40 Years On

Rainbow FlagChannel 4 in the UK has been running a fascinating series of programmes marking the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Crimes Act which legalised gay sex (sodomy to be specific) for consenting adults over the age of 21. Probably the best of the programmes so far was “40 Years Out“, a fascinating panel discussion which explored various aspects of ‘gay’ life and culture since the Act. This was much better then the shameful “Clapham Junction” which was just an orgy of promiscuous activity.One of the subjects raised in the studio debate was whether there is in any sense a homogeneous gay culture in the UK. The answer of course is no -Simon Fanshawe put it well when he said “Some gay men like to go out cottaging, some want to stay in and have a nice cup of tea”. People who identify as homosexual lead a myriad of lives and experiences and not all are in any sense predatory or just interested in sex. If those of us involved in ministries of healing and wholeness, or those in the church who want to reach out to those who identify as homosexual, need to learn anything it’s to stop stereotyping. I still remember doing a talk at Spring Harvest a few years ago, and one of the stewards, on my asking “Is this the place where the gay seminar is happening?”, answered back, “Yes it is” in the campest voice possible. No, this wasn’t his proper voice – he was making fun of gay stereotypes.

But stereotypes go back the other way. One gay blogger in this country recently wrote about post-gay bloggers like myself, that we:

“like to festoon their blogs with pictures of Wifey, if indeed, their self-deception has reached those remarkable levels. I suppose its a way of convincing themselves and creating the necessarily heterosexual image! One of them even wrote ‘isn’t heterosexuality great’ as a blog entry. He must really need to convince himself.”

Actually Mike, it’s more to do with really, really, really liking heterosexuality!! But I digress. The point is this – the stereotyping and demonisation is something that happens in both directions. A lot of the stick I get daily (I love hate email – it’s so entertaining) comes from people who simply refuse to accept that someone’s sexual orientation can change. Often that comes from an underlying teleological objection – “If your orientation changed then mine could also”. Therefore, to deny someone’s change in sexual orientation is to protect one’s own choices of sexual practice and response to one’s orientation, for if orientation is fixed then it cannot be intrinsically immoral. If it’s not then we can’t base our human rights in “what is natural”.

I guess that’s why I was disappointed that the “40 Years On” debate didn’t address the issue of causation of sexual orientation. Instead, despite the absent scientific evidence, there was an implicit assumption that people were “born with” a homosexual orientation. 40 years after the legalisation of gay sex in this country, we’re only just starting to get to grips with why homosexual people are homosexual. Forget Hamer’s gay gene – the truth is we don’t have a direct biological link to homosexuality and if that’s so, a lot of our societal assumptions need to continue to be graciously, but firmly, challenged. I continue to interrupt anybody I talk to who claims that people are born gay with the simple question, “Which scientific paper are you referencing? What exactly is the evidence?” Fundamentally this is the issue that we still need to sort out because so much else, our and others’ attitudes, stems from it.

And it strikes me that there’s some irony in people claiming that I’m “faking it”. If that were so, then I’m really gay, so why isn’t my voice allowed to be heard amongst other “gay voices”? It seems kinda bizarre that those who reject my story and others like me won’t at the same time let me have voice in the gay debate. Where was my invitation to the Channel 4 Panel?

If you’re in the UK or ROI you can download the 4onDemand video player here to watch the “40 years” programmes on your PC.

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