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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Voices in My Head, Part I: What is “Gay”? » Voices in My Head, Part I: What is “Gay”?

Voices in My Head, Part I: What is “Gay”?

D Christian Harrison - September 12, 2005

I can’t hope to do in a few thousand words what experts have failed to do in a few million… I can’t begin to define homosexuality in any real or concrete terms — words which can withstand the rigors of the scientific method.

But that’s not my goal… not here, at least.

What I’d like to do, this brisk Sunday evening, is to lightly tread a few well-trod paths describing the flora and fauna — and to venture a little way into the darkness to hazard a few thoughts of my own.

In the end, I hope that you’ll have a larger vocabulary… and perhaps a deeper understanding of width and breadth of the wood were walking in — of the pitch were playing on.

A Little Terminology

Words, as I said in the introduction — and as I say frequently, because people forget it too quickly — have power. And how we describe ourselves can actually inform our world-view.

Wikipedia has a lot more to say on these terms, so I’ll link there for more reading, but I thought it would be handy to discuss them here.

Homosexual

The term “homosexual” was coined at the tail-end of the 19th century by a Hungarian scientist. Until then, there really was no way of discussing it in any real sense… there were things people did, there were ways that people behaved, there were stereotypes and innuendo… but there was nothing really to hang one’s hat on.

I would suggest that the coining of the term was both a blessing and a curse.

With its advent, there was finally a term for people to latch onto when bemoaning the disintegration of society… conversely, with the label came a certain recognition. And recognition, I would say, has recently given way to acceptance (if only begrudgingly).

An interesting sidebar, here, would discuss the downfall of homosociality in the wake of the coinage of “homosexuality” — specifically in the US, where pre-WWII, men calling-on, sleeping next to, and dancing with other men was the norm. But that would be another article entirely.

Gay & Lesbian

In the world at-large, the terms “gay” and “lesbian” are simply user-friendly terms for “homosexual”… with “lesbian” wholly reserved for women, and “gay” being used for both men and women without much differentiation — much to my chagrin.

In the church, though, the terms “gay” and “lesbian” are the source of some contention… their use considered a sign of having given-in to a lifestyle or at the very least a world-view that is frowned-upon: good latter-day saints “struggle with same-sex attraction (SSA)” or (phrased differently, but understood the same) “same-gender attraction (SGA)”, bad latter-day saints are “gay” or “lesbian”, move to San Francisco, hate their parents, and sacrifice small puppies during moonlit orgies.

Or something like that.

The controversy, not-surprisingly, is most-heated among gay and lesbian Mormons themselves… and is not likely to be resolved any time soon. In general, though, the terms “SSA” and “SGA” are used by people who want to draw a differentiation between how they _feel_ or _behave_ and who there _are_. In many cases, SSA and SGA are used as a label for a dis-ease if not outrightly a disease. SSA/SGA is an affliction, not a state of being. Oddly, though, the term is often used as a direct replacement for the terms “gay” or “lesbian” — resulting in usage which frames the discussion in the more popular way… “I’m SGA”, for example, which ignores the underlying logic of using the term “SGA” in the first place.

Heh.

On a personal note, I knew that I was attracted to men starting in my early adolescence… but didn’t actually call myself “gay” or “homosexual” until I was 23 — as that term had such a thick pejorative/negative air about it. “I can’t be homosexual”, I’d reason, “homosexuals wear leather, pierce their genitals, and molest children — that’s not me!” … but I finally grew to realize that just as their are many different types of straight people — many of whom I’d never invite to dinner with mom — there are many types of gay folks. I am who I make of me.

Fag

“Fag” is analogous in almost every way to the term “nigger” (if you haven’t yet, you really ought to read Nigger, by Randall Kennedy) with regards to its complex relationship to denigration and empowerment, not to mention the bizarro-world rules of who gets to use the term, and when. My suggestion? If you’re straight, don’t ever use the term… if you’re queer, stop using it. You’re embarrassing yourself.

Queer

Queer is a useful term which spans the entire non-straight spectrum of gays, bisexuals, lesbians, transgenders, and the like. It’s generally acceptable to use… though I’m still not entirely comfortable speaking it (but use it regularly in writing — go figure).

Queer, Indeed: The Socio-Sexual Matrix

When I was growing-up, you were either a boy or a girl. I’m not sure what world I was living in, but I miss its simplicity. Today, gender (also called “sexual identity”) is an increasingly complex morass of social, sexual, cultural, and biological confusion.

It’s no wonder that social conservatives (the Brethren among them) look at it all and shake their head. What some see as a liberation of the sexual self, they see as confusion and pain and a perversion of something so fundamental to the human condition.

Of course, the pain and confusion were always there, we’re only now bringing it into the light. It’s my hope that in the years to come, people of faith will find a language to address it all, which brings comfort and clarity — not more pain and confusion.

To that end, I’ve often wondered how to actually discuss gender… I’m not alone, of course, Alfred Kinsey (whose scale I discuss in a moment) really pioneered the discussion in the 40s. My own thinking lead me to devise (and revise) what I call the socio-sexual matrix, which is a way of describing oneself in a way that more accurately conveys many of the notions associated with the less-helpful idea of gender.

(Have I lost you yet?)

Check out the information graphic, and you’ll see that there are a number of vertical categories which define the the matrix, each with a corresponding set of options (which themselves may fall along a continuum). I won’t take much time to discuss the graphic here, as it could easily take up the entirety of the post… but I welcome questions/feedback. Two notes, however… please read the note on transgendered people, and also note that role-playing is not mentioned (people who accept a certain cultural role in a relationship regardless of the role which might be assigned), as I’m not certain how it might or might not fit.

So let me use the continuum to describe myself: I am a male with a Y chromosome with a moderate libido. I am attracted to men. I prefer monogamous, committed relationships… and I don’t do kink.

The Kinsey Scale

Alfred Kinsey, after years of exhaustive research, devised what is known as the Kinsey Scale… a continuum of sexual orientation with 0 representing a completely heterosexual individual and 6 a completely homosexual individual. While the scale is useful in scientific realms, it has a good deal of use for the individual in coming to understand their own personal circumstances. A more recent adaptation of the scale includes various categories, where one can be rated 0-6 in preference, in sociality, in arousal, and the like.

One short-fall of the scale is that it is largely atemporal… a 6 is a six is a six. But that designation doesn’t seem to really reflect reality. My own scale which could describe both cumulative experience and recent orientation, as I firmly believe that orientation (well, most aspects of human sexuality) are plastic (though, like bones, they tend to loose this quality with time).

When I was younger, I would have classified myself as a 4/5, whereas I am now a 5/6.

The latest distribution numbers I heard for people across the scale are (in order from 0-6): 75, 5, 5, 5, 5, and 5%. My own belief is that the numbers are probably more like 5, 75, 10, 0, 2, and 3… which takes into account widespread adolescent experimentation, and the near-impossibility of being evenly divided between two choices.

Biology & Choice

Whereas early understanding (mostly through the lens of social mores) led many to assume that homosexuality was strictly behavioral, and that such behavior was a choice, modern science leads to one inexorable fact: biology plays some role in orientation.

The difficulty in discussing the science, however, is that the issue is so politicized — with most people involved in the debate with a substantial personal stake in any given study’s findings — that I find most literature on the subject difficult to accept at face-value. I look forward to more inquiry by less invested parties… that being said, there does seem to be enough solid work done to draw the conclusion which I have.

Here’re the basics (please forgive the lack of citations, I’ll include them in the final draft of the essay): homosexual behavior is found across the animal kingdom; homosexual behavior in humans is found across all socio-economic, cultural, political, and national divides at a fairly consistent rate of 5% for males and 7% for women; the likelihood that identical twins raised in separate homes would manifest the same orientation is statistically significant; and finally, beyond the numbers game, solid research into brain chemistry and genetics seem to also imply a biological role. The biology in question is not merely genetic, but also in-utero hormonal imprinting, and finally post-natal environmental factors.

In the end, I think that we’ll find that homosexuality is the product of a rich and varied set of variables, including genetic make-up, in-utero conditions, environment, up-bringing, and personal choice.

Choice, of course, is quite the little stickler… the common refrain among the gays and lesbians I know is “I didn’t choose this, I cannot change it”. Related to this, of course, is the quip “why would I choose this?!”, implying that a person would never choose to be homosexual (as the politics of homosexuality change, however, this last quip is loosing favor, as it relegates homosexuality to a morally inferior or less-desirable status). I find the search for biological triggers fascinating on its face (as pure science), but don’t see much value in it for any meaningful discussion.

The first idea — that change is only possible when choice is the root cause of a situation — is categorically false… there are myriad instances in everyone’s life where we make choices that mitigate/reverse/change a pre-existent circumstance. I’ll pause while you think of a dozen or so of your own.

The second idea — that no one would choose a socially-debilitating condition — is equally inaccurate… my mother didn’t choose to be addicted to nicotene when she chose to start smoking; children don’t choose obesity; very few people, indeed, have the wherewithal to actually foresee the end from the beginning. So to say that no one would choose to be homosexual doesn’t mean that no one would choose behavior that might reinforce/accentuate their innate orientation (because I believe sexuality is plastic, I believe that behavior can inform orientation… though less-so with age).

Why Biology Doesn’t Matter (Much)

Biology, in the end, is best used as an argument against the people that call homosexuality “unnatural”. It is anything but… In truth, in discussions with other people of faith, biology shouldn’t play a major role. First, though it does lessen the role of choice in the formation of orientation, it does not play a significant enough role to be considered determinative. Secondly, most people of faith believe that the life of man is a struggle _against_ our nature… and therefore personal choice is to be enacted _against_ the dictates of our flesh.

Which brings us to our second area of investigation: homosexuality and doctrine.

65 Comments »

  1. Thanks for the primer. Most of it was along the lines of what I thought I knew, so not too many surprises. I hope in one of the parts of the series, you’ll be touching on the proclamation on the family.

    Comment by Kim Siever — September 12, 2005 @ 8:35 am

  2. Interesting stuff.

    I have (along with two gay brothers) a cousin (whom I’ve never met) that had a sex change, and another who is a female impersonator–my one “claim to fame,” he was in the movie The Bird Cage.

    Comment by Susan M — September 12, 2005 @ 9:55 am

  3. There’s some evidence that the word “gay” was coined to suggest a homosexual during the middle ages, predating the use of “gay” to mean happy or carefree. Could this mean that gay people were once carefree?

    Comment by D. Fletcher — September 12, 2005 @ 10:00 am

  4. Kim: I’ll definitely talk about the Proclamation.

    Susan: you’re famous to us.

    D: Heh. I’ve never heard of that… do you happen to know a source on that? … and on a sidenote, I’m glad you’re here, and look forward to your input.

    Comment by Silus Grok — September 12, 2005 @ 10:21 am

  5. Biology, in the end, is best used as an argument against the people that call homosexuality “unnatural”. It is anything but…

    Of course, even when deployed to this end, the argument can often get turned around/politicized into pathologizing homosexuality (ie, “ok, there’s a natural biological element, but it’s natural in the way that polio or cancer are natural…”).

    I agree that it’s not particularly effective within the religious arena.

    Thanks for this series, Silus. Like others, I’m very interested in the discussion.

    Comment by Justin H — September 12, 2005 @ 10:26 am

  6. This is a great opening to the series. Definitions are so imporatant. For me, high school was a definition-learning period of my life. Before then the words “jerk”, “fag”, “prick”, “dick”, “loser”, “idiot”, etc. all meant the same thing to me, which was essentially “jerk”. I never really made the distinction that “fag” was derogitory to homosexuals until a friend of mine came out to me (that he was gay) after I had been calling him a fag (jerk). Maybe one of the most shameful moments of my teenage life. Ugh.

    Comment by Rusty — September 12, 2005 @ 10:38 am

  7. The word “gay” has also become a slang term for stupid or lame. I don’t let my kids use it.

    Comment by Susan M — September 12, 2005 @ 10:46 am

  8. Susan, “gay” has been used in that context since at least the eighties. Or it was where I lived.

    Comment by Kim Siever — September 12, 2005 @ 11:03 am

  9. I think it’s different now. It related much more to homosexuality back then. Nowadays when it’s used as a derogatory term it doesn’t seem connected to homosexuality. It’s just interchangeable with lame or stupid. I don’t remember anyone using it like that in the 80′s.

    Comment by Susan M — September 12, 2005 @ 11:09 am

  10. Susan: when I was a kid in the 80′s, everybody used ‘gay’ as a derogatory term, whereas many of us didn’t know anything about homosexuality. So the usage you describe does have some precedent. (Embarrasing children’s slang…)

    Silus, thanks for the careful and enlightening post. I’ve just been reading D. Michael Quinn’s book on same-sex dynamics in 19th-century America. Much of his argument revolves around the absense of a term for homosexuality in the 19th century. Without a term, the package concept of a homosexual as a kind of person really couldn’t develop. Hence, a lot of behaviors, emotions, and social interactions that we would now consider to be homosexual in nature were in fact fully routine in the 19th century. You mentioned that men slept in the same beds and danced together (women did the same). People also wrote highly emotionally charged, even romantic, letters and poetry to people of the same sex. Brigham Young was comfortable stating publicly that few people in the world cared less for the society of women than he did.

    And all of this among people whose sexual and erotic attachments were strictly heterosexual. In today’s world, with the modern concept of homosexuality, such same-sex social and emotional intimacy is problematic for heterosexuals, to say the least. Removing the option of these kinds of emotional bonds also seems, in my view, to unhelpfully widen the gap between the experience of homosexuals and that of heterosexuals, complicating mutual understanding.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — September 12, 2005 @ 11:38 am

  11. “It’s just interchangeable with lame or stupid.”

    Which is precisely how we used it in the ’80s. Like I said, maybe it was just where I lived (Regina and Vancouver), but that’s what I know.

    It’s usage was something like, “. That’s SO gay.”

    Comment by Kim Siever — September 12, 2005 @ 12:22 pm

  12. I know Michael Quinn, and I enjoy his expositions on homosexuality… and his comments on homosociality actually inspired my comment on that matter, here. Though I would say that Michael and I do not agree on everything, he is certainly an amazing researcher.

    Children of our generation (that grew up in the 70s/80s) and before were removed from sexual culture enough to not use the term “gay” in a sexual way or to denigrate any given sexual caste… that said, they heard the term from someone who used it in a pejorative way… and I’m guessing that’s from their parents.

    Children today don’t have the luxury of being removed from sexual culture, and therefore don’t have that excuse. They know what “gay” means… if they’re still using it instead of “stupid” or “disagreeable” they’re lazy, and not malicious — neither of which, however, is acceptable.

    Comment by Silus Grok — September 12, 2005 @ 12:24 pm

  13. That should be: “[tsk]. That’s SO gay.”

    Comment by Kim Siever — September 12, 2005 @ 12:24 pm

  14. The current state of the debate on the matter, both biological and social, is well reviewed in this article (previously discussed on LDS Science Review…I think):

    http://www.boston.com/news/globe/magazine/articles/2005/08/14/what_makes_people_gay/?page=print

    I was under the impression “gay” in reference to homosexuals was coined as a result of a line by Cary Grant in _Bringing Up Baby_. The etymology on gay = happy, carefree, colorful is well established, but is there anything to suggest there was any homosexual connotation prior to Grant’s movie line?

    Comment by Kurt — September 12, 2005 @ 2:32 pm

  15. Kurt, the Quinn book suggests that “gay” as an identifier of homosexuals was already an established code-word among homosexuals by the mid-19th century. It didn’t spread to the broader society until after 1920, evidently.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — September 12, 2005 @ 4:09 pm

  16. RT,
    I think you’re right on with your comment. Because of all that, many men beleive they have to avoid things like choir singing, playing an instrument, doing dance, etc etc, in order to secure their masculinity. Now our perception of masculinity is so scewed, we end up having all sorts of other problems.

    Comment by Bret — September 12, 2005 @ 6:09 pm

  17. SG,
    Thanks for assembling that background information. I’m looking forward to your next installment.

    Susan,
    I have two gay brothers, also. Maybe we should start a club? Or maybe you are one of my sisters using a pseudonym, in which case I would like to know which cousins you are talking about! ;o)

    Comment by Ana — September 12, 2005 @ 6:28 pm

  18. I’ve been away for awhile. Nice open discussion here. So why do so many bloggers get so bent out of shape when I suggest a certain doctrinaire GA obsessed w/ women’s fashion is a repressed homosexual? You can just see the cross dresser in him screaming to get out, and he was a big Liberace fan too (when Liberace was alive). I mean it’s not like I was disrespectful and called him a fag. Being a repressed homosexual is a positive in the church.

    Comment by Steve EM — September 12, 2005 @ 6:43 pm

  19. ( Steve, my mom says I can’t play with you any more. You’re a bad influence. )

    Comment by Silus Grok — September 12, 2005 @ 6:45 pm

  20. Hmmmm I thought there would be no name calling nor taking of offense. If ones opinion/viewpoint is stated, there it is, adress it.
    But Silus, grow up.

    Comment by Bryce — September 12, 2005 @ 7:35 pm

  21. Steve EM,
    The reason is because we’re not talking about that. You seem to want to make that assertion every time the word “homosexual” comes up on a blog and we are bored of it. Even if your intent was not disrespectful, what you communicate is. There are many other tactful ways of expressing the same opinion.

    I am begging you, please do not turn this potentially uplifting, informative series into the Steve EM show. You’ve often made thoughtful comments on other blogs and I’d hope you will contribute some on this one as well. You seem like a cool guy that I’d like to meet sometime, but if it comes down to the regular crowd here and you, I’m going to choose the regular crowd. I don’t want to make that decision.

    Bryce,
    If you are referring to Steve EM’s comment, you need to know more history of what he’s talking about. I really hope we will NOT address it. And unless you’re being ironic in telling Silus to grow up, I don’t know why you do so.

    Comment by Rusty — September 12, 2005 @ 8:07 pm

  22. After having lived with it for … a few years, I think I can best describe “gay” as a matter of taste. Some people like green curtains, others like blue ones. I don’t like it when others try to tell me how to decorate my living — why would I like it when they tell me whom to love (or not to love)?

    Whether it’s biological, or something I learned as a very young child, it doesn’t matter to me. It isn’t something that can be changed, no matter how hard I wish it. I’ve chosen to live… without love, for the time being, but I still look for it, hoping it will spring up before I’m too old to appreciate it and make something out of it.

    I have some clichéd gay qualities, but I have some other, unique qualities, too. I’m a whole person, not a type, and I’m just trying to get along in the world, in my family, and in the Church.

    Comment by D. Fletcher — September 12, 2005 @ 9:37 pm

  23. Nicely said, D.

    Ana, I only have one (surviving) sister and I can garauntee you’re not her. I also have gay cousins and uncles that I didn’t mention. The joke in my family is, everyone is either gay, crazy, or dead. Or both.

    Comment by Susan M — September 12, 2005 @ 9:52 pm

  24. Bryce… you’re very kind for coming to Steve’s defense. And I mean that sincerely. I was just razzing Steve. We’ve got history.

    Didn’t mean to bring anyone down.

    Comment by Silus Grok — September 12, 2005 @ 11:29 pm

  25. Thank you for taking the time to write this series. I’m 26 and am just coming to terms with my orientation — a process that has led me in and out of therapy and through episodes of depression. The frustration and fear I feel as a closeted Mormon at BYU is only matched by the fear I have of losing my fondest truths. It is comforting to see that another person can be honest with who he is and can find value and meaning in what I have been told my whole life was a moral flaw or disease. I hope and pray that I can also find meaning in it someday.

    Comment by Anonymous — September 13, 2005 @ 3:12 am

  26. DFletcher,

    You say “I’ve chosen to live… without love”, but what you really mean is “I’ve chosen to live…without romance/sex”, right? There are still plenty of opportunities for non-romantic, non-sexual love, of the phileo and agape variety, but not of the eros variety if one chooses to abide the Church’s teachings.

    While you may find it impossible to change, there are people who have dealt with their SSA and changed, permanently.

    Comment by Kurt — September 13, 2005 @ 6:35 am

  27. “While you may find it impossible to change, there are people who have dealt with their SSA and changed, permanently.”

    I have yet to see any real evidence of this, though there are plenty of people who have lived in normal marriages and sired children, etc.

    But my real question is: why do we need to change? I can justify almost any moral boundary by finding that crossing the boundary impinges on health and survival, and breaks an important trust. But this one simply doesn’t make sense to me — if a same-sex couple are attracted and wish to show affection — why is it bad? Why is there a need to punish them for their attraction, and encourage them to change it?

    Why is it bad?

    Comment by D. Fletcher — September 13, 2005 @ 10:27 am

  28. DFletcher, since you didnt respond to my original question, I will refrain from responding to yours. But I will refrain, more particularly, because it would take this thread into a tangent it was not intended to go, and its clear the blog owners have no interest at present in having it go there. This thread was started to discuss the syntax and terminology, not the moral or ethical issues. If the blog owners want to start a thread on the moral or ethical issues, and SG may already have one planned, I will be happy to discuss the matter with you on that thread.

    Comment by Kurt — September 13, 2005 @ 11:08 am

  29. Silus, just another note of thanks and encouragement and also a nod to Rusty for hosting. This series has the potential for really educating and sparking a serious dialogue that has been difficult in its appearance. I look forward to it.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 13, 2005 @ 11:33 am

  30. Kurt,
    I think you’re right, Silus Grok will probably be talking more extensively on exactly what D is talking about and it would be better to discuss it there than on this thread which discusses vocabulary.

    Thanks to both of you for refraining until then :)

    Comment by Rusty — September 13, 2005 @ 11:33 am

  31. Whatever.

    Comment by D. Fletcher — September 13, 2005 @ 12:30 pm

  32. Hey, maybe I should update the banner to a “totally gay” typeface (per Susan M) :)

    Which reminds me Silus, you never mentioned the name “ferry” which is often applied to gay men. How derogitory is it? I work with a lot of gay guys and a few of them have no problem calling the others fags, ferries and queens.

    Comment by Rusty — September 13, 2005 @ 3:37 pm

  33. Wouldn’t that be spelled “fairy”?

    In terms of epithets, everyone can use them on one of their own. Hence, gays themselves are free to use epithets in describing other gays (I myself try not to, but have been known to use the word “queen” on occasion).

    Comment by D. Fletcher — September 13, 2005 @ 3:42 pm

  34. Funny you should mention “ferry” (fairy/faerie) … I was at a discussion group last night where the speaker talked about the movement called Radical Fairies (a native-American-inspired movement in the gay community).

    Anyway, I’m loathe to use epithets on anyone, even my own… and “fairy” is definitely an epithet.

    Comment by Silus Grok — September 13, 2005 @ 4:31 pm

  35. HA! You mean people don’t call one another Staten Island Ferries? Yeah, I guess I should have thought a little more about the spelling on that one.

    Comment by Rusty — September 13, 2005 @ 4:35 pm

  36. Rusty, you’re probably not originally from the East Coast, but I wouldn’t have mistaken the spelling of fairy for ferry, because I pronounce them differently. It’s the same differentiation I use for marry, Mary, and merry — three different words, three different pronounciations.

    Comment by D. Fletcher — September 13, 2005 @ 4:40 pm

  37. Kurt says: “There are still plenty of opportunities for non-romantic, non-sexual love, of the phileo and agape variety, but not of the eros variety if one chooses to abide the Church’s teachings.”

    I’m wondering what other people think of this statement. While I’m sure that there are some opportunities for non-sexual love and emotional closeness, I would suspect that such opportunities are quite seriously restricted for a celibate gay man in a mormon cultural environment. Most other mormons are preocuppied with their families, many mormons may be intolerant of homosexuality, close relationships with women may be frowned upon, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if many in this circumstance felt very alone.

    Comment by ed — September 13, 2005 @ 4:45 pm

  38. “I wouldn’t be surprised if many in this circumstance felt very alone.”

    Yes, alone… is the operative word.

    Comment by D. Fletcher — September 13, 2005 @ 4:58 pm

  39. What about flamming homosexual or flammer for short? Are those words ok for straights to say?

    Comment by Steve EM — September 13, 2005 @ 5:36 pm

  40. Silus,

    Maybe this isn’t yet the right forum for this question, but I’ve often wondered about how a homosexual man who prefers monogamy and committed relationships, and who doesn’t do kink, views the “positive” media protrayal of male homosexuality. Take, for example, Will & Grace, in which every gay man apparently is ruled by his libido and when not pursuing that libido is largely concerned only with fashion, gossip, and musicals. In spite of the fact that this show is supposed to be gay friendly, I find it reinforcing all the stereotypes about homosexual men that I thought I was supposed to eschew–i.e., that they are sex-crazy effeminates. And these stereotypes tend to run contrary to the argument for gay marriage, gay couple adoption, and most other gay rights issues, which is that homosexuals are just like everyone else in that they prefer a stable home with the partner of their choice. You know–Bob works at the factory all day, drinks beer and watches football when he gets home, and likes to read civil war non-fiction, but just happens to live and love another man. Maybe I’m being unfair in that the media tends to portray all people as highly libidinous gossips, regardless of sexual orientation. Any thoughts?

    Comment by jimbob — September 13, 2005 @ 7:59 pm

  41. That, actually, is a big part of part III.

    No really.

    Stay tuned!

    Comment by Silus Grok — September 13, 2005 @ 9:30 pm

  42. Oh, but wait… you bring something up: the info graphic.

    I’d eager for feedback… it’s been rolling around my head for a year, and not that it’s gotten out, I’m wondering how it’s doing?

    Critiques? Compliments?

    Comment by Silus Grok — September 13, 2005 @ 9:31 pm

  43. ed “I wouldn’t be surprised if many in this circumstance felt very alone.”

    DFletcher “Yes, alone… is the operative word.”

    No more alone than any other singleton in the Church.

    Comment by Kurt — September 14, 2005 @ 7:51 am

  44. Kurt,
    I would imagine there’s a huge difference between “being alone because I haven’t found the right person yet” and “being alone because I’m not allowed to find the right person.” Sure, they’re both alone, but the psychology is different.

    Comment by Rusty — September 14, 2005 @ 8:50 am

  45. Rusty,

    Thats just splitting hairs for a dramatic effect, designed to draw out people’s sympathies in favor of the particular group in question.

    How is it any worse/different for a gay or lesbian in the Church to be alone than for a single man or woman? I am confidant there are people who could argue persuasively that being single and heterosexual is worse in the Church because you could be married and arent. Whereas the person struggling with SSA has a legitimate reason to not marry, other than they arent innately defective or undesirable or unlucky.

    Comment by Kurt — September 14, 2005 @ 9:07 am

  46. Kurt:

    I don’t think Rusty’s comment about the differing psychology is just for dramatic effect. I think the difference revolves around the very important concept of hope.

    The straight single Mormon can always retain it — the Church validates the single Mormon’s desire to find love and participate in the plan of happiness. That doesn’t mean that the straight single Mormon’s reality can’t be painfully lonely. I’m sure it is. But hope can find a place in that person’s heart and the Church won’t tell that person that he/she is defective in his desires for love and intimacy.

    The gay Mormon doesn’t have that same hope.

    Comment by Chris Williams — September 14, 2005 @ 9:29 am

  47. Yes, indeed, it’s a “hopeless” kind of loneliness.

    Hi, Chris!

    Comment by D. Fletcher — September 14, 2005 @ 10:10 am

  48. Chris,

    Sure they do. Just as faithful heterosexuals who never marry in mortality are told they will have the same opportunity in enternity, so will the faithful homosexual. If they are struggling with SSA, and thus do not marry, and are faitful to their covenants, then there is no reason to think this SSA will not be removed in an eternal setting and they will therefore marry post-mortally. Same hope.

    Comment by Kurt — September 14, 2005 @ 10:12 am

  49. Hi D!

    Kurt,

    Sure they do? I’ve talked to a lot of gay Mormons who do not have that hope. That carries a lot of weight, in my opinion. Real people ought to be more important than abstract and ill defined doctrines and speculations.

    Comment by Chris Williams — September 14, 2005 @ 10:26 am

  50. Kurt,
    I can’t imagine “hoping” to have my sexual preference changed in the eternities. Imagine for a second if homosexuality was the norm (and you were straight) and the church said if you’re faithful enough, you too will be attracted to men in eternity. It would not be hope for me, it would be complete disinterest.

    Comment by Rusty — September 14, 2005 @ 10:33 am

  51. I think the idea that all will be righted in the next life to be the rationalization for impoverished emotional fulfillment in this life. If we’re just in a waiting period, why don’t we just kill ourselves?

    Because men are that they might have joy. This life is about… learning how to love.

    Many faithful members of the Church who have same-sex attraction aren’t allowed to fulfill the promise of this life, which is a pretty hopeless thing.

    And yes, there are others who don’t find love in this life, and their problem is very sad, too. But at least, they are not disallowed from looking, from yearning. They are not disapproved of, as human beings.

    Comment by D. Fletcher — September 14, 2005 @ 10:46 am

  52. This thread is running way off the original theme.

    Chris and DFletcher,

    There are a multitude of opportunities to participate in Church life that are not contingent upon someone having the romantic/sexual relationship they like/want/desire. If one is lonely and hopeless at Church because they are deprived of this one thing, hetero or homosexual, then that person is obsessively focusing on one aspect of their personal life to the detriment of all other aspects of their life. All single people in the Church can form healthy, affectionate, fulfilling relationships with other Church members through service and friendship. Being homosexual doesnt preclude that, unless that person chooses to not participate.

    Rusty,

    People struggling with SSA and hoping to overcome it do have this hope. And, youre assuming the mortal sexual impulse, which is rather carnal, is something carried into the resurrection.

    Comment by Kurt — September 14, 2005 @ 10:57 am

  53. “All single people in the Church can form healthy, affectionate, fulfilling relationships with other Church members through service and friendship.”

    1) It’s hard for single heterosexuals, too. That’s why so many of them leave. There are very few single heterosexual men above 35 who are active in the church because there is very little place for them in the culture.

    2) I think gay men face additional challenges. They may feel uncomfortable revealing their homosexuality, which itself inhibits emotional closeness. Many mormon men probably don’t want to be close friends or roommates with a gay man. Gay men might sometimes tend to have different interests than straight men. Friendship with single mormon women might be more possible…I’m not sure how this is viewed in mormon culture (since I don’t personally know any “out” gay mormons).

    I don’t know why Kurt is so eager to dismiss these problems rather than be sympathetic to them.

    Comment by ed — September 14, 2005 @ 12:21 pm

  54. I am not “eager to dismiss” them, I just dont find the problems facing homosexuals in the Church any more problematic than any other singles in the Church.

    Anyone who has attended a singles ward with a significant population of people in their late 20′s and into their 30′s knows there are a lot of people in there struggling with a lot of problems that are particularly keyed towards ageing out of the standard Mormon norms. Single LDS women in their 30′s are in extremely difficult situations, as they frequently want to have children, but are facing a biological clock, and all of the risks associated with it.

    I am not minimizing the problems faced by gays in the Church, I am pointing out that those who seek to exagerate them are minimizing other single’s problems. Picking one group out and saying they suffer the most is just plain unfair.

    Comment by Kurt — September 14, 2005 @ 12:47 pm

  55. …youre assuming the mortal sexual impulse, which is rather carnal, is something carried into the resurrection.

    Good point Kurt. We can only speculate on how that’s all going to work then.

    Comment by Rusty — September 14, 2005 @ 12:52 pm

  56. Kurt… I hope I have not in any way conveyed the sentiment that I think gays in the Church suffer more than other singles. Differently, yes… but that’s not the same.

    Comment by Silus Grok — September 14, 2005 @ 12:56 pm

  57. Kurt: I am pointing out that those who seek to exagerate them are minimizing other single’s problems. Picking one group out and saying they suffer the most is just plain unfair.

    Show me where anyone said that gay Mormons suffer most. No one did. In fact, several have commented that single Mormons suffer as well. That there is a qualitative difference in the suffering of the gay Mormon and the single straight Mormon shouldn’t be understood to mean that we are unfairly dismissing the challenges of the journey of the single Mormon.

    Comment by Chris Williams — September 14, 2005 @ 1:55 pm

  58. Chris,

    Are you backpedaling from your earlier post, which exagerates the entirely hopeless condition of gay Mormons as being hopelessly lonely, whereas straight Mormons are hopefully lonely? That you would explicitly and qualitatively cast the gay Mormon’s position as “hopeless” and the straight’s as “hopefull” necesarily positions them as experiencing more suffering, since they are also suffering hopelessness.

    I never said you were unfairly dismissing the challenges of single Mormons, I said you were unfairly exagerating the challenges of gay Mormons to make them seem worse off, and therefore minimizing others. Which is what you did by classifying straights as “hopeful” and gays as “hopeless”. And DFletcher echoed your sentiment.

    Comment by Kurt — September 14, 2005 @ 3:26 pm

  59. Kurt,

    Whatever.

    You most certainly did suggest that by “exaggerating” the hopelessness of gays in the Church I was dismissing the apparently similar challenges of singles, and was doing so unfairly.

    But I frankly have no interest in engaging with you further on this particular point. You say I’m exaggerating the plight of gays. I say you’re minimizing it. We’ll disagree.

    Comment by Chris Williams — September 14, 2005 @ 4:54 pm

  60. I will admit that I suggested that gay mormons (men, anyway) have a harder time than straight single mormons, and I provided a number of reasons why I would expect this to be so.

    Silus, however, has suggested that he does not agree with this. I’m not sure everyone in his situation would agree with Silus, but I’ll bow to his superior knowledge.

    The comment by Kurt that I found dismissive was that he said gay mormons have “plenty of opportunities” for non-sexual loving relationships. I don’t think this is an apt description of the difficulties faced by mormon singles of whatever sexual preference, who I think suffer precisely from a lack of such opportunities (that’s one reason we try so hard to get singles to marry).

    Comment by ed — September 14, 2005 @ 5:17 pm

  61. “Imagine for a second if homosexuality was the norm”

    Merde alors! There wouldn’t be any human race to do the imagining.

    I’m still waiting to see some gay PDA in church. Now that would be interesting.

    Comment by Steve EM — September 14, 2005 @ 5:43 pm

  62. Chris,

    I did nothing of the sort. Since when does exagerating one case over another necessarily dismiss the other?

    Ed,

    I married late (>30) and had plenty of opportunities to form relationships and commit selfless service in the Church in both singles wards and family wards. Any singleton in the Church does.

    Comment by Kurt — September 14, 2005 @ 9:19 pm

  63. As a woman with the wonderful euphamism SSA in an over 30s ward I have to say there are similarities…at the same time the fundamental difference is this:

    While single, straight people at least are encouraged to date and to try and at least have the HOPE that someone is out there.

    When you are gay, that is stripped away and you are advised to stay very much alone.

    It is a hard thing to take away someone’s HOPE of companionship.

    Comment by sarjex — November 2, 2005 @ 7:52 pm

  64. Hope is so important, too.

    But I have hope… hope in Christ, hope that there will be an inspired change, hope that I’ll find respite in dating.

    Read the other threads, Sarjex… I’d love to hear what you have to say!

    Comment by Silus Grok — November 3, 2005 @ 8:54 pm

  65. two girls one cup
    2 girls 1 cup

    Comment by 2 girls 1 cup — May 19, 2008 @ 5:22 am

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