The Problem of Heterosexuality.

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. Read the rest of this entry »

“Catholics For Equality” on Gay Bullycide

Catholics for Equality and Catholics for Marriage Equality
Issue Joint Statement to LGBT Youth

WASHINGTON – Catholics for Equality and Catholics for Marriage Equality, with all people of good will, lament the multiple tragic deaths of gay youths. As Catholics, we confess that our personal indifference and institutional church prejudices have contributed to the morbid despair of these and many other LGBT youth.

Our response moving forward must be both personal and political. We must personally include and affirm LGBT youth in our homes, churches, neighborhoods and schools.

Catholics for Equality and Catholics for Marriage Equality pledge active political support for The Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2010 (SSIA). The SSIA would amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (part of the No Child Left Behind Act) to require schools and districtsreceiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

LGBT suicide is not primarily a psychological issue, related to individual failure to cope, adapt, or access adequate services. It is a social issue. It reflects our collective failure as a society and a Church to affirm, nurture, and provide safe place for vulnerable persons to grow in truth and love.

Our message to LGBT Catholic youth is fourfold:

  1. The problems that drive you to despair are not your fault. Regardless of your struggles and thoughts of suicide, you remain the beloved child of God. That love never changes.
  2. Know that we love and cherish you as our own flesh and blood, united in one Body in the Lord. We are family. In family there is no other. You are not alone, and will never be abandoned. You may feel isolated, and wonder if there is hope. Believe that your LGBT and allied Catholic family are here for you. Many in it have been where you are. Let our love for you help you through the challenges you face.
  3. What must change are social attitudes, and our capacity as Church to understand, care and advocate for you. We have failed you. We have allowed anti-gay bishops to issue a steady stream of anti-gay pronouncements; to promote an anti-gay agenda in our parishes through literature, DVDs, petitions and political campaigns. Our silence has led you to believe that we agree with Church hierarchy. We do not. We recognize and respect your intrinsic human dignity.Our confessions: We have not treated you with sensitivity, as the Catechism teaches. We have sinned in our indifferent attitude to LGBT-affirming ministries, which should be made available in every parish, so that you would never for a moment have to think that you were the only one, or that there was no place for you in the Church of Jesus Christ. Please forgive us.
  4. We ask you to consider that “it does get better”. We pledge to you our personal support as Christians who share the baptismal gifts of faith, hope, and unfailing love. We pledge to you our political advocacy to make the promises of The Safe Schools Act of 2010 your reality.No matter what you are going through now, things will get better. God is not a bully. God loves you, and will continue to supply all of the graces you need to live an abundant life in Christ Jesus.

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The Road Ahead: How Long, How Long!

After I placed a report this week on the UN accreditation for an LGBT Human Rights Group, I noted in a comment that it is important as we celebrate each landmark (as with gay marriage success), we should also look back and recognise how far we have come.

Sadly, I was reminded this week that we also need to look ahead and consider just how far we still have to go. At one end of the scale, there are still five countries that impose the death penalty for homosexual acts. On the other, not even the most progressive countries have year reached  full equality: there are still only a handful of countries with full protection against all discrimination on grounds of both orientation and gender identity. None of those has a full slate of legal protections.

My interest today was triggered by a report from Canada, concerning the possibly imminent execution of an Iranian man, urging the Canadian government to “intervene”. The difficulty in these countries, which are generally pretty hostile to the West in the first place, is knowing how to intervene without aggravating the situation.  The death penalty also still applies in four other states (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania and Sudan), as well as in some parts of Nigeria and Somalia.

In search of fuller information I went to ILGA (International Lesbian Gay Association), and downloaded their report  on “State Sponsored Homophobia“. This is dated May 2010, so its pretty up to date – but beware. The listing for marriage gives only three countries, omitting Portugal, Iceland Argentina. This a sharp (and encouraging) sign of just how quickly things can sometimes change. Read the rest of this entry »

The Decline of Religion Based Homophobia.

I have frequently written about (and celebrated) assorted pointers on the road to lesbitransgay inclusion in Church. There is an obvious corollary to that though, that I have not spelt out before: the steady decline of religion – based homophobia.

Perhaps we are so used to the publicity given to the extremist bigots that we have not noticed this decline, but it is most certainly a clear, unambiguous trend.  Not only are our straight allies in faith finding an ever stronger public voice in support, and the silent majority increasingly recognising the importance of tolerance for conflicting views, but the most vociferous opponents are a dying breed. I first recognised this in a report from Sacramento Pride:

Biggest news at Pride? No anti-gay protesters!

I wonder if it means something that the perennial “Sodomy is Sin” people decided to skip this year’s Pride Festival? I’d grown used to locating the parade by the presence of that big, yellow sign, but it was nowhere to be found in last weekend’s revels.

Something else I noticed, perhaps because I took so many photos. By far,the majority of organizations marching were religious in nature.

Yeah, I know; the common wisdom is that religion and gay people don’t mix,or at least that’s what you’d think if all you did was listen to the press. But I saw groups from all the major denominations: Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, United Church of Christ, Unitarians, Jews … and there were even representatives from the Quakers (Society of Friends) and Seventh Day Adventists. (Yes, that’s right—the Seventh Day Adventists! Knock me over with a feather …) That’s the Elk Grove United Methodist Church, one of two groups of Methodists in the march.

Time to re-examine the meme that organized religion is opposed to anything gay. Apparently, it’s just not true. Read the rest of this entry »

Slovenian Violence at Pride – Condemned by Church Justice & Peace Commission!

Two news items from Slovenia appear to be worth noting. Unfortunately, as they are both from the same subscription service, I cannot access more than just the headline and first paragraphs. From these it appears, however, that Slovenia’s Pride Parade was marred by anti-gay violence. The Church’s Peace and Justice arm has responded with a clear condemnation of violence on the grounds of religion,   – or sexual orientation.

This should not be a surprise: the Church teaching on social is clear, and even teaching on “homosexuality” insists that all people should be treated with “dignity, compassion and respect”, and that violence is to be condemned. In practice, however, it is seldom that this theoretical stance against homophobic violence is given public expression. This statement is therefore to be warmly welcomed.

From Slovenian Press Agency (28 June, 2010)

Popular Gay Bar in Ljubljana Attacked (adds)

Ljubljana, 28 June (STA) – Unknown perpetrators attacked last week a Ljubljana bar popular with the gay community with Molotov cocktails. The bar as well as the house of a judge who sentenced in March three men to prison for a 2009 assault on a gay activist were also sprayed with homophobic graffiti.

and 29 June 2010:

Church Condemns Violence Based on Religious Affiliation, Sexual Orientation

Ljubljana, 29 June (STA) – The Justice and Peace Commission at the Slovenian Bishops’ Conference condemned on Tuesday in the wake of an attack targeting the gay community in Ljubljana violence and intolerance based on religious, political affiliation or sexual orientation.

The Greatest Pride of All?

Last year, there were an estimated 3 million participants – and more, in an overwhelmingly Catholic city. Figures for this year are believed to similar, and 50 % up on just 5 years ago, and 25 times as many as 2ooo. Sao Paulo Pride has only been going since 1987.

In South America, Pride is not just a fun day out: it’s deeply political. Read the rest of this entry »

“Hate Has No Place In The House of God”: Desmond Tutu

From the Washington Post, Desmond Tutu on Hate in Africa:

No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation. Nor should anyone be excluded from health care on any of these grounds. In my country of South Africa, we struggled for years against the evil system of apartheid that divided human beings, children of the same God, by racial classification and then denied many of them fundamental human rights. We knew this was wrong. Thankfully, the world supported us in our struggle for freedom and dignity.

It is time to stand up against another wrong. Read the rest of this entry »