Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al
2017-06-25 01:05 am (UTC)
in modern Western society individualized sexuality is seen as a defining characteristic of personal identity, and banning someone's identity is a quite different proposition than banning some particular behavior.
I'm not sure it is.
I think that this fissioning of personal identity and behavior is itself a curious and possibly dangerous modernism. A baker is someone who bakes. A cantor is someone who sings. A thief is someone who stole. We have a vast and venerable history of building identities out of behaviors, and there are reasons that is a good thing: it ties identity to something concrete and within our power to do something about. There are alternative ways of managing identity which are deeply terrible for lacking those properties.
If a king issued an edict that baking was criminalized in his kingdom, we would not be surprised to hear that "the bakers" – the people who make an identity of the activity of baking – were upset with this. We would not expect them to take any comfort by the reassurance, "you can go on
being a baker
, it's just that you can't bake".
The distinction between homosexual sex behavior and gay identity has been enormously important in pursuing social justice for gay people. I appreciate that. And at the same time, I am also aware that this identity/behavior distinction is used in a way that's somewhat facile. There seems to be a double standard, where gay people are expected to accept with equanimity a "you can be a baker, you just can't actually bake anything" distinction that nobody would ever apply to any other identity, for reasons of obvious ludicrousness. We all know that that's not how identity usually works.
It's not wrong to read the "homosexual people are okay, homosexual behavior is a sin" distinction as homophobic. The bakers would take it personally when the king outlaws baking. Nobody would tell them they have no special cause to complain because the law applies equally to everyone; the bakers, quite obviously, have a greater interest in being able to bake than anyone else, and everyone would understand that such a law would quite reasonably be contrued as punative of and hostile towards bakers. "Do not," the bakers would reply, quoting the ancient aphorism, "Piss on my shoe and tell me it is raining." People who love and desire those of their own sex have a very great interest in being able to express that love and desire freely and physically. It is
important to them
. As such, efforts to condemn or criminalize those behaviors are against their interests, and thus target them. They are not wrong to point to such attitudes as at odds with their interests as a people; they are not wrong to identify them as homophobic.
And at the same time, it's certainly less homophobic than taking same-sex sexual behavior as justificatory of hating the person who does it. It is, from a harm reduction standpoint, a step in the right direction. And it is a position, I think, many people who believe deeply in the divine nature of homophobic religious rules, are stuck with, because nothing else is available to them, unless they are prepared to overthrow the idea that their religious rules are not divinely ordained.
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