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?)