We promote shame and
hopelessness and then
condemn people for acting
those feelings out.
"Homosexuality is 'different' and unnatural"
One aspect of society's emotional reaction to homosexuality is that it is "different" and unnatural. For many people this is a profoundly visceral experience. It is probably the biggest single reason people condemn homosexuality. A simple example of our fear of those who are different is how we used to try to force left-handed people to write with their right hands because being left-handed was "wrong."
In fact, in many ways we gravitate towards noticing our differences and generating fear around them. If our society woke up one morning and found that all the differences that have traditionally caused bias and prejudice were gone, we would find new differences between us by noon, and begin to align ourselves into groups based on those new distinctions by nightfall.
For years it was said that homosexuality was unnatural because it is not found in nature. Current animal studies have indicated the opposite, that homosexuality is found in many species of animals throughout the animal kingdom. It's not uncommon.
Much of the profound discomfort with homosexuality vanishes when people actually get to know gay people and couples. It is when the situation becomes personal that it becomes more human. However, for some people, this is not enough. Fear continues. Then one must ask, "Why am I so afraid?"
"We all know what it means to be a man, and being gay isn't it. The same is true about a woman being a lesbian."
Another very major issue about our reaction to homosexuality is that it has to do with gender. Even thinking about gender is scary. Talk about fighting words!
What makes a man a man and a woman a woman is one of our most fundamental understandings of life. Feelings about gender run deep and cause strong emotional reactions. Just ask the girl who likes to work on cars or the straight fellow who likes ballet. They'll tell you about the comments they receive because their interests don't conform to stereotypical male/female interests.
Even today, if one does a web search on "women wearing pants" a host of web sites will be found proclaiming how immoral it is for women to wear pants.
In fact, only as recently as the mid-1990s did California pass a law guaranteeing the right of women to wear pants to work because of the amount of controversy surrounding it. Feelings about gender run deep.
It's a stunning fact that when it comes to concrete, physical gender—something measured by “hard science” —some 1.7 percent of humans are born with bodies that are not exclusively male or female. Often these differences are at a genetic or chromosomal level, and the physical body may or may not show it. This is a shocking statistic to many people, but it is true, and recent surveys of research literature have made this increasingly obvious (e,g,. Melanie Blackless et al., “How Sexually Dimorphic Are We?” American Journal of Human Biology 12 (2000): 151–166). Evidently, even physical gender is not so unshakable a concept as we would like to think. Why would we expect more of sexual orientation?
It's understandable that facing our feelings about gender is difficult. However, like many things that seem difficult, when we actually make it through the hard part it doesn't seem to be as bad as we thought. In fact, it turns out to be fine.
"Homosexuals lead unstable lives"
Many people think of the lives of homosexual people as emotionally unstable. Being gay requires a lot of adjustment for most folks. It can be difficult to establish a healthy self-esteem in the midst of being told that you're sick! And, it can be difficult to find a stable relationship in today's society, for both gays and straights alike. How many straight couples are together because of the children?
Nevertheless, many gay people do live stable lives and always have. Research has been very clear that, by and large, gay people lead lives every bit as stable as straight people. Many are strong individuals who make their way through life with a sense of grace no matter what their circumstances are. For others, it can be more difficult. Read here what John Gottman, one of America's foremost marriage researchers and therapists, has to say about gay/lesbian relationships.
Fortunately, many states have discovered that gay people are capable of adopting and caring for children. Unfortunately, some of these same states don't think that these adoptive parents should be married. That's quite a change from the "old" days when when we thought all parents should be married!
Also, in terms of stability, it can be an interesting exercise to surf the web and read the pages of those who are so opposed to homosexuality. As you take note of the tone of each website and consider the claims of the writers, you may find yourself wondering how stable some of these people are.
What about promiscuity and "the gay lifestyle?"
"We all know that gays are so promiscuous!" This is an interesting observation. There's no doubt that there's a lot of emphasis on sex in the gay community. Why? At least two factors contribute significantly to this.
|Society complains about gay promiscuity. But when gay people say that they want to be monogamous and married or that they want to be church pastors and elders, society says, "You're intruding on our institutions." It leaves the gay person is a rather difficult place.
First, as has been mentioned here repeatedly, homosexual people are told by many straight people that they are wrong to be sexual within their gender--period. And they're told that even if they want a monogamous relationship, they're still wrong. So, it's a rather hopeless situation. The unspoken feeling for some people is, "Why bother exercising any self control? I might as well go ahead and be as sexual as I wish, since I'm a 'bad person' either way."
Research has made it clear that hopelessness is strongly correlated with self-destructive behavior. In fact, mental health workers know that even severe depression does not particularly predict suicide unless it is combined with hopelessness. So, when people argue that homosexuality is spiritually decadent, we need to ask ourselves whether society's attitude towards homosexuality actually contributes to the behaviors it criticizes. We promote shame and hopelessness about sexual orientation and then complain when people act out those feelings.
Second, the gay community's emphasis on sexual behavior is mostly attributed to gay men, rather than to lesbians. To some extent, if straight men could have sex with women whenever they chose without the moderating influence of women on sexual behavior, we might not see such a difference between the sexual behavior of straight and gay people.
In fact, in 2004 a prominent web site promoting internet filters as a way to fight porn reported findings indicating that 53% of Promise Keepers (a conservative Christian men's group) in their study had viewed porn in the previous week. And this is a group of men known for their sincere anti-porn stance. More recent studies report similar findings in the Christian world. Perhaps a sexual focus is more of a "guy" thing than a "gay" thing.
This issue of a "gay lifestyle" comes up often in arguments about homosexuality. Rev. Morrow, in his article quoted earlier, says it well:
"While there are some (like the pagans of the Rome Paul was writing to) within both the straight and Gay-Lesbian communities who genuinely embrace a godless lifestyle, devoid of rules and knowing no boundaries, particularly sexually; it is foolish to lump all of any given group or segment of our society into the same mix. The most absurd phrase ever employed within the English vernacular is 'Gay lifestyle.' This fictitious phrase falsely suggests that all Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender people walk beneath the same banner, march to the same drummer, and live out their daily existence in the same identical manner one as the other. To even suggest that all homosexual people behave identically is to ignore the vast array of talent, skill, accomplishment, diversity, and versatility found within it's ranks. No one would be so foolish as to use the phrase 'straight lifestyle.' Everybody knows that such a term is far too broad to even be usable, yet the similar phrase, 'Gay lifestyle' is tossed about by opponents of homosexuality as though it were valid simply because it's being applied to someone other than themselves. A people, I might add, whom they obviously know precious little about in truth. Again, they've read the definitions supplied in Scripture and applied it across the board, without ever trying to look honestly and openly at the human condition of homosexuality as it realistically appears in our world today. Why are so many Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender people fighting their way into the churches? Because they are indeed these godless sorts of whom Paul writes? I think not!" (From "Reality Changes Things," by Rev. Charles Morrow.)
On a lighter note...acknowledging gay contributions to society
In the midst of all this negativity, it should be remembered that gay people have long offered society a rich heritage. Gay people have always contributed much of what is beautiful and talented in our culture. Many famous people have been gay, including those famous for athletic ability and military accomplishments, as well as the more artistic and intellectual endeavors. And despite difficulties, many gay people are happy with their lives.
In the "Further Reading" column on the left are several examples of gay contributions to our society. Some names will be familiar to you while others won't be. Take a look and see just a few of the varied gifts gay people have offered to all of us.
What about marriage?