Monday, August 29, 2005

"Coming Out" as a self-fulfilling prophecy

Our Courage chaplain had an article in the last issue of First Things on how teenagers and even tweens are being encouraged by public schools to identify as "gay" (or "straight" or "bi" or "transgendered" or whatever), contrary to their current pedagogy in every other field of student endeavour -- i.e., don't label yourself, don't form cliques, etc. That prompted me to write the following note to him:


One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is how eager the Gay Activist crowd are to convince teens to "come out," while at the same time insisting that sexual orientation is determined at birth or (at the latest) the earliest pre-sexual years of one's life. But look, even if the Gay Activist crowd is right and "sexual orientation" is some determined-for-life facet of one's soul, then if it's determined at 12, it'll still be determined at 20 or at 30. So why the eagerness to convince teens to self-identify? To ask the question is to answer it -- "coming out" as a recruitment tool -- self-definition as self-fulfilling prophecy.

Speaking personally, God protected me well by never forcing me to "come out" to myself until I had my first serious love-crush on a male friend, at age 24. By which time I was in the process of coming back to the Church and, even apart from that, was just mature enough to handle better an unconsummated, unrequited crush with grave potential for sin.

But god-knows-what I would have done had I had Comprehensive Sex Education as a teenager or gone to a high school that had a Gay-Straight Alliance or whatever. I had had "feelings" for as long as I could remember, but just always shunted them off to the side and gave them no significance. Not from shame exactly -- more out of innocent incomprehension. My father never had The Talk -- the self conscious, Eugene-Levy-in-AMERICAN-PIE "Son, your body is undergoing some changes now that may confuse you. Let's discuss the birds and the bees" bit. I didn't even know what an erection meant for most of my teen years -- and not from not having any.

And although I was a media junkie as a boy, this was before the Gay Moment in the culture. It was not until about the 1985 death of Rock Hudson that expressing contempt for homosexuals became socially unacceptable and gays became an Official Oppressed Minority rather than some pitiful eccentrics at best and a bunch of perverts at worst. My musical tastes as a boy (and even a young man) were Gay Stereotype Central Casting and I was completely unaware of it. I liked Sweet, David Bowie and glam-rock in the early 70s without ever picking up anything "queer" (in both senses) going on. Nor did I know that camp or disco -- Hot Chocolate, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Cher, Sylvester were my favorites -- was for poofs and fairies (to use the terms I probably would have used at the time, and without really knowing what they meant or what they referred to). When I was about 30, I was discussing Erasure's ABBA-ESQUE with a 23-year-old coworker, and she was stunned that I was oblivious to what she called the "obvious" homosexuality in them or in Depeche Mode, who hit it big in my early 20s. Looking back now, I can hardly believe I didn't recognize at least "something."

Every time I think to do so, I thank God for keeping me innocent and allowing me to grow up in a world that allowed it for as long as it did. A kid is not competent to make the kind of life-decision that "I'm gay" or even "I'm same-sex attracted" or any other formulation. Kids are too susceptible to advertising and cultural cues, and while this has one set of implications for the sales of Fudge-Coated Sugar-Munchies breakfast cereal, it's rather higher stakes here and the plain fact is that our cultural image of homosexuality is too tied to ephemera and detrita -- you like "Will and Grace" and all that.

Now the way things turned out in my own case, I've never had any sexual desire for women at all and have come to accept (in some sense and however grudgingly) that this is how God wills it and my most extravagant prayer is just to have no sexual feelings at all. Still, it's hard for me to believe that had I been potentially at least somewhat straight, that had the "gayness" of these cultural icons I identified with pre-consciously been made a conscious fact, that it might have encouraged some straight version of me to wrongly self-identify -- thinking that all these baubles of gay culture "proved" I was gay. (I mean, did no breeder ever dance to "YMCA"?)

And had I been told in Sex Ed class or by GLSEN that "you're gay and that's super" ... well, one never knows. You become what you do and you do what you become. You justify what you do and you do what you justify. You become what you justify and you justify what you become. (Those sentences are true of all human behavior). And, to put a gentle point on it, my years of peak hormones (the early 80s) were the most dangerous years to have been engaging in the gay lifestyle.

Defining oneself too early, or in one's teenage years, is crucially damaging without any discernible concomitant benefit ("if it's determined ..."). And this is true EVEN IF one accepts the language of "sexual orientation" and "identification," and even the morality of homosexual actions. Nothing is lost by keeping teens, even gay or "pre-gay" ones, innocent of sex or sexuality for as long as feasible. Your gayness or straightness will assert itself soon enough, if it's determined, and there's plenty of time to get screwed up by sex and all its ancillary issues as an adult. And to the extent there are any waverers, too much "gayness" might lead them to overinterpret a few innocent facts or a few innocent fleeting crushes that might go away later in life. Heck, even that Fundamentalist Fag-Basher Kinsey graded his men from 1 to 6, not A or B, and acknowledged changes over time. Our implicit anthropology of homosexuality is just too binary and deterministic (you're gay/you're straight with nothing in between), which when combined with the above-mentioned frivolities, just makes for a poisonous understanding of the soul, quite apart from the specific morality of homosexual actions. While on the other hand, it also include our time's most curious dogma (and that's saying something): that a "straight" man can one day "realize" that he is really "gay", but a "gay" man who one day decides he is really "straight" has become "self-hating", "inauthentic", or "in denial." Huh?


Bubbles the Terrible said...

Hmmm, I understand thanking God for protecting one's chastity.

But for those of us who were not so very fortunate, does this mean we get to blame God since He was so obviously preoccupied?

How is it that God gets the credit for one, but not the blame for the other?

CourageMan said...

does this mean we get to blame God since He was so obviously preoccupied?

God wasn't "preoccupied" ... that presupposes time, which God is outside.