"Delicate" rectums and "fist fornication" aren't the discursive topics typically expected from a conservative Christian doctor with political aspirations. But James Holsinger, Bush's nominee for surgeon general, seems to have a fervent imagination when it comes to gay sex. As reported in the Nation yesterday (and noted in the Bible Belt Blogger) Holsinger's history as a homophobic zealot reveals just as much zealotry as homophobia.
A professor of health sciences at the University of Kentucky, Holsinger also moonlights as a man of the cloth: He holds a degree in biblical studies from Asbury Theological Seminary and he founded Hope Springs Community Church, a "recovery ministry" targeting alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts and those other dangerous diseased addicts -- you guessed it -- homosexuals.
As the Nation reported, yesterday the Human Rights Campaign uncovered a paper Holsinger wrote in 1991 while serving on the United Methodist Church's Committee to Study Homosexuality. The eight-page paper -- which argues that homosexuality is unnatural and unhealthy because it violates the "absolute separation" of "structure and function of the human alimentary and reproductive systems" -- reveals a disturbing willingness to allow religious beliefs to distort medical understanding.
It also gives a rare glimpse into Holsinger's preoccupations -- at least circa 1991. He devotes passages to elaborating on the "delicate mucosal surface" of the rectum, which he notes can be damaged when penetrated by "large, sharp, or pointed" objects or subject to "tissue laceration" with "insertion of unlubricated objects" or when there's "inadequate dilation of the anus before insertion of a large object."
Is anyone else getting hot here?
It goes on to the special properties of the anal sphincter, "which generally remains tightly constricted except during defecation." I'll spare you the details involving fist fornication, but leave you with his bizarre conclusion -- in which he uses plumbing jargon to bolster his "scientific" argument. "In fact, the logical complementarity of the human sexes has been so recognized in our culture that it has entered our vocabulary in the form of naming various pipe fittings either the male fitting or the female fitting depending upon which one interlocks within the other."
Yesterday, ABC's Jake Tapper quoted a spokeswoman for the Department of Heath and Human Services, Holly Babin, arguing that the paper was a "survey of scientific peer-reviewed studies that he was asked to compile by the United Methodist Church, it's not that he was saying 'this is what I believe.'" Any kid who can get 450 on the SAT would be able to discern Holsinger's opinion bobbing in the sea of medical citations. Either Babin hasn't read the document or she hopes you won't.