Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Place for the Cure?

I've been putting writing this post off for some reason. Mostly because I've been busy, but also because it's been a little difficult to write. Because I know talking about sex and gender and all that is touchy but also because I'm working with a lot of unknowns. There's no such thing as a cure to homosexuality. In fact, with homosexuality, most people don't even know what's wrong, much less how to treat it. There are obviously a lot of things we think we know, but something like a "cure" is almost science fiction. (I will be doing a post on "conversion therapy" soon.)

At any rate, in my last post in this quasi-series, I wrote 
Recognizing difference is simply one (important) step in the process of moral evaluation. The second, more important, step is determining whether that difference is good or bad...This third step concerns whether one should take an action to fix a wrong, considering the various consequences of such an action. In other words, what sort of things might a person lose if he chose to fix something that was truly wrong with him? In the case of homosexuality, I think this evaluation is actually very difficult.
This post is supposed to be that third step. Before I get directly to that, though, I want to emphasize again that the difference here (being attracted to members of the same sex) is a bad sort of difference. It is, as I've said a number of times before, not like eye color or skin color or something basically neutral to the flourishing of the individual. And as I've also said, I think the difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals is much deeper than just sexual attraction. From this, I've, perhaps somewhat controversially, argued that I think these differences, the differences related to masculinity and femininity, are often differences that could count as defects in the individual, if not just minor ones.

I am well aware of the fact that this argument was met with disagreement, and I think a lot of the disagreement was rooted in some misunderstandings, but I don't want to bring all that up again. What I want to focus on is the opposite of what I wrote about before. Before I argued that homosexuals are afflicted with a certain type of gender disorder, where they are less able to flourish as the sex that they are. In other words, I think that there are a number of negatives (beyond just sexual attraction) that homosexuals have to deal with. So this should make the third step evaluation easy, right? If, one, there is a difference, and two, that difference is bad (as I've argued it is), then three should be obvious: change yourself as soon as you can! But what I'm trying to argue here is that it isn't quite that easy. That, if a cure to homosexuality existed, I would have serious apprehensions partaking in that cure. Why?

One time, I was talking to a friend who knows that I am gay about a cure. I told him that I would choose to be cured if there weren't any serious side-effects like cancer or something. This upset him. He didn't like me saying this. This confused me a little bit, so I pressed him on it. He said that he thinks that if I were to "turn straight" I would lose something about myself that he liked. That is, I would "change" in such a way as to be a different person. This upset him because, I imagine, he felt like he would be losing me as a friend. Now, there's a lot to this, and I think his concern isn't ridiculous. In fact, I think there's something pretty nice about it. I think it presupposes a certain kind of mind/body thing where he was somehow concerned that my "mind" would change in some way so that I wouldn't be "me" anymore. There's a ton of mind-body stuff that can be talked about here, but I want to avoid that as much as I can.

But I think he was speaking to something true beyond mind-body stuff, that if a gay person were to become straight, he wouldn't be just like he was before. I think that this might be true, that if his sexuality is that tied to his brain development, there would be some sort of  significant, noticeable changes in the person. Now, if all of the things changed were bad things, I think there wouldn't be any apprehension. For example, I'm sure a number of treatments change a person when the underlying issue is resolved. The closest examples are probably personality disorders like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. No one would say, "Oh, I liked you the way you were before; why'd you change?" No one decent anyway. In other words, I think my friend was basically saying that there are some things that go along with the whole gay package, outside of the sexual attraction, that are good.

Now, I think this needs to be qualified quite a lot, but the general position, to me, has some merit. Of course, pinning down what's good about homosexual personality traits is probably harder than pinning down what's bad. But I think there's something there. Most homosexuals, I think, are, for example, slow to anger and especially violence. This obviously isn't some hard and fast rule, but I imagine that for many of the same reasons women don't commit violent crimes, homosexuals don't as well. Of course, determining why people commit crimes in general is a near-impossible task, but I do think there's something there. Similarly, I think that homosexuals are notoriously concerned with empathy. Again, for the same reasons I think that women are.

None of these things are quantifiable in any real way (beyond looking at crimes committed by homosexuals, something that probably isn't even recorded), but if we are to see homosexual men as men with brains more similar to women, some of the obvious stereotypes and trends might make sense. In other words, many of things that make women positive parts of society might be more prevalent in homosexuals. Beyond this, though, I would argue that the unique mix (if I can use this word) that makes a homosexual what he is might be positive in a way that neither average men by themselves or average women by themselves aren't. 

Please, please do not read into this me saying that I think homosexuality is a good thing. If we're talking about being sexually attracted to members of the same sex I absolutely, positively say that it is not a good thing. I'm also not trying to say that unhealthy levels of effeminacy in men is a good thing. All I'm trying to point out is that, as heterosexual Christians try to reach out to homosexuals, especially homosexuals who are unhappy with their circumstances, attacking everything about the homosexual might not be particularly helpful. And further, it might just be incorrect. Is this me advocating a larger gay presence in culture and society? No. For a number of reasons. Mainly, because "gay" usually means the advocacy of homosexual sex and the whole rest of it: the trivialization of marriage, family, children, etc. I'm just trying to say that when my friend was saddened by my answer, I think he was afraid of losing a special friend who was a little more gentle than his heterosexual friends. And I think all that I'm saying is that there is something, in whatever way, good about this gentleness.

This is why "gay cure" stuff gives me pause. I don't think it would be an on/off switch kind of thing. I don't think I would be just like I am now but with an insatiable desire for boobs or whatever. And I think that whatever part of what makes me (and other gay guys) what I am that is good might be lost. Or at least changed. I think that there is a place for homosexuals that doesn't include gay sex and the like. I think there's some room for nuance. I think there might be something, for whatever bad that goes along with being gay, that homosexuals can add. Does this good outweigh all the bads that come along with being gay? I don't know the answer to that question at all, and I'm not sure anyone could actually answer it. I'm just trying to say that whatever good is in the homosexual personality (assuming it can be pinned down), it wouldn't be wrong to recognize it and appreciate it.

I don't think a cure, at least for a very long time, will be possible for adults. Or even those outside the womb. If there were to be a cure for homosexuality, I would wager that treatment would take place before the child were born. I'm, of course, not a scientist or a doctor, but that's my guess. I can't wait to hear the politics of that. I can imagine the issue as parents start to abort their gay children: "a child has a right to be born gay, but that doesn't mean he has a right to be born." We'll probably pass laws that say you can't abort children based on their sexual orientation. Conservatives and liberals won't know which side to pick! The world is a crazy place.

8 comments:

  1. This does get into a very vague area. I've known some guys who were rather effeminate but who... well, if they weren't straight at the end of the day, they did a damn good imitation. (Not from very religious backgrounds either.) I wonder if there is anything about a gay person that is altogether or largely unique, other than the sexuality - as opposed to it being more of a numbers game. (Well, what takes place in 3% of heterosexual men takes place in 40% of homosexual men, etc.) Not that I have any strong suspicions here.

    Though I suppose there's an obvious middle route here. What if a treatment came up that made you bisexual?

    Also, and here's something that may be too personal. May I ask what your reaction to a stereotypically 'beautiful woman' is? Just utter disinterest? Active disgust/repulsion? I mean, naked woman, etc.

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    1. I definitely understand that this string of posts goes off into undeveloped territory. Which is perhaps why I'm doing it. All I'm trying to get across is that I don't think it's as simple as sexual attraction. Perhaps because sexual attraction just isn't that simple. So when the Church (or just people) try to reach out to homosexuals, it should recognize that it's a more difficult issue, and the homosexual has to work through a Lot if he wants to feel normal and appreciated in everyday life outside of his gay bubble.

      I don't mind the personal question. Though it's certainly pretty difficult to describe a feeling! I actually think it's a good question. I can't say, "Well, the way you feel about attractive naked men is how I feel about naked women!" Because, from my experience, straight guys really, really don't enjoy looking at naked men. But that's not how it is with me and women. I'm never disgusted by naked women. When I was a kid and my friends would link some beautiful naked woman or just show her from a book or magazine or something, my immediate reaction was definitely not disgust. But I know if I linked them some hot naked guy, their immediate reaction (even at a young age) would be to turn away as quickly as possible, especially if the content were intentionally sexual.

      For me, in fact, a lot of the time naked women are pretty interesting or nice. So it's definitely not neutrality either. If they are especially beautiful, I appreciate the beauty, I think, in the same way anyone else would appreciate any beauty (though, again, I think straight guys have trouble appreciating the beauty of naked men). But I don't have that twinge, that dilation of the eyes, that extra heart beat, that inability to look away that straight guys have when they look at women. Or that I have when I look at attractive naked men. Even that picture at the top of this post with the on/off switch. I kept accidentally looking back up at it, even though switch guy isn't even my type. It's just skin of the sex you like; it makes you feel things you can't control. Sexuality is just a weird thing in general.

      But no, unless the woman is repulsive, I've no problem with naked women. Her womanness isn't unattractive to me if that's what you're asking. It's just her womanness isn't Sexually attractive to me. To put it in its crudest terms, I could watch a lesbian porn without any problem. In fact, some of it may even be arousing in some way. Nowhere near arousing as a gay porn, which is what I would actively seek, but yeah. But I'm pretty sure most straight guys can't sit through a real gay porn. I don't know how much of this is cultural conditioning or what, but there it is. I think it's more than cultural conditioning, for what it's worth; I think it's tied, somehow, to what men are and what women are, where a man being penetrated is just especially jarring.

      I'm not sure if the comparison can be made, but, perhaps the way a non-prude woman feels about another attractive naked woman is closer to how I feel about an attractive naked woman. Of course that's not really very helpful to you either, as you probably have even Less idea how a woman feels, heh. But if you've been around women when attractive naked women are one screen or something. Very rarely are they like "ugh" or get uncomfortable. Something like that.

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    2. I definitely understand that this string of posts goes off into undeveloped territory. Which is perhaps why I'm doing it. All I'm trying to get across is that I don't think it's as simple as sexual attraction. Perhaps because sexual attraction just isn't that simple. So when the Church (or just people) try to reach out to homosexuals, it should recognize that it's a more difficult issue, and the homosexual has to work through a Lot if he wants to feel normal and appreciated in everyday life outside of his gay bubble.

      Oh, I agree with this entirely. What I tend to focus on in conversations is just what is the rock bottom Moral Problem in question with regards to natural law, Church teaching, biblical teaching, etc - which inevitably involves me sectioning off 'sexual acts' from 'everything else'. I think that's important to do, because honest to God, there's a lot of people out there who seem to think that one of the most objectionable parts of same-sex relationships is 'they hugged each other! in PUBLIC' or something like that.

      But I also know it's not as simple as 'section that off, now everything falls into place'. Sexuality is complicated - human beings, period, are complicated.

      Thanks for the attempt at explaining things to me. The 'cure' and 'therapy' talk is also a... man, what to call it. "Complicated" wouldn't do it justice. I agree that some kind of 'cure for same-sex attraction' may well be far away. But I wonder about a therapy for expanding someone's sexual attraction being more feasible - such that, eliminating some man's attraction to men (or some man's attraction to women for that matter) may not be realistic. But what about a therapy that doesn't affect that, but does make women sexual attractive to that man?

      I think I've said in the past, I get the impression that bisexuals - despite being right there in the LGBT list - are regarded with discomfort by all of the usual sides of these debates.

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    3. What I tend to focus on in conversations is just what is the rock bottom Moral Problem in question with regards to natural law, Church teaching, biblical teaching, etc - which inevitably involves me sectioning off 'sexual acts' from 'everything else'. I think that's important to do, because honest to God, there's a lot of people out there who seem to think that one of the most objectionable parts of same-sex relationships is 'they hugged each other! in PUBLIC' or something like that.

      I should clarify, because I wrote this poorly.

      I actually think this is one of the perceived objections to same-sex relationships, by people who are in favor of them. 9 out of 10 times when I have a conversation about the morality of same-sex sexual behavior or gay marriage or the like, I have to go through the portion where I explain, no, having an intimate conversation or being close or two men caring about each other's well-being is not the problem here. It's largely the anal/etc sex and the related sexual desires.

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  2. On the subject of losing what makes you "you", I was just reading an article by Melinda Selmys (whose work I'm respecting more and more) the other day on that subject. You can see it on her blog here. She comes to the conclusion that homosexuals shouldn't abandon or change their personalities, and in another article she makes the claim that differences in personality are always grounded in femininity or masculinity regardless of how they contradict social norms. Just thought you might be interested in the take of another Catholic writer in a situation somewhat similar to yours, given the topic here.

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  3. On an unrelated note, did you see Hart's follow-up rebuttal to Feser in the May issue of First Things? I thought it wasn't very good, but it might provide fodder for a re-visiting of the natural law/metaphysics stuff, since you haven't done a post on that for a while.

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  4. I'm from Egypt and I practice masturbation although I am married and I want a solution

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