A friend of this blog, who characterizes himself as Officious Oaf, recently presented me with a list of questions he thought appropriate for me to deal with here. I answered one or two of them about the nature of God and the soul, but when the question about homosexuality came up, my mind boggled and I found myself unable to deal with it.
Weeks have gone by,and now I'm ready. The mind isn't boggled any more.
Oaf: Is homosexuality a mental illness, a learned behavior or something normal within a broader scheme of things?
None of the above.
Not to cop out, but same-sex love is not defined as mental illness even by the mental health professionals any more. It has been a fact of life throughout recorded time and was accepted in all cultures, including Christian ones, at certain periods in history. The homophobes of today are being manipulated by an overbearing, hypocritical church and heterosexual indoctrination that may come, according to psychologists, from a certain amount of self-loathing.
Dr. Alfred Kinsey said that there is a sliding scale of sexual orientation, from the 100 per cent hetero, who just can’t imagine a physical attraction to his/her own sex and may actually find the thought repugnant, to 100 per cent non-hetero, who would feel the same revulsion about physical love with anyone of the opposite sex. How to explain these polar ends of the scale to each other is a problem -- especially since neither side really wants to know.
However, among the flexible majority, it would seem that more and more heterosexuals are asking the question, What is this thing called homosexuality? To me, it is simply a form of love between human beings. Am I saying, asks the oaf, that it is “normal”? I said “no” earlier, but I’d have to backtrack now. Love itself is hardly usual, but it is normal. Normal madness, perhaps, that eventually evolves into comfort, support and well-being in the presence of a particular other person. I wouldn’t agree with Spinoza here, that it could be defined as “joy attached to an object,” since there is so much conflict within love that “joy” is only one facet of it. How about “madness attached to an object”? Clever, but hardly sufficient. Such a definition would have to incorporate the reality that, with time, the madness of true love abates to a dull roar and then spirals into acceptance.
Homosexual love, then, is normal, as normal as heterosexual love is. There are statistics and there is a history that bears this out. It is not a love between adults in order to procreate, and this concept disturbs the fundamentalists, but it cannot be denied that it is a love which can lead to a lifelong commitment that often resembles marriage.
The ability to discuss homosexuality openly has led people to believe that, in not being discouraged or penalized, it is actually being encouraged, which means it is on the rise and soon will replace heterosexual alliances and thereby eliminate the human race altogether. The likelihood of this is so remote as to be humorous. Same-sex love is not so much on the rise as it is out of the closet. The pressure is off to pretend, which led to much of the anguish of the homosexual life of the past.
There are many rabbit trails I can take in this discussion. Why do heterosexual men find the visualization of same-sex love between women erotically stimulating? I don't know. Why do so many homosexual men talk funny? I can't imagine. Why has the word "gay" become the only word to use for homosexual, and it no longer means "happily excited"? And the big one, "Are people born homosexual, or is it 'learned'?" There seems to be a great deal of evidence that it is usually the former, and as a closeted homosexual friend of mine once said to me, "Do you think I or anyone else would choose to be this way, to get this treatment from society?"
It is a mystery, which is, I suppose, why the oaf asked the question in the first place. But it is an earthly mystery, and to me the biggest mystery is why anyone really needs the answer to any of these questions. And it's a mystery whether I have answered them.