Saturday, March 04, 2006

Beyond Gay and Straight

[I posted this at Raven's View this morning, but I think there is more to say from an integral perspective--see below.]

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute's new report is questioning the ethics and effectiveness of "therapies" being used to brainwash gay and lesbian youth into believing they are straight (or should be straight). The programs--which have been shown to be highly ineffective, as well as very damaging to the psyches of teens--rely on promoting stereotypes and fears about eternal damnation. The report seeks greater state and federal oversight--including the presence of actual therapists and not just clergy--when these programs are aimed at youth.
The report said some Christian-based gay prevention and treatment groups have used the First Amendment protection of religion to avoid sanctions by state health officials seeking to enforce regulations on counselors who offer therapy without a license.

Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman said officials need to ensure that those offering such therapies are licensed — as opposed to simply being clergy — and that clients and their parents should be informed about the programs' long-term success rates."

Many of these programs are crossing the line as to what is approved under freedom of expression," Foreman said in an interview with reporters. "This deserves attention. It deserves to be regulated."

The report was released in Florida because it is home to Exodus International, the umbrella organization for Christian ministries nationwide that seek to convert gays to heterosexuals.Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, said he had not seen the report but maintained that the ministries are successful. He said Exodus' 130 affiliated ministries use clinically trained professionals, though he added that only 30 percent have onsite professionals.

Religious leaders lead support groups, as they might in the case of an Alcoholics Anonymous groups, he said.

"The truth is that there are hundreds of thousands of men and women like me who have found that change is possible," said Chambers, who counts himself among the ex-gay.

The report maintains that, increasingly, those attending seminars on homosexuality prevention and treatment are parents who have gay or lesbian children.

Foreman called the programs frightening, saying they play into stereotypes, cautioning parents to worry if their sons are "too feminine" and often blame parents for their children's sexual orientation.
These groups do not need oversight--they need to be stopped. Being gay or lesbian is as natural as having blue eyes or brown. Sexual orientation is inborn, and no amount of guilt or brainwashing can change that fact.

One-third of teen suicides result from fears of being gay. This is tragic.

This is from Gore Vidal:
They asked a whole raft of high school boys across the country a couple years ago, one of those polls about what they would most like to be in life, and what ... they would hate to be, and so forth, and what they would most hate to be was homosexual.

There wasn't anyone, not one, who just skipped the question. They all said "oh no, that's the worst thing you could be."

To get over that training, that's generation after generation. And it has not done the character of our nation much good. And that's why we are a joke to the rest of the world, because we carry on about sexual matters everyone else has forgotten about.
It is criminal that our children--especially our young men--are brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is the worst thing possible. No wonder our kids would rather kill themselves than face life as a gay man or lesbian.

No one would willingly choose such pain, so how can it not be an innate biological drive? Biology is not destiny, but sexuality is primal and instinctual. You cannot eradicate instincts through instilling guilt and fear without creating serious harm.

INTEGRAL UPDATE:

Because my relationship with Kira marks me as straight-identified, I never have to deal with our culture's idiocy around the issue of homosexuality at a personal level. Yet I am tired of having to write/argue that homosexuality is as natural as breathing. Sexuality falls along a spectrum from totally gay to totally straight--most of us, like it or not, fall somewhere other than the extremes.

Most studies looking at the expression of sexuality have been exterior-individual in their framework. Sexuality is not merely a biological function, although it is certainly that. We must also look at the interior expression of sexual desire and romantic love.

I believe that sexual expression should grow out of an emotional connection (although I would never deny consenting adults the fun of getting naked and sweaty together in the absence of an emotional connection). An emotional connection can just as easily grow between members of the same gender as it can between members of the opposite gender.

We need to move the dialogue on this issue into new realms. Gay and straight should be forms of expression, not types of people. I firmly believe that if we could strip away all the cultural bullshit about being homosexual, a lot of people might have a "gay" relationship just as often as a "straight" relationship.

Obviously, the majority of people are going to chose opposite-gender partners for the purposes of raising a family, and this is as it should be (or we'd become extinct). But minus the stigma we have attached to homosexuality, a lot more people would try both types of expression as they form their adult identity.

Some might choose to have both types of relationships as adults. Maybe this is where Joe Perez's ideas on polyamory come into relevance. It is possible to love more than one person at a time, of either gender. This is certainly a post-conventional form or sexual expression.

More to my point, however, is the reality that it is possible to love people of both genders at different times in our lives (including simultaneously). I would argue that not only is it possible, it's healthy. Further, not only is it healthy, it represents an integral-level sexual identity to be able to honor those feelings.

However, I do not mean to imply that someone who does not ever experience that same-gender form of emotional/sexual expression is not integral. I am simply stating that the ability to love a same-sex person and express that love through sexuality is a healthy form of integral relationship.

We need to move beyond straight and gay to realize that people are capable of fluid and flexible expressions of sexuality. We need to stop identifying people as one thing or another. As long as we continue to do so, we perpetuate the self/other dichotomy that is the source of all fear and oppression.
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