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Sexuality as disability

January 26, 2009

Hmm…I’m just rereading through an old Mormon Matters post about a case of a young gay man in the church, Stuart Matis, committing suicide. It’s situations like these when I can’t really “buy” church rhetoric. I can look at and say that I recognize that for many members, the church does help out with their lives. For many potential converts, it is a good thing for their lives if they want it.

But at some time, people need to stop looking at it — at least as it has been made an institution on this world — as this perfect thing. I guess the faithful answer would be to say, “The church is perfect, but the people aren’t…” and that would be why there are tragic things like this, and then appeal to hope for revelation or progress, and I’m not going to take some kind of full-time job being an anti or anything. But I think that when an individual collides with doctrine, perhaps he needs to evaluable if he ought to distance himself than to come to some conclusion that it is better to be dead than “unrighteous.”

I dunno. I guess this was stuff from Proposition 22, so I hope that Proposition 8 didn’t also cause as much grief (even though realistically, I know it too was also a major setback for many).

The comments in the topic were for the most part, not too bad. I mean, there will always be something that sticks to you, so I guess I understand that. When I’ve read through the post before, I’ve been somewhat disturbed by something Russell Stevenson has said…but I haven’t been able to pinpoint what exactly it was until now.

With similar respect, my friend, I would suggest that by identifying one’s sexuality as FUNDAMENTAL to one’s existence (I’m hereosexual [sic] and I find great fulfillment in activities that do not involve my sexual hormones) only exacerbates the problem of suicide. What if I identified myself as an “asthmatic” in the same way homosexuals identify themselves as such? I would live out my life just wondering why I couldn’t be a star athlete or why I have to take medication X or why I couldn’t REALLY be a part of the Scouts. I got a ghettoized Eagle Scout…they made “special” accomodations…not exactly empowering….But how much better it is, I’ve found, to find joy in the things that are available to me. This will help prevent suicide more than “consciousness-building” exercises. Trust me…I know what it’s like (in ways other than asthma) to dwell on one aspect of a person’s identity while letting the other elements atrophy. It’s not healthy and has only brought me pain.

I was wondering why such a comment didn’t quite square off to me, yet I couldn’t formulate exactly why. But then it hit me — it views sexuality as a disability. And certainly, there were a few other comments in this discussion that made the same conjecture. It is a view that has become so popular that some members view it as a “reasonable” halfway point to make. “Oh, I don’t condemn gays (extreme)…I pity them as I would anyone with a disability. No fault involved (sounds kinda reasonable) But we cannot have people dwell in their disabilities.”

The answer was really in front of me the entire time, but I couldn’t see it because of this unaccommodating position hiding in moderation. MoHoHawaii, however, said it best: the problem with this assertion is that this isn’t a disability and it doesn’t feel like a disability.

And this is kinda how my position has been formed. I guess Russell has some experiences with being asthmatic, so I’m not going to trivialize that, but it’s not necessarily “homosexual exceptionalism” to say that the gay experience is different than the asthmatic experience. It’s not “homosexual exceptionalism” to point out that Russell’s analogy doesn’t work. See, for Russell, asthma seems to be something he has to look past…because when he looks at asthma head on, he finds misery and disability.

But the critical difference is that when gay people look at their homosexuality, it doesn’t bring them down. They don’t look at what they “can’t” or are not inclined to do. The only reason some do is because of socialization. And in fact, it is when they are asked to look past their sexuality or away from it that they find misery and disability.

A committed relationship is not a “ghettoized Eagle Scout” to the people who experience it. It is only that way after years of immersion in a worldview hostile to it. Dwelling on love, finding it and experiencing it, is not unhealthy and it doesn’t bring pain. It is only that way after years of immersion in a worldview that is hostile to it.

So if it is true that “wickedness never was happiness”…the problem is that we can clearly see which brings more unhappiness out of the two: accepting your sexuality and pursuing committed relationships or rejecting your sexuality and doubting your worth as a human because of your upbringing.

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  1. I don’t think it really views “sexuality” per se as a “disability.” Rather, I think it views HOMOSEXUAL sexuality as a disability.

    And on that score… well… yeah… I guess you either think it is or it isn’t.

  2. yeah, it really does just make homosexuality a disability.


    askdfjasdlfjaslkdfh there is no common ground here.

  3. I don’t think there is common ground on that score.

    But I guess it is nicer to be considered disabled than to be considered a foul sinner. I guess…

    Come to think of it, the second one sounds an awful lot cooler…

  4. Unfortunately, Seth, if only it were so. Even the members aren’t even on the consensus of whether they should consider homosexuals disabled or “foul sinners.” Even though the latest church rulings on the matter are trying to distinguish between the orientation and the actions and say that there is no sin in mere orientation, as a practical matter, Russell’s analogy is incorrect because people really don’t view an asthmatic as they would a homosexual. Someone at MM wondered if the only two emotions possible for SSA people in the church are “pity” and “contempt,” but it seems that members can’t even decide which they will choose.

    I think both push people away, and I really can’t blame people who are pushed away. You don’t *need* to be pitied or to be held as contemptible.

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