Mormonism, disability, same-gender attraction

Homosexuality

From Alma 34:

40 And now my beloved brethren, I would exhort you to have patience, and that ye bear with all manner of afflictions; that ye do not revile against those who do cast you out because of your exceeding poverty, lest ye become sinners like unto them;

41 But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions.

At one point, my mother was married to a disabled man. Even though my mother is LDS and I’m gay, we occasionally talk about sex. I was curious about my mother’s sex life at the time of her marriage to this man. When I asked her about it, she smiled and said that she looks forward to when her husband will have a “perfect body.” This statement really bothered me.

There is a way in which believing that a disabled body will be “repaired” in Heaven maintains ableist thinking. It reduces the disabled body to a position of being lesser than. Certainly, if one’s hearing or sight gets worse as one ages, it might be nice to think that in Heaven one will have perfect hearing and sight rather than have to wear a hearing aid or have contact lenses. But this is using the able body as a point of reference. As a teaching aid, one might ask a question of, “Are there eyeglasses in Heaven?” — which can help LDS children think about ableism in their culture — but adults should be more critical. Consider the person born deaf, who learns sign language as a child, is involved in deaf culture throughout her life, and has no desire to be hearing after death. Is it appropriate to assume this person will be hearing in Heaven? The answer: No, it is not.

In Mormonism, considerations of disability have carried over to the question of “same-gender attraction.” In the last decade or so, there has been a rise of church leaders comparing “same-gender attraction” to disability, as something that will be “repaired” in Heaven (before this, there was a focus on “cure.”) In the Church, disabled people are pitted against gays as a way to instill humility. For example, in a 2006 interview with Dalin Oaks, Lance Wickman spoke of his disabled daughter who

stand[s] at the window of my office which overlooks the Salt Lake Temple and look[s] at the brides and their new husbands as theyre having their pictures taken. . . . [S]hes at once captivated . . . and saddened.

Her image served as a call for humility among those whose “differences” do not place them beyond the realm of marriageability in this life. From Wickman’s perspective, his daughter won’t have to be saddened in the afterlife because there she will be “repaired” and will marry (and even have children). What I see happening here is ableism being put in the service of heterosexism. It’s pretty awful.

There is a way in which LGBT politics often intentionally divorces itself from disability politics, because of (1) ableism in the gay community, and (2) gays want to move as far away from the idea of “homosexuality as a disability” given a very hurtful history of attempted “curing” and being considered lesser than. But what Mormonism makes clear is that even if a culture largely ceases trying to “cure” homosexuality, it can still maintain “same-gender attraction” as lesser than, a “disabling” factor to be “repaired” later. LGBT and disability politics have to join forces to address this.

168 thoughts on “Mormonism, disability, same-gender attraction

  1. From my perspective,this has been a good discussion. Perhaps there are some dynamics that I’m not aware of, but i don’t see Alan lecturing, condescending, or monologuging here. I have seen few of his interlocutors really understand the implications of what he is saying. Frankly, the option of keeping biological essenetialism as one among many tools in the activism is not really compatible with his critique. Basically, it is just not an honest or compelling argument.
    FWIW, I think he’s creating a compelling case, adding to my suggestion for why this argument is bad within the gay movement, buy showing why this argument just doesnt work for churches, not because they reject it, but because they can accept it without consequence. It is a really persuasive argument.

    Chino,
    The Halperin interview is really fantastic and I’m glad i read it rather than

  2. Oops.

    Anyway, the Haperin interview is great. I know that he knows that Foucault actually opposed gay marriage in more than one interview,despite what he may have said at Lacan’s house. The split between academics and activists in gay and feminist circles is ioortant to think about, but i take what Halperin is saying as less condemning of academics than Chino does. The fact that Halperin sees the split happening in gay communitites precisely on this issue of biologism is fascinating (see the last page of the interview).
    Anyway, Halperin’s _Saint Foucault_ is amazing and makes the case for the close link between academics and activists, arguing against activists who didn’t want to bother with theory. One of my favorite books.

  3. Holly, Im not sure why youre pushing this.

    and I’m not sure why you can’t just cop to having handled the matter badly. Why keep defending discourse that clearly didn’t work, particularly given that in the instance we’re talking about, you criticized views you admitted you hold and rhetorical approaches you admitted you rely on, and repeated a bunch of stuff that’s already common knowledge among your audience? Would it really cost you so much to say, “Yeah, my bad; sorry”?

    You could say as much to Chino; what, you can’t say it to the ladies?

    What Im referring to is when a person makes a bunch of points wound up in emotion that veer off into solipsism momentarily and then they steer themselves back into conversation. Youre no stranger to this approach, and its one approach of many.

    First, I try not to indulge in solipsism and think others shouldn’t do it either. Second, is it the best approach to accomplish your rhetorical goals?

  4. is not really compatible with his critique.

    the fact that things are incompatible does not preclude their necessary coexistence. Mormon feminism is an example of that.

  5. Human reproduction is a good example. The reason women often get sick when they get pregnant is that their immune system detects an alien entity and tries to get rid of it. During each pregnancy, there’s a battle between the immune system and the reproductive system, which are incompatible; if the immune system wins, the fetus is aborted; if the reproductive system wins, the immune system is temporarily suppressed and the fetus continues to gestate. This is why women with auto-immune disorders like lupus or MS generally experience fewer symptoms while pregnant, and a serious worsening after giving birth.

    thus, the immune system and the reproductive system are incompatible, but they are both necessary, and they do in fact coexist.

  6. Holly — there are two things going on here. First are the actual arguments and second is the way they are delivered. It is not the case that they way I have delivered my arguments has obscured other people’s. If we take chanson’s argument @61, for example:

    Homosexual orientation is widely recognized in our culture today yet self-identifying as such hardly existed in our culture a mere few centuries earlier. The underlying biology didnt change. Genetic evolution doesnt happen that fast, but cultural evolution does.

    I read this to mean that “there were gay people prior to the naming of them because of the biology of gayness.”

    And so I responded accordingly. Later chanson said that my “ancient Greece example is a prime example to illustrate the point I was making” — ostensibly, the point being that human biology hasn’t changed that much, not specifically homosexual biology. But this nuance was lost in her phrasing, which was her gaffe, not mine. So I have no need to apologize to chanson, so far as I see.

    I apologized to Chino because he attempting bridge work. On the other hand, you seem consistently antagonistic.

    What I gather of your position is that you dislike theorists that throw essentialism out the window. All right, fine. What TT is saying @101, though — that biological essentialism is bad for future politics — I believe is true of not only of gay politics, but also feminist politics. I tend to think of Mormon gender essentialism as a psuedo-theological position that came about specifically to fight feminist and gay politics. The fact that you seemingly uphold gender essentialism and also consider LDS culture to misogynist should be teased apart — because it’s interesting, but unfleshed out. The problem so far as I see it is that you if give Mormons their gender essentialism, then you must also give them their theological positions concerning gender.

    the fact that things are incompatible does not preclude their necessary coexistence. Mormon feminism is an example of that.

    The incompatibility here is the problem of essentialized gender in Mormonism: that all women are supposed to be a, b and c. The power of Mormon feminism is that it breaks down this essentialism and allows women to be individuals!

  7. and can I also just point out that if there were some sort of magic activist argument approach that would compel churches to dispense human rights and justice and stop preaching doctrines that marginalize and harm whole groups of people, women would have found it and used it to their advantage at least a century ago. Sexism and misogyny would have been long eradicated, starting in churches and extending out to secular society.

    In other words, activists can’t change the church or what it teaches. The church may or may not evolve as the rest of the world evolves. But the best activists can realistically hope for is to make it impossible for the church to succeed in imposing its agenda on the rest of the world.

  8. In other words, activists cant change the church or what it teaches.

    I guess I’m more optimistic than you when it comes to the power of theory + activism, then.

  9. The fact that you seemingly uphold gender essentialism and also consider LDS culture to misogynist should be teased apart because its interesting, but unfleshed out.

    I recognize that female bodies are different from male bodies. I do not think this constitutes inferiority or superiority. I think it constitutes difference. I recognize it as a reality that must be addressed, down to the fact that birth control is less frequently covered by insurance plans than viagra. I don’t think that these biological difference constitute a sound basis for most stereotypes about either women or men, or for the oppression of women. I don’t think we actually have much clue what human traits are essentially feminine or masculine.

    If that position constitutes gender essentialism to you, so be it.

    The power of Mormon feminism is that it breaks down this essentialism, not that it maintains it!

    the power of feminism is that it breaks down essentialism, which is an essential part of Mormonism. Hence the incompatibility.

  10. Alan–out of curiosity, why did you write this?

    Even though my mother is LDS and Im gay,

    after all, “gay” refers to a sexual orientation, which you say doesn’t really exist. Shouldn’t you have written, “Even though my mother is LDS and I typically choose to desire men” or some such thing? Why rely on this category your theory rejects?

  11. I recognize that female bodies are different from male bodies.

    Do you get uncomfortable with transgender politics? The location of transgenderism in Mormonism seems to amount to “if they get a sex change, then they are unworthy,” without any real discussion about the nature of gender, since it was already decided that for some reason gender is essential — or, as Boyd Packer once put it “there is no mismatching of bodies and spirits.”

    I disagree with you that Mormonism and feminism are as exclusive, or incompatible as you say they are. I think it’s more of a refusal to broach real-world topics in the culture that could point to flaws in the theology.

  12. Oh Holly, identifying as gay is no more an admission of a belief in biological origins of sexuality as identifying as LDS is an expression of a belief that religion is biologically determined. Are you sure you dont need a lecture? And the issue of trans politics has finally come fully into this discussion. I mentioned it twice and now Alan has mentioned it. Your position is exactly the problem that results from biological essentialism. That is why the T is in GLBT and why the theory is a precondition for the politics.

  13. Do you get uncomfortable with transgender politics?

    No. Do you?

    And why on earth would you imagine that I agree with a single thing BKP has ever said about gender in his entire life?

  14. Oh Holly, identifying as gay is no more an admission of a belief in biological origins of sexuality as identifying as LDS is an expression of a belief that religion is biologically determined.

    if it’s all about the rhetoric, then use different rhetoric.

  15. Then why bring Packer up when asking about my position on trans politics? why not bring up a position you support, or one you think I might support?

  16. I brought up Packer after I asked your position.

    My only point is that if Mormon feminism definitionally requires essentialized gender (which is how you characterized it @110, is it not?), then it puts it in a transphobic (and/or trans-ignorant) position.

  17. My only point is that if Mormon feminism definitionally requires essentialized gender (which is how you characterized it @110, is it not?), then it puts it in a transphobic position.

    It most definitely is not how I characterized Mormon feminism. I wrote

    the power of feminism is that it breaks down essentialism, which is an essential part of Mormonism. Hence the incompatibility.

    It’s how I characterized Mormonism, which is not the same thing as Mormon feminism. I assume you can comfortably acknowledge that distinction.

    I will certainly acknowledge that certain strains of Mormon feminism are homophobic and, if they ever acknowledge the existence of transgender, most likely transphobic as well. Chino pointed it out well enough in this thread when he included a link to this piece by Kathryn Lynard Soper: http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2008/10/girls-are-you-hip-enough/

    But as you have pointed out, Mormon feminism is diverse, so there’s absolutely no reason for you to even imagine that you have the slightest idea what sort of Mormon feminism I adhere to, unless I’ve told you explicitly here – or you’ve managed to read some of my published work on the topic of gender and sexuality. However, if you’d done that, you might have had a clue that I don’t have a problem with transgender politics.

    And a question for you: I went back to the “Mormon Times” thread, checking some of your statements about Mormon feminism. I found a statement I neglected to ask about before. You wrote:

    I dont really see how setting femaleness and maleness in stone helps alleviate those issues.

    How does acknowledging the reality of the body, including differences between the male and female body, constitute “setting femaleness and maleness in stone”? Because if it does, even Elizabeth Grosz, whom you claimed to like, is guilty of that. There was absolutely no reason for you to assume that I see or want anyone else to see femaleness and maleness set in stone.

    I’ve said all along that you need a more nuanced idea of embodiment, and the statement I’ve quoted here is more evidence as to why.

  18. p.s. If you want to understand why I “seem consistently antagonistic,” the fact that you make groundless assumptions like that, and then lecture me – or monologue in my direction, as you might put it – for holding opinions I don’t actually hold are two primary reasons.

  19. Holly,
    May I suggest, in the genuine spirit of clarification, that you are being incredibly vague, often dropping short, rhetorical bombs, and then when people make a good faith effort to dialogue with what is otherwise a blantant assertion from you, you insist that that isn’t what you meant, that you actually meant something else, but then you never tell us what it is.

    How exactly is your argument that sexual difference is rooted in the body (rather than culture) not conflict with trans politics?

    Now, I don’t want to jump all over you in case you are not saying that you agree with Grosz, but if you think you’re position (as thin as it is here) is somehow compatible with her’s, I’d like to challenge that idea. In any case, I’ll let you clarify what you mean, so that you don’t accuse me of mischaracterizing your view, and just let you elaborate. So, what is your theory of sexual difference, and why do you see sexual biologism as an important part of that?

  20. TT asks

    How exactly is your argument that sexual difference is rooted in the body (rather than culture) not conflict with trans politics?

    Sexual difference and gender are not the same thing–that’s one of the first things you cover in academic discussions of gender and sexuality. Sexual difference is rooted in the body; gender is a social construct rooted in culture. One can be transgendered precisely because gender is something different from genetalia.

    Did you really not know that sex and gender aren’t the same thing, or did you think I didn’t know it?

  21. p.s. There’s another example of things that could be incompatible and still necessarily coexist, even in one body, at least before advancements in surgery made sex reassignment possible: sex and gender.

  22. and one more comment to support my insistence that the reality of the body be recognized, and that doing so is not incompatible with support for transgender politics: I call your attention to “Southern Comfort,” a 2001 documentary about Robert Eads, a trans man who, because his surgery was done after menopause, did not have his ovaries removed, and subsequently died of ovarian cancer. His struggle to get healthcare is horrifying. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0276515/

  23. Hahahahaha! You really want to go out on the sex/gender distinction? What is this, 1985? Is this really what we’ve been working with here?

    You’re right about one thing…sexual difference is not gender. It is not even in the same conversation. It is a rejection of the very sex/gender dichotomy you make, and your conflation of these two is increasingly confirming that you do need a lecture after all (especially since you get the way the trans understand the sex/gender distinction completely backwards. See here: http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2009/02/gender-mormonism-and-transsexuality/).

    But before I deliver it (and I’m honestly trying to avoid embarrassing you here, believe it or not), I want to understand correctly. Are you suggesting that “sex” and “sexuality” are fixed (even biological?) and cannot be changed, and that things like masculinity and femininity are culturally variable? Is this the basis of your feminist, gay, and trans theory, and the reason that you are rejecting Alan’s constructivist approach?

  24. Holly,
    The continued assertion that things can be both “incompatible” yet also “coexist” doesn’t really explain your position of how a biological and anti-biological etiology for sexuality are able to do so. In reality, you are simply pointing to things that might stand in tension, not things that are mutually exclusive. If you want us to give you the necessary nuance and credit with a coherent position, you will really have to explain how it is that you think these two approaches can work together, even if they are in tension, as opposed to just asserting it, which is what you’ve done so far.

  25. A phrase like “the reality of the body be recognized” is incredibly thin. What is “reality,” and which “reality” of “the” “body” are you prioritizing as what gets “recognized”? Why do you say “the body”? In what way are we supposed to “recognize” bodily differences?

  26. I want to say before this goes to far, I am sorry for laughing at you. I just found your insistence that you be taken seriously, and your abhorrence for being condescended to and lectured to, to be incredibly ironic as you both condescended and lectured to me, while simultaneously advocating the very position that is called into question by contemporary theorists for the last several decades. It struck me as funny, but I realize that ironically condescending back to you is only going to raise the stakes and the potential tensions. I’d rather focus on the arguments, so that we can get some clarity on what the issues are at stake instead of focusing on who should have said something nicer, and I regret stooping.

  27. None of us pull all our tools out of our toolboxes every time we say something around here, which should be obvious at this point.

    “Sexual difference” in the way Grosz uses it is kind of a misnomer. It isn’t really about genital difference (AKA “sex”) or “gender.” She uses it in a more Lacanian fashion: maleness as constituting “that which is represented,” and femaleness as constituting “that which is not yet represented” — pointing to the “penis” as having been problematically central to our symbolic system, whether referring to gender or to sex.

    As an example of the application of this: I’ve seen Southern Comfort, and the problem was precisely that gender and sex are assumed in society to require correspondence. Since Eads was a he, it’s assumed that he “shouldn’t” have ovaries. You’ve said that when you recognize “the difference between the male and female body” that you’re not “setting maleness and femaleness in stone,” but you actually are in your very utterance. Ovaries themselves don’t have gender or sex; the transgender body indicates that what we think about as “sex” is actually “gendered body parts.”

  28. Are you suggesting that sex and sexuality are fixed (even biological?) and cannot be changed

    Sex can change. Things like hormones or hormone mimicking agents change the sexes of amphibians and even human fetuses. Animals (including human animals) are sometimes born with genitalia that do not match their chromosomes; sometimes people find that out, and sometimes they don’t. That is one of the issues of embodiment I am interested in.

    But once people are born, they have a biology to contend with, make sense of, exploit, chafe against, enjoy, whatever. I’m interested in how people do that. For most people, their sexual identity is a big part of that.

    Sexuality certainly evolves. Puberty is an example of that.

    What is reality, and which reality of the body are you prioritizing as what gets recognized? Why do you say the body? In what way are we supposed to recognize bodily differences?

    “reality” is something we simultaneously construct and struggle to understand. Elements of it in relationship to “the body” include illness, pain, the ways that cultural norms teach us to stand, what bodies do what sort of work, etc. One “reality” I prioritize and one difference I want people to recognize is that female bodies, especially brown and young female bodies, are trafficked more often than male bodies of any sort. I say “the body” because that is a way of discussing physicality in the discipline in which I have a PhD.

    As for my sense that Alan’s anti-biological etiology for sexuality is able to coexist with a biological etiology it’s incompatible with – well, both are ideas, and both exist. I don’t need to prove that they can coexist; they already do. Incompatible means “unable to exist together in harmony” or, rather, “in tension” – that’s its primary meaning. (Yet again I have to direct you to a dictionary, TT.) It doesn’t mean that the existence of one thing necessarily cancels out the existence of the other. if it did, incompatible spouses would not divorce; instead, one would simply cease to exist.

  29. Youve said that when you recognize the difference between the male and female body that youre not setting maleness and femaleness in stone, but you actually are in your very utterance. Ovaries themselves dont have gender or sex; the transgender body indicates that what we think about as sex is actually gendered body parts.

    OK, I’ll accept the distinction in the last sentence. But if I’m guilty of setting maleness and femaleness in stone” through my very utterance, you are guilty of maintaining the homo-hetero distinction you want to dissolve, by referring to yourself as gay, which means “homosexual,” in the OP rather than emphasizing your choices.

    If my rhetoric contradicts my stated goals and positions, then so does yours.

  30. I’m “gay” because if people see me holding my partner’s hand in public, that is how they think of me; “gay” is short-hand for a categorization not exactly of my choosing. I generally call myself gay for the sake of queer politics today, but I look forward to a day when the term won’t be an identity handed to me by society.

    TT, what you’ve written on the Church and transgenderism is interesting. I think that given that, historically, the Church has conflated homosexuality with transgenderism, the use of “gender” in the Proclamation on the Family has more to do with an assumed collapse of the sex/gender system, where “gender” was chosen in place of sex because the word “sex” would make people gasp.

  31. Thank you Holly for the reply. So, if I understand you, you concede that bodies, sex, and sexuality all change, except that in all cases you root them to “biology,” like hormones. So, basically, you have a fundamentally biological view of the body itself as the source of difference. If this is not an essentialist position that relies on the naturalization of differences, it is not clear to me how you would distinguish your view from that. It still seems as if you have essentially reproduced the “sex is to nature as gender is to culture” split. But this isn’t what you mean when you say that “reality is something we construct and struggle to understand,” since you see the “reality” of “sex” and “the body” as self-evident, no? What is the degree of “construction” that you see in the “reality” of the body, because it is not clear that you have admitted to any here.

    As for the issue of the “incompatibility,” of an anti-biological and biological etiology of sexuality, I presume that you were really not advocating something as bare as “both ideas exist in the world,” and since incompatible ideas both have the property of existence. Of course they do. That doesn’t really provide a defense of your claim that:

    “As long as there are people for whom being gay does not feel like a choice, that perspective should be considered, because like chanson says, acknowledging that helps to provide an accurate view of reality.” (58)

    Here, you seem to assert that a biological explanation for sexuality (if I’m understanding properly the context in which the comment is made, and I may not be) “provides an accurate view of reality.” (Though at 67 you seem to back off this entirely and just suggest that we “respect people’s right to claim that they were born gay,” which is confusing because I don’t think anyone ever suggested that this was not someone’s right, nor that such a view should not be “respected,” whatever that means.)

    But what is really at issue is the assertion you made in 83:

    “And why cant both approachesas well as other approaches we have yet to discoverexist all at once? Why cant some people define themselves as born gay, and others say, I choose to have a same sex partner at this point; who knows what Ill choose tomorrow and others say watch me invent a new way of framing my sexuality? Why does there have to be only one way to skin this cat?”

    Again, it does not seem as if you are simply suggesting that different people actually hold incompatible views, and incompatible views have the property of existence. I understood you to instead by making a normative claim about how the movement should simultaneously take contradictory understandings of sexual identity, one in which it is innate, and other in which it is not. You seem to be suggesting that both views can and should be put forward simultaneously, as both different ways to “skin the cat.” The argument against this, of course, is that both sides think that the other is wrong and even detrimental. Certainly both sides will continue to have the property of existence, but that shouldn’t stop each from trying to persuade that the other is misguided. If you were just saying that opposite sides of the argument exist, it wouldn’t be that interesting, but instead you were saying that Alan shouldn’t try to persuade those that he thinks are wrong because they should “exist all at once.” Again, I ask, how exactly should this coexistence occur?

    As for dictionaries, “in tension” doesn’t appear in any dictionaries I’ve seen for “incompatible.” (And last time, you had to go to a thesaurus to make your case, not a dictionary. Look up the difference) Even so, your own definition denies that incompatible ideas can “exist together,” despite your contradictory insistence that “they can coexist.” Uh.

    “I have a PhD.”

    Whoopdeedoo.

    “One reality I prioritize and one difference I want people to recognize is that female bodies, especially brown and young female bodies, are trafficked more often than male bodies of any sort.”

    While this is certainly an important issue, it has absolutely nothing to do with the issue of constructivism vs. essentialism. This sort of analysis certainly isn’t precluded by the kind of approach to thinking about sexual difference or sexuality that is being put forth here.

    “I say the body because that is a way of discussing physicality”

    Okay, but such a phrase is loaded by presuming already a singular, normative “body.” It presumes the facticity of “the body” rather than its situatedness. Such an approach begins from the grounded naturalness of the body, rather than questioning and investigating that presupposition. It takes “physicality,” or “hormones,” or “orientation,” as provided rather than produced.

  32. Alan:

    Im gay because if people see me holding my partners hand in public, that is how they think of me

    and I refer to male and female bodies because we don’t generally discuss “a collection of parts that include a head and arms and a set of genitals and a pancreas and some viscera and bones and shit and other stuff too.”

    TT:

    So, basically, you have a fundamentally biological view of the body itself as the source of difference.

    The source of different treatment for different bodies is often the differences between them. That’s what I think. That does not mean that I think that the body itself produces all the differences that society claims exists between men and women, or between other categories. I don’t think that.

    you see the reality of sex and the body as self-evident, no?

    I recognize that many people do. People do ultra-sounds and think they know the sex of their baby; in that way, the “reality” of “sex” is evident, and we need to deal with what that means when fetuses without penises are aborted more frequently than fetuses with them. On an experiential level, the “reality” of the body is, like everything else, constructed and imbued with meaning both by the person who has/is “the body” and the culture s/he/it (or s/h/it) inhabits.

    I understood you to instead by making a normative claim about how the movement

    I don’t see “the movement” as monolithic, and I don’t think all elements of it have to move in complete accord. In fact, I think its chances of succeeding are greater if different people are doing different things.

    While this is certainly an important issue, it has absolutely nothing to do with the issue of constructivism vs. essentialism.

    So what? I never said I was an essentialist. In fact, I wrote, “I dont think we actually have much clue what human traits are essentially feminine or masculine.”

    It presumes the facticity of the body rather than its situatedness. Such an approach begins from the grounded naturalness of the body, rather than questioning and investigating that presupposition.

    Not to me. To me, because it sounds sort of weird to talk about “the body” rather than “bodies,” it makes the concept more abstract and less natural.

  33. So, Holly, it seems that we are back to trying to decipher just what exactly you disagree with, since when you are pressed you concede the points that have been made and just suggest that the critique doesn’t apply to you. Though I am not convinced that we are on the same page as you say (especially given your continued assertion that one cannot deploy the category “gay” or “man” or “woman” if one subscribes constructivist notions of sexual difference and sexuality; or your understanding that an essentialist view of the body is not the same thing as an essentialist view of gender), let’s assume that we are in agreement as you say on all of these issues. What exactly is your disagreement? What is the alternative view for how people should speak about sexuality as part of a political strategy?

  34. when you are pressed you concede the points that have been made

    What makes you think I am “conceding” points that I express readily myself in other conversations? And precisely where in this specific thread were the points I “concede” above made?

    especially given your continued assertion that one cannot deploy the category gay or man or woman if one subscribes constructivist notions of sexual difference and sexuality

    Alan acknowledges that he hopes to discard the term “gay” eventually, so I don’t see what’s so weird about pointing out that it’s problematic as a category in terms of his overall agenda. Aside from that, “gay” is a phallogocentric term. Just as the word “man” is supposed to mean both “human being regardless of sex” and “male but not female person,” “gay is supposed to mean both “homosexual regardless of sex” and “male but not female homosexual,” which is why it’s the G opposed to the Lin LGBT. One can of course deploy it, but it replicates many of the gender biases and erasure of women of all other sexist language.

    Where do I say you can’t deploy the terms “man” or “woman”?

    What exactly is your disagreement?

    My disagreement is that like Chanson,

    I think this whole dichotomy of choice vs biology is deeply flawed as a way to frame the question. Theres no either/or going on, and science isnt claiming that your destiny is written in your genetic code. Humans are shaped by their physiology, but their culture, and by their particular experiences within that culture.

    That at least appears to be the source of my disagreement with you, even down to the fact I say that it doesn’t really matter that you insist that positions like that one are incompatible with Alan’s.

    You, not me, were the one looking for disagreements between us. You tried very hard to find other sources of it, but as you’ve acknowledged,it appears that by and large you failed.

    There were other disagreements with Alan, which occurred in the “Mormon Times says religion can be bad, but not theirs” thread. He backed off on those, but that is what chanson was referring to when she said, “Why poison the well by presuming to lecture me and Holly about it, as though youre the expert and were just neophytes on the subject?”

    What is the alternative view for how people should speak about sexuality as part of a political strategy?

    I cannot give you “the” alternative view. Again, I think you are posing a false and unnecessary either/or – either Alan’s way or ….?

    And as if speaking is the only thing we do with regards to sex.

  35. I have seen few of his interlocutors really understand the implications of what he is saying.

    Before we being to discuss the implications, I would like to be perfectly clear on the basics of what Alan is arguing.

    Alan — You did not answer the question I posed @91: What is it you object to about my characterization of the interplay between biology, culture, and human experience?

    I’m looking at your comment #64. You quote my post, OK. You say “Chanson, this is not how it works,” OK. You make some remarks about the “homo/hetero binary” which have nothing to do with my comment #61. And you follow-up with the example of ancient Greece — which is an illustration of my point about how cultural expectations frame human experience [see the top of Andrew’s comment @73 for further clarification]. Frankly, after reading your comment @64, I have no idea what you think I said.

    Now, I’d like to ask you to stand down the flame thrower a minute and read my actual comments. Since they may have gotten lost in the shuffle, I’ll ask you to start with #47, then #61, then #91. Please answer the question I asked, before making mysterious accusations of supposed “gaffes” I made….

  36. Chanson, I disagree with pretty much everything you say @ 47.

    You begin by stating that every complex human behavior is a combination of both nature and nurture. I assume you’re including sexual orientation in this. You end by saying that sexual orientation is generally “not a choice.” So I read this to mean that you are generally foreclosing nurture. Or…you saying that we have no choice over nurture, since we are bound to “culture.” In any event, you might as well say that sexual orientation is basically “nature.”

    The reason I said that it doesn’t work this way is because the concept of sexual orientation began in the late 1800s. So, it’s not really possible for something that didn’t exist prior to a certain time to be “nature” or “nurture” or any combination of both prior to that time. But this doesn’t stop you from your next premise, which is really problematic.

    You point to “serial heterosexual monogamy leaning slightly towards polygyny” as the “dominant parenting/mating pattern” of human societies throughout time. I assume you are referring to this as a declaration of “nature” and not “nurture” — or as “nurture” as a result of our “natures,” or whatever. The way I read what you’re saying is that you are looking at the topic “cross-culturally” in order to strip away “nurture” to get at the “nature” of the beast.

    But where does homosexuality fit into this suggestion of “serial heterosexual monogamy as the dominant paradigm throughout time?” It doesn’t. It just appears at the end of your comment where you say “in this context, it’s not clear what it would even mean to claim that homosexual orientation is a choice.” Well, of course it’s not clear if you begin with a paradigm in which “heterosexuality” has been the “dominant parenting/mating pattern” across the centuries! The reason I brought up the homo/hetero binary in my response to your comment is because without the presence of homosexuality, you can’t have heterosexuality as a dominant paradigm. It’s just not philosophically possible. So, you might rephrase your paradigm to “serial heterosexual monogamy leaning slightly towards polygyny + some homosexuality going on in there somewhere, too.” Otherwise, your paradigm is, frankly, heterosexist.

    The truth of the matter is, though, you can’t take the homo/hetero binary and apply ahistorically as you have. For one, the binary asserts things about desire that don’t span the centuries.

    Here’s some history to chew on: think about how there is gay stuff that goes on in prisons and other same-sex exclusive spaces, practiced by those who did not, prior to entering those spaces, have a “homosexual orientation.” One thing that sexual historians have noted about homosexuality in the early 20th century is that industrial capitalism created spaces for people to cohabitate in ways that an agrarian society did not. Agrarianism requires the production of children for a livelihood. And what do we have over the course of human centuries? Agrarianism. As I’ve discussed @74, people in the 1800s were not heterosexual or homosexual because most people’s ideas about sex (as underpinned by their theology) were related to the production of children, and not desire. People’s sexualities were related to the economy. If anything, desire (lending to terrible things like “spilling your seed”) was considered part of human evil. That’s why there are Catholic nuns and priests; Jesus was assumed to be asexual. People didn’t think of sexual pleasure as essential to a marriage until the 1920s or so. So, in this context, how can a “sexual orientation” even exist, much less be a combination of “nature” or “nurture?” In fact, some historians go so far as to ask when sexuality got separated conceptually from race!

    In the 21st century, we have reproductive technologies so that it really doesn’t matter the gender of your partner if indeed a person even wants children — which in fully industrialized societies, the population is going down, isn’t it? In this context, is there any reason to believe that there won’t be more gay people, more people who “choose” to fall in love with the same gender? I certainly feel that I choose my orientation in today’s context, a lot more than you or I could have chosen our “orientations” in the 1800s.

    Now, I haven’t even brought the “science of orientation” into this yet, but maybe I don’t have to and my point has already been made. The point being that desire, which is constructed in scientific discourse in terms of “nature” (or an “unchosen sexual orientation”) actually has a great deal of “nurture” built into it, in which our choices are a lot more open than we think. Not to mention, the concept of “sexual orientation” brushes over transgenderism. Ever seen those talk shows where a man is surprised to find out that he’s been dating another man?

    Currently, in the Prop 8 battle, the supporters of the proposition put forth a somewhat secular argument that gay marriage shouldn’t be supported by the government because of reproduction and the interest of population growth or maintenance. The argument has historical merit, but if gay marriage happens in America, it’s going to be because of freedom of choice and not because people have unchosen sexual orientations.

  37. Prior to the 1920s or the late 1800s or whenever date is relevant, did people even feel sexual attractions to one another?

    …Or is this just something we invented one day?

  38. Alan — Thanks for answering the question I asked — now we’re getting somewhere! My short response is the following:

    Orientation and behavior are two very different things.

    I assume you agree with this statement (unless you’re arguing that orientation doesn’t exist or that it is wholly artificial — which would naturally lead to the question of what created it).

    When I say that serial heterosexual monogamy leaning slightly towards polygyny is the dominant parenting/mating pattern, I mean that that is the type of arrangement that the overwhelming majority of human adults have entered into in the overwhelming majority of known human societies. More to the point (for this discussion), it’s the pattern that the overwhelming majority of people have been raised to expect. Still is, BTW.

    This cultural expectation affects peoples’ behavior. The obvious example here is the huge number of gay Mormons in mixed-orientation-marriages who are just coming out now (to themselves and their spouses) after decades of marriage. There is no particular reason to believe that fewer marriages (proportionally) were MOMs in the past. The obvious explanation is that the modern awareness of homosexuality is the catalyst that has sparked a whole lot epiphanies of the sort “Hey, that’s me! I thought I was the only one!”

    If you read their stories, you see it over and over. Many people from my generation and earlier ago couldn’t conceive of growing up to be a happy, out, gay adult in a committed same-sex relationship. They didn’t have the cultural framework to understand that as an option. So they chose their behavior among the options they were aware of. A typical person in the equivalent situation another generation or two earlier would simply never have come out, and instead would have remained married until death.

    On to sexuality in same-sex societies: As others on this thread have explained, this phenomenon has very little to do with orientation. It has a lot to do with opportunity (or, more specifically, lack of opportunity to be with a person of their choosing). Part of it is also youthful experimentation (which, I suspect, is why Freud thought that adult homosexuality was “arrested development”).

    There is, however, a connection with orientation: some of these same-sex societies are self-selecting. Consider, for example, the Catholic clergy (especially during the Middle Ages). I’m sorry to use this example (for obvious reasons), but if you want to talk about history, it’s one example where we have centuries of documented, historical evidence — not only of same-sex sexual activity — but of long-term same-sex romantic relationships. Despite the dominant paradigm I mentioned, some portion of the population chose a different path, and — even if people didn’t usually have the opportunity to choose to be in a monastery or convent — underlying orientation probably influenced many peoples’ inclination to aspire to the monastery/convent life.

    Now, contraception: It is only very recently that we’ve had a widespread cultural distinction between heterosexual sex and reproduction (with the resulting dynastic/inheritance implications). This has dramatically changed the dynamics of heterosexual romantic relationships. One result is that the average person expects to have multiple romantic-sexual relationships before settling down to raise a family. And one result of that is that our culture has a dramatically increased expectation that you will love (and be in love with) your spouse.

    In centuries past, naturally, many people loved their spouses. However, it was generally considered (at best) a “nice to have” in a marriage. Today, it’s widely considered a necessary component of a successful marriage. Today, people routinely divorce for no other reason than “I wasn’t in love with him/her.” That would have been inconceivable in our own culture in centuries past.

    Now, I don’t want to oversimplify and pretend that this is the only reason. As I said, human culture evolves through a complex interplay of different factors. But the modern expectation “I should marry who I love and love who I marry” is a major factor to explain why gay marriage is an issue now — even though it wasn’t in the past. Marriage changed. Our culture changed. Our underlying biology did not.

  39. But the modern expectation I should marry who I love and love who I marry is a major factor to explain why gay marriage is an issue now even though it wasnt in the past. Marriage changed. Our culture changed. Our underlying biology did not.

    Don’t know if you ever got around to reading “Marriage: A History” by Stephanie Coontz, Chanson, but this is a nice summation of a point she makes. If you did, you summarized it well; if not, you really should check it out.

  40. People didnt think of sexual pleasure as essential to a marriage until the 1920s or so.

    Actually they did, and in some interesting ways. For instance, failing to please a wife sexually was grounds for divorce in the middle ages.

    this is discussed in both Terry Jones’s documentary series “Medieval Lives” (which is really fun) and in Coontz’s book. It’s also mentioned here. http://rosaliegilbert.com/divorces.html

  41. Holly,

    (136): “What makes you think I am conceding points that I express readily myself in other conversations? And precisely where in this specific thread were the points I concede above made?”

    You’ve argued heavily early in this thread that the body is determinative of human subjectivity, but you seem to have moved away from that position. Here is how I see the conversation developing:

    With respect to desire, you put it at same the level of determinism as hunger: 54: “it does not follow that desire would be one of those choices,any more than hunger is a choice.” In defense of chanson’s argument for taking biology seriously, you go further than she in saying it “is philosophically satisfying, because it acknowledges something accurate about desire, period.”
    58: You object to Alan’s argument that “biologism has no place in the current conversation” and that “acknowledging that helps to provide an accurate view of reality.”
    You’ve seemed pretty consistent in defending a biological basis for sexual orientation.
    Sometimes you’ve seemed to make a more modest claim, as in 67, that “I respect peoples right to claim that they were born gay,” though as I’ve said it is not clear who are are arguing against here, because no one has suggested that such a right not be respected. The right is not in question, only the view of the determined subject that is at stake in such a declaration, as well the political efficacy of such an approach.
    When it comes to setting out how sexuality should be defined, you object to Alan’s argument for fluidity: “You keep arguing for fluidity, but theres little in how you would let individuals define their own sexuality, because you insist it has to be undefined.”
    All of this leads to the crux of the issue, which is your belief that biological and anti-biological approaches could and should both have a place in how sexuality is understood. Though you later take a minimalist approach that all you meant was that they both happen to exist, this is not the sense of your question”
    83: “And why cant both approaches [fluidity and determinism]as well as other approaches we have yet to discoverexist all at once?”
    You elaborate in 86: “it does not necessarily follow that the concept has outlived its usefulness and must be discarded NOW, as you advocate, or scrapped entirely at any point. At this time in the current debate, there are still people working toward the same goal youre working toward who find it both useful and necessary.”
    Then, after Alan’s misreading of chanson, you appeal to your authority and object being lectured to in 92. You berate him again on this in 99, and 103, suggesting that “Why keep defending discourse that clearly didnt work,” when your demonstration of how his approach doesn’t work has barely risen above a declaration, far from any demonstrated case. And to top it all off, you accuse Alan of sexism because he won’t admit defeat in 103!
    All of this adds up to a pretty consistent picture of your defense of biological determinism as a viable approach for thinking about sexual taxonomies. You suggest that it does not need to be discarded, that it is still useful and necessary. This is the claim, along with your idea that two opposing approaches should both be used, is what I wanted to investigate in 101-102, where I note that the inconsistency between the two positions is precisely what Halperin attributes the break between academics and activists to. If you have a solution to this problem, I am interested in hearing it, but so far you have only asserted or asked rhetorically why two contradictory positions can’t both be advanced.
    Your response to this issue was to assert that “incompatible” things can coexist, listing examples of things that you believe to be incompatible, but never explaining how you resolve the real tensions between academic rejections of biological determinism and activists’ reliance on them (104, 106, 123).
    When pressed on why you think biological essentialism (which has been the whole issue so far), is a critical part of gender and gay politics, you back away from the earlier defense of such ideas, CONCEDING that you do not actually think (110) “biological difference constitute a sound basis for most stereotypes about either women or men, or for the oppression of women. I dont think we actually have much clue what human traits are essentially feminine or masculine.” So, why exactly have you been defending it as a legitimate method in gay politics, when you reject it in feminist politics? You even go so far as to say “the power of feminism is that it breaks down essentialism,” which seems to be exactly the position that Alan and I have been arguing for with respect to gay politics, and are curious as to why you are arguing against an anti-essentialist view.
    Then, in 111, you suggest that anyone who doesn’t accept biological determinism should not use the term “gay” to self describe.
    Then, the argument turns more closely to the specific kind of biological essentialism you are advocating for, which is rooted in the body, despite your claims as a feminist to have rejected them (see Alan’s 112). You have retreated from essentialism when it comes to feminism, but have instead moved a new kind of essentialism and determinism to “the body.” This, among other reasons, is the argument against a reason to accept a happy “coexistence” of biological and anti-biological essentialism.
    Again, in spite of your claim to reject “essentialism,” you continue to assert a biological essentialism with respect to male and female bodies: “acknowledging the reality of the body, including differences between the male and female body” (119), and “Sexual difference is rooted in the body; gender is a social construct rooted in culture” (122). I’m guessing that you are still not seeing the incoherence of your position, as it has thus far developed:
    1) biological essentialism and determinism remain a necessary and useful part of gay politics
    2) Feminism is anti-essentialist
    3) Biological differences form the basis of male and female difference, (which bizarrely you don’t see as in conflict with transpolitics (122).) Here, you retreat to the sex/gender distinction, which is another version of biological essentialism, and in the specific way in which you advocate it is actually opposed to trans politics.
    Besides the contradictory approaches between 1 and 2, the problem is that you’ve smuggled essentialism back in to the equation by naturalizing the differences between male and female. Now, perhaps this is not a problem after all for your argument, even if it undermines your supposedly anti-essentialism feminism, given your defense of essentialism with respect to gay politics. Yet, you do not take a consistent position on this either.
    Later, your position shifts from being a defense of biological essentialism and determinism to a more vague notion that the “reality of the body be recognized.” (124) But how this relates to your previous defense of biological essentialism and determinism is not clear.
    Because of this confusion and seeming lack of precision, I ask point blank (125): “Are you suggesting that sex and sexuality are fixed (even biological?) and cannot be changed, and that things like masculinity and femininity are culturally variable? Is this the basis of your feminist, gay, and trans theory, and the reason that you are rejecting Alans constructivist approach?”
    In response, you deliver your most clear argument on biological essentialism. Yet, you seem to take conflicting views. In one view, you are rooting all of bodily identity in the apparent naturalness of the body (130): “But once people are born, they have a biology to contend with, make sense of, exploit, chafe against, enjoy, whatever. Im interested in how people do that. For most people, their sexual identity is a big part of that.” But next, you seem to suggest more of a constructivist approach: “reality is something we simultaneously construct and struggle to understand. Elements of it in relationship to the body include illness, pain, the ways that cultural norms teach us to stand, what bodies do what sort of work, etc.”
    But, to add to even more confusion, in the very next comment, you CONCEDE Alan’s constructivist approach to bodies that “sex” is always already “gender” because it is already an interpretation of bodies, not an objective classification, and admit that, “my rhetoric contradicts my stated goals and positions,” but think that Alan’s does too. So, again, whether you are accepting a constructivist approach, essentialist/determinist approach, which in 58 you had described as “an accurate view of reality,” or some strange hybrid is constantly shifting, let alone how you see them “coexisting” in any meaningful way.
    Ultimately, I admit to some vague sense that you seen an underlying biology, that includes sex, illness, and perhaps even sexual orientation, etc, that culture then overlays some other meaning. This seems to be what you mean in (134): “That does not mean that I think that the body itself produces all the differences that society claims exists between men and women, or between other categories. I dont think that.” Yet, you then back away from this further, again conceding a fully constructivist approach when you say, “On an experiential level, the reality of the body is, like everything else, constructed and imbued with meaning both by the person who has/is the body and the culture s/he/it (or s/h/it) inhabits.”
    So, you can perhaps understand where the confusion comes in trying to figure out what you are arguing, as you move initially from a defense of biological essentialism/determinism, to ultimately adopting a fully constructivist approach. Hence my confusion in 135. Perhaps your own schizophrenic adoption of competing views explains why you think purely constructivist approaches should be adopted alongside the positions it opposes, such as biological essentialism and determinism. As you say, your defense of this assertion at this point boils down to: “both are ideas, and both exist.”
    At last, when we finally get to the point seeking some real clarity on what exactly you disagree with about the constructivist approach, and why you think it is so necessary that it not be adopted to the exclusion of the positions that it contradicts, you appeal to chanson’s hybrid cultural constructivist-scientific position (136): “Humans are shaped by their physiology, but their culture, and by their particular experiences within that culture.”
    But it is not clear how this constitutes your disagreement with me, since I actually don’t have a problem with this statement by chanson (in fact, I agree explicitly in 63), if she takes physiology to refer to simply the way that the bodily parts function, and that culture supplies the rest. This is the position that I’ve been arguing for, and have been confused at the way you’ve vacillated from initially rejecting this as the sole and best understanding of how sexual subjects are constituted, to embracing it.
    So, this is a long way of saying that often I find that we agree, especially the more you back away from essentialist and determinist positions and move toward constructivist positions. I am still not sure how you see them functioning together, or why you see them as both “necessary,” especially when you happen to adopt the opposite view. In that sense, I think that “Alan’s way” (it certainly is not unique to him) offers a pretty compelling alternative, and the more you sketch out your own position, the closer it begins to look to his. If in the end, it seems we agree entirely, that will be nice.
    One final point:
    I said before that I am not entirely willing to go all the way with Alan on the way he is speaking about “choice,” but we can leave that for another time. I’ve mentioned before that I’m most influenced by Butler, and on this point _Bodies that Matter_ best explains how I account for bodily materiality. As part of this, “constructivist” is a term that she rejects there, though I’ve used it here as a shorthand for that position. I’m not sure we are sufficiently deep into the issues for it to matter too much however, since what is at stake for her is a rejection of the alternative we’ve set up here, the essentialist/determinist position.

  42. People didnt think of sexual pleasure as essential to a marriage until the 1920s or so.

    Okay, let me be more clear. This statement was a comparison of the 1800s to the 1900s in American society particularly. In terms of “desire” existing prior to the 1800s in other places, well of course it did. We have, for example, poems from Muslim men in ancient India writing about their undying love toward another man they met in the marketplace or whatever. There’s the Kama Sutra. And so on.

    But you guys are still missing the point, even though chanson, said it herself: orientation and behavior are two different things. You readily discard the notion that people in same-sex spaces have sex because they want to; instead you say it’s: “lack of opportunity to be with a person of their choosing” and/or “youthful experimentation.” This remains a heterosexist outlook, because you are looking for an orientation before you are looking for the behavior as it manifests. Have you ever looked at studies of the “orientations” of ex-prisoners? Everything I have read indicates that people “return to heterosexuality” because of reasons like “the resumption of family and marital ties,” not: “omigod, I want to have sex with the opposite gender now!” In other words, the fact that inmates are released into a heteronormative social structure obscures evidence of how situational homosexuality has an effect on their future sexual choices. But if you look historically at societies that have more than just “situational homosexuality,” but rather “cultural homosexuality” (e.g., ancient Greek aristocracy), it’s clear that orientation is not a useful construct to describe “potential behaviors if only things were different.”

    As I’m sure you’re aware, when people were first studying the epidemiology of HIV, and discovered black men on the “down low,” these men violated the assumption that sexual orientation is defined by sexual behavior. These men were assumed to be “in the closet.” But if you break this down into its situational aspects — black Christian culture that says no to homosexuality, the requirement to produce children, and so on, you will see that “the closet” is produced by the cultural aspects of the society and has nothing to do with “orientations.”

    Let’s take the examples you give. Mixed-orientation marriages.

    There is no particular reason to believe that fewer marriages (proportionally) were MOMs in the past. The obvious explanation is that the modern awareness of homosexuality is the catalyst that has sparked a whole lot epiphanies of the sort Hey, thats me! I thought I was the only one!

    Have you read Quinn’s book about same-sex relationships in 19th century Mormonism? You have a situation where people didn’t think sex was for anything but reproduction. Desire to be close to someone of the same sex happened all the time, whereas men and women were kept ostracized unless they were married. So, what you have going on here are a bunch of “culturally oriented behaviors.” There is no semblance of “orientation,” as it is described today.

    Medieval same-sex cloisters. You say “underlying orientation probably influenced many peoples inclination to aspire to the monastery/convent life.” How about instead: “monastery/convent life oriented some people toward the same gender.” The latter statement doesn’t require you to take a social construct of today and apply it anachronistically. Queer historiography does not work that way.

    Now, one thing I will agree with you on is that the modern expectation of I should marry who I love and love who I marry is indeed why gay marriage is an issue now.

  43. In terms of desire existing prior to the 1800s in other places, well of course it did. We have, for example, poems from Muslim men in ancient India writing about their undying love toward another man they met in the marketplace or whatever. Theres the Kama Sutra. And so on.

    So, why did the Muslim man have undying love toward another man he met in the marketplace?

    Why do some people have undying love toward people of the same sex, other people have undying love to people of the opposite sex, other people have undying love to people of both sexes, other people have undying love to no one, etc.,?

    Are you saying it’s just because of culture?

    You keep bringing up that orientation and behavior are two different things (as we have done too, which is why you note that chanson mentioned it), but then you bring instances of *behavioral* changes as if that decides everything. When you mention “situational homosexuality” and point to *behavioral* changes, I wonder whether you even recognize anything about the distinction that we have brought up, even though you keep trying to bring it up for your points.

    Why is it heterosexist to look for an orientation before you look for behavior as it manifests, when we understand that orientation and behavior are two different things? Because we understand that the two are two different things, we can’t look at behavior as it manifests and make assumptions about orientation, or about who has undying love for whom.

    I’m really trying to understand what you are saying here, but it just feels like the world you are describing is utterly foreign and I can’t translate.

  44. lack of opportunity to be with a person of their choosing and/or youthful experimentation. This remains a heterosexist outlook

    Oh, please. I would hope that you could see that I am attempting to keep this discussion as concise as possible while repeatedly explaining that the storyline has additional nuances.

    Alan, I am not your enemy. You want to challenge the common wisdom, and I respect that. I am not trying to attack or defeat you — I am trying to understand your position and have a reasonable exchange of ideas with you. I will continue this discussion with you when you demonstrate to me that you are interested in doing the same.

  45. TT @144:

    You object to Alans argument that biologism has no place in the current conversation and that acknowledging that helps to provide an accurate view of reality. Youve seemed pretty consistent in defending a biological basis for sexual orientation.

    I will admit that one problem was that I followed Alan’s lead and used biology and biologism as if they are interchangeable, when they are not. You introduced the term to the conversation, @14, writing “I think that the biologism of contemporary gay activist rhetoric is incredibly problematic for trans activists.” @18 you wrote, “Ive seen you try to make the critique of biologism here, and Ive appreciated it, but have been too timid to back you up.”

    No one here believes that human life should be interpreted from a strictly biological point of view, so I assumed that biologism meant consideration of biology’s role in human development, not a strict reliance on it. I should not have done that; I should not have trusted or mimicked your and Alan’s use of key terms. I should have googled both biologism and biology and maintained a strict distinction between the two. It would have avoided problems. Perhaps that is the grounds by which you attributed to me views I do not actually hold and feel that I have since “conceded” points you think I initially disagreed with.

    it is not clear how this constitutes your disagreement with me

    As I said, you have been the one intent on pursuing this disagreement. You asked me to tell you what the basis of our disagreement was. I tried, even though I don’t particularly care. If it turns out that we don’t actually disagree, well, I guess you’ll have to figure out the basis of the disagreement on your own, or else agree to agree.

    I decided this morning that I don’t actually accept the distinction Alan made @129 about body parts, since people don’t generally experience themselves as parts. I can see its rhetorical usefulness, but I don’t think it’s what life feels like for most people.

    Alan @145:

    This statement was a comparison of the 1800s to the 1900s in American society particularly.

    then you’ll understand why it does little to support any generalized view of human sexuality.

  46. Part of heterosexism is when you begin a premise about humanity by privileging the heterosexual version of events (which you’ve been doing repeatedly now), and degrading non-heterosexual instances as “nuance.” You seem to be forgetting that at all times non-heterosexuality is a norm alongside heterosexuality. I’m sorry if you’re unfamiliar with the full meaning of heterosexism, so I am informing you.

  47. Alan,

    When you say “heterosexual” and “non-heterosexual,” to what do you refer? Feelings (to whom one feels ‘undying love’) or actions (e.g., situational or cultural)?

    It seems to me that one cause of heterosexism — even ignorant as I am — is the fact that a person who does not have non-heterosexual *feelings* is biased to marginalize the very concept of those who do. Is that off the mark?

    Supposing I’m still on track, it seems to me further that what is required are feelings. Feelings that appear to the individual experiencing them to be relatively unchosen — so that the very possibility of alternative feelings seems impossible at worst or “nuance” at best (which isn’t good enough, since, as you point out, it denies the norm status.)

    Finally, it appears to me that to assert that at all times non-heterosexuality is a norm alongside heterosexuality, there has to be some pervading *thing* to represent non-heterosexuality.

    My question is: should this be non-heterosexual behaviors or non-heterosexual feelings and attractions? It seems like if some people have some — dare I say biological — non-heterosexual feeling or attraction, then that does far more to establish “norm” status, despite actions and behaviors taken, than does pointing out shifting, transient behavioral patterns.

    Fortunately, this is how the world seems to look to me. And yet, you don’t seem to agree.

    So, where am I going wrong?!?

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