We like things in neat, labeled packages. We like to categorize, identify and understand. We need control, organization and predictability. We are each so distinctly unique, yet we will check off boxes about our gender, race, age, income, educational backgrounds and ethnicity, and squeeze ourselves into bundles so that we can quickly group ourselves with one another. Everyone line up. Color inside the lines. Stay in the median of the bell curve. Some people really like the “predicable-ness” of most situations. When in a new city, state, or country, they may flock to the same chain restaurants; they know what to expect before they get there.
I, however, like differences. Actually, I completely dig differences. I rarely go to chain restaurants; I am attracted to the “odd” person in the room; I am magnetically drawn to the unusual. The number of times I have asked a person I have just met to “tell me three things about you that I could never imagine,” is uncountable. Clearly, I do not need neat, labeled packages; especially when it comes to people. I am particularly attuned to appreciating variations in the area of sexual orientation/gender identity. Until about ten years ago, I was surrounded by people that were slight variations of me. We all affirmed to one another that what we were was the way one should be. Sexuality, to me, was reduced to men with women and all else was some kind of skewed version of the “normal.”
Ten years later, having left the pink/blue paradigm behind, I am open to meeting and knowing a variety of people with sexual orientations and gender identities that are very much unlike mine. Had someone tried to present this post to the ten-years-ago-me, I would have listened in polite fascination and pushed it aside as an untrue oddity. Why? Because I had no experience with the many shades of sexual orientation and gender identity. And that is where I suspect most people are. We make assumptions about what we do not know and continue to believe misconceptions because nothing in our personal experience challenges those beliefs. I know that the main hurdle to acceptance of equality for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community is the question of one’s “choice” of sexual orientation. Forty-seven percent of us see those “pesky GLBT’s” as choosing to mess up the pink and blue canvas and would rather they reorient to the norm. “You be like my picture of good and healthy, and I will love and accept you to pieces. Bless your heart.”
I will make this as simple and as tidy as possible for those outside the GLBT grouping. I know I will fail my complexly designed friends who will still not fit into the categories suggested here. My intent is to expand the thinking of the 47% who believe people make a choice to be gay or trans. Think life is a like a test in Cosmo, with easy, check-off boxes? Yes, no, or maybe? Male or female? Colonel Mustard with the rope in the ballroom. It is far more complex than heterosexual males and heterosexual females. I know that now.
Most straight people cannot imagine being sexually attracted to a person of the same sex. Add the profile of straight person with Bible in hand and the typical assertion is this: same-sex attraction is not only weird, but it is wrong, sinful. My blog addresses Scriptures used in discussing homosexuality and trangenderism. Check it out here.
To try to quantify sexual orientation and gender identity (if you actually could), there are two different scales that are generally used in the assessment: the Kinsey Scale and the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (KSOG). Neither is definitive. Those that feel and need the warm, comfy fuzzies of “knowing” will not like this: there is no test that will give you a number which will inform everyone precisely what your sexual orientation and gender identity are. This is not like a sleep-number bed, where I am a 97 looking for a bedmate that is a 90 to a 100. Both the Kinsey and KSOG scales are flawed because they do not account for the many variables that sexually and emotionally attract one person to another, nor can that chemical/brain attraction spark be quantified. Sexual attraction is not about matching up plumbing with only A going to B. Brains get involved and, the plumbing actually does fit in more than one way. Gender identity (what sex your brain says you are) is not even addressed in the Kinsey Scale. The Kinsey Scale it is only about the sex you are attracted to.
One benefit of both scales, however, is that it helps those of us that are only opposite-sex attracted to realize there are other scenarios that occur. Non-opposite sex pairings may be outside the behavior of the majority, but it does not make them perversions, or abnormalities or wrong. They just “are.” When you are in the majority, hanging out with the majority, and being told by society that the majority is the best way to be, there is little impetus to consider or validate the minority, especially if the issue involves sex. We are really weird when sex is part of the discussion.
1 = Other sex only
1 = Heterosexual only
2 = Other sex mostly
2 = Heterosexual mostly
3 = Other Sex somewhat more
3 = Heterosexual somewhat more
4 = Both sexes
4 = Hetero/gay-lesb. equally
5 = Same sex somewhat more
5 = Gay/Lesbian somewhat more
6 = Same sex mostly
6 = Gay/Lesbian mostly
7 = Same sex only
7 = Gay/Lesbian only
All this variation can be a disturbing thought for people who perceive sexuality as a strict heterosexual male/heterosexual female paradigm. What do we do with traditional marriage, with those five verses in the Bible that “clearly” label anything other than male-female sex as the ticket to hell? My question back is “why does it matter to you what someone else’s preferences in a partner are?” What does the love between any two other people or the attraction of any two other people do to your own sexual orientation or gender identity? Or mine? Nothing.
I accept the fact that we are intensely different people, created by a Potter and influenced by surroundings and experiences. Is my love for a man any more authentic or sanctioned by God than my transman friend Larry’s love for his partner Sally? Or David’s love for his husband Steven? Or transwoman Bren’s relationship with her wife who was his wife before he transitioned to a woman? Several years ago, I could never have fathomed all these variations in relationship as healthy or appropriate. I could only see from my high horse of correctness and right-ness. There are 6.8 billion people on earth; I am quite confident that what I see as my norm for living is not the norm for even the tiniest percentage of that population.
If you were open to hearing the thoughts and hearts of the non-zeros, they would be vulnerable and honest enough to tell you that they did not pick their orientation or gender identity. Gay people are born gay. A six is a six and will never be a zero or a one. They may pretend to be a one in order to gain your acceptance, or to produce a family or sit in your pews. A man born with the brain of a woman will never be able to take enough hormones to change his/her brain to that of a man. Transgenders (whom I have a huge heart for) have the added layer of gender identity to complicate the majority’s assessment of them. Simply put, trans people have the biology (genitalia) of one sex and the brain stamp of the opposite sex. They too have orientations. They can be heterosexual (attracted to a person with opposite genitalia), homosexual (attracted to a person with same genitalia) or bisexual. I cannot leave out a nod to asexual people and intersexed people. This is already complicated, so I suggest you go to this great site for information on intersexed people and this one for asexual folks
Next week, I will do a post as a “bonus round” on sexual orientation with some information on the reparative therapy industry,) aka “pray the gay away.” This is for those who know that we need to get all these non-zeros back in the box labeled ZERO. Check back for that one.
I am a solid zero on the Kinsey Scale. My friends that are a six do not undermine or challenge my zero-ness. My trans and intersexed friends don’t make me question my gender identity. I have never identified myself as anything other than a heterosexual female. Why is it such a challenge for some of us to allow other people to be who they are? “But, it says man and woman, it says husband and wife, it says hell and heaven in the Bible!” And, what it is says was written by people that only had pink and blue understandings of sexuality and gender identity. I can point out where “it says” many things about other types of people, where “it says” there are other sheep, where transgenders are mentioned, where homosexuals are alluded to and not condemned to hell, where “homosexual” has crept into modern translations since the 1960’s. I can also tell you where “it says” to love. To be merciful. To extend grace. To spend yourself on fighting for justice and equality. The last words were written almost 2,000 years ago. We are horribly guilty at translating to our own biases. We allow for other issues to have “new revelation” (women, slavery, divorce to name a few), and we forget the overarching weight-iest thing in the Book: “love others.”
Whether you think someone else’s sexual orientation is wrong or sin or perverse or misguided will never affect your own orientation, and it also should not affect the way you treat them if you call yourself a follower of Jesus. I believe that the misconceptions by the majority on the minority create homophobia and transphobia.
If you are one of those who thinks the 6.9 billion can be put into the funnel of a sorting machine and they should tumble out into the “zero” heterosexual male and “zero” heterosexual female piles, you will be disappointed. Most of us will comply, but the bell curve will mess with you. There are transmen, transwomen, intersexed, asexual, bisexual, gay and lesbian people. None made a choice to be subjected to discrimination, hatred and fear. I was comfortable not knowing about these non-zeros years ago. Now, they are the richness in the fabric of my life. Sexual orientation is not chosen. When did you choose to be heterosexual (or whatever you are)? Gender identity is biological and in the brain. Did you alter your biology or brain to make you straight? If we can approach sane thinking and comprehension on this issue, maybe we can then see that God did indeed create this assortment. And, if He did, why are we, in the majority, so non-accepting of His work?
Get to know some people who are not zeros. Get to know some people who identify as transgender, intersexed or asexual. What does it matter to you who they are attracted to, fall in love with or commit to? I have been around so many “alphabet people” in the past decade. I love my friends who are zeros to sixes. Never once has it changed or challenged my orientation or attractions. Ditch the fear, the misconceptions and the need to label. God is way more creative than pink/blue. Just look around at flowers, animals, bugs and trees. The things we all have in common are: we are humans, we are each carrying the image of God, we are worthy of respect from one another, and we are objects of His love. That’s it. I’m a zero and I am fine with that. And, I’m fine with however you identify or don’t identify yourself. I just want to get to the place where you see the Jesus in me and not the gender or sexual orientation I am. I will do the same for you. In the end, that’s all that matters.
Holy Spirit wisdom to you
Mercy and grace on you and from you