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Sexual Orientation For Speakers Of Other Languages

August 10th, 2010 (04:09 pm)

current mood: contemplative
current song: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti "Round and Round"

I hung out with a couple of my Korean friends yesterday. At some point, it was just me and Most Proficient while Super Christian was in the bathroom or w/e. One of MP's friends came over to say hi, and after he left we laughed over how very short his shorts had been. I made the offhanded remark that some boys like boys, which when I consider in retelling is pretty indicative of American attitudes toward perceived homosexuality. Not the point. Continuing on. She looked puzzled, so I elaborated - most boys like girls, but some boys don't because they like boys. Not that I thought she was unaware of this whole "gay" business, but just to clarify what I meant in my original comment. With my old conversation partner (let's call him Oraboni), it was easier to talk frankly about the same things I always talked about with older guy friends because it was for many reasons easier. But MP and I are pretty chummy these days, so I figured that I might as well be less delicate about shit. MP is really young and perhaps the least jaded person I know over the age of 18. But she's not afraid to grab onto new experiences. I told her that when we go on our mini road trip in a week or so, she'll meet a friend of mine who is a real live lesbian. MP said that it's very different in Korea (shocking). She wasn't making a judgement about cultural differences, just a general statement.

See, all the Korean kids I know (the ones here to study English) are fairly religious Christians. This is part of my hesitance to engage in this sort of conversation. I used to volunteer as a conversation partner a million years ago when I was studying linguistics, and one of my partners was a guy from Saudi Arabia. I don't know why it surprised me that he would say some of the most ignorant things. I mean, I knew that I couldn't reasonably expect a person raised under a strict conservative theological monarchy would have all the facts about, say, HIV. And he was never aggressive about it. He usually just wanted to quiz me about things. Still, it made me a little unsettled to be talking to someone who seemed totally nice and normal who also believed that birth control makes a woman sterile and that gay people actively recruit the straighties. This is why I generally avoid any subject that might lead to the other person saying something disappointing.

Then again, this is America, damn it!

I think it's better to allow people the cultural security of tolerance for the variety of sexual orientations. Cultural relativism be damned on this one, to be honest. Leave people alone on this one. I'm not a religious scholar, but I do feel pretty certain about a few things. First, I find it difficult to believe that humans "understand everything". That's just a ridiculous notion. For that reason, I think it is not impossible for God to exist. I say God but mean something less definite than the entity described by any specific religion. There are limits to what humans comprehend, so whatever bigger thing may exist is probably something that exceeds those limits. So this thing existing beyond the limits of comprehension indicates to me the very, very flawed nature of the human creature. And if humans are inherently flawed, that means each one of us is flawed (some more than others but imperfect nonetheless). We're all flawed. If all of us are flawed, that would mean that no single person truly embodies what a person ought to be. This is where culture comes in to set up the boundaries that enable us to coexist but more so to flourish collectively. Some of these boundaries are necessary (ie it's not okay to randomly commit random murders) and some are more cosmetic. Mores concerning sexual orientation fall more toward the "cosmetic" end of the spectrum. There are scientists who would argue that rejection of non-heterosexuality comes from a desire for the survival of our species, a holdover from our ancestors, but I think that's fairly inconsequential. Humans used to do a lot of weird things. They still do. Homosexuality is aberrant in the sense that it is not the prevailing sexual orientation among humans, not in the sense that it wrong or unacceptable. And this all goes back to tolerance. Tolerate it. If you aren't forced to engage in it, leave it alone. I don't like green peppers, but you won't catch me ripping them from the hands of other customers at the grocery store. I think it's more damaging to be intolerant of other sexual orientations. Gay teens become runaways or try to commit suicide. Unsuspecting wives and girlfriends of men on the DL contract HIV. The anti-homosexuality laws currently proposed in Uganda. Iran's endorsement of sex reassignment surgery to "correct" gay men. The Stonewall Riots. Matthew Shephard. Teena Brandon.

That's what I wanted to tell her - nothing good comes from treating sexual orientation as being heterosexuality exclusively and nothing good comes from treating those who categorize themselves otherwise as people in need of correction. If it's between consenting adults, leave it alone.

Though I will admit it would be kind of liberating to never see a green pepper again.