Wednesday 18 April 2012

Being Gay - Such A Delight (Part 3/3)

In the the third and final post of this triptych, I want to look in a very different direction to that of the first two posts. In the first, I canvassed the idea that being gay was a disappointment to parents and to society because gay people cannot on their own procreate and are ispo facto doomed to experience life in a lesser way, a way that is inferior, second-best, runner-up to straight people. In the second post, I took the idea that being gay is a disappointment further by examining the idea that gay poeple are somewhow broken straight people, heterosexuals whose identity has somehow gone off the rails, that we are deviants, because we deviate from the 'normal' path of being heterosexuals. In both these posts, I reject these ideas as being wrong, harmful and unfair in their characterisation of us; in the first, by suggesting that we are able to thrive and flourish very happily without the ability to procreate together and still live perfectly happy lives ( at least as perfectly happy as any other straight person), and in the second, by reminding us that good scholarship shows that gay people are not sick, ill or disordered and that we are not deviants at all - our sexual identity gifting us with attributes and experiences that can bring great positivity to a struggling world.

Our first two posts examined  rejected notions of disappointment. This one will look at the antithesis of disappointment - this one will look at why being gay is a delight. The etymology of the word delight shows that it comes orignally from the Latin and Middle English and has direct associations with the words: alluring, pleasing, enticing, delicious, delectable, light. All these words, except perhaps the last, describe something quite wonderful, something especially pleasurable or attractive. And the word light offers us the lovely sense of adding luminosity, elucidation, clarity. So let me speak about six factors that attest to why being gay can be a delight.

Gay people have a strong sense of family
If gay people are unconditionally accepted in their families, it is not uncommon to find a particularly strong connection made with parents and siblings. Given that gay people don't generally procreate and bring into the world another generation directly from them, some of this downward energy (to a following generation) goes across sideways and back (to siblings and parents). Where unconditinoal love is offered in a family by parents to all children regardless of sexual orientation, there is often an equality that can be quite wonderful and the envy of others. Gay people will frequently forge adult relationships with their adult parents and often also have the time and inclination to look after them when they grow older. Since gay people don't typically have children, their energy and commitment to family is quite substantial and in some cases can be demonstrably more so than straight siblings. Where does this come from? Probbaly from the years of sexual identity formation where every young gay person who wants to disclose to their parents but is fearful that they will be rejected. When that doesn't occur, there is often a world of discussion opened up a  about not only orientation issues but other issues as well leading to a growth in intimacy.

And for gay people who do have children, well you won't find more committed parents than gay people who more than likely have had to struggle to become parents in the first place. As is not the case for for straight couples sometimes, becoming parents for a gay couple is never an accident.

And finally, gay people have a huge commitment to non-biological family. Friends become resolutely firm supports and such friendships are highly valued in the gay community. Seeing friends, talking to friends, hanging out with friends are all-important to the gay person. The connections made and intimacy established and developed over time is quite something to behold. It is difficult to pinpoint  but most gay people would say that there is a difference they recognsie between the nature of relationships between gay people and straight people. In my own little family, my partner and I have a couple of very dear friends whom we consider family - part of our lives forever.

Gay people can be a challenge and an example to the world
One of the most trying things in the Western world today is the notion that big corporations or big government that has lost its way, both typically run by alpha males, is the way we do things. It has predominated the culture of the twentieth century and does not look like it's about to abate in the twenty-first. The wonderful thing about gay people is that our very lives cut across that gender status quo simply by being who we are. Gay men are not usually alpha males. Gay women are definitely not alpha males. While we can and do flourish in the world of commerce, there is a softer side to the gay guy, an absence of the 'dog eat dog' ethic that runs the world. Money comes first. People come
second. And while of course there are plenty of straight people who differ from these views in their language and action, there is a strong sense that gay people more generally revile these attitudes. Why? Probbaly because we ourselves have suffered under them, either in high school or in university or out in the workforce.

Gay men generally do have a wonderful rapport with women because in some senses, we have suffered some of the same outrages that the patriarchal systems impose on women. You see, homophobia is closely related to sexism.  Both are about a controlling and negative view and treatment of women. We gay men are well connected with our emotional lives and are quite comfortable in being engaged with a softer form of masculinity that eschews machismo, the inability to emote, or the refusal to cry. So no matter how muscled up a gay guy might be, the odds are that he's not an alpha male. Gay men get women.

And lesbians too challenge the gender order that keeps women down, keeps them in positions of subservience and inferiority, because lesbians are not only women themselves, they love women. Ellen DeGeneres is a hero of mine because she has been true to herself from the outset and has been an incredibly positive role model for lesbians (and gay men) around the world. And she is not frightened to speak up if she feels she needs to. She is living proof of gay girl-power where the gender order is turned on its head.

Everyone has suffered because of the gender order - men and women and children. I could tell a thousand stories from my Consulting Rooms of real life people where the gender order dominated by patriarchy has been a destructive force in people's lives. Gay people are a challenge to this order and an example of how life can be lived a different way.

Rufus Wainwright
Gay people are creative
Okay this one might seem like a stereotype, but it is not coincidence that we see so many gay people represented significantly in the arts and humanities. Gay people are generally very attuned to music and rhythm, image and colour. We are laughed at sometimes, these days good-naturedly, by those who need some clothing advice, colour advice, music or movement advice. In the churches, we are generally involved with music and the liturgy because we are so good at it. We have seen gay people thrive in the film and theatre industry, the music industry, the dance industry, in photography, in design, in fashion, in hair, in tourism, in hospitality. But the delightful thing is that although we obviously do do well in those arenas, we also bring the same creativity to the world of education, to medicine, to my own profession of psychology, to commerce and banking, to management and business, to building and architecture and engineering. Gay people tend to be creative people - there is no getting away from it. We can think outside the square and come up with alternatives that can be positive, workable and affirming.

Gay people are often in tune with the great questions
Because gay people by our very nature have to go through a gay sexual identity formation (you can read about it on pp86-90 in BGBC), we have been introduced at a young age to the great questions of life, the ultimate concerns. Now some think these questions are a waste of time. I don't. I think they are the most important questions of all and gay people are faced with struggling with their resolutions from the onset of puberty. Who am I? Where do I fit? What does it all mean? Is this all there is? What will life be like for me? How will I navigate my sexuality in a predominantly straight world? Is there a God? Des my sexuality matter to God? And all the others. There is a certain wisdom that comes from struggling with these great questions. An openness too. An ackowledgment that we don't have all the answers. A humility in life about the human condition. Do gay people have this more than straight people? Perhaps not, but because of our early identity formation, a psychological and behavioural process that takes years, we may in fact be more open to the great questions perhaps because we may in fact be more exposed to them. Many a straight person values the ideas and input of their gay friend. There's just something about what they're saying that rings true.

Gay people are generally people of peace
You won't find many gay people who are into violence or aggression. In fact, some of us in times past, and even occasionally in today's society unfortunately, have been victims of aggression. But gay people more often than not are peace-makers. We abhor violence. We avoid it naturally. It is part of our make-up to solve difficulties without violence and aggression. We avoid hostlity and try to soothe it where we are able. Blessed are the peace makers. They are a delight.

Gay people are in tune with sexuality
Gay people talk about sex. We think about sex and we have sex. After survival, sex is just about the strongest drive in the human make-up and gay people understand this well. Why? Because our lives, on one level, are focused through a prism that holds sexuality as being normal, healthy, satisfying and positive. We tend to have done away with the whole 'sex is dirty, sex is unclean, sex is filthy, sex is not to be talked about, sex is sinful, desire and the body are to be denied' stuff that the church has spat out for two thousand years. These are the messages of the Christian church down through the ages, stemming right from St Paul himself in the 1st century and onwards through other early church fathers like Augustine and Jerome. As these views have filtered into society, they have contaminated even our modern world and have caused untold damage to millions of people. Not all Christian teaching around sexuality is in this category I hasten to mention, but the 'sex is filthy and desire is sinful brigade' are wrong and harmful and need to be challenged. And the lives of we gay people do challenge them. Through the formation of gay sexual identity, from puberty through adolescence and youth, gay people have wrestled with these toxins and won through so that we have a healthier, more postive, more life affirming view of the place of sex, the body and desire in the human life.

What can I say - being gay is a delight. I want to tell our society, its parents and teachers and priests and pastors, its doctors and lawyers and professinals and workers, that being gay is not a disappointment. It is a wonderful way to experience life. I would be happy if any of my own nephews or nieces or their children turned out to be gay. Why? Because it's not a disappointment. I want society to understand this, to change the rhetoric, to undertake the mental shift from disappointment to delight. Every kid, every person has an absolute dignity from just being human. Can we not equally value being gay with being straight? And not place the pall of disappointment on the shoulders of our wonderful gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Being gay is a delight. It is an attractive, alluring, pleasurable, pleasing, delectable, wonderul, postive way of experiencing life. There is nothing here not to like. Of course I am not saying the absurd, that gay people live only positive pleasing lives. Not at all. But by virtue of their sexuality, they should not be handicapped by a society that looks at their prospects with the heavy burnden of disappointment before they even get started. Gay people can make of their lives what they will, just like straight people can. On pp226-229 of BGBC, I talk about some of the great gifts that gay people can also bring to the church - another reason for delight.

I also stated above that delight embeds the word light. Gay people can bring a light to the world, and yes I am very aware of the Gospel allusion. We can be a force for good in the world and a force for change. I think we do this well. And we can bring a lightness and sense of fun, a light-heartedness too. Time for society to grow up. Time for a better world. Time for all of us to start celebrating the idea that a young person might be gay. Give them the best start in life we can. Accept them. Love them unconditionally. Guide them of course. But let's also celebrate the delight of their lives as being the delight of our lives.

Pax et Amor - Stuart

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