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    Concern

    This is the kind of malarkey that always yanks my chain (via Ex-Gay Watch). People have religious convictions against homosexuality–fine, they have a right to air them. There’s self-destructive behavior in sectors of gay life–it’s only honest to point that out, too. It’s when people’s post-Enlightenment guilt consciences start getting the better of them–and they start making inane, pseudo-rigorous statements that mime the use of reliable scientific backing–that they become insufferable:

    Can a society create more homosexuals? The answer quite clearly is yes. That is how current homosexuals, in fact, came to be.

    People, especially the young, can be seduced into homosexual behavior and have their identities molded around the homosexual lifestyle through a combination of persuasion and circumstances that may include the following:

    • being convinced homosexuality is acceptable;

    • reading or viewing explicit homosexual pornography;
    • having a close relationship with a peer who is practicing homosexuality;
    • admiring an older teacher or mentor who is homosexual;
    • attending homosexual social venues (a “gay” club, bar, church youth group);
    • being homosexually molested;
    • having parents who espouse homosexuality or engage in homosexual activism;
    • lacking strong ties to a church that remains faithful to the historic Christian faith, and hostility toward traditional views.

    Strong religious faith, especially traditional Christian morality, often acts as a protective barrier to the development of homosexual desire. When children grow up trusting God as the Designer of masculinity and femininity, and if they are not sexually molested or have their innocence assaulted by other traumatic events, their feelings will be channeled normally toward heterosexual sex within marriage as an obvious and desirable goal.

    Madam, not to put too fine a point on it, but you are an idiot.

    My own upbringing, point by point against Ms. Harvey’s imaginings:

    • Not a week went by at church when the threat homosexuality posed to society was not held up as a reason America was in deep trouble. From the moment AIDS was first identified in the early ’80’s, my parents reacted to news stories about it by saying that it was God’s punishment for sinful behavior;

    • Yeah, right;
    • My parents wouldn’t have stood for that for a second;
    • The only teacher known to be gay at my high school was the kind of shriveled-up, mean, trollish guy who made Charles Nelson Reilly look benevolent. I did not, I can assure you, look up to him. Otherwise, I grew up around churchgoing manual laborers and their wives;
    • The idea of a gay social venue for teenagers in Emmaus, PA, in the 1980s is the funniest thing I’ve heard all day. My parents believed in fun, but they monitored our access to artifacts of popular culture very closely;
    • No–I realize that a lot of virulently anti-gay types cling to this explanation like a security blanket, but no;
    • By telling fag and dyke jokes when activists were featured on television, maybe?
    • I was brought up in the Worldwide Church of God, a church so utterly off-the-deep-end fundie we weren’t invited to the rest of the Christian right’s play dates. My father was the teacher for our highest level of youth Bible lessons (like Sunday school). He read to my brother and me from the Bible nightly before tucking us in until I was sixteen or so. After that, I was expected to study the Bible, also nightly, myself. We had two-hour services every week. You took notes.

    So “That is how current homosexuals, in fact, came to be”? Sorry. Try again.

    I don’t mind opposition. Two or three of the earliest friends I made through commenting on blogs frequently commented on what they believed was the sinfulness of homosexuality.

    I do very much mind having my biography rewritten by ignoramuses–or rather, people can think whatever insulting things they like about me, but I mind the implications for the people I grew up around. You can’t say that irresponsible parenting leads to homosexuality in the abstract without, necessarily, saying that the individual parents of individual homosexuals fell down on the job. Well, my parents did not. They pushed me firmly toward traditionally working-class boyish activities. They set an example of a great marriage. I think some of what they did was misguided–specifically, the anti-gay stuff and the constant playing of Ringo Starr solo albums on the stereo–but nobody’s perfect. They managed to turn out resilient kids with fully-functioning bullshit detectors and a can-do approach to tackling life’s problems.

    None of this is to say that sex ed bureaucrats with intrusive condom-on-banana programs can’t confuse and screw up children, or that some people who are unhappily homosexual can’t learn to function in a straight relationship, or that child-rearing is currently in the greatest shape in America, or that pop culture isn’t increasingly hard for parents to play gatekeeper with. It’s just that single-issue explanations that–how convenient!–just happen to support people’s preconceived ideas about how the universe works are of little help to people who believe in individuality and the disinterested pursuit of truth. (And yes, it’s just as annoying when gay activists do their “we were OBVIOUSLY BORN GAY” routine.) They do, however, cause harm to parents who are thus haunted by the thought that there must have been something they Could Have Done.

    13 Responses to “Concern”

    1. Maria says:

      HEAR! HEAR! Bravo, dear friend.

      I have personally known at least seven different gay men, including you, that ALL came from various “traditional” Christian backgrounds. All of them SUFFERED and STRUGGLED immensely with their sexuality.

      Most of them came from “good families” with parents that had a “good marriage.” I say most of them, because just like families with heterosexual children, some of them had to deal with divorce and alcoholism. Is that why they “turned out gay”? Yeah, RIGHT! (In case there’s any question–that was a sarcastic, “yeah, right!”)

      The choir has spoken, for now. :-)

    2. Alan says:

      The Baptist Ministry at my school has created a new gay-reeducation program, Open Door Ministries, and has just recently introduced it. Do all of these groups get their talking points from the same place, I wonder. They have the same message as this woman, adding in that dysfunctional relationships are also wont to produce little homos, and I have to deal with their giant advertisements in the school newspaper daily. It’s kind of funny to me.. like a war has been initiated, but the other side never got the memo.

      Somewhat off topic, but just curious, what are your thoughts on teenagers whose sexuality is somewhat liquid? There were several girls at my high school who identified as bisexual for the attention and I, as someone who has struggled with his sexuality, always found it kind of insulting. Moreso, at least, than these ex-gay programs and the messages behind them.

      I’m wondering if someone who couldn’t really express himself growing up might feel similarly.

    3. Sean Kinsell says:

      Maria:

      Thanks, Maria. (Maria and I were brought up in the same church–she can tell you just how anything-goes it was. At the same time–and I’m just speaking for myself–I honestly didn’t think of it as oppressive growing up. My parents were strict, of course, but they were warm and mischievous and fun to be around, too. There were some parents who were scary-strict, of course–they were the ones whose daughters ran away at seventeen and got pregnant, if not always in that order–but you get that anywhere, and it wasn’t the rule.)

      As to the aetiology-of-homosexuality problem, I find every single-issue explanation that’s been offered unconvincing. A combination of genetic predisposition (stronger or weaker, perhaps, in some cases) and environmental factors strikes me as most likely. That doesn’t mean there’s some kind of homosexuality-prevention program that parents can follow.

      Alan:

      “Somewhat off topic, but just curious, what are your thoughts on teenagers whose sexuality is somewhat liquid? There were several girls at my high school who identified as bisexual for the attention and I, as someone who has struggled with his sexuality, always found it kind of insulting.”

      Don’t take this as condescension, buddy, but now that I’ve been eligible for a driver’s license for more than half my life, I see teenaged silliness a little differently from someone who just emerged from it. Yes, kids who are feeling vaguely disaffected or fractious and are trying to figure out how their identity is solidifying will often grab for the nearest cool-rebel affectation they can find. Perhaps some are just being consciously manipulative, but I suspect that in most cases the turmoil is real, even if it’s not of the same variety as that of the genuine gay article. Calling yourself bisexual just gives you an excuse to act conflicted and stuff.

      If faculty put a lid on displays of sexuality on school grounds and focused on (1) educating kids to treat each other respectfully and (2) filling their heads with as much factual knowledge as possible, against which new information and their own moods could be tested…well, it wouldn’t stamp out attention-seeking among adolescents, but it would give them a sense of a larger world than themselves to which they could get busy adjusting. Unfortunately (though I’m sure Ms. Harvey has no complaints), I’m not running the schools.

    4. tanoki says:

      I’m going to differ with you here, Sean. A friend of mine from college was, and still is (at least to my knowledge), bisexual. He’s the real article–“conflicted” maybe only in the sense that he has so many options that it makes it difficult to decide exactly which person or which gender he is most interested in on a particular night–but genuinely bisexual (at least from what he’s told me). Sure, there are others that probably use the title to play the middle, but I think there is probably more gray to sexuality than we believe.

      But here’s what I am really posting to say. Sexuality is not liquid. People’s understandings and interpretations of their attractions may change over time, but attractions themselves are hardwired. Not to be too graphic, but I knew fairly early on that I was attracted to the opposite sex. Why? Well, that’s what my friend south of the belt told me. Like Sean, I’ve never been molested, etc., but I seriously doubt that being molested by a guy would have made me gay. For the same reason, I think this stuff about “converting people” is ridiculous. You can’t turn a gay guy straight anymore than you can turn a straight guy gay. The only ones that do convert were probably the ones who were gay or straight to begin with (although I’ll admit that I haven’t heard of many people pretending to be gay only to come out as straight–kind of a Twilight Zone moment).

    5. Alan says:

      Haha, I guess I’m showing my age. Well, I wasn’t really trying to present it as a youngster-only issue, but I guess it is. Adults are, presumably, more mature and grounded.

      I am not sure how I feel about bisexuality. I don’t debate that it is possible to be sexually attracted to both sexes, but I do wonder if it’s possible to not care who you spend the rest of your life with. In other words, I think a person either wants, ultimately, to spend the rest of his/her life with a woman or a man, even if he/she is attracted to both.

    6. K. Tonn says:

      Whoa, and here I thought /I/ was the only person who was raised in the Worldwide Church of God. Can I tell you how jealous I was of friends whose church services /didn’t/ last two hours?

      Well, greetings from another homosexual who lived in Japan; been reading your blog for a while now, though I’m a lurker by nature.

    7. Sean Kinsell says:

      K. Tonn:

      “Whoa, and here I thought /I/ was the only person who was raised in the Worldwide Church of God.”

      Honey, what did you think SEP was populated with–rented child actors? :)

      Actually, I don’t know how old you are–perhaps you were a teenager after the Great Doctrinal Shift a decade ago? In that case, you might not know what SEP was. I went in ’89. I think Maria went, too, though we weren’t there together. I went to Ambassador College for an abortive six weeks, too, BTW.

      As for the services…you know, they made you antsy, but I persist in thinking they were a good thing. You learned to sit still and listen. And also, I think my critical thinking was developed to no small degree by listening to sermons and thinking, Just a minute there–that contradicts something you just said fifteen minutes ago!

      Anyway, thanks for reading. Feel free not to lurk.

      Alan and tanoki, I think there are one or two important distinctions to be made here. What Alan was asking about wasn’t bisexuality itself but the affectation of same by people who are pretty clearly just doing it to cause a stir. That was the framework within which I was thinking above.

      So I wasn’t talking about whether bisexuality exists. I have friends who say they’re bisexual, and I figure they know their own minds, so I take them at their word. Maybe some of them know that they’re turned on by one sex but only want to form a life partnership with the other; maybe they go through phases; maybe some of them really are just attracted to people on a case-by-case basis at any particular time, and whom they eventually settle down with depends on how the relationship deepens and whether they’re ready for commitment at that point in time. I don’t know. It isn’t for me to tell other people what their impulses are.

      The only negative thing I have to say about bisexuality–or rather, about some bi individuals–is that they can’t keep a lid on the self-congratulation. You know, like, “I just don’t see why I should be CONFINED by gender in choosing a partner, you know? I prefer to respond to INDIVIDUAL BEAUTY in the MOMENT…that’s just much HEALTHIER, don’t you think?” No, bitch, what I think is that if you don’t stop with the pomposity, I’m going to knock you down and start kicking you in the head.

    8. tanoki says:

      Sean:

      My apologies. Looking back now, I can see how I took one of your statements out of context.

      Your thoughts on the self-congratulatory tendencies of bisexuals are a hoot and spot-on. I would probably laugh if a bisexual copped a my-sexual-preference-makes-me-more-worldly-than-thee attitude. As for me (and most people), we don’t have a choice in what kind of beauty we respond to. If that makes us less progressive or trendy, so be it.

      I don’t know. As much as I respect bisexuals, I personally prefer having a gender that I *don’t* have physical attractions for. There’s something nice about just being able to sit down with people and not have the whole issue of sexual tension creep in and disrupt things. Being bisexual, I’m sure, would wear me out.

    9. Eric Scheie says:

      Being bisexual if you’re in a gay relationship is OK as long as you don’t make an issue of it. If you’re in a gay relationship, life is easier if you just call yourself gay, because everyone will say you’re gay anyway. As Sean says, “calling yourself bisexual just gives you an excuse to act conflicted and stuff.” People — especially gay people — don’t want to believe in such things, and bisexuality annoys them. If you believe in monogamy though, and eventually enter into a relationship with a partner of the opposite sex, you might find you’ve created a credibility issue by having used the term “gay” all those years, but what’s a word, anyway? In my experience, no one pays much attention to the word “bisexual” — which is seen as a synonym for “closeted gay.” True bisexuality is seen as inherently dishonest — which is why most genuine bisexuals identify as heterosexual. From where derives a duty to be honest about something which is seen as dishonest? Too exhausting — and life is too short!

      My own feeling is that these crazed people like Linda Harvey who devote their lives to reacting against homosexuality are helping maintain the “gay-versus -straight” distinction every bit as much as gay activists. It’s a free country though — and as long as they don’t try to mandate bigotry in public employment and education they might as well advocate against meat-eating.

    10. Another day, another war

      Speaking of “Culture War,” Sean Kinsell links to a remarkable piece of anti-gay advocacy by one Linda Harvey, who claims that “homosexuality is a Christian issue” and that people expressing tolerance for homosexuality (“views supporting homosexuality” she says) “should not…

    11. Sean Kinsell says:

      “True bisexuality is seen as inherently dishonest — which is why most genuine bisexuals identify as heterosexual. From where derives a duty to be honest about something which is seen as dishonest? Too exhausting — and life is too short!”

      Thanks for commenting, Eric. Without defending busybodies who think they’re in a position to inform you how your mind works, I’d just add this: A lot of us who are gay went through a period during which we called ourselves bisexual because it seemed safer. If you’ve marshalled all your mental resources over a lifetime to convince yourself that you’re hetero, hetero, hetero–however implausibly your reasoning may have accounted for your impulses and actions–it’s not as if a switch just instantaneously flipped in your head and you were now comfortably gay.

      So I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable for gays to hear someone designate himself (or herself) bisexual and figure, Yeah, right. You’ll figure it out in a year or two. At the same time, unless you’re asked for advice, you should just keep such thoughts to yourself.

    12. Eric Scheie says:

      Sean I think there are two issues here. One is a person’s actual sexuality, and the other is the public label he might choose to bestow on himself. My point is that most of the bisexuals I have known don’t label themselves that way publicly lest everyone assume they’re gay and closeted. The fact that so many gay men are unable to label themselves gay and use the “bisexual” tag transitionally probably contributes to this fear. The end result is that true bisexuality is therefore a much more closeted “identity” (a word I use with hesitancy).

      Labels have consequence .

    13. Bread makers says:

      Stսnning quest there. Wһat hарpened afteг?
      Taҝe cаre!

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