[Rough Draft]

A weblog about god, doubt, insomnia, culture, baseball


inventing a self

this american life's ira glass devoted last week's show, "my experimental phase," to "people who decide to try out a new life." the last segment scared the father in me (diarist sascha rothchild, "a nice florida girl," reads her own account of a personality change upon changing high schools), but the prologue asks the question: "how exactly is it that a person who is not gay comes to believe, really believe, that they are gay . . . for two years?" nancy updike, a contributing ed. to tal, did exactly that -- dressing "like a dyke," reading gay history, writing for a gay newspaper -- but never actually got around the sleeping w/ another woman, a "loose end" that never got tied up. what contributed to her experimentation was that she was intensely unhappy, a recent college grad whose parents were going through a divorce and whose college relationships w/ guys had all pretty much sucked. she wanted something that made sense of her dissatisfaction, she wanted to belong to a group, and she accumulated evidence from her life to support "the story" that in actuality she had been, all along, a lesbian. ira notes that "it had been her story . . . except for the gay part."

i do love to listen to ira glass talk, so i'd probably tune in to hear him read from a unix manual or a menu of chinese cuisine. still, i was captivated by updike's story, especially coming on the heels of a conversation i had w/ a colleague last week who still insists that the studies which suggest that something like 8-10% of the population is homosexual are nonsense. unlike my friend, i tend to believe the statistic. i don't think the results of all serious researchers are skewed simply b/c fare like "will and grace" or "queer eye" is on tv every night all of a sudden. it's just that i've been interested for a while in what contributes to a person's gay-ness or straight-ness. some research i read in seminary stated that one is neither "gay" nor "straight" but somewhere on a continuum, with 10 being perfectly gay and 1 being perfectly straight (speculation among my friends and wife over the past weekend seem to put me at about a 3). moreover, sexual preference is most likely the result of a combination of factors -- genetics, chemicals in the "amniotic soup," environment, perhaps even volition. it's the last factor that intrigues me, however, firstly b/c my church is now the only christian denomination to ordain a practicing homosexual (v. gene robinson) to the episcopate, and secondly because i have read (and read and read) and prayed (and prayed and prayed) about how, if @ all, bishop robinson's ordination will or should affect my own journey toward the priesthood, my family's commitment to the episcopal church, my personal friendships w/ gay or lesbian men and women, etc.

i'm not espousing the belief that sexual orientation is always (or ever) a matter of individual choice; nor am i suggesting that glass' broadcast meant to propose anything of the sort. i'm just thinking. francis schaeffer did opine that homosexuality was sometimes adopted as an act of hostility or rebellion to the prevailing cultural norms of the day. when you consider how image-oriented post-modern western culture is -- where madonna successfully remakes herself for every album until she finds nowhere left to go but kabbalism, where public relations and spin-doctoring are practically institutions, where a politician's private life doesn't have any bearing on whether s/he is fit for public service -- is it possible that some people "choose" to be gay (or gay-er, if you buy the continuum idea) to explain dissatisfaction, to be different, to rebel, for whatever reason?


  • At 11:00 AM, Blogger ycartrob said…

    excellent post sammy. I happen to concur on the whole sexual orientation as being on a continuum. Homophobia is based in fear, and most men who are raging homophobes don't know how to rationalize their same sex attraction (be it a 3 OR 28 OR 90) so they react in societies acceptable gay bashing arena. (I always love the Woody Allen line: I happen to have the type of body that excites both sexes). Your question about people "choosing" to be gay is also right on. Lesbian chic comes to mind. We are in strange times b/c homosexuality has become a profitable market. I guess under the old formula of sex sells. I sometimes think of the old minstral shows when I see Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, b/c it's so "forced" ie not subtle. But, it's different than black face in the fact that it is presented as a "taboo", as a slap in the face to the mainstream, whereas black face was almost an ignorant movement with total disregard to a race (I be ramblin'!)
    So, did Britney get a special tingly feeling when she kissed Madonna on stage or was it a total act? I always feel sad for Britney when she professes her Christianity. I know I am in no way, shape or form CLOSE to being even a good Christian, but before Britney went on stage wearing lingerie, in front of millions on TV, with Madonna and Christina, before the "kiss", was she thinking, WWJD? (yes, WWJD if he were backstage dressed in lingerie at the MTV awards, making much bank off gyrating for teen girls and adult men, contemplating if kissing Madonna on stage was a good career move....WWJD?) I wonder is she gets to stop long enough to evaluate her faith?


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