(early draft idea for a cover)
Someone asked me recently:
If gay people get to have sex with other people of the same sex because they are born gay, do pedophiles who feel they are born gay get to have sex with children?
In a word, No. But that answer has nothing to do with how someone was born, and everything to do with the other party.
Being born with a particular sexuality is never carte blanche for sex with any particular person, just as being born straight does not give a man right to sex with any woman. She has to say yes, because ethical sex requires the consent of the other partner. Sex without consent – with a mentally retarded adult, a woman who is passed out drunk, or anyone who says no – is rape.
Pedophiles can never have the sex they desire because no child can give consent for adult sexual acts. Children, by definition, do not have an adult body, an adults morality or understanding of consequences, or an adult sexual awareness, so there is no way for them to give informed consent for adult sex.
Pedophilia is a difficult topic, with some people labeling all pedophiles sick while others make a distinction between the desires of a pedophile and the actions of a child molester. Given how common child brides were across history and in some cultures to this day, the desire for sexual relationships with youth seem pretty widespread. Some modern research supports the idea that some people may be born pedophiles, making their sexuality as natural as heterosexuality or homosexuality. (I did some research on pedophilia for my book and found great articles that helped expand my understanding like here, here, here , and here. And here is a support group for people looking for help.)
But in the end the origins of the desire for sex with children do not matter. Even if pedophiles are “born that way” they do not get to act on their desires because they are only half of the equation, and the rest of us are here to protect the rights of the other party. Healthy societies must protect the innocent first, and then offer help to those with unwelcome attractions.
Ethical sex requires the consent of both parties, and a child who can never give adult consent, and deserves to be left alone.
One of the great things about the success of the gay rights movement comes as we include more and more people. Just think, someday everyone might experience equal respect in their lives.
As we experienced around gay marriage, visibility is everything. Some people say popular media is a cyclops, it can only focus on one thing at time, and now trans people are getting the attention they have long deserved.
Some people see being gay as a defect, a flaw, or a subversion of the natural order. A commenter on another post, who did not seem antagonistic to gay rights in general, called being gay a birth defect much like one of his own:
Another segment of the population that seems to ignore science are the gays who refuse to accept that their circumstance in life is the result of a birth defect. Lots of us a born with some kind of defect. Some have a tail, others have webbed feet or have a missing or deformed limb. I was born with hammer toes and I have no feeling or any use of my legs, below my knees. And I have scoliosis. But, I and the guy with five fingers sticking out of his shoulder, don’t go around telling everyone that we’re normal. Many gays do this all the time. There’s nothing wrong with being defective but denying the obvious seems a little odd, to me.
I don’t really like this conceptualization of defect versus variation, but since this mindset is common it is worth puzzling out: What is the difference between being atypical versus being defective?
In a normal distribution most people fall in the middle of the bell curve while others are born on the tail ends, the variations outside the norms. A defect, on the other hand, is something that doesn’t work right, an imperfection.
I am abnormally tall. At over 6’3” my height is in the 99th percentile of American men my age. Does that make my height in the outlying 1% a defect or a variation? Looking farther outside of the norms, Yao Ming defective because he is 7’6” or Peter Dinklage defective at 4’5”?
I am also gay. Given that about 5% of the population is gay, does my homosexuality in the outlying 5% make me defective or a standard variation? Statistically, my height is more “abnormal” than my queerness.
If variation is a question of statistics, defectiveness derives from a lack of proper functioning. Something is defective if it doesn’t work right.
Staying with height for a moment, Ming’s “defect” makes him a star of the MBA, while Dinklage’s “defect” makes him a star of Game of Thrones. I like being “abnormally” tall, except when confronted by tight airline seats and short beds.
As for how I experience my sexuality, it feels more like a variation than a defect to me. My body’s sexual functions work just fine, so no defect there. And just as my feet prefer hiking over jogging, my body’s sexual urges prefer men over women. In both cases my parts work just fine, they just have an orientation or preference that feel beyond my control.
Of course the primary reason gay people are considered defective is the decreased likelihood we will have children. But A) that was my choice, not a lack of ability, and B) not every human being needs to procreate for the species to survive. In fact, at our current populations, it is a benefit if some people choose not to.
My sexual preference is not the same as the majority’s, but as one in twenty people vary in this way it seems a rather unexceptional.
And my body’s sexual bits works quite well thank you, so they are not defective. I am quite sure my procreative functions work equally well, leaving the matter of procreation my personal choice, and not a defect.
Part of what I love about my people is the humor we have about being gay. OK, not everyone all the time, for sure, but c’mon… we get huge credit for the fun and laughs we have at our own expense.
Gay prankster humor hit global politics this week with the Singing Sailor, a response to months of Russian nuclear submarines violating territorial Swedish waters. A group called ‘Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society’ (SPAS) responded to the famously homophobic Russians with a neon sign depicting a sexy sailor with the message: “Welcome To Sweden, Gay Since 1944.” 1944 was the year Sweden made homosexuality legal.
And in case any passing submarines miss the sign, it also pings out Morse code into the surrounding waters spelling out the message “come this way if you are gay,” a message no submariner could miss.
So how does this help playfully funny art project help explain gay people?
Well, there is an ancient tradition of pranksters in many religions, the unexpected wisdom that subverts the rigid thinking of the day, and as gay people we often appear like unsettling pranksters. Unlike pretty much every other minority group gay people pop up unexpectedly in every family, community, religion, and culture. So at our best we sometimes play this role of sacred prankster, something like Bugs Bunny who managed to make the guy with the gun look the fool by not taking himself too seriously.
Responding to territorial incursions by nuclear submarines with the timeless icon of a gay sailor? Genius.
And just to be clear how friendly this all is, Daniel Holking of SPAS clarified in an official statement:
If there is a submarine down there and there is a crew member who hears or sees the sailor, they are welcome to join us in the Pride Parade on August 1 in Stockholm.
I love my peeps.
…for more background, and to see the sign dance:
Panti Bliss is an Irish drag queen, and an incredibly articulate person. As political controversies in Ireland escalated, she accused a Catholic lobbying group of homophobia, and got tons of blowback.
Her response, on the stage of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, is powerful:
She followed up with a TED Talk where she got a standing ovation:
It’s only a one minute video, just watch it. So simple.
Traditional communities were often led by wise old men. So where are the gay men who should be at the peak of their careers and influence, leading the way forward, and serving as role models for the younger generations? Why are there so few older gay male leaders out there?
The answer is easy: They died.
For gay men around my generation, AIDS took many of the best and brightest, the most creative, and those most likely to be daring, extraverted, outgoing, and driven. Wars decimate generations of young men. 60,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam, while AIDS took 300,000 from the 5% of the populations that is gay. Those who survived either suffered decades of serious illness more like the end of life than the middle, or we were so traumatized by the illness – and the country’s judgmental reaction – that many of us have never really recovered.
Because of AIDS, and the lack of a quick medical response when the disease hit, gay men are lacking the cadre of wise old men and worldly success stories that we should be experiencing at this point in history.
Of course this means everything will change in the future. Leadership roles are now being filled by gay women – many of the most famous gay people in America right now are female, a wonderful thing to witness. And now a new generation arises – healthy, empowered, and ready to be the role models of the future.
Quick test: You really have to pee. Which bathroom do you use, the one with the stick figure on the door, or the one with the stick figure and the little triangle?
OK, now which bathroom should this guy use?
He was born female, but now he’s a contender for Men’s Health cover model. Everybody’s gotta pee sometimes. Where would you send him?
OK, then how about this guy? The US Army says he’s a woman, but he disagrees. Which restroom would you like him to use?
Or how about this guy? He was born female. Would you insist he use the ladies room?
On the other, uh, sex, this is Laverne Cox, one of the breakout stars of Orange Is The New Black. Where should she go to pee? She was born male, so would you point her to the men’s room?
Or how about this woman? Does she look like she’d fit in the men’s room? Would she be safe there?
Or how about this woman. Raise your hand if you think she should be using the mens room.
The idea of transgender people using bathrooms is one of those issues that should not be complicated.
Everyone needs to pee where they feel most comfortable. And when faced with the gender-sorted bathrooms, people should use the gender-labeled space that fits the gender they are expressing.
It is true this may make some people uncomfortable, but, well, lets all be nice to each other out there, people. And remember, bathrooms are not sacred spaces, their primary role is hygiene – just a place where we can drop the kids off at the pool, adjust ourselves with a bit of privacy, maybe wash our face if the paper towel rack hasn’t gone all empty again, and then head back into the world with a renewed sense of relief.
Or we could just change the signs…
It can be comforting to believe God’s laws are eternal and unchanging, but no Christian can think that is true, as Christianity itself was a dramatic change in God’s laws. The story of Jesus is of one of history’s most powerful revolutionaries, and Christianity has been toppling old ways of thinking ever since.
The New Testament, for example, was new because it was a change in God’s covenant with his people. The Old Testament is a listing of the laws and morals God gave to the Jews. In Christian ethics, those laws were superceded in Christ, and few modern Christians live ethical aligned with the Old Testament. Those who do follow those old laws are called Orthodox Jews, not Christians.
Under the laws of the Old Testament, God’s people ate a kosher diet and sacrificed animals on altars, yet Christians no longer practice those laws, because they were fulfilled in Christ. Or to use the most famous example, Old Testament morality of “an eye for an eye” was transformed through the life and teachings of Jesus into to “turn the other cheek.”
Christianity only exists because God’s laws did not continue eternal and unchanged, as Christ changed them. I believe modern Christians can also find growth within their morality. As the current Pope, of all people, said recently: “God is not afraid of new things.”