Thursday, December 15, 2005

Same-Sex Orientation

Today's the anniversary of the day, in 1973, when the American Psychiatric Association reversed its long-standing position and declared that homosexuality is not a mental illness.

The American Psychological Association (NB: different association) says the following:
Homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgement, stability, reliability, or general social and vocational capabilities. Further, the American Psychological Association urges all mental health professionals to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with homosexual orientations.

You can read the rest of the position statement here: American Psychological Association.

On a structural level, there's good news and bad news. Ford Motor Company's decision to continue advertising in publications geared to gay people in spite of the American Family Association's threatened boycott is cause for some applause, I think. There's the positive spin that they stood on principle and did the right thing. And there's the slightly snarky spin that it's fun to watch the AFA get gonged for the second time. In any case, there's an on-line way to thank Ford for taking this stand, if you're so inclined. Go here: E-mail Ford.

In the bad news department, there's the Catholic Church. Last summer, the Pope described same-sex unions as "pseudo-matrimony" and an "expression of anarchic freedom". And of course, more recently, the bishops renewed the ban on the ordination of gay men to the priesthood. In its defense, the church has a clear position, too, that there is a deep respect for people who are homosexual and there are no circumstances under which discrimination and hatred would be appropriate. But of course, we're left scratching our heads for so many reasons. For one thing, it doesn't seem that calling a relationship "pseudo-matrimony" is entirely respectful or that banning gays from ordination is anything other than discrimination. Moreover, there's the fact that homosexuality is referred to as a tendency rather than an orientation. I have a tendency to put my elbows on the table, too. That doesn't define me and could be overcome. I have an orientation toward finding men sexually attractive; that's just the way I am. Are they subtly claiming that homosexuals could re-orient themselves? Bah! And the very-un-subtle and completely groundless attempt to link homosexuality and pedophilia should have been beneath them.

But that's systems. What do we do on a personal level? I honestly don't know, but two experiences come to mind.

I once interpreted at a conference for GLBT Christians. It was fascinating and exhausting. It also drew protestors from around the country, to stand out in the cold and make insulting comments about the people inside the building who were doing their very best to have a prayerful and supportive experience. On the way to my car, I was accosted by one of these protestors, who was totally abusive about my lesbianism. He KNEW that I was lesbian because I was wearing Birkenstocks. News flash: you can't tell a lesbian by her feet. There's less than no point in engaging with a person like that. There's no common ground to even support a conversation -no ability to hear each other. Bottom line, there's no mutual respect, which is a necessary precursor to conflict resolution. I walked to my car and ignored them. But what SHOULD I have done?

And secondly, there's a disturbing tendency among young people (maybe all people, but I hear it from young people) to say "That's so gay". I don't know what they mean by this, but I doubt that they mean strong, powerful, or interesting. In some contexts I can get away with asking for/requiring a different word choice. In other contexts, it's just being bitchy to do that. I do it anyway, because I'm pretty much okay with being known as bitchy, but what would a person more inclined to being nice do? What is the right thing here? And I do think we have to acknowledge that calling people on their word choices becomes exhausting pretty quickly.

Thought? Comments? I'm always open to your wisdom.

No comments: