For a better understanding of human sexuality that furthers equality and respects everyone’s God-given sexual orientation and gender identity, the following chapter excerpted from Dr. Michael’s new book, “A User’s Guide to Your Mind” Volume II, is now presented for your consideration.
(Originally published in 1999; Updated 2009; 2011; 2013; 2019)
8888 Words (25-30 minute read)
“Am I Normal?
Rethinking the Sexual Politics of Normalcy”
by Michael Ra Bouchard, Ph.D.
When it comes to our personal sexuality, what everyone ultimately wants to know is, “Am I normal?” In a word—probably. Be assured it is normal to desire and seek close physical contact with others. From hugs and kisses to pats on the back, handholding and handshaking, to caresses and cuddling and more—all nurture our need for giving and receiving human touch and contact. Throughout life, many of our core psychological and emotional needs are fulfilled by sharing authentic deep connection and loving touch with others. Without it, we can even get sick and die.
It is perfectly normal and healthy to have appreciation for our earthly bodies, and indeed, it has been said that even angels take pleasure in their bodies of light. As we live in physical bodies, it is only natural that as we mature, we begin to feel the intense biological influence of our sexual drive in its determined mission to fulfill its reproductive imperative. Human beings have a three-prong influence of biology, psychology, and physiology that together determinedly work their influence upon our sexuality.
Sexual feelings begin in the brain. Most people don’t realize that our largest sex organ is actually located between our ears. Feeling valued and desired are very powerful turn-ons for both men and women. Giving all of your attention to someone when he or she is speaking is also very attractive, including sexually. This is because sexual satisfaction is in large part a brain chemical experience that assists couples in feeling close and connected. Most people would agree it’s not very sexy when you think of it that way. Nonetheless, it is a glowing testament to Divine Design that humans are such wonderfully complex creatures.
Our Sexuality Chooses Us
Our sexuality is a precious gift from God-Source-Nature that enriches and blesses our lives in many ways. Sexologists and gerontologists agree that continued sexual interest and activity can be pleasurable and therapeutic throughout our entire adult lifespan—make whoopee, live longer. Having a sexually satisfying and happy marriage is a very good indicator of future health and long life, especially when we have other fulfilling social relationships. When we have learned life’s lessons well, we realize that true happiness requires being surrounded by those we know dearly care about us, and most of all by our mate. Desire for closeness and sexual intimacy are essential and undeniable human elements from birth to death.
On the subject of desire, one cannot properly discuss it without also discussing another very complex—and continuously controversial—subject, namely, the origin of sexual orientation. Most sexologists, this one included, are in agreement that sexual orientation is a matter of both nature and nurture, as in both/and verses either nature or nurture. In actuality, every pregnancy has a unique progression of innate and situational factors throughout gestation that influence the developing fetus and how the brain is originally “hardwired.”
In regards to understanding and respecting natural sexual diversity, humanity as a whole has been painfully ignorant and discriminatory throughout most of history. To help set the record straight, it is essential to understand that sexual orientation is not an issue of morality but is rather an issue of biology: Specifically, the gender of the person we fall in love with, male and/or female, is overwhelmingly determined and driven by our particular brain’s wiring for sexual orientation. There is simply no denying that our sexual nature is a built-in, hard-wired fact.
Factually speaking, we are each born with a sexually predetermined hard-wired brain and corresponding—and sometimes not so corresponding—issue of “genital hardware.” Yet it remains up to our family, society, religion, and every individual to see that we learn about and understand our sexuality, so that we can program and run it with comprehensive, accurate, up-to-date, moral, and positive “sexual software” that respects ourselves and everyone else.
Garbage In, Garbage Out
To help stem the tide of hurt and hate, kindly indulge me now a few minutes to be preachy. And insistent. Of the many types of malware programs that exist, a particularly malicious and deeply entrenched societal program that is long overdue for tossing into history’s rubbish heap is the one that negatively judges and altogether condemns anyone who isn’t of heterosexual orientation. In recent years, many states and nations have begun to draft laws to end sexual discrimination and disfavored legal status that violate the civil and human rights of gay and lesbian couples, recently including America. Likewise, public opinion of those who despise hostility and injustice continues to shift in support of sexual rights around the world, especially among younger people. While glacier-slow in speed, any movement forward is welcomed progress.
Yet there remains a long way to go—in America and in many countries around the world—before full and absolute sexual equality is achieved by granting the same rights, status, and human dignity to gay and lesbian same-sex individuals and couples that have long been enjoyed by heterosexuals. The achievement of this objective will stand as a victory for the fundamental American principle that all people are equal and deserving of equal rights and treatment under the law. It requires that lawmakers no longer defend laws that are unconstitutional. It further requires lawmakers to take every corrective action necessary and throw out present laws that violate equal-protection rights by denying the same rights and benefits to homosexual individuals and couples now available only to heterosexuals. The time is now overdue for leaders and lawmakers to act like leaders and stand up for the rights and well-being of all citizens by rethinking the sexual politics of normalcy.
Sexual Rights are this Generation’s Civil Rights Issue
Indeed, in the last decade major policy changes announced by the Justice Department have upheld the argument that laws and statutes treating people in same-sex marriages differently from heterosexual relationships were unfair and violated the Constitution’s guarantee that everyone be equally protected by the law. This long overdue 180-degree turn-about in social policy legislation is a hugely welcomed development for everyone now of second-class citizenship currently denied equality solely due to his or her other-than-heterosexual orientation. While presently “a matter of great debate in our nation, and a highly controversial issue over which people of good-will may disagree, sometimes strongly,” existing laws standing as institutionalized discrimination must be categorically struck down and rendered null.
Towards that honorable end, permit me to be unequivocal about the following point: Homosexuality is not a “lifestyle choice,” “preference,” or perversion of nature. Of the latter, it is well known and documented that same-sex relations are extremely common throughout the animal kingdom. While no amount of evidence will ever suffice for those with a closed mind, the evidence is irrefutable to anyone with an open one—same-sex love is as much a fundamental part of human nature as is man-woman love.
It is simply absurd, as some insist, that homosexuality is a thing one “chooses.” No one wakes up one day and “decides” to fall in love with a man or a woman, it just happens to every person according to his or her uniquely wired individuality as a human being, a natural product of that individual’s particular genetic nature and environmental nurture. For the record, being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered or questioning (LGBTQ) is no more a choice than is being straight, or for that matter, than is having white, black, brown, olive, red, or yellow skin. Indeed, with sexual discrimination’s obvious parallel to racism, many of those fighting today to force an end to this caste system have likened the gay rights movement as this generation’s civil rights issue, and rightly so.
Sexuality Exists on a Very Fluid Spectrum: Dr. Kinsey’s Groundbreaking Legacy
Sexologists recognize that human sexuality exists on a spectrum. Eminent sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his team of pioneer sexologists contributed breakthrough research in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s identifying a very fluid spectrum of human behavior that ranged from sexual attraction and behaviors with the opposite sex (heterosexuality) to both sexes (bisexuality) to the same sex (homosexuality). Dr. Kinsey eschewed binary labels such as “heterosexual” and “homosexual,” terms he thought unscientifically divided the world into black and white, advancing that people did not fit into neat and exclusive heterosexual or homosexual categories. As he put it, “The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats.”
For purposes of sexuality research, in lieu of these rigid and static classifications, Dr. Kinsey and his team developed several finely tuned instruments to blend sharp distinctions and find common ground. This included the design of his celebrated seven-point Kinsey Scale. He also devised and refined another research tool in the course of his investigations, the Sex History, for eliciting detailed and accurate information from an enormous variety of subjects regarding their most intimate experiences. In testimony to their elegant design, these research tools were so effective in gathering accurate sexual and social information for the Kinsey Team interviewers—and countless other sex researchers since—that both are still in wide usage today by sexologists and many others worldwide.
Dr. Kinsey and his fellow researchers, Dr.’s Pomeroy, Martin & Gebhard, employed face-to-face interviews to accumulate a huge body of empirical data regarding sex. This ingenious and highly practical system of systematic questioning, coding, and responses was the Kinsey Team’s method of taking a person’s sexual history. On a personal aside, almost four decades later while enrolled as a graduate student at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, I had the good fortune to attend classes being taught on this extremely detailed system of taking a sex history by its co-developer, sexologist emeritus Dr. Wardell B. Pomeroy.
Dr. Pomeroy continued well into his 80’s to teach and train the next generations of sexologists to carry on the tradition of rigorous scientific sex research that the Kinsey Team established from its very beginning and maintained throughout their years of research. To provide further illustration to his practiced instruction on the fine points and nuances of taking a sex history, he peppered his students with an endless stream of relevant—and highly fascinating—first-hand anecdotes about the Kinsey Team’s thousands of interviewing experiences over the years.
As every sex researcher worth his or her sexological salt knows, nearly a half-century earlier Dr. Kinsey and his fellow researchers had employed this identical Sex History instrument and interview methodology to collect vast amounts of data on human sexual behavior. This data was later analyzed and used in the Kinsey Team’s landmark 1948 Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and 1953 Sexual Behavior in the Human Female works in human sexuality. Incredibly, these publications remain as highly polemical in this new millennium as they were when first released last mid-century, possibly even more so today.
The World is Not to be Divided into Sheep and Goats
After developing and testing his research instruments and data collection methods in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, Kinsey correctly argued that his seven-point sexual orientation scale better captured the rich diversity and overlapping sexual experiences of human beings. Originally referred to as the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale, it indeed came nearer to showing the many gradations of sexual behavior that actually exist. The same was also true of his highly detailed Sex History questionnaire.
Through the tireless taking of thousands of one-on-one interviews with men and women about their sexual histories, the Kinsey Team found that, for many people, sexual behavior, thoughts and feelings towards the same or opposite sex were not always consistent across time. Furthermore, they carefully documented that while the majority of men and women reported being exclusively heterosexual, with a percentage reporting exclusively homosexual behavior and attractions, many of these same individuals disclosed behaviors, thoughts and feelings somewhere in between.
Amazing to some and alarming to others, everyone agreed that shortly after the book’s publication people were publically talking about sex in ways they previously hadn’t. Who knew? The Kinsey Team’s leading-edge research had exposed there was a whole lot more going on sexually in people’s bedrooms and practically everywhere else than people were letting on in “polite society.”
Suffice it to say, the majority of people in the American mainstream thought these findings scandalous, especially when first released in the sexually whitewashed postwar forties and early fifties, and yet the general public’s reaction and response was overwhelmingly favorable. The Kinsey Report, as it was quickly dubbed, was an immediate sensation. This purely scientific book, weighing in at three pounds—with no photographs or illustrations yet loaded with charts, statistics, and footnotes—sold hundreds of thousands of copies in its first six months alone, obliging the publisher to run two presses around the clock in order to satisfy demand.
Nature Knows No Right or Wrong, Only Balance or Imbalance
The response in academic circles and elsewhere was decidedly mixed. Experts versed in research closely scrutinized the Kinsey Team’s interviewing techniques and scientific methods and endorsed its scientific validity. Others felt Kinsey’s revelations to be an attack on the moral code—and the institutions charged with enforcing that code—which undermined the bond holding American society together. There were also those then and others since attempting to unsuccessfully discredit his research, including attacking Dr. Kinsey’s sample by erroneously claiming it was unrepresentative of the general population.
For over sixty years and to no avail, his detractors have sought to besmirch his personal character and professional reputation and thereby diminish his vast contribution to sexual science. In a sadly perverse sort of way, it is testimony to his having helped rechart the sexual landscape of America that the human dynamo Dr. Kinsey remains a controversial figure to this day. If this is any barometer of modern society’s polarized views on sexuality, it would appear the controversy will not be lessening any time soon.
All the same, as proven by the wide scope and divergent range of life forms populating this planet, nature loves variety. As further evidenced by the Kinsey Team’s findings, and by innumerable sex studies and findings since, variation within human sexuality is no exception to nature’s propensity towards diversity. Nature knows no right or wrong, only balance or imbalance. Our sexuality is incontrovertibly a predetermined hard-wired fact of “who we are,” regardless the form of its individual orientation blueprint.
Water Seeks its Own Level
The pattern of physical behavior and emotional/sexual attraction is what defines an individual’s personal sexual orientation. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), sexual orientation refers to one’s sexual attraction to men, women, both, or neither, whereas gender identity refers to one’s sense of oneself as male, female, or transgender. The APA defines an individuals’ sexual orientation as “an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional attraction toward others.”
Regarding matters of sexual orientation, people by nature generally fall under one of the following predispositions: Heterosexuals are attracted to the opposite sex and have romantic relationships with heterosexual partners. Bisexuals are attracted to both the same and opposite sex and have romantic relationships with homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual partners, though not necessarily at the same time. Homosexuals are attracted to the same sex and have romantic relationships with homosexual partners. Asexuals, while lacking in attraction or desire for sex with any gender, may engage in purely emotional romantic relationships.
Birds of a Feather Flock Together
Throughout history, along with heterosexual behaviors, homosexual and bisexual behaviors have been documented in a broad variety of cultures. Not surprisingly, similar people tend to associate with each other. To wit, “birds of a feather flock together.” People who share common beliefs, values and mores will tend to feel most comfortable with each other than with people who do not share those beliefs. Homosexual behavior is an indisputable part of the human and mammalian heritage: as a member of the animal kingdom the human animal clearly possesses the capacity for same-sex eroticism.
Just as water naturally seeks its own level, so do people in matters of recognizing and pursuing those to whom we are innately attracted romantically and sexually, and vice versa, thus providing yet further confirmation of the Perfection of God-Source-Nature’s Grand Design. As recognized by the French writer Honore de Balzac, “There is no pot, however ugly, that does not one day find a cover.” In plain English, there is a perfect someone for everyone.
The majority of experts today believe that sexual orientation is not a conscious choice but rather is a fixed and immutable trait integral to personhood. Yet many people continue to believe—for whatever reason, all mistakenly—that sexual orientation is chosen. Yet even if it was chosen—which it most emphatically is not—prejudice and injustice based on sexual orientation would still be wrong. In the end, while we may not all like or love one another, peacefully and harmoniously getting along well requires of us all to treat one another with dignity and respect, regardless of our many differences. It’s about inclusiveness. Period.
Homophobia is Not Indigenous to All Cultures
Ancient Hawaiian culture, for example, was always accepting of same-sex mahu. Numerous non-Western societies, including many Native American tribes, have come to accept and institutionalize same-sex and transgendered persons within their culture. In the words of one American Indian elder regarding same-sex orientation, “To us a man is what nature or his dreams make him. We accept him for what he wants to be.” Gay traditions were prevalent in most American Indian tribes, with reports of both women and men living in same-sex marriages with considerable social prestige. Indeed, recorded history tells us that many North American Indian tribes so valued “gayness” that people who displayed these characteristics were picked for special office, thus proving that homophobia is not some sort of genetic trait indigenous to all cultures.
Transgender covers a broad range of gender non-conforming identities and behaviors. This includes transsexuals, transvestites, male and female impersonators, androgynes who blend masculine and feminine characteristics for a sense of emotional completion, and “gender-benders” persons who overtly challenge gender norms for cultural and political reasons. Transgendered persons may self-label as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, questioning, or asexual. While some transsexuals or transvestites may feel trapped in the “wrong body,” it is important to note that not all transgendered people experience “gender dysphoria,” which is discomfort and distress with one’s anatomic gender and role.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons face unique challenges in development, social acceptance and survival, yet most lead satisfying and productive lives. Access to nonjudgmental support and to positive role models is a key factor in helping those in the LGBT community to develop self-acceptance, identity resolution, and to developing and integrating a positive adult identity, despite persistent negative cultural stereotypes of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.
Shunned by social institutions that routinely provide emotional support and positive reinforcement—families, religious organizations, schools, and peer groups—those in the LGBT sexual minority often must negotiate many important milestones without feedback or support. Unlike many of their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons often have no built-in support system or assurances that their friends and family will not reject them if they share their deepest secret. Even so, members of the LGBT community must learn to identify, explore, and ultimately integrate a positive adult identity in a world where they are often made to feel less than normal. To their great credit, most succeed despite entrenched cultural challenges presented by prejudice, fear, and hatred, all of which are forms of homophobia.
In summary, regarding matters of sexual orientation, heterosexuals are attracted to the opposite sex and have romantic relationships with heterosexual partners. Bisexuals are attracted to both the same and opposite sex and have romantic relationships with homosexual and heterosexual partners, though less often at the same time. Homosexuals are attracted to the same sex and have romantic relationships with homosexual or bisexual partners.
Homosexuality is Not a Mental Disorder
The vast majority of mental health professionals understand that persistent sexual and emotional attraction to members of one’s own gender is part of the continuum of sexual expression. Sexologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health experts agree that homosexuality is not an illness, mental disorder, or an emotional problem. Therefore, to pathologize human diversity is akin to pathologizing skin pigment—misguided at best, dehumanizing at worst, and just plain wrong any way you look at it. Yet, pathologizing homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism as a mental disorder needing treatment is precisely what some today are strongly advocating.
Beware of secular groups, organizations, and contemporary charlatans operating under the guise of mental health practitioners promising to change a person’s sexual orientation. This includes anyone practicing “conversion therapy,” or “reparative therapy,” or “reorientation therapy,” or “counseling” by any other name that intends to “convert” or change a person’s sexual orientation from a homosexual or bisexual orientation to a heterosexual orientation. Make no mistake—anyone who advocates this approach is just flat-out wrong.
What masquerades as professional “treatment” in these centers is nothing short of an atrocity that has been widely discredited by mainstream medical, psychological, and scientific organizations. There is no scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of “reparative therapy” as a treatment to change a homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered person’s deep seated sexual feelings for others of the same sex. On the contrary, these so-called reparative therapies often provoke guilt and anxiety while having no effect upon orientation. As every mental health professional of good repute knows full well, “the primary responsibility of counselors is to respect the dignity and to promote the welfare of clients,” whereby ethical practitioners refrain altogether from this practice.
Without question, treatment to change a person’s God-given sexual orientation is ultimately doomed to failure. Moreover, attempting to do so is morally, ethically, and socially wrong, psychological damaging, and is an outrage to everyone of any decency. Plainly put, no one should ever be made to feel sick or ashamed for what they are.
The preceding example of gross unintelligence underscores the critical need for providing a comprehensive sexuality education to everyone that teaches being blessed by our Creator with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual is unequivocally not pathological or in any other way abnormal. The entire matter might even be laughable were its end results not so tragic. Nevertheless, due to ongoing prejudice and the perpetration of brutal hate crimes—including murder—upon those perceived as sexually different, stamping out homophobic ignorance, fear, and hatred individually and as a society has literally become a matter of life and death.
Both Homophobia and Tolerance are Learned Behaviors
Beginning at a very early age, social institutions and media communicate and reinforce negative attitudes about homosexuality. Moreover, children learn from a variety of credible sources—families, teachers, religious leaders, friends, members of their community—to think of being gay as “deviant” and “unnatural,” and that being gay means being rejected and ostracized by mainstream society. They learn that being gay means having to hide same-sex feelings, attractions, and behaviors from others, often including from themselves.
Suffice it to say, the social and emotional isolation experienced by many LGBT people is a heartbreaking stressor that increases vulnerability and risk for a range of health and mental health problems. Most heartbreaking of all is that many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people internalize society’s negative stereotypes and misconceptions about homosexuality, causing them to subsequently develop feelings of self-loathing and dread rather than practice appropriate skills for self-care and survival. This is turn only serves to amplify existing vulnerabilities, and lessens an individual’s ability to adapt to the stigma by developing the necessary positive coping skills to negotiate difficult life challenges.
Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered people are represented in all racial and ethnic groups, all socioeconomic levels, and all religious denominations. Some live in cities, others in small towns and rural communities. Some are single, some cohabitate, and a growing number have become legally married in recent years. Some are members of single-parent, two-parent, blended, and foster families. Some are leaders others are followers. For the most part, they are indistinguishable from their heterosexual peers, though many choose to remain invisible. Yet even with recent societal advances in the acceptance of LGBT people, it is disheartening that reports of hate incidents and violent crimes nationally, including murder, have actually increased in recent years against those identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.
Sadly, ongoing homophobia continues despite the increased visibility of support for the LGBTQ+ community. A disturbing result of this increased visibility is an increased vulnerability. While the positive changes in the public attitude are very real, there remains much work to be done before deep-seated homophobia becomes a thing of the past. In the end, decency and self-respect demand that we afford everyone the right to live without fear of being attacked—regardless of individual demographic characteristics.
The Snowballing Problems of Sexual Harassment and Cyberbullying
Research has found disproportionately high suicide rates in gay and lesbian teens, especially when known risk contributors like depression, being bullied, and some form of sexual harassment in person or electronically via texting, email, and social media are cofactors. Exposure to bullying and sexual harassment represent a serious threat to a person’s mental health and well-being, as the effects of being a target can be wrenching. Cyberbullying is a huge problem in our schools and communities that continues to snowball out of control. For these reasons, allowing unmitigated chronic social ignorance regarding the facts of sexual orientation to continue is simply unconscionable, as it only energizes a tragic social problem in urgent need of understanding that leads to its rectification.
Taking steps in the right direction as a just society requires greater understanding and acceptance of sexual diversity. It also requires developing an emotional awareness of others—especially those unlike ourselves—and extending to everyone else the same unconditional human decency and positive regard we wish extended to ourselves. The great responsibility of a righteous society is to educate both the mind and conscience, teach moral responsibility and respect for those different from oneself, and strip off the mask of selfishly thinking only of one’s personal benefit.
A good beginning would include the commissioning of national public health and multi-media ad campaigns providing everyone with a comprehensive sexuality education and access to informed and accurate sex information. Diversity training for our youth that focuses on tolerance and respect for individuals in a culturally diverse society is essential. It also includes providing social and emotional learning, character education, and the teaching of relationship skills.
Attacks on Some of Us are Attacks on All of Us
As a morally fit society on the right side of equality and justice, we must band together to stand up for the rights and well-being of all our decent, law-abiding, and contributing members, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Attacks on some of us are attacks on all of us. We must take them personally—very personally. Bigotry must never be allowed to parade its hateful and hostile ugliness unchallenged.
The stench of racism, sexism, discrimination, prejudice, hatred, hostility, and intolerance cannot be ignored. On the contrary, hurtful and unfair actions of any kind on the part of some against others compel the rest of us to broadside those perpetrating them with vigorous vocal opposition and direct counteraction. Otherwise, as Edmund Burke has for good reason oftentimes been quoted, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Consequently, for many decades sexologists and other human rights advocates worldwide have been outspoken in demanding sexual equality for everyone through unwavering insistence that sexual rights are human rights, belonging to each of us by birthright. Gay and lesbian couples share the same values as most everyone else, namely love, commitment, and stable families. In recent years, increasing numbers of everyday citizens and state legislators have found common ground and joined us in solidarity by supporting major changes in public policy that have lead to the passage of landmark legislation reducing or ending to eliminate the twin tyrannies of institutionalized sexual discrimination and finance-related inequality.
The achievement of equity, both civil rights equity and health equity, is the great societal challenge of today. The LGBT population is an extremely diverse group that crosses every line of class, gender, education, income, religious creed, and societal background. Civil rights equity includes equal rights for gays and lesbians to marry, to serve unhidden in the military, to foster and adopt children, and to be free from discrimination in the workplace and in housing, and so on. Health rights equity includes equal rights for all people to “attain their full health potential,” ensuring that no one is disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of his or her social position or other socially determined circumstance, including sexual orientation and gender identification and expression.
The Worldwide Invisible Minority
The persistent and often intense hostility towards these identities is still prevalent in America and globally, as well, resulting in social trauma and health disparities for LGBT persons and their families. Appallingly, LGBT individuals in America and around the world are routinely denied equal protections under the law, and are frequently stigmatized for their sexual orientation and gender expression. Described as an “invisible minority” in many countries, gays and lesbians worldwide are subject to being arrested, beaten, and terrorized.
Just recently in April of 2019, the United Nations decried new “cruel and inhuman” laws set to take effect in Brunei that month which impose death by stoning for gay sex and adultery, and amputations for theft. After the country of Brunei’s recent announcement, people from around the world have expressed concern and outrage over these gross violations of human rights. But Brunei is not alone: Seven additional nations with large Muslim populations now also have laws providing for the death penalty for gay sex or otherwise allow such executions. (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Somali, Yemen, Sudan, and part of Nigeria).
Some 76 countries now enforce laws against same-gender sex, with punishments including prison, flogging, torture, and execution. In regards to understanding and respecting natural sexual diversity, humanity as a whole has been painfully ignorant and discriminatory throughout most of history. Make no mistake about it—homosexuality is an inherent trait, not an immoral behavior. Being gay—or for that matter anything other than 100% heterosexual in nature or behavior—is a human reality, not a crime.
Despite this ongoing sexual oppression, recent occurrences give reason to take courage that this evil social virus can one day be remedied. Recent landmark events in Ecuador demonstrate that even deeply entrenched sexual persecution can be brought to a halt and undone. Up until only a short while ago, all around Ecuador, countless women were being held against their will in hundreds of so-called “clinics” trying to “cure” them of being lesbians. While incarcerated in what amounted to “lesbian torture clinics,” the women suffered physical and emotional abuse, torture, and sexual assault.
After ten years of outcry from human rights activists around the world, the nation of Ecuador has finally announced—through the Ministry of Public Health—that it has entered into a commitment with civic organizations, and society in general, to deconstruct the belief that homosexuality is an illness. The Ecuadorian government has begun taking steps to eradicate these clinics from Ecuador. In addition to freeing the women trapped there, it is investigating the abusive practices and taking action against those responsible for them, while also running a national public awareness campaign to fight homophobia.
Glacier Slow for Far Too Long, Political Change is Now Quickening
The long overdue repeal in 2011 of the discriminatory 18-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that banned openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the armed forces was another historic milestone. For the first time, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines were free to make known their sexual orientation without risking being thrown out of the military or worrying what they say or do will affect their career. As declared in the official announcement of this seismic shift in policy, “Patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love.” The people have spoken, and the policy makers have heard and agreed—we are better than that. The right to serve belongs to no one. After all, America is built on the idea of political equality.
This includes affording equal rights to same-sex couples married under state law as those afforded to married heterosexual couples. Until only recently, over 1000 federal rights remained exempt to same-sex partners, including social advantages and finance-related protections that straight married couples take for granted. Equality means everyone or it isn’t equality. Excluding anyone from rights based on sexual orientation is nothing short of reprehensible, and leaves a stain upon our democracy that must be cleansed.
The time was long overdue for full marriage equality for gays and for marriage equity to be a national policy. There was overwhelming moral legitimacy supporting the rightness of ending sexual discrimination and in upholding decency. Current laws and policies—grown out of bigoted thinking—that continued to maintain this inequality were prejudicial, and as such, were fully deserving of our strongest condemnation.
On Nonsensical Overreactions and Other Screwball Manners of Thinking
Furthermore, the irrational accusations that same-sex marriages would somehow weaken traditional marriages—as if such a thing was ever remotely possible or traditional marriage was not already drowning in a sea of its own trouble—were a nonsensical overreaction and beyond the pale. Likewise, the hysteria-fueled faulty logic that had a muddle-minded sector of society outrageously equating same-sex marriage rights with, “you know, man on child, man on dog”—as actually uttered by a recently defeated numbskull presidential contender—crossed the line of decency. Many understandably saw this provocative comment as lumping homosexuality together with pedophilia and bestiality and took offense.
Suffice it to say, igniting firestorms of flagrant intolerance and wanting to legislate your own distorted sense of morality hardly count as leadership, nor does it leave much room for reasoned argument. In today’s highly polarized era, it’s hard to have rational conversations with people determined to frightening others into opposing the reform of current sexual rights policies and laws and that’s too bad, because with a little more understanding and a lot less scare-mongering, we might actually find common ground and learn to get along.
As is plain to anyone exposed to the patently offensive diatribes against gays, lesbians and transgender people by homophobes—they doth protest too much. Such nervous trumpeting of hostility calls for us to ask, of what in particular are opponents of sexual equity threatened by or otherwise so afraid? Recent studies strongly suggest those who lash out at gay, bisexual, and transgender people with anger and hate are often reacting to repressed homosexual leanings of their own. Simply put, deep down they fear their own impulses and are at war with themselves, turning this internal conflict outward. Not always, mind you, but this “self-loathing” is far more common than you might think.
Frankly, that’s as good an explanation for why homophobes hate as any I’ve heard. All the same, being plagued by anxiety, paranoia, and phobia over your own or other people’s sexuality is emphatically not natural. What’s more, the expression of abusive and aggressive behavior towards anyone not of heterosexual orientation—especially coming from anyone feeling endowed with an intrinsic superiority to others—is a defining element in the doctrine of sexism.
Sexism is Just Plain Wrong
The particular principles of sexism—no different from those of racism—composed of fear, hatred, intolerance, discrimination, and the idea that one’s own kind is naturally superior and has the right to dominate others, are taught and learned one person at a time. Moreover, anyone caught in homophobia’s deeply destructive clutches could actually be considered psychologically aberrant and in dire need of a comprehensive sexual re-education and/or intensive therapy to break free and escape from it.
Therefore, until such time that they becalm the bombast, the discriminatory sexist attitudes embraced by these “self-anointed arbitrators of normalcy” demand for the greater good to be countered with critical analysis and vigorous opposition by all people of decency. It is, above all else, a matter of conscience. Should you encounter their virulence in speech or print, if nothing else, speak up and urge them to relax for heaven’s sake!
Organizations of intolerance trade in only one currency: Fear. They know that if they can’t gin up fear by portraying gays and lesbians as boogeymen and monsters, people won’t buy their nonsense. For this reason, please remember that the men and women who would benefit from sexual equality are for the most part decent and good people, not monsters or outcasts of society. The vast majority of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and other sexual minorities are well-adjusted, law-abiding, and contributing members of society seeking to share in the same rights, benefits, and privileges afforded to heterosexuals in society. They are members of our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and fellow members of our community. They are members of our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and fellow members of our community.
Free Speech and Critical Thinking Go Hand-in-Hand
Those who advocate intolerance and commit wildly uninformed character assassination slandering the basic human decency of homosexual, bisexual and transgender men and women beg for careful scrutiny of the reasoning behind their arguments: For starters, who exactly is being harmed by same-sex love and marriage? Heterosexuals would certainly not be directly harmed. Obviously, those disliking the idea of same-sex marriage or relationships don’t have to marry or date someone of the same sex, or for that matter, of the opposite sex. The only difference will be that everyone finally has the same legal rights and societal acceptance to choose for him or her self with whom to form relationships, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The indefensible philosophy of sexism and intolerance as put forward by so-called hate groups whose ideology is specifically organized against gays, sexual rights, and marital equity is deplorable, yet those who espouse it have every right to their ideas, as we all have the right to our own. It’s called free speech and the freedom of individual conscience. Each of us has the right to engage in respectful free expression and civil discourse, though some people prone to fear and hate-based conniptions would seem to have forgotten about the “respectful” and “civil” parts of this social equation.
It would be nice if everyone were open to engaging in respectful dialogue to think through their moral positions in a more balanced, open way towards increasing understanding and decreasing mistaken beliefs. We are not so different that we cannot get along with one another. It is easy to hate people different from you as an “abstract,” but it becomes more difficult once you recognize your common humanity. Civil dialogue could play a big role in normalizing, individualizing, and humanizing lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and those identifying as non-binary. While to some folks, they may initially appear frightening, bewildering, and different as a group—deep down where it really matters—as individuals, most share a commonality of the same upright moral values as their straight counterparts.
While civility should apply to all, the apparent coarsening of our culture that has lead to today’s slouching manners by some is the price of free speech. Thankfully, we are each free to think for ourselves. No matter how despicably homophobic opponents ratchet up the rhetoric of dehumanizing hate-based speech in hopes of dividing people, their flawed and flimsy anti-gay arguments—many times cloaked in religious garb—are more often than not today being completely ignored. And that’s no small thing.
Better still, gay-bashing attacks are frequently being outright challenged by a growing spectrum of good people of conscience from all walks of life choosing instead to help lift up and unite our communities. Familiarity breeds tolerance. Growing numbers of us concerned about injustice around the world are coming to know and accept one another regardless of anyone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, thereby slating the divisive sexist norms of thought defining this bigoted platform for flattening by the wrecking ball of righteousness.
The Future Embraces Diversity
A day approaches in the not-so-distant future when sexual orientation and gender identity finally become the character non-issues they always should have been. On an encouraging note, already greater acceptance of same-sex relationships by society as a whole has many same-sex couples feeling more comfortable living openly in their communities and building families. There is reason to draw hope that fairness and tolerance will ultimately prevail, even as stubborn narrow-mindedness and entrenched intolerance from a quarrelsome few must be persistently uprooted by each subsequent generation of gentle people of fair mind and heart.
The long-term outcome of this campaign against ignorance and bigotry is clear; it is only a matter of how long it will take society to erase its unwarranted negative image of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. When we as a world community can look back with a combination of horror and astonishment that people once seriously debated the morality of same-gender couples falling in love, or that we ever believed sexual orientation could tell us anything about another person’s worth, we will know righteousness has prevailed. We can see the future, and it embraces diversity without reservation.
Only Marriage is Marriage
While there still remains much to do to right these institutionalized wrongs, in the end, misguided fear, negativity, ignorance, and hatred from those opposed shall be overcome—legally and socially—allowing justice for all to prevail at last. Marriage is a basic human right. It is our joint statement that we want to lead an honest life, and be recognized as a committed couple desiring and deserving of the same rights as everyone else. Numerous studies on relationships have found that marriage changes a couple because society looks at them differently than cohabiters. To condemn gay and lesbian couples for wanting the same basic human right to marriage as straight couples is downright hostile and out-and-out wrong any way you look at it.
Marriage, regardless of sexual orientation, is primarily about love, commitment, trust, security, and the bestowment of legal rights. Civil unions are also primarily about love, commitment, trust, and security, yet they do not provide the same legal rights as those bestowed upon married couples. While civil unions do provide some rights as provided by state governments, they provide none by the federal government.
Only marriage is marriage. Therefore it was only by providing same-sex domestic partners with all of the same federal rights, benefits, and fundamental protections afforded to their straight married counterparts—including but not limited to family health insurance, Social Security inheritance, hospital visitation rights, inheritance and taxes, and other legal benefits—that true parity for all was achieved. Those inequalities had real life impact that demanded to be set right by a society as a whole that is just and determined enough to insist on it. Nothing more or less would have sufficed.
This article was originally published in 1999, and has been updated accordingly in this revision to reflect the many watershed changes that have occurred in the 20 years since it was first written. As everyone now knows today in 2019, the tide of support for marriage equality continued to rise between then and now, culminating in a 2015 landmark ruling by the Supreme Court striking down state laws barring same-sex marriages. This ruling was the Supreme Court's most important expansion of marriage rights in the United States since its equally righteous landmark 1967 ruling in the interracial marriage case Loving v. Virginia.
In this most recent 2015 ruling the Supreme Court proclaimed that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples with the same right to marry as mixed-sex couples. This was an historic victory not only for gay and lesbian Americans but for all Americans who cherish equality, liberty, and justice for all. Reassuringly, this ruling bears witness that "equal justice under law"—words etched into stone on the front of the Supreme Court—has at long last triumphed over discrimination and inequity.
With this landmark ruling same-sex marriage became legal in all 50 states. My guess then was that we’d likely get used to it in no time, a prediction which since seems to have been borne out with its unruffled acceptance by the vast majority of Americans from all walks of life and of all sexual orientations. Personally speaking, I like to think the better angels of our people's nature have prevailed.
Equality Means Everyone or It Isn’t Equality
The ultimate goal of the civil rights movement was for total equality, as is now of the sexual rights movement. The present task is how best to guarantee individual rights and sexual equality regardless of whether the decisions are popular or not. It was a righteous day for the country when marriage-equality was recently achieved—admittedly a day long in coming—through federal legislation legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. And as goodness only begets goodness, be assured there is nothing to fear about sexual rights that protect everyone in the sexual minority any more than marriage equality has been shown to be.
As visionary leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, the way is for us to work together and to change laws so that we have the kind of society where all are treated with dignity and respect and equality. Let us celebrate Dr. King’s life and message not only with our words but also with our actions. Decency demands of us to take action that continues to advance the power and possibilities of change for all those who continue to be oppressed due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, race and/or religious beliefs. Equality and the cessation of discrimination requires our relentless insistence for change wherever change is needed for as long as change is needed until we have succeeded in solidifying those necessary changes within our society for present and future generations to follow.
It is very encouraging to note that people’s views today on matters of sexual orientation and gender identity continue to evolve rapidly in the direction of acceptance and normalization amongst all age groups, yet especially so for those under age 40. Young Americans in general don’t like the divisive nature of their country’s past on the basis of sexual orientation. Goodness continuing its steady progression forward, within less than a generation we shall view aghast our past intolerance as a nation. From that charitable vantage point not too far on down the road, we shall undoubtedly hark back upon our prejudicial past with a mixture of deep remorse and moral repugnance for having allowed it to continue for so long, combined with an even deeper social and moral commitment to henceforth ensuring abiding justice for all.
This Above All: To Thine Own Self Be True
Whatever your biological sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity—male, female, intersex, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, pansexual, polysexual, questioning, cisgender, transgender, gender-fluid, agender, binary, nonbinary, romantic or aromantic, sexual or asexual—be assured they are all natural and part of nature’s grand plan. What matters is that you remain true to yourself—sexually and otherwise—and that you always act as a sexually responsible individual. To do so requires learning to hear, respect, and express your sexuality in healthy and fulfilling ways that are personally congruent with your own true nature, desires, and individual values as well as those of your lover.
However you sexually define yourself, you are not alone—help and support is always at hand, locally in your community, online, and through telephone help-lines to assist you with becoming more sexually comfortable in your own skin. For anyone not in the sexual majority, take courage that it is normal to have feelings of fear, confusion, and ambivalence, possibly including bouts of depression and self-loathing, upon discovering—through no real choice of your own—that you are a member of a sexual minority.
For everyone straight, imagine for a moment having to daily deal with this dehumanizing layer of societal antagonism on top of all the other “usual suspects” of sexual awkwardness and romantic uncertainty common to everybody. When you wrap your eyeballs around life from the perspective of those in the sexual minority, you will better appreciate the appalling affront to human dignity that defines prejudice and discrimination based solely upon a person’s God-given sexual orientation.
For everyone of the sexual minority, be assured that once you have had a chance to become comfortable with your sexuality, most of these feelings will pass, ideally to be overridden by a sense of healthy self-acceptance and well-placed pride. Until then, be gentle with yourself. Let’s face it, self-identifying with a profoundly stigmatized minority of the population—especially one that is largely marginalized by society and cruelly demonized by many—takes guts and internal fortitude.
It’s About Inclusiveness, Period
The dehumanizing wallop of pain that sexual prejudice, discrimination, and segregation pack can break your heart and give your spirit a good thrashing if you let it—so with all your resolve you must stubbornly refuse to let it. Be strong, and keep your faith. It gets better, especially with the love, acceptance, and support of family, friends, and others in the LGBTQ+ community. Go online and check out the “It Gets Better Project” and other LGBT resources for more info and a lot of reason to hope. Basic human decency requires of each of us to act and communicate respectfully with everyone, regardless of how seemingly different they appear to be from us or otherwise act in ways unlike our own. No matter what mean-spirited things anyone may dare utter to the contrary, never doubt we are all God’s children.
The only “abomination” about same-sex love has been and continues to be the misplaced anger and injurious actions by a faulty thinking yet vocal minority of narrowed mind and hardened heart directed against anyone of open mind and pliant heart accepting of it. Those of this ill-advised and wretched mindset perpetuate reckless intolerance and outright hostility, often in their God’s name, preaching wholesale condemnation for anyone different from themselves. All the same, let us bear no malice towards them—for anyone so inclined, pray they gain understanding and compassion—even as we take every active measure necessary to neutralize their harmful actions. In such extreme cases, only love can overcome such frightened ill will, and only heaven can soothe and redirect their misguided souls.
While badly wrong, those of this faction standing in opposition to remedying sexual discrimination—along with all well-meaning people of good heart and spirit who are confused or merely know not better—can be forgiven for losing their way. However, the unjust devastation that persists from ignorance, prejudicial policies, and inequitable laws must be brought to a halt and undone. Our humanity, decency, and self-respect—as fair-minded individuals and as a just society—demand of us to do no other. It is the morally right thing to do.
Take a Stand and Let Your Voice Be Heard
For this reason, we, the majority of the people, must tear down every two-tiered wall of institutionalized inequality that discriminates against we, the minority of the people. As a society, we must question and, wherever necessary, challenge and change the sexual politics of normalcy by remedying all institutionalized sexual inequities. No matter your personal sexual orientation, speak up and let your voice be heard. Any double standard must be replaced with an across-the-board single-tiered legal status from which all may equally access life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The success of this remedial action will necessitate a major shift in our individual consciousness, along with our national consciousness, that transforms the way society views and treats everyone not of heterosexual orientation.
Love is All that Really Matters
Let us all worldwide band together in spirit and positive intention to envision a world where all have the freedom to love openly and the liberty to marry with human dignity, each according to his or her own God-given nature and self-determined choices.
Public acceptance begins with each of us honoring and developing a healthy self-acceptance of who we are—no matter our age, sex, race, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, ancestry, and disability, marital or familial status—while extending the same grace and decency to everyone else, no matter theirs. In the meantime, for anyone caught in the crossfire, the intelligent approach is to ignore the haters and embrace the love.
Once we drop our judgments, respecting and accepting others despite our differences isn’t hard to do. On the contrary, as the Master Counselor Jesus himself instructed, we need simply “love one another,” exactly as we are without trying to change anybody. Love is about accepting people and not judging them. The most emotionally and socially intelligent approach to getting along well with people in this wonderfully diverse world of ours is to cultivate a mindset firmly anchored in unconditional positive regard and love.
For in the end, love is all that really matters anyway.
Aloha and A Hui Hou!