androgen insensitivity syndrome, bonnie nettles, castration, fear, gay, gender, glbt, heaven's gate, homosexuality, joy, marshall applewhite, repression, sarah palin, sex, sexual orientation, society, suicide, violence
A thought experiment for you:
What would the world be like if human sexuality was no longer repressed?
What has me wondering this was a television show I watched this week called The Final Report. The focus of the program was on the Heaven’s Gate cult that ended in the mass suicide of the group’s members. The leader of the group was Marshall Applewhite. As the program started discussing Applewhite, a photo of the man was put on the screen. I took one look at him and said to my husband, “He’s gay, isn’t he?” Two sentences later, after explaining that Applewhite was married, the announcer said that Applewhite was gay, but struggling with his sexuality. When he started the Heaven’s Gate cult with Bonnie Nettles, he insisted upon celebacy for group members, which was his way of dealing with his sexual orientation. He went even further in denying his sexuality by undergoing castration.
All I could think is that if Marshall Applewhite had been accepted as a gay man by society, if his natural sexuality had not been repressed, he would have had no need to form this cult that led to mass suicide.
The situation is so sad, yet so many people in society cannot accept anyone who’s orientation is anything other than heterosexual. They claim that sexual orientation is a choice. I’m watching the Vice Presidential debates right now, which reminds me that Sarah Palin indicated in an interview that she believed homosexuality was a choice. Why, oh why, would anyone choose to be homosexual in a society that sends a strong and clear message that homosexuality is wrong and condemns homosexuals? Human beings long to be accepted by the group, by the larger society, for the most part. Most will not willingly buck that sense of belonging, which is one possible explanation for the high suicide rate among homosexual teens.
For those who believe that homosexuality is a choice, I’d like to have them explain what a person with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) is supposed to do. While a gay “gene” hasn’t yet been pinpointed, AIS has testable and undeniably real physical effects. A person with AIS has the Y chromosomes of a male, but because this person has no androgen receptors, his body will develop as a female. Genetically male, physically female. Certainly, this is not a choice. So, then, is this person male or female? How should this person live his/her life? By his inward gender, or her outward gender?
For those sharp readers out there, you’ll notice that I slipped from discussing sexual orientation to discussing gender. When these issues are discussed within the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender (GLBT) community, sexual orientation and gender are separate issues, whereas most of society sees them as one and the same. If your gender is female, you’re supposed to have sex with males. If your gender is male, you’re supposed to have sex with females, and that’s that. As AIS shows, gender can fall along a spectrum – male, female, both (neither?). If gender can express itself in a myriad of physical ways, why can’t sexuality?
My belief is that human sexual orientation and the expression of that orientation is naturally varied and because of that variation, society needs to lighten up on the whole repression gig. As long as sex takes place between consenting adults, it should make no difference what the gender of those adults is.
While I’ve focused on the repression of homosexuality in this post, there’s no denying that women have long been the targets of society’s sexual repression (along the lines of . . . “Don’t do it, ever, unless it’s for procreation and you’d better not enjoy it!”) How much happier would women the world over be if this systematic repression was ended? What if there was no longer any sexual violence toward women, men, or children? Is it too much to ask for a world where sex is consistently associated with joy, rather than fear?