Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Challenging the "Gay Lifestyle" term.

Post#7
UNDERSTANDING HOMOSEXUALITY meets STRAIGHT INTO GAY AMERICA, a conversation between pastor/author David Glesne and pastor/author Lars Clausen. Today Clausen challenges the use of the term "gay lifestyle," and "homosexual lifestyle."

Dear Dave,

First I want to wish you a good return from your vacation.

Second I want to thank you for saying that you could have chosen a better wording by changing from the “lifestyle of homosexuals” to “the homosexual lifestyle.” I appreciate our willingness to learn from one another

Third, I want to keep pressing the challenge because even the change to the terms “the gay lifestyle,” or “the homosexual lifestyle” are seen by many, including myself, as highly charged sterotypes/caricatures.

I feel we’re at the third bridge in our conversations. The first was your kind acceptance of this dialogue, The second was your agreement to engage my concerns. At this third bridge, I sense the need to address camp-talk and see if we can move past it. I’ll state my concerns, set them before you, and see if we can get to a new place. If we fail, I worry we’ll be stuck in our camps.

I believe the words “gay lifestyle” and “homosexual lifestyle,” used in the manner you suggest, function something like code language on the websites and in the talk of religious fundamentalist organizations such as “The Moral Majority,:” “Focus On The Family,” and “Exodus.” This language is part of what inspires fear that homosexual men are despicable, commonly running around licking one another’s anuses and urinating on one another.

I did google “gay lifestyle” and read the descriptions on the first two pages. I found two websites using “gay-lifestyle” in an anti-gay manner. On the other eighteens sites the term is used in a wide variety of ways within the LGBT community, addressing issues of relationship, travel, work, sex, and other facets of life. Used in this second manner, by the LGBT community, it seems comparable to the many popular lifestyle magazines that are published each month for our culture at large (Country Living, Oprah, GQ, etc)

I searched the PFLAG website (Parents, Friends, and Families of Lesbians and Gays) and found only 7 pages come up on that large website, and most of the references challenge the use of the term “gay-lifestyle,” as it is used by “ex-gay” and similar concerns to caricature LGBT people.

Dave, if you’re serious that you find the term “homosexual lifestyle,” or “gay lifestyle” to be an acceptable and descriptive term of LGBT immorality, I’m concerned that you’ve taken most or all of your research from within the anti-gay camp. If so, this leads me, regretfully, to suggest that your research may be partial at best, inaccurate at worst.

I deeply regret the need to write this concern. I believe you when you write you feel you’ve developed a deep compassion for homosexuals, but I can’t let this concern remain quiet.

In your last response you wrote that you’d made the distinction between homosexual attraction and homosexual behavior on page 19. Yet nowhere on that page is there any discussion between what you wrote last time as the

“further distinction in my mind between behaviors that are quite likely to be engaged in by male homosexual persons in general (mutual masturbation, fellatio, and anal intercourse, for example) and those behaviors which go beyond these which are more specific to what might be called a subculture characterized by the “gay lifestyle”, behaviors that are condemned by many gays. Right or wrong, the “gay lifestyle” in my mind has additional and different relational and behavioral elements in it than the what we normally think of as behaviors of “everyday” homosexual people.”

You then ask, “But do these distinctions come through in the chapter?”

I’m sorry to report Dave, but I can’t find the distinctions coming through about subculture or lifestyle, either in your book or in your explanation. You quote the question from your book, “But what really goes on in homosexual encounters,” as evidence that you’re talking about “the gay lifestyle.” This only works if one makes assumptions about the term, assumptions that are not generally held by the subject group in question. Your subsequent words make it more difficult, not less difficult to believe that you’re talking only about a sexually immoral minority and not homosexual people in general. In your third chapter you write


"homosexuals who maintain long-lasting, stable relationship in society are very, very few"
"While acknowledging the difficulty in arriving at exact figures in such a subject matter, the testimony about homosexual behavior coming from both sides of the debate paints a fairly clear picture of the kinds and frequencies of behavior engaged in by homosexual persons. I shall start with the least disturbing…"

"Ninety-two percent of homosexuals engage in something called “rimming.” "

"The homosexual acts described by Dr. Monteith are taking place regularly in homosexual lifestyle encounters. We never read or hear about them from gay activists who want us rather to think of loving, caring, monogamous homosexual couples sitting on park benches with their arms around each other. But this is the gay lifestyle homosexualists want society to accept as a perfectly acceptable alternative to the heterosexual relationship. "

When I read your question about “what really goes in homosexual encounters,” I’m thinking about Greg and Willie, Sara and Danielle, Mel and Gary, Brenda and Nancy, Sara and Cheryl and many, many other long-term faithfully monogamous couples.

If I ask the question, “What really goes on in heterosexual encounters?” I could be thinking about anything from whorehouses to high school proms to the movie Grease to the nights that my children were conceived. There’s no qualification in this question to help me know which of these heterosexual encounters we’re talking about.

To give the statistics that you do about rimming, fisting, and golden showers, and to assume that people are going to share what I understand as the ex-gay movement - fundamentalist Christian - political right understanding of “gay lifestyle” is beyond me. I can only understand your use of these statistics if I assume that you’re writing from within the camps where these terminologies are commonly used. And if you’re writing from within one or more of these camps, then we have another bridge to cross.

That bridge seems to me

  1. A need for me to better understand those camps and their “agendas.” I’m up for this journey. Perhaps my central interest in this conversation, besides my hope for equal rights, is to better understand the worldviews of these camps, and the factors that motivate these worldviews.
  2. And if I need to go into these camps to increase my understanding then perhaps, if I’m correctly catching what’s behind your assumptions and your use of the terms “gay lifestyle” and “homosexual lifestyle” then you might benefit from coming outside of these camps and hearing why the term “gay lifestyle” is so often heard as a caricature.

When I think of compassion, I think of Jesus, Mother Theresa, Desmond Tutu, Gandhi and others. And when I think of compassion, I always think of listening and the openness to come out of an encounter different from the way that I came in.

I hope that all of us involved in the journey of this conversation hold the openness to come out of this encounter changed. I feel that we are at the third bridge in this journey. I lay this at your feet, and I await your words.

Blessings,

Lars

14 comments:

Charleen said...

I have long had a concern re one aspect of the perception of homosexuality and promiscuity. At one point some years ago there was a great deal of scandal about "bath houses" as a source of AIDS because of the casual sex activities among Gays (I hate that word and I am a heterosexual old lady.). It struck me then, that if homosexuality were accepted and these people could lead the same "normal" lives that heterosexuals are allowed, i.e. being open about their partners, they would not be looking for casual sex. It's as though the bath houses were being used in the same way as brothels because "closeted" gays could not find sexual expression for fear that they would be "outed." In other words, I think the heterosexual community is in large part responsible for the existence of the bath houses they disdain. Of course, married men use brothels. We accept that, if not morally approving it. We also do not categorize, count, etc. heterosexual sex practices in the course of discussing homosexuality. There will always be people who are promiscuous no matter what their sexual orientation. However, in our supreme confidence in our righteousness, we do not consider what or how our attitudes and beliefs affect the life patterns of homosexual persons.

Ben said...

This is a bit tangential, but relevant all the same.

I recently moved to Virginia, where have 3 laws already on the books prohibiting same-sex marriages/unions, prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriages/unions performed in other states, etc. This apparently isn’t enough for some people though, so we have a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot that is VERY vague and far-reaching. Essentially, it declares that “only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage” and that it is illegal to “create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage”. This is of course being marketed as a way to keep homosexual marriage out of Virginia. This is nonsense since the law already clearly prohibits that!

Only one other state has an amendment that is as vague and broad: my home state of Ohio. Based on the results in Ohio, it is actually likely that heterosexuals will lose more rights than homosexuals. For instance, domestic violence would no longer be applicable to unmarried couples (50% of domestic violence cases in VA). Child custody cases could get even uglier and messier than normal. The list goes on. See an interesting sermon at http://www.accotinkuuc.org/Why%20I%20Am%20Voting%20NO%2010.15.pdf for more information.

If you have any friends or family in Virginia, please call them to let them know that our proposed “marriage amendment” is simply bad news for everyone.

Thank you!
Ben

Joyce said...

To this point, while I appreciate Mr. Glesne's tone and as far as a I can tell, genuine efforts to engage in conversation, his arguments are basically a rehashing of the same assertions we’ve heard for many years. The last entry was, in my opinion, quite telling: it is rather astounding that he apparently sees no problem with talking about a 'gay lifestyle,' or earlier, about a 'gay agenda,' both terms that are, at best, misleading and inaccurate. And both terms that are, by far, most often defined and then used by those judging us.

More specifically, in his last entry, when Mr. Glesne writes about the 'strong qualification' in 'paragraph four,' I had to read through it twice, to be sure he was saying what I thought he did. If I'm understanding him correctly, the only way a 'homosexual person' isn't in the 'lifestyle' that is immoral is if one is 'struggling to live a Godly moral life and are determined to remain celibate or to be 'exiting homosexuality.' Basically, as far as the celibacy is concerned, this is the same old "it's all about sex" argument which reduces individuals to nothing more than that. The only way to be living, to use Glesne's words, "a Godly moral life," is by not having "homosexual lifestyle," meaning, no sex. Among many other questions, does that mean that two men or two women living in a committed, loving relationship would satisfy the requirement to be living a "Godly moral life" if they were celibate?

And as far as "exiting" homosexuality, the fundamental question remains about "choice." The "science," in fact, is still out, in terms of definitive studies that will answer questions about the origins of sexual orientation. As often as it's been said, it still needs to be repeated: there is no even remotely conclusive evidence that "choice" and "sexual orientation" - heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, whatever - are related. Individuals can and do choose behaviors, to live as hetero or homo or bi for periods of time. And very likely when they do, nature and nurture are involved in some ways. That's fine. Those choices are not, however, what most people who are born heterosexual or born homosexual make.

As tired and worn as it is, I'll say it anyway: "when did you choose to be heterosexual"? As a small child, I obviously did not know what it meant, but it wasn't many years later when I realized that my perception of "boys" and "girls" didn't quite fit with what I learned was the "normal" way. Like so many, especially those of us 50 + in age, I tried very, very hard to want to be interested in the opposite gender. But from some of my earliest memories - and growing up in rural Texas, where I doubt I even heard the word "homosexual" until I was in junior high school - I "liked" girls. There was absolutely nothing in my "nurturing" that would have created that "orientation." And there is absolutely nothing to indicate that my "nature" as a lesbian is a disease or a mistake.

Very importantly, that Mr. Glesne sees no problem with using the research and data he does is enough to undermine his own arguments. How can it be that the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatricians, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, National Association of Social Workers, and more, are all wrong in understanding homosexual orientation as normal? Or will the response to this be another common argument: that through some imagined powerfully "politically correct" maneuvers, the "homosexuals" have hijacked all of these associations? Or maybe it will be that it's the "leadership" of each which has been manipulated, as if even that were possible; and as if the majority of these professionals are incapable of or unwilling to act as the professionals they are.



I have no reason not to believe Mr. Glesne, when he says, basically, that he believes God loves homosexuals. But he's so far within the stereotypical perceptions of sexual orientation and "lifestyle" and "agenda" that what he says can't help but end up being hurtful, if not harmful, to real people. I don't think he means for that to happen, but it does.

It's troubling to know that a book that certainly appears to be written from a sincere desire to be loving yet so misrepresents the very people about whom it speaks.

Nadine Anderson said...

I have been reading Mel White’s latest book, Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right, and was amazed to discover how much what he is describing as the false presentations of the extremist fundamentalists parallels what Rev. Glesne cites in his book. Specifically, in the last paragraph and then in the first paragraph of page 146, White says:

“The Gay Agenda,” a videotape that misled millions of Americans in the late 1980s, used Paul Cameron’s discredited research to demean, dehumanize, and demonize gay Americans. Produced by televangelists Ty and Jeannette Beeson’s Antelope Valley Springs of Life Ministries, copies of the video were given to each Glen Eyre delegate.

On December 2, 1983, Paul Cameron was officially dropped from membership in the American Psychological Association…for violating the “Preamble to the Ethical Principles of Psychologists.” On October19, 1984, the Nebraska Psychological Association formally disassociated itself “from the representations and interpretations of scientific literature” offered by Dr. Paul Cameron “in his writings and public statements on sexuality.” And in August, 1986, The American Sociological Association “officially and publicly states that Paul Cameron is not a sociologist and condemns his consistent misrepresentation of sociological research.”

In Chapter 3 of Rev. Glesne’s book, The Gay Lifestyle and Agenda, he quotes Ty and Jeannette Beeson’s videotape, “The Gay Agenda,” for figures on gay promiscuity. I did wonder when I read it where the data came from. Rev. Glesne, you had said in the previous chapter that we are afraid of being outed, now you are giving data from a videotape. Who that is afraid of being identified is going to talk about their sex life on a videotape? Well, it seems that is not what happened, Mel White tells us that the Beesons quoted data that the relevant professional associations have rejected as invalid.

I do note that you date the videotape as 1993 but Mel White talks of it being used in the late 80’s. I do not know the reason for that difference, perhaps you had a later version of the video, copies of it were sent out to many people in 1993. I shall e-mail Mel White at Soul Force to ask about the dates.

Mel is talking about a conference at Glen Eyre in May 0f 1994 where the religious right developed their strategy for winning their war against homosexuality and their view of the negative consequences of homosexuality. He reports that they identified three goals:

First they had to show “why heterosexuality is best for individuals and society” (inferring that homosexuality was destructive to the individual and to the state).

Second, they had to prove that homosexuality is NOT “immutable” (inferring that homosexuality is a choice and that homosexuals can be changed).

Third, they had to demonstrate “why society needs to make certain demands on people sexually” (inferring that the government might be influenced to use it’s power to enforce fundamentalist Christian morality on homosexual America” (p 141, quoting from transcripts of John Eldredge’s keynote address at the Glen Eyre conference in May 1994, transcripts available from Soulforce).

Interesting how these goals parallel in reverse the goals that Rev. Glesne attributes to The Gay Agenda.

Rev. Glesne, will you tell us how much you are involved with the community of radical right fundamentalist Christians who are working so consistently to call us all sorts of evil? Do you agree with what Dobson does? Fallwell? Who among the fundamentalists to you find OK?

Nadine Anderson

Earl said...

on the lighter side...

http://youtube.com/watch?v=RGqz8Qh3ftY&mode=related&search=

It's very easy to get wrapped up in misconceptions about homosexuality...

Dave Glesne said...

In response to Nadine:

The community you describe is not a circle that I move in or am connected to. I live and move in the Lutheran world. So my knowledge of this community you describe is limited. I am not proud of that and would be better served perhaps if I were better versed in what is going on there.

I do hope that we guard ourselves from settling into "camps" in this discussion. I am not interested in defending any camp. Rather, I am hopeful we are seekers of truth, putting aside the desire to win an argument for a particular side, and bring the evidence that is out there to the table to consider it and follow where it leads. In this search for truth, I am willing to follow where the evidence leads and if that means changing my present understanding, then I will change my mind. I am hopeful that this is mutual.

Tim Fisher said...

October 30, 2006

Dave and Nadine,

As you have said, Dave, we should guard against "settling into camps" in this discussion. I agree with that sentiment. I’m wondering, though, what constitutes "settling into camps" in your thinking. You say that the community Nadine describes "is not a circle that I move in or am connected to." In your book, however, you make frequent use of the "research" of Paul Cameron, who I would indeed describe as a right wing fundamentalist. Also, similarly, you cite Dean Byrd, Joseph Nicolosi (via NARTH), and Jeffrey Satinover.

Your book shows many signs of following these writers without really doing the necessary work of checking out the validity and usefulness of their research. As you know, I have commented on this in some detail previously. If taking the word of some of the most inflammatory and ideological of writers on this topic is not "settling into a camp," I don’t know what is.

In other words, I wish you had followed your own advice when you wrote your book. Thankfully, we now have a chance to change things.

Just to be clear, Nadine, you should know that a circle that Dave IS connected to is WordAlone. You can visit WordAlone's website at www.wordalone.org. I would not describe WordAlone as a "right wing fundamentalist organization," although they are certainly conservative.

Tim Fisher
Minneapolis, MN

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the "Stonewall" group that started the gay rights movement is about to be taken over by conservative gays and lesbians who wish to actively change the public image of the movement?

David Blakeslee

jfburroway said...

David,

My question is very similar to yours: I wonder if the "Stonewall" group that started the gay rights movement is about to be taken over by conservative gays and lesbians who wish to actively change the movement? Notice I struck the "public image of".

I know of no data to support this, but my impression is that you are clearly onto something. AIDS changed everything, and the old any-thing goes model of the immediate post-Stonewall era is pretty much gone (a model which was actively promoted in Jay and Young's book "The Gay Report".) Yeah, there are still some old queens on the dancefloor, as we say. But the newer generation is distinctly more conservative and conventional -- much to the dismay of many in the Stonewall generation who fear the "end of gay" and the self-assurance that this model provided when they first broke free of the severely repressive atmosphere before 1969.

To me, it appears as though "the movement" was a pendulum which, held to the far right for generations, swung wildly to the left before we were snapped back into reality. Randy Schilts book, "And the Band Played On" illustrates this perfectly, although I think he was too close to the times and places to recongnize it in retrospect.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jim

David Blakeslee

Anonymous said...

No one knows what it is like to be homosexual unless you have walked in one's shoes. Let me tell you and whoever else who is reading this, I have lived a Christian life all of my life, I was raised in a Christian home with Christian believes, with Christian relatives, but still yet I have struggled being attracted to the same gender more than the opposite gender. NO, NO, NO, NO, and etc this is coming from someone who struggles the homosexual lifestyle day by day, homosexual behavior is not certainly a choice, and I dare you people who has never walked in our shoes to tell us that it is a choice. I know what you straight people and you Christians believe, all you want to do is judge, and not really consider the ones who are like me. I can see how Christian people would think that it is a choice, but they only base their facts on just the Christian beliefs. Out of my whole life of 38 years, I have sat back and watched, learned, and focused on Christians and their ways and actions towards the homosexuals. The Christians, only focuses on the Christian believes, but they never focus or considers on the homosexuals who struggles day by day with this lifestyle. Even though I have went to church and was raised in a Christian home all of my life, it just out rages me how you straight and Christian people are. Until you understand what we homosexuals, and what we go through with the struggles of this way, don't anyone criticize or tell us it is a choice, because it absolutely is not. Even though I don't live a homosexual lifestyle with someone with the same gender as I am, these feelings are there and real, these attractions for the same gender are there, has been all of my life. and it kills me every day, it eats me alive to have these feelings, and not really understand them. I have never experienced love before until this one day when I met this person of the same gender. I never asked to be this way, never wanted it, but it is within me, and that is why I consider myself as a homosexual, and I have been with the same gender before a few times in my past, and it really feels good. I have dated and been with I know 13 of the opposite gender, in my life time, and I am sure there are more, and you would think that out of all of those, I would find love, and would find the attraction to be more with the opposite gender than with the same, but no. I have to wake up every morning in fear that even though I need love desperately in my life I will never find it with the opposite gender, due to these feelings that I have for the same gender. Nobody knows what it is like to be this way, it just hurts so bad to wake up every morning to have these feelings for this person and not to be able to show or share the feelings with that person. When you see these homosexuals (gay and lesbians), who is out there that is open, who seems like it is okay, to live that way for example, Ellen DeGeneres they have lived with those feelings all of their life, and when a person who is straight or not, in whatever situation they are in, they get to a point to where they cannot stand it any more, and they feel like the only way to cope with how they really are they come out and they just want to be happy. I do have a child physically from the opposite gender, all together I was with that person for 10 years. Yes, I do care and love that person, but I don't love that person like two people in a relationship loves each other, or like a married couple should love their spouse, but actually the marriage wasn't for me, was not real, and true, because of still having these feelings that I have towards this person of the same gender and being attracted more to the same gender than the opposite. I do know for a fact from experience homosexual lifestyle is not a choice, and even though I am who I am, I don't believe in same sex marriage, but I do believe in love with whomever it is, and I know what it feels like to be wanted and loved from the same gender. My advice to the straight, to the Christians and whoever else, I know that I am going to give this advice to my child, and I really hope my child doesn't turn out to be like me, but the advice is no matter how someone is living their life, whether they are living it right or if they are living it wrong, we should never, ever judge, criticize, or hate them, we need to love them. That also applies or goes for family members who struggles with their loved one who is homosexual or a alcoholic, or a drug addict and etc. I don't know if what I have said has helped anyone, but before anyone says that a homosexual lifestyle is a choice, how about putting your lifestyle to the side and research, and try to understand our way of lifestyle, before any decisions are made.

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