Facing East: Thoughts on (Dis)Orientation

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I was talking with a friend the other day who was feeling uneasy about his life. Like me, he has known since he was a boy that he is gay, yet (because he was a faithful Mormon boy) he married and had children, then eventually came to a point where he could no longer continue to live the way he was. He is now divorced and is living openly as a gay man.

Though he does not regret coming out of the closet and embracing his true self, he admits to experiencing periods of disorientation in his life: times when he feels uneasy, uncomfortable and anxious about where hes at.

I could empathize. I have felt many such periods since embracing my gayness last October, and I have mentioned various episodes in previous blog posts. (Just how many times I had done so, I didnt realize until doing a Google search on my blog site.)

And so, I have reflected these past days on the subject of orientation and disorientation. In the course of doing so, I decided to look up the etymology, or history, of the word orientation. I was surprised by what I found and by how relevant I think this history is to a discussion of homosexuality.

An Etymological Lesson

The word orientation comes from the word orient, which in turn derives from the Latin word oriens meaning “east” (literally “rising” from orior “rise”). The use of the word for “rising” to refer to the east (where the sun rises) has analogs from many languages, such as Levant (rising) in French and Vostok in Russian (from voshkhod, meaning sunrise). Also, many ancient temples, including pagan temples and the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (as well as most Mormon temples), were built with their main entrances facing the East. To situate them in such a manner was to “orient” them in the proper direction. When something was facing the correct direction, it was said to be in the proper “orientation”.

(Interestingly, and parenthetically, as I was reading this material, my thoughts turned to Carol Lynn Pearsons play, Facing East, which I have not seen, but I understand that the title was a reference to the LDS belief that the dead should be buried oriented toward the east. The reason for doing so is the belief that Jesus Christ will return from the east, and when the dead are resurrected, they should arise facing east in order to meet Christ.)

The word orient was apparently first used in the English language by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1375 in his Knights Tale. The term grew in common usage, and by the early 1700s, church architects would say that their sanctuaries were oriented because they faced east. By the mid 1800s, people spoke of other things as well as people that could be oriented, which by this point didnt always have to mean that they faced toward the east. Eventually, the term disoriented came to mean a loss of direction and confusion.

Sexual Orientation

The term orientation has a special significance to homosexuals. It is a term that has come into common usage whereby others, typically not the homosexuals themselves, describe the sexual preferences of gays and lesbians. One would not, for example, typically hear a gay person make a statement such as the following: My sexual orientation is ________. What? How would one complete this sentence? One simply doesnt say this. Right?

I find it interesting that the whole concept of orientation originally referred to ones position vis–vis only one of the four points of the compass: east. If one wasnt facing east, one wasnt properly aligned, and eventually, one was referred to as dis-oriented. Similarly, in the realm of sexuality, heterosexuality is the equivalent of east. It is the standard. Anything else becomes not properly aligned, not properly oriented, or dis-oriented.

The use of the term orientation also compartmentalizes sexual identity by reducing everything that forms part of that identity into a sexual direction. Again, thinking of the history of the term, its like saying that a church wasnt a real church if it wasnt facing east, that the whole identity of that church, congregation and parish was bound up in which way the front door faced. (Or like believing that someones resurrection is going to be somehow defective because they are buried in the proper direction.)

These are some negative aspects of use of the term orientation as applied to sexual identity. But I read something the other day that conveys a positive aspect of the use of this word. James Alison, a gay Catholic priest and theologian (of whom I plan to write more in future posts), commented as follows in the context of a discussion of the effects that scientific advances in the understanding of homosexuality, and the ineffectualness of various therapies that have sought to change ones sexual orientation, have had upon ones perception of ones divine acceptance (for lack of a better term):

[People whove been through various of these therapies can] actually say, ‘Do you know, in good conscience, I’ve now pursued every option that those people told me I ought to pursue. So now I can relax into knowing that it’s not the case.’ And then they discover, of course, as I’ve come to discover as well, that thing which the Catholic faith has taught me is true, which is that we have a certain orientedness to what is true. When something is true, you relax; this is part of the goodness of creation [emphasis added].

I think gay Mormons (and others) could ponder Alisons statement and perhaps learn something.

Human Disorientation

My friend was definitely not feeling confused or anxious about his sexual orientation, and I have never felt such confusion since leaving the closet. To the contrary, I have felt increasingly clarity not only with respect to my sexual identity, but concerning every aspect of my identity since starting the coming-out process.

Rather, the disorientation he was feeling and that I have felt is, I think, a product both of changing ones bearings to face ones true East i.e., accepting ones true identity and re-orienting ones life toward what is true (to use Alisons words) and of the general human condition. This malaise was described in a profoundly meaningful homily I heard a few weeks ago at a mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine:

One of the most fundamental insights of the Christian view of the world is that to be human is to be on a pilgrimage. At any moment in our lives we are still on the way, still in process, still unfinished To be a pilgrim people helps explain why we are often so often unsatisfied with our achievements and feel ill at ease with where we find ourselves Human beings have pilgrim hearts, pilgrim souls.

But what keeps this disorientation from turning into depression and despair is the faith that was described in the above-referenced talk:

There is a divine design, a divinely inspired order, a meaning to our lives. This leads us to the faith that our lives are not thrown together at random, that we do not exist by accident, that we are not alone or abandoned in a meaningless and ultimately disordered world.

This conviction is particularly important in moments of crisis. For in such moments, we see nothing but chaos and disorder, and we are tempted to give up. We feel caught in a tangle of disarray, a web of meaninglessness. We cry out in our hearts, Why? Whats the point? Why is all this happening?

Yet, according to Christian faith, there is a divine plan at work in all human situations. That does not for a moment mean that God is manipulating every situation of crisis, least of all that God is testing us deliberately by messing up our lives. (Who could have any love for such a God?)

The notion of a divine plan or design means that each crisis can become a moment of opportunity. We are called to search out the value, the possibility for growth, the creative response. Every crisis is an opportunity; every burden a chance to practice virtue; every disorder is a challenge to find order.

One of the most fantastic things that has happened to me since I came out of the closet is, out of disorder, I am finding order. Out of disorientation (i.e., orienting myself to something I wasnt), I am finding my true orientation.

But most of all, out of theoplasticorporatism, I am rediscovering my humanity. I am a human. Homo sum.

Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto

(I am a man. I consider nothing human to be foreign to me)

~ Terence
Roman Playwright

 

Invictus Pilgrim blogs here.

30 thoughts on “Facing East: Thoughts on (Dis)Orientation

  1. When “orientation” first came into use in the late 19th century, it was about anyone not oriented toward the opposite gender in an appropriate fashion was “disoriented.”

    Homosexuality, bisexuality, paraphilias, pedophilias, sadomasochisms, zoophilias, self-pleasure, etc, were all disorders. (My point isn’t to say what of these is or is not a “disorder,” just that they were all grouped together as such.)

    Some people (such as Freud) argued for innate bisexuality that becomes homosexuality or heterosexuality in mid- to late childhood. These folks argued that our ancestors are bisexual barnacles. But their voices were washed away with Christian moralism and cosmology of “man as created in God’s image,” as this was the same time that Darwinism (evolution) and Christianity clashed. (And still clash.)

    Darwinists today tend to argue something along the lines of homosexuality as related to increased fertility in one’s siblings. But how about this? Human beings love human beings. The modern “nuclear family” isn’t particularly natural. Monkeys live in groups.

    Back in the day, when it came to homosexuality, there were several links made to happiness, health, and even class, as it was assumed that only wealthy people had the time and luxury to engage in sexual disorder. This also had racial implications, as whites thought there was no homosexuality among the “inferior races” who were “closer” to the “original man.” Homosexuality was understood as much more than affront to one’s salvation, but to the salvation and perpetuation of the white race. You can see these connections in the words of Mormon leaders in the 50s and 60s. Or what am I saying? You can see these connections in Boyd Packer’s words today.

    Then of course interracial marriage came along, which a lot of people still haven’t gotten over. The caretaking of a child is more important than how s/he is produced.

    There’s a lovely poem in the latest issue of Ensign that’s about adopted children, and how a person’s “mother” doesn’t necessarily have to be their birth mother. Hmm… interesting. A child is sealed to their adopted parents rather than their birth parents. Perhaps two and two can be put together for queer families? No, Mormons are still a ways off, I’m afraid.

    Anyhow, this rant is just to say that “orientation” is about happiness. The goal shouldn’t be to prove that orientation is “genetic” (because wth does that even mean?), but simply to demonstrate that gay is gay AKA happy. That’s really where the battle lies, I think, as the assumption of many in the Church is that you can’t be truly happy and gay, so you might as well act all straight-like…. orient yourself on a straight line, as opposed to deviating.

  2. Darwinists today tend to argue something along the lines of homosexuality as related to increased fertility in ones siblings.

    “Darwinists”? Who are these “Darwinists” of which you speak? If you’re going to argue against a point that no one brought up, can you at least cite a reference so we know whom you’re debating?

    The goal shouldnt be to prove that orientation is genetic (because wth does that even mean?)

    For a trait to be genetic does, in fact, have a clear and precise definition. However, again, no one here has claimed that orientation is wholly genetic.

    Anyhow, this rant is just to say that orientation is about happiness.

    Why rant in response to such a thoughtful post? Indeed, Invictus’s post doesn’t appear to disagree with the thesis that orientation is about happiness.

  3. Who are these Darwinists of which you speak?

    Francesca Iemmola and Andrea Camperio Ciani (2008) New Evidence of Genetic Factors Influencing Sexual Orientation in Men: Female Fecundity Increase in the Maternal Line. Archives of Sexual Behavior

    Why rant in response to such a thoughtful post?

    I’m ranting alongside him. He’s describing orientation as it relates to disorientation, which I think is important, as disorientation is beyond the bounds of sexuality even when referring to it. It’s makes sense that orientation would be beyond the bounds of sexuality, too. Yet it generally isn’t talked about this way. So, in my comment, I show some of the links to race, class, etc.

    Sexual orientation usually refers to “what gender are you attracted to?” which, Invictus is right: unless one is an automaton, one rarely says: “My sexual orientation is ________. Still, science is going about trying to find the cause of sexual orientation without recognizing the ways in which the concept is culturally-constructed. To me, it’s kind of like going about trying to find the cause of why we eat or breathe. Sure, it might be useful to fix an eating or breathing problem, but what exactly are we going to fix in terms of sexual orientation?

    Like I’ve mentioned before, there’s a nasty double-bind in which if homosexuality is not genetic, then people will think it’s not worth protecting or respecting. But if homosexuality is genetic, then the same people will want to fix it. Genetics is a lose-lose unless one also focuses on questions of happiness and disorientation (to include other factors than sexuality).

    The study I cite above, in which homosexuality is linked to the fertility of one’s kin is interesting, because it opens up a path toward understanding homosexuality/heterosexuality/reproduction/caretaking/etc in a more holistic fashion (even though it still talks about chromosomes and whatnot =p).

  4. @Alan:

    Some of this discussion is above my pay grade, but I very much liked the following statement you made. I think you make a very valid point.

    Like I’ve mentioned before, there’s a nasty double-bind in which if homosexuality is not genetic, then people will think it’s not worth protecting or respecting. But if homosexuality is genetic, then the same people will want to fix it. Genetics is a lose-lose unless one also focuses on questions of happiness and disorientation.

  5. Im ranting alongside him.

    Alan, there was no ranting involved in Invictus’s post.

    My concern is the following: a mere few days after an unfortunate drama thread, I see you using the loaded/pejorative term “Darwinists” and ranting about a point that — while not directly related to this post — echoes an earlier dispute you had here. (Although the case you’ve set up for the “Darwinists” doesn’t quite match the earlier dispute, since no one here has argued that homosexuality is “genetic”.)

    To me — and you can correct me if I’m wrong about this — but it looks like you’ve come here with a chip on your shoulder, hoping to pick a fight. That is not OK. You know already that MSP is about constructive, civil discussion of all sorts of varying viewpoints, and we have a policy of “no heavy-handed moderating”. For that to work relies on everyone here making a good-faith effort.

  6. I didn’t mean Darwinists as pejorative. Sorry my two comments here seem to veer away from the post. I’ll try harder.

    When I think about the questioning of “orientation,” what I think of is an interconnectedness of other aspects (usually in an historical context), and why reminding ourselves of these interconnections is important for political work.

    For example, if we take Allison’s (the gay Catholic thinker) comment above — he says: “Ive come to discover…we have a certain orientedness to what is true. When something is true, you relax; this is part of the goodness of creation. Now, he’s saying this in regards to a failure of change therapies. A gay man undergoes change therapies, they don’t work, and afterwards he just accepts…what, exactly? That he’s gay? If he’s Mormon, that he no longer has a responsibility to marry a woman? Plenty of Mormon men are against change therapies, accept they’re gay, and still marry women, because they’re “oriented” to what’s “true”: the gospel.

    Thus, for disorientation to have any sort of political potency, it has to be about more than sexuality.

  7. Thus, for disorientation to have any sort of political potency, it has to be about more than sexuality.

    Absolutely. There is love and emotional bonding as well as other points that people here and elsewhere have brought up — and not just for gay people but for everyone.

    because theyre oriented to whats true: the gospel.

    I agree that belief (or not) is not a choice. This is the same point that I’ve seen atheists here repeatedly bring up — they can’t just “choose” to believe Mormonism is true for the sake of family harmony, even if family members see disaffection as a rejection of family and claim that you could just try harder to believe. I’m not totally convinced that belief/non-belief is quite the same as sexual orientation, but maybe it is.

  8. because theyre oriented to whats true: the gospel.

    In the context of Alison’s other writings, which I plan to blog about, “relaxing” carries a special meaning. In the context of the statement under consideration, I believe his reference to orientation refers to what is REALLY true and natural for that person, i.e., his or her sexual orientation/identity. True orientation is quite often layered over and confused by guilt, misinformation, etc. But Alison’s point, as I take it, is that if all of the overlay is removed, we can naturally find our true orientation and relax into it.

    A second point that I read into his statement, and to which I referred in my original post, is that “truth” is something we should “relax” into because it feels totally comfortable and right. Your reference to gays going ahead and marrying women because they are “oriented” to the “gospel” (in other words, because they believe the gospel is true and the gospel requires marriage to a woman) is, I believe, a very different concept. There is an inherent conflict between the “true [sexual] orientation” of such a person and the “truth” of the “gospel” to which they feel required to conform (as evidenced by suicide rates). Such a situation is, I believe, not about orientation at all, but rather about conformity to an “other requirement” rather than to an “inner orientation.”

  9. Such a situation is, I believe, not about orientation at all, but rather about conformity to an other requirement rather than to an inner orientation.

    I think the Church does make it difficult for a gay person to “relax.” Many if not most gay Mormons are given an existential crisis not of their choosing. But it’s not inconceivable that the Church could get a handle on the “homosexuality issue” enough to still assert that one can be gay, but not have to “conform” to that orientation. This seems to be the kind of thinking coming out of an organization like North Star: (1) educate the Church about homosexual orientation, (2) get rid of homophobia, (3) still follow the gospel.

    A group like Affirmation would argue that part of homophobia is this notion that you can’t “act” on your attractions.

    But my point is, that conformity seems relative; the notion can be co-opted by whatever position you stand on. So I think we have to be a bit more creative about what exactly “disorientation” is.

  10. A group like Affirmation would argue that part of homophobia is this notion that you cant [not?] act on your attractions.

    Yeah, except that there’s no question that a gay man can marry a woman and raise a family with her. Of course they can — this has been proven thousands of times over many generations. It’s a question of whether they should. Especially considering that — if you think you have a responsibility (mentioned @6) to court and marry a woman (as opposed to choosing to marry a man) — you may be potentially imposing a great sacrifice upon another person as well. I don’t think anyone should be holding up marriage-to-a-woman as a grand and praiseworthy sacrifice for a gay man to make.

  11. theres no question that a gay man can marry a woman … Its a question of whether they should. …you may be potentially imposing a great sacrifice upon another person as well.

    There are plenty of people who don’t know they’re gay until they are years into their marriage… I mean, like age 30 or older. Many women often don’t come out until their 40s (and when they do, it’s often not like “oh, I’ve been a lesbian this whole time… sorry honey”…it’s more like, “oh, my sexuality is fluid, and now I’m attracted to women and not my husband anymore… sorry, honey.”)

    Similarly, there are men who only have sex with men in their 20s and then “come out” as bisexual in their 30s and beyond (in which case, they might emotionally hurt a male partner). Or men who are intimate with their wives, and things are fine for years, until gradually (or suddenly), they’re not. And then “Oh, I’m gay” or “bisexual.”

    There this assumption that if a person is “gay,” they were born that way; that it’s something that manifests itself at puberty in some people. But really gayness (and straightness) can manifest anywhere along the lifeline.

    Church leaders know this, and this is why they treat “same-gender attraction” as something of a creeping illness that can affect anyone at any moment — even if they have reservations about its universal potency. Some have it “worse” than others; some seem to have been “born that way and stay that way” (as Kinsey sixes).

    I really don’t think there is a way to answer the “should” question, because the question implies that all people can know going into a marriage the dimensions of their sexuality for their life course. I think the question of “should a gay man marry a woman” is at its heart about the wife, as if she is left out of the picture, then the answer Mormon doctrine provides is, “Of a course a man should marry a woman because all men and women should marry.” I don’t want to detract from hetero women who’ve been hurt. But on the other hand, I think there’s a kind of focus on a particular storyline that eschews what’s going on in the big picture.

  12. A group like Affirmation would argue that part of homophobia is this notion that you cant [not?] act on your attractions.

    To clarify, homophobia for Affirmation means being discriminatory against same-sex intimacy (of say, a gay couple); they are against the Church in this way.

    Homophobia for North Star means being discriminatory against those with same-sex attraction (individuals), which is basically the Church’s position.

  13. There are plenty of people who dont know theyre gay until they are years into their marriage I mean, like age 30 or older.

    Absolutely. And I hope I’ve made it clear that I’m not passing any judgement on people who didn’t realize that they’re gay — or who were taught terrible things like the idea that it’s some awful perversion you can/should recover from. I’m just saying that people who know they’re gay shouldn’t be encouraged to coax opposite-sex straight people to fall in love with them, and they certainly shouldn’t be encouraged to think that that’s a selfless/noble thing to do.

    Many women often dont come out until their 40s (and when they do, its often not like oh, Ive been a lesbian this whole time sorry honeyits more like, oh, my sexuality is fluid, and now Im attracted to women and not my husband anymore sorry, honey.)

    Yes, from what (little) I’ve read, I gather that female sexuality is a lot more likely than male sexuality to evolve and change. On this scenario, I honestly have to say that I have no information. I have never read a single memoir by a straight man whose wife came out as lesbian, and I haven’t read any memoirs by lesbians who have divorced straight husbands. (I have not gone out of my way to seek out either type of MoMOM memoir either — I’ve just read all the exmo lit I can get my hands on, and the one story is apparently more common than the other, for whatever reason.)

    My gut feeling is that the gay-man-straight-woman MoMOM situation is not 100% parallel with the opposite MoMOM combo — simply because Mormon girls are taught to base their own self-worth on their ability to please a man, while Mormon boys don’t get the equal-and-opposite lesson. However, I really, really can’t do anything but speculate on the comparison since I don’t have any data.

  14. However, I really, really cant do anything but speculate on the comparison since I dont have any data.

    I was trained against the concept of “data.” Which isn’t to say I was trained to “speak for people.”

    I mentioned on that “other thread” (I think I’m gonna keeping calling it that for a while =p), there is a way in which absence itself can be used to conjecture about structural issues that is just as important as filling spaces with actual subjects.

    Many ethnic studies scholars, for instance, argue that part of racial inequality includes an insistence on a uniform subject: black, Asian, native, etc, that perpetuates a given, usually white, imagining of black, Asian, native subjects.

    There’s always the danger of filling in the blanks with stereotypes, biases, etc, but that danger is always already there anyway in the ways that people listen to each other.

    Anyhow, that’s all I’ll say on that. Thanks for listening.

  15. I was trained against the concept of data. Which isnt to say I was trained to speak for people.

    All I’m saying is that — by reading memoirs and other writings by people whose situation is very different than my own — I’ve gained insights that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own. I can’t guess how others’ experiences might differ from mine without seeking them out. And I don’t presume to speak for anyone whose situation is different than my own. I’ll link to a writing if it contains a point I found particularly interesting, but I’m certainly not going to fall into the trap of imagining that every person who can be fit into category X has the same POV as the one or handful of voices from category X I’ve read. Always keep listening — learning is never done.

  16. fall into the trap of imagining that every person who can be fit into category X has the same POV as the one or handful of voices from category X Ive read

    Certainly. But what I’m saying is a kind of trap is viewing “opposite MoMOM combo” as a space in which to fill with subjects.

  17. I just want to hear from someone (preferably multiple people) in that situation before beginning to form a mental picture. One of my biggest surprises in the last decade of Internet reading has been the vast range of possible experiences I’ve read about. Sure, I knew academically that different people’s experiences are different than mine, but to know how different and in what sorts of ways only comes from curiosity and making an effort to listen to other people.

    I’ve made one attempt to write from a lesbian perspective (see Young Womens), and I did a lot of homework before beginning. And the first time a lesbian exmo wrote me to say that it reminded her of her own life, I was more than thrilled that I’d done a decent job of piecing together what that might be like.

  18. Not talking about someone — because you don’t know who she is or what she’s like — actually keeps her uninvited, rather than respects her. Kinda like Heavenly Mother.

    One thing I’ve learned from the M/M community is that using one’s imagination about what an identity category could be like is sometimes more powerful and liberating than accurately portraying what is like for those who occupy it. Many women in the M/M community aren’t terribly concerned with making sure they accurately portray gay men’s lives. The result is that some gay men pick up M/M because they find it refreshing and liberating over media geared toward them.

    When I was growing up, I wasn’t particularly pleased with American gay media as produced by [usually white] gay men, and I turned to queer Asian media to include female representations of gay men that, at times, were outlandish and potentially insulting. But I don’t claim to have absolute authority on what it means to be a gay male. Any sense of ownership over the representations would have destroyed my enjoyment of them.

    Similarly, I doubt “a lesbian in MoMoM” would claim absolute authority on that positionality. A poignant question I found on that other thread was when Pinay asked Holly if she’s a Mormon lesbian in order to ask, “Why are you claiming ownership on the subject?” (which interestingly, Holly kept framing as “female sexuality” in order to boot me from the conversation). Pinay’s point, as I took it, was not to discount Holly from speaking, but to inform her that no single person owns the topic.

    Another point Pinay brought up is that the very broaching of the subject brought those who feel they have some ownership to the table, as long as they feel welcomed and safe (or, well, angry).

    I understand that it is a personal and/or cultural preference in terms of how much one speculates about a positionality in which one does not fill. A bunch of white students shouldn’t talk about blackness if they don’t know what they’re talking about. But for the same reason, they also should talk about blackness.

    Ive made one attempt to write from a lesbian perspective (see Young Womens), and I did a lot of homework before beginning.

    My next novel is going to have a major lesbian romance. I’m looking forward to the research. =p

  19. Alan, you some interesting points. However I was thinking about this conversation last night as I was going to bed, and I have to admit I find it a little strange. First, that some of your comments (eg. @16) appear to criticize me for being clear about the limits of my own knowledge. Second (and even stranger), is the whole idea that I’d have to defend the use of data as an important component of learning new things. By “data” here, I mean information that originated outside my own head (including primary and secondary sources, artifacts, studies, etc.).

    I stand by the use of outside information as an important component of knowledge. Let’s step outside the subject of “varying human POVs,” and look at life, the universe, and everything more generally. I would argue that data should be an important component in the study of essentially every field except pure Mathematics.

    With respect to literature, I have to admit that I believe the adage that often “the best art achieves universality by rendering with great fidelity a specific milieu.” Reading your above comment @18, it looks like we have a bit of a philosophical difference.

  20. I have been thinking about this Orientation subject. And I have concluded that my orientation is married. Regardless of who I might fantasize about, I always have to bring my orientation back to my spouse.

    @ Alan With respect to a genetic/non-genetic cause for homosexuality, or any behavior.
    From the standpoint of genetics and evolution and their roles in outward behavior. Anyone would be hard pressed to find any behavior that does not have a genetic link of some kind.

    The questions are what environmental factors trigger what genes. Most sexual behavior can be linked to hormonal levels, these change over the life span and are different for every single person. For example; men who have children generally have less testosterone and more hormones that are linked to behavior responsible for caregiving. (which in my opinion may explain why some men may find themselves attracted to other men after they have had kids.)

    Back to genetics, it is unlikely that anyone will ever find one gene for homosexuality, generally there are multiple genes for one trait; genes just don’t work that way.
    One hopes that this fact will steer the debate to more tolerance for differences, but hell, we are talking about humans here.

    It is true that evolutionary biology does reduce most behavior to it’s reproductive value. This makes sense because it is only through reproduction that genes get passed down, and in the most simple organisms all the energy is put into ensuring survival so reproduction can continue. Humans are not really all that different in this respect, we just have a longer life span.

  21. chanson@19:

    [S]ome of your comments (eg. @16) appear to criticize me for being clear about the limits of my own knowledge. [S]tranger is the whole idea that Id have to defend the use of data as an important component of learning new things.

    The way I understand data is that it never stands on its own. It isn’t merely that which we don’t know and acquire to fill blanks in our heads. It is always purposed toward something, toward an interest, and is placed into an already existing paradigm.

    @16 was to question what is purpose/interest/paradigm for data when talking about the “opposite MoMOM combo?” I called this a “trap” because I’m a bit cynical about the process of acquiring knowledge about a preconstructed group of people, for reasons I explain @14.

    Moreover, my understanding is that most lesbians in MoMOMs would never identify that way (many wouldn’t even identify as lesbian), which makes the identity category kaput upon its conception. (Many Mormons I imagine take Wayne’s route @20 of “my orientation is married.”) To get at the politics of the matter (questions of sexism, heterosexism, etc), we would have to take a subjectless route. Which isn’t to say that actual people wouldn’t also jump on the bandwagon, if they’re out there watching.

    wayne@20:

    This makes sense because it is only through reproduction that genes get passed down, and in the most simple organisms all the energy is put into ensuring survival so reproduction can continue.

    When a baby is born, it is dependent. The species can’t reproduce until puberty (the youngest recorded pregnancy was age 5!!!). So I’m not sure how much sense it makes to privilege reproduction over caretaking.

    As you said, even simple organisms put energy into survival so they can reproduce. Therefore, survival is just as important as reproduction. Homosexuality arguably has a role in the survival of the species. =p

  22. @Alan, It’s not privileging reproduction over care taking, it’s perspective meant to answer the why’s of genetic mutation and fitness. Also some organisms don’t spend much time on care taking; depending on how dependent offspring is and how long the lifespan is. In a fruitfly pretty much right after they are “born” they get ready for reproduction. Obviously in humans it is much longer more energy is put toward care giving. Homosexuality from an evolutionary perspective–looking back at a paleolithic hominid group…..(seems kind of silly) males who are not competing for mates would add to the well being of the group by taking care of offspring and adding to the amount of hunters and gatherers. That said, if you look at our closest chimp relatives, the bonobos, and the way they have sex, whose to say that before we got so sophisticated with our culture and rules that we did not do the same thing. Probably sex was just plain fun and there were no hetero or homo sexuals.

  23. Alan @14

    I was trained against the concept of data.

    Alan @18

    A poignant question I found on that other thread was when Pinay asked Holly if shes a Mormon lesbian in order to ask, Why are you claiming ownership on the subject? (which interestingly, Holly kept framing as female sexuality in order to boot me from the conversation). Pinays point, as I took it, was not to discount Holly from speaking, but to inform her that no single person owns the topic.

    No wonder you discount data. It means you get to base all your opinions on conjecture.

    Alan @14:

    Which isnt to say I was trained to speak for people.

    Then why do you do it so consistently?

  24. And so it begins again.

    Alan, you said:

    I have to admit that Im still riled about that other thread the other day.

    I specifically requested earlier in this thread that you not come here with a chip on your shoulder to pick a fight. Yet, here you are posting @18 more arguments about why you and Pinay were right and Holly was wrong. What did you think would be the result of that?

    I understand if you’re still upset about that dispute. But out of respect for Invictus, I would hope that you wouldn’t open that fight up again on his thread — and preferably not on the Plaza at all — this isn’t the Jerry Springer Show. If you’d like to discuss what happened, I’d be happy to talk about it privately or publicly (somewhere else).

  25. @Wayne: I totally agree that there were no heteros or homos back then, and that it has to do with cultural “rules.”

    In terms of reproduction/caretaking… every offspring is dependent. Even when a creature reaches an age that it can reproduce, it is still dependent on others of its species for fitness, or the climate…certainly others in its ecosystem. The fruitfly who isn’t around when her babies hatch, lays her eggs where they will have food (usually a plant). This is something beyond the function of reproduction, I think, not for the purposes of it.

    Thx for the article.

  26. Well, reading the comments has disordered me.
    I really am flummoxed, would love a discussion on evolutionary biology, but Darwinists???
    I fear a discussion on sexual conflict, would turn into a lecture on how energy is recycled through an ecosystem.
    But, hey, who needs data.

    But, I like the idea of rediscovering humanity.

  27. @Suzanne – Thank you. I appreciate your wit and your point. 🙂

    I would have loved to have seen a discussion on theoplasticorporatism and the effect that it has on humanity.

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