Yes, kind sir, I was made that way.

March 30, 2004 | 45 comments
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John Derbyshire, the toast of New York, has reviewed a history of homosexuality. He speculates that some core of homophobia (what a victory for our enemies is that word) is innate, just as some core of homosexual attraction may be, and heterosexual attraction too.

No one on this board–No saints that I know–have made much of the supposed naturalness of homosexuality, so in that sense the innateness of homophobia (Oh bother. Let’s call it same-sex disgust) has very little to say to us. The speculaton does serve to remind how hard it can be to sort through habit, and culture, and the Fall, to decide what is the divine core of each of us. Some say that their desires have always flowed through certain channels, and they may well be right. Others let their desires drip down certain cracks in the soul until they grow wide beyond blocking and must appear in any honest account of that soul’s landscape.

Update: The zeitgeist goes grinding blindly on. I just noticed that Julie S. had already started this discussion.

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45 Responses to Yes, kind sir, I was made that way.

  1. Grasshopper on March 30, 2004 at 3:50 pm

    Is homophobia the same thing as “same-sex disgust”?

  2. Grasshopper on March 30, 2004 at 3:50 pm

    Is homophobia the same thing as “same-sex disgust”?

  3. Brent on March 30, 2004 at 4:06 pm

    Derbyshire lists under “homophobia” “the contemplation of homosexuality induces negative emotions–disgust and contempt, mostly, but also sometimes indignation, anger and hatred–in many people.”

  4. Aaron Brown on March 30, 2004 at 4:09 pm

    The problem I have with the word “homophobia” is that the etymology of “phobia” suggests “fear,” while in modern discourse the word really refers to “hatred” or “irrational animosity.”

    So as to Grasshopper’s question, I think the answer is “yes.”

    Of course, another problem with the word is how it is often employed with so broad a brush, so as to encompass any and all moral or political stands that deviate from a speaker’s agenda. But that’s a problem with many words in modern political discourse — not just homophobia.

    Aaron B

  5. Thom on March 30, 2004 at 4:16 pm

    Same-sex disgust is a rather unwieldy phrase. How about “homodisgustia?”

  6. Adam Greenwood on March 30, 2004 at 4:31 pm

    Frankly, I think we’ll have to settle for homophobia. The rectification of names is a project for a sage.

  7. Taylor on March 30, 2004 at 5:11 pm

    Adam, why exactly doesn’t the construction of homosexuals as “enemies” and “disgusting” qualify as homophobia?

  8. Kristine on March 30, 2004 at 5:18 pm

    Even if it’s not “homophobia,” it’s starting to look awfully uncharitable. Careful, guys.

  9. lyle on March 30, 2004 at 5:18 pm

    I neither fear nor hate nor am disgusted by those that choose a homosexual lifestyle. I have no homophobia.

    However, I don’t personally approve and dont’ want society/government to approve of, this choice either.

    So…I think your project Adam is very important. You are as sage as any of us…and this is one verbal “framing” word that we can’t afford to let others define.

    We really need a new word . . . that can be used to describe our belief after we are accused of homophobia and then reject the meaning. but what?

  10. lyle on March 30, 2004 at 5:23 pm

    Funny, reading Kristine’s comment…I was struck by the fact that the words of disapproval used above…are different for me when I consider homosexual activity vs. heterosexual activity.

    Homosexual choices do not disgust me.
    However, adultery & fornicatio do disgust me.

    Does that make me a heterophobe?

  11. clark on March 30, 2004 at 6:15 pm

    Actually it makes sense for there to be an instinct against homosexuality and homosexual activities. This would pressure those who were homosexual into regular sexual relations. If this didn’t happen then there would be less of a chance for the genes to be passed on. Of course given the status of women in most primitive societies, it could pass on anyway. But a slight change in probability can manifest big differences.

    Given the ubiquity of anti-homosexual feeling there likely is something instinctual to it. It doesn’t make it right, of course. Anymore than instincts for homosexuality would make them right.

  12. Jim F. on March 30, 2004 at 11:17 pm

    Kristine and Taylor have already added my two cents, but I think their point needs to be addressed, so I’ll reiterate it: why doesn’t talk of enemies and of disgust count as an absence of charity and as homophobia? Self-congratulation for one’s attitudes is not very convincing.

    Note to those who may read too quickly: this is NOT a post about the morality of homosexuality; it is a question about our morality.

  13. Grasshopper on March 31, 2004 at 1:32 am

    The reason for my question is this: I *do* find that I feel a revulsion (disgust) toward male homosexual acts. However, I recognize that this disgust does not give me grounds to treat a person badly, discriminate against him, or any other such thing, any more than my disgust at someone eating cockroaches gives me license to treat her badly. In addition, I do not find my own disgust to be grounds for calling homosexuality “unnatural”, nor grounds for denying legal benefits akin to marriage to homosexuals.

    I would be quite sad to be labeled a “homophobe” because of my feelings about homosexual acts, as I think homosexuals would be sad to be labeled “heterophobes” because they feel revulsion toward heterosexual acts. I make a distinction between “homophobia” as used today (to mean “hatred of homosexuals”) and feelings of disgust toward homosexual acts.

  14. Grasshopper on March 31, 2004 at 1:36 am

    Jim: here’s why I think talk of disgust doesn’t count as an absence of charity: because it is not a chosen condition. Some foods disgust me, though others find them pleasurable. Is it a moral deficiency that I find those foods disgusting? Similarly, is it a moral deficiency that I have a feeling of disgust toward certain sexual acts? I think I can be charitable despite these feelings.

  15. Adam Greenwood on March 31, 2004 at 11:11 am

    In many ways, I think some kinds of disgust are essential to charity. I don’t see how one can fully love another without expecting and hoping something for them. How can I desire their good but be indifferent to their evil? God himself sometimes rejoices in me, sometimes weeps for me, and sometimes is angry with me, but he is love and will not turn away.

    Also, I think it is a mistake to think that having enemies of any sort is incompatible with charity. The hard test is to love one’s enemies; we circumvent that test if we convince ourselves that we do no in fact have any.

  16. Jim F. on March 31, 2004 at 12:07 pm

    Grasshopper and Adam: points well made and well taken. However, it seems that the proper response to sin is sadness rather than disgust and that though someone may make himself my enemy, I ought not to agree that he is. The Church has enemies, to be sure, people who wish to destroy it. Today those enemies are fewer in number than they once were. Today most of those who differ with us are too lukewarm to make themselves our enemies. But I help neither our enemies nor those who would be our enemies had they the energy nor myself if I make them my enemies. The Church’s position is to respond to its attackers only on rare occasions. Why shouldn’t our position be analogous, relating to others as enemies only when we have no other option?

  17. Nathan on March 31, 2004 at 12:43 pm

    The best term I’ve heard to describe those whom everyone wants to label “homophobes” but who are not technically phobic: “Heterosexist.”

  18. Frank McIntyre on March 31, 2004 at 12:54 pm

    Jim comments that perhaps “the proper response to sin is sadness rather than disgust.” How well does this fit with the scriptures? The low-lying fruit is, as usual, in the Old Testament:

    25 The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire…for [they are] an abomination to the LORD thy God.
    26 Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.

    (Old Testament | Deuteronomy 7:25 – 26)

    This verse refers to the graven images as “abominations” to “utterly abhor” and “detest”. Thus there do seem to be sins (not people, but sins) for which there is a basis for abhorring/disgust. It is perhaps not a coincidence that graven images were a strong temptation for some of the Israelites, so encouraging strong social norms and emotional barriers could be a useful protection from sin. The analogy to sexual sin seems apparent.

    Do sexual sins actually fall into that category of the despised? I don’t know, but it does not seem wildely out of line. They certainly receive the “abomination” label with regularity.

    This is not just a wacky Old Testament thing. The Lamanites’ idleness, mischief, etc. get them the lable “loathsome,” though one may wish to assume that this is in reference to their behavior and not their person.

    Jacob opens Jacob 2 with _both_ his anxiety for his people and the abominableness of their sins. This “grieves” his soul. His revulsion at sin is also clearly stated in 2 Ne 9:49.

    Those worthy of the high priesthood “could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence.” (Alma 13:12) and one could go on.

    So perhaps the disgust discussed (hah!) in this thread is different; it may be a less godly disgust than that envisioned in the scriptures. But, among the godly, there is _some_ kind of proper disgust and revulsion at the sight of sin, though note necessarily the kind mentioned in this thread. This disgust at sin is accompanied with sadness, even pity, at the sinner so entangled. Much as a man lying in his own vomit.

    By the way, I took and greatly enjoyed Jim’s History of Civ class as a freshman. And hello to Juris Docter.

  19. Nate Oman on March 31, 2004 at 12:57 pm

    Frank! You are alive!

  20. Frank McIntyre on March 31, 2004 at 12:59 pm

    Sorry, the end of the last post should read,
    “And hello to Nate, the Juris Doctor. It is good to see you are still talking incessantly”

    END OF EDIT

  21. lyle on March 31, 2004 at 1:00 pm

    Nate: Better…but not quite yet goode enough. Attaching ‘sexist’ to any word, while technically accurate, retains bad connotations.

    The table could just be flipped to call the ‘other’ side “heterophobe” but that would only repeat the initial error.

  22. Frank McIntyre on March 31, 2004 at 1:05 pm

    Yes, I am alive actually. I just finished grad work and am now safely ensconced at BYU teaching economics. Safely ansconced as anyone is who has no tenure and no publications. John Payne mentioned your recent escapades so I cam over to take a look and, as is the wont of every man, quote Dueteroonmy…

    Sorry for the disruption, everyone may now return to discussing self-phobia, er, homo-phobia.

  23. Grasshopper on March 31, 2004 at 1:43 pm

    Jim, your response leads me to believe that you see a connection between disgust and considering someone an enemy. I do not see that connection. I do not consider homosexuals enemies, despite my feelings of revulsion regarding homosexual acts.

  24. Kristine on March 31, 2004 at 1:49 pm

    Y’know, when I was younger and had no context for the idea, heterosexual sex seemed like a really disgusting thing to do. Perhaps the trouble is that heterosexuals don’t get the context of homosexual acts.

  25. Grasshopper on March 31, 2004 at 1:57 pm

    Maybe so. Is that a moral deficiency that prevents us from being charitable?

  26. Kristine on March 31, 2004 at 2:01 pm

    Not necessarily.

  27. lyle on March 31, 2004 at 2:05 pm

    Kristine,

    [dead pan. no humor. serious question.]

    What type of context are you describing? How can we get “into” the world where that context exists? Any temple recommend safe suggestions?

  28. Kaimi on March 31, 2004 at 2:14 pm

    Adam,

    Elsewhere it has been suggested that, if homosexuality is a biological part of people, that it is something they need to overcome. Overcoming the natural man; we aren’t just animals; etc.

    If homophobia is likewise biologically wired into people, isn’t it possible that homophobia is something that people should try to overcome?

  29. Kristine on March 31, 2004 at 2:15 pm

    I don’t think we need to “get into” that context; we just need to acknowledge that it might exist–that homosexual acts in the context of a loving, committed relationship might not be as “yucky” as they seem if we just think about the physical acts. We can acknowledge that homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is not exclusively, or even primarily, about sex, but about love, companionship, and intimacy of many sorts.

  30. Brent on March 31, 2004 at 2:17 pm

    We may not get the “context” of such acts because the only context is outside of the human biological, physiological and psychological norms. At some point heterosexual does seem normal, natural and desireable, and the context is supported by our biology.

  31. wendy on March 31, 2004 at 2:25 pm

    Not that we need to discuss them, but I am curious what folks like Brent think the sexual “norms” are within a heterosexual marriage relationship. Perhaps one couple (or spouse within a couple) would deem “icky” what another couple deems awesome. I would not draw any sweeping conclusions re: human biological and physiological norms from those differences.

  32. Brent on March 31, 2004 at 2:27 pm

    Someone asked on another thread, I think it was Clark, why this issue gets so much blog time. Besides it being THE issue for our day, be it in politics or religion, I think it is because there are so many facets to issue that it necessates expanded discourse. For instance, this thread discusses homosexuality and homophobia, but there apparently are myriad elements of each and everyone is talking about an element that concerns or otherwise interests them. For instance, the comments about disgust probably involved disgust about such acts, not against the individuals. Similarly, the word homophobia seems to have many different meanings. The meaning Kaimi ascribes to it does require overcoming even if natural, but other meanings might actually be necessary. The discussion of the “context” of homosexuality also shows various views and talking past one another. I think I was talking, and perhaps others were as well, about homosexual acts, while Kristine is talking more about homosexuality itself and the humanity of those with homosexual tendencies.

  33. Kristine on March 31, 2004 at 2:28 pm

    But Brent, there are variations within the norm of many human characteristics–some are adaptive, some aren’t. Homosexuality clearly will never be the dominant variant of human sexuality, because homosexually inclined humans reproduce at a lower rate than heterosexually inclined ones (to state the painfully obvious). I don’t think it follows that an undesirable or maladaptive variation is necessarily “abnormal”–it just falls at an extreme end of the spectrum of what is possible, and is therefore likely to be unusual.

  34. Matt Evans on March 31, 2004 at 2:43 pm

    Kristine, you’ve equated “normal” with the bell-curve distribution, but I think most people think normal means “desirable”. So by concluding that homosexuality is undesirable or maladaptiave, most people understand that means it is not normal. When I took my daughter to her hearing test last week, for example, the audiologist told me her hearing was *normal*. I trusted that she meant my daughter was able to hear, and not merely that her hardness of hearing falls within the normal distribution of hearing.

    If a person is unable to reproduce, regardless of whether the reason for their inability is psychological, emotional or physical, it is a disorder. And in this sense, being born without ovaries, or without sexual attraction to the opposite sex, is abnormal.

  35. Steve Evans on March 31, 2004 at 2:44 pm

    Wendy is right to point out the even in the larger context of heterosexuality, the idea of norms of standard behavior is a tough one to swallow.

    I believe that our homophobia stems from a lack of understanding and acceptance of our own personal sexuality, not merely from what the restored Gospel teaches us about homosexual acts. When we try and speak about how nasty and disgusting homosexual acts are, we speak volumes as to how we consider our personal sexuality and how we are fundamentally unable to separate acts from people (despite our claims to love the sinner, hate the sin).

  36. Kaimi on March 31, 2004 at 2:49 pm

    I’m not sure I agree with comments that it is a simple matter of hating sin. It seems that homosexuality is treated with special, unusually strong disgust. Similar disgust is not given to adultery, word of wisdom, or other serious sins. Homophobia also exists among people who are not church members or who do not believe that most commandments are worth obeying.

  37. Adam Greenwood on March 31, 2004 at 2:50 pm

    I just realized that people think I’m equating ‘homosexual’ with ‘enemy.’ I suppose I could consider every sinner to be an enemy, but boy, I’d sure be the Last of Mormons then. Talk about lost causes.

    I had in mind those who are trying to capture public space and public norms to sanction homosexual acts. If ‘enemy’ is a word some can’t stomach, they may substitute the sallower ‘opposition.’

  38. lyle on March 31, 2004 at 2:53 pm

    Steve,

    Speak for yourself please. I for one don’t want to be included in your usage of “our homophobia.”

    I for one don’t have any. Per above, no fear…no disgust…generally just respect for others & occasionally great anger at a fringe that wants to impose their chosen lifestyle on everyone else.

    Heck…I dress like Carson of the Fab 5, enjoy queer eye for the strait guy, and have even thought some guys are “cute” before.

    Perhaps as I indicated above, the question is why so many people who are homosexual or pro-homosexuality are such heterophobes.

  39. lyle on March 31, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    Kaimi:

    Really? Personally, I do find adultery especially disgusting…whereas homosexuality…seems much more like heavy petting…or maybe even fornication.

    But if a sin is to be hated/loathed…’tis adultery. The breaking of marital vows is the worst. Of course, I consider divorce a sin too. go figure.

  40. Matt Evans on March 31, 2004 at 2:59 pm

    Kaimi and Steve, homosexuality is treated like incest. I know Freud would have thought there were some complex factors leading to our disgust of incest, but I don’t know what the latest theory-of-the-hour has to say about it. Pedophiles are known to be treated awfully in prison, and I don’t know that it’s because the the other inmates are uncomfortable with their own sexuality. More likely, they think the pedophile is a disgusting pervert.

  41. wendy on March 31, 2004 at 3:12 pm

    Matt, let’s ask a random sample of prison inmates if they would like to watch two women have sex. If they say yes, what conclusions about human norms should we draw?

  42. lyle on March 31, 2004 at 3:16 pm

    Wendy:

    Let’s also ask that same random sample if they would like to not only watch, but join in and have heterosexual sex with the two females.

    If they say yes, what conclusions about human norms should we draw?

  43. Matt Evans on March 31, 2004 at 3:29 pm

    Wendy, I think Lyle is right — men who like to see women have sex aren’t responding to root homosexual desires, but to the hyper-sexuality exhibited by the women, who are always assumed to be bisexual. Because men find women attractive, they probably think it makes sense that women find women attractive, so they’re not revolted by it like they are by male homosexuality, something they have no desire for.

  44. Kaimi on March 31, 2004 at 3:50 pm

    Wendy correctly notes that there is a whole phenomenon of “lesbian chic” where lesbianism (between attractive women) is considered as something that men find sexually stimulating. It’s kind of funny, since I think that one of the underlying ideas of lesbianism — that women don’t need men in order to be sexually satisfied — is something that terrifies most men.

  45. Kristine on March 31, 2004 at 3:54 pm

    Matt et al–back to a tamer example (please!), hearing is exactly the kind of spectrum characteristic I was describing. When the audiologist told you your daughter’s hearing was “normal” he meant that her ability to perceive certain sounds fell within the range of ability to perceive tones which is called, by agreement among professionals, “normal.” I don’t know the terminology for hearing, so take sight as an example–vision between, say, 20/15 and 20/35 or so would be considered “normal,” even if it’s not perfect. And even beyond that, there’s a very wide range of sub-optimal vision that is not blindness. Most human characteristics are, in fact, variable within certain ranges–it’s at least conceivable that sexuality is like this.

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