A long overdue reply

Last July I had a most interesting exchange with “valiantmauz”, a self-described woman Canadian supporter of same-sex marriage who is gay (terms in order of importance). In reply to a comment she left in a comment box I wrote a post to suggest 5 ways that the supporters of same-sex marriage might nevertheless help create an atmosphere in which “religious rights and gay rights” (her terms) might be able to co-exist. She in turn wrote a reply on her own blog, in a desire for a sincere dialogue.

And then I dropped off the face of the earth.

Well, not quite. Her post was written on July 28, just as I was in last minute preparations to go to World Youth Day in Germany. Then, as soon as I got back, I was packing for my move to a new parish and a new ministry (which, in turn, took a couple of months to get used to). Then I started to feel unwell, which really took the edge off my concentration. Yadda yadda yadda all this to say that it just wasn’t possible to find the time to re-engage the discussion with valiantmauz — until now.

Why start all this up again? There are a few reasons. (1) As a sign of respect for her. (2) I am close to coming up with a final “road map” for “dot #5” of the series on same-sex marriage that I wrote last year, and I want to tie up any loose ends before publishing that piece. And (3) same-sex marriage will likely become a legislative issue here in Canada once again, and so all of us need to sharp and ready to engage in civilized debate — something that I hope valiantmauz and I can model.

Yeah, she is an “opponent” in the strictest sense of the term. But I assume she, like all people of good faith, is genuinely seeking the Good — we just disagree on some elements of that Good. It gives us a basis for discussion, at the very least.

So before reading the rest of this post, brush up on our July 28 articles, and then keep going below.

Defending freedom of speech

Valiantmauz states that she and I are in fundamental agreement on this issue. She states: “That I may not like to hear that my lifestyle is offensive or sinful to many is not grounds to silence the people who hold these opinions.” I agree completely, and indeed I would defend the same principle. Hooray!

Valiantmauz then points out some gray areas that would need to be “negotiated” further, to specify exactly how the two opposing sides in this debate can live together in a practical way. They key issue is the presentation of sexually-related topics to children in school. She supports giving a broad discretion to parents to make these decisions, with a few caveats: the presentation of the biological realities of sexuality and reproduction, and the creation of GLBT clubs in schools to support teenagers experiencing same-sex attraction (not to encourage sexual activity, but to prevent their possible suicide).

I have three comments on these points:

  1. I have no problem with ensuring that children receive a proper education regarding human sexuality. Indeed, the Second Vatican Council declared that education normally should contain a prudent curriculum regarding sexuality. This being said, limiting things to the presentation of the biological realities of sex is not as simple as you may propose. The sexual relation between human beings is not called “mating”, but “intercourse”. This word refers, first and foremost, to *communication*. In other words, human sexual acts — performed as they are by rational beings — constitute a kind of primitive proto-language that communicates *meaning*. This is one reason why people are generally disturbed by the idea of sexual acts being performed upon children, the comatose, and those who are seriously mentally ill and/or handicapped. The fact that the measure of morality in these cases is consent implies that human sexuality, for it to be truly human, necessarily requires an act of reason. Yes, human sexuality truly involves the whole human person, body and soul; and given this, it is very difficult to teach the mere biology of sexuality without then having to address the meaning and morality of sexual activity. One necessarily calls upon the other, or else we are limited to teaching children how to mate — and that itself is a pedagogical choice that many find objectionable.
  2. Valiantmauz proposes the creation of GLBT clubs in public schools in order to provide necessary “oases of compassion” where kids experiencing same-sex attraction can find support to that, basically, they don’t kill themselves. She also provides some compelling examples (including one she herself experienced) that show the need for such clubs. This being said, while I obviously don’t want kids killing themselves, I question this particular approach to helping them. First of all, just as the priest she speaks of did not, in fact, respect the pastoral approach of his own church, there is no guarantee that the teachers responsible for monitoring such clubs would respect proper limits themselves. Adolescent sexuality is still in a certain amount of flux; such clubs could easily be, not a place for genuine questioning, but a mechanism to manipulate kids to make one particular decision. How could such a thing be monitored?

    But beyond all this there is the simple reality that the creation of such clubs involves the institutionalizing of a fundamental philosophy regarding the anxiety that surrounds the experience of same-sex attraction: that it is the fault of “others”. Sexual identity conflict is a brutal thing, as my pastoral experience (limited as it is) has already shown me. The person is wrapped up in the question “Am I ok?” And since sex has a lot to do with the communication of meaning, particularly that of genuine human love, the fundamental existential question behind it all is “Am I lovable?” To be sure, the negative experiences of “gay bashing” (verbal or physical) reinforces a negative response — something that, in my opinion, is diabolical, as the image of God in each human being can never be erased and must be celebrated. But there is the compelling reality that sexual identity anxiety does lead to suicide in a higher proportion than the overall population (something valiantmauz herself states). This reality is not limited to bewildered adolescents: the rate of suicide (as well as other mental illnesses) is much higher among homosexual populations than among the population-at-large, despite such persons having already found a “community of acceptance”. The fact that black kids don’t commit suicide after being called “nigger” and Jewish kids don’t commit suicide after being beaten up for being a supposed “Christ-killer”, no matter how painful these situations might be, leads to the conclusion that part of the extreme reactions of the adolescent kids (and adults) with same-sex attraction is attributable to something on the “inside”.

    I believe in surrounding homosexual persons with love and acceptance. I despise and denounce violence against such persons. And I do believe that creating a community of compassion would go a long way to helping people through a difficult period of life (a general enough statement that it could apply to a lot more than struggles around same-sex attraction). But I just don’t buy that the anxiety and interior disturbances that the homosexual population seems to feel in a higher proportion is entirely the fault of “society”. The evidence you yourself cite points to this truth.

  3. Valiantmauz, I laud your public acceptance of the principles of free speech, including the freedom to hold and express opinions with which you disagree. But while I do not doubt your willingness to speak out in defense of free speech — even free speech which you find objectionable — I unfortunately have a feeling that I’ll have to wait a long time before the leadership of the gay community will embrace your approach. This is because of the embrace of an ideologically-defined category of “homophobia” among this leadership. The word “homophobia” actually means “an irrational fear of homosexuality/homosexuals/homosexual acts”. I suspect that, on a percentage basis, very few people actually experience homophobia according to this strict definition. So the definition of the word gets gradually expanded to mean an “unease” with such things, and then expanded further to mean a refusal to offer a morally-neutral evaluation of such things, and then expanded even further to mean a refusal to accept and even celebrate a same-sex orientation as a moral good. I have seen the word used to bludgeon people into silence, such that the real fear some feel is “homophobiaphobia” — the fear of being called a homophobe!

    This push to create a culture of acceptance and celebration of same-sex attraction is necessarily driven by mentality that the problems experienced by many gays and lesbians is necessarily the fault, as I mentioned before, of the “others”. There is a difference between having been a victim, and creating a culture of perpetual victimhood. I have no doubt that there are many individual gays and lesbians who have been victims of harsh words and harsher acts. But what I see building on top of this is a culture of victimhood, because I see a gay sub-culture that rejects any offer of criticism (even constructive) as being maliciously “hurtful”, and so is never properly evaluated. For example, given the incredible spread of AIDS among gay men (something that is making a comeback, despite massive education efforts), one might suggest that repeatedly engaging in known life-threatening behaviour is a sign of a disordered appetite. And even if one is unwilling to declare anal sex (for example) as a disordered practice, surely it is not too much to declare that, at the very least, the pursuit of anonymous sex in bathhouses and public restrooms *despite the risks* is definitely a sign of disorder. But no! The guardians of the gay lobby repeatedly defend their rights to, effectively, risk committing slow suicide through such practices. Well, if this leadership group will not rest until people accept and even celebrate such libidinous behaviour, I say they are betraying the real good of homosexuals everywhere. It is no longer about keeping the State out of the bedroom, it is about the creation and maintenance of a social mentality that is self-destructive in the extreme. I look forward to Svend Robinson standing up at a gay pride parage and speaking out against bathhouses as an evil social institution within the gay sub-culture. I have a feeling, though, I’ll have to wait a long time.

    And so, valiantmauz, while I have no doubt you, and many others with you, would defend my right to write these words (as hard as they may be to stomach), my honest feeling is that I risk genuine persecution for writing them. My discordant voice is not merely unpleasant to some, it is absolutely intolerable those who have bought into the culture of victimhood. And so my free speech — and that of those who think the same way as me — must be silenced. It is the inescapable logic of the situation at hand. I suspect, indeed, that yours will be a very lonely voice within the gay community. People will perhaps be polite, and make pleasant noises in your direction, and even offer quiet encouragement — but I have a feeling that, once again, it will be a long time before the editorial board of Xtra endorses your/our stance.

Support gays and lesbians who wish to live chastely

Again, valiantmauz and I agree on this one. Indeed, she proposes expanding this to supporting *anyone* who wants to live chastely, and her understanding of chastity is really wonderfully presented. I’m in awe, really: she really “gets it”, in a way I wish so many more people did. If you want to read more of my own thoughts on the matter, you can read this and this.

Join the pro-life movement

Valiantmauz declares that this is an obstacle in our dialogue (she called it a “roadblock”). But as I read further, I don’t see this as insurmountable. You see, valiantmauz, the whole concept of pro-life is actually on a continuum. I’m not saying it should be, but the reality is that it is.

On one end is the camp of those who state that abortion should never happen, ever, not even in cases of rape or threats to the life/health of the mother. I happen to agree with this position, taking into account the possibility of situations where the moral principle of “double-effect” comes into play.

On the other end of the spectrum is the camp of those that states that an unborn human should not possess any legal right to life until it has exited entirely from the body of the mother. In other words, even procedures like partial-birth abortion, should not be subject to any restrictions whatsoever. Let me add that this is the current state of affairs in Canada, as Canada in fact has absolutely no abortion law in place.

So, valiantmauz, if you support the creation of any kind of law, no matter how loose, to create any form of restriction to access to abortion, no matter how narrow, you are automatically “pro-life” in relation to the current Canadian situation. And it doesn’t even need to be a law related to the act of abortion itself. Would you support a law that states that statistics for abortions performed on minors should be collected and investigated for potential cases of child abuse? Would you support a law that states that parents of unemancipated minors should be informed if their children are seeking such a procedure? Would you support a law that requires a doctor to inform a mother of the potential physical and mental health risks of an abortion? If so, you are automatically supporting the creation of a legal environment that is more restrictive than the one we have now. It isn’t exactly “pro-life”, but it definitely is “pro-er-life”.

Now perhaps you don’t want to see legal restrictions put in place, simply because you don’t believe that legal restrictions are the answer. But I think that we can both agree that we need a society that is more of a “culture of life” than what we have now. The so-called “choice” of the pro-choice movement, because of the way our culture is increasingly becoming structured, often doesn’t really offer a realistic choice at all — because of the paucity of support offered to pregnant women. The little one growing in the womb is often experienced by a women as a risk and a burden, not for reasons of health, but for reasons of personal goals and lifestyle. These are cultural choices, made in part because of how we are socialized regarding behaviour and expectations in our Western culture today. A person who is truly “pro-choice” (or at least not as pro-life as I am) should, if they really want to be more than just be reactionary defenders of permissiveness without regard for consequence, work on promoting a “culture of life” so that people really *do* have a genuine choice.

Finally, I’d like to mention one dark little secret that the pro-choice movement is terrified to acknowledge: many post-abortive women suffer short and long-term damage to their sense of self-worth and happiness. I’ve had a lot of women come and see me who acknowledge they lost a piece of themselves in the process of obtaining an abortion — even though they saw no problem with it at the time. I see very little evidence that the pro-choice movement does anything to help these women — to the contrary, I see this movement denying outright the validity of their pain.

Regarding further reading, I’d suggest the blog After Abortion, run by two pro-life women who themselves once had abortions in their pro-choice days. And if you’d like to explore a way to get involved which involves direct support to people, rather than picketing, may I suggest Birthright? Their slogan is, “we love them both”, which is ultimately the best approach to take.

Zero-tolerance for the sexualization of children

Valiantmauz offers a lengthy comment (heck, I’d even say it’s a rant) against NAMBLA and their ilk, as well as against the sexualization of children in general. And by the way, “rant” is not meant to be a derogatory term here: I’m very happy to rant against the sexualization of children myself!

Believe me, valiantmauz, I’m with you on this one: the fight against the sexualization of children is not something to be limited to the gay community, but is something the *community*, gay or straight, should be concerned about. And yes, I am equally disturbed when I see 9-year-old girls dressed as prostitutes.

Still, while the NAMBLA types are definitely in the minority, I am sad to report that there is definitely a broad movement in the gay community to lower the limits for this sexualization. This article in Xtra points out this reality. I quote:

The socially conservative minister wants to raise the age at which young people can legally consent to have sex from 14 to 16 years. He did not say whether the age of consent for anal sex, which is currently set at 18, would be lowered to match.

Gary Kinsman, a sociologist at Laurentian University, says the queer community must quickly get active to fight the proposed legislation.

“We should be extremely disturbed by this,” says the sociologist, researcher and longtime gay activist. “It’s a forewarning about things to come.

“This is a step in the wrong direction,” he continues. “We were moving as a society to lowering the age of consent.”

Kinsman says queers need to oppose any suggestion of raising the age of consent, and fight instead to officially bring the age of consent for anal sex down to 14 from 18.

And the money line:

It’s unrealistic to expect teens to have sex only with those of their own age.

So what is this about really? The article says it is supposedly about the right of under-age teens to have sex with adults of any age. But may I point out that this is necessarily and simultaneously about the “right” of adults of any age to have sex with under-age teens? And this is defended, not by NAMBLA, but EGALE, the premier public voice for the gay community.

So, valiantmauz, who *did* you vote for in the last election? (Just kidding, you don’t have to answer that.) 🙂

Resist sexual idolatry

You really must read valiantmauz’s comments on this section, because they are so…..human. Honestly, when I read what she wrote regarding the danger of sexual idolatry, I felt myself becoming not just her correspondent, but her friend.

Valiantmauz makes a frank admission:

I believe that many gays and lesbians identify far too much with who they are sleeping with, rather than who they are. We construct our whole lives around our sexuality, in many cases. We go to gay campgrounds, attend gay book clubs, listen to gay musicians, go to gay bars and collect gay friends. We make so many aspects of our lives about being gay.

It isn’t right, and we need to recognize that. My life is not about being gay, and I do try be a whole person. I try not to let my circle of friends contract to the point where the only people I interact with are lesbians. I try to read books and newspapers, watch movies and TV programs, and frequent the websites of straight people (even priests), all in an effort to be a bigger person than just my sexuality.

Sometimes that’s hard Father. Sometimes it’s nice to cocoon myself with other gay women, where the inside jokes are understood, and I can express my love for my partner without fear. As out as we may seem to the straight world, I don’t think many of us feel too safe out there.

So I’ll try to resist “homosexualism”, I’ll try to resist equating my sexuality with my humanity, even though I am sure I will fail oftentimes.

You see why I love her? She really is on a path of personal integrity. Wow. Sadly, I know plenty of straight, church-going people who are nowhere near this level of sense of responsibility for self.

I have recently come across book by Peter Kreeft called “How to win the culture war”, in which he relates a dialogue he himself had with a gay colleage regarding sexual idolatry. I’ll type of those few pages and post them when I get a chance, just so that my own thought on the matter may be made clearer.

Conclusion

I’m not sure if you still read my blog, valiantmauz, but I think you do — I get traffic from your site from time to time, and you did post a “belated Merry Christmas” comment early in January when I was busy arguing about communion wafers. I do encourage you to write more on your blog — I hope you have not been waiting on me! And feel free to “blog back” or write back anytime, should you want to discuss these points further. God bless.