Tag Archives: homophobia

A Gay Cure

The recent release of the movie “I am Michael” again has raised the question of whether sexual orientation can be changed. I haven’t seen the movie, but the storyline is that of a man who comes out of the closet and then goes back in again. The premise of the religious right is that sexual orientation is a choice, and with proper treatment and prayer it can be changed— although no one has ever claimed to make a straight person gay.

Let’s start with a few definitions: gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual expression are not synonymous. Gender identity is how we view ourselves as male or female. Transgender persons suffer cognitive dissonance in that their psychological identity does not match their physical characteristics, and so they undergo physical and psychological treatments to change their gender. They are not gay.

Sexual orientation was perhaps best explained in the Masters and Johnson’s historic study on human sexuality in which they surveyed hundreds of people to discover that only a small percentage is exclusively gay or straight. Most fit in the bell curve and have some gay and straight inclinations and/or experiences, which seems to explain the concept of bisexuality. For years gays thought that bisexuals were simply closeted gays, but experience has shown that people can respond to a variety of sexual stimuli and/or experiences. While we may be inclined in one direction more strongly than the other, circumstances and social pressures can influence our decisions and behavior. Prison is a good example. For decades, most gays got married to “pass” for straight, had children, and lived so-called normal lives. The experience varied widely, and some were more successful than others. Most eventually came out as gay, but they might or might not get divorced.

Sexual expression is how we express our sexuality. For gays that is primarily masturbation (mutual or otherwise) or anal intercourse. The “kinky” sex of sadomasochism or leather appears to appeal to both straight and gay, and seems to reflect an early experience of conflicting pain with pleasure in creating arousal. People can choose to remain celibate and repress their sexuality, but that frequently results in distorted personality and psychological problems such as pedophilia.

Conversion therapy was practiced for decades in the US and is still legal in some states even though it has been banned in a few. All of the professional organizations have disavowed the practice as creating more problems while still not creating a cure for homosexuality. In most cases, the regimen simply uses aversion therapy to repress sexual feelings. The largest group, Exodus International, closed its doors two years ago and apologized for misleading people that it could provide a cure.

Opponents of gay civil rights claim that because a gay gene has not be proven, then gays have a choice and can change since it is not genetic. On the other hand, you can’t prove a negative so there is no proof that is not genetic. Clearly the trait does tend to run in families, but life experiences also can determine how it is expressed. Because of the changes in social attitudes in our society, many people are now coming out later in life as they have learned how to lift their repressions and to be able to more fully express their inner personality and true self.

Homosexuality is not a disorder nor is it criminal behavior. That has been settled by professional organizations and the Supreme Court. The continuing debate is whether or not is a sin. Those who proof text the Bible claim that it is a sin, and others who interpret the Bible differently claim that references refer to prostitution and sexual domination. In ancient times male rape was the ultimate form of submission.

The issue has been debated endlessly, and it probably will continue to be depending upon your assumptions.   If you make certain assumptions, then you can make a case either way. Unfortunately, the continuing debates lead to more suicides, violence, and discrimination based on homophobia.

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Knocking Over the Tables of the Money Changers in the Temple

My Twitter feed each day is filled with reports of people using religion to justify their racism, homophobia, jingoism, and neo-Nazi beliefs and actions. These reports challenge and chastise these people correctly for their abuse of the name of God and ask that people shame them or even boycott them. I know that Jesus expressed his anger at the abuse of the rituals of the Temple by the moneychangers who took advantage of the pilgrims. He noted that they profited from religion without understanding its intention.

But that was in a different culture and time and before the proliferation of mass media, and I wonder if giving these crackpots notoriety is the best way to deal with them. Don’t they seek media attention to spread their messages, and even if we condemn them aren’t we in effect helping to spread their messages? Why not just ignore them, or at least not give them free publicity?

Does that mean the only option is to do nothing in the face of such outrages? No, but I suggest direct action rather than an automatic, in-direct, and ineffective reaction. Let’s deal with these folks face-to-face, through their pocketbook, or by challenging their supporters. The media loves controversy, so why does there always have to be “another side” of the story? Some statements are just flagrant lies or deliberate mis-information so that they just don’t justify a legitimate point-of-view. When someone maims or kills someone and then justifies their actions because of their beliefs, they’re either insane or evil fanatics. We want to know why people do terrible things and what is their motivation. Well, sometimes there isn’t any —they’re just crazy.

Which raises the issue of how to deal with gun violence, homelessness, as well as racism and homophobia. Trying to deal with the just the symptoms of a dysfunctional society is a hopeless effort, and we must come to terms with the root cause of these depravations. We must create new and effective systems of mental health treatment programs. That will require most than just providing insurance coverage for these treatments; it means new programs that are not just window-dressing but are truly effective in making substantial and permanent changes in people’s lives. The status of mental health treatment programs in the United States is a disgrace, especially so in North Carolina.

So rather than just re-tweet some reaction to an obviously stupid statement or action, get involved in the National Organization for Mental Illness (NAMI) with a local chapter or lobby for public funding of services to get people off the streets and help rebuild their lives. Our local relief non-profit agencies do a good job, but they simply are overwhelmed and don’t have the resources to cope with the vast needs.

Yes, it will require education for several generations to convert some of these misapprehensions of religion, as we saw with the issue of slavery, but it can be done. But the solution requires more than just education, it requires a re-orientation of some people’s basic psychological make-up so that they are in touch with reality and the true nature of humans to love and need one another rather than hate and kill each other.

 

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