Peter Sprigg purports to lay down two views; misstates both 'two' and 'views' parts
Peter Sprigg's latest brochure (first debuted at this year's Values Voter Summit) is a real piece of work. It pushes so-called "change" therapy by citing researchers from NARTH and other Christian backgrounds while completely demeaning what science really says. It tries to link gay men to child molestation. It attempts to attach a whole host of overstated harms to homosexuality itself. And all of it written with the goal of making homosexuality some sort of two-sided, equally-merited debate where anti-gay attitudes are little more than a differing viewpoint, with an obvious interesting in taking the deserved onus off of anti-LGBT discrimination.
What else would we expect from a man who is on record calling for both the "exportation" and criminalization of gay people?
But to see the fundamental flaws that dispute all of Sprigg's work, one need look no further than the setup, in which Peter purports to lay out the nature of homosexuality and define the social conservatives' monolithic view on the same, as if that politically motivated fiction is as valid as credible science. Have a look:
What Is "Sexual Orientation?"
To deconstruct the "gay identity" paradigm, and understand the alternative view which drives social conservatives, it is necessary to examine the actual nature of "sexual orientation." Too often, it is assumed that "sexual orientation" is a unitary phenomenon whose meaning is clear. This is not the case.
As all serious researchers in human sexuality understand, "sexual orientation" is an umbrella term for three quite different things. The first of these is one's sexual attractions--is a person sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex, the same sex, or both? The second element of sexual orientation is sexual conduct--what sex acts does an individual choose to engage in, and with whom? The third element of sexual orientation is sexual self-identification--does an individual think of himself or herself, and/or publicly identify himself or herself to others, as "gay," "lesbian," "straight," or "bisexual?"
The "gay identity" paradigm assumes that these aspects of "sexual orientation" will always be consistent with one another-that is, that a person with same-sex attractions will also engage exclusively in homosexual conduct and publicly self-identify as "gay."
However, scientific research into human sexuality has clearly shown that this is not always the case. Some people experience same-sex attractions, but do not choose to engage in homosexual conduct (or choose to engage in heterosexual conduct instead). Some people experience same-sex attractions and engage in homosexual conduct, but do not self-identify as "gay." It has been observed that in unique situations (such as prisons), people who neither experience same-sex attractions nor self-identify as gay may nevertheless choose to engage in homosexual conduct. Therefore, any meaningful discussion of the topic of homosexuality requires that the three elements of sexual orientation be addressed individually.
Debating Homosexuality -- Understanding Two Views [FRC]
Okay, let's stop here. What Peter is doing here is setting up a false set of stakes. He's positioning the playing field so that this so-called "culture war" is made up of two teams: One that demands homosexuality be one concrete thing for every person and another that holds the view he states in that final paragraph. He makes it sound like equality activists need for homosexuality to be one certain thing in order for the civil rights fight to stay valid. This is wrong-headed.
The truth: Most equality activists fully accept that different people view and/or guide their sexuality in any number of ways. That is not the point for most on our "side." We who know who accept ourselves are not typically intimidated by anyone else's personal choices -- something the "ex-gay" proponents routinely overlook, not realizing that most on our side fully respect any person's right to live (/limit) as he or she chooses, even as we staunchly reject the lies, spin, and considerable harms of the "ex-gay" movement. And I should add to this: One's personal stewardship doesn't change whatever certain realities are within him or her.
The point for us on the pro-equality, pro-civil-rights side is that homosexuality inarguably exists in large numbers, LGB people are crudely shunned and discriminated against on the basis of the same, and such discrimination flies in the face of a fair and free world. These facts do not change. When it comes to fighting for certain rights, freedoms, and protections, I fight just as hard for the man who has gay sex but refuses to call himself gay, the lesbian who has chosen celibacy, the proud bisexual man who has fallen in love with a Prince Charming, or the heterosexual mother who loves her gay son (to name just four). The spectrum, however fully it might exist, doesn't guide what is right, fair, and necessary based on the facts at hand.
And in fact, I also fight for the anti-LGBT activists who deny me, an easily and fully reconciled gay man. Because they too share our world, and they too deserve all of the same rights, freedoms, and protections, whether or not they personally need to or choose to utilize them. Our fight for peace and progress benefits everyone. And if not them personally, then the LGBT family members who are predestined for them all!
A "Homosexual Conduct" Paradigm
The "gay identity" paradigm is simplistic, since it is based on the assumption (which the research clearly shows to be false) that "sexual orientation" is a unitary characteristic. Under this view, people are either gay or not gay, so to criticize homosexuality is to denigrate some people for "who they are."
Social conservatives approach the topic of homosexuality using a completely different paradigm--one that is more sophisticated, and more consistent with the research on human sexuality and sexual orientation, than the "gay identity" paradigm. This paradigm is based on the reality that same-sex attractions, homosexual conduct, and self-identification as "gay" are three separate (although related) matters which must be addressed separately.
For social conservatives, particularly when it comes to public policy debates related to homosexuality, homosexual conduct is by far the most important of the three elements of sexual orientation. Hence, we might refer to the social conservative approach to the issue of homosexuality as a "homosexual conduct" paradigm, in contrast to the "gay identity" paradigm.
Understanding these two divergent paradigms is crucial to accurately understanding the position of social conservatives on the issue of homosexuality. Social conservatives do not believe or argue that "gay people are inferior," as gay activists charge. What we believe and argue is that homosexual conduct is harmful--first and foremost to the people who engage in it, but also by extension to society at large.
Gay activists, and others who have accepted the "gay identity" paradigm, argue that the public policy debates revolve around whether "gay people are treated equally" to straight people. Social conservatives perceive the issues at stake completely differently. They believe, without question, that gay people, as individuals, should and do enjoy all the same rights under the Constitution and its Bill of Rights as any other American. However, social conservatives perceive the key issue in public policy debates as being whether homosexual conduct and homosexual relationships should be discouraged; treated as entirely private (that is, neither discouraged nor affirmed); or actively protected, affirmed, and celebrated. The latter is what gay activists demand.
Debating Homosexuality -- Understanding Two Views [FRC]
Okay, where to even begin with all this?
First: Folks like Peter would sound somewhat more credible if they ever considered heterosexuality through a similar prism. But they never do. With heterosexuality, these components (attractions, conduct, ID) are presented as just the "norm." They allow straight people to be attracted, active, and labeled without any need for extrapolation, debate, or brochures. But for LGB people, they dissect and fault at will. That is as logically inconsistent as it is faith-driven.
Second: Peter's monolithic statements are quite egregious. "Social conservatives do not believe or argue that 'gay people are inferior'," presented as a cornet? Uhm, no, sorry -- not gonna let him get away with this one! Some people who ID as socially conservative do, in fact, see gay people as inferior. Proudly so. Oftentimes cruelly so. Peter doesn't get to define or deny certain realities pertaining to his "side" simply because he knows doing so makes his fight seem "nicer."
Third: How dare he separate and highlight "conduct"? Again, does this ever happen with heterosexuals? NO! It is understood that sexual orientation includes these different facets, by virtue of human existence itself. We all crush, we all love, we all smooch, and we all check certain boxes. All of us. It's just LGB people who are forced to pick apart their natural instincts and fight for their lives rather than benignly live them.
Fourth: Keeping with "conduct": When LGB people are harassed, is it typically because the perp actually witnessed some sort of gay "conduct"? Have most of the teens who've died by suicide experienced any kind of same-sex contact or "conduct" in their young lives? When LGBT people are pointedly denied employment, is this because of some sort of overt "conduct" or simply because of how they come across as individuals? I think you know the answer to all. And I think Peter does too. He just needs to make it all about "conduct" because he knows the realities of anti-LGBT discrimination are much less base-rallying than is the "love the sinner, hate the sin" rationale.
But then again, when giving insight into how Peter thinks, I probably could've stopped at the "export" and criminalize thing:
*SOURCE: Gays seek immigration reform [Medill Reports]
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