On Being Queer – Part 2

In the last post, I looked at the first article in a terrifically intriguing series of articles that came out over the course of the last few weeks.  The first was a piece from Vice, wherein Dora Mortimer provides a view of their own in posing the question “Can Straight People Be Queer?” In response, Chloë of After Ellen wrote a rebuttal aptly titled “No, Straight People Can’t Be Queer.”

Chloë begins by describing Mortimer’s article as “an analytical abortion that grasps at the incorrect answer to an obvious question” (ouch!). In response, Chloë gives the obvious answer to an incorrect question. Again, the dialectics of the internet can be, in this case, refreshingly simple, no? Following the dialectical path, I will just outright say that I agree with Chloë’s argument; it’s just a matter of formal and material principles (now I’m really getting theological).

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The dialectics of abortion advertisements.

That being said, I’m going to make my analytical case: (1) ‘Straight’ being ‘queer’ is a linguistic fallacy. To understand this, we need to move past ‘straight people’ and ‘queer people’ and just examine straight and queer. The term ‘straight’ is used to differentiate straight people from things that are queer (redundant, I know).  Why would straight people produce an identifier for themselves unless it is a means of differentiation from something other than themselves?

But that is the ‘essence’ of heteronormativity: to differentiate a population from a difference as a means of solidifying power over and against that difference. I have explained this in The Ocean, the Boat, and the Wind, particularly the third act ‘From On High.’ So, by linguistic fallacy I mean that straight wanting to be queer defies its own language; straight cannot be something other than what it has named as itself against something different from itself (still following me? good).

In the preceding article, Mortimer writes that the definition of queer “defies any meaning that is pinned to it.” This I agree with, but I would go further to say that by definition, queer defies any meaning that is pinned to it. But how can something that defies definition have a definition?

This is an example of a paradox, a suspension of certain categories of rationality. Paradoxes seem absurd or self-contradictory, but that’s the point of paradoxes; they are propositions that regardless of their veracity are uttered as correlating to some truth claims, however objective or subjective it may be. So, in my view, I see queer as not only the embrace of paradox but its exercise (more on that in point two).

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death [deth] noun

However, Chloë’s insistence on the literal meaning of words (i.e. queer) defies what queer is about. “Words have meanings,” Chloë writes, “These meanings are real. You can’t just say ‘words can mean whatever I want WOOHOO KITTENS ARE SHARKS AND HABERDASHERY MEAN DEATH.”

Oh but you can, Chloë, and that’s what we do with words; that’s what words do.  In fact, we would not have words like homosexual or heterosexual unless someone back in the mid-to-late 19th century decided that as a means of differentiating classes of people they would define them based on their sexual preference.[1]  After that, we see an increase in both the self-identification of homosexuals and the visible discrimination of homosexuals because of the power of naming. The creation of terms for sexual identity is a ploy of heteronormativity. In fact, sexual identity itself is a ploy of heteronormativity.

Which brings me to my second point: (2) Queer is not an identity. It is a speech-act. The linguistic turn in philosophy has helped us out tremendously to dethrone systems of oppression. This is done through critically examining the role of language in creating these systems.

Take for instance the speech-act of the coming-out experience: “I am gay.” This utterance does less to confirm an epistemological assent (“Through my rational faculties, I think of myself as belonging to a category of being known as ‘gay’”) but does more to create an action (“By uttering this phrase, I am making a commitment of living publically and privately as belonging to a category of being known as ‘gay’”).

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Queer-tessential indeed!

Speech-acts create realities. Let’s use the queer-tessential The Wizard of Oz as an allusion. Consider the sepia-tinted world of Kansas to be the world of the proverbial ‘Dorothy’ in the closet. Through the speech-act of “I am gay,” Dorothy emerges into a world of color.

 

The utterance is irrevocable in that the reality it creates for the utterer and the listener remains. However, another speech-act could alter the reality; for instance, someone retreating back into the closet with “I am not gay.” And so, with three clicks of one’s heels, one is returned to the oppressive Kansas Kloset.

Furthermore, we only make utterances with the language that we inherit (or more like subjugated to). The system of heteronormativity makes it a reality that one can only choose to be ‘straight’ or ‘gay.’ Moreover, the system of heteronormativity gives the burden of this choice only to ‘gay’ folk.

Straight people have no need to utter the speech-act of “I am straight” because the reality of the world is shaped by and benefited by those who are ‘not gay’ (i.e. straight). It is the ‘gay’ who wrestles with the angst of living in a straight world where it is expected to be straight because there ought to be nothing else.

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The speech-act of coming-out

This is what makes the speech-act of coming-out so powerful. It is a disruption in the world of heteronormativity. It speaks into existence another reality apart from the dominant (and dominating) system. It is a daring-to-be-in-spite-of a system that does not recognize its legitimate existence.

But here’s the problem: the system of heteronormativity does not view these utterances as speech-acts; they are viewed as epistemological assents. This is the nature of the category of sexual identity.  Sexual identity has less to do with who people really are and more to do with making a category based on a characteristic of a person.

By forming sexual identity as a category of being, heteronormativity disarms the speech-act as being disruptive and reframes it as a way for heteronormativity to understand difference. Heteronormativity creates the categories of sexual identity as a means of differentiating itself from those very categories.

Why is this a problem, you ask? Perhaps it’s not for some, but that leads to my third point: (3) Chloë embarks on the sort of identity politics that queer would likely abandon. Sexual identity politics emerged as the collective consciousness of LGBT folk began to actualize itself through liberation. From under the oppression of heteronormativity, LGBT folk rose up and demanded to be recognized and to have access to equal rights. This is a good thing, no doubt.

However, the liberation came up from within the system of heteronormativity and not outside of it. This is not a bad thing, as most revolutions emerge from within the system it revolts against. The problem is that the revolution inherited the form of that which it was rejecting: it inherited the system of categorization of sexual identity as a means of satisfying heteronormativity’s penchant for differentiation. By playing this identity game, LGBT liberation movements kept sexual identity as the category for their emancipation, all the while not realizing it was created to keep LGBT folk in their place.

This is the point of queer. Queer deconstructs identity as a means of disarming heteronormativity. Queer also emerges when gay and lesbian systems reject other modes of being (I’m thinking specifically of bisexual and transgender persons), but it only emerges as a means of rejecting the categorization of sexuality (that phrase is oxymoronic-sexuality is categorization).

This is why queer is so difficult to comprehend: it is proposing a new way of thinking about ourselves, counterintuitive to the ways we have been taught to view ourselves. Queer proposes a new being without identity. Queer moves beyond identity politics by envisioning a wholly different politic.

Thus, while I agree with Chloë that straight folk wanting to be considered ‘queer’ to be disconcerting, I do not agree with Chloë invoking heteronormative identity politics to make the case. I think it is sad to see queer folk co-opted by identity politics to the point of perpetuating the us-and-them dialectic of heteronormativity.

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This is not a paradox; this is just absurd.

I will end with this methodological piece. In my work ‘doing queer theology,’ primarily from a Christian starting-point, I approach it with these three axioms:

1. To be queer means to be deconstructive.
2. To be Christian means to be deconstructive.
3. The preceding axioms are neither queer, nor Christian, nor deconstructive.

This is the paradox of queer. In my queer theology, it is a task of mine to correlating the paradox of queer with the paradox of Christianity. A difficult task, sure; but not impossible. But what I’ve found beneficial with the study of religion is its impact on our ethics (our being of doing and doing of being). Religion does not have to impact ethics in an authoritarian manner (as it is especially wont to do); that is not how I approach religion. A good religion helps navigate within paradox, not to remove oneself from it. Queer is an embrace of the paradox of sex and gender. Together, the paradoxes of identity and ethics are a virtuous pursuit in coming to grasp what it is to be human.

 

[1] Or even earlier when the Roman Catholic Church “invented” sodomy as a category of sin.

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On Being Queer – Part 1

A terrifically intriguing series of articles came out over the course of the last few weeks.  The first was a piece from Vice, wherein Dora Mortimer provides a view of their own in posing the question “Can Straight People Be Queer?” In response, Chloë of After Ellen wrote a rebuttal aptly titled “No, Straight People Can’t Be Queer.” The dialectics of the internet can be, in this case, refreshingly simple, no?

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If I really cared about a celebrity’s offspring’s sexuality, I’d put a picture here.

Using the recent phenomenon of younger celebrities (or more aptly, the offspring of stars) coming out as “genderfluid” or in other cases simple not wanting their sexuality to be labeled, Mortimer explores what exactly it means to be queer. Queer, being a catchall term for the phenomena listed above, is also a precariously elusive term where, as Mortimer writes, “it is a political persuasion as well as a sexual one.”

In the article, however, Mortimer interviews David Selley (who performs as Dianne Chorley), and inquires into the politics of him as a straight man performing in drag.  His sentiment, according to Mortimer, is that the “theater gives him the license to become someone else and politics has little to do with it.” The problem with this is simple: [I assert] politics is everything.

The term of queer emerges from the context of sexuality, wherefrom a politic (simply put, an ethic of community) emerges as those whose sexuality is deemed queer from the norm now exercise their presence and begin to self-identify.

This is the basis of identity politics: the critical study and its application of the oppressive systems that enforce identity as a means of solidifying power among a particular class of people over and against another class of people.  In the case of sexuality, the oppressive system is heteronormativity, wherein self-identified heterosexual persons with power oppress non-heterosexual persons.

The missed-mark with David/Dianne’s sentiment against any sort of political implications to him performing in drag is this: as a straight man, David/Dianne benefits from the system of heteronormativity, wherein performing in drag is seen as a cultural (mis)appropriation of the gay male community.

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Something like this.

Last night I attended a show in downtown Minneapolis, where one of the singers in one of the bands wore a dress throughout the performance.  The poor lad–the dress certainly did not suit him. While the red floodlights made it difficult to ascertain the color and fabric of the dress, it seemed to be the kind of sundress your stepfather’s mother would have worn in the late 1960s. The cut of the dress did not do justice for the man’s figure, with the hem rising far enough above the knee to make anyone, Catholic or Protestant, gasp in horror. However, if he incorporated a belt, perhaps it could have really pulled it all together…

…But I digress. Now, I cannot say whether the man was straight or gay or whatever (nor should I presume that this person identifies as a man), but I think my bet is safe saying he’s a straight man being that he was performing in a predominantly hipster band in a predominantly hipster venue (don’t get me started on hipsters and sexuality…).  But what did him wearing the dress mean? Was he even performing in drag?

In several ways, the first question is illegitimate (what’s the point), but the second one begs an answer, and in fact provides a glimpse at a redeeming reframing of the first question. In Gender Trouble, Judith Butler uses the case of drag performances to frame her theory of the performativity of gender: identity is not inherent or fixed, but rather constructed through actions. The problem is that sexual identities are created by heteronormative systems ‘writing the script’ of what it is to be straight or gay.

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The Queens of Paris is Burning

So, a reframed critical question would be “are the performances performative?” Take for instance the documentary Paris is Burning, a glimpse into the lives of gay black men performing drag at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York. The documentary does an excellent work in capturing the performativity of the drag queens. Each queen has drafted an extensive narrative and world in her performance, from the Houses they belong too (drag cliques, for lack of a better term…) to the day to day life (such as spending all one’s money on gowns for the balls).

But even after the ball (drag performance), there is a tenuous relationship between the day to day lived experience of the men and then their drag personas. However, this gap is bridged by the commonality of their sexuality. The performance of gender in their drag shows and the performance of their sexuality in day-to-day life are merged.

Is this the same for David/Dianne?  Is this the same for the man in the band with the dress?  While not wanting to make rash judgments, I would assume not. Thus, this is the first (of many problems) with Mortimer’s articles posing the question of “Can Straight People Be Queer?”

However, while agreeing on principle with Chloë’s argument that “No, Straight People Can’t Be Queer,” I do so for different reasons and in fact blatantly disagree with some of Chloë’s assumptions. But in the words of Michael Ende in his novel The Neverending Story, “but that is another story and shall be told another time.”  Good news is that the ‘another time’ is tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

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Jfou’s A-Z Movie Guide for Valentine’s Day!

I was inspired by several lists of “A-Z Movies for Valentine’s Day that I decided to make my own. However, these are not your top Rom-Coms. These movies are the ones that make you lose all hope in romance…and maybe in humanity itself.

So come stare into the abyss as it stares back at you and enjoy your A-Z Movies for Valentine’s Day!!!

atonementA         Atonement      What happens when you find your crush having sex with your sister and then you frame him for sexually assaulting your best friend resulting in him being sent to prison and then to war? You get vascular dementia and try and justify your actions by rewriting the narrative.

bartonfinkB         Barton Fink   Waking up next to a disemboweled woman only got better with John Goodman interrupting every waking moment of you trying to write a screenplay. Is it getting warm in here, or is that just the erotic tension of the wrestling scene? And what does that dripping wallpaper glue mean?

clockworkC         A Clockwork Orange   My mom actually walked out on this movie when it was first in theaters, and I wouldn’t blame her! Ultraviolence, the old “in-out, in-out,” Ludwig Van, and tits for days! This movie is not for any eunuch jelly thou’s.

deerhunterD         The Deer Hunter       It is amazing how the evil and suffering of the Vietnam War captured the imagination of screenwriters and directors for years to come. The Russian Roulette sequence marks the climax of the film, a scene hauntingly burned into the cinematic psyche of Vietnam era productions.

elephantmanE         The Elephant Man    “I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I … am … a … man!”  This is a perfect movie to cuddle up with your honey, lie back in bed, and suffocate to death from the weight of your head asphyxiating you.

 

femaletroubleF          Female Trouble         If one were to pick a John Waters film for this list, one would assume it would be Pink Flamingos.  To do so, however, would be real melvin. Eating dog shit aside, I think Female Trouble may be the most debauched of Waters’ films. In this movie, “crime and beauty are the same,” and the depravity reaches a level of divinity through the apotheosis of Divine as Dawn Davenport on the electric chair.

graduateG         The Graduate    You may say the movie ends well with Dustin Hoffman and his girl getting together, but there are two things wrong with this. First, this only happened because of statutory rape. Second, does the movie really end well? What’s that whole “Sound of Silence” on the bus about then? They’re doomed.

hoursH         The Hours      Your feel-good lesbian romance with all of the hopelessness of Virginia Woolf’s depressing spectre permeating throughout all of women’s history. Perhaps my favorite soundtrack of all time (by the eternal Phillip Glass), I listen to it ad nauseum on my best days and my worst days.

invasionofthebodysnatchersI          Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)         Movies in the 70s and 80s followed an Altmannian formula where minutia dialogue drove much of the film. In concert with this mundanity, no one wins in this remake. Best part of the film is this screenshot of Donald Sutherland shrieking.

jackiebrownJ          Jackie Brown     This may actually be my favorite Quentin Tarantino movie. The romance between Pam Grier and Robert Forster might be one of the most human romances ever in that it is unresolved. Still, in the end Jackie is a free woman; but free from what? Free from Ordell, yes. But is free from the stereotypical life of the blaxsploitated woman she represents? Perhaps not.

kissofthespiderwomanK         Kiss of the Spider Woman    Your feel-good homosexual romance with all of the hopelessness of the corrupt Brazilian military prison system. Stellar performances by Raul Julia and William Hurt make you wish you were either a leftist revolutionary or a sex offender just to share a cell with these two.  Woof!

landbeforetimeL         The Land Before Time         Watching this movie at such a young age messed me up for the rest of my life. Like so many, I had to wrestle through the complex of knowing that my mother could die at any moment and I would be left alone to wander the post-Cambrian wilderness. Hug your moms extra tight today.

madmenM        Mad Men Seasons 1,2,3,4,5,6 and 7   Ok, I’m breaking the rule here, but the problem with movies like Mulholland Drive or Memento or Melancholia or Magnolia is that they can only cram so much hopelessness into 120+ minutes. Mad Men did it innumerably, capturing the misogyny and heteronormative insecurity our grandparents lived with and our parents inevitably inherited.

nocountryN         No Country for Old Men      A Western turned inside out and upside down. The failure of the ‘Old Man’ (represented by Tommy Lee Jones playing Sheriff Ed Tom Bell) to enact justice in the American wilderness stabs deeply into the manifest heart of destiny like a captive bolt pistol.

oneflewO         One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest   The work that may very well have birthed the psychiatric survivor’s moment; one is constantly reminded of the psychic slavery in this institution. The subversive sexuality of Jack Nicholson is pitted against the sadistic sexuality of Nurse Ratched. As though this is a fight between lovers much akin to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” (runner up for ‘W’), the psychosexual tension of this psychiatric ward erupts with the mental castration of its protagonist.

preciousP          Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire            Ugh, can I take a pass on writing a synopsis? Physical, mental, sexual abuse, incest, rape…ugh. The worst part about this is that unlike other films on this list, Precious’ story is but another day in the life of many who suffer the iniquities of inequity within our system of white supremacy.

queenQ         The Queen     After watching this biopic of Queen Elizabeth (played brilliantly by bombshell Helen Mirren) and her reactions to the death of Princess Diana, you’ll ask yourself “why do we care about this again?” The answer is simple: we the pestilent peons are forever fascinated by the aristocracy we have been conditionally tempted into believing we deserve.

requiemR         Requiem for a Dream    Everyone loses in this hopeless portrait of drug addiction. Vignettes of each character’s path towards destruction culminate in a brilliant finale that will leave you wishing you never saw the film. Still, you’ll keep coming back to it because, like drugs, you can’t shake it.

sophieschoiceS          Sophie’s Choice         I’m going to get this right out of the way: I hate this movie, and it’s not because of the eponymous choice that our protagonist is forced to make. It’s the bullshit romancing. And darling of the 80s Peter MacNicol stars. Who gives a hoot about Peter MacNicol? Also, why does Meryl Streep have to get Best Actress for all of her crappy movies? Ugh, if you want to get upset, watch this movie.

terrenceT         Any Terrance Malick Film   Badlands? Days of Heaven? The Thin Red Line? The New World? The Tree of Life? Need I say anymore? Ugh, I’m feeling insignificant just thinking about it…

 

unterU         Der Untergang          Ooh! A foreign language film? Hitler’s last 10 days in his bunker? Tale as old as time.

 

 

vieenroseV         La vie en rose             Another foreign language film! The tragic and the pathetic are pitted against each other in this biopic of French singer Edith Piaf. This may be too Valentines’y of a movie for this list, but if you do watch it, try to deconstruct the figure of La Môme from her apogee of romantic idealism to her utter insignificance as a mundane existent. Trust me, it is fun.

weneedtotalkaboutkevinW        We Need to Talk About Kevin         Valentine’s Day is for all relationships, and which is more important than that of mother and son? Especially so in this movie, with the painfully emotionally unavailable Tilda Swinton attempting to connect with evil-incarnate Ezra Miller, all while John C Reilly obliviously attempts to parent around them. A wrecking ball sort of a movie. Hug your moms extra tight today.

xX         American History X              Just because there are so few movies beginning with X and so few movies with a curb-stomping scene. That’s all.

 

yearlingY         The Yearling              It’s like We Need to Talk About Kevin, but with a baby deer.

 

 

zeroZ         Zero Dark Thirty       Your Valentine’s Day will be a “Mission Accomplished” with this flick.

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40 Answers for Kevin DeYoung Part 2: A Panel Discussion!

Recently, self-described non-emergent theologian Kevin DeYoung posed “40 questions for Christians now waving rainbow flags.” As he describes the questions, they “aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical. They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying.”

In the midst of several responses to the 40 questions, including Ben Irwin’s responses and Matthew Vines’ posing of an additional 40 questions, I wanted to invite a panel to address each of Kevin’s questions. Each of them represent different approaches to the question and different places in life, including age, career, and faith development.  Allow me to introduce our three panelists.

Three voices:

Johnny – 10 years old to 15 years old. Highly creative child; writes plays, movies, and stars in a public access TV show. Historically hates going to church, but goes to a Lutheran Middle School and undertakes first communion and confirmation. Develops an appreciation for faith and spirituality, but also has begun to develop attraction towards boys, and is getting scared. Develops a deep depression once entering high school.

John – 16 to 23 years old. Has religious commitment experience at age 16 that would set him on a path of happiness and exploring the Christian faith. Becomes committed to following his dream of being a teacher, but now within a religious context. Reconciles that his sexual attractions are ok as long as he is “in Christ.” Goes to Christian college and continues on to Seminary. Becomes very active in a church.

JFou – 24 years old to present. After rigorous study and reflection in seminary, decides to come out at age 25. He/him/his pronouns are fine. Leaves his church prior to coming out, which was a very painful experience. Has excellent last year of seminary, where his queer theology flourishes. He continues to study and write after seminary and becomes more active in the LGBTQ community. He continues to explore the intersections of gender, sexuality, and religion around and within him.

So, without further ado, let’s get to our panel. I have grouped some of the questions into similar categories while preserving the original questions as a means of simplification for our guests.  And now, the second in a series of questions revolving around the theology of gay marriage:

11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?

Johnny – Of those people, I only know Luther, and all I know about Luther is his Small Catechism, and he doesn’t talk about it in there.

John – I don’t think they could have grasped homosexuality as it is today; it would be so foreign to them. Still, they would probably have looked at it and still condemned it. We must understand these theologians as contextualized, and it would be impossible for them to think otherwise. Just because the long arc of history has been against same-sex sexual activity doesn’t mean the arc is right.

JFou – Straight White Men dictating church dogmatics?  C’est la même chanson. Vieux chapeau.

12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?

Johnny – I hate the idea of being a missionary, but I feel guilty about feeling that way. Still, if I’m going to do any convincing, it will be through teaching. If I’m called to ministry, it would be in teaching.

John – I wouldn’t. I think there are ways of reading the Bible poorly, such as reading agendas into it.  I think we see just as much of ‘biblically incorrect’ arguments in North American churches (i.e. prosperity gospel, America as a Christian nation). The point is that a North American reads the Bible—and even uses it differently—than a South American.  A North American might be apt to draw out rules and regulations from the reading, whereas a South American may identify more with the liberationist narratives. It’s all culturally conditioned, but it doesn’t mean that understandings are incorrect.

JFou – Me neither. To presume biblical correctness is to assume the category of ‘biblical’ as a distinct (and sacrosanct) culture. The assumption is that ‘biblical’ means to be historically and grammatical correct as to the original intent of the writer. For some, that writer is God; for others it is ancient people, and for even more others it’s something in between. It is important to understand that—in spite of our attempts to understand the intent of ancient writers— our understanding of what is biblical is still informed by our own cultural lens.  We interpret the Bible as a cultural document—distinct from our own—with our culture’s lens.

13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?

Johnny – I know Hillary, but who’s Barack?

John – If it were the case, I think it would be at best theopolitically motivated and at worst purely political. The former would mean that their political beliefs were precisely informed by their religious beliefs, wherein at some point there was a move of conviction that allowed them to think differently.  For the latter, it was a means of earning approval points. Smart, but…

JFou – With all due respect, what a stupid question. Amidst all of the questions posed, this is the most thinly veiled (triple metaphor) biased question. I think both of them have a tremendous amount of personal animus and bigotry, as I would expect from any politician. It’s unfortunate that we have come to distrust our political system). However, if our politicians claim that we are a democracy, then our cynicism is warranted by the paradox that (1) it is democracy that fosters this cynicism and that (2) we do not actually exist in a democracy but an oligarchy of the wealthiest. Coming back to the issue at hand (marriage equality), I would still confidently say that there is much more animus and bigotry from those opposing marriage equality than those who may change their mind hither or thither. Still, outright, subtle, and silent prejudices are all still bigotry.

14, 15, 16. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father? If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion? If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?

Johnny – My family’s not perfect, but I think my mom and dad are doing their best, and I know they love me regardless. I don’t think it would make any difference if the parents were either both men or both women. The kids might miss out on learning about what it’s like to be a male or female if one of them is missing, so I think it would be important for that kid to have someone important in their life who is not like them.

John – Johnny is on to something. I think a stable family is ultimately what is important. I don’t know many (or any?) families where there are two parents of the same sex, but I would weigh their stability with the same rubric as a heterosexual couple. I agree with Johnny about having a broad network of influence on a child’s rearing from differing gender and sex perspectives. I don’t think the church or the state should have any role in promoting or privileging any family dynamic.

JFou – Johnny’s right. Strong, inclusive families can foster greater happiness. I now know families with two dads or two moms, and I’m impressed with their family system. I’ve seen some research that shows no difference between heterosexual or homosexual parenting, but I think Johnny has a point about the ‘missing out’ piece.  I would like to see families approach gender and sex in a constructive way, inviting persons into the family dynamic that are not like the immediate family. This sort of inclusivity is incredibly beneficial.

17, 18. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment? How would you define marriage?

Johnny – I think marriage is a big commitment, and so it’s more than emotional and sexual fulfillment.  I think it’s spiritual. I think it’s supposed to last all your life. I think it’s about finding that soul mate. I think it’s romantic. I would like to get married and maybe have a family, but I’m also a bit nervous about it. I just hope I find someone that likes me enough and that I have good kids.

John – I too would like to spend my life with someone.  What can I say? I’m a romantic.  I think the purpose of marriage is an ultimate expression of love through commitment.  You can have emotions and sex outside of marriage, but marriage is a ritual that symbolizes the sort of ultimate commitment two people have to one another before God and the world. I see it more as an intimate partnership, where two people come together and decide to devote themselves to the love between them and the love that will come from them, whether in children or in the work the two do together.

JFou – Marriage is a social institution with whatever symbolism a society ascribes to it. If there is any theological significance to it, it is because it is ascribed that; nothing more. While I would like to have a partner, I don’t know if I want to get married.  I like how John describes the partnership of a marriage, and I resonate with his romantic tendencies. However, since coming out, I have also deconstructed my concept of romance and its tendencies.  Critiquing that part of me was a difficult process, but I know better what I want and why I want it.

And now: a lightning round! Questions 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24.  

  Johnny John JFou
Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married? No. No. Probably not.
  Johnny John JFou
Should marriage be limited to only two people? Yes. Probably. I’m not sure if I care.
  Johnny John JFou
On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married? I don’t know. There would need to be a free will commitment to enter into a loving and mutually reciprocal relationship. I leave it to the professionals on this one. I can’t even begin to hypothesize. Sorry.
  Johnny John JFou
Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license? Yes. Yes. Probably.
  Johnny John JFou
Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage? If not, why not? Yes. Absolutely. Yes.

25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?

Johnny – Yes. I think freedom of speech and religion is important for that, just so long as there isn’t any violence or anything like that.

John – I do, but I think that when one’s freedoms adversely impact another’s freedoms, then the freedoms should be freely withheld. Example: if you think that homosexuality is wrong, but there is a gay wedding next door at the church. You should recognize the freedom that the gay couple has to marry, but your opinion would still be protected.  I think that there could be a healthy practice of democratic differentiation: holding on to one’s beliefs and convictions while living in a situation that may be otherwise.

The person who thinks homosexuality is wrong still exists in spite of the fact that a gay marriage is taking place next door.  Their integrity is not threatened. The tricky part is when injustices are experienced; but who would experience the greater injustice: the gay couple unable to live in a world where they cannot marry, or the heterosexual person unable to live in a world where their paradigm is not accepted as absolute?

JFou – I agree with John. We would need to look at this through the context of a marginalized minority within a majority controlled society. In order to be a just and fair society, the minority and the marginalized would need to be treated with equitable interest. This means that if there is an experience of injustice caused either formally or informally by a majority, it is the minority’s responsibility to make it known and the majority’s responsibility to listen and take action.

26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?

Johnny – Yes. Freedom of speech is protected.

John – I would. I think it’s a shame that the schools I go that have such strict rules against homosexuality.  And yet, I understand that these institutions can make these decisions (Dartmouth v. New Hampshire). Can a Christian college have a code of conduct that prohibits homosexuality? Yes, it’s lawful, but it ain’t right.

JFou – Absolutely. I am thankful that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected classes in Minnesota.  I think it’s terrible that they are not in other states. I hope that with marriage equality that this issue will be addressed forthrightly. But, in the posing of the question, I wonder who Kevin thinks is actually being threatened.

Allow me to make a pragmatic case: I think the case of the heterosexual baker who refuses to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple is a fascinating one. I don’t think the baker’s freedoms are being threatened in the request to bake a cake, but I am not sure if the gay couple’s freedoms are being threatened in that they can take their business elsewhere.  This is an interesting example of market forces having an influence on the exercise of liberties. Will the market favor the baker and bring more business to them from people who think homosexuality is wrong, or will the market favor the inclusive baker?

Simply speaking, more people would go to the inclusive baker because, well, there would be straight and gay people going to the bakery, as opposed to only straight people going to the heterosexual baker. The heterosexual baker’s liberty to provide goods and services is not adversely impacted, but the gay couple’s liberty in regards to access to goods is impacted. However, the market would create an equitable outcome by encouraging the conditions for these two bakeries to exist, where, in my opinion, the inclusive bakery would thrive and the market forces behind that would help encourage the collective ethical consciousness.  So, in short, let the market decide!

27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?

Johnny – Maybe. I don’t like speaking out.

John – Possibly; but I’m not an activist. If I have a platform, it would be through teaching and mentoring—one on one instead of in front of a protest or demonstration.

JFou – Yes. I would want to speak out when an injustice is committed. I’m doing it right now in regards to LGBTQ folk experience discrimination and prejudice. As the religious folk, I am quick to defend religion, faith, and spirituality, but not certain beliefs or institutions.  For example, I will speak out against evangelical churches-as-institutions for their oppressive theology of anti-homosexuality. I will speak out against the Archdiocese of Minnesota, whose leadership decries homosexuality as a destructive and evil force while its priests molest little boys. That I will shame. That I will bully.

28, 29, 31 Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles? Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline? What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?

Johnny – I would think that it would be important for pastors to hold married people accountable. I think that if they are doing something wrong, it should be addressed in a loving manner.

John – The kind of church that I would want to be at would be one where everyone is in a close community where there is mutual encouragement from everyone.  If there is a problem in the community, I would want to see the community come together to help.

JFou – I’m against religion-as-institution, so I am against churches as a sort of moral police on its congregation.  This is known as heteronomy, or, subjugation of an individual to the perceived moral authority of an institution wherein the moral authority of the institution is never subject to question.  It is my modus operandi to question the moral authority of a church-as-institution. The moral authority of a church-as-community is slightly different insofar as it resists the temptation to institutionalize, wherein its moral authority is defined by the integrity of each member of the church and not in the church itself. Discipline would be communal, relational, and multilateral, not authoritarian, isolated, and unilateral.

35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?

Johnny, John, JFou – Yes. It’s damn hard, but it’s possible. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?

Johnny – I don’t know. I’m still new to understand more about Christianity. I only recently was baptized, went through communion, and went through confirmation. I’m still learning.

John – I think that I have accepted the invitation to explore my faith deeper in so many ways, and I have found it incredibly beneficial. I have been able to explicate my thoughts in a more coherent way, and have been able to teach others too.

JFou – Even though I recognize my theological method and beliefs have changed, there are core parts that I recognize that have not. I look at my faith journey as one integrated narrative. With that, I am able to hold onto the integrity of my faith in the midst of change. The theological changes I have undertaken may not have the same magnitude as my other colleagues. One big reason would be that I was not raised in an evangelical and/or fundamentalist background; I adopted evangelical tendencies through Lutheranism, especially at my high school.  Nowadays, I do pine for some of those experiences, and there are still questions I wrestle with, but I am ultimately very happy with the contour of my faith journey.

 

38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?

Johnny – I like faith and what I’ve learned, but I still don’t like going to church. It’s really bad now because of all of the politics going on at my church. Its stuff like this that makes youth like me want to leave the church.

John – My current church is doing a great job with that. We are open to accept everyone and rescue them from their troubles, but we want to see people restored to a loving faith with Jesus and released to a life of ministry. I’ve very proud to be active in this church!

JFou – I wouldn’t point to orthodox Christianity!

 

39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?

Johnny – I hope so.

John – I hope so.

JFou – If I can deconstruct each of those commitments, then yes; I hope so.

Next: We ask the panel to respond to each with a concluding statement!

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40 Answers for Kevin DeYoung Part 1: A Panel Discussion!

Recently, self-described non-emergent theologian Kevin DeYoung posed “40 questions for Christians now waving rainbow flags.” As he describes the questions, they “aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical. They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying.”

In the midst of several responses to the 40 questions, including Ben Irwin’s responses and Matthew Vines’ posing of an additional 40 questions, I wanted to invite a panel to address each of Kevin’s questions. Each of them represent different approaches to the question and different places in life, including age, career, and faith development.  Allow me to introduce our three panelists.

Three voices:

61440024Johnny – 10 years old to 15 years old. Highly creative child; writes plays, movies, and stars in a public access TV show. Historically hates going to church, but goes to a Lutheran Middle School and undertakes first communion and confirmation. Develops an appreciation for faith and spirituality, but also has begun to develop attraction towards boys, and is getting scared. Develops a deep depression once entering high school.

248396_505221860290_4822_nJohn – 16 to 23 years old. Has religious commitment experience at age 16 that would set him on a path of happiness and exploring the Christian faith. Becomes committed to following his dream of being a teacher, but now within a religious context. Reconciles that his sexual attractions are ok as long as he is “in Christ.” Goes to Christian college and continues on to Seminary. Becomes very active in a church.

13995_10101627355449540_4045167032380431910_nJFou – 24 years old to present. After rigorous study and reflection in seminary, decides to come out at age 25. He/him/his pronouns are fine. Leaves his church prior to coming out, which was a very painful experience. Has excellent last year of seminary, where his queer theology flourishes. He continues to study and write after seminary and becomes more active in the LGBTQ community. He continues to explore the intersections of gender, sexuality, and religion around and within him.

So, without further ado, let’s get to our panel. I have grouped some of the questions into similar categories while preserving the original questions as a means of simplification for our guests.  And now, the first series of questions revolving around the theology of gay marriage:

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?

Johnny – I’ve never liked weddings. Weddings are boring, but I have to go to them…

John – I don’t have a problem with gay people or gay marriage. My problem would be if a gay Christian person’s gay identity would be become superior to their Christian identity. As a Christian, identity should be based in Christ alone; any other identity (political, religious, economic, whatever) would still be subject to the Christian identity.  If a gay person still has their identity in Christ as the centering of his or her identity, then it’s great.

JFou – A long time. Reflecting back on my life, I realize that perspective would have been a good resolution to my own inner strife regarding the question of identity. Today, I am critical of that viewpoint in principle because I believe that identities are storied and multilateral rather than static and unilateral, or hierarchical. I think Johnny’s position is a good place for Christians to start when it comes to reconciling certain beliefs with their experience, but I do not think it is necessary.

2, 3, 30, 4. What Bible verses led you to change your mind? How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated? Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage? What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?

Johnny – Romans 1:26-32. I think sex outside of marriage might be sinful, but like Jesus talks about, I think the real issue is lust. It’s bad to have lustful thoughts towards people, and I know it’s really bad to have these attractions. But, if I don’t act on them, and if I try hard enough to not have them, then I think I’ll be ok. I’m still afraid I won’t go to heaven, but I think God still loves me enough.

John – Romans 5:3-5. This is my life verse. In the midst of depression, I know that whatever suffering I go through is not for naught, but that I have hope in the midst of it. As for a positive case from Scripture, I haven’t thought about that in that way, but I think that if God loves everyone in spite of what they might think, God would look upon any loving relationship favorably. I think sex outside of a monogamous situation is not sin but may not be good or useful; it could be risky. I am not one for ‘waiting until marriage,’ but I think that sexual activity should have a focus or end in regards to the health of the relationship, gay or straight.  Whatever is healthy and useful and loving is good. I am an egalitarian, so I don’t believe in established gender roles in a marriage.  I think that the Christ and church piece is one that enforces these roles.  I see the roles in marriage as mutual and reciprocal.

JFou –One cannot make a case from Scripture concerning your tenet, and I am not certain that you could make a case that any sexual activity itself is blessed. The problem here is in the concept of ‘blessing.’ What are the loci of the blessing: in the manipulations of the genitals themselves, in the symbolism it entails, or in the cultural institution it enacts?  However, if there is one verse that can show a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church, I would use John 8:23a: “But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above.” 😉

5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?

Johnny – I don’t know. I just know that I don’t want these feelings, but I can’t talk to anyone about them.  Nobody would understand.

John – Absolutely. Jesus practiced a lovingkindness to all, especially those on the outside. I’m just not sure where I fit into this. I have feigned a sort of asexuality for a long time, but I would love to be in a committed relationship.  I still have things to work through.

JFou – I’m not sure Jesus would have understood, in his cultural context, the situation you provided. In his context, the most immediate situation of homosexual behavior in a quasi-committed relationship would be that between a consenting adult male and a ‘consenting’ prepubescent boy. He would also be aware of homosexual behavior between nonconsenting adults, where a soldier might be fucking a captured enemy or something like that.  But, if there were consenting adults in a committed relationship who ‘practiced homosexual behavior,’ and if this behavior would be considered deviant and sinful, it would be likely that Jesus would have reached out to them in the similar ways as he ministered to the other outcasts of Judean society. So, I don’t think that the present context of homosexual relationships relates to anything within the 1st century AD.  Moving on a tangent, I still want to be in a committed relationship, but I’m also learning how to be present with and love myself.

6, 7. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman? When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?

John – The context of this argument is in his teaching on divorce. The central message is not that marriage is between a man and a woman, but that God did not intend divorce. This is not a passage to be used in the conversation about homosexuality. Porneia is used to describe sexual immorality in general, but in this context, I think it is specifically talking about sexual immorality within a marriage context, which would ultimately be adultery and unfaithfulness.

JFou – John is right. This is because—among several hermeneutical lines—the cultural context would not have an understanding of a committed ‘homosexual’ relationship. Moses wouldn’t have, and neither would Jesus or his followers. I think John is on the point regarding porneia. I would add that where porneia is used as ‘homosexuality,’ this is a clear example of exegetical prejudice, or, using a word the original audience would not have understood in order to make your point.

8, 40. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1? When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?

John – I think it is sexual immorality in general that drives us away from God. If an exchange would be sinful, it is because it draws us away from God.  Back to my point of identity in Christ, if a gay couple are together in a loving relationship, God will honor that. However, if the relationship or actions of a gay person draws them away from God, it is sin.  Sin is all about that which divides us from God.

JFou – I would agree with you John, but I don’t think that is entirely the point of Romans 1. Romans is a letter to Jewish Christians in Rome who have returned after being exiled by the Emperor Claudius.  Upon returning to the predominantly Gentile Christian communities, they inquire of Paul on how to live in this community.  Paul’s response is to ultimately show that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, as stated in Romans 2:1:

“Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”

The ‘vice list’ in Romans 1 is a common rhetorical device among the writers of this time, but Paul may be “recycling this list”, as Morgan Guyton writes,

…as part of disparaging the salvific sufficiency of Torah, so it has at most secondary importance and may only be relevant as a means of taking the listeners for a ride whose real purpose is to establish a repudiation of the law as a means for justification before God.

So, a repudiation of the law may also be tied to a repudiation of these vice lists in order to establish (as Paul does later on) the principle of “justification before God.”

9, 10. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven? What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?

Johnny – Yes, and I’m scared. I think the sins they are referring to include the thoughts and attractions. However, I read that God loves me, and I understand it, but I’m worried I might be deceiving myself.

John – No. Again, if one is in Christ, there is no condemnation.  It always comes back to being in Christ, experiencing the love of God in Jesus Christ.

JFou – Absolutely not. I think there are host of presuppositions that are misplaced in this assumption.

32, 33, 34. If “love wins,” how would you define love? What verses would you use to establish that definition? How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?

Johnny – I think there are all kinds of love, but I see the Bible talk a lot of neighborly love. Love God and love your neighbor; that’s what I read. Still, I need to read the Bible more.

John – I think the Bible is important for the development of Christian ethics, but not in a deontological way where God says it and that’s it. At the same time, I am not a situational ethicist, whereas long as someone does the ‘loving thing’ it’s cool..  I think that teleological ethic of love is a way to go.  If the Bible describes the story of God’s love for humanity, and we continue that story, then our end is to experience and propagate God’s love. Along ethical lines, I think that virtue is still important, but I’m suspicious about how churches define virtue, especially when it is used to shame and exclude people.

JFou – I began a turn towards virtue ethics the year prior to coming out, around the same time as my turn towards the symbolic, so I understand John’s interest in it. I’m beginning to lean more towards the tenet that theology is ultimately a conversation about ethics. Whether or not you believe in God or gods, theological conversations are about what we consider to be the ultimate for us, and so it has a tremendous ethical implication. When you pose the question of how obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love, there’s a risk of demonstrating ‘bad faith,’ wherein the ultimate concern is in the literal words of the Bible as God’s commands.  Without good hermeneutics, I think there are profound ethical missteps that can happen, and thus a misinterpretation of love.  However, developing an ethic based on inspiration from sources like the Bible, as well as others, may prove to be a fruitful endeavor.

37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?

Johnny, John, JFou – We are not evangelicals.

Next: Answers to the remaining questions, which include the political, familial, and ecclesiastical ramifications of marriage equality.

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The Ocean, the Boat, and the Wind: Part Three – From On High

We left off with the posing of this question: “What made the majority the majority, and furthermore, what actually gave them the power to name?”

In the immediate cultural context of heteronormativity, it is the majority population of heterosexual persons that become the self-as-norm and the homosexual person as the other-against self (obvi). But is it simple enough to say that the power to become the majority arose from the efficacy of sexual reproduction, wherein homosexual acts are seen as deviant—an anomaly? However, the anomaly of homosexuality (as we understand it today) only became abnormal at the earliest with the invention of sodomy as a category of sin within the medieval Roman Catholic Church or at the latest with the invention of heterosexual and homosexual categories in the late 19th century. Sure, men fucked men and women fucked women since time immemorial, and a lot of people thought it was weird or gross or wrong, but it wasn’t homosexuality.

So, if we are to attempt to pinpoint the inception of these hetero/homo dialectics, we can be safe to launch our dart within a span of several hundred years. But the fact remains that within that span, the one who gave the power to name the homosexual person as ‘abnormal’ was…the Church. This illustrates a principle (or illusion) that power is granted from transcendence. The metaphor is as ancient as Godself—wisdom, enlightenment, and power come from above and rest upon the below-ones who are worthy. Another ancient metaphor illustrates that those who are touched by the transcendent become transcendent themselves; to be touched by power is to become powerful.

Fig. 1. Luke Hillestad, The Crowning, unknown, oil paint on canvas, 30 in. x 40 in. Artist collection (image file provided by the artist).

Fig. 1. Luke Hillestad, The Crowning, unknown, oil paint on canvas, 30 in. x 40 in. Artist collection (image file provided by the artist).

The anthropologics is that societies form and determine the parameters [boundaries] of the transcendent and the mundane. This practice is a part of religion, because religion is a discourse based upon ultimacies and transcendencies; it is the discourse that shapes our understanding of things beyond our understanding, ascribing meaning to observations otherwise without tangible meaning. That ‘God’ fits within the discourse of religion is only because a premise of classical theism (and probably a whole sort of other theisms) is that God is beyond understanding. In some theisms, God can be understood but only within certain degrees, ranging from metaphors of disinterested creator to personal friend and companion. The point, however, is that classical theism sets up the dialectic of above and below, wherein God is above and humanity is below. If we concatenate these lines of inquiry, we link the metaphors of power, transcendence, and God.

When we ascribe something to the ‘realm’ of God, we are making a claim to its importance and ultimacy.  The irony, then, is when we say “God is love” or “God is sovereign,” we are less so saying things about Godself and more so saying things about ourselves and our values. This speech act exists in spite of and apart from a belief in God. If God exists, we can only understand God’s existence through the speech act of assigning our concept of existence onto God. Paul Tillich once said that God does not exist […] because God is beyond essence and existence. Following in a similar radical line: if God exists, then God only exists because we say so.

All of this is to illustrate the following:

  1. In a society, there will be a time when effort is made to develop a sense of understanding of the society itself, their identity and values.

  2. In a society, there will be a time when effort is made to explain things beyond the understanding of the society itself (i.e. religion).

  3. In a society, there exists more of some people (majority) and less of other people (minority).

  4. In a society, the majority amasses power to make (1) and (2) happen, whether democratically or through authoritarian measures or otherwise, and where the minority may not take to the results of the majority’s actions.

  5. The minority’s objection is perceived as deviance, and the development of the self-as-norm and the other-against-self is done as a means to justify (1) with the premises of (2).

In conclusion, what we say about God, about what we consider to be ultimate and important, the source of our power is used against others to support ideas about ourselves. This is the basis of heteronormativity.

But there is still hope, because these axioms of heteronormativity fail on one particular premise. As a case study, heteronormativity based in conservative religious fundamentalism fails to recognize that the power of religion is not in religion itself, but in its use. They believe that the premises of religion themselves are what justifies their prejudice.  Rather, it is themselves that justify their prejudice.  But take religion proper (theism) out of the equation, religion still remains (system of ultimacies). They are usurping the subject of religion, objectivizing it in the same manner as they objectivize the minority, the other-against-self (and we all know another term for this usurpation is idolatry.).

True and good religion is not usurpation of the object of our ultimacy but participation with the object of our ultimacy. Through this we realize the object is actually subject, and that it desires us as its ultimacy as well. This symbolic language is used to illustrate the point that it is favorable to practice love as power in relationship rather than hate as power in estrangement. The demonstration of the relational intimacy between a subject and its subject of ultimacy fosters mutuality wherein the power experienced is shared to the benefit of both subjects. If we part from this discussion with only a utilitarian ethic, we can be happy enough to leave with an ethic wherein both parties benefit rather than one at the expense of the other.

Abyss

Fig. 2. Luke Hillestad, Abyss, unknown, oil paint on canvas, 39 in. x 43 in. Artist collection (image file provided by the artist).

So, maybe the lesbians are on to something (winky face). But if we are following through with the stereotypical premises of the first post—that lesbian relationships embody a certain degree of romance more than gay male relationships—I fear that we may be leveraging heteronormativity unto gay male subjectivity. After all, the modus operandi of heteronormativity is to judge the other-against-self using religious premises to justify its own self-as-norm prejudgments.

So, instead of levying these heteronormative prejudgments upon gay male bodies, subjectivities, and ethics, perhaps we must participate in them instead. I am intrigued to explore the concept of love and romance from a gay male perspective within the context of a condemnatory heteronormative culture. The purpose of this is to not only annunciate a unique concept of romance in which gay males experience and participate, but to also develop a concept of queer romance that is distinct yet relatable to gay male and lesbian concepts of romance. My hypothesis is that the findings will be intriguing at the worst but world changing at the best (even in the smallest of worlds: the self). I think it will help construct queer ethics as well as open up possibilities to religious and spiritual experience otherwise not explored in LGBT communities.

Will you participate?

Part One introduces a problem of love and romance in the heterosexual/homosexual dialectic. Part Two explores the contours of heteronormativity. 

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The Ocean, the Boat, and the Wind: Part Two – Other and Self

Let us remember that heterosexuality which seeks to differentiate itself from homosexuality by imposing boundaries between it and the homosexual-other is heteronormativity. Now, let us explore in greater detail the contents of this ocean.

Fg2or the sake of the arguments to follow, we will use the term “homosexuals” vis-à-vis discussions concerning heterosexuals. With this assumption, we will act as if conversation does not include bi or trans individuals. This is because we will adopt another assumption: that bi and trans sexualities are incomprehensible within a heteronormative paradigm. The heteronormative paradigm comprehends its self-perception vis-à-vis its perception of the homosexual. From the heteronormative perspective, there is only the homosexual as the other.

Perhaps it is this way we can reclaim a particular definition of heteronormativity through contextual morphology, or, language. An irony of the concept of heteronormativity is that it can only be understood within the context of the heterosexual/homosexual dialectic. Literally, heteronormative would be ‘other-normative’, derived from the Greek adjective ἕτερος: ‘another,’ ‘different’. Only in a certain cultural context does the hetero in heteronormative correlate to the hetero in heterosexual.

But does this mean that one cannot understand the hetero in heteronormative without understanding the hetero in heterosexual? Perhaps not; perhaps it is that one cannot understand the contextual hetero (as in heterosexual and its contextual cognate heteronormative) without understanding the morphological and etymological hetero of what I propose as the core of the heteronormative paradigm. This proposal is as follows.

In the heteronormative paradigm:

g1

  1. The heterosexual person views the homosexual person as other, and proceeds to evaluate the homosexual person as other-against-self.
  2. In this system, the self is the seat of normativity, or, the self-as-norm.
  3. This implies that the other (which is not the self) is not the norm.
  4. The self-as-norm defines itself as much by distinguishing itself from the other as by its own perceived standards of itself. Thus, heteronormativity’s focus is on the other but only in so far as it is the other-against-self; the antithesis to the
    self-as-norm.

The self-as-norm becomes such through the conflict of other-against-self. In this, either the self must triumph over the other to become the norm, or the self triumphs over the other to become the norm by virtue of itself. In other words, the self must either actively overcome the other to assert its normativity, or it must assert its normativity prior to the declaration of overcoming the other.

Correlatively, the self-as-norm becomes such through its own power to name the other, wherein the self-as-norm subjugates the other by naming it not the norm, or, abnormal. The ability of heteronormativity to name the other as abnormal is demonstrative of the power it exercises from its majority status. In another manner of speaking, the power to name the other as abnormal is actualized in and through majority status. However, where this argument may demonstrate the validity of the clichéd ‘power in numbers,’ this is only one facet of the dynamics of these power relations.

bBut we must ask what made the majority the majority, and furthermore, what actually gave them the power to name? In the next post, I will answer that question.

Stay tuned!

Part One introduces a problem of love and romance in the heterosexual/homosexual dialectic.. Part Three explores how religion plays into it.

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