Celebrating Sexuality Does Not Reduce You

It’s a dirty business, this media criticism thing. You not only have to be willing to — you should pardon the expression — troll through some really nasty, crankish writing, but you also have to respond to the unreasonable with reason. I confess that on occasion I take the easy way out and just Google Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio, formerly of the American Family Association (AFA), pull out his latest wacko pronouncement, and presto: a column is born. Hell, a glance at his Wikipedia entry yields a comedy goldmine that requires no commentary on my part at all: “To avoid being classified as a hate group, the AFA has officially repudiated Fischer’s views on Muslims, Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, the Holocaust being caused by homosexuals, the outlawing of homosexuality, and that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian.”

But this week, I found myself genuinely disturbed by a surprisingly (if superficially) thoughtful, but in fact meretricious opinion piece by Darren Wilson on charismanews.com, which bills itself as “Breaking News. Spiritual Perspective.” Titled “Caitlyn Jenner and the Ironic Flaw of the Gay Agenda,” the article initially drew me in simply because I always enjoy anything involving the phantom “gay agenda.” (Mine looks something like this: “Thursday: 9 a.m. — gym; 10:30 a.m. — meet Satan at Starbucks; noon — grocery shopping; 2:30 p.m. — loiter at elementary school playground; 4:00 p.m. — watch “Ellen”; 7:30 p.m. — dinner; 10:00 p.m. — group sex with strangers; midnight — bedtime.”) I was curious to see what this particular opinionator thought our agenda was and what its ironic flaw would turn out to be. Much to my irritation, Darren Wilson got under my skin.

Caitlyn Jenner turned out to be a tease; Wilson hardly mentions her. He really begins by outlining what he calls Christians’ “three responses” to the gaying of America: “The first approach is to throw up our hands, read the writing on the wall of our culture, give up fighting a losing battle, and join in the affirmation of gay Christianity. A subset of this response includes those within the church who feel that the Bible got it wrong on this one, and that this is one instance where society as a whole is being more compassionate than traditional Christianity. The second approach is to take an aggressive and pronounced stance against it, shout loudly that we are being persecuted for our faith, yet not really get our hands dirty with ‘those people’ because we are content to hide behind the phantom wall of social media. The third approach is to bury our head in the sand and hope it all just goes away.”

Media Circus

“In the past,” Wilson continues, “Christians were quick to emote a ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ mantra. But this approach doesn’t really work on the issue of homosexuality for a couple of reasons. First, it has proven to be nearly impossible. As well-meaning as Christians have been, when the ‘sinner’ continues to sin, we typically become exasperated, fed up, or confused by the fact that they aren’t changing. Second, and far more of a problem, is the fact that this approach still objectifies the person and doesn’t treat them like a real human being. They are a ‘sinner,’ and we are simply vowing to overlook their obvious blemish — but they will forever know that the blemish is there. It also turns the proceedings into an ‘us versus them’ scenario, where the people in good standing are patronizing the sinner who struggles, as if the wider body have no issues of their own.”

Apart from an obstinate refusal to keep singulars singular and plurals plural (“They are a ‘sinner’” should be “They are ‘sinners’”; “the wider body have no issues of their own” is really “the wider body has no issues of its own”), Wilson makes some valid points. In their attempt to keep the rest of the country from normalizing gay people, Evangelicals have met with failure after failure. Even if marriage equality doesn’t become the law of the land this year, it’s clear that history is on our side. It must be terribly painful for hardline Christians to see Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and even the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America embracing gay and lesbian churchgoers and even ordaining us as priests and ministers. Wilson seems both rational and realistic.

But he tips his hand when he writes, “With homosexuality, the push within the culture has been hard on the idea that ‘I am a homosexual, and that fact must be celebrated.’ This is odd to me, because throughout human history heterosexuals have never really paraded or lauded the fact that they are attracted to the opposite sex. That’s just the way they were, and life was a lot bigger than that one fact. But for some reason (and in my opinion, it’s because this is an identity issue) the homosexual has placed their sexuality at the very top of the ‘who they are’ list.”

Yes, you read that correctly: “heterosexuals have never really paraded or lauded the fact that they are attracted to the opposite sex.” Has Wilson never been to a straight wedding, where people spend tens of thousands of dollars and a year of planning in order to celebrate their offspring’s attraction to the opposite sex? Has he never been to the movies? Has he never heard of Shakespeare? Seen the cover of a romance novel? Been to a family reunion? Heterosexuality is celebrated constantly. If gay people focus on our sexuality, it’s precisely in reaction to the overwhelming, built-in respect that opposite-sex attraction receives from those who are attracted to the opposite sex, a self-ennobling that’s so ingrained in culture that straight people don’t even see it. They take their authority so for granted that it disappears from sight.

Wilson’s article goes downhill quickly: “The great irony of the ‘gay agenda’ — if that’s what you want to call it — is that it actually cheapens the very people it is proposing to protect. When people obnoxiously promote their sexuality, exalt their sexuality, and wholly focus on their sexuality, then what they are saying is that they are first and foremost a sexual being. But the truth is they are so much more than that.”

Yes, you read that correctly: “heterosexuals have never really paraded or lauded the fact that they are attracted to the opposite sex.”

Do any of you know a single gay person who defines her- or himself solely by the sex acts s/he performs? I don’t. And I’m a professional homosexual. Sure, I write the media column for Gay City News. But I’ve also written seven books about films and filmmakers. I used to be a college professor. Of course we’re all “so much more than” the sex acts we enjoy. I do define myself as a gay man, and I love gay sex. But I’m also Jewish, a husband, an only child, a writer, a decent cook, and a loyal friend. I’m a book reader. I’m a person with Parkinson’s disease. To quote the (gay) poet Walt Whitman, “I contain multitudes.”

I resent being accused of minimizing myself by reclaiming my sexuality from the faggot-hating bullies of my youth. I hate being told that I’m cheapening myself by honoring my sexuality. I told you this dirtbag got under my skin. I worked myself into a rage writing this column. Maybe I should just stick to skewering Bryan Fischer. It’s easier on the nerves.

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