Isn’t it quite insulting to heterosexual married couples to reduce their affirming commitment through marriage of their relationship to a simple biological act? If marriage is merely for reproductive purposes, why do they insist on trying to defend it as sacred? Is reproduction more sacred than love? Not in the New Testament it’s not! Now I look at it like that, aren’t they a load of silly billies?
One of the more offensive aspects of the Vatican teaching on homoerotic relationships is the way in which everything is reduced to “genital acts” (which are dismissed as mere gratuitous self-gratification). As anyone who has lived in a committed, long-term relationship can testify, it’s about far more than mere sex. It’s also about mutual caring and support, for each other and for family members, aging parents and growing children (even for animals).
It’s shared pleasures, at the movies, in music or art, or dining with friends. It’s about shared domestic duties, and joint participation in neighbourhood, community (and parish) concerns. Sex itself is far more than mere genital acts: it’s also about caresses, hugs, and kisses. Especially as we age, “genital acts” are of diminishing interest.
It hadn’t occurred to me, but Jennifer is right. By focussing their opposition to marriage equality so obsessively on the capacity to create (not nurture) children, some Catholic bishops and organisations are similarly reducing heterosexual marriage to a series of mere genital acts. This is not only insulting to the LGBT community, it is also insulting to all loving couples.
- Catholic Bishops Divided on Civil Unions (queeringthechurch.com)
- Catholic Bishops, Gay Marriage: “the Outer Fringes of Crazy Town” (queeringthechurch.com)
- Italian Bishop Advocates Civil Unions (commonwealmagazine.org)
- The “Gay Civil Unions” Approach of Some Within the Catholic Hierarchy: Too Little, Too Late (thewildreed.blogspot.com)
One of the things I find most objectionable in the CDF document on same sex relationships is its title: “Homosexualitatis Problema” (The Problem of Homosexuality). I have a double objection here – there is no problem in homoerotic sexuality, but only in the religious based discrimination and the violence it engenders, and the systematic use of the pseudo-scientific, medical term “homosexual” and its associated terms. This word was originally coined in a late nineteenth century medical usage to denote same sex attraction as a pathological condition, and its continued use serves similarly to locate an entirely natural orientation as somehow problematic.
There is a simple remedy, however. Like “homosexual”, its counterpart “heterosexual” was also originally coined as a medical term, to denote a pathological obsession with the opposite sex. Now, there is obviously nothing pathological about opposite-sex attraction, any more than there is in a same-sex attraction. I suggest however, that there is most certainly something pathological about an obsession with viewing the world around us, as well as history, scripture and religious teaching, through an exclusively opposite-sex perspective. This obsession is more simply described as “heterosexism”, and is the sense in which I suggest there is indeed a “problem” with heterosexuality.
It is this pathological obsession that persists in describing a nineteenth and twentieth century version of Western marriage as “traditional”, completely ignoring the many ways it had previously undergone fundamental change over many periods of history; which persists in describing minority sexual behaviours as “unnatural”, in total disregard for the evidence from history, anthropology, medicine or zoology; and which promotes the view that same gender genital activities are “plainly” condemned by Scripture, even though the meaning of the half-dozen texts of terror is far from plain, and are easily outnumbered by many more sympathetic passages, and others condemning behaviours which are widely accepted in the modern world.
Yet when people, gay or straight, attempt to approach Scripture or the history of the Church from a gay or lesbian perspective, it is we who are dismissed as “twisting” the truth to suit our purposes.
In fact, there is nothing in Christianity, Judaism or other major religions that is inherently opposed to same sex relationships, except where religious texts are distorted by heterosexual distortions. So it is that Christians have appropriated the “sin of Sodom” for a pejorative term for “homosexuality”, even though the story itself was about attempted rape and a failure of hospitality.
Not all religions have approached sexuality with this heteronormative perspective. Many polytheistic religions recognized gods and goddesses with same gender or polysexual erotic interests, or even identified divine patrons of homoerotic love. Many societies see same sex attraction or cross-dressing behaviour as associated specifically with pronounced spiritual gifts, or with religious occupations. Some observers even suggest that modern Christianity is unique among world religions for having spread homophobia around the world, through its colonial missionary activities.
Other faiths, though, have also been guilty of some modern distortion of their authentic messages with pandering to the heterosexual agenda. At The Wild Reed, Michael Bayley has a stimulating discussion of a new book, Heterosexism in Contemporary World Religions: Problem and Prospect, which shows who heterosexism has distorted the modern presentations of several world religions, as well as Christianity, and how homophobia is in fact incompatible with them.
Heterosexism in Contemporary World Religion: Problem and Prospect, notes Daniel, is a much-needed invitation to exit that terrible, damaging and corrupting closet of fear that heterosexism forces us into. The scope of the book’s content provides the guiding light for this exodus journey. Co-editor Judith Plaskow, for instance, explores the dismantling of the gender binary within Judaism; Ann-Marie Hsiung examines gender and same-sex relations in Confucianism and Taoism; Yu-Chen Li reconstructs Buddhist perspectives on homosexuality; Mary E. Hunt shares insights and advice on eradicating the sin of heterosexism; Ghazala Anwar offers a defense of same-sex marriage based on the Qur’an and other Muslim sources; Kelly Brown Douglas examines heterosexism and the Black American Church community; Anantanand Rambachan highlights the irreconcilability of Hinduism and homophobia; and co-editor Marvin Ellison defends same-sex marriage on Christian grounds.
Without doubt it’s an essential book in the ongoing quest to banish heterosexism from our lives and from our religious and cultural institutions.
At the Wild Reed, Michael also includes an extract from the introduction to the book by Catholic theologian, Dan Maguire. and an extract from the contribution by Catholic theologian Dan Maguire. (Read Michael’s post in full.)
Crompton, Louis: Homosexuality and Civilization
Katz, Jonathan: The Invention of Heterosexuality
Naphy, William: Born to be Gay: A History of Homosexuality (Revealing History)
Stuart, Elisabeth: Gay & Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions With Critical Difference
Ellison, M M and Plaskow, Judith: Heterosexism in Contemporary World Religion: Problem and Prospect
- Excluded From God’s People (Queering the Church)
- Exclusive Heterosexuality Unnatural ? (It’s A Queer World)
- Natural Law, Natural Sex, Natural Families. (It’s A Queer World)
- The Teachable Moment in American Catholicism, and the Continuing Refusal of the Center to Name the Real Problems(Bilgrimage)
- Religious Roots of Anti-Gay Attitudes: Two Recent Commentaries (Bilgrimage)
- Mormons and heterosexually-gendered theology (Commonweal Magazine)
Questions for Heterosexuals to answer:
1. What do you feel caused your heterosexuality?
2. When did you decide that you were a heterosexual?
3. Is it possible that your heterosexuality is caused by a fear of the same sex?
4. Could it be possible that your heterosexuality is a phase that you are going through?
5. Do your parents know that you are straight? How did they react?
6. Why do you insist on flaunting your heterosexuality? Would it be possible to be heterosexual and not flaunt it?
7. Why do heterosexual place such an emphasis on sex?
8. Why do heterosexual feel compelled to seduce others into their lifestyle?
9. A large majority of child molesters are heterosexual, do you consider it save to expose children to heterosexual teachers in school and in youth groups like the boy scouts?
10. How can men and women know how to please each other when they are so anatomically different?
11. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?
12. Is it really safe for a woman to be heterosexual when there is such a higher rate of STDs and pregnancy among heterosexual women than lesbians?
13. Considering the menace of overpopulation, how could the human race survive if everyone were heterosexual?
14. Could you trust a heterosexual therapist to be objective? Don’t you feel that he/she might be inclined to influence you in the direction of his/her leanings?
15. Would you want your children to be heterosexual considering the problems that he/she would have to face?
- Archbishop Vincent Nichols on Need to Keep Conversation of Sexual Ethics Open: Critical Reflections (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- The Problem of Heterosexuality. (queeringthechurch.wordpress.com)
In 1999 the standard work on the topic, Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (Stonewall Inn Editions) by Bruce Bagemihl, was published.
“On every continent, animals of the same sex seek each other out and have probably been doing it for millions of years,” Bagemihl wrote. …….According to Bagemihl, “Homosexual behavior occurs in more than 450 different kinds of animals worldwide, and is found in every major geographic region and every major animal group.”
“Female western gulls sometimes pair off for several years and mount each other while incubating eggs,” Steve Hogan and Lee Hudson wrote in Completely Queer: The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia. “Similar behaviors have been documented among female sage grouse, male mallard ducks, and female and male greylag geese and turkeys.” According to the authors of Out in All Directions: The Almanac of Gay and Lesbian America, same-sex behavior has been documented in all kinds of animal species, including antelope, bugs, butterflies, cats, cattle, cockroaches, crickets, dogs, donkeys, elephants, flies, geckos, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses, hyenas, lions, martens, mice, moths, octopuses, orcas, porcupines, raccoons, rats and wasps.
Gay animal behavior seems to alarm religious conservatives almost as much as the human variety, and they have tried their best to deny it. Those who do admit that same-sex behavior exists in the animal kingdom try to explain it away as being playful antics or dominance behavior to assert hierarchy.
“Some conservatives and religious groups now admit that homosexuality is common in the animal kingdom, but many of them have also put forward theories to explain the phenomenon,” said Myriam Schärz of the Zurich Zoo. “Some argue that homosexuality only occurs when animal populations become too large, or that animals only turn to homosexuality when they have no other alternative, but there is no evidence to back up the population theory, and there is plenty of proof against the harem argument. Dominant silver-back gorillas, for instance, have frequently been seen engaging in homosexual activity and deliberately shunning available females.”“Humans seem to be the only species where homosexuals are not readily accepted in society,” Schärz said
- Bagemihl, Bruce: Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (Stonewall Inn Editions)
- Roughgarden, Joan: Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People
- Sommer, Volker and Vasey, Paul: Homosexual Behaviour in Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective
- Hogan, Steve: Completely Queer: The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia
- Witt, Lynn: Out in All Directions: Almanac of Gay and Lesbian America
- Some Albatross Same- sex Parents (rooting-for-gay-marriage.blogspot.com)
- Our Queer Primate Cousins (itsaqueerworld.blogspot.com)
- Natural Law, Natural Sex, Natural Families. (rooting-for-gay-marriage.blogspot.com)
- The Gay Side of Nature (time.com)
- Lesbian Lizards
- Bisexual Snails
- Natural Law and Laysan’s Albatross
- Bighorn Rams: Macho Homos, Wimpish Heteros
- The effeminate sheep and other problems with natural selection.
Well, not exactly – but they could just as well have done, as I will explain later. first, what they actually did say:
“The nation’s largest doctors’ group has agreed to join efforts to repeal the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.
The American Medical Association also voted to declare that gay marriage bans contribute to health disparities for gay couples and their children.
Both gay-rights policies were adopted Tuesday at the AMA’s interim policy meeting in Houston.
The AMA says the ‘don’t ask, don’t-tell’ law creates an ethical dilemma for gay service members and the doctors who treat them.
The other measure declares that marriage bans leave gays vulnerable to being excluded from health care benefits, including health insurance and family and medical leave rights. The new AMA policy stops short of opposing the bans.”
There is a delicious irony in a medical group condemning discriminatory practices against gay and lesbian people, as it is well known that the much abused word “homosexual” was originally coined late in the 19th century as a medical term to denote what was then seen as a pathology.
Time has moved on, and personal orientation is no longer seen as a pathology for medical treatment, no matter what NARTH and the so-called “ex-gay” movement have to say about it. Even the Catholic Church agrees that the “inclination” in a person is natural and not in itself sinful – they just need to allow their theology to catch up with the implications of this. Unfortunately though, the simple recognition that there is no pathology is not enough: the damage has been done.
Let us now look at that late 19th century coinage, “heterosexual”. Yes, this too was a word invented in the 19th century, after its counterpart “homosexual”, and was also originally a medical term, used to denote a pathology. Yes, that’s right – a pathology – specifically,
“a morbid obsession with the opposite sex.”
Now, “homosexuality” is no longer taken seriously as a pathology, but I submit that heterosexuality, as “a morbid obsession with the opposite sex”, is indeed a pathology and requires serious attention. Let me explain.
In the context of a simple orientation, or as specific sexual acts, I obviously do not suggest that “heterosexuality” is diseased or unnatural, any more than I would make that claim about any other sexual orientation or activity. However, at the level of society as a whole, the 20th century fixation with heterosexuality as a cultural norm to be imposed on all, fostered by this belief that it was “diseased”, aided and abetted by religious misinterpretations of Scripture and selective extracts from theology purporting to show that it is grievously sinful”, can certainly be called a morbid fascination, which has caused untold damage to the mental and physical health of many millions of people. It is this insistence that people conform to externally imposed sexual norms, quite contrary to innate orientation and psychological health, that has caused much higher rates of youth suicide among gay and lesbian youth than among their peers; that has led to the bullying that is often the proximate cause of the suicides; that leads people in to lives of duplicity and fear in a closet; that has led to active persecution by many governments, from Nazi Germany to Iran, Sudan and Uganda today – and which lies at the bottom of the bans on gays in the military, or on gay marriage, which are the immediate issues addressed by the AMA.
This obsession is entirely unnatural. Le t me restate once again, what should by now be well known, but sadly isn’t:
The homoerotic orientation is entirely natural, and has been found in all periods of history, in all parts of the world, and in most animal species.
Scientific research suggests that most people are neither exclusively attracted to the opposite sex, nor exclusively to the same sex. We lean more or less strongly to one or the other, but most of us are capable of responding to at least some degree to either. Social pressures however, influence how we deal with this.
Societies too are not typically exclusively modelled on the patterned on the modern, misnamed Western idea of “traditional” marriage. This model, a monogamous union of one man and one woman joined in a love relationship consecrated in church to raise children, is unique to the last two centuries in the West. Before that, Western marriage was primarily about protecting property and inheritance rights. In many parts of the world, and among the Hebrew patriarchs, polygamy was commonplace. In classical Greece and Rome, where European culture largely began, men did not expect to find sexual or emotional fulfilment in marriage, but took it from slaves, prostitutes, concubines or male lovers – if they were privileged citizens. If not, chances are their sexual lives were determined by their owners or masters, not by themselves.
Among Christians, marriage in church was not required (and was sometimes not possible) until the 12th century. Indeed, it has been suggested that a church ceremony was obligatory only for priests who chose to marry.
Outside of Europe and North America, the so-called “traditional”, “time-honoured” model was even less typical until it was imposed by Western missionaries and colonial powers.
Even in the animal kingdom, exclusive heterosexuality is rare. Some degree of homosexuality is now known to occur in many, possibly most, animal species.
In short, the evidence from psychology, medicine, anthropology, history and zoology is that whereas homoeroticism is entirely natural if not common, exclusive heterosexuality is both unnatural and rare. As such, I have no hesitation in labelling the social “morbid obsession with the opposite sex” orientation as exclusive practice, and the resultant insistence on heterosexist laws and theology not only a social sexual perversion, but an extremely dangerous one.