|What is homosexual? |
Some of this stuff seems so basic and obvious. But even now in the year 2000, in many churches, and in the wider community, ignorance seems to reign! Some Terms
'Gay' is a term often used to refer to homosexual men.
'Lesbian' is a term often used to refer to homosexual women.
Coming out' refers to telling people that one is homosexual.
'Outing' is the publicising by others about a person's homosexuality, either to try and get them discriminated against in some way, or to gain status for homosexuals groups by showing that prominent people of good reputation are homosexual. 'Outing' can have severe effects on a person's life, ranging from verbal abuse to loss of job or accommodation, and even to being severely bashed or worse.
'Homophobia' is the fear, revulsion, and hatred of homosexuals. Often we project our own repressed fears of being homosexual onto gay and lesbian people. 'The secret that the homophobe wishes to keep from him or herself is that he or she, too, might feel sexually attracted to a person of the same sex.(2) This can be subtle. One place I know, doesn't mind Mary's homosexuality, "It's just her personality problems ." No one else seems to have "personality problems."
There is considerable confusion about what the word homosexual actually means!
When I was at school, a male teacher molested a boy at a neighbouring school. Our community called him a 'homosexual'.
In strict terms 'homosexual' pertains to the sexual attraction that most adults feel - except that attraction is to someone of the same gender. Some people are strongly heterosexual, some are strongly homosexual. Many people can witness that occasionally they will feel some homosexual attraction. Most of us fit on a graduation between
exclusively homosexual ----------- exclusively heterosexual (5)
'Homosexual' is simply an adjective meaning 'the same sex' 'Homo' is not from the Latin for 'man. It's from the Greek for 'same.'
Heterosexuals are not always blameless and homosexuals always bad. Heterosexuals are not just faithfully married men and women. Heterosexuals also manage "adultery, fornication, divorce, promiscuity, prostitution, sadomasochism, rape, incest, and child sexual abuse." All 'heterosexual' says is that a person prefers a sexual partner of the opposite sex. ....All 'homosexual' says is that a person prefers a sexual partner of the same sex. Both groups of people act out behaviours which are sometimes healthy and sometimes pathological and destructive.(6)
In the world of medicine and psychiatry homosexuality has ceased to be defined as an illness. The judgement of the American Psychiatric Association is that it 'is a variant, not deviant, form of sexuality.(7) The majority of homosexual people are psychologically healthy.
Sexual behaviour with children (paedophilia) (8) is due to immature sexual development (and perhaps moral development) on the part of the perpetrator. It may seem 'homosexual' in nature, but it doesn't happen because the perpetrator is homosexual, but because of the immaturity and/or illness of the perpetrator. Most child molesters are heterosexual.
Homosexuals do not lead other (perhaps younger) people into homosexuality. It is frequently assumed that homosexuals are child molesters. This is the 'received wisdom.' But, Teesdale states,
'A comprehensive American study seeking to provide guidelines for the employment of teachers reveals no evidence that homosexual teachers are more likely to harm the children they teach than teachers who are heterosexual..... Unquestionably child molestation is a reality, but this is an abuse perpetrated by a minority of psychologically maladjusted people, a few of whom have a homosexual orientation; many more however, are heterosexually inclined.(9)
'Child molestation [is] pretty much of a dead issue. A large proportion of homosexual (sic - Jan) offences are perpetrated by mentally ill men who have also molested females at one time or another. At least 75% . have heterosexual histories and 50% are married . two-thirds [were] older friends of their victims or family members.'(10)
In some cases heterosexual adults indulge in homosexual behaviour, eg in prisons, where there is no heterosexual outlet. Toilet homosexual behaviour is often done by heterosexual males, including married men. Homosexual rape by heterosexual males occurs. The Uniting Church does not and will not condone any such behaviour. It is clearly promiscuous and/or violent, and against the biblical injunction to love our neighbour.
A Question Of Behaviour?
These two positions reflect two things.
Firstly, the experience of homosexual people and scientific researchers. That is; there are data which tend to support both positions.
Secondly, the positions often reflect hidden agendas such as 'Gay is OK', or 'It cannot be a condition but must be a heal-able behaviour because of what the Bible says about it.' Often people's attitudes about what homosexuality actually is, may be coloured by whether they already have a relatively positive attitude or a very negative attitude. Those who are more tolerant tend toward seeing it as a condition, and those who are less tolerant tend toward seeing it simply as a behaviour.
Despite this, there are men and women of impeccable behaviour, psychologically healthy, including Christians, who are 'homosexual'. That is, they are sexually attracted to members of the same gender. And they claim this is not something they have consciously chosen, but that it is just how they are.
We need to accept that there are others who have felt themselves to be 'homosexual' who experience some kind of healing. Neither side can deny the felt experience of the other.
Can there be 'healing'?
Change appears possible in some situations. It does not seem possible in others. Teesdale notes that 'An absolute suppression of homosexual feelings in a person can cause debilitating psychological illness. (14)
Indeed many homosexual people report wholeness and healing comes when they have accepted, rather than repressed, their homosexuality.
'Sister Mary' said that in accepting her sexual identity, she experienced the gospel "in a way so powerful that I find myself saying and doing things I would never have dreamed of saying or doing" before. She felt like Jesus had personally said to her: 'Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you' (Mark 5:19) (15)
(2) Ruether pp 30-31
(2) Ruether pp 30-31