This summer, several branches of Christianity have been trying to determine policy concerning gay and lesbian people, either as church members wishing to have their unions blessed, or as church members in partnered same-gender relationships wishing to serve as clergy.
I find a flaw in how the issue is being addressed. Episcopalians, Lutherans, Moravians, and other denominations seem to be approaching it from a binary perspective. Gays and lesbians are over there, and everyone else is over here. What do we, the everyone else, do with them, the gays and lesbians?
I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but that’s so quaint. It’s so 1970. That was the “gay liberation” political mind-set in the immediate aftermath of Stonewall. That mind-set, that 1970-style conception of the issue, no longer works.
An example: This column recently featured an interview with Buck Angel, a transsexual porn star who was born female, but always felt he was a man. After years of substance abuse and three suicide attempts, he got sober, and got a counselor who recognized that Angel was a female-to-male transsexual. With the help of testosterone and years at the gym, he is very much the man he knows he was born to be.
If church-governing bodies can’t agree on how to treat garden-variety gays and lesbians, what would they do when faced with someone like Angel? What would they have said to him when he was a self-destructive teenager in a body of the wrong gender? What would they say to him now?
By the 1990s, the gay and lesbian community had expanded its self-concept to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT). To the mix can be added the leather/BDSM/fetish community, with all its leather-family relationships, including Daddy/boy, Master/slave, Dominant/submissive, and so on.
What emerges is not an issue that can be addressed in binary terms of straight/gay, or even in terms of a linear scale like Kinsey’s. I doubt it even could be expressed with x, y, and z coordinates, where the z coordinate leaps off the page.
Human sexuality truly is a rainbow, with millions of possible hues and shadings. It’s not an issue that can be reduced to x versus y, and all attempts to reduce it to x versus y will lead nowhere.
If people’s horizons can be widened, however, perhaps our human sexual diversity will cease to be viewed as a problem, and instead will be seen as a rich and wonderful asset. Then, people—and churches—can begin to deal effectively with things as they are today, rather than as they were in 1970.