Chosen Identity?

Fresh on the back of Iain Dale’s marvellous example of how to present no evidence whatsoever of a scientific claim, here are two pieces I read yesterday on sexual identity. First, from a Christian perspective.

IdentityMy gay confidence turned to skepticism only a few months later. It was through a series of visions that I let go of my gay relationship longing to continue to walk with Jesus. It was not a simple letting go, it was a grueling agony that took over two months to pray through and continued to gain more clarity on. It was a desperate clawing at my inner core that I learned to let go of. I have been celibate for the twenty some odd years of my life. I can handle another three quarters of my life living as such.

With so much confusion, my prayers quickly turned to anger because I had no idea what was happening. My questions were met with my roommates’ laughter as our discussions turned into the different women I started to become attracted to. Apparently I blushed as I unconsciously flirted with the woman behind the ice cream counter with my roommate commenting, “She was digging on some Nate.”

I started conversations with others who have experienced the same. I have met with men, on the same path as myself, who are dating women and those who are already in heterosexual marriages. I know I am not alone with not fitting in either of the “sides” that a lot of homosexuals identify with.

I had coffee with my friend who questioned this “sexual transformation” that I started having over a year ago. Was it a psychological longing that just progressed to change? My response was, “no” because over a year ago I was ready to date another male, all the while, I looked for gay affirming churches. Years ago, a conversation about a guy kissing a girl was usually met with my quick comment of “That’s gross.”

It was definitely not a psychological longing that changed me, but Christ who did. He later commented that I seemed at ease with who I am compared to his other friend who tried to go “straight,” but continues to wrestle with depression and anxiety stemming from sexuality issues.

What changed for me? I stopped worshipping the adjective I placed in front of being a Christian. I am neither a gay or straight Christian.  Although, I can relate to such adjectives to some degree. I stopped focusing on what any side wanted me to define myself by. I started to let go of labels. I stopped focusing on temptations and desires. I had to remove self proclaiming prophecies of this is “who I was born as” and started declaring “who I am reborn into.” A person, a friend and a child of God. It was that simple.

Do I expect everyone to have the same experience? No.

Do I still wrestle with my orientation? Yes.

Does it cause doubt in what God has spoken over me? No.

I remember the coffee table conversation that I have become at ease with what He has already done in my life. I learned to let go of what the world, both Christian and secular, expects of me when handling certain issues…

I am not and will never again put an “adjective” in my God-given identity.

To follow that, from a secular perspective.

Gay Ducks?So the message is clear: nature makes homosexuals (though we’re not quite sure how, yet), so denying homosexuals rights is wrong. The pervasiveness of this message throughout our culture means that even those who remain ‘enemies’ on issues such as gay marriage can generally be won over to the idea of gayness being innate. So, all in all, it’s been a victory for gay-rights proponents.

All good, right? Well, maybe not. The first issue is the massive amount of ground that the naturalness argument concedes to the opponents of gay rights. It is understandable to want to rebut the ‘being gay isn’t natural’ argument, but the way many gay-rights campaigners have chosen to do so commits the exact same error as their opponents: the mistaken idea that morality has anything to do with what’s natural. Change the subject of the opening quote above to, say, cannibalism, and the idea that we should look to nature and animals as a guide to what humans should be doing becomes obviously absurd. Being gay’s unnatural? So what?

Of course, the naturalness of homosexuality isn’t the only reason gay-rights campaigners think it’s okay. But it’s clearly the idea that has the most cultural purchase today. The idea that people should be free to organise their lives as they see fit is often sacrificed at the altar of the argument: ‘they can’t help it.’

The dominance of the naturalness argument means that those who undermine it are at strong risk of censure. Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon was criticised and described as ‘incredibly irresponsible’ for daring to suggest that she, personally, had chosen to be gay. ‘Glad to be Gay’ singer Tom Robinson faced anger and accusations of betrayal when he fell in love and married a woman in the early 1980s. We tie ourselves in knots trying to explain away those who ‘change teams’, having spent most of their lives happily heterosexual or homosexual. We provide them with excuses: perhaps they were naturally bisexual all along, or gay but in denial? Anything to avoid having to suggest that there might be an element of choice in sexuality.

Perhaps gay-rights campaigners are right to be worried. Look back at that quote from the Bishop of Salisbury: he is saying that gay marriage is okay ‘unless we think that homosexuality is a choice’. Well, thanks, bishop: rights for gays unless they actually want to be gay. This is the attitude the pro-gay naturalness argument seeks to cosy up to; and, in the process, it tries to make homosexual behaviour less threatening to social mores. Gays are to be objects of pity rather than of hatred. This was particularly important when fighting Section 28 (the Eighties law against promoting homosexuality) to assure those fearful of homosexuality that being taught about it couldn’t possibly lead to someone choosing to be gay.

Gone is the idea that the capacity to choose to be gay might be something positive, that it’s good that people no longer have to live in a way that is restricted by crude biological and social roles if they don’t want to. Rather than try to create a society in which people are free to love who they want, the naturalness argument has only served to create more boxes in which to place people, to define their roles. You’re straight, she’s a lesbian, he’s bisexual – and woe betide those who wander off the narrow path ascribed to them, lest they undermine the rights so precariously won.

The ‘born this way’ argument completely erases the human social world. It ignores the fact that homosexual behaviour has taken on many forms throughout history and through different societies. It downplays our ability to control our own lives, or our ability to reshape our society. It views people (ironically, gays in particular) as unthinking beasts, slaves to their nature-given desires. And, as such, it chimes with the deterministic temper of our times. It suggests that we are fated to be who we are, that we have no capacity for self-determination.

For a young person experiencing homosexual desire for the first time, to want to blame it on nature is perhaps understandable in the face of a society in which being gay can still carry risks and condemnation. But to make that reaction to fear a cornerstone of a rights movement is wrongheaded – it is our duty to demand something more; to try to shape a society in which people can and do experience their sexuality as choices freely made, rather than burdens foisted upon them.

Love that sentiment – “unthinking beasts, slaves to their nature-given desires”. Who wants to be that? But of course, to deny that is to deny that orientation dictates identity or activity. Tough call.

5 Comments on “Chosen Identity?

  1. I think the entire question is unimportant. To m e the problem is why some people do not feel content with themselves and dealing with blockages such as religion. The answer is to give up religion. It works! And the longer I live without gods the more sense that

    • That’s a cop-out Mike. The question as to how sexual identity is established and it’s relationship to orientation and practice is actually really important. All you’re doing is trying to reject anybody whose choices you don’t approve of (“why some people do not feel content with themselves”). Which is kinda ironic given what you continually go on about.

      • Its only important if you view it to be a problem in the first place. I’m suggesting that’s the problem – your lack of self acceptance, and I would see that as the fault of the religion you chose. I haven’t a clue why I am gay, and really think its utterly unimportant. What I do know is that if you stop seeing it as a ‘problem’ then the question of ‘why’ doesn’t really matter. The main reason I saw it as a problem was religion. Indeed, given the changes in social acceptance, religion is unusual in its level of negativity. But I think you are fighting a losing battle anyway, I just feel quite sorry for you, that’s all. I suppose you would reciprocate :)

        • Where does this “lack of self acceptance” idea come from? I think it’s fear Mike. I think you’re afraid of people who can think beyond the determinative bi-polar paradigm of sexuality that you have appropriated in order to justify your life choices. Your response to anyone who challenges that paradigm is to attack them and their rationality because the alternative, to accept that they have made choices and had experiences that invalidate your paradigm, is just not acceptable to your framework.

          • Not at all. I have just seen too many people who hang on to forlorn hopes promoted largely by religion. To be fair – I don’t think you do this, but there are plenty of charlatans about who effectively offer either an easy path to becoming heterosexual, or (and this is far worse) effectively a rather ‘grey’ area of therapy which seems to involve everything except explicit anal/oral sex, largely, it seems to benefit the ‘therapist supposedly helping the person. I see it as abusive and dishonest. I’ve known a number of people who have been through the evangelical experience and without exception, they disliked what they did recognise themselves to be. Your way forward is to assist them to see themselves in another way – hence the post-gay approach. But without your approach to religion, there would be no need for it – and I think it important that people do recognise this. I think you would probably have to concede that certainly in the UK, those following your path are very small in number, and I think this is for very good reasons. I am not attacking you or your right to make choices, but clearly we both think our particular ways of seeing things are the best way forward for those we both wish to help

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