Read part one.
Same-sex attracted Catholics may be wise to read two “gay” professors — Camille Paglia and David Halperin — in their discussion of “gay” subjectivity. It is notoriously difficult to understand the origins of homosexuality, but Halperin has offered an intriguing theory that aligns more with Catholic theology than the current “pro-LGBT” movement does.
“Gay desire,” he argues, is satisfied more by Broadway and other stereotypical entertainment than they are by homosexual acts, “gay identity,” and “gay sociality.” That is because the latter have served as distractions from the true aim of “gay desire,” which is a “solitary” pleasure found in “alternate realities.”
I won’t pretend to have a fully coherent theory for how one becomes same-sex attracted, but it is worth noting some of the apparent inclinations towards avoidance and escape.
Sexual Disorientation and Dissociation
In his book How to Be Gay, Halperin suggests that what “gay” men actually want is a non-identity borne from immersion in the spectacular elements of aesthetically stimulating entertainment. “You lose yourself and gain a world,” he writes of watching “non-gay cultural forms” like musicals and women’s daytime TV. Broadway in particular manifests queerness in its “abrupt and deliberately disorienting shifts” between contrasting modes, Halperin suggests. “The immediate effect,” he says, “is to catapult us into a more lyrical, more vital, more vivid, and more wacky universe.”
Paglia similarly associates homosexuality with a desire to escape — this time from nature, which she identifies with women, mothers, and a Dionysian irrationality for which original sin provides an inadequate explanation. No doubt this escapism is fueled by the social isolation or peer wounding that comes with being a “sensitive” boy, for example.
Paglia goes further in describing “gay men” as Coleridge’s “prophesying, ostracized poet, dancing alone with “flashing eyes” and “floating hair.” They are visionaries who nonetheless proceed with distorted vision. “Talent in the visual arts,” she speculates, “may be related to a sensory or perceptual openness, detectable (as responsiveness to light and color) in early childhood and perhaps related to autism, where the flux of sensations is cognitively uncontrolled.”
These accounts are instructive, even for Christians, because they point to a homosexuality that is fundamentally not (at least in origin) about erotic desire. It is also informative for anyone who thinks the only alternative to the “born this way” narrative is a simplistic locating of developmental traumas.
Is it possible that “gay men” haven’t been “oriented” towards the same sex, but rather have their sexual desires disoriented through an incomplete comprehension of beauty? This incomprehension would be felt with both the beauty that attracts sexual interest, as well as everyday beauty and visual stimuli that same-sex attracted men encounter differently than their peers.
Interestingly, Halperin and Paglia join St. Paul in using language that points to homosexuality relating to a refusal or inability to properly appreciate the material world. Romans 1 has drawn an apparently baffling connection between idolatry and homosexuality. Replacing God leads to every imaginable disorder, but St. Paul could be getting at more in his warning that Roman homosexuals exchanged “the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.”
Halperin writes that “by mingling the rapt transports of sexual idolatry with a distant, almost clinical appreciation of beauty, gay men achieve a kind of disinterestedness in relation to their erotic objects that brings their experience of sexual desire very close to that of pure aesthetic contemplation.”
Paglia similarly emphasizes aesthetics in affirming what John Addington Symonds describes as “the superiority of male beauty,” which she finds in the “complete organization of the body as the supreme instrument of vital energy.” In praising Michaelangelo’s “Moses,” she notes that it “drives femaleness out of existence” while representing a masculinity that is “western” or “Apollonian,” which she also identifies with “beauty as power, beyond ethics.” No surprise that she also credits “gay” men with perpetuating Western culture, which she also identifies with the Apollonian.
A Skewed Perception of Beauty
A skewed perception of beauty could arguably lead to a variety of problems, including, for example, hyper-sensitivity to the physical world and social isolation resulting from differing interests (e.g. soap operas vs. football games). In the context of modern Church politics, it is more helpful to frame the discussion less in terms of etiology and more in terms of homosexuality’s disorienting impact on personal integrity. It necessarily entails a dissociation from both men’s true nature as sexually complementary to females, as well as from who they are as individuals. Is it any wonder that gay clubs in particular are known for their chaotic remixes and copious drug and alcohol consumption? Of course, regular clubs also have these attributes, which may be why a liberal magazine recently asked, “Can clubbing make you gay?”
That article from The Face approvingly quotes a Kings College paper that analyzes the environment at a techno club in Berlin. In short, the author cites music, the drug “G,” and the club’s labyrinthine structure as all contributing to a “sexual disorientation.”
It is easy to see how drugs, alcohol, and chaotic nightclub scenes beget the type of dissociation that characterizes the slate of “transgender” identities populating LibsofTikTok’s Twitter feed. From a Christian perspective, we shouldn’t focus so much on how crazy they look. Rather, we should ask what led them to feel as though their new “identity” would be better than the one they already had.
Though difficult to pin down specific theories on these subjects, it is intriguing to consider that victims of severe abuse report splitting their minds in order to cope with overwhelming physical, psychological, and spiritual pain. Instead of fully processing their unbearable trauma, they avoid it by creating “alters” or new personalities. When seeing the endless variety of pronouns, sexualities, and genders, I can’t help but think of the range of dissociative alters that abuse victims have described to me during interviews.
Walt Heyer, who tried becoming a woman, has said that when he counsels individuals who are seeking purported “transitions,” he asks them what is it about themselves that they feel the need to escape?
His question points to a disturbing truth. Our culture’s focus on finding your “authentic self” is a grave and ironic inversion. Through intellectual and psychological deconstruction (binge drinking, etc.), “sexual minorities” have obliterated purportedly oppressive gender roles. Rather than contemplating the complexity of human nature that lies beneath, the “LGBT” movement has constructed even more distortions that hinder an authentic understanding of beauty in nature.