WHAT DOES BEING GAY MEAN?
The international drive to marriage equality satisfies something in especially American gays and larger society that craves precisely equality along with a neighbourly “inclusion”. This concern can however ignore or confuse, as can likewise the often jargon ridden, unreadable queer theory which owes more to bisexuals (and neo-Marxist theory) than gays and issues like “what are homosexuals for?” This was a leading question that founders of the gay movement like Harry Hay asked but contemporary liberated gays don’t usually answer.
The drive to marriage equality tends, possibly wants, to bury in social acceptance crucial issues around homosexual difference at the same time as gays – though far from all or even most – disappear into the crowd to pursue the American domestic dream and even, with a little help from their friends, to play happy families. And all this ironically at a time when marriage has never been less popular in the West.
Unreassuringly for society and sometimes gays themselves who can be in denial about it, what some call the “third sex” does in fact often see things differently and is different. This is something which needs to be more fully recognized, and absolutely not as only a symptom only of disorder and defect which is the starting point for the more conservative Christian approach to homosexuality.
Gays represent a good deal of what western culture and its innovatory, democratic contra naturam civilisational impulses are about, a point highlighted some years ago in Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae study of western literature and art. Gays don’t birth children but they do often birth ideas, visions and revolutions, their particular wisdom fostered by an outsider rather than an insider consciousness which launches potent symbols and statements. In many cultures and to some extent the bible, the gay presence and its contribution is a hidden stream, but it exists. One biblical example for all sorts of reasons is the prophet of the New Covenant, Jeremiah (see my poem examining the prophet’s strangeness Jeremiah’s Loincloth).
As regards the world of art, supposedly everyone at least knows that both Michelangelo and Leonardo were gay. They happen to have been so in if anything the style of two of the commoner expressions of gay orientation across time: ruggedly masculine and artily feminine on the physical plane, sometimes disturbingly prophetic and challengingly aesthetic on the psychological. Between them this Renaissance pair raise the question of what within the life of society any gay “genius” might be and why notable genius figures in especially the arts, figures such as Milton and Wagner, though certainly heterosexual, would often be thought gay. People sensed their attitudes and behaviour displayed at least some gay characteristics.
Quite simply gay is a distinctive psychology, an outlook on things, even a state of soul. It is these things before and without their expression in any overt sexual activity. It’s the reason so many know they are gay, or at any rate distinctly “different”, long before adolescence, though even then they may feel pre-adolescent attraction with love (that half forgotten word in the modern equation) towards the same sex. With maturity many gay males will find even the conversation of straight males boringly impersonal. Women may serve them better for conversation at least!
OPPORTUNITY AND ESSENCE
Being homosexual can be full of important opportunities and unresolved difficulties. In a recent book, which unusually for anything out of America in several places happens to cite me as a gay scholar, Raymond Rigoglioso’s Gay Men and the New Way Forward, paints in its first half a picture of marked gay difference and the many expressions of it. This includes what might strike moralists as a nightmare of permissive variations; but in the second half, almost unconscious of the contradiction, we read how in effect gays are undermined in especially their core relating by the same permissive flexibility.
It would seem evident that the post-liberation gay world could use something like a few rules of encounter (etiquette) and values (ethics) and this could well be a or the truest way forward. Yet just here stands some of the greatest challenge.
This wide-ranging, two part essay will be considerably taken up with the issues of identity and the closely related but under-treated theme of ethics – behaving certain ways because of who you are. Sometimes I am dogmatic but some of my views, especially in Part Two, are more speculative, suggestions for further discussion. Some of the ideas will seem original and may come as a surprise. But without doubt where consideration of any values is concerned, the difficulty is the point of departure in the question of identity. Almost nothing remains more contested about and among gays.
Including because race is almost a taboo word in academe and media, a word associated with concepts of essence (like a Platonic essence that’s more theorized than scientifically proved), notions of homosexual identity tend to be dismissed among intellectual elites because of the savour of precisely essences. The swinging gender identities of some individuals touched on later is often taken as sure proof no essences of self exist, while popular democratic feeling would like to believe that the freedom to be, however disconcertingly, just anything or anyone is possible. Queer as opposed to gay theory will speak of identity without essence.
Albeit the gay gene theory is making a more scientifically nuanced comeback and may eventually win the day given the new evidence, no amount of science will explain just everything when so much in psychology, culture and ethics affects the subject. But not much will be resolved with regard to the problems and opportunities of gay orientation either unless and until for practical purposes something “essential” about its nature is recognized and worked with. This is moreover something which religion, by which I mean here especially Christianity, is quite able to do for reasons to be given. Instead, too many of its spokespersons still cheerfully embrace a form of disinformation that amounts to lies and makes for widespread confusion and often disillusion.
THE PRIME CHRISTIAN LIE
Among at least conservatives, the prime Christian lie – along with the shocking libel of the association of any gayness with paedophilia – remains precisely the refusal to acknowledge homosexuality in any essential terms whatsoever, unless weakness and sin, an effect of the Fall itself. Almost everything will be referred to a “gay lifestyle” as though gays were describable solely in terms of parades, bars, orgies and pornography (which in ghettoizing, group-led America the ill-informed might be led to think). Thus homosexuality is deemed a “choice” only – much as ironically and unhelpfully is also widely assumed to be the case in bisexually influenced Queer theory. The latter philosophy denies an essential self and along with this dismisses ethical questions almost completely. (It’s beyond present scope, but there are now even legal wrangles in America with padres and pastors threatened in their jobs if they insist upon telling anyone from students and soldiers to prison inmates that homosexuality is “an evil lifestyle“, “a sinful choice“. The pastors then feel persecuted because of their treatment of a subject they themselves seem determined to obfuscate with sometimes psychologically damaging effects. These effects, though they can be serious, secular authorities perceiving opportunities to stir the pot, have in turn almost too eagerly protested against. It’s a sensitive, difficult situation which now challenges the most fundamental notions of democracy and freedom of conscience and religion).
Too many American Christians appear (rather like atheistic existentialists) to be of the belief that people are what they do and nothing that they in themselves are. The talk of a gay “choice” is really a misreading of the simple fact that since any sense of having a gay orientation is outside the mainstream, it cannot fail to be “chosen” by those involved….chosen at least in the sense that it must be recognized. Like an unusual talent it must be adjusted to or worked with if it is not to be wholly denied, repressed or simply lied about. But as gays almost invariably attest, the condition itself is not chosen but innate (except perhaps in some cases of child sexual abuse or drug abuse which imprints certain patterns).
The refusal of religious conservatives to acknowledge anything essentially gay along with the emphasis on a “lifestyle” is the reason why, despite all social and legal changes and the inclusion of gays by some churches, especially Christian gays may still periodically suffer accusations, dismissals, slurs, with warnings from at any rate Evangelicals and Catholics. They will be told they should change their orientation, (deemed an illusion, an objective disorder if not a demonic possession), that they lack faith in divine power to change if they don’t change, that they risk their eternal salvation, that they are undermining marriage, society etc. The objections multiply and there are writers like the prolific Dr Michael Brown who have by now got a virtual cottage industry going in the production of material critical of homosexuality on a religious basis. His latest offering is Outlasting the Gay Revolution.
It is the latest and sometimes absurd revival of argument around gay choice in the wake of the publication of ex-gay Alan Chambers’ mea culpa of My Exodus: From Fear to Grace, that is one of the factors prompting me to write with hopefully a few new and original perspectives on a variety of gay themes following years of absence from it at the scholarly level. (What was a world first doctorate on gay spiritualities from any religious studies department was published in 2004 as A Special Illumination: Authority Inspiration and Heresy in Gay Spirituality – http://goo.gl/b7mPCu – and though groundbreaking and critically endorsed, since I am not an American it would be largely ignored). But it also concerns me as a human being that the highest proportion of homeless in America (40%) are gays, often victims of ongoing conservative Christian prejudice, a situation which betrays the hypocrisy and self-delusion behind the talk about hating the sin and loving the sinner. Not just laws but something ideological and theological needs to change. They need however to change in practical, accessible ways, not in the sometimes exotic, needlessly provocative style of some current gay/queer theologies.
Amid the ongoing embarrassing war of words, which from conservatives may even include silly expositions of how bodies are not formed for homosexuality (arguments which could as easily support the view no one should kiss because mouths were made for eating!), churches continue to be damagingly weakened by the fallout. Churches are being split over what has effectively become an entire culture war around gays. Secular society, increasingly disillusioned with Christianity (itself unfortunately now stained by the far more serious issue of child abuse allegations), observes this and perhaps contributes to some ultimately democracy-undermining moves by new laws and secular elites.
In the wake of America’s Supreme Court’s decision for gay marriage, new laws and attitudes would sometimes cheerfully silence, fine or jail Christians who don’t want to bake gay marriage cakes or sign for gay weddings. It is no credit to gays if in pursuit of rights they are prepared to exploit this situation, especially when their secularist allies (who will use almost any cause to weaken religion) are not pursuing such as Muslim cab drivers who don’t want to carry notices to gay events (or Muslim truck drivers who don’t reckon to transport alcohol). Democracy isn’t served by persons with just revenge on their minds – which towards Christians now looks to be the case.
NATURAL LAW AND UNCHANGING BIBLE
The prime Christian lie, one which would deny all essence or positive features to gayness, for Catholics is based on notions of “natural law” through Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas, (notions of which the Bible knows little or nothing), while for conservative Protestants, at issue is a particularly rigid and absolute concept of biblical authority, one that the Bible itself cannot fully support. But no matter what authority is cited in opposition to homosexuality, for all practical purposes it’s rather a case of the dogs bark but the caravan passes on if only those involved could honestly see that and try to achieve some sense and peace in relation to the situation.
Say what they will, the truth of the situation is no one ever really prays the gay away (though they may pray and counsel away sex addiction). I would argue they are not even meant to pray it away. To do so can finish more unnatural than anything the prayer opposes and is to forget that God also works against nature (grace itself is described as such a work! Rom 11:24). The tiny fraction of gays who either claim religious cure or devote themselves Matt Moore style to lifelong to perceiving their every gay feeling as sin, comprise a special case that can be considered later. The fact is that society would be a less colourful, meaningful place without some gay input.
In any essay this length there is no point pursuing the error of natural law doctrine based on scientifically false Aristotelian notions that “homosexuality” does not even exist within nature (there is ample evidence it is present there). Unless by the most abstruse philosophizing, natural law theory is scarcely defensible today. Even centuries ago it left the church doctor, Aquinas, finding rape less sinful than sodomy because it can have the natural effect of producing foetuses.
Likewise I cannot delay on the Protestant evangelical position which is always selectively literalistic on a variety of themes, not least sex. That the revealed word, “God’s word”, by which conservatives seek to judge absolutely everything, is not beyond question and not meant to be on difficult subjects, is proved by the way the daughters of Zelophehad (Num 27) are justified in their challenging of Moses’ law regarding women. We also see that the apostle Peter is forced to accept a vision of new truth from God, one he wishes to deny because as he rightly declares it is against existing scripture.(Acts 10:13).
But even taking scripture just as it is, (i.e. at face value which is how fundamentalists read it though rabbinical tradition allows up to four different levels of reading), the same biblical tradition which invites people to argue with God (Is 1:18) affirms that some things and people, whether for good or ill, don’t change. The leopard doesn’t change his spots nor the Ethiopian his skin according to Jeremiah 13:33 while in Job it is even suggested that God makes the ostrich unnatural (Job 39:16). That general laws exist and are divinely intended doesn’t mean exceptions never can or should. Themes are permitted variations.
Ironically, and it belongs with the disinformation and delusions of two opposed parties, both the religious conservatives and gays (whether Christian or secular) remain under the illusion Christ never said anything about homosexuality. It’s true he never used the word since, as said, the word/concept didn’t even exist, but he virtually referred to it on at least two occasions (one being in the Sermon on the Mount where reference to violence and cursing people with racah – Aramaic for effeminate pervert or “faggot” – can hide the matter in plain sight due to a long tradition of bad or interested translation), and there are at least two more indirect references to homosexuality through incidents in the gospels.
It is moreover important to note against the proponents of gay cure and change, that Jesus accepts born fate in his statement about eunuchs who are such from their mothers’ wombs (Matt 19:12). By Jesus’ time the term “eunuch” was broader than solely either castrate or celibate (realistically men aren’t notably born either!) but it could mean out of the family way, infertile, different (something all believers are called upon to be), and the word could even function as something like the modern “homosexual” word for which no term existed.
Jesus’ native medium of Aramaic was full of violent expressions, but certainly he didn’t mean his disciples (whether gay or straight by modern definition) go and castrate themselves. When two centuries later the church father, Origen, actually did so he later repented of it as a real sin. (He possibly even decided it was sin including because it was too pagan – devotees of Cybele castrated themselves for her). So while scripture is allowed to have more than one meaning and (heterosexual) celibacy ideals have long attached to Jesus on eunuchs, practically the more general meaning for believers would seem to be they should be prepared to live outside the norms, be willingly different as in many areas of mission to this day they are required to be against existing law and custom. True Christians in countries like India, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia today are the odd ones out.
THE EVER CITED ST PAUL
Written about by myself and others elsewhere, to conservatives the foregoing claims seem merely bold and heretical because if valid they could run counter to St Paul’s strong line in Rom 1 and 1 Corinthians against….well precisely who and what as regards sex? In recent times more ink has been spilled on this than I can hope to summarize because there are considerable problems of translation, terminology and context of saying as regards Paul on the same sex question. One relevant word, malakos, could mean a person, weak, cowardly, immoral, a masturbator (like “wanker”) passive partner, male prostitute.
And that is before one even considers whether the apostle’s words, themselves in Romans largely influenced by an apocryphal source (The Wisdom of Solomon) rather than dictated from heaven, should enjoy the degree of authority as “God’s Word” conservatives accord them – selectively. After all, conservatives don’t insist with St Paul on women covering their heads and keeping silence, nor did their forebears consider the American revolution a denial of Paul’s clear enough words about respecting political authority!
Since the homosexual/homosexuality words don’t clearly feature in his discourse, one can argue that in Romans and Corinthians Paul on same sex is referring to anything from male prostitution and paedophilia to chosen, recreational bisexuality of the Roman decadence (the latter idea favoured by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams); but despite everything, the clincher for the advocates of gay orientation change remains Paul’s remark to his converts (supposing it referred to gays) that, “so were some of you” (I Cor 6:11).
Even if by that the apostle meant by some had left “homosexuality” as they had left theft, it is advisable to recall that in the Roman empire in which slaves, orphans and runaways were raised to male prostitution against their will and inclination, what is referred to could be as much escaping the sexual underworld as any cure of an orientation – something that Paul, like most ancients but unlike Jesus, would not be inclined to assume existed. Only a variety of acts, some odder or less natural than others, existed as did classes of persons like slaves and prostitutes who existed to render certain services.
LIVING WITH UNCERTAINTIES
The fact is that, short of new and special revelations from heaven, we can’t be perfectly sure about some elements of the gay issue in the New Testament, nor further back as regards the originating OT Leviticus ban (which the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo understood to refer to cult prostitution) and the iconic Sodom and Gomorrah story. When the latter is not about ancient hospitality it is about aggressive bisexuality or occult sex, not homosexuality – Lot would hardly offer his daughters to homosexuals and it seems the Sodomites desired congress with angels!
Yet in a way we have revelation, and even from the NT’s beginning in a mystery conveyed by words of Jesus to Paul that theologians have never been able to explain but which I have maintained in several places, most recently a poem (A Saint’s Mistake at http://wp.me/p2v96G-Hm) is an indication Jesus would never fully approve Paul on matters which the ardent apostle, an inspired guide to many things, made a damaging problem for too many lives across history. The problem of Jesus’ “Euripidian” question to Paul whom he evidently sees a kind of Pentheus, is virtually inexplicable without reference to some unresolved sexual understanding. We should, I think, take it as virtual revelation, the Remez or second order of scriptural interpretation according to the rabbis via the implied meaning.
There is in fact even some irony in the way that Saul who became Paul when writing in Romans about degrading passions among men (Rom 1: 24,25)) sounds uncomfortably like his namesake, the OT’s bullying King Saul who rages against his son Jonathan calling him the son of a perverse, rebellious woman who chose David to his shame, the implication being that David and Jonathan were perverts (1 Sam 20:30). I don’t think there’s much question and for more reasons than the famous attachment to Jonathan, that David was a type, a rather high minded type, of the spontaneously arty bisexual.
Conservative scholars won’t see this and many another relevant point not just because they are conservatives but because they are scholars who don’t reckon to bring much literary and psychological analysis to bear on whatever they comment.
Imagination and not just scholarship must sometimes be brought to bear on texts, even while it must be admitted that currently some gay/queer theologians have imagined as much and more than traditionalists have been ignoring. However, even if we concede a point or two to anti-gay conservatives like Drs Robert Gagnon and Michael Brown who press their negative cases amid blizzards of biblical and classical citations to arrive at the colourless conclusion (in Brown’s case) that the bible is “a very heterosexual book”, it is all-apparent that what is most vital at the practical and pastoral level is still missed. A single example from history may help explain why.
If the bible is (superficially at least) “a very heterosexual book” then it is also a very aniconic one too, even to the point that, sadly, we don’t even know what Jesus looked like. The bible is opposed to images and so were the Christians iconoclasts of the Eastern churches. We can allow the iconoclasts that a refusal of images does have some value in terms of spirituality. Some superstitions and idolatries might have been avoided if Christianity had not favoured images; and if he had been asked one can imagine that St Paul as a former Pharisee would have opposed them by automatic reflex.
But like ISIS and Al Qaeda vandalizing the Middle East and Afghanistan should Christians today abolish all art from what we see in cathedrals to children’s illustrated bibles with their Jesus images? Obviously not, and we would be the poorer for it. Time moves on and as the saying goes, one can’t unscramble eggs. Hopefully we are less superstitious and idolatrous having learned something from the original ban we no longer observe. Likewise knowledge and society have changed, and as a result of that homosexuality is more understandable and is here to stay, just as it was always present but often viciously suppressed. The more vital question is how persons and societies of any justice can best now manage it. For ethics homosexuality will perhaps always present a grey area requiring careful treatment, but a grey area is not automatically a forbidden one.
OUT FROM EXODUS BUT MAKING LITTLE SENSE
As mentioned, charges against Alan Chambers in the wake of his closure of the cure organization Exodus International and publishing his story My Exodus: From Fear to Grace was a factor prompting me to write this essay. Between the opinions of Chambers and one of his arch fundamentalist critics, broadcaster Janet Mefferd, one seems to be listening in on a colloquy of the eccentrics that threatens to help nothing and nobody.
Before My Exodus was ever written, Mefferd had been accusing Chambers of lacking all proper repentance and faith in God because he no longer believed homosexuality could be cured. Even the celibacy of such gay Christians as Wesley Hill or the Justin Lee that Chambers mentioned can be dismissed by Mefferd as immaterial. Not to have repented of calling the condition of “homosexuality” sin-in-itself was sinfully to disbelieve God’s Word which through St Paul had declared “homosexuality” damnable. (One wonders how this fanatic woman deals with Christian cancer sufferers whose prayers for healing have not cured the disease. Are they also a kind of sinner bound for the everlasting bonfire?).
But with Chambers’ memoir out, Mefferd’s criticism did acquire a little more point and one could well wonder how Chambers ever became head of Exodus in the first place. During pre-adolescence and more like a transsexual than a gay, he had thought he was “Alice” trapped in a boy’s body and at nine years he had been molested like his once homeless father before him. Upon adolescence Chambers realized he was male though gay with it, but oddly only started attending gay bars and having experiences after starting therapy with an early branch of Exodus.
Chambers also early acquired a drink problem. Once when he was inebriated, what he is “pretty sure” was the voice of God told him “if you choose to stay here [in gayness apparently] for the rest of your life I will love you” and “what you think is good is enemy of my best”. Chambers, who eventually married and had children, took this to mean that he should rest in the Lord, neither struggling against being gay, nor accepting it either.
Bolstered by his divine revelation and some kind of Southern Baptist superstition that salvation is irrevocable no matter what one does, (something which neither the gospels nor Paul can be used to support), Chambers would teach gays the unlimited grace of God. He would do so until he decided God had further told him to close Exodus down and that God was “cool” with gay marriage. Whether he heard God on the subject of closure, aware of the massive hurt and confusion Exodus is known to have caused many, let’s at least say there was some courage and integrity involved in Chambers’ controversial decision.
Of course Mefferd saw red on reading My Exodus, but in my own way so could I. And I do so even though unlike Mefferd and American evangelicals I believe that precisely because God does speak, one is not meant to be guided exclusively on all subjects by Bible texts but more prepared to hear “what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 2:11). This witness, provided it doesn’t deny the entire sense and spirit of scripture, must be allowed some development or variation upon it. Even so, I do not believe God’s rare and special revelations on major issues are granted to the inebriated, and Mefferd is correct enough to point out we are meant to test the spirits to see if they are of God (1 Joh 4:1).
She is also right to protest against Chambers’ remarkable claim that if one were to find oneself in bed with someone whose name one didn’t know (something of a gay post party situation) one should repeat to oneself as Chambers apparently had, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ”. Whatever one may call that in religious terms, (and some might call it bordering blasphemous), the situation sounds too close for comfort to just using people for sex and even just lacking sufficient manners approaching them in the first place, an example of the false or absent values that even the optimistic Ragoglioso fears undermines the gay community and its members’ relating capacity!
Yet really I wasn’t so surprised by Chambers’ testimony. My response to his history of confusion was to go to a book to find a fact about him that I was ninety to ninety five per cent sure I was going to find and did. But of this crucial fact presently because something else that adds to the riddles one attempts to resolve should be recorded in counterpoint.
AN ALTERNATIVE REVELATION
As mentioned in my A Special Illumination (2004) and reported in Larry Kent Graham’s Discovering Images of God, Christine Troxell, an Afro-American, self-described Christian activist, had taken her problems with sexual relations to God. Unlike the inebriated Chambers, in serious distress she had fasted and prayed to if possible extract some message from Jesus given her history of abuse (a victim of rape), her painful failed relationships with men and her same sex preference.
Finally God (I think she means Jesus) had asked her to honestly state what it was she preferred, which was her own sex and she was told she could express that; but in consequence of her alleged experience she has since taught the importance of relationship for gays and fidelity (which last mirrors something in God’s own being) because she has also been given to understand that, mystery though it is, there can be a one flesh relation of same sex couples as of heterosexual couples.
One can of course question the undoubtedly sincere Troxell just as one can question the broken but surviving Chambers; but assuming for argument’s sake Troxell did have her gay positive revelation (and she is not unique in this), what would this mean? How and why would it ever be possible for two gays to become “one flesh”?
Actually it would be possible because what is joined is less what is biblically called the body (soma) of the person than sarx, an equivalent of Hebrew OT nephesh or animal soul upon which the body depends and which leaves the body at death. In esoteric traditions worldwide this is what is understood to be the animating aura, subtle body or body electric. (The existence of the aura is nowadays said to be proved by Kirlian photography but while this is inevitably disputed possibly the stronger case will always be the way in which lifelong some amputees can still feel the presence of long severed limbs, apparently because the limb is part of or reflects some other body).
As opposed to the spirit, soul is precisely animating and animal and shared with the animal kingdom. Biblically animals have nephesh/soul (it’s the reason they could be used in substitutionary sacrifices), it is perhaps why we can empathize with animals and they with us and why they may, like Balaam’s ass, be able to “speak”. Biblical tradition seems to imply that at some remote, pre-lapsarian time a fuller communication with animals was possible. Regardless, the soul is what is said to be “lost” and sins and dies (Ezek 18:20). The soul’s damage or dimming in Eden must be assumed to be how the primal pair could be thought to have “died” as was forecast they would if they listened to the serpent and also why they suddenly think of themselves as naked at all, something no one ever ceases to be as far as God is concerned (Heb 4:13).
Since unless they are particularly sensitive or psychic most people cannot see auras, it would seem we have no guide or measure in this area. And this is problematic if one is to propose the root issue of gayness could be a soul/auric one and that, as the first nineteenth century gay liberationists maintained, the gay male is female soul in a male body and the lesbian a male soul in female body. But in fact we arguably do have some guide. One is involved with what I was looking for with regard to Chambers and a subject that ironically enough was also troubling Troxell.
I don’t know if Jesus gave Troxell any answer regarding it, but he didn’t apparently forbid her to pursue the astrology she was troubled to have been told like gay relations was sinful. Since astrologers came to Jesus’ birth it is unlikely to have been the biblically forbidden subject Christian conservatives have made it out to be.
Astrology wasn’t forbidden as far as Talmudic rabbis or the Essenes of Jesus’ times were concerned, and the star gazing that OT prophets disapproved was anyway what is called omen astrology – looking at the skies and uttering oracles rather than measuring or empirically studying anything as in the astrology of the Magi which developed in centuries after the prophets. If the heavens would never be able to offer real information about existence, why would the Psalmist propose the night skies were able to “utter knowledge” (Ps 19:2)?
THE CELESTIAL, STELLAR SECRET
We may now return to what I was looking for in relation to Chambers. I had immediately guessed, and without even casting the chart that would require knowing his time and place of birth, there was a ninety five percent likelihood I would find something very distinctive from a day ephemeris alone. This I duly did. I suspected I would find the so-called afflicted Neptune pattern that proved to be quite notably present.
On 21st February 1972 we find Chambers’ Piscean Sun at 1 degree conjunct Mercury (thought and communication) at 4 Pisces square (i.e. at approx 90 degrees of separation) from Neptune at 5 Sagittarius, the latter the sign of any organized religion too. (Any 90, 180 or 150 degree aspect, give or take a few degrees, could amount to an “affliction” for Neptune).
Every planetary force or symbol has a positive and negative potential, but under affliction the negative is far more likely to manifest unless strong conscious effort is made by way of resistance. In its negative expression Neptune is addictive, it can be a warning sign for drink and drugs problems and/or for any hazy view of truth, victimhood and guilt complexes. Also, because Neptune transcends, breaks down (floods across) boundaries, it repeatedly appears in patterns for gender defying bisexuality and indulgent, permissive views generally (Lady Gaga, Rimbaud, Madonna, David Bowie, Marianne Faithful, Miley Cyrus not forgetting also Freud who introduced the questionable notion that everyone is born “polymorphous perverse” or bisexual).
Afflicted Neptune seems almost to be the basic building block, even the necessary condition for all other possible indications of bisexuality that astrologers have ever found relevant. It also seems relevant, especially at the close of our Piscean era that Neptune “rules” that all movements towards such as pan sexuality and trans-sexualism because these represent a final burst, an extreme end of cycle breaking down of familiar boundaries are assisted by the seas and floods of Neptunian imagination sometimes to the point of fact-phobic delusions.
Apart from Chambers one of the most vocal and published ex-gays is Joe Dallas (25.10.1954) who shows Neptune afflicted to both Jupiter and Mars. A victim of sexual abuse as a child he lived a virtual bisexual and narcotic filled early career including apparently everyone from a pastor’s wife to female prostitutes. He nonetheless declared and believed himself gay for years during which he was involved with the gay MCC church which he finally left to assure gays no one is born gay because he could leave his so-called “homosexuality” behind.
In some respects Chambers, who in childhood thought he was a girl called Alice and who today is married with children, has almost more in common with the psychology and soul life of transsexuals and bisexuals than with gays. Also, as quite often occurs with his kind of pattern, he permissively blurs religious imagery and ideas rendering the agape/compassion element of Neptune (itself often identified in religious contexts by astrologers with Jesus) accepting of everything and everyone indiscriminatingly. (Witness the claim that being in bed with someone you don’t even know is a time to tell yourself you are the righteousness of Christ, or believing he would receive messages from God while inebriated!).
It is this bisexual potential that has allowed the married Chambers to teach gays they can change or suppress their special orientation and indeed that is how and why some will sometimes appear to manage it. I suggest that most alleged “cures” that Christians report simply represent troubled, addicted persons choosing for or working at one side over another. And without having seen charts for the few claiming cure, the fact that over the years I have noted personal histories of narcotic and alcoholic addiction, not to say sexual abuse, seem to attach to the success testimonies, betrays a Chambers style profile.
It is also lesbians rather than gay males who seem to report change and if so that fits not only with how women are more sexually flexible with partners but with the fluid nature of Neptune able to adjust itself like an actor sometimes by sheer acts of imagination rather than fundamental changes of character. I note that without any religious interventions or known addictive problems, celebrated anti-feminist feminist Camille Paglia (sun opposite Neptune) has declared herself bisexual rather than as earlier lesbian, though she remains perhaps more lesbian than anything.
THOSE WHO PROTEST TOO MUCH
The plot thickens and we can take this further. A deluded and even rather dangerous fanatic when it comes to issues around gays and toleration (he has caused much trouble in especially Africa) is Scott Lively (Dec 14th 1957). Here again we find afflicted Neptune that doesn’t see things normally or in clear light of day (for example Lively’s book The Pink Swastika which makes out fascism was a gay phenomenon is a tissue of discredited lies). This time we find Venus in sex sign Scorpio at 4 degrees in affliction to Venus at 5 of shocking Aquarius. Moreover Lively’s natal sun sign happens to be suitably in the religion sign, Sagittarius, and it’s conjunct Saturn for discipline and the political hard line (Lively has been in politics) on anyone and anything, even himself.
It is possible that with the Venus affliction to Neptune, Lively who has a lesbian sister, has just enough bisexual potential to regard gays as a threat to society and/or himself. Similar might be said of Messianic Jew, Michael Brown who before conversion to Christianity was drug addicted and has been earnestly writing books against gays and gay theology convinced he loves gays greatly though his support for repressive Ugandan laws requiring lifelong incarceration if not the death sentence for gays, his attempts to influence South American politicians against gays and their rights and the delight he has brought to Putin’s Russia with his ideas hardly supports the contention. He is simply an iron fist in a velvet glove. In his natus we find Neptune suitably afflicting Uranus by square and the natal sun by quincunx. It’s a recipe that encourages a degree of self deception and wrong thinking of the kind (since Brown weeps over gays) that declares “this hurts me more than it hurts you”.
In effect, from beginning to end, it is bisexual feeling that is a great part of the problem around the management of homosexuality in and out of religion, academe and society, blurring distinctions, confusing values and denying essence and often, like Miley Cyrus, an originally religion-associated Sagittarian at the opposite pole from Lively, promoting freedom to the point of permissive decadence.
It is certainly possible, if difficult, for bisexuality to achieve satisfactory expression – I even believe that it would be correct to regard at least two major biblical figures, David and Isaiah as at heart bisexual. But not least because there is no such thing as a 50/50 level of attraction but rather a bias to one side, the orientation works best if one sex is chosen for the expression of eros and the other for romance. .
Even at that the danger is that partners of the bisexual person can still suffer horribly, and it has been my observation that like David with his rejected wife Michal, the bisexual can be strangely hard on women in a way gays mostly aren’t. Charles Dickens, another of the afflicted Neptune types and plainly bisexual or he could never have written anything like the sheer “romance” between David Copperfield and Steerforth, was full of a Neptunian agape that enlarged his famed (Aquarian ) reformist humanism, but he was nonetheless horribly dismissive of the wife he deserted.
Every natal pattern shows some measure of affliction from some factor. Life would be easy and perfect otherwise and some affliction can even spur action, but by contrast to the usually negative or difficult signatures for bisexuality, it is quite possible for gays to have positive chart indications for their orientation, one in which an afflicted Neptune does not feature. But then what is a gay pattern anyway?
GAY CHILDREN OF AQUARIUS
In the ancient world under the super-patriarchal age of Aries which was extraverted and saw only acts regarding which they joined no dots nor perceived any psychology, apart from Jesus it was mainly astrologers who assumed some people were born the equivalent of gay.
The sort of celestial features ancient astrologers observed need not detain us, especially as they had were still ignorant of the most important factor, Uranus, which today shares rulership affinity with Aquarius. This is the sign that has regularly produced “out” expressions of homosexuality, most notoriously in the Roman world through the Aquarian Emperor Hadrian who divinized and imposed an absurd imperial cult of his lover Antinous, something which understandably helped seal Christian dislike, even fear of homosexuals and homosexuality since he also destroyed Christian sites in Jerusalem, a city which in his hatred of Jews he destroyed and renamed.
Though Scorpio was always raw sex and enjoyed some association with same sex as far back as ancient Sumeria accordingly, Aquarius has always been the sign of independence, variation, surprise and rebellion. Despite this or because the sign’s path of resistance was deemed naturally difficult, Aquarius was judged to be in affinity with and ruled solely by Saturn. That was until Uranus became visible around the time of the French revolution. The latter, a revolutionary Uranian event in itself, changed everything birthing the modern world along with its individualism and sense of human rights – Tom Paine author of The Rights of Man simply had to be an Aquarian.
Astrologers soon realized quite empirically that Uranus belonged with Aquarius and that was before it was even clear they had some astronomical factors on their side. Uranus is doubly curious. It is the only planet in the solar system to have rings like Saturn at the same time as it spins on its axis in contrary motion to all other planets. The latter is a wonderful symbol of Uranian contra naturam characteristics; among the planets it is like God’s ostrich created unnatural.
When a planet is sighted, something already existing becomes more conscious. Uranian consciousness which empirically is so freedom but also gay associated, began to feel itself to be more distinctive, purposeful and deserving of rights, began to insist it was something more than just the sodomy of sodomites according to earlier blanket dismissals and discriminations. And the joint Saturn/Uranus rulership and symbolism of Aquarius proves rather crucial here. It agrees with a tendency among gays to be both revolutionary and unexpectedly conservative at the same time. (Author and journalist Douglas Murray is a good example today). It tells us much and is relevant to the ethical question of which presently.
In any given pattern planets are multivalent for meaning and application. Positively and in religious contexts Uranus, which is male/androgynous, is about excitement, sudden lightning inspiration and change, difference, genius, electricity and eccentricity. It is now more or less accepted it can symbolize spirit and theologically the Holy Spirit in any religious contexts.
Despite its male name (which is all part of its mystery) Neptune is female/androgynous and is the dreamer and poet so well evoked by Holst’s The Planets. In its highest expression it is also the principle of agape, oceanic compassion, unconditional love (as opposed to the conditional loves of its lower octave Venus) and thus the forgiveness Uranus doesn’t deal in. Pluto which is more or less male/female depending is about raw power, procreation, life and death, hell and radical transformation. In religious readings it can be God as Creator and Destroyer or Judge.
But there are other levels of reading and connection to these planetary energies and these are sexual. Uranus is relevant to the gay male and the radical butch kind of lesbian, Neptune is related more to the lesbian and the arty or effeminate gay male and the mentioned bisexually inclined. (Although a very “out” or activist lesbian will show Uranian input, overall Neptune is more conspicuous for lesbians than gay males and lesbians risk some of the drinking problems of the bisexuals accordingly). Pluto bears relation to those of the gay underworlds like leather, S/M and bears. Amusingly, the founder of the gay MCC church Troy Perry who doesn’t own a very obviously gay pattern, (having been married with children he is closer to a bisexual’s chart) does nonetheless reveal Pluto conjunct sun and he has been called “the old leather queen” for some of his preferences and alleged adventures in the gay underworld.
The androgyny of these three energies which are simply more biased towards one or the other sex than specifically embodying them, chimes with theories of the kind that speak of a female soul in a male body and the male soul in a female body.
Astrologically, then, any notable difference from sex and gender norms demonstrate a heightened connection of the inner (visible) personal planets to the outer invisible, more impersonal mystical, generational planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. The outers either aspect the inner planets or are somehow highlighted such as being angular or most elevated planets. That gay males often show moon in connection to Uranus is well known (separative Uranus separates or disconnects from woman, the moon).
Gay connection to the so-called “generational” outer planets is moreover why, historically, homosexuality is so fashion formed or forming, throwing up different styles, sometimes more masculine, sometimes more feminine or just androgynous in different periods. It’s a variation which again causes such as queer theory to suggest there could be no gay essence and that everything in gender and sexuality is merely constructed and chosen. It isn’t. The close and extreme connection of planetary cycles, particularly of the outer planets to major events and thought trends historically has been magisterially demonstrated in culture historian Richard Tarnas’ Cosmos and Psyche and it is between tragic and scandalous that modern knowledge systems remain hostile to even considering these. (I am pleased to see a film is in the works that will help popularize this needed knowledge).
Gay connection to the outer planets is also linked to the distinct religiosity, spirituality and even prophetic urge among many gays, something found in everything from the art of Michelangelo to the devout poetic reflections of such as gay Catholic Dunstan Thompson.
By contrast heterosexuality is a predominantly Mars/Venus thing. For straights Mars and Venus are more likely to be in aspect to one another or to the other inner planets. Those heterosexuals who may, like gays, show stronger emphasis upon the outer planet connection tend to be involved with homosexuality in some fashion through work, family or friends. They might be negatively connected in the role of homophobes like Scott Lively (who has a lesbian sister) or anti gay theologian Robert Gagnon who has a strong Uranus; or like Wagner or Milton they just get called gay, and have at least a few characteristics more commonly associated with gays.
If one only reads the data inflexibly one might demand that, say, screen actor Brad Pitt sport a Hollywoodish Mars/ Venus aspect (he does have them agreeing in the same sign but not conjunct) rather than his Mars trine Uranus like many gays. However….for long Pitt oddly insisted he would never tie the knot until gay marriage became law and it is said his now wife Angelina Jolie is or was bisexual (she has an interesting Sun opposite Neptune square Dark Moon Lilith).
Some people show a strong Uranus because, like some gays, they are just fiendishly clever like the tragic gay inventor of computers and code breaker, Alan Turing or like writer Vikram Seth they can produce a whole novel in sonnet form.
Some patterns however are just confusing in harmony with the confusion that surrounds the individual like disgraced evangelical pastor, Ted Haggard, who has been called all of completely heterosexual, gay and bisexual. I should judge, as he himself belatedly suspected, he is probably bisexual – there is if nothing else an out of sign square formation between Uranus and Neptune – but really I feel the chart is more about just excitement and excess.
My point is that while interpretation of planetary symbolism cannot be rigid, real and sufficient generalizations can be made because exceptions to the rule prove meaningful rather than arbitrary if only astro-sceptics are prepared to wait around to see the point. Something else to absorb is that, in line with recent studies which show leading artists of all stripes have minds akin to that of schizophrenics, we should expect gays linked to outer planetary energies to be less stable than the norm. They simply have more to manage but perhaps also more to give. As regards at any rate Uranus, gay wiring and its movement to a different drummer can be sensed by almost anyone in just the nervy, edgy quality of the seventies’ disco beat that was mainly gay invented and celebrated.
It is misleading to claim with Sciambra (see below) that any instability in gays is itself somehow proof of the intrinsic evil of their condition. Yet such things get said and believed. It is striking that one of the better known ex-lesbians, former gay activist, Charlene Cothran speaking to You Tube, feels herself delivered from the life of lies that maintained being lesbian would make her happy. Americans raised to positive thought theories haven’t absorbed and don’t wish to absorb that the life, especially of any outsider, is never a bed of roses. How many great artists have ever been happy? Even Jesus declares “blessed are those that mourn”. It’s true one shouldn’t become abject like Sciambra, but to judge whether people were intended to be gay following some happiness ratio is absurd.
This notwithstanding, if one is prepared to take the data into account, it is quite possible to observe some easy, flowing or fortunate aspects to Uranus among gays suggesting it is a sufficiently natural condition for them in the way it is less possible to affirm for afflicted Neptune as described. Thus in the case of Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian, one suitably finds his writer’s Mercury in what’s called opportunity sextile to Uranus (Mercury 9 Pisces to Uranus 9 Capricorn) while Neptune at 14 Capricorn is unafflicted to his Sun at 18 Pisces, but instead close to fortunate sextile aspect to the sun.
In fact, between these positive aspects and the traditionalist, pragmatic Capricorn input to Vines’ natal picture, rather unsurprisingly he is at home with both acceptance of his homosexuality and promoting the conventionally inclined if still religiously controversial ideal of marriage equality. I can leave the esoterics of astrology for the moment having tried to stress that being gay is a fate and natural condition as Jesus knew and the heavens reveal.
THE MARRIAGE EQUALITY PROBLEM AND WHAT IS MARRIAGE?
Arguably what is most socially and theologically controversial about the current gay marriage trend is not the union as such, which to follow such as Troxell God would be unlikely to disapprove if the same sex pair really can become “one” as notions of Christ’s marriage to a church composed of members of both sexes would tend to imply. But beyond the complimentarity of male and female within marriage that many seek to retain, there are problems with what’s in the small print, things like child adoption and surrogacy. These attach to the modern deal because marriage equality requires equality with what straights are doing even if that is in its own way controversial. (It would be politically incorrect today to suggest that heterosexual childless couples should adopt only and seeing the vast numbers of orphans seeking homes other arrangements are selfish; but under existing laws and values if straights can deal in surrogacy so can gay couples).
One of Ireland’s gay activists, Ken Mills, led opposition to the now celebrated Irish marriage equality referendum because of the implications for offspring, a point about which many gays agree though their leaders easily ignore it. Notable gays like fashionistas Dolce and Gabbana and actor Rupert Everett have voiced their scepticism and distaste for gay parenting, but it is almost only ever the politically active who drive gay issues. Almost all the rest of us, no matter how qualified to speak, get controversially ignored or dismissed – there was even talk from LGBT leaders of boycotting Dolce and Gabbana for presuming to express their views!
Conservative Christians oppose gay marriage because of an alleged threat to the integrity of the family and of morality more generally. They will observe (albeit rather ignoring the fantastically high divorce rate among straights!) that gays are prone to treat relationships and now marriage lightly. Gays don’t seem to understand fidelity, they don’t settle down.
There is some truth in the charge if not as much as maintained (long standing unions, like famously that of Australia’s former Chief Justice Michael Kirby with Johan Van Vloten, do exist but are just not usually begun in and associated with “the scene”). Moreover only in relatively recent times have gays emerged from the criminality status which for centuries fostered a culture of fleeting, often furtive contacts of the kind which with increased social acceptance may be gradually expected to decline.
But to the extent gays can seem or actually be flighty in connection, obviously that is not particularly helpful physically or psychologically and if they are not to suffer a lonely old age or meet only discrimination among the young and beautiful they need to practice and acquire what makes for stability earlier rather than later. At the same time it must be asked, and we can turn to this next, what is it gays really need. Also, if they are indeed “different”, one can ask whether different customs, values and ethics should apply rather than that they be invariably judged against certain heteronormative standards to which marriage and monogamy belong.
It must immediately be said that the kind of marriage and monogamy ideals currently almost trendily promoted by Vines, Justin Lee and other gay Christians is a bit of a tour de force and not simply because fidelity can prove difficult whether for gays or straights. At this point in time the idealism arguably risks insufficiently taking into account who and what gays are in terms of relation and need. And any Christian analysis of this may need to weigh counsels of perfection against a few pragmatic imperatives. In dealing with heterosexuals St Paul was quite happy to declare “better to marry than to burn”. Against a background of different times with their different, values and information, would it not be appropriate to extend something of the same pragmatism to gays?
The heteronormative relating pattern, or at least romance, is typically a story of a battle of the sexes, indeed a very Mars/Venus encounter and resolution. Even disregarding the not inconsequential matter of offspring – and before the contraceptive era this determined a lot of heterosexual relating – there is a sense of possession involved that homosexuality can never quite duplicate, if only – though there are likely further reasons – because homosexual psychology is founded from the outset upon a (Uranian) independence, an outsider consciousness and individualistic mindset just to get going. It is so even at the same time as paradoxically it contains a strong group orientated impulse which does not automatically encourage exclusiveness in relations. (Not for nothing do we find it is the more Neptunian lesbians are more interested in marriage than gay males). For heterosexuals adultery is not just a breach of trust, it can involve a sort of theft in harmony with the possession theme. (It’s coveting your neighbour’s wife).
A good deal of gay sex pleasure is pleasure with someone rather than the enjoyment of (having) someone, and of course until quite recently moralists disapproved the gay emphasis upon pleasure without purpose or ties, albeit that is most relevant where contact is almost wholly anonymous as in much, especially pre-liberation, cruising.
Male heterosexuality also implies a degree of control and self control, the reason that although it’s well known over 90% of males masturbate, they don’t necessarily approve themselves or others doing so and hence the slur that gays or any weak person is merely “a wanker” bespeaks the contempt involved. There is a feeling that masturbation like homosexuality is not “real” sex, and may imply inability to fight (Mars) for a partner or to combat one’s own urges. It’s true the practice is not about either heterosexual possessing or reproducing.
The bible itself as read by St Augustine and his followers is even said to condemn masturbation on account of God’s punishment on Onan (whence onanism) for spilling seed in Genesis 38, but that is to misunderstand what his story is about which involves refusing to reproduce for continuation of the tribe.
I would also point out in passing and can return to it later, that specifically heterosexual asceticism is itself pictured in terms of a battle and often too, at least for Catholics, as giving one something like possession of or greater access to the love and attention of the Virgin.
Partners to a marriage joint own a relation and perhaps land, property and goods too. Even though there is no longer a dowry system nor any counting of goods in heads of cattle where marriage is concerned, material issues remain. The love planet also symbolizes for cash and property (Venus rules in Taurus, sign of the cow, and with an appropriate sense of the archetypal we speak of cash cows). Love is rarely free (unless in aspect to precisely such as Uranus or Neptune). From prostitution to divorce Venus is very much about money.
Because Pluto is about power, there is a kind of Plutonic gay relating that is found especially among the leather set that is about relating as total possession and/or obsession. This apart, because Uranus can separate while Neptune includes everyone, much gay relating ends up, as many will admit, with a more friendship/tribal quality which as easily dismisses persons as embraces and includes them. Obviously this can provide a basis for some very promiscuous, free-wheeling, semi and conditional relating patterns. Moreover Uranus likes to experiment and explore, so even just kinkiness and the queer philosopher Foucault’s “invention of new pleasures” may prevail.
THE BODY CONSCIOUSNESS IMPERATIVE
The sometimes limitless exploration is linked to the fact the body can assume inordinate importance for the third sex. Looked at from outside the interest may bespeak nothing but lust and its excess, but at least part of the reason is because growing up and still sometimes in adulthood the body may seem somewhat alien. It is felt to need more exploration, validation and exhibition than for straights – and almost necessarily so if there is any truth in claims the aura or body electric is at gender variance with the body (and thus with Mars/Venus urges as conventionally realized).
The body in that case can hardly be sufficiently stressed to validate identity, to assist consciousness of the self and grounding in what one at least appears to be. Where homosexuality is denied all essence or (as in Queer theory) gender is made to seem fluid, if the gay person really is only biased towards one sex rather than another, the body is used to affirm the self as are also clothes, uniforms, leather gear which can even exaggerate gender types and be a form of drag in themselves.
While modern gay relating, like relating in society more generally, might be thought to be over-dependent upon the image, in a world of film, digital photography and internet porn, despite this and more perennially, gay relating is considerably about appreciation and acceptance of the other person or partner’s image than their outright possession.
The partners validate, even encourage one another in their singularity, in the growth and flourishing of it. Simply a willingness to be with and alongside someone can itself be love which is why gay relating is often considered in terms of friendship rather than love, though I think can be limiting. The partner is enabled to be their own alternative, vulnerable self within an implicit ethical system based almost more on aesthetics than anything practical after the manner of straights. If the pair do become one as Troxell insists is possible, it is, I think, still to realize an independence within the unity.
Which leads to the question, what do gay partners want sexually and what might they hope to have in what is ostensibly a union of sames rather than opposites?
END OF PART ONE