To help cope with the resulting proliferation of “strange paths,” celibacy should be promoted in the Church as a badge of honor for people of all sexual orientations (with the understanding that masturbation can serve as a comfort in that state without guilt), not a pitiable burden for straight people and a penance for gay people. This can help gay Mormons make peace with how badly this life has screwed them over, even if Paglia is right about the limits of innate sexual orientation:
No one is 'born gay.' The idea is ridiculous, but it is symptomatic of our overpoliticized climate that such assertions are given instant credence by gay activists and their media partisans. I think what gay men are remembering is that they were born different.
. . .
From the start of my media career, I attacked the much-touted activist claim that 10 percent of the population is gay – which was always a distortion of Kinsey's finding that 10 percent had had some homosexual experience over their lifetime . . . The 10 percent figure, servilely repeated by the media, was pure propaganda, and it made me, as a scholar, despise gay activists for their unscrupulous disregard for the truth.
. . .
Gay men should confront the elements of haphazard choice in their erotic history, which began in the confusion, shame, and inarticulateness of childhood. (“No Law in the Arena,” Vamps and Tramps p. 71, 74, 78).
Let me state that I hold working agreement with her diagnosis here, particularly regarding the “confusion, shame, and inarticulateness of childhood.” And I would add that a sharp dichotomy of being born gay (“God made me this way”) versus choosing to be gay (a ridiculous straw man) is an unconscionably stupid simplification, ignoring the bewildering complexity of influences in a child's life before agency and accountability fully develop, and ignoring the great and terrible effects that human agency have in shaping circumstance far across space and time.
An assertion that “God made me gay” is of the same childish credulity that believes God put doggies and kitties on this earth so that we could have pets. It's akin to the mythical creation scenarios that have God stocking the earth with fully-formed animals like a boy setting up a diorama. I'm reminded of the line from “All Creatures Great and Small:” “Each little bird that sings . . . He made their tiny wings.” Nice sentiment, and as myth it can probably still work, but I'd be willing to bet my next paycheck that there are countless people in the Church who go forward under the practical assumption that Heavenly Father designed and created all the world's wonderful varieties of dogs and cats, fruits, vegetables and grains, when in fact most of them are the result of domestication and selective breeding by humans.
We all have to overcome the natural childhood conceit that the world was made fresh just for me, while I was born. Excuse me if I suspect this task to be unfinished in the misunderstood and unexamined unconscious of most adult Mormons. Excuse me but by default I don't trust my fellow worshipers, even if they're gay, to show deep or careful consideration of their characters' deep roots in culture, history and biology.
What a very accommodating scenario, for a dominant Heavenly Father to create a gay man, as if assembling a model of perfect male autonomy and purity: a crowning of creation more transcendent than earthbound Eve. It's an old idea for all that.
What about a pair of Heavenly Parents bringing forth a spirit bent to follow a path that will lead him away from achieving Their state? As intolerable as that seems, we might remember Alma, Chapter 29, and all earthly parents would do well to respect the agency and separateness of the children they produce: “They come through you but not from you,” as Gibran wrote.
Does Heavenly Mother have a secret workshop where she re-engineers some of Her daughters' spirits into Lesbianism in revenge for the silence and obscurity imposed on Her by Her sons, if not Her arrogant husband? We really do make God in our own image, even in the Church.
A sharp divide between homosexuality and heterosexuality is also a stupid simplification. I was definitely born different, and though I haven't identified myself as gay, I definitely thought of myself as androgynous since before I even knew a word for it. I didn't fit in with most other boys growing up. As an adult I have always had far more friends among women than among men (which has help me shed the sentimental cliches about them that I hear from the pulpit).
What's more, I have come to enough of a recognition of my own sexuality to accept that I could respond sexually to men. Before puberty, I clearly recall seeing displays of unclothed female and male bodies both as erotic. After puberty I took such perceptions as effects of my naïveté and bodily shame (after all, I had also imagined pornography was pictures of naked people pooping and peeing). I had several homosexual dreams before and during my mission. While at the time they terrified me, in the years since I have made advances in admitting my latent homosexual potential. David Sylvian's voice can get me hot, as can Konstantin Savitsky's portrait of “The Monk Inok.” (I mean, look at him – he's gorgeous!) I've caught myself gaping at other gorgeous men during my adult life and once even felt flattered to think a man might be flirting with me. I have realized that the few scenes portraying erotic love between two men that I have seen in movies have alarmed me precisely because something in me responded to them, felt the heat of arousal. It took work for me to admit this, but now with enough encouragement and support from sex-positive activists, I'm confident that I could at least identify as bisexual, and maybe gender queer to boot.
If I were to let down my guard, I could take part in sexual encounters with other men and it would be hot and exciting and I could take it as joyous and liberating if I were to lose some inhibitions. So when Paglia writes “Homosexual potential is in everyone, and evidence suggests that under the right circumstances it will out” (Ibid, p. 71), I accept that as true with my own experience as one witness. Another witness is my observation of young children and their curiosity about their own bodies and those of others (remembering my own), along with the complex ways that their expressions of this curiosity can relate to the reactions of the adults around them. And most of this goes unnoticed, unacknowledged, undocumented and uninvestigated in our environment that loves kids, is indifferent to children and hates youth.
If I had been brought up as an ancient Greek, I believe I could have taken part in their homosexuality, even their pederasty, without too many scruples. “Custom will reconcile people to any atrocity,” wrote George Bernard Shaw, “and fashion will drive them to acquire any custom.” Socrates (as written by Plato anyway), showed no inclination to look beyond the socially constructed institutional pederasty of his culture, but the Church expects us to look beyond socially-constructed identities when they would entitle us to break out of the bounds God has set. And it gets a bum rap from people who also think that if their hearts are in the right place they needn't bother with logic.
I deplore hysterical rhetoric about the “gay agenda” but you have to be hiding under a rock not to see that gayness and queerness are certainly very fashionable now in widening circles. Identities and sexualities always proliferate with economic and technological privilege, and political freedom eventually must cede license to even the most nihilistic experimentation. The array of sexual orientations and gender identifications is potentially infinite when they are cast on a spectrum instead of binarily (as you see if you browse tumblr). Each newly-defined point tends to add on to its assertion of identity a further assertion of an inherent right to demand the indulgence of that identity's wishes, the right to decide which nerve clusters to rub how, where, when and with whom – including the right to choose not to do it with anyone else – without being considered a freak, or at least without negative sanction from the state. In that spirit, the pleasure nerves of the glans and clitoris are fair game for any kind of purpose and appropriation that the human mind can devise. I would go so far as to say that universal bisexuality or pansexuality is the logical end of sexual liberation. If human beings – not just men – have sexual needs and the right to express them, or even simply the right to express their sexuality; then it really doesn't matter who or what you do as long as you do it safely and consensually (unless with inanimate objects).
Against this churches may well feel lonely and beleaguered, standing against a growing tide, with our sandcastle of societal norms (not to mention failed explanations) crumbling around its standard. The tide is the belief in every individual's fundamental right to sexual expression and fulfillment free of unnecessary restrictions or guilt other than mutual consent.
If that right really exists, the Law of Chastity is not only irrelevant but harmful.
But if that right really doesn't exist, then your sexual orientation doesn't matter, does it? We're all without excuse. Maybe one day we'll get some really solid explanations as to exactly why. Until then, maybe we can borrow some from the Buddhists. And learn to be patient instead of lashing out with what punishments we can amplify.
I'm a married Mormon man and a BYU grad. I'm a writer by vocation and have paid for some of my needs by that craft. I'm well enough educated to know that I still have much to learn.