Tag Archives: homosexual

Mental Stimulation and Sexuality

The proliferation of cultural diversity is always heralded as a good thing. In fact, there isn’t one politician with the potential for democratic success that will dare to challenge this maxim of worldly life. Whether or not they mean it, of course, when they speak of diversity, or how they’ve chosen to define diversity is another matter entirely.

Diversity, in all forms, brings new ideas and different perspectives. We don’t have to agree, or feel that it’s right for us, but we have the privilege to make up our own minds, and we’re usually grateful to have had the opportunity to be challenged. After all, if our opposition to new ideas falls on its face, it’s probably time we re-evaluated our own worldviews. There’s always denial, but that is never a particularly sunny refuge for our scared and fatigued minds.

To put it bluntly, diversity stimulates. And a stimulated mind might not be happy (happiness can be overrated, boring, and even lazy), but it’s engaged and has a temporary sense of purpose. It’s a rush, and a panacea for the existential fog that is always ready to cloud our minds as soon as the caffeine wears off.

Now, perhaps the most important reason for supporting and promoting the full gamut of homosexual and transgender expression is to be had from the stand point of human rights and protecting the sanctity of individual expression and their right to self determination. However, it’s worth coming at it from another angle.

With notable exceptions, the expression of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals has been largely suppressed and denied. There have been explosive movements and great strides, especially in the arts and the literary tradition, but clearly there is still a long way to go before it’s universally accepted as a valid way of life with a legal system that is in full support and sympathy with the plight.

There is a turbulent, erudite, exciting, and stimulating cultural world that has been propagated by non-heterosexuals and transgendered people, looking to create a culture that allows the freedom of expression, not just sexual, but intellectual, too. The gender of the people that sexually attract you shapes your passage through life and will impact how you intellectualize your place in the universe. Becoming aware of the perspectives of others with a different sexual orientation can do nothing but put you in touch with the pulse of humanity – a force that is so much more dynamic than you and your world. If you hold knowledge acquisition as one of the highest virtues, the different perspectives of non-heterosexuals is a treasure trove of cognitive enrichment (not all life is ruled by eros, of course, two plus two is still four, no matter one’s sexuality).

I am aware that there is sometimes opposition to heterosexuals intruding on key aspects of gay lifestyle. This has been evidenced by disrespectful heterosexuals in gay bays, and authors that try to write from homosexual perspectives and fail miserably. I hope that I don’t come across as the latter. While I don’t agree with culture being entirely insular, I do think having respect is the first step to exposure. I can never ‘know’ what it is to be a gay man, but I can still enjoy being mentally stimulated by gay men, lesbians, and transgendered individuals, and I’m going to celebrate knowing that much more about life before my cognition doesn’t get another trip around the Sun.

Emotion and Worldviews: The Deep Empathic Failing of Homophobia

Anchor and balloonLately, I have been trying to make sense of how our emotions and our sense of morality are related. Everyone has ideas about what is ‘right’ in the world, and these ideas are usually held as explanations for having certain feelings about particular events. For example, witnessing an assault or abuse can make us feel bad (if our brain is working). We then justify our bad feeling with ideas that explain why we feel bad, and we soon have a sense of morality.

First, we might reason that the aggressor is wrong for behaving aggressively because we don’t like the way we feel when we witness what he is doing, or the way we feel when he is doing it to us. To make further sense of these feelings we start weaving together ideas, such as hitting people is wrong (it has to be, right, because it makes us feel bad?), and extend it to hitting smaller and weaker people is more wrong (because this change in context makes us feel worse). However, we might start to introduce caveats such as, hitting people is wrong, unless it’s to stop someone hitting someone else. And so as our emotional responses change throughout these different scenarios, our sense of morality and the way we understand the world evolves.

The key point to note here is that our emotions anchor our morality. It is also possible to have a cold and emotionless ‘code of ethics’, a system of rules that govern behavior, even though there is no emotional attachment to them. In fact, your emotion and the cold and emotionless ethical principles that you come into contact with probably duke it out to give you your sense of morality. Lacking an emotional attachment could cause a schism and internal conflict later, especially if we have (intellectually) accepted a moral position with no feeling, such as a stance on the death penalty or abortion. Should we experience for the first time a personal situation that involves these two issues, our emotions may go to war with our intellect.

But there’s no denying that the ideas about life that really stick, are the ones weighted down by a strong emotion, and this becomes problematic because our emotion, which is notoriously unreliable, becomes the first and often the most powerful truth criterion for understanding a moral action. If we feel strongly positive or negative towards something, that’s sometimes all the truth we need – our visceral experience.

I believe that it is this visceral failing that results in the most prejudice. For example, take homophobia. Sometimes it is touted that homophobes are really self-hating homosexuals. While I’m willing to merit that this is sometimes the case, I do not think it explains the majority of homophobia. What explains the majority of homophobia is a deep empathic failing – all justifications on top of this are all garbage, no matter what their brand. However, these justifications also form a culture that reinforces these deep empathic failings. Let me explain.

A heterosexual teenage male, with a new found and celebrated sexuality, will realize how awesome women can make him feel (this marks the beginning of personal growth and many political encounters with women, which will hopefully result in positive outcomes). Now, in an effort to understand homosexuality, there’ll be an attempt at empathy and he may fail miserably. In all likelihood he will recreate the experience of anal penetration, or imagine all of the sexual things he fantasizes about one day doing with a woman and supplanting the woman with a man. This will make him want to retreat into his shell like a turtle, and the bad feeling that results from this failed empathy could then easily be justified by bogus ideas of what it is to be gay. If the feeling is strong (or repulsive) enough, the quality of any further truth criteria doesn’t matter – the repulsion is his experience – his truth (I haven’t been to church in ages, but let me throw out Leviticus, and then show you this sour expression on my face).

There was a deep empathic failing here for the following reason.

The great feeling arising from the heterosexual sexuality will hinder attempts at homosexual empathy, and to a large extent, a heterosexual male will never know how awesome it feels to fall in love with another man. But this doesn’t matter. What the heterosexual person can empathize with is what it is to love somebody and be attracted to somebody. How great it is to curl up on the couch after a long and trying day with their significant other. If the empathic focus shifts from physical sex to the emotional satisfaction (or turmoil) of being in a relationship, empathy can prevail. Given time and maturity, the awkwardness elicited by thoughts of homosexual sex can also be diminished.

The problem is that homophobic ideas do focus on sex and encourage negative feelings, which in turn reinforces homophobic morality. It’s a particular problem with sex because the emotional experiences that result from our sexuality are often so powerful that there is no neutral ground – something is either very wrong or it’s very right. This is why sex is usually a major part of religion – the strong feelings of guilt (or in some cases empowerment) strengthens the underlying creed, which may force some to disband and others to cling even tighter.

I believe that a failure to empathize on this crucial issue could be addressed by mentioning sexuality in school. Firstly, it’s crucial that homosexual children can learn that there is nothing wrong with them, which is vital for their development, and secondly children/teenagers can learn some theory surrounding relationships. Obviously, there is much to be learned from experience, but some good foot holds from the beginning could be beneficial. It is perhaps time that children are shown how to empathize, because their morality depends on it.

The faceless victims of John Wayne Gacy

I recently stumbled across an article on NPR entitled 30 Years Later, Serial Killer’s Victims Exhumed. Gacy is thought to have killed about 33 young men, many of whom were buried in the crawlspace of his house. A fair number of the victims were identified upon his capture, mostly using dental records and information provided by family members who had suffered the disappearance of sons and brothers in the Chicago area throughout the 1970s.

There were, however, numerous unidentified bodies and the upper and lower jaws (including teeth) were preserved so that future technologies may I.D. the victims. Over the last few years DNA from about half of the bones of the unidentified victims has been accurately obtained, meaning that a relative could provide their own DNA to confirm a familial relationship.

One of the shocking things with regards to this story, is that numerous families failed to report relatives as missing because Gacy was a homosexual serial killer, which was taboo enough in the 1970s (and maybe even today?) and this prevented families from reporting missing offspring; apparently, it was better to believe the missing offspring had never come into contact with this homosexual killer than to identify the victims, which would allow closure, grieving, and justice.

A number of the victims were also said to be wards of the state and so were from broken homes; nobody was going to miss them, regardless.

It’s just sad to note that some of the unidentified victims will remain faceless not just because of a lack of DNA evidence, but from the fact they may have been gay and/or started out life with no real family.