I’m ok, You’re ok

hangedIt’s never easy penetrating a person’s thick head. Especially when they have their jaw muscles gripped tightly down on something they refuse to let go. Because at that point, nothing matters. They’re just going to keep that ball firmly in their teeth no matter what. Science is thrown out the window. Reason is trampled down and warped. And our old more pagan, animal nature, rooted in aggression and superstition, rises up to dominate.

This is exactly how a scientist can believe that something which exists within the universe is unnatural. And it is how any of us can continue holding on to beliefs or feelings despite the evidence of our senses that point undeniably to the contrary. It is how we people, who otherwise hold truth in high regard, can be led into deception, both of others and, by the very fact that we purposefully ignore our own true sensibilities, deception of ourselves.

There are many reasons for doing such things to ourselves and to others, but most of them are weak, and most of those, downright pathetic. But that’s alright. Everyone has weaknesses, and everyone has screw-ups. It is what we choose to do after knowing about them that shapes and defines us. It is our ticket out, or our ticket home. And the cost can be steep, or completely free. But the trip is always worth it. These are usually our most important life lessons to be learned. And they’re a bitch. And a blessing.

I spend a lot of time talking about science and how it can produce a somewhat dehumanizing effect upon us by narrowing our field of vision to only the empirical. But here is an example where science can accomplish the opposite effect, by cutting through the obfuscating clouds we create for ourselves, for whatever individually mad reasons, and instead bringing light to an exceedingly messy human thing.

We care about other people. We care about other people to different degrees and for various reasons, and sometimes, perhaps, for no reasons at all. What an astonishing reality it is, when we can step back and look at it, that other human life; that their very existence matters to us. Sometimes that other being matters simply because it is another being, as alive in this strange reality we inhabit, as we are ourselves. But sometimes another being matters much more to us than any other. Sometimes that being matters as much to us as ourselves. Or even more. This is insanity. It is also, perhaps, our greatest and most profound strength as a species.

We like to enjoy ourselves and to feel good. After all, we enjoy ourselves when we enjoy ourselves, and it feels good to feel good. And how good do we feel when someone we care about is near to us, and a part of our lives? What profound interactions of growth and mutual support are possible? And not only that, it also feels very nice just knowing that someone else cares about you. Someone that you can count on, despite anything.

Now don’t let any irrational notions of propriety throw off your thinking here. We’re scientists right now. Humans have bodies with nerves and muscles, and we’re just all fleshy and gooey. We enjoy feeling pleasure. We like sexual stimulation, with other beings, or even just by ourselves, however we might. This isn’t caring. This is an enjoyment of our physicality. It’s good fun.

Sex is not a mystical and special thing. It is our love and trust in another person that is a mystical and special thing. When that love and trust is broken by the one we care about, that is what hurts. That is what matters. It could be them having sex with another person. It could be them kissing another. It could be them spending too much time with another. It could be simply that they told us a lie. Certainly sex can help people become more intimate with each other, but it is that intimacy and trust that is the big thing, not the sex.

Sex is not spiritual. It is biological. Pleasuring yourself is great. So is pleasuring another, and it can also lead to greater intimacy between you. That intimacy and trust, whether it comes through sex or not, is the more spiritual thing. It is the truly important bit.

Unfortunately, many people consider sex itself to be something spiritual, except, of course, when “cheating” is involved, in which case, they consider the sex, or whatever betrayal, to be nothing meaningful all of a sudden, instead. It meant nothing, right? Well, to the one feeling the pain of betrayal, it meant something significant. But it’s not the physical act that causes the pain. It’s the betrayal of the spiritual “contract” between you. This contract can also be broken without any sex being involved.

This contract, however, means different things to different people. I suppose that is why communication is important. For example, some few people like any contract to mean complete and utter ownership over another, or their own feeling of being completely owned. Others may have more lax contracts, where each can spend time doing whatever they like, within reason. The contracts vary wildly from person to person, and usually they are never communicated. Some people will even feel betrayed by their object of love spending time at work, or having a very close friend. And this is a betrayal to them as certainly as any other, even sexual.

It is also possible, when people are willing to discuss exactly what the spiritual contract between them represents, to reach other more broadly defined constraints, which work in the interests of everyone to keep any betrayal from happening. Perhaps it’s okay to spend two nights a week out with your best friend, and the person who loves you will not feel like you are being taken from them. Or, perhaps it’s okay for you to kiss someone else from time to time, since you are particularly physical and affectionate. Or maybe you can have sex with someone else, as long as your partner meets them first and knows about everything, and you will always come home at night to sleep. These are the details people can work out together, if they are willing to communicate and be honest and accommodating.

Personally, I adhere to one person when I care. I think it because I very much enjoy exploring the intimacy and trust possible between people. I look at all this other wandering around that some people do as distractions – an attempt to make up for something that they do not find with each other. Perhaps they will find it. Perhaps they will find a way to live happily enough with each other, never having found it. I don’t know. I may be prejudiced.

But the interesting thing is that these qualities exist between people regardless of their race, their gender or their purported sexual identity. These same things are true whether you are straight, gay or bisexual. The sexual act does not matter. It is the human intimacy and trust that is the more important and spiritual aspect. It is that closeness, that kinship, and that knowing that someone is there for you, that can be felt between beings, that matters. It is probably the most beautiful and powerful thing we all have. It can make our lives worth living. It helps us create a better world for all.

Sadly, there are still people, even in our younger generations, who still believe sex is what is important and defines us, and not our capacity to love. There are still people who believe that physical pleasure can be wrong and represent a diseased mind or body, even when nobody else is hurt, and even when other people are helped or made to feel happier. There are still scientists who believe that something can exist which is not natural.

Invariably, these beliefs which fly in the face of reason, are usually founded in uninformed religious teaching, and certainly not science. It can take a very long time for people to become more fully aware of the reality they inhabit, particularly when that reality is not the reality portrayed to them by their parents, friends and their society at large. It can take a very long time for people to accept truth, despite science. Even though we live in what we consider a more “modern” and “enlightened” world.

Science tells us that homosexuality and bisexuality are not, in any way, disorders. Nor are they, in any way, aberrant. Nor are they even “unhealthy”. No mainstream scientific organization or studies support this thinking. In fact, they support the contrary. The American Psychological Association has this to say:

“Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Both have been documented in many different cultures and historical eras. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding. Therefore, these mainstream organizations long ago abandoned classifications of homosexuality as a mental disorder.”

Considering the incredible mysteries of human bonding, the persistence of such unfounded stereotypes is strange, indeed. It points to something deeper. Let’s see if we might shed some light upon what might be behind this inexplicable persistence.

First, we must accept that our sexuality is more fluid than we might be comfortable admitting. This discomfort itself is something telling. However, as Lisa Diamond discovered in her 10-year longitudinal study, “some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime. Individuals may become aware at different points in their lives that they are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.” Again, it is the personally intimate nature we can experience with another being that is the truly important thing, and this experience between beings is not limited by gender or race. Our ability to know each other, feel kinship for each other, and to love each other, is far greater. Our feelings of sexual attraction that often accompany this must be accepted, or harm will most certainly result, both to the person that matters, and to ourselves. And any tragic circumstance of non-acceptance will only help those stereotypes persist.

The profoundly unreasonable belief permeating our culture would have us feel that homosexuality and bisexuality is wrong. Thankfully it is on the decline. It would have us feel wrong, even when we might be reasonable enough to think that homosexuality is, perhaps, okay for other people. It would have us feel wrong in that any feelings for someone of our same gender is certainly not okay for us. This creates a great deal of inner conflict within most of us when we must confront our larger nature, for our larger nature encompasses many things. Those whose sexuality leans more toward homosexuality can often overcome these unfounded biases. However, those whose sexuality leans more toward bisexuality, which is the vast majority, usually never overcome these unfounded biases. For them, it is a relatively simple matter just to choose to label themselves completely heterosexual.

This does not fix their perceived problems, however. Inevitably, we are confronted with issues of our sexuality throughout our lives. What is unresolved or repressed is destined to surface again, and often in increasingly bizarre and destructive ways.

It is no accident that the people who most adamantly consider homosexuality an aberration, abomination or a disease are the same people who struggle with those same issues within themselves. The psychological term is disassociation, and these people go to great lengths to disassociate themselves with homosexuality both internally to themselves and externally, as proof to others of their disease-free state.

Sullivan’s 1956 theories on disassociation demonstrate how our sexuality can be made completely separate and other from our own sense of our personality. For example, as Jack Drescher says:

“[…] selective inattention is a common, non-pathological process, akin to tuning out the background noise on a busy street. In more intense dissociative mechanisms, double lives are lived yet not acknowledged. One sees clinical presentations of closeted gay people lying somewhere between selective inattention, most commonly seen in the case of homosexually self-aware patients thinking about “the possibility” that they might be gay, to more severe dissociation – in which any hit of same-sex feelings resides out of conscious awareness.”

This disassociation, where the feelings are actually moved outside of conscious awareness, is recognized to be very similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And this, actually, is the real disease, not any homosexual feelings.

Vivienne Cass’s famous 1979 Homosexuality Identity Formation Model also recognizes these characteristics within the first stage of people coming to terms with the fact that they may have some homosexual feelings. This stage is called identity confusion, and it is often quite volatile. As paraphrased by Joe Kort:

“Those who begin to acknowledge their attraction to other members of the same sex may not see themselves as even remotely gay. This isn’t pretending; they still honestly identify themselves as heterosexual. At this stage, their homosexual feelings are completely unacceptable to them. They are looking for anyone who might tell them they are not gay.

Once individuals recognize that a homosexual nature does exist within them, they often become very sensitive, highly anxious, and self-conscious. This is the beginning of re-experiencing their PTSD symptoms. Pushing them too far in this stage can cause too much psychological discomfort and potentially keep them from moving on to the next stage.

They are also vulnerable to getting married heterosexually, genuinely hoping for the best.”

The disassociation exhibited by people who unreasonably rail against the homosexual nature that nearly all of us embody is glaringly obvious to those people who have come to terms with the more fluid nature of their own sexuality. Look at our Senators and religious leaders who rabidly fight for legislation that condemns homosexuality, while at the same time have clandestine homosexual rendezvous. They condemn homosexual feelings to others in a cowardly attempt to disassociate themselves from their own homosexual feelings. It is the same with straight boys in a crowd.

This also is confirmed by science, through many studies. There is even a 1996 empirical study by Henry Adams where he measured the arousal level of straight men being shown images of men and women, where one group of men were homophobic and the other group of men was not. The study demonstrated that the homophobic men were almost always sexually aroused by images of men, while the non-homophobic men were not. Both were equally aroused by women and lesbian images, which supports the case for bisexual identity repression. But the homophobic men got excited.

Drescher, amongst a great preponderance of psychologists and psychiatrists, also confirms this. “Interpersonally, strong anti-homosexual feelings may represent an effort to control perceptions of a [man’s] own sexual identity. If they attack gay people, others will not think of them as gay.” Even those psychiatrists following a psychoanalytic approach agree. “Various psychoanalytic theories explain homophobia as a threat to an individual’s own same-sex impulses, whether those impulses are imminent or merely hypothetical. This threat causes repression, denial or reaction formation.” (DJ West, 1977).

Want some Wikipedia? How about “by distancing themselves from gay people, they are reaffirming their role as a heterosexual in a heteronormative culture, thereby attempting to prevent themselves from being labeled and treated as a gay person.”

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Hopefully, this will help clear the air a little on our sexuality, and people’s reactions to the subject matter of sexuality. But clearing the air only allows us to see more clearly. It does not help us to live our lives any better.

Even when we can accept a certain degree of homosexuality within ourselves, that does not mean everything is great. However, it is far better than before! Oftentimes people who manage to get past complete disassociation settle upon compartmentalization instead. As Kort and Cass say:

“Some clients may accept their behavior as gay or bisexual while still rejecting homosexuality as their core identity. Or they might accept a homosexual identity but, paradoxically, inhibit their gay behavior by, for example, deciding to heterosexually marry and have anonymous “no strings” sexual hookups. Of course, this kind of compartmentalization – a fracturing of behavior and identity – leads to problems later on.

Some lesbian and gay clients may attempt to embrace a heterosexual identity out of internalized shame and guilt. These clients are particularly vulnerable to the promises of reparative therapy. Because of their self-hate and hope for a “cure,” they are eager to be rid of these unwelcome thoughts and feelings.”

But honestly, there is nothing to repair. We’re crazy creatures, remember? We’re wide and wonderful. There is no mainstream discipline or organization that supports any “repair” of our sexuality. In fact, they all condemn such things as harmful. Even the US Surgeon General David Satcher, a military man, officially stated “there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed” in a letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services in 2001. My God! We’re stuck with each other! In all our wild diversity, our beautiful human surprises, and the all wonders of impossible places…

If you fight against these scientific truths, invariably you will harm other people, and you will harm yourself. You will also be a force within the world that strengthens the very stereotypes that we cannot believe still exist. If you fight against these truths, it can cause all manner of harm, in all manner of seemingly unrelated directions. This is true for kids, adults both young and old, parents, teachers, clergy, lawmakers, and you. We really need to find some bravery and stand up, and get past this nonsense. We have to make it so that young men struggling with these issues are not 13 times more likely to kill themselves. We have to do this by making the issue become a non-issue, for all of us.

What these studies do not go into is the acts of deception, both outwardly and inwardly, that people struggling with sexuality exhibit. In order to disassociate, deception is the key. And this begins to permeate deeper within them, even to unrelated areas, and it begins to permeate outwardly into the world. Sexuality is a fundamental force within us all – it is very powerful and it drives us almost always, even subtly. When we mix in deception at this core level, it is a mixture that can lead to truly terrible things in time. We can become adept at deception of all type because, with our practice over time, every day, we become masterful, and deception becomes second-nature to us.

But it’s a whole different view from above it all. From above, you will notice the guys who you see getting excited around you, then have to run off to call their girlfriends or wives, or if they have none, go watch some lesbian pornography or guy/girl porn, but no looking at penises. It is the poor man’s version of reparative therapy. Also, you can watch them turn their sexuality instead into aggression so they might feel reassured by some masculine identity that somehow arises from fear. You can watch them, when you push them to the limit, if you’re lucky, break down and tell you it’s something they’ve always hated about themselves, then deny they ever said it. Yes, you can watch all manner of people struggle with themselves, from on high. For years and years, until you wonder how it is that people can be so deceptive and destructive over such simple, unimportant things. These facts exist, whether or not you have ever met a gay or bisexual person before (which you most certainly have). They also exist despite any beliefs you might hold. It is a great truth that we are just starting to come to terms with.

But what we do physically with our bodies is not important. It is how we honor that incredibly beautiful accident that is another human being. It is how we offer ourselves truly to another, in trust, in admiration, in honesty, and in our commitment to their, and our, mutual well-being. And in this, the religious people have much to learn. They should stop harming people. Especially their children, if nobody else.

“Sexual orientation is not synonymous with sexual activity.

The idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder or that the emergence of same-sex attraction and orientation is in any way abnormal or mentally unhealthy has no support among any mainstream health and mental health professional organizations.” (APA)

Now, go suck on that!

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