Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Healing" Homosexuality?

There is quite a bit of controversy at the moment about the possibility of therapy that is said might lead to gay people becoming straight. Albert Mohler, for example, has written an article about it which misses the point.

People argue about whether it is ok to condemn homosexuality. But that is surely neither here nor there in the argument! Consider this:

  • It is acceptable to be either male or female.
  • However, there are some people who are biologically male who wish to be female, or vice versa.
  • In modern culture, that too is acceptable.
  • We as a culture do not have a problem with men who wish to become women undergoing therapy to help them make that change.
  • Biological gender is clearly "hardwired" in a deeper sense than sexual "orientation".
  • Hence if we allow someone who wishes to change their biological gender to undergo therapy to do so, then we should also allow someone who wishes to change their sexual orientation to undergo therapy to do so (whether straight -> gay or gay -> straight)
  • Therefore, even in an areligious secular liberal state, we should allow therapy for people to change their sexual orientation.

Note that this argument does not assume that homosexuality is right, wrong, neutral or disordered. It does not assume anything about the authority of Scripture. It is therefore much more likely to be accepted as an argument by people who don't agree with those points. I don't understand why it isn't used more.


Greg Melia said...

The counterargument is that the bio/social construct of 'gender' is hardwired into someone, and in some people it's the opposite from their (definitely biological) sex. Someone can therefore be unavoidably female, regardless of their existence in a man's body, and transitioning for them is just coming home, as it were.

Then again, the people I know who'd use this argument tend to self define as naturally being some sort of bisexual genderqueer amalgamation which basically means that they can hump anyone they like from whatever sexual identity they like (oh and those religionists are xyzphobic bigots) - basically they're trying to have their cake and eat it.

John said...

And the counterargument to that goes something like this.

"Would it be possible to be a homosexual trapped in a heterosexual's body? How about vice versa?"


"What if someone wanted therapy to broaden or narrow their sexual horizons?"

I used to know a guy who self described as "a lesbian trapped in a man's body". He got gender reassignment done on the NHS.

Anonymous said...

The argument you outline looks solid inasmuch as someone who accepts that people should be allowed to do x, y, and z on the grounds that they want to, can’t really cavil when someone else proposes to do w because he wants to (especially if w is a smaller thing). I think that the argument you outline is not widely used because it clashes with the full and complete ideas of most of those who would want to use it in two areas. Those who would use it are those in favour of therapy for gay people looking to become straight. But those people (of whom I am one) usually also believe that:

1)There is normally a good and right correspondence between biological sex and cultural gender, and that those who undergo an operation in an attempt to change their biological sex are (however much to be pitied) wrong in so doing.

2)Though it is indeed “acceptable to be either male or female”, the same moral parity does not extend to being gay or straight.

On point 1, although the argument, as you have framed it, doesn’t touch on that issue- you have been careful to say things like “In modern culture” and “We as a culture”- it seems to me to be an argument that would most naturally occur to one who does accept the norms of our culture- who does genuinely believe that sex reassignment therapy is fine. So for someone like me, to use the argument would feel slightly dishonest, even if I wouldn’t be making any untrue statements.

On point 2, the argument works on the basis of comparing the male/female distinction to the gay/straight distinction. Again, you are careful to point out that the argument does not actually necessitate any assumptions about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality. But you also recognise that for people who do in fact believe it to be true that behaving as though gay or straight is no more or less a matter of right and wrong than being male or female, the argument is more likely to resonate.

So for both those reasons, I would have to use it as a “but on your own premises” argument. Those arguments are great when the point is to show that the premises themselves are invalid. But that’s not the way this particular argument works. And I don’t want people to change their minds on whether one particular thing is OK as much as I want them to change their whole mindsets. Even if people were convinced by the argument and changed their minds on the issue of orientation therapy, their new views would form part of a superstructure which they have built on faulty foundations. That can’t be helpful for them in the long term. They’d be putting one slice of good bread into a mouldy loaf. Maybe that’s better than no slices of good bread, but better still is to ditch the mouldy loaf. If I were in a conversation about this, then in at least 90% of situations, I would rather state my views openly and then talk about the clash of assumptions than come to an agreement on one specific.

John said...

@allanhim - I agree it's an "on your own premises" argument, but those are often the best type to help people change their minds.

As you note, it depends what we're trying to accomplish.

If we're trying to get people to accepting the legitimacy of therapy to help gay people go straight, then it's a decent argument to use. But as you note, that's in some senses a "sticking plaster" argument - it doesn't deal with people's root problem, it just makes life easier for us.

What Mohler seems to be trying to do is to get people to change their mind on sex generally. But that's just a sticking plaster argument too! What does it benefit people if they have a right view of sex but still don't know Jesus? The only way to avoid doing a sticking plaster argument is actually to preach the gospel, not to preach sexual morality.

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

This is an interesting argument, and though I'm not sure it's quite right, it has a lot going for it. It certainly identifies a serious inconsistency.

John said...

Interesting research here.