UNITED STATES—Well, what are people? Are they born that way or do they become who they are as a result of a complex and inexplicable life process? Were you born unable to do algebra? Why do you write well? Why do like ice cream? What was it made you overweight? Why do you consider yourself ugly or beautiful? Were you born that way or did you choose to be that way?
Some of these questions have short answers that are always wrong. We’re what you call complex. We don’t give ourselves to easy, simple uncomplicated solutions.
In a lot of ways human sexuality is a special case. It is not a special case because there is anything really special about it. In our culture and historical period, it is special largely because it was made special by the Roman Catholic Church, and many other churches that jumped on their bandwagon. Those priests have had a thing about sex for about as long as they have been theoretically celibate. Some people say that a lot of the Catholic Church heirarchy’s preoccupation with things sexual comes from their alleged celibacy.
On the one hand, it is a central doctrine of the Catholic Church that sex is bad. It is “original sin.” On the other hand, It is something that is also central to the survival of the species. Things that we consider bad, but know to be necessary usually get enshrined in a whole bushel basket of bull. Human sexuality is very much that way, and it is largely sixteen centuries of Christian theology that have made it that way.
Sexual desire isn’t very different from a lot of other desires: food for example. We eat, we must eat, we survive, and we survive with consequences from our eating habits. We have sex, we really must have sex to reproduce, and we have consequences from our sexual habits.
Nobody ever made me like chocolate. Nobody ever made me straight/gay/bi. Do I have to eat chocolate? No, but it sure makes long days nicer, but not to excess. Two questions:
* If I am gay, must I have only gay sex or can I subsist on masturbation and straight sex?
* If I am straight am I totally incapable of experience any pleasure from gay sex?
The answer to both these questions is probably: Yeah, it won’t kill me, but it won’t maximize my happiness and it probably won’t result in lasting mutually beneficial relationships.
It is the way I am, today, this week, this month, this year. It’ll probably be the way I am in 25 years, but that’s not a certain bet – it’s a safe bet though. But what does it matter? Who cares but me?
Well, that’s another thing that these religious bigots did for us all: they told us that sex was a sin, and then they told us that it is only permissible for procreation under very limited circumstances. They also told us that any other kind of sex was really, really bad. In the olden days, they said that gay sex was about as bad as adultery, a stoning offense. Over the centuries they’ve modified their opinions to say that adultery is understandable and forgivable, but gay sex is still awful. They tell us that people who do awful things are awful people and awful people deserve to be punished.
Why is it awful? Well, because it is. It isn’t a rational argument. It was the same kind of sin, in the 16th century, as owning a Bible in English. It would get you killed, because it was, (reality off) well, wrong. Because the Church, er… the Bible, er… God says so. (reality on) Because I say so.
As with most everything else, if it’s not like me, it is bad and people who are bad deserve to have bad things happen to them, unless they change or pretend to change to be like me.
A little ignorance is a dangerous thing. A ton of ignorance is toxic. It used to be that being left handed was awful, and people were “broken” of being left handed by years of torture. It used to be that people were “cured” of being gay, too, also by death or long years of torture. In the same way that most people who were cured of being left handed didn’t ever do anything intricate or difficult with their hands, people who were cured of being gay were mostly cured of being able to have or enjoy sex, or became priests.
We are who and what we are because of biology, genetics, history, culture, relationships, random chance, who our parents were, luck, deliberate decision, where we went to school, fear, hope, envy, laughter, and love — to name some of the factors that result in a human individual.
Sexuality is in there somewhere and it is as much an emblem of individuality as speech or talent or accomplishment. We owe it to ourselves to find out who we are today and to be that and accept other people being who they are. We are all made different and we can either choose to enjoy and celebrate those differences or we can choose to fear and loathe people different from ourselves. Our choices make the world we live in.
What kind of a world do you want?
By Henry Meyerding