L, G, B and T February 18, 2006Posted by Rasheed Eldin in Concepts, Homosexualists, Islam.
If you’ve been reading other articles here, you may have gathered by now that I have a problem with the idea of identifying people according to their sexual inclinations. I consider such feelings as something experienced by a person, not something that should define who the person is.
Here’s a brief sketch of how I perceive sexual attraction from a Muslim perspective. The norm that God has placed within His creation is the attraction between opposites in a pair, including between male and female humans. Thus the presence of opposite-sex attraction (OSA) is the base-line that does not demand explanation wherever it exists. As for same-sex attraction (SSA), it is a phenomenon that exists to varying degrees in many people, for one reason or another. So I believe we could ask in each case, “Why the presence of SSA?” – and whether or not we find the answer, there is a cause. That cause might even be genetic (I don’t believe so), but it is, in the wider scheme of nature, an aberration.
“WAIT,” I hear one of you shout, “Did you just call me an aberration?” Well no, I didn’t. I’m talking about same-sex attraction, and I don’t regard that as part of your innate identity. So I’m not even talking about you – don’t take things so personally! You may well disagree with me vehemently, but at least hear me out. For my part, I am ready to listen to you too.
So, wherever these SSA develop, they could be to varying levels, at various stages of life, and interpreted by the individual in a variety of ways. If they are small and insignificant, the person may live a “normal” heterosexual life without giving the SSA much thought. If very strong, the person may choose to live a homosexual lifestyle, and adopt that as an identity. The OSA would, in that case, be greatly diminished. [Of course, there are people with low OSA without having SSA either – such people are described as “asexual”. Nothing wrong with that, but again, an aberration!] As for those who have SSA but also OSA in roughly equal measures, these could experience or be inclined towards both types of sexual experience, and call themselves “bisexual”.
A friend sent me this little summary from a medical textbook, outlining how homosexual identity develops (from studies in North America):
I. Identity Confusion:
o Sexual arousal present
o Exposure to ideas, attitudes and emotions about same-sex couples
o Confusion of identity begins
II. Identity Assumption:
o Looking up to people in same-sex relationships
o Making contact with same-sex couples
o Self-definition as “homosexual”
o Self-tolerance and acceptance of new identity
o Same-sex sexual exploration
III. Commitment to Identity:
o Adoption of homosexual lifestyle
o Satisfaction with homosexual identity
o Commitment to a same-sex relationship
o Disclosure of sexual identity to heterosexuals (coming out)
Anyway, the point in this post is mainly to question the common wisdom surrounding definitions of “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender”, and the relationships between these categorisations. At some point, “gay rights” became “LGB rights”, and then a ‘T’ was added on. [The National Union of Students recently voted to change the name of its LGB Campaign.] I’ve even seen the Al-Fatiha Foundation use the term “LGBTIQ”, the last two meaning “Intersex and Questioning”.
Even if we accept that sexual attraction should be considered an indicator of “orientation”, which is an aspect of personal identity, we need not go along with this “LGBT” notion. It seems to me that the reality of SSA (and what causes it) is considerably different when comparing the phenomenon in men and in women. So what do lesbians have in common with gay men, exactly? One group is attracted to women, the other to men. The same could be said of the population overall. As for the bi category: that could be considered of two parts, B1 and B2. B1 is a subset of L, and B2 is a subset of G!
As for transexuals, I fail to see why they should be brought into this particular discussion at all, as what they face is a different issue altogether. Yes, the matter of gender confusion can be common between people experiencing SSA who retain their biological gender, and those who actually try to change themselves explicitly by lifestyle, or even by surgery. But why include the T in with the LGB? And why limit ourselves to just T, when any number of sexual or psychological problems (or maybe I should be neutral and say “states of being”) could equally be added to the acronym?
Clearly, this is a matter of politics and campaigning. In the fight for rights, the L’s need to work with the G’s, as they are arguing the same thing: “Allow us to do with the same sex everything you do with the opposite.” I strongly suspect that the G’s far outnumber the L’s, although I haven’t looked at any figures on that until now: please do enlighten me. The B’s can be lumped on here quite easily, given that they are not very appreciably a distinct category. As for the T’s, I’m rather baffled, but they can find common cause on the “sexual minorities” bandwagon, since they too are stigmatised and considered to engage in unnatural pursuits, linked to “gender bending”. Strength in numbers, as they say.
I belong to some minority categories myself, including a religious minority in the UK. So I am not unsympathetic to the cause of minorities, and am interested in how these are defined. There is no longer real dispute over the idea that racial minorities should be protected, and there is general agreement about religious minorities, though the parameters are still being hotly debated (e.g. the question of legislation against incitement to religious hatred, or the question of blasphemy laws).
But I am really sceptical of the idea of sexual minorities, in the sense defined by a term like “LGBT”. I am uncomfortable with the very idea that lesbians (by which I mean SSA women) should be considered a “community” – and the same applies to SSA men (“gays”), less-SSA men/women (“bisexuals”) and transexuals. So I am multiply uncomfortable that these should all together be considered a big community, or a specific-protection-worthy minority.
As always, your feedback is welcome.