. Once some old-school Objectivist leaders saw a few of "that kind" who weren't crazy Lefties, they came around pretty quickly.

Now let's see how long it takes Dan Savage to tolerate Objectivism.

(Jan 22 '14 at 03:57) Robert Garmong ♦ Robert%20Garmong's gravatar image
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Asked: Aug 25 '10 at 12:35

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Last updated: Jan 22 '14 at 07:21