Tag Archives: anti-gay lies

Pondering “Out of a Far Country”: The narrative perspective problem

Because Angela and Christopher Yuan’s book, “Out of a Far Country,” is an autobiography, it engages a narrative voice, just like a work of fiction.  This is particularly helpful in this case, because both Angela and Christopher are describing a transformative journey, a journey that involved transformations of their thoughts and behavior patterns.  As such, the process of narrating their story and telling what was going through their minds at the time enhances and furthers their story and the overall goal of the book.

However, neither author is always clear on whether they are totally narrating from the perspective of their earlier selves — the person who lived through the experience currently being described — or their current selves or both.  As such, it’s not always clear if a given point of view is still valid in their current way of thinking.

The first time this becomes troubling is in the very first chapter, where Angela describes briefly an incident from Christopher’s teen years:

I immediately thought back to when Christopher was sixteen years old and I found out from his brother that he had a sexual relationship with a thirty-year-old man.  Christopher had contacted the man, who then invited him over.  Sure, Christopher may have sought the man out, but no matter how you look at it, this man had used and soiled my son.

Note that Angela does not indicate whether she is speaking as her current self who blames this man for “soiling her son” or her 1993 self, who (as her narrative demonstrates) had a tendency to try and control Christopher and even make excuses for his own choices.  That potential difference makes the difference between Angela telling about her own personal growth and Angela perpetuating the myth that gay men are predators who recruit younger men and boys.

Christopher presents a similar problem when he describes his thoughts when meeting with a retired marine who “‘knew a lot’ about homosexuality.”  Chris writes about part of the exchange as follows:

“Well, for one thing, gay men have a shorter life expectancy than straight men.”  He looked at my mom.  “This has been proven by reputable scientists.”

Reputable!  You’ve got to be kidding.  Was this what you’d call knowing a lot about homosexuality?  Using skewed statistics to “prove” that gay men die sooner than other men?  How could any researcher gather an unbiased, representative sample of gay men, when many don’t want their sexuality to be known and others are still denying even to themselves that they are gay?  Most of those studies only gathered data rom gay men who died as a result of AIDS.  What about all teh other normal gay men?

He continued.  “Did you know that a survey of gay men shows that most have had sex with someone under the age of eighteen?”

Seriously?  Give me a break!  None of my friends slept with teenagers.  Did the survey clarify when it was that they slept with someone under-age?  Most likely they were teens themselves.  And by way of comparison, what were the stats for straight men?

Christopher’s analysis of the shorter lifespan claim is 100% accurate.  Most claims about gay men living shorter lifespan is based on the discredited research of Paul Cameron.  There are plenty of resources explaining how Cameron both distorted his own work to get the results he wanted and distorted the findings of others in service of his claims.  In fact, many of the researchers whose works Cameron has distorted have made very public statements condemning him for it.

I have no hard data on sex between underage boys and men over the age of eighteen, however I will note that this is a standard accusation of the anti-gay movement.  Also, they are quick to link pedophilia with gay men — either explicitly or implicitly — in general despite all the research pointing out that sexual orientation has no bearing on a pedophiles choice of victims.  So Christopher’s dismissal of this man’s arguments is not only reasonable, but based on sound and documented criticisms of such anti-gay rhetoric.

But again, Christopher doesn’t make it clear if present-day Christopher still feels the way that Christopher of 1993 felt.  Given the fact that this earlier version of Christopher is being painted as making poor choices (and many of his choices are undeniably poor) and being generally rebellious, it would be easy for readers to assume that this is another one of those areas where younger Christopher “got it wrong.”  This is especially true considering that present-day Christopher has given some indication that at least his theology, if not his politics and methods, aligns with those who continue to spout such discredited propaganda against gay men and LGBT people in general.  The fact that he does not clarify whether he believes that this is one of those places where his younger self “got it right” in this particular instance is troubling.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Christopher and Angela and their book exist in a certain context, and their book serves the potential to serve the purposes of that context in ways that are potentially less-than-honest.  Assuming that they did not want their book used in such ways, it would have been nice if they made more effort to make it clear where their current-day selves disagree with their younger selves and where they still agree.

An evangelical speaks frankly

Warren Throckmorton is Associate Professor of Psychology at conservative Grove City College and the creator of the Sexual Identity Therapy Framework, a set of guidelines for therapists who wish to help gay people of faith (particularly a more conservative form of Christianity) to reconcile their sexuality with their faith.

Recently, Dr. Throckmorton wrote a blog post in which he discussed Christian media sources to refrain from discussing or even mentioning recent studies relating to sexual orientation.  The entire post (and the rest of his blog) is well worth reading, and is one of the reasons I respect Dr. Throckmorton.  As fellow gay blogger, Pomoprophet, put it while covering this post:

Throckmorten[sic] (though he doesn’t fully agree with me) is the type of Evangelical Christian that I can actually respect. He is informed and thoughtful. When he talkes about “defending truth is the name of Jesus” he does so with the best data available on “the truth”, not merely conservative talking points that fit nicely into his narrow view of the world. I find it ironic that many Evangelicals shun one of their own because he reports the facts and the studies and calls them on their anti-gay animus.

The fact that Dr. Throckmorton has faced much criticism from his fellow evangelicals — some have even pressured Grove City College to terminate his employment there — for his honesty and his integrity makes his commitment to both all the more admirable.  However, I would like to suggest that in this post, Dr. Throckmorton has gone beyond simply standing up for the truth, but acting in what some Christians might consider a prophetic role.  Consider this quote from his blog post:

Many evangelicals get their information from NARTH through groups like Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Exodus International, etc. Others get information from Christian media. However, these studies are not reported in these places. No wonder most evangelicals approach sexual orientation with a 1990s mindset. It is as if the evangelical world is in blackout mode when it comes to current studies on sexual orientation.

Dr. Throckmorton is not merely standing up for the truth, but he is calling out those here are hiding the truth, misconstruing it, or even lying about it.  This has become an endemic problem among many evangelical leaders (for more examples of this, simply check out a half dozen other posts from Dr. Throckmorton’s blog, an equal number from Fred Clark’s blog, and my own post from Wednesday.)

Note however, that Dr. Throckmorton’s prophetic warning is not merely aimed at those leaders who would either leave their followers in ignorance or even actively deceive them.  His warning to those followers is also clear:  Do not assume that your leaders are being honest with you just because they’re standing in front of a cross.  It is up to those who value truth to verify the veracity of what they’re being told for themselves.  To do otherwise is to play some small part in their own deception.

Thank you, Dr. Throckmorton, for being such a voice for integrity and justice.

Catholic Charities need to decide if they’re a religions group or an agent of the state

A third proposed version of the map showing th...

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This morning, I read an article by Michael Gormley about the status of New York legislation that could bring about marriage equality here in the Empire State.  I’ve been following this story pretty closely in my private time and am excited that my state may soon allow me to marry my (hypothetical) partner rather than requiring me to elope to Massachusetts[1].  I practically cheered to learn that they only need one more state senator to sign on to guarantee passage.

Gormley reports that the current hold-up is discussions over religious protections:

Democrats and Republicans emerged from meetings with Democratic Gov.
Andrew Cuomo and said there is progress toward proposed additional
religious protections that could bring a gay marriage bill to the Senate
floor for a vote as early as Wednesday night.

By the sounds of it, Cuomo and supporters are trying to take the teeth out of the old arguments currently be raised by the National Organization for Marriage of Moralists.  I’m a bit troubled by that, as the arguments about religious freedoms are all based on lies.  Truth be told, churches and religious organizations already have plenty of protections.  A minister or church cannot be compelled to host or perform any marriage — even any opposite sex marriage — they do not approve of.  Any stories about such nonsense (such as the Ocean Grove pavilion controversy) are usually misrepresented, and a careful examination of the facts demonstrate that the situation is not about religious freedom at all.  To be frank, the Religious Right crowd is fond of spreading misinformation to make themselves look like martyrs and to drive fear-based political action and decisions.

My pragmatic side almost wants to just shrug and give a thumbs up to the unnecessary “religious protections” that may get put into the new legislation.  After all, if such legislation forces NOM and company to shut up (or at least makes it easier for people to see their lies for what they are), then it’s not all bad.  But then, I read this part of the article (emphasis mine):

More protection for religious organizations such as adoption agencies
and marriage counselors is sought by undecided Republican senators who
are key to the vote.

You see, the mention of adoption agencies tells me that someone is thinking about situations like what’s going on with Catholic Charities in Illinois[2].  And this is the exact kind of lying that I’m talking about.  You see, NOM would have you believe that Catholic Charities in Illinois is being forced to close their adoption services if they continue discriminate against same sex couples.  However, that’s not true, unless you assume that the rich and powerful Catholic church needs government assistance to do its charity work.

You see, that’s the part that NOM and company fail to mention:  Catholic Charities operates their adoption services in Illinois (and elsewhere) under a government contract and with state funding.  And the state regulations require that any organization or business who uses taxpayer money to provide a service must not discriminate against anyone who seeks out that service.  This isn’t a case of Catholic Charities losing their religious freedom.  When it comes to their adoption services, they gave up that freedom[3] when they became a contracted agent of the state funded by that same state.

If the religious protections in this new legislation goes on to say that religious groups can offer state-funded and state-contracted services and still discriminate, then those clauses are no longer about religious protections.  They are about state endorsements of religious privilege.  They are about using taxpayer money — including gay taxpayers — to support an agent of the state who is allowed to engage in discrimination while acting as an agent of the state.

And that’s just not cool.  It’s also why even my pragmatic side cannot get behind these so-called “religious protections,” even if they do bring marriage equality to my state.  Because marriage equality that still allows religiously motivated agents of the state to discriminate against me isn’t actually marriage equality.  It’s still a form of second-class citizenship.

[1]  Seriously.  New York would consider me married right now if I went and had the ceremony in a state that already performs same-sex marriages, but will not currently allow me to have the ceremony here among my loved ones.  That’s just a strange state of affairs.

[2] This also took place with Catholic Charities in Massachusetts and looks like it will be a common theme across the country.

[3]  In fairness, they only gave up that right in terms of how they conduct their state-contracted and state-funded services.  They’re still free to give homily’s about how gay people are inherently disordered to their heart’s content.