Powerful, beautiful, alive

I cannot see, in an art work, anything which is not myself; but I can see something I have not admitted to myself. The human being contains multitudes. The whole human being, the artist, speaks to the whole human being, the viewer. Content: suicide and internalised prejudice; and also overcoming that in celebration.

It seems to me that my conscious mind is a filter, preoccupied with what a human being, and in particular this human being, should be. The “shoulds” come from outside, from parents and the wider society. The brain, being part of a whole organism, calculates what others desire and what it can get away with, and produces a simulacrum of that, while underneath there are greater possibilities and desires. Primo Levi observed inmates of Auschwitz who wanted to live by the rules, a common human desire, which might be understandable in Jews- I fit in, give unobtrusive service, try not to be noticed, and thereby might survive- but in Auschwitz the rules were designed to starve and freeze the inmates to death, and so that route to survival was no longer open.

This crushed response of traumatised Jews in Eastern Europe in the 1930s, or Venice in 1516, is not the Jewishness of Naftali Bennett. Bennett, the politician of the settlers, may be a bad man, an oppressor of the Palestinians; but outrage at him can still be antisemitic, insofar as it is outrage because he is uppity.

You need a queer eye to read Francis Bacon. His lover George Dyer committed suicide in a hotel bathroom. Triptych 1973 may show him dying, that black stain seeping out being his life draining away or death coming upon him like a wraith. A straight woman guide led us to Triptych 1972, and suggested it was the same, the death, the man crushed. No. Those pools on the floor, I was sure they were cum. These figures are ejaculating, a glorious, joyous climax, more I think than most prostates would achieve, a superhuman effervescence of life. Coming, he feels immortal.

You need a queer eye because the straight might see the poor oppressed gay having a ghastly time then dying, poor soul, wasn’t it awful to be gay with all that homophobia? And I see Bacon, the gay man who knows exactly who he is, being it and showing it. Elsewhere in his work subjects have manly energy, physically and psychologically imposing, with a sense of threat, but here they are soft gay men and glorying in it.

Partly I do not listen to you because my concern is not to hear what you have to say but to maintain and affirm the societal consensus, what we should think. Or, perhaps, you would free me if I could hear you but I am not ready for that.

I want you to find this offensive- and then laugh in delight. If I am I in all my Light this is not taking physical goods which are not mine, so that others have less, so much as dancing new moves which will embolden others to dance their own.

I do not see my power, my inner Light, because I imagine it ought to be good, that is, good as the societal consensus would see good. And it is so much more than that. It could feel like a threat, or danger, because it is so alive. It wants to shine, for shining is its nature, and thereby to draw out others’ light. The Light is hard and soft, gentle and commanding, all that is possible in a human, made in the image of God, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful.

I want everyone to be uppity. I want us to dance together, showing our abundance. Jesus said let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

The Anglican Communion splits

Christians who hate gay people make their hatred of gay people the most important doctrine of Christianity. The Global Anglican Future Conference includes Anglicans who ordain women, and those who refuse; it is united over its condemnation and rejection of all Christians who accept gay people. The Archbishop of Kenya here boasts that the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, while calling for “peace, unity and love” after the Sudan civil war have broken their ties with the Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA) because it celebrates equal marriage.

GAF CON claims that the meeting of primates of the Anglican communion this month will be decisive for the future of the communion. At stake is a basic church-defining principle, it thunders. Will Christ rule our life and witness through His word, or will our life and witness be conformed to the global ambitions of a secular culture?

Rule one: No Pooftahs!

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, has called a meeting of Anglican primates for 11-16 January 2016, imagining that it might discuss climate change as well as “human sexuality”. The “Archbishop” of the secessionist “Anglican Church of North America” will be invited to be present for part of the time.

I date the Church of England from the reign of Elizabeth, rather than Henry or Edward, for it was her policy not to make “windows in men’s souls” and to create a church for the whole country, with a wide range of doctrine. Here Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics made uneasy bedfellows, but were able to worship together and recognise each other’s ministry. Suddenly, disagreement over homosexuality breaks our fellowship. It is not a matter about respect for the Bible: Evangelical Christians, accepting the primacy of the Bible as our way of knowing God’s word, accept gay people. It is merely a matter of hating gays, rejecting the story of David and Jonathan, and twisting a very few Bible verses to condemn us.

I value the links of churches across the Commonwealth, but the Church of England must not surrender to the blackmail of homophobes, but do the right thing, and celebrate equal marriages, if it is not to become irrelevant in England itself, shamed as moral imbeciles rejecting a moral truth the rest of the population recognises.

The three countries where the Head of State is also the head of the state religion are the Vatican, Iran and the UK. It is time to free the Church from Establishment, so that it may do the work of Christ rather than the work of the Government.

Raphael, the Holy Family with a palm tree

The Die-hards

Amazingly, there are some people who still think Christianity and “respect for the Bible” requires them to be homophobes? They look at some of the verses about LGBT- not David and Jonathan, obviously, or Ruth and Naomi, but the other ones- and think God Disapproves, and so should they. They do not consider the verses unequivocally supporting slavery mean that God’s Will is that there should be slavery, but you see they would have been stupid or conservative enough to do so in 1865, or even 1900.

What are we to do? How might they be brought to see the truth about God, who does not share their hatred? There is very little we can do. To my patient explanations, they respond with undigested and misunderstood slabs of Biblical text, and paranoid allegations of persecution, or patronising invitations to deny God like they do, and assertions that only they are Christian. The more I point out Biblical truth to them, the more they retreat into unbiblical delusion.

All I can do is shake the dust off my feet, and leave them behind.

Venus at her toilet

Beautiful words

We use the same words- “love”, “truth”, “God”, “holiness”, but mean entirely different things by them. It is not only gender identity or sexuality that she does not understand, but the whole world.

Here is Nancy, who imagines that she is Christian and loving, but that (says her tagline) this is “an increasingly hostile world”. Why is the world hostile to her? Because of “blindness from Satan”. She is insulated from understanding, because she thinks disagreement is Devilish. Can she be brought into the light? For God, all things are possible.

She opposes equal marriage for the sake of the children- It is our duty to speak up in favor of children having two parents of opposite sexes- though that strictly means opposing adoption or assisted fertility for gay couples, not marriage itself; and if those unaborted children were simply given up for adoption as she appears to imagine, who would adopt? In 2005 (yes, I know) there were half a million children in foster care in the US- are they really better off than if they were adopted by a gay couple? If a marriage breaks down, are the children really better off with only one parent than with two of the same sex?  “For the sake of the children” is easily exposed as merely silly: but that does not stop people parroting it, even claiming they have “spoken up for holiness”.

But she opposes my right to exist. She would tell me that my life is sin, and I should stop acting in this way.

She imagines that she loves me. She says so repeatedly. What she loves is something impossible: a thing, occupying the same space, perhaps with the same atoms, which would be healthier and closer to God if presenting male. She does not love me, but her false idea of me, and she will continually insist that I sin even while protesting she loves me. Her “love” is a desire for my harm; “truth”, lies she has never thought to challenge; “God”, a thing made in her own image that condemns what she cannot understand. Her “love” is an abomination, because she exalts her false ideal and it prevents her from seeing me as I am. She “loves” something which does not exist, and that would justify torturing me into trying to fit it. I know. I have tortured myself in that way, victim of that “love”.

One answer is the “Third way” between accepting and unaccepting churches: shut up about it. This link makes it a straw man. The third way recognises that sinners come to church, and believes that people die still sinning- too weak, or too blind, to overcome all their faults and be perfect. As we welcome people despite less than perfect truthfulness, so we accept gay couples. Each Christian seeks to become better, and in the Love of God is justified, sanctified, glorified- just, leaving their partner is not the first thing we demand they do, for that makes us their judges, and makes gay sex a worse sin than anything else distancing people from God. Each of us must choose which part of us we can improve, right now, with God’s help.

But that would take away much of the scaffolding she relies on to see herself as a good person- “Pro-life”, even after birth; “Pro-family”. It is too much for her. If only we could emphasise what we agree on!

TItian, Sacred and Profane Love

Internalised homophobia

You see, I want to sympathise with the man. However much of a villain he is, he is also a victim.

Disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien still fascinates me. What was he thinking? Possibly, when he was unmasked he was merely a hypocrite: no longer believing any of the doctrines of his church, he still prated what he had to, to maintain his income and power, and access to men for sexual exploitation. Possibly, the homophobia of his church had so hollowed him out that he was no more than that: while St Paul wrote of the Christian being justified, sanctified, glorified, the homophobic church instead took away all truth and honour from the human being, leaving only a husk. Could the truth be more complex?

He would not have started in that way. Quite probably, as a child wanting to be a priest, O’Brien would believe in God the Creator, in Jesus, and even in the human accretions of his church. He would be aware of his sexuality, but be very quiet about it: his church and the wider society, where gay lovemaking was a criminal offence, both told him it was Wrong. Perhaps he thought that God would heal him, or that in celibacy he would find the strength to resist his natural desires.

And then, perhaps, he fell in love.

Honesty, then, would have meant penury, and disgrace in the eyes of his friends, even though honour in the eyes of reasonable people. He would be cut off from his social group, his purpose in life, everything. It would have been better than his final state, but knowing that, then, would have taken rare honesty and insight, which his career would not have prepared him for.

But then, there are so many who find celibacy impossible for them, and find a compromise: cuckolding a parishioner, living with a housekeeper. Perhaps O’Brien’s initial arrangements were not more wrongful than that. Certainly the fact that his partners were male made no moral difference.

Could it be that, at the end, he actually believed what he taught? That gay lovemaking is a serious sin; that all human beings suffer from Original Sin, and that “There is no health in us”, but that regular confession and absolution make it alright? One result of that would be that he would believe consensual sex to be as wicked as the sex he forced. He takes his understanding of right and wrong from his church, rather than from any rational consideration of suffering caused, or the true nature of human beings created by God. The child abuse for which his church has so recently apologised is not an aberration, but a natural consequence of its teachings.

Whatever his case, as well as a monster and wrongdoer, he is a victim, of the thoughtless or cruel homophobia of men he admired and trusted.

Degas, At the Milliner's

Obergefell v Hodges: dissenting judgment

The compelling personal accounts of petitioners and others like them are likely a primary reason why many Americans have changed their minds about whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Chief Justice Roberts, while opposing the court’s judgment that laws preventing equal marriage are unconstitutional, indicates that they are undesirable. So why does he not strike them down?

Because of conservatism: it has always been this way. Opposite sex only marriage is an unvarying social institution enduring over all of recorded history. Whereas there have been many changes in it, such as the right to divorce, married women’s property reforms- married women are now permitted to own and manage property- and going back to the Bible, the end of polygamy and concubinage.

Oh, and homophobia. The marriage laws at issue here do not violate the Equal Protection Clause, because distinguishing between opposite-sex and same-sex couples is rationally related to the States’ “legitimate state interest” in “preserving the traditional institution of marriage.” Some arguments are plainly silly: he says marriage is for procreation, as if the marriages of the infertile or old were worth less. For the good of children and society, sexual relations that can lead to procreation should occur only between a man and a woman committed to a lasting bond. Society has recognized that bond as marriage. Perhaps he would make extra-marital fornication illegal. Perhaps he has not heard of assisted fertility.

He is not afraid of tired old slippery slope arguments: One immediate question invited by the majority’s position is whether States may retain the definition of marriage as a union of two people.

He states that the constitution protects the exercise of religion, and worries about homophobes who imagine that homophobia is part of their religion. He and they should read the Bible.

His strongest argument is that the Court should be reluctant to strike down laws created through the democratic process. He argues that the due process clause- nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws– does not apply.

This is disingenuous. James Obergefell and Ijpe deKoe were married. Then they crossed state lines and by homophobic law were not married- with no due process. The case is not just about the right to marry, but about the right to have a marriage recognised.

Roberts is right to argue against judicial activism. Wittily, he cites discredited cases of judicial activism, such as Dred Scott v Sandford, where the court struck down a law restricting slavery, on the grounds that it violated the rights of slave-holders. Few would stand up for that case now. He did not mention the Citizens United case, where he said “there is a difference between judicial restraint and judicial abdication”.

It is good to see that the arguments against equal marriage are so poor.

Robert Macqueen, Lord Justice-Clerk

Obergefell v Hodges

If you read nothing else of Obergefell v Hodges, which ruled unconstitutional State law refusing to marry same sex couples, or refusing to recognise same sex marriages celebrated elsewhere, you should read these words:

Were their intent to demean the revered idea and reality of marriage, the petitioners’ claims would be of a different order. But that is neither their purpose nor their submission. To the contrary, it is the enduring importance of marriage that underlies the petitioners’ contentions. This, they say, is their whole point. Far from seeking to devalue marriage, the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities. And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.

Recounting the circumstances of three of these cases illustrates the urgency of the petitioners’ cause from their perspective. Petitioner James Obergefell, a plaintiff in the Ohio case, met John Arthur over two decades ago. They fell in love and started a life together, establishing a lasting, committed relation. In 2011, however, Arthur was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.This debilitating disease is progressive, with no known cure. Two years ago, Obergefell and Arthur decided to commit to one another, resolving to marry before Arthur died. To fulfill their mutual promise, they traveled from Ohio to Maryland, where same-sex marriage was legal. It was difficult for Arthur to move, and so the couple were wed inside a medical transport plane as it remained on the tarmac in Baltimore. Three months later, Arthur died. Ohio law does not permit Obergefell to be listed as the surviving spouse on Arthur’s death certificate. By statute, they must remain strangers even in death, a state-imposed separation Obergefell deems “hurtful for the rest of time.” App. in No. 14–556 etc., p. 38. He brought suit to be shown as the surviving spouse on Arthur’s death certificate.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are co-plaintiffs in thecase from Michigan. They celebrated a commitment ceremony to honor their permanent relation in 2007. They both work as nurses, DeBoer in a neonatal unit and Rowse in an emergency unit. In 2009, DeBoer and Rowse fostered and then adopted a baby boy. Later that same year,they welcomed another son into their family. The new baby, born prematurely and abandoned by his biological mother, required around-the-clock care. The next year, a baby girl with special needs joined their family. Michigan, however, permits only opposite-sex married couples or single individuals to adopt, so each child can have only one woman as his or her legal parent. If an emergency were to arise, schools and hospitals may treat the three children as if they had only one parent. And, were tragedy to befall either DeBoer or Rowse, the other would have no legal rights over the children she had not been permitted to adopt. This couple seeks relief from the continuing uncertainty their unmarried status creates in their lives.

Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Ijpe DeKoe and his partner Thomas Kostura, co-plaintiffs in the Tennessee case, fell in love. In 2011, DeKoe received orders to deploy to Afghanistan. Before leaving, he and Kostura married in New York. A week later, DeKoe began his deployment, which lasted for almost a year. When he returned, the two settled in Tennessee, where DeKoe works full-time for the Army Reserve. Their lawful marriage is stripped from them whenever they reside in Tennessee, returning and disappearing as they travel across state lines. DeKoe, who served this Nation to preserve the freedom the Constitution protects, must endure a substantial burden.

The cases now before the Court involve other petitioners as well, each with their own experiences. Their stories reveal that they seek not to denigrate marriage but rather to live their lives, or honor their spouses’ memory, joined by its bond.

-From the opinion of the court, delivered by Justice Kennedy. Thanks to zgreport for the link to the judgment.




I have lived my life with the handbrake on. Too prone to hit the foot-brake too, and terrified of the accelerator pedal, I seek to free myself. My project here is finding what stories, understandings, and responses serve my freedom, which increase my serfdom. Jtteop, despite a rebarbative idea which initially blinded me to the value which might be in what he says, seems to seek such freedom through words, so repays a closer look.

His “myth” is that one is born gay, only attracted to persons of the same gender. His counter-myth is that being gay is not innate.

The process starts when a person says words or performs actions that are outside the range of social acceptability for their gender. It will then be suggested to the person that they might be ‘gay’ and they will be asked to meditate on that possibility, with the hope that they will have an epiphany of sorts that will lead to a confession. This is called ‘coming out’.

The human brain is very flexible in this regard and will presumably help out, as it always does, to let the denounced person see the previously unrecognised possibilities.

There is a huge amount wrong with this. There is nothing wrong with being gay, any more than with having red hair. Twin studies show that there is a greater correlation of orientation between identical than non-identical twins, so there is a genetic component, even if that correlation is not total. Then again, before death the only orientation anyone can be sure of is bisexuality: there are lots of reasons to fight particular sexual attractions, but “I’m not gay, I’m straight” is not one of them.

The word “gay” is liberating, as “Uranian” was before it. It fosters acceptance of ones desire and permits sexual fulfilment. It is not as jtteop asserts linked to not fitting the socially ordained gender role, though it may be.

However the tincture of truth in jtteop’s post is that the label “gay” can be constraining, leading a person to imagine they should behave or respond in a certain way. More usually, it is liberating: it is permission to respond in that non-standard role, without shame. The word “straight” is far more constraining: men have an idea of how straight men “should” behave.

For jtteop, gay is simply the shortcutting of a natural process (same with drug use) . You gain pleasure without the necessity to go though all the usual mechanisms to get that pleasure. Well, no. Here he says that only straight sex is natural, or indeed that gay sex is easier to get- not for those with internalised homophobia it isn’t. Also that straight sex is fulfilling, but gay sex only seems to be. Though he is libertarian: he wants people to be able to do whatever they want to.

Words and understandings can imprison us. Jtteop recognises this. The way to freedom is to permit responses, and to perceive without judgment.


Sarah Mbuyi II

Sarah Mbuyi was a nursery nurse, with a lesbian colleague. She calls herself “born again”, and imagines she knows Jesus. Her God is deeply concerned about silly rules, and one of these is No Queers. She tried to evangelise her lesbian colleague, and gave her a gift of a Bible. She gave another co-worker a book explaining some of her noxious “Christian” ideas.

On 6 January 2014 Mbuyi and her victim who wishes to be anonymous- let us call her Claire- had a conversation about what they did over Christmas. Mbuyi told of some of her church activities and Claire said that must have been nice for someone from Belgium, to have the church acting as an extended family. The conversation moved on to whether Claire might attend, but Claire would not until her marriage was recognised by the church. Mbuyi told her homosexuality was a sin, but that everyone is a sinner.

So while Mbuyi told her being lesbian would not be a bar to attending the church, it is clear that Claire would be expected to cease this sin very very quickly, and separate from her partner. From a state of self-acceptance and mature partnership she would be plunged into self-loathing, maintained by the manipulative “love” of her church.

Mbuyi, though she imagines herself loving, is a homophobe. She has an obligation to apply common sense and empathy to the many vilenesses of her church. She has failed to do so. She is filled with the congealed homophobia of generations of bigots: the sins of the fathers are visited on the children to the tenth generation.

Claire, brought up Catholic, has imbibed homophobia throughout her childhood, and though now in a mature partnership she is exquisitely attuned to the homophobia of others. Perhaps that would be better as an “I” statement: I have only very recently been able to endure homophobic or transphobic comments, because they have echoed in myself, in my internalised transphobia, or self-hatred. This very self-hatred can be exultantly welcomed by the “Christian” homophobe, using it as more evidence of my Sin- for how could I be uncomfortable with myself, unless God was calling me to self-loathing? LP was so upset by the conversation her manager sent her home.

Mbuyi is therefore toxic to anyone around her, unconsciously preying on their insecurities to bring them to her own slavery.

However the Human Rights convention gives freedom of religion, which must include the right to state ones beliefs when they come up in the ordinary course of conversation. Though the employer seeks to provide a welcoming environment to all, including the children of gay couples, it could not sack Mbuyi for her belief. She is protected under the Equality Act.

Mbuyi and her legal representatives, Christian Concern, have been exulting on daytime television about their freedom to hurt others, and claiming to be victims. I take my account of fact from the tribunal decision.

Renoir, La Lecture

Clarity of thought

pretending to be a journalWhat is going on here? Just look at that cover: it mimics an academic journal so well! I can dismiss it, of course: it is the journal for “Biblical manhood and womanhood”, but there is no such thing, and its writers believe the Bible is consistent, when it is not; but what do they imagine they are doing?

I start with “Biblical manhood and womanhood”. The Bible affirms examples as diverse as the man carrying a water-jar- Peterson Toscano suggested that this was such exclusively female behaviour, shameful for a man, that she was a trans woman; David, collecting wives by conquest and murder; Junia the apostle, and Mary and Martha, so there is clearly an acceptance in the Bible of a wide diversity of gender expression. A quick Google of “Junia the Apostle” reveals hordes of silly Evangelicals trying to weasel round her clear leadership role. So much for that.

Here is an “essay” by a “professor of ethics”, forsooth, affirming “biblical sexuality” (see above) but also asserting that “transgendered people undermine the public agenda of the LGBT movement”. Oh, Professor? How? He alleges that a trans woman’s conformity to female gender norms undermines the LGBT narrative regarding gender that any gender roles evident in society are the result of outdated cultural stereotypes.

This is merely silly. Arguably the word “feminine” has some meaning, though there are men more feminine than most women, and women more masculine than most men- even some who are cisgendered. I am feminine. If you accept the word “feminine” has any meaning, then “feminine” roles are for “feminine” people, whether men or women. TERFs assert that trans women reinforce gender roles by asserting that we are women, but so what? I am clearly subverting everything my upbringing and society says about gender roles, because my society formed me to be a man.

However it is silly in a different way from fools who say “God did not make Adam and Steve”. It is an essay of several thousand words, with a clear argument and examples, and even though anyone who knows anything about it will immediately see it is worthless, the writer and most subscribers will not. They will accept its academic pretensions, and may even squirrel away its arguments so that they can repeat them for comfort when their false world-view is threatened.

I am grateful that Evan Lenow states some of the arguments he attacks. Mandatory celibacy corrodes gay Christians’ capacity for relationship in general. But it does something else equally harmful: by requiring gay Christians to view all their sexual desires as temptations to sin, it causes many of them to devalue, if not loathe, their bodies. That might get through to his readers.

However reasonable the essay appears, I am tempted to reply to it not with a reasoned refutation but with an angry expression of emotion- Pah! Or Pshaw! if I am feeling particularly Victorian. An emotional response is too little valued in intellectual society. JBMW needs more than the appearance of argument to be worthy of anything else.

John Lavery, Anna Pavlova in part