Post-Gay FAQs

I’ve had SO many conversations over the past few days (can’t imagine why) about “post-gay” that I’ve decided to do a FAQ. Here are some questions with answers. If you can think of other sensible questions, please add them in the comments below.

What is Post-Gay?

Post-gay is a perspective whereby someone with same-sex attraction decides not to form their sexual identity around their sexual orientation. This means that whilst accepting that they have same-sex attraction, they do not define themselves in any way by that and refuse to accept the idea that their same-sex attraction validates same-sex behaviour.

You can read a longer explanation here (from when I first coined the phrase).

Watch my 4Thought.TV appearance.

Is Post-Gay just another term for Ex-Gay?

No. Someone who is post-gay might still be exclusively homosexual in their attractions, they simply reject the idea that their sexual identity or behaviour should be defined by or dictated by their sexual attractions. In most cases it is inappropriate to use the terms ex-gay and post-gay together since many people who are post-gay are not and would not want to be called ex-gay.

Isn’t Post-Gay just about suppressing sexuality?

No. Imagine that you are married or in a civil partnership. You walk down the road and you see a person you are sexually attracted to. Is it suppressing your sexuality to ignore that attraction, not to act on it? In the same way, choosing not to respond to same-sex attraction is not suppressing it.

Indeed, in order to be truly post-gay one needs to be fully aware of one’s sexual orientation and accept it. It is only in the realisation that one is same-sex attracted that one can then make the choice not to form one’s sexual identity around it. People who are in denial that they are attracted to people of the same-sex will create a tension within themselves that they will find difficult to maintain.

Can people change their sexual orientation through therapy?

This is a difficult question as there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on either side. The only way that question could be answered definitively would be by a replicable controlled longitudinal study with an independent control group for comparison. Such a study has never been undertaken.

The only study that has come closest to this gold standard is the Jones and Yarhouse ExGay Study.

Some people who describe themselves as post-gay may experience a shift in their sexual orientation, but this is not a defining or necessary characteristic.

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41 Comments on “Post-Gay FAQs

  1. Peter. You write,”Imagine that you are married or in a civil partnership. You walk down the road and you see a person you are sexually attracted to. Is it suppressing your sexuality to ignore that attraction, not to act on it?”
    Well, it is and it isn’t – but everyone has to suppress their sexuality to some degree. I just can’t see that that should be defined as being “post” anything at all – it’s just life! Suppose someone is married and heterosexual and doesn’t act on their attractions (other than to their spouse.) It doesn’t make them “post-heterosexual” does it?  Or supposing that someone is celibate and so doesn’t act on their attractions, they are not post-whatever sexuality they are? They are still a gay/ straight/ bi person. Someone who is gay and married and doesn’t act on their attractions isn’t “post anything”, they are a gay person who is faithful to their spouse.

    • You misunderstand Sue. That answer is addressing the specific question asked about suppressing sexuality.

      The gay person who is married and faithful to his wife has rejected the idea that being same-sex attracted means he has to be active only same-sexually. By definition he is post-gay.

  2.  Peter, is not acting on same-sex desires a necessary condition of being “post gay”? Much of the above is in parts quite similar to Queer Theory rhetoric ( Michael Stipe doesn’t identify as gay and rejects the label but, contrary to some of the rhetoric on the bus ad thread, he very much does not have to deal with a monolithic “gay lobby” trying to prevent him from identifying as he sees fit! See also the great Gore Vidal who, for all his thousands of same-sex encounters, was railing against the label “gay” (noting that homosexual and heterosexual describe acts, not people) over thirty years ago). Whatever else one may think about “ex-gay” it does at least point to rejection or attempted rejection of a set of desires.  And, not to be crude, if some aspires to sexual relationships and believe they can only be morally expressed within heterosexual marriage, then don’t they stand a better chance with the ladies if they claim to be “ex gay” rather than stating that they still have a bunch of same-sex desires but it ain’t a thing?

     Apropos nothing, is it just me, or does the phrase “post-gay” not also bring to mind Eminem’s line on Versace “checking the male”? ;-)

     

  3. The FAQ was actually a helpful post (sic).

    I don’t pretend to understand your reasons for deciding to label yourself as post-gay, but at least the meaning of the term is clearer to me now.

    In effect, it’s a rejection of your sexual orientation. in some ways it’s similar to the “acting white” phenomenon one encounters in the African community. I know my black friends take a very dim view of other blacks who denigrate African culture and customs. They think of them as traitors or “Uncle Toms”.

    Which raises an interesting question: what’s the right way to treat an Uncle Tom? If someone’s behaviour proclaims your inferiority, how should you respond?

    I’m not really sure how to answer that question, although I do know how angry repeated and unrepentant betrayal makes me feel. Perhaps that’s why I tend to steer clear of ex/post/whatever gays in the same way a feminist might steer clear of submissive stay-at-home moms. When something just seems wrong, it’s probably best to avoid it altogether.

  4. Well, now I’m curious about how you define the word “gay”? You’re happy to say that you are same-sex attracted, but you refuse to identify as gay. This is interesting to me as I think just about anyone I know would say that someone who is solely same-sex attracted is gay and someone who is attracted to both genders is bisexual. I mean, most of the dictionaries I have read on the subject define gay as someone who is homosexually oriented.

    • I’m sure Peter is aware of the ordinary definition of the word “gay”. In Christian circles there’s a requirement to make the distinction between gay and acting on it and the various chaste alternatives – so Christians use the phrase “same-sex attracted”.

      • That’s pretty much it. I did make it fairly clear that this had *nothing* to do with changing sexual orientation and everything to do with the attitude towards one’s sexual orientation, but I find it interesting that Aaron had to bring it back to being about orientation. I wonder why that is? Do some people reject the idea that one can separate the two out because it undermines the idea that “I was born this way so I should have a right to act in a certain way”?

  5. One of the best short snappy definitions of ‘post-gay’ that I have seen, Peter. Which isn’t suprising as it is you wot defined it in the first place …. :-) Interesting thread too! To comment on a few of your points …
     
    >>Someone who is post-gay might still be exclusively homosexual in their attractions, they simply reject the idea that their sexual identity or behaviour should be defined by or dictated by their sexual attractions.<<
     
    I'd like to expand on this point from my own context of Africa. There is plenty of same-sex going on in Africa but very little of it is 'gay' sex (with the notable exception of South Africa which now has a strong gay rights lobby). Let me explain. No doubt Africans are no more or no less same-sex attracted as any other group of people. There is certainly plenty of situational homosexuality, much of it MSM, in both prisons and due to family separation from labour migration, mostly by men. There's also plenty in the research on same-sex relationships, such as the 'wives' in the mine migrant hostels of South Africa or 'metsoalle' relationships between women in Lesotho (the word just means 'friends' in Sesotho).
     
    Almost none of these relationships are however 'gay', in the sense that they proceed to same-sex households and long-term relationships. Africans in same-sex relationships overwhelmingly go on to opposite-sex marriages with children. No doubt these marriages are of differing levels of quality and intimacy like all marriages. But there seems to be no sign that marriages of previously same-sex attracted (SSA) Africans are seen as fraudulent, forced or illegitimate in any way.
     
    This is because the overwhelming desire and social expectation of people is that they will grow up, get married and have children, in much the same way that this was the overwhelming expectation in the northern hemisphere half a century ago. Indeed, I've had many conversations with African friends where they express amazement that gay people live together in marriage-like arrangements. This is not necessarily due to ignorance. Africans are well aware of same-sex relationships, both amongst them and in the pro-gay context of the 'west'. There is simply astonishment both that people would both want to and are able to live together as a 'gay' couple.
     
    African societies are generally far more communitarian, in a way that is now difficult to understand in an urban, individualistic and atomised west. People's role in the community and in relationship to others is far more important. This has been famously expressed by
    Archbishop Desmond Tutu through a well-known Xhosa proverb: "Ubuntu
    ungamntu ngabanye abantu
    " – 'People are people through other
    people' (see:
    http://renew.education.ucsb.edu/downloads/overheads_handouts/Ubuntu.htm). Social behaviour, expectations and roles are
    important in a way that there were perhaps last in the west more than a century
    ago.

    There is of course both good and bad about this, as with all community values, and rigid adhesion to community values can be oppressive as well as supportive. But, at least as far as homosexuality is concerned, there is simply hardly any expectation (again with the notable exception of South Africa) of 'gay' relationships in the sense of long-lasting intimacy that involves setting up a household together. 'Gay' relationships, in the western sense of the term, scarcely exist because they are neither wanted nor supported by the community.

    There is of course both good and bad about this, as with all community values, and rigid adhesion to community values can be oppressive as well as supportive. But, at least as far as homosexuality is concerned, there is simply hardly any expectation (again with the notable exception of South Africa) of 'gay' relationships in the sense of long-lasting intimacy that involves setting up a household together. 'Gay' relationships, in the western sense of the term, scarcely exist because they are neither wanted nor supported by the community.
     
    It's important to note that there is almost no evidence of this lack of desire and acceptance producing psychic damage and harm in SSA Africans. I've now lived in Southern Africa for more than 20 years and, even in the legally gay-friendly society of South Africa since 1996, I cannot think of any press report of gay suicide or self-harm by SSA Africans because they were forced in straight relationships or forced to abstain from same-sex relationships. There just seems to be very little evidence of any self-harm by SSA Africans not allowed to be gay.
     
    The key difference with the west is that in Africa homosexuality is viewed as behaviour, 'something you do', rather than who you are in the sense of a deep and innate identity. Views of sexuality in Africa are in many ways similar to western views prior to the Victorian sexologists and Freud. Same-sex activity is simply something that some people sometimes do, because they want to or because they're in a situation where it's the only type of sex that is available. Sexual behaviour is just that – sexual behaviour – and does not point to anything deep in a person's identity.
     
    Western ideas of the primacy of sexuality are only around a century old and are primarily ideologically driven. It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of the role of Freud and his followers in developing this ideology which is predicated on the following core ideas:
     
    – the prime importance of the unconscious in forming identity and that the true self is something that is not known overtly to the individual who then 'acts out' from this unconscious identity.
    – the prime importance of different stages of sexual development in forming identity through childhood with the most important aspects of the self formed by response to deep sexual drives.
    – The prime importance of repression of these sexual drives in damaging the self and the psyche by refusing to acknowledge deep aspects of an innate identity.
     
    It is not surprising therefore that Peter Tatchell is just the foremost of many amongst gay campaigners and thinkers (see http://www.petertatchell.net/lgbt_rights/psychiatry/freud.htm) who exalt the
    importance of Freud to the gay rights movement.
     
    It takes but a moments reflection, let alone any research, to show that such ideas are deeply opposed to orthodox Christianity. Where Freud believes that the essential self is formed inwardly from the unconscious, Christianity maintains that the self is formed outwardly through relationship with God in Christ and with the surrounding community.
     
    To erect a whole theory of identity on the ideas of Freud and his followers is, at best, a gross inflation of the importance of a few insights and, at worst, mere quackery! It is therefore not surprising that Freud has been comprehensively criticised in the century since his ideas became influential and not just by Christianity. Michel Foucault has been one of the most important critics from the left and has comprehensively debunked the idea of the 'repressive hypothesis' as both a key social force and a forming influence in identity (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repressive_hypothesis).
     
    In my view, one of the most important contributions that the idea of being 'post gay' can make is that it potentially provides a framework for combating the post-Freudian ideology of sexuality that has gradually gained popular hegemony over the last half century. It provides a framework for returning sexuality to its proper place as primarily behaviour that is subject to both the will and to the far deeper discipline provided by our beliefs. Beliefs, including of what is right and wrong sexual behaviour, are always the most important factors in determining identity. A Christian view of sexual orientation will always seek to place it subordinate to the prime identity that forms us – our relationship with God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    • Philip, I am fascinated by what you say. There’s a lot to absorb there and I may come back to you on it, but for the moment, do you think things were a) better before Freud and the sexologists? and if so b) is there any way back, or is the genii completely out of the bottle despite what Christianity and Islam might have to say about it?  I am interested that Judaism on the whole (with the exception of the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox) has come to a much better accommodation. As I have posted to Jill on the Ex-Gay Bus ad thread, I think the Jewish understanding of scripture is different. They also seem prepared to challenge G-d and find him wrong. I’ve just read somewhere where a group of rabbis challenged him and he answered “Ho, ho, ho, my children have defeated me”. Also there the film about putting God on trial in a Concentration Camp “God on Trial” where the verdict was handed down -“Guilty – now let us pray”. The daughter-religions of Judaism seem to have turned out a bit like the daughters of Lear – and I don’t mean Cordelia!

      • Another little margin note: Tom, are you aware of the work of Rabbi Steven Greenberg? His book, ‘Wrestling with God and Men’ is a superbly-written rereading of Leviticus 18:22 / 20:13 (and includes the “My children have defeated me!” story, which reminded me of it). You can read a chunk of it on Google Books, and this is the Amazon UK page: 
        http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wrestling-God-Men-Homosexuality-Tradition/dp/0299190943

        in friendship, Blair 

        • Thanks Blair for your insightful additions/corrections. I am trying to remember where I read the “My children have defeated me” but it wasn’t there so I am grateful for the reference. Also in God on Trial I think tit takes place as a kind of court constituted in the prison hut.

      • And another nit-pick ;) …this from the ‘Jewish Chronicle’:
        “But when the JC put their doubts to Mr Wiesel on Wednesday, he replied: “Why should they know what happened? I was the only one there. It happened at night; there were just three people. At the end of the trial, they used the word chayav, rather than ‘guilty’. It means ‘He owes us something’. Then we went to pray.”

        in friendship, Blair 

      • Sorry to get back to you only now, Tom. I wouldn’t describe our understandings of sex and sexuality before Freud as being ‘better’. I would argue that our expectations of marriage and relationships has broadened and progressed to include important values of intimacy, empathy and female equality.

        But, as I have just argued to Blair, the impact of Freud and his followers has been to establish the idea that sex and sexuality are both areas that largely define us and behaviour about which we can do very little.

        This is an immensely damaging idea that has been responsible for much heartache. Together with decline in Christian belief, it has also been largely responsible for justifying the lower standards of sexual behaviour that have become prevelant since the onset of the sexual revolution.

    • Hi Philip,

      I’ve only time to be brief, but wanted to say I’m really not sure about your analysis re Freud and his influence. Peter Tatchell’s piece – this link will work btw - http://www.petertatchell.net/lgbt_rights/psychiatry/freud.htm
      …argues that “In articulating his radical propositions about the diverse and developmental character of sexuality, Freud implied the plurality and plasticity of human sexual desire and alluded that sexuality was essentially a social construction rather than an unchanging biological one”. If Tatchell’s argument is valid that does put some questions against your summary of Freud’s ideas and impact. Tatchell is far from uncritical of Freud in his article; I wouldn’t say he’s ‘exalting his importance’ in any straightforward way. He seems to me to be drawing out elements of Freud’s work that will boost his own purpose, but doesn’t deny the contradictions in Freud’s writings. 

      Your last paragraph sounds a bit muddled to me: “Beliefs… are always the most important factors in determining identity”, but in the next sentence “the prime identity that forms us” is “our relationship with God in Christ”. For what it’s worth I agree with your last sentence… but as I think I’ve said before, it may just be possible to agree with it while identifying as a gay Christian, though I am a poor witness to that possibility. 

      / harsh critical voice :)

      in friendship, Blair 

      • I agree that my final paragraph is a little loosely phrased and if I use the comment anywhere else I’ll tidy it up. But Freud and his followers are very firmly responsible for the idea that sex and sexuality are some of the deepest aspects of our being that determine who we are and our actions.

        This doesn’t just have an impact on ideas of gay identity but has strongly influenced our ideas about sex and behaviour for the worse. Rather than sex and sexuality being seen as an area of life that is subject to the discipline of our beliefs and our will, they are seen as something about which we can do very little. We see this in the common appeals of people to justify affairs and promiscuity on the basis that ‘I couldn’t help it’, as if this were an acceptable excuse.

        My comment was long and covered alot of ground! But my main point was drawing from my African experience to show that sexuality is fundamentally behaviour and is determined by our, and our society’s, views of what is right and wrong. This was essentially the common view in Britain until well into the C20 and determined our reaction to and acceptance of homosexual behaviour. Wrong beliefs lead to wrong actions!

        • So let’s get this straight. If sexuality is fundamentally behaviour, then a person doesn’t have any sexuality unless and until he or she actually engages in sexual behaviour. Someone who is a lifelong celibate has never possessed anything that can meaningfully called a sexuality; he or she is fundamentally asexual.  And a person who is widowed or divorced and never has a sexual relationship after that has ceased to have a sexuality. Have I understood correctly?

        •  I’m not sure that blaming Freud is historically sustainable. Gay lib, you’ll recall, might not make much ontological sense but it was intended as a response to demonisation of gay people which necessarily made same-sex desires an important part of one’s identity (living in a society where one could be arrested for expressing them is hardly conducive to an “sexuality is a very small part of who I am” attitude). Gore Vidal made the excellent point that, although Judaism would still be a vital indicator of identity to some in a society free of antisemitim, a society free of homophobia would think very little of same sex desires. Let me add that such a society would also pose very little problems to the “post-gay” – in contrast to a world where the being-gay-as-mental-illness ideology triumphed. Vidal also, I think legitimately, said that Freud was essentially a secular Rabbi, and the latter’s views on non-procreational (or possibly procreational sex) , masturbation and homosexuality support this contention. Most evangelical Christians (who tend to be down with birth control and even masturbation) are more “liberal” than Freud!

           Freud did popularise the Nietzschean notion of humans being subject to dark  and often inexplicable forces, but it was hardly restricted to sexuality (and arguably accords – the good that I would I do not etc – pretty well with Christian notions on Original Sin and the pull of the flesh)

            I also think your notion of sexual standards is ahistorical.  People might not have discussed them much in public, but oral sex (or whatever) is not an invention of the sexual revolution.  And the notion of coming up with a list of acts that the State “approves” people to do with their genitals does smack of the Jackboot and Big Brother.  If one believes that Western Democracy is superior to theocracy – which I, and the not exactly liberal GW Bush do – then that surely means accepting that people will use their God-given free will to do acts that one does not personally aprove of.   Are you really claiming, given the late 20th c line, that society was better prior to the legalisation of homosexuality? 

              • So are the religious ex-gay programmers.

                I thought this comment was especially interesting:

                “Cazzino194917 April 2012 10:22PMI was probably a closet gay all my life, but am married with three grown up kids. I never ever had any physical expression of this possible side of my personality until after my first microhaemorrhage from a Cavernoma (aka cerebral cavernous angioma) in the front left lobe of my brain. What damage in this area can cause is disinhibition, risk taking and inappropriate behaviour. Basically my brakes were off. So I discovered a new side of myself when I was 59. I had another bleed four months later. Neurologists and neuroscientists cannot definitively say what has happened, but my personality has certainly changed. And I am now extremely active as a gay man as well as with my wife. So most of the commentators are actually probably right… I can identify strongly with Chris.”

  6. My problem is the same as cerebusboy’s, namely that “post-gay” is a term that already has a significant following.  Sorry, but you didn’t coin anything!  Post-gay’s followers would agree with only 50% of what you say but would vehemently disagree with the other 50%.  The half they would agree with is that either now, or in a utopian non-homophobic future, sexual acts and/or attractions might be a trivial reason to construct a sexual identity.  But the 50% they would vehemently disagree with is that they “refuse to accept the idea that their same-sex attraction validates same-sex behaviour.”  You will no doubt disagree, but for queer theorists, a moral disapproval of same-sex behaviour reveals that there is still a psychic investment in the hetero/homo binary.  For example, you bring up married people.  Let’s say straight guy Jim is married to Jane and has to not act on his attraction to 20-year-old Julie from his office.  Fair enough–he resists temptation without thinking much about it.  But “post-gay” Peter, married to patient Louise, is not at all like Jim.  He is more like Jim if Jim were married to Alan, his pal with whom he drinks pints and watches football and whistles at cute chicks walking by.  Jim would feel quite weird about this illogical situation: he would feel some “ontological incongruence.”  The way he is presenting to the world is a direct contradiction of “ontological being.”  So should “post-gay” Peter if he were honest with himself.  By contrast, there are no such profound ontological incongruences for the “post-gay” envisaged by utopian queer theory.  In that framework, both sexual behavior and sexual desire will be so unremarkable that it will not be worth noticing whom you are attracted to or who you sleep with.  There is no moral framework attached to sex, so sex literally can be forgotten about, just as we today forget about eye colour (because it doesn’t influence daily life) or our peeing habits.  For example, I have never thought of constructing an identity or wearing a T-shirt that had to do with the fact that I enjoy peeing in forests when I’m on a hike.

    Religious celibacy could be “post-gay” if it were neutral about the gender of the object of attraction, but if someone rejected only temptations to same-sex partnerships, because they were same-sex, then queer theory sees that position as anti-gay, not post-gay.

    There is already a significant conversation about whether post-gay is possible in some post-homophobic parts of the world–say, urban Scandinavia.  There are many young people very relaxed about both same-sex and opposite-sex desires and behaviour who identify in this way.   I have blue eyes, light brown hair and freckles.  I can identify as “black” if I please–after all, I live in a free country.  But I shouldn’t be too surprised if I raise some eyebrows in doing so, and the same for you in claiming a term that is already somewhat widely understood as something more sociologically and philosophically interesting, more 21st century, than your take on it, which is really just a call to return back to the old “pre-gay” days when gay people saw themselves as having not a sexual orientation but a mental problem.  Post- means moving on from something, not turning back the clock.

    • I deleted your second comment as it was just a repeat of the first.

      Would you get Peterson to tell me the next time he’s in the UK and doing a show? I’ve being trying to get along to see him in action for a number of years now.

    • Some of us think the 1st century ontological incongruence of “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” is more important (and interesting) than queer theory.

      •  “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

        So is that the motivation behind ex-gay and post-gay? Hatred?

        I guess I don’t understand it because I’ve never see what’s so hateful about two men or two women loving each other.

        I can see the hatefulness in lying, cheating and most other sins. But I just can’t see it in the love I feel for my partner or in our lovemaking.

        So from my point of view as a gay man, when it comes to my love life the above statement should read: “I understand what I do. For what I want to do I do, but what I hate I do not do”.

        It may seem like a strange comparison, but here in France we have a candy called Kréma, which I absolutely adore, but which goes through me like a dose of the salts. So even though I love it, I can’t eat it because it makes me as sick as a dog.

        Every so often I’ll get a craving for Kréma and wonder if the allergy or intolerance or whatever it is that makes me sick has spontaneously abated, so I’ll try some in the hope that everything will be OK. But the result is always the same.

        I wonder, is that what being ex or post gay is like? Does the something you desire make you physically or spiritually sick? I must admit I’ve never considered it from that point of view before, but if this is what it’s like then ex and post gay start to make sense as concepts.

        What I don’t understand though is why the fact that I can’t eat Kréma should mean that nobody else can either. I’m happy to let those who can eat Kréma eat as much of it as they like. I have no feelings of jealousy or a conviction that Kréma is bad for everyone. Why should my food allergy define the lives of everyone else?

          • What I really don’t understand is your belligerence. Contempt and anger drip from just about everything you write. What’s going on there, I wonder?

            Actually, no … I don’t really wonder. I’d like to understand what motivates the ex-gay and post-gay mindsets, but the people themselves are invariably so unpleasant to be around that even if I did understand them, I doubt I’d want to spend much time in their company.

            Love thy neighbour really is the hardest commandment, isn’t it?


            • What I really don’t understand is your belligerence. Contempt and anger drip from just about everything you write. What’s going on there, I wonder?

              Not sure. Is there a possibility you’re doing a teensy bit of projection.

              Let me put my nice hat on and have one last go. Ask me a direct question and I’ll give you a direct answer. Ask me something that is designed to help clarify in your mind what I’m trying to communicate.

              • Projection? Oh dear, of all people, ultra-conservative Anglicans should do their best to avoid psychobabble. They just can’t pull it off. It’s like watching a bishop attempt to do a breakdance…

                You don’t have to stick your nose out very far to scent the hatred in the air around here. This blog exists as a means to rail against anyone who doesn’t agree with your narrow interpretation of faith. Seems to me that its very foundation is hatred, so the belligerent and contemptuous tone is hardly a surprise.

                Something tells me this is a pointless exercise, but in the interests of having, as you put it, “one last go”, I will indeed ask you a direct question.

                When no demonstrable harm can be shown to proceed from it, why is gay sex sinful?

                • I’ll ignore the ironic first half of your comment and stick to the question.
                  Why is sex between two people of the same sex sinful? Because Scripture tells us that God intended us to have sex within marriage and only within marriage. Sexual union signifies the union of Christ and his Church (Eph 5) and therefore sexual unions outside of that are ultimately idolatorous because they say things about Christ which are untrue.
                  Now, your choice now is to try and understand that perspective (even if you don’t agree) perhaps by asking more clarifying questions, or to just go off on one again.

                  • “…therefore sexual unions outside of that are ultimately idolatorous because they say things about Christ which are untrue.”

                    Quite apart from the grammar and spelling issues, I have no idea what this means.

                    If I were dragging my way miserably through life shackled to a woman I neither desired nor loved, would that reflect better on Christ than my current happy relationship with a man? Does Christ actively want me to be unhappy, unfulfilled and sexually frustrated? Are you saying that’s the price I have to pay for salvation?

                    I wonder why every time a conservative describes God’s will to me, I get the impression that God is a mean and vicious tyrant who’s only interested in my pain and suffering.

                    • Quite apart from the grammar and spelling issues, I have no idea what this means.

                      I’ll ignore the desparate attempt to thing any reason to ridicule and try and patiently answer you. What this means is quite simply this – our sexual acts are acts of worship because the union of husband and wife is meant to signify the union of Christ and his Church, to celebrate what Jesus has done. Sexual unions outside of this say things wrong about what God has done. Two men having sex indicates Christ and Christ, that God is not interested in the Church. Two women having sex indicates the Church and the Church, that people do not need Jesus.

                      So that’s why there is a general prohibition on sex outside of marriage in the Bible, of which homosexual acts are just one of the acts proscribed. That is not to say that sex outside of marriage doesn’t occur in the Bible, just that it is never approved of.

                      Now, you may not agree with this, you may think this is a load of whack, and that is your right, but you asked me what the theological reasons were and so I have given them to you.

                      If I were dragging my way miserably through life shackled to a woman I neither desired nor loved, would that reflect better on Christ than my current happy relationship with a man? Does Christ actively want me to
                      be unhappy, unfulfilled and sexually frustrated? Are you saying that’s
                      the price I have to pay for salvation?

                      Then don’t get married! Stay single and wait for God to be true to his
                      word that he will use all things for the good of those who trust him.
                      And you suggest that someone who is not sexually active would
                      automatically be unhappy and unfulfilled – that is a ridiculous notion.

                      Christian discipleship is about dying to self – it is about let our
                      fallen wants and desires die and letting Christ raise something up in
                      their place. The fact that you find that offensive is an indication that
                      you have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. You don’t want the things
                      of God because you are still a rebel against him, and you evidence that
                      in you consistent antipathy towards anything to do with him. I don’t say
                      that to have a go, simply to point out why you don’t get it.

                    • Sex as an act of worship?

                      This is the point at which I withdraw from a conversation that now has nowhere sane left to go.

        • “Does the something you desire make you physically or spiritually sick?”
          Not sick – but there is the feeling that something is not right with what I want to do – it’s not how it should be. I can honestly say that this insight doesn’t come from me – as I would quite like to do what I want to do. But this alternative point of view always overpowers me and in light of what I have read in the Bible I thank God for that alternative.

    • Glen, I hadn’t read your comment until now and I think that it raises some very interesting questions. I’ll also be replying to Will and cerebusboy’s most recent points to me from above.

      I agree with you that there are similarities between queer theory and the idea of being ‘post-gay’ in the sense that in both cases the debates on the causes of homosexuality are simply bypassed as irrelevant. I find this very useful as, ultimately, whether homosexuality is nature, nature or, more likely, a complex mixture that is different for different people doesn’t really get us very far.

      The only important question in the end is ‘how do we respond’? The responses of queer theory and ‘post-gay’ are clearly very different and flow directly from their different beliefs about identity and behaviour. For the queer theorist, homosexuality is to be celebrated as it is both love between adults and it expands our freedom to define ourselves. Freedom is rooted in self-definition and the resulting celebration of free consensual adult sexuality in all its diverse forms.

      This is in such direct opposition to the foundation of the Christian life that I genuinely find it amazing that some people can describe themselves as ‘queer Christians’ without seeing the intrinsic contradictions. The identity of the Christian is not self-defined but is found in their relationship with God in Christ. This living relationship is the most important purpose of our existence – to love and worship God for who he is and then to live life out of the power and vitality of this central relationship. Consequently, everything that we do and how we live then comes out of God’s purposes for our life.

      Here I return to the points that I was making earlier to Blair, Will and cerebusboy. Clearly sexuality exists and can usefully describe our human experience of sexual desire and its complexities. Sexual desire is also powerful and an important part of both being human and of our lives in relationship to other people.

      But, again, the only important question in the end is ‘how do we respond’? ‘Post-gay’ takes the reality of sexuality and sexual desire, is honest about it and certainly seeks to learn what our sexuality is telling us about ourselves. It doesn’t deny the reality of our sexual desire, nor its power. But it places sexuality in its rightful place in our identity and existence, as subordinate to our prime relationship with God in Christ, lived in the power of the Holy Spirit.

      This is why I actually like the Catholic description of homosexuality as ‘intrinsically disordered’, when it is placed in its proper context of the classic spiritual disciplines and is shorn of the emotive response by modern and post-modern people to such words, which seem so loaded.

      ‘Intrinsic’ speaks to essential and inherent nature rather than the extrinsic outside world. In Christian terms it speaks to the inner life of the Spirit where our relationship with God is both the most real part of our existence and is, or should be, continually transforming us into His image.

      ‘Disordered’ immediately reminds me of the classic Christian discipline of the ‘ordering of the passions’. Our passions, or desires, are not denied or repressed. Indeed, in much Catholic spirituality there is the concept of the ‘testing of the creatures’ where our passions are both experienced and acted upon as part of the process of learning that they are not ordered correctly, that pleasurable though our desires may be, they are empty compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing God. We learn from our desires the need to order them in accordance with God’s will as part of the greater desire to live for Him and in accordance with His will.

      So, properly understood, I would argue that the Catholic description of homosexuality as ‘intrinsically disordered’ is both non-judgemental and salvic in its pointing to both the inner spiritual renewal by which we become truly aware of firstly who we are in Christ to then accomplish and the necessary ordering of our passions to reflect our inner life.

      This is where my points about belief to Blair come in, which I accept were rather poorly expressed. By belief I mean not a rigid adherence to dogma as the way by which behaviour is changed. That has, in my view, been the mistake of much of the more poorly conceptualised sexual orientation change effort (SOCE) ministry. It is, frankly, useless trying to leave homosexuality purely out of a conviction that homosexuality is wrong. Change is being looked for in the wrong place. There is no power in just belief on its own.

      But when it is belief out of the power of a living relationship with Christ that involves giving oneself totally to Him, the power and renewal that this brings is sufficient to transform the inner person and, secondarily, to overcome all sin, including homosexuality.

      This is why I brought in Freud and his followers. The true damage of Freud and, ultimately, of all non-Christ centred psychotherapy is that it reverses the logic of our identity and desires. As Freud’s view of identity is that it is formed out of unconscious sexual desires, these desires and our experience of them are given a power that is not warranted. You can see this in the Guardian article to which Tom linked, where the author continually proclaims his experience of discovering ‘who I really am’ out of his emotions and his experience of them. This is the post-modern disease – that feelings and experience define who we are rather than our inner spiritual life.

      The true power of ‘post-gay’ to me is that it has the potential to reawaken us to the reality that our identity is found in Christ and in who He says that we are. It can, if we allow it, return us to the classic spiritual disciplines that renew our inner life in the power of the Spirit. ‘Post-gay’ does not deny the reality of our sexual desires nor their power. It simply reorientates them as subordinate to the far greater reality and power of who we really are – redeemed and transformed people by our relationship with God in Christ. We begin to live out of the right place!

      •  That was interesting in so far as it goes Philip, but I note that you did not actually adress any of my points.  To elaborate on Freud: Harold Bloom very grandiosly discussed Shakespeare’s soliloquays in a book entitled (IIRC) “The Invention of the Human”, pointing out that Hamlet (especially) represented a point where human beings, in all their complexity, were portrayed in a manner they did not before. That might not be a sustainable thesis, but something similar *is* truly true of Freud; people give credence to terms like unconscious and subconscious not because they’ve swalled unsubstantiated propaganda but because they accord with their experience of how life is lived. Surely, from a Christian perspective, an accurate diagnosis is necessary before one can speak of cures? (I think Peter here once coined an excellent phrase on Foucalt along those lines)

         “queer Christian” – the term does not imply the equivalent of (e.g.) an identity that is half and half; if we’re invoking the “no male nor female in Christ” argument then the same point could be made about any other identity statement (would you object to someone self-describing as a “black Christian” or “woman Christian”?) . I doubt the queer theorists would necessarily celebrate homosexuality as celebratiing such a concept supports ontological, binary conceptions of sexuality contrary to the main thrust (so to speak) of queer theory.

         The problem with “intrinsically disordered” is that if ALL sexuality (c.f. Gagnon’s point on most men having promiscous desires, in this sense that they are spontaneously attracted to more than one woman) is fallen then singleing out gay people with a pseudo-scientific label looks literally prejudiced.  The irreligious layperson is not being dishonest if they believe that evidence suggests that the Vatican very much does not view homosexual and heterosexual lust as merely comparable expressions of a sinful impulse. And of course such language does a disservice to those celibate gays (from the Blessed Newman down?) who gave so much to the priesthood but not find themselves subject to witch hunts.  To be perfectly frank, I don’t think a straight man in an evangelical church talking of how much he fancies Scarlett Johansson (say) will attract the same “biblical” response as a guy who mentions, in passing, Robert Pattison (perhaps the latter does deserve condemnation for sharing the aesthetic tastes of a teenage girl, so my example isn’t perfect, but I’m sure you see my point! :-))

      • Hi Philip,

        As far as the CIF definition of homosexuality is concerned, it causes such offence to gay people that I think it is worse than useless, however much it is defended. I think Ryan is right about the special and unique “ontological” nature of homosexual “sin” that it purports to define is on very shaky ground from a theological point of view. Of course we all know who was the author of the definition, and that somehow makes it seem all the more outrageous since the person in question does not convince many people that he is not a deeply closeted self-hating homosexual himself. He shows all the signs that the Blessed John Newman did, and in this regard the Oxford Professor of Church History Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch told Ann Widdecombe on her TV documentary on Newman, “If it walks like a duck flies like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck”. For once Miss Widdecombe fell silent because she knew it was true, despite the rather ridiculous attempt of Fr Kerr to argue that Newman was a red-bloodied hetero, as if his sanctity could not be validated unless he was.  

        Cardinal Hume tried to deflect the cruelty of the definition by calling it “technical language” but he was nonetheless outraged, and wrote to Ratzinger, as his biographer Anthony Howard tells us

        Dan Savage on his podcast this week mentions a new study that suggests intense hostility toward homosexuals may be linked to a repressed same-sex attraction, combined with an authoritarian upbringing. The study suggests that repressive upbringing may be a key factor. 

        http://hw.libsyn.com/p/0/f/9/0f9a4d608d12ce18/savagelove-041712.mp3?sid=736c00b58fba9056ee2511b2f4c5b01f&l_sid=24152&l_eid=&l_mid=2976739&expiration=1335013343&hwt=24293864924d2f70ee2ce5a4d687c109

        The introduction on Youtube says “Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, co-authored a study that looks at the roots of homophobia and how this attitude is more pronounced in individuals with an unacknowledged attraction to the same sex and who grew up with authoritarian parents who forbade such desires. The study is the first to document the role that both parenting and sexual orientation play in the formation of intense and visceral fear of homosexuals, including self-reported homophobic attitudes, discriminatory bias, implicit hostility towards gays, and endorsement of anti-gay policies. The study was conducted by a team from the University of Rochester, the University of Essex, England, and the University of California in Santa Barbara.”

  7. My problem is the same as cerebusboy’s, namely that “post-gay” is a term
    that already has a significant following.  Sorry, but you didn’t coin
    anything!  Post-gay’s followers would agree with only 50% of what you
    say but would vehemently disagree with the other 50%.  The half they
    would agree with is that either now, or in a utopian non-homophobic
    future, sexual acts and/or attractions might be a trivial reason to
    construct a sexual identity.  But the 50% they would vehemently disagree
    with is that they “refuse to accept the idea that their same-sex
    attraction validates same-sex behaviour.”  You will no doubt disagree,
    but for queer theorists, a moral disapproval of same-sex behaviour
    reveals that there is still a psychic investment in the hetero/homo
    binary.  For example, you bring up married people.  Let’s say straight
    guy Jim is married to Jane and has to not act on his attraction to
    20-year-old Julie from his office.  Fair enough–he resists temptation
    without thinking much about it.  But “post-gay” Peter, married to
    patient Louise, is not at all like Jim.  He is more like Jim if Jim were
    married to Alan, his pal with whom he drinks pints and watches football
    and whistles at cute chicks walking by.  Jim would feel quite weird
    about this illogical situation: he would feel some “ontological
    incongruence.”  The way he is presenting to the world is a direct
    contradiction of “ontological being.”  So should “post-gay” Peter if he
    were honest with himself.  By contrast, there are no such profound
    ontological incongruences for the “post-gay” envisaged by utopian queer
    theory.  In that framework, both sexual behavior and sexual desire will
    be so unremarkable that it will not be worth noticing whom you are
    attracted to or who you sleep with.  There is no moral framework
    attached to sex, so sex literally can be forgotten about, just as we
    today forget about eye colour (because it doesn’t influence daily life)
    or our peeing habits.  For example, I have never thought of constructing
    an identity or wearing a T-shirt that had to do with the fact that I
    enjoy peeing in forests when I’m on a hike.

    Religious celibacy could be “post-gay” if it were neutral about the
    gender of the object of attraction, but if someone rejected only
    temptations to same-sex partnerships, because they were same-sex, then
    queer theory sees that position as anti-gay, not post-gay.

    There
    is already a significant conversation about whether post-gay is possible
    in some post-homophobic parts of the world–say, urban Scandinavia. 
    There are many young people very relaxed about both same-sex and
    opposite-sex desires and behaviour who identify in this way.   I have
    blue eyes, light brown hair and freckles.  I can identify as “black” if I
    please–after all, I live in a free country.  But I shouldn’t be too
    surprised if I raise some eyebrows in doing so, and the same for you in
    claiming a term that is already somewhat widely understood as something
    more sociologically and philosophically interesting, more 21st century,
    than your take on it, which is really just a call to return back to the
    old “pre-gay” days when gay people saw themselves as having not a sexual
    orientation but a mental problem.  Post- means moving on from something, not turning back the clock.

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