Sunday, February 3, 2013

LGBT 4: Emotions

Crude wrote a couple of things on my last post that I want to comment on (and add to, with some examples, perhaps). First, he writes: 
"That's one reason I think that arguments only work so much in with this topic: as near as I can tell, the cultural shift on the question of LGBT behavior had next to nothing to do with arguments or intellectual reflection, and a lot - an incredible amount - to do with emotion, PR, and mere rhetoric/framing. Not to mention general ineptitude on the anti-LGBT side, including hypocrisy. And not just the Ted Haggard variety, but a too-often unwillingness to address the problems in the non-LGBT community as well, not to mention the problems with modern 'hetero' marriage."
To support what he says here, I want you to take a look at this video about a homosexual kid who was raised Catholic. The video is kind sad (And incredibly low quality? Were things really this bad in '08?). You really feel for that kid, at least at first. Or I do anyway. But you have to really pay attention as to what's going on here. The whole video's around 4 minutes (which, as far as internet is concerned, is like 3 and half minutes too long), but I want you to take a look anyway, paying close attention to how the son frames the issue and the last thing the father says at the end:

There's a few things going on here. First of all, the family members are very sad that the son is homosexual. You can feel the emotion there, and any normal person would feel bad for a person going through something so difficult. The son assumes that, because of his family's firmly held Catholic beliefs, that he will be disowned and never be allowed in the Church again. In fact, the video frames it that way. It makes it seem as if the son's state of being a homosexual necessarily means the Church will positively reject him. This, of course, isn't true at all, but it doesn't matter that it's not true because of the intensity of the emotions. It is true that the Church condemns homosexual activity, but the video, of course, frames it as if the Church is just cruelly rejecting people with same-sex attraction from even entering the building. Listen to this absolutely false dichotomy the kid presents:
"It takes a lot for somebody to be like, 'I'm gay,' because it's basically saying 'you're going to accept me, or you're not going to accept me, and there's no gra---there's no gray area between that."
This, of course, it also not true at all. There's a lot of "gray area." You can obviously accept a person (that is, empathize with him, love him, and help him) without condoning the immoral behavior that may stem from his situation. What he means here, I think, is that to reject homosexual activity is to reject the person who is homosexual. This couldn't be less true, of course. The kid could clearly just come out to his parents and stay true to his religion by avoiding homosexual activity. Problem solved. Now, this is difficult and will take a lot of work, but it is a solution that resolves the conflict. But that option is never properly presented. It doesn't have to be when the focus is emotions. The kid's crying, the family feels left out; obviously something is wrong that should be fixed. Or so it goes. Worst is the father's remark at the end. He says:
"St. Kevin's [I think?] has been our church for 23 years. We were married there, both of our children were baptized there, they were confirmed there, my father was buried there---and I don't really want to find another pew. And I'd like to be able to have the Church recognize and accept...the gay population."
I'm not sure who he thinks he is, and I'm not really sure how he thinks the Church works, but his happiness and emotions do not supersede moral truth. And one can't earn up enough good behavior to be allowed to advocate or commit bad behavior. It is truly a perverse thing what he's saying here.

The whole thing is needlessly emotional, and it's really their entire argument. That is, I think these people clearly are feeling strong emotions. Real, difficult emotions that come when you realize that a family member is a homosexual. But what they've done is channel those emotions into something really despicable. They don't care about moral truth. They just want emotional acceptance, for everything to just be okay, to be like they had it before. And they think that the Church changing its position (as if it could) would give them that. No matter the cost to the Church or marriage or life in general. It doesn't matter because they feel sad. This is really wicked stuff in my opinion,  the epitome of selfishness, and what's worse, it's presented as virtuous, always.

This inability to distinguish between status and action, and this appeal to emotions spreads so far, into every part of the LGBT movement, that it has effectively become the entire LGBT movement. This story, for example. In it, from what I can tell, a baker refused to bake a wedding cake for a customer's gay wedding. The response, of course, is framed in discrimination terms: that the baker was unfairly and illegally discriminating against the homosexual for refusing to serve her. I don't want to get too much into the law, but I want to focus on what's actually going on here. What the baker is doing is not discriminating in the sense most everyone thinks is wrong. He's not saying, "I categorically refuse to serve homosexuals because I hate them." He probably serves homosexuals baked goods all the time in other contexts. He's saying, "I refuse to be a direct part of some action that I consider wrong" (gay marriage). This distinction is rarely made. And it's everything.

Now, is the guy a jerk? I have no idea. But the homosexual couple's feelings being hurt do not give them the right to either bully or punish such a person for refusing to participate. But this is how it's always framed. If you reject what someone is doing because you think the behavior is immoral, the world believes that you must necessarily reject who they are. Of course, no one would ever use this logic with pedophiles or people who participate in bestiality. They would say, "well, they should control themselves, because those things are wrong. I don't care if they have natural desires to do those things; they don't have to make those things their whole identity." Once again, it only matters whether or not the behavior actually is immoral, not whether it offends a person or makes him feel unwelcome. The emotions, while important for determining how to approach a person and counsel a person, are completely irrelevant with respect to the moral question. Crude also writes:
"One of the masterstrokes of the LGBT movement has been to effectively eradicate the position of the person who has SSA, but thinks that it is nevertheless immoral. In the public consciousness, it seems like such a person would be viewed either as a mythical creature or somehow hobbled ('Poor thing, they're not being true to themselves!') The idea of rationally rejecting a given appetite is just alien to so many now."
As I've noted, I do sometimes feel like a "mythical creature," and this is one of the main reasons I don't really make myself known. (For more on mythical creatures.) I can't stand the "you're not being true to yourself" nonsense. It's honestly the worst. This has been a source of both ego and sadness for me. I try to balance the two, but it's difficult to feel like you're the only one doing something without feeling both a little bit special and a little bit lonely. I know that if the information about my life were made public, I would constantly have to justify to every person I know why I don't participate is homosexual activity. Even the ones who support my decision would be like "weird." It's interesting, at least kind of anyway, that the LGBT movement has actually made people like me feel even more out of place. (I'm not saying this to complain, nor am I looking for sympathy. I'm just trying to point out what the LGBT movement does to a person in my situation.)

Anyway, what I really wanted to say in this post is that I completely agree with Crude's overall point: that arguments about morality and the such are not only completely lost on most LGBT movement folks, but are usually completely irrelevant to them. The emotions are there. That's all they need to feel justified and succeed. This, I think, is an even bigger problem that most people realize. Anyway, I'll move on to different things next week. I hope everyone has a good first day of the week!


  1. I'm glad you found the comments on the mark - it gives me a sign that thinking about this issue as much as I have hasn't been in vain. That you find them worth addressing in a post is a compliment.

    I think there are some aspects to the LGBT debate that are unique to it, but the emotion-as-justification thing I think is absolutely rife nowadays. I remember a while back when you mentioned how LGBT people you knew were sad when you explained your choice to them, but it was the hetero people who were particularly scary about the whole thing. That stood out to me, and I recall you suggested that there was a link involved - that there were people who justified gay marriage on the grounds that they had to, because they relied on those same justifications for themselves. It seems entirely correct.

  2. Did you see this gem in the religion section of huffpost?

    I especially like this bit:

    "He grabbed my Teen Study Bible out of my hands; I stared at the floor.

    "'Alternative lifestyle' usually refers to making a sexual choice," he said, reading aloud from the book. "When it comes to sex, don't kid yourself about some of those choices being morally all right: It's wrong to have sex with any close relative. It's wrong to have sex with animals. It's wrong to have homosexual sex." He sighed loudly.

    "If someone tells you homosexuality is an alternative lifestyle -- meaning that it's OK -- don't let those words fool you. It's an alternative all right. A sinful one."

    After a final sigh, he delicately lifted a red pen from his desk and drew strong, deliberate red lines over the entire page, creating a giant X.

    "This is dehumanizing garbage," he said. "Being gay isn't like incest or bestiality. Jesus would be flipping tables in the authors' offices over this."

    I looked up from the floor and, for the first time in far too long, genuinely smiled.

    I couldn't really take in what I was hearing. Here was a Man of God, with the collar to prove it, saying that God had made me this way.

    Here, finally, was someone in a position of religious authority telling me that there was nothing unnatural about my sexual orientation."

    1. I hadn't seen it, thank you. I sometimes like to go to that Religion section to get annoyed. I think I'll actually do a post on a certain part of this article soon.

      I'm not quite sure what he means when he writes:

      "Years later, I stopped believing in God and became an atheist. Eventually, after years of grappling with different approaches to religion, I decided I wanted to commit to promoting interfaith cooperation and understanding."

      Is he saying he is or isn't an atheist now? I also love how he says Jesus would be flipping tables. People love using that image, Jesus flipping tables.

    2. Joe, I know your blog is mainly concerned with sexual morality from a homosexual perspective, but I was wondering if you knew of any good resources in response to the negative side of practicing NFP, as told by these women:

      This issue is one of the major stumbling blocks preventing my conversion to the Catholic faith and often has me thinking "maybe I should just be Anglican."

      While the arguments for NFP look good on paper, I wonder if the practice can do more harm than good to some marriages.

    3. I have no personal experience with NFP (or marital relations at all), so I'm not sure if I'm the person anyone should be coming to about it. But in answer to your question, no, I don't know of any resources on the topic. I'm sure I could find stories where a couple swears by NFP, but that really wouldn't be valuable, I don't think. That is, I don't know if there's a source I could show you that would convince you (or someone who has had a difficult time with NFP) that it's actually a great idea.

      I can certainly discuss the objective moral issues related to NFP, but I'm less qualified than anyone else to speak about subjective experiences. I will say this, though. It is very difficult to determine when something has done more harm than good. It's never fair to look solely at the immediate consequences that a particular person has experienced as a means of justifying what should be done in the future. I'm not making a categorical rule here; obviously we look at consequences to steer action. I just mean, she may have been way worse off if she had not used NFP in the beginning. I have no idea.

      Further, what if we determine that 60% of couples like NFP when they use it and 40% hate it. Or what if it's the other way around. Or what if 99% of couples don't like it. What are we supposed to do with this type of information? Or we can look at someone like me. On the Friday nights when I'm sitting home alone, not dating anyone, not enjoying my youth, I imagine that my life choices look really terrible to someone else. Does that have anything to do with what I should or shouldn't do though? Emotions are a weird thing, and it's difficult, always, to determine what they're really speaking to.

      I could say that I think the way people view sex is problematic, and I think this is really an underlying issue with NFP and how people respond to it, but I don't want to pick apart this particular woman's life. I definitely didn't live it, and I certainly have no idea what she knows, what she feels, etc. But I definitely feel for her. Marriage and children are enormously difficult, no matter what we do.

      As I said, though, this is an incredibly difficult issue. People with personal experience surely have a lot more wisdom. I'm sorry that I don't have any specific guidance.

    4. I get the impression that this person is a rare case in regards to her abnormal mucus, cycles, etc. From what I hear, it works well for the large majority of people in terms of avoiding pregnancy:

      This article has an even-handed examination of the advantages and disadvantages of NFP regarding marital dynamics:

      It's worth noting that you can find similar horror stories with oral contraception, where people talk about vanishing sex drives, mood swings, weight gain, etc. This isn't unique to NFP.

    5. Seraphim,

      I know your blog is mainly concerned with sexual morality from a homosexual perspective, but I was wondering if you knew of any good resources in response to the negative side of practicing NFP, as told by these women:

      Not directed to me, but...

      The problem is, what kind of response should there be? I don't mean that flippantly, but looking over the stories, it's a group of negative testimonies about NFP. Those are important of course, but they're not something you can really respond to directly - at best you can either provide other testimonies (of course, the first linked testimony insists that those testimonies will be due to putting on a false front), or repeat the understanding and explanation.

      Someone could offer up criticisms of those testimonies if you wanted, but really - what point would there be to that other than shooting them down and pointing out personal flaws?

      I think the best that could be done is to list the objections to NFP, and see what answers there are to them.

    6. Thanks for the replies, everyone. I recognize that what these testimonials have is an emotional appeal, and the horror stories of couples having 15 kids and living in poverty, or going months without making love to their spouse which eventually ends in divorce are not to be blamed solely on NFP. We live in a culture where people think couples ought to have sex all the time, and not doing so is a horrendous idea for some.

    7. We live in a culture where people think couples ought to have sex all the time, and not doing so is a horrendous idea for some.

      Hey, we live in a culture where thinking only couples should have sex is a horrendous idea for some.

      And I'm not saying that there are no reasonable questions about NFP, or that criticisms can't be made. Just that, if you want a reply to those, it's better to ask those questions or make those criticisms, because it's hard to argue with a testimonial - no matter what the topic. If someone gives a testimonial about the success they had with homeopathy, you're not going to make any progress in conversation until you drift away from the testimonial and start talking about what's being advocated or asserted, etc.

      Marriage is part of the problem too, and I think this is where people tend to fumble. If someone tells me, "Well, we got married, but we don't want kids, so we're trying out NFP..." then the problematic portion doesn't seem to be "we're trying out NFP" but "we got married and we don't want kids".

    8. I that what Crude says is right here. I don't think it's appropriate to see NFP as an alternative to modern contraception. It's not like there's protestants who use artificial contraception and Catholics who use NFP. As if they're just different types of the same basic thing. NFP, at its core, is really a couple holding off, like dieting, until they're back in the healthy and normal routine of making and raising children. Really, a couple is going to need some pretty serious reasons to use NFP indefinitely. (I know it's not always presented that way, and that it really is shown as a moral alternative, but I think that may actually be part of the problem.)

      I know this is probably massively offensive to a lot of people, that marriage is actually for making family, but yeah. That is really what it's for: the producing, protecting, and upbringing of children for their and the parents' flourishing. As such, I'd imagine a lot of the negative experiences related to NFP aren't really about NFP at all, but are instead about how people's expectations of marriage aren't matching the reality of it. I don't think this is everyone, but it probably represents significant percentage of couples.

    9. I find myself in a middle area of sorts. I believe contraception is overused, and the rempant contraceptive mentality is severely harming western society, but then there are realities such as the health problems that can result from a woman having pregnancies too close together, or the marital problems that can result for a couple that has abstained from sex for 6 months because they can't afford another child and NFP hasn't worked for them in the past. I suppose, in the end, all these problems can be attributed to the problem that we think we need to have sex frequently. Human beings have never been very good at the whole long-term, or even short-term for that matter, abstinence thing.

    10. I think it boils down to whether or not you see actually see contraception as wrong or if you merely see it as some abstract rule that you're following simply out of duty. Most people, no matter how tight money got, wouldn't steal from a store, even if they knew they wouldn't get caught. Why? Because they genuinely think that it's wrong.

      I think that if someone has that kind of conviction about contraception they will find a way to manage financially. They'll work extra hours, manage their money better (given my knowledge about how poorly the average American handles their money, I think this is probably the culprit), shift their kids from private school to public school/homeschooling, etc.

      Maybe it's just American rugged individualism at work in me, but I reject the whole "Woe is me! I am a victim of forces beyond my control and have no alternative" line of argument.

  3. Have you guys seen this article yet?

    To me, the comments are more interesting than the article. There's a gay guy on there saying that the existence of gay couples proves that there is "sexual complementarity" between 2 men or 2 women. You know the level of intellectual discourse has fallen when people think that having emotional/personality complementarity and sexual attraction is the same thing as sexual complementarity.