Culture Wars: Gender and Sexual Orientation
Those of a certain age remember the opprobrium associated with homosexual relationships, let alone so-called homosexual acts. As well, expression of a gender other than exactly that assigned at birth was considered a very twisted moral failing.
Time passes; things change – but not totally. Although sexual orientation and gender preference are moving towards inclusion as basic human rights, there are many battles ongoing: a private university will not admit those living gay lifestyles; some US States forbid trans-sexual washrooms.
As the premise to a thesis, let us consider that the root of these controversies is an aversion to any form of sexual identity and expression other than what has been the social, cultural and moral standard for many centuries: there are two genders, male and female, and any form of sexual intercourse must be between those two genders. Some religions – let us keep them nameless out of profound disrespect – suggested that the only morally lawful sexual intercourse was for the purpose of conceiving children. Pleasure from the act was of dubious moral value (“Close your eyes and think of England!”).
The thesis in chief suggests that the only aspect of any consensual sexual expression which has any moral element is procreation, and its attendant responsibilities. Unless it involves the creation of another human being (or the transmission of disease), the mere act of consensual contact between various body parts has no moral value. There are, of course, moral questions if emotions are involved, but the act itself is neither of emotional or moral significance.
So it does not matter, according to this thesis, whether a person is of one or more genders, has one or more sexual orientations, or expresses his/her/other genders or orientations in whatever way seems most pleasurable.
European and North American societies have tended to view gender and sexual orientation as binary categories. One is either male or female, straight or gay. This binary view appears to be based on the biological distinction between male and female which, in most cases, is indeed binary.
But the biological distinction is only the beginning. One may have one biological gender, but self-identify as the other biological gender, or something in between, perhaps something fluid or uncertain. Clinical evidence indicates this gender self-identification may shift more than once in a person’s life, perhaps a lot, perhaps just a little. And more: just because one identifies as one gender does not necessarily imply that he/she/other will express that identity in a corresponding manner. For example, a biological male identifying as a female, may nonetheless have heterosexual sex with a biological female identifying as a male.
Sexual orientation is no more fixed than gender; it is certainly not binary. Many would place themselves somewhere on a continuum. But orientation is not necessarily expression. A gay person (by orientation) may mate with a person of the opposite biological sex for many reasons: emotional, societal or financial, or perhaps just that the sexual contact seemed right at the time.
We make this all needlessly complex. As long as the act does not hurt anyone or create another life, does it matter where we put our body parts? I consider the debate whether gender and/or orientation is determined by biology or culture or moral influence to be profoundly inane. This does not – or should not – matter as a matter of law or morality.
Although we might accept the fluidity of gender and orientation, adaptation of our social practices and mores is more challenging. “Who should use which washroom?” is not a trivial matter, especially when the bathroom practices of one gender are distasteful to the other. My goodness, we cannot even sort out who is allowed to go bare-chested in a public place.
But sort it out we must. Something – perhaps the genie – is out of the bottle.
What is wrong with the idea that: gender orientation, gender expression, sexual orientation, sexual expression, each and all of these have equal moral value? There are Biblical arguments against, perhaps – and others can answer those – but, are there moral ones which stand on their own? Does anyone get hurt? Is anyone helped? These are perhaps the basic moral questions here.
In considering the assertion of human rights, let us start from the premise that gender and orientation labels are not relevant designations of human rights and human dignity. Biological designations of gender should only be applied when it is concluded after consideration that it is relevant and advisable to do so. The default position should be that biological gender doesn’t matter, and credible evidence is required to assert and argue that it does.
Does the way in which you express your gender or orientation imply anything about your spiritual, emotional or moral worth as a person? Or about your credibility and civility in modern society? To both questions: surely not.