Born that way

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/39/Age_Teaching_Youth.jpg/441px-Age_Teaching_Youth.jpgIn a comment here, Coleman Glenn explains why, unless you see gay lovemaking as morally neutral, the “born that way” argument fails.

He is careful to say that he does not think homosexuality is anything like paedophilia, because paedophilia has a victim. He thinks gay sex harms those who practise it, though he does not say why. He says that “attraction to children” is classified as a mental illness in DSM5, and that arguably people are born with that orientation. But we who accept equal marriage would not accept that those attracted to children should act on their desires, and therefore for someone who believes gay sex is wrong, the “born that way” argument does not make it right. Let us debate other reasons why gay couples should be left in peace.

Well. Coleman is a Swedenborgian, and all I know of Swedenborg is that he was some kind of Christian whom William Blake despised- much of “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is against Swedenborg. As a Christian, Coleman would value “It is not good for the man to be alone” and “it is better to marry than burn”. So, when I say that gay people are born that way, I argue that the person to assuage my loneliness, or the person who could stop me burning, is one of my own sex. So the “born that way” argument should work against Christian objectors to gay people, which explains the energy they put in to trying to argue we are not, in fact, born that way.

“Born that way” should also work against atheist objectors, if there be any such: if from your own experience you believe it is better to be part of a couple than not, “born that way” shows that gay people form couples which are- gay.

The real problem with the “born that way” argument is that it gives credence to people bleating that there is something wrong with equal marriage, or that gay one night stands might in some way be worse than straight ones. No. Really, no. Come up with some moral argument, and I might engage. Bleat that gay sex is wrong or icky without such an argument, and I have better things to do with my time. The homophobe has failed the basic test of human empathy, so the “born that way” argument will not work on him or her.

Added, late: if you came here from Facebook, please let me know how the comment thread there went.

17 thoughts on “Born that way

  1. I’ve always had issues with the ‘born this way’ argument. I think it’s ill advised, personally. Born or whatever else doesn’t really matter. I’m a tax paying citizen, I work, I contribute to society, and I’m the one who gets to decide for myself who and what I am and with whom I go to bed. No one is born believing in religion. No one is born teaching Latin- it doesn’t matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pink, glad you got there first. Equality is not about how you’re born and acceptance (of how we are born) is not equality. Try telling a thalidamide child ‘they were just born that way’ and see how it flies. Equality is not natural, rather it is something fought hard for and treasured by all those that enjoy it for it is the one true path to progress.

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      • This is so interesting – thanks for broadening my mind. I never really stopped to think about how or why the “born that way” argument might not be very productive, because I was so focused on debunking the people who think LGBT people have made some kind of deviant behavioral choice that the rest of us managed to avoid. But it is true that we shouldn’t fixate on how we’re born, but who we ARE and who we can become.

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    • Pinky, um. I am a VAT paying citizen, I don’t work, arguably I contribute less to society than I take from it, and even if others might have a right to question me about whether I could work and what I am doing to find work, they still can’t question with whom I go to bed.

      MIA, well, I did say that in my last paragraph. But I seek to communicate with people. Where is this objector coming from? What in the things s/he values can I find, which will persuade them of my truth? (I qualify this, below).

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  2. Thanks for continuing the discussion from my blog post. I love your last line here – right on the money.

    About Swedenborgians: I was born into a Swedenborgian congregation, of which there are many around the world, and, well, that faith is a looong story. One of the benefits of the church I was raised in is that you can’t officially become a member until you’re an adult and can choose it for yourself, even if you were raised in the faith, so I never joined it (to my family’s chagrin). But I still have an extensive network of loved ones there. One relevant, perhaps easy-to-express thing about Swedenborgians is that they don’t hold with the idea that celibacy is morally superior to marriage. Swedenborgians from my family’s church fixate on marriage as the ultimate state of being – which I believe actually makes their anti-gay stance all the more hurtful and illogical. Also, Swedenborgians aren’t just going off perceived Biblical bans of gay sex – in what they believe is divine revelation from the pen of Swedish scientist, philosopher and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, there’s a whole extra mess of anti-gay doctrine that they insist on applying to the present day. So when Coleman and like-minded objectors claim gay sex is harmful, the short answer to why is that Swedenborg said so. In the 1700’s.

    But I should say that not all Swedenborgians oppose gay rights – there are some progressive people in the faith who support the LGBT community, and I’m grateful for their compassion and courage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome, Alaina. I am delighted to have you here. I loved your post and your comment thread, and this post only takes part of it.

      I feel some compunction now, that I used a Blake illustration. What is the only thing that I have vaguely heard about Swedenborg? Oh, yes, some criticism in Blake; what is the one thing that I can do, however laughably weak, to stick it to Swedenborgians? A Blake illustration. I feel shame for the silliness of it- no, it is more complex. They (of course, one undifferentiated lump) attack me, and I will attack them. Confused, now.

      Oh, well. Now I have read the Wikipedia article, at least, though I doubt I will tackle the Arcana Coelestia. I read There are two essentials which constitute the church, and hence two principal things of doctrine — one, that the Lord’s Human is Divine; the other, that love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor constitute the church, and not faith separate from love and charity. There is something of value here, and I don’t have the attention to engage with it.

      I knew a Mormon trans woman who remained in her church, because she loved it and its idiosyncrasies. She endured humiliations such as being referred to by her old male name, and she confronted bishops, and may have changed some minds. While those small parts of the Book of Mormon I have seen have seemed poor to me- cribbed from the Bible, and expressed less well- I respect her courage and principle, and I gain from them. You are out of that church. You are still engaging with it.

      Onywye. Lovely to meet you.

      Added: here is a useful video. No, there is nothing wrong with homosexuality.

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      • Well, you could have used a picture of Emanuel Swedenborg… ( :

        Thanks for your response. There is a lot to appreciate about my church of origin – for example, their doctrine says you don’t have to be Swedenborgian or Christian to be “saved” – anyone living the principles of their own faith, if their intentions are sincere, is good in the eyes of God. (Unfortunately such tolerance doesn’t always come out in practice, and in my experience Swedenborgian communities are pretty insular – another reason I left.) Now, I see the faith like any other philosophy – full of useful nuggets to take away and apply, as well as a lot of old-fashioned head-scratchers we should probably ignore or acknowledge we can’t understand.

        I’ll check out the video you’ve posted when I have some time to devote.

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        • Indeed. I could have used a picture of Swedenborg, and- there is something in me which sees Pastor Glenn’s argument and, however much I really want reconciliation, that something wants to say Fuck You. Which is unfortunate, really, because I am also insulting thousands of entirely unobjectionable people, including people you care about. So I am glad you came.

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          • Yes, I hear you. A lot of the time, you have to wonder – should you just call something out for the extreme ugliness it is, and move on? Or try to engage with it compassionately? I do care about Coleman and many other people with his opinions, so it’s a painful but necessary dance.

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  3. On the peadophilia ‘comparison’, I hope I don’t sound daft by making such a stupid
    Point – but surely the thing this commentator should Keep in mind is kids aren’t really in a position to consent or decline advances at all. How can the comparison be drawn between this scenario and one involving two consenting adults? Sorry if I’ve missed something!

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    • I think the point of the paedophilia or bestiality comparisons is that they show how disgusting our opponents find us. It’s sinful, like paedophilia is, they say. However Coleman Glenn’s point is slightly different: he says, even if we are “born that way”, that is no excuse in the eyes of anyone who sees gay lovemaking is sinful. People have unwanted sexual attractions, yet should not commit adultery, would be their example.

      For me, “born that way” is a request for empathy, but however much those particular Evangelicals talk of Love I don’t think any empathy is forthcoming. So it really is not worthwhile engaging. Make one actual moral argument, and I will engage. But- you will have studied moral reasoning.

      It is good to hear your perspective. There are people who are completely obsessed by this issue, splitting the Anglican communion because of it, for example- and people outside the argument who don’t see what the fuss is about- perhaps because it is not about anything, really.

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    • No, you’re not daft. It really burns me up, but apparently we still need to explain this to people. In the case of my blog post, folks were arguing, for the sake of approaching the issue “logically,” that since pedophilia is a sexual inclination that is not accepted by society, we could view homosexuality the same way, because gay people can choose not to act on their desires. Excellent logic for discrimination, right?

      I know people whose lives have been severely impacted by sexual abuse, and when I see so-called theologians co-opt pedophilia as a “logical” justification for why they should be able to discriminate against another group of people, it makes me feel ill.

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        • Logic is never more twisted than when it tries to justify limiting someone else’s human rights and dignity – especially when these so-called logicians have what they would deny to others.

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  4. I’m sure I’m missing something here, but does the ‘born that way’ argument (or fact?) not just come up because there’s a whole section of homophobes who believe sexual orientation is a choice?

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    • Of course. But-

      on the homophobe side, they say, “We don’t care, it’s still a sin”.

      on the LGBT side, we say, “So what? Even if it is a choice, it is a choice we are entitled to make.”

      I got “It is not good for the man to be alone” as relevant to this from Matthew Vines. So they should care. But they still don’t care because whatever, so insisting on born that way does no good-

      except that it must, because they put so much energy into denying it, citing monozygotic twins with differing orientations- to which we talk of intrauterine environments- basic fact of knowing, young- spontaneous changes of “orientation”- yada yada zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

      They are converting slowly, and Alaina- may I for once recommend to you a blog I actually like- might do better at converting them than I will.

      In one and a half hours I am posting on Creationism!

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      • I think that’s a good point that they are converting slowly. Change on any subject embedded in cultural norms takes generations, and to be honest we’ve come a long way in a short time. There’s so much more openness now that children are growing up with a greater understanding of the differences among themselves and in the world generally.

        Next post sounds good. I’ll be interested to see the accompanying artwork.

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