Thoughts: Self-Identity, Gay, Christian, Mental Illness, Personality Disorders, Rights, Newspeak…

A post in which I muse a little, raise questions, and answer very little…..

I Tweeted earlier:

I sincerely believe that it is easier to publicly proclaim your sexuality than it is to declare mental illness and personality disorders.

This was met with a small chorus of agreement.

This thought derived from an incident on a prominent Christian forum in which a gay atheist activist took exception to the fact that the moderators had requested he change his provocative avatar. The avatar was of two naked men in an implicit homoerotic embrace. Given the history of this particular guy on the forum, which is typified by aggression – bordering on the threatening – vileness, rudeness, bullying, accusatory sentiment, ad hominem, Christian hatred, and so forth, it was plainly obvious to many that the avatar was designed to provoke.

This guy decided not to comply with the request of the moderator and subsequently was forced to do so.

The ensuing indignation from him and his supporters was quite breathtaking, and it wasn’t long until this polite request for him to change his avatar was conflated with the holocaust in accordance with Godwin’s Law.

What struck me most forcibly however, were the accusations flying around of Christian homophobes persecuting a gay man in violation of his “rights”. It didn’t take long to determine that this fellow identified himself primarily in terms of his sexuality; which he readily acknowledged.

This strikes me as odd, as we are all sexual beings one way or another and yet most of us don’t feel the need to define ourselves primarily by this trait, nor, make our sexual preferences a matter for public consumption. I would venture that we are in fact multi-faceted beings, with our self-identity being derived from many sources, both past and present.

In truth, the whole nature / nurture debate surrounding sexual orientation is of little import to me, even though it incorporates the contentious issue of reorientation therapy. To be truthful, I couldn’t imagine any amount of therapy reorientating my sexual proclivity.

Of course, the reasoning behind a person, especially a gay person, publicly parading their sexuality, is in the cause of changing societal sexual norms; especially in the realm of prejudice or discrimination. And let’s be frank, the Gay community has been enormously successful in this endeavour.

To self-describe as Catholic / Christian is, in the minds of some, to effectively declare yourself a homophobe. A person characterised by hatred of homosexual folk. And with the label homophobia being conflated with racism and such, it is certainly not something a person wishes to be associated with, and is indeed the ultimate conversation stopper.

On an aside, the word homophobia first appeared in print in an article written for the 23 May 1969 edition of the American tabloid Screw, in which it was used to refer to heterosexual men’s fear that others might think they are gay. It has also been used to describe a fear of people who ‘come out’ as homosexual. (SOURCE)

The term phobia obviously relates to fear and I would aver that the very term “Homophobia” now elicits a fear within some Christians; namely, the fear of being viewed as an unreasonable, bigoted, hate-filled, discriminator.

As it happens, I view homosexuality as “disordered”. There I said it. Does that mean I hate homosexuals? Absolutely not. Nor am I in “fear” of them. The fact is, you see, I view homosexuality as just one of a myriad of disorders that afflict the human race. I have my own disorders, and I seek to fight against them. That’s my choice. And others are free to view disorders in a favourable light and embrace them and let them form the basis of their identity.

Do I view homosexuality and Christianity as incompatible? Who the heck am I to judge another! A queer Christian has his / her own dealings with God, that are frankly non of my business.

But all of this pondering got me to thinking down a different line.

With so many different sub-cultures fighting for equality, there’s one group that always seems to get left behind, and that’s the mentally ill or personality disordered.

It strikes me that in our politically correct society, with the rights of so many being promoted through the powerful mechanism of Newspeak, it is still perfectly acceptable to malign another using mental health terminology. Not many folk would use the terminology now employed by the gay community to self-describe; in a pejorative manner. And yet this change has not taken place in relation to the terminology used to describe debilitating mental illness.

The obvious example is to employ the terms “mad”, “lunatic”, or “insane”, when debating someone. Or perhaps to label someone as schizophrenic when they exhibit the very common trait of cognitive dissonance. It’s interesting to note that even the Oxford English Dictionary has a secondary definition of schizophrenic as: “With the implication of mutually contradictory or inconsistent elements”.

I’m sure you can think of many other examples in which deploying the language of clinical mental illness diagnosis to describe everyday personality traits is used.

Many seem to labour under the misapprehension that using these mental health metaphors is simply a joke, not to be taken seriously. But I believe these language tactics further obfuscate conditions that are widely misunderstood and stigmatised. It’s deeply upsetting to sufferers, and is part of the process of creating and perpetuating stigma around mental illness.

Why hasn’t the mentally ill community made progress like other groups?

Firstly, because of the very nature of the illnesses. Secondly, because how does it sound to have a “Schizophrenic Pride” march? Or perhaps, “Mad Pride”? It’s not great is it.

And in amongst the stigma surrounding mental illness, believe it or not, there is a stigma within a stigma. I am referring to Personality Disorders.

How does this sound to you:

Hi, I’m Stuart, a diagnosed Psychopathic personality.

or

Hi, I’m Stuart, a Narcissistic personality.

or

Hi, I’m Stuart, a Borderline personality.

or

Hi, I’m Stuart, a Schizotypal personality.

Doesn’t sound great does it.

How about we bring the much maligned Christian label into the mix? How “proud” are we then?

On top of the debilitating symptoms or these personality disorders is a HUGE whack of shame.

Again, I don’t care much for the nature / nurture debate surrounding these disorders; one thing I do know, is that the folk afflicted with these, didn’t choose, or bring it on themselves.

Who really are the maligned, persecuted, discriminated, mocked, belittled, humiliated, within this society?

Who should really have pride?

Who’s rights really need fighting for?

I’ll leave it there…..

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15 Responses to “Thoughts: Self-Identity, Gay, Christian, Mental Illness, Personality Disorders, Rights, Newspeak…”

  1. Simian Says:

    Lots to think about there Stuart!
    I think we tend to hate those things we fear. I rather suspect that might go at least part way to explaining that appalling behaviour by the ‘atheist gay’ person. And Christians are not helped by extremists such as the Wesboro Baptist Church, which unthinking people tend to automatically assume reflects wider views within the Church as a whole.
    When I was much younger there was far more widespread hatred of homosexuals because they were not understood, and people worried it could even be contageous to ‘straight’ people.
    Now it’s just not an issue where I work, and it does not occur to anyone to even discuss it – not becasue they fear reprisal, but because it’s just so ordinary and not an interesting issue anymore.

    But mental illness is still feared. I think this is partly due to the almost universal intentional sensationalism in the media – For instance, in many horror movies the main villain is very often portrayed with one or more recognised mental illnesses, but magnified and distorted to make him/her much more scary.
    I think we’ll only get over this when we understand mental illness more, and the general population is better educated. It should not even be necessary to say “Hi, I’m Stuart. I’m a……” It should not be an issue.

    I subscribe to the view that there is no such thing as ‘normal’ . We are all somewehere on the scale between a soulless logic machine and a person who is living in a completely alternative reality.
    I’m not proud of my illness as such, but I am proud of some the things it enables me to do – the bursts of intense creativity, the ability to be an active and empathic listener, and so on. I think we should be proud of our unique gifts – which we all possess – rather than our ‘labels’.

  2. Gordon Says:

    In my experience there are some gay men like that as there are some obnoxious Christians. My gay friends (of whom I have a probably above average number because I used to work in HIV/AIDS) are all people who don’t define themselves by their sexuality and just seem to get on with life. The gay scene is about as representative of gay men as the Newcastle night club scene is of heterosexuals in the north east of England. Its a snapshot of a certain type, as the person on that forum was.

  3. marc Says:

    “To self-describe as Catholic / Christian is, in the minds of some, to effectively declare yourself a homophobe. A person characterised by hatred of homosexual folk. And with the label homophobia being conflated with racism and such, it is certainly not something a person wishes to be associated with, and is indeed the ultimate conversation stopper.”

    IMO I think more people need to be aware of what the Catholic attitude is regarding gays. On the particular forum you refer to I have noted para 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is a sympathetic passage with a great deal of understanding – often not so explicitly laid out Protestant churches.

    I think that, for those of us who are familiar with the forum you have mentioned above, you have perhaps made too much out of the so-called vileness of the man’s post. He has unfortunately had to contend with the most ghastly accusations – one of the worst being that homosexuals have a tendency toward paedophilia – which is entirely unfounded.
    As I have myself mentioned in my past post there, the forum is treading on perilous ground anyway – it is full of vituperation from Christians. What has been of great interest to me as a Christian is the discovery of just how shocking is the history of the persecution of gays, and therefor one can hardly blame the over-sensitivity of some.
    My daughter, much to my regret is gay, and throughout her life she has received the most terrible treatment from – guess who – Christians. She was delighted – and I was quite surprised by her delight – that I had chosen to become a Catholic, telling me that there was far more mercy these days from Catholics as opposed to many fundamentalists – charismatics included.

  4. webmaster Says:

    I wish I’d used this phrase that this chap always uses:

    I’m here, I’m queer, get used to it…

    And modifed to something like:

    I’m here, I’m mentally ill, get used to it…..

  5. Simian Says:

    But do people who suffer from mental illness often get the same fear and loathing or intolerance directed at them that Gays do?

    I may be wrong but I don’t think mental illness is regarded as a sin in itself, even if it leads people to behave in ways in which a person, not recognised as being mentally ill, would be hard to tolerate.

    I agree that we should break down any stigmas around mental illness. I’m less sure whether it is possible to ‘treat’ homosexuality as one would the forms of mental illness described, or to equate behaviour towards Gays as analogous to behaviour towards those with mental illness.

  6. marc Says:

    My goodness webmaster – I hope I have not caused you unnecessary pain at this moment in time.

  7. Elizabeth D Says:

    Simian, many same sex attracted people are helped in living a healthy and moral life by the same kind of education and support in chastity that help others, and SSA men are often helped and even cured of the disordered attraction, by counseling that addresses problems with male confidence. In not a few cases, based on people I have known, there is also a need for counseling and healing for sexual abuse experienced as a child, in a surprising number of cases the disordered sexual attraction is an effect of abuse. In psychology homosexuality is sometimes termed a “paraphilia”. Most people will successfully be able to practice chastity, especially with appropriate support. Some smaller portion of them will be able to largely (or entirely) resolve the same-sex attraction problem and even happily marry. We humans are all made in the image of God, therefore very good, and as man or woman we are all complementary with the opposite sex. Same sex attraction constitutes a real trial for many people.

  8. Simian Says:

    I appreciate your intentions Elizabeth D, and I think I understand their origins, but I have to disagree with the points you raise.
    Homosexuality is no longer regarded as paraphilia by most mainstream health professionals and it no longer features as such in the DSM.

    Whether same sex attraction can be ‘cured’ is unproven, and many mainstream psychologists now tend toward a view that it cannot, and that attempting to do so can cause significant mental harm.

    Same sex attraction only poses ‘a very real trial’ to people if they are told, and believe, it to be ‘evil’ or ‘disordered’ rather than just one of those unusual attributes that differentiate some people from others. There is indeed plausible evidence that homosexuality may serve a useful evolutionary purpose, which is why it has survived.

    I can also speak from personal experience with Gay friends and colleagues, (although I myself am heterosexual) and can confirm that there are very well adjusted Gay men around who have no history of childhood abuse or any of the other supposed contributors to this condition.

    I do appreciate that from a Christian point of view there are good reasons to view homosexuality differently, but I’m not convinced that these views are shared by others.

  9. Elizabeth D Says:

    Homosexuality is a disorder (“paraphilia” remains a suitable term) quite regardless of shifting opinion within psychology and its organizations. Same sex attraction is actually successfully treated, with proven results. Unfortunately, as you note, many or even most psychologists today reenforce homosexuality and cooperate with the disorder rather than attempting to help the patients even to live chastely.

    When I used to be a progressive, I used to insist on the same falsehood you express here, that it is only a problem because of other people being opposed to the behavior. Actually, in itself homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law, and gravely immoral and harmful both to individuals and to society. The reasons it’s wrong are not specifically religious. Everyone can see that there are men and there are women, and that procreation is inherently part of the purpose of healthy sexuality. Families, married couples together with their children, are the foundation of healthy societies. The misuse of sexuality not only forms people in selfishness, but spreads disease and social ills. Both homosexuality and contraception (and abortion), have contributed to the practice of selfish and increasingly uncommitted sex, and consequent crisis of marriage and the ugly porn-ified culture, all bad for women, for men, and espcially for children. My eyes are open now–it did actually take me a long time to see what was going on. Chastity is the moral choice, for everyone (for married people this means conjugal chastity). A chaste celibate for life myself, I stand in the true and eternal solidarity with same sex attracted people, desiring chastity, holiness, eternal happiness for everyone.

  10. Simian Says:

    My journey has probably been the reverse yours Elizabeth D, and I have become more liberal with age and experience. I am now a Humanist, and this informs my views rather than religious teaching. On reflection I’m not sure we have much common ground for compromise. Perhaps we should just agree to disagree on this one.

  11. janice Says:

    To begin with I supported this guy, mainly because of the lame excuse given by the mods for removing his avartar-ie “male nudity”. I stated right at the start that that was my main objection. (I then got banned for posting two pics of shirtless fat men!!!!)
    However as the situation has progressed my support has diminished. Yes this guy does get abused by the more bigotted members of the community (but then so do catholics and liberals!) But he gives as good(if not better) as he gets, and he has made some very unpleasant remarks about mental health (although I wasn’t sure it was him at first).
    I like the guy, he’s been a good friend in the past but the way this situation is developing is really disappointing. If it’s wrong to make anti-gay comments then it’s equally wrong to make anti-catholic/anti-mental health or anti-fat comments!!
    I don’t think scripture condemns faithful same sex relationships, although I don’t believe it’s God ideal, I think the often quoted passages from Paul are refering to promiscurous practices involving pagan worship.
    Needless to say, just now I’m feeling a tad confused and very sad about the way this guy has gone about things. Maybe it’s time to step back and just be an observer for a while.

    BTW “I’m Janice and I have anxiety and depression with anxiety related OCD, so get used to it!!!” *grins*

  12. My Friend Stuart Has Been Threatened With Legal Action For Something He Wrote on His Blog « Catholic Bandita Says:

    [...] calling himself Charles Bishop today gave me notice of his intention to pursue me legally for this blog post, under the laws of libel / [...]

  13. Paddy Manning (@PaddyJManning) Says:

    Not sure if he has any use suing you on this post: unanamed & undirected he has to read himself into the text but of course the threat is what he is about. Do not let his boorish threats silence you!
    I am a Catholic & a gay man. Time was when my sexuality was important in my identity not by my choice but by the legal system under which I lived. It still sickens me that the Catholic Hierarchy of 1980s Ireland went to court to seek to keep the Victorian legislation criminalising gay sex in place at a time that these men were sheltering, hiding & covering up for, child rapists. The damage done here to the Church is vast & will never be healed.
    The treatment of gay people in the past was a disgrace to our common humanity & Christian mercy.
    Times have changed, I am safe in my own bed now from threat of arrest & disgrace.
    Far too many conservatives are hung up about gay men & gay sex, based on nothing more than yeuck! factor. Gay people, because in the main they believe in the essential nature of their own sexuality (from their own experience) , are very conservative.
    Catholics, perhaps because of their acceptance of the fallen nature of man and their belief in the nature of the message of Jesus are both accepting & forgiving.
    Many of the radical American Churches, for example Westboro Baptist Church are Christian in name but Satanic in theology.

  14. Anthony S. Layne Says:

    @ Paddy Manning:
    You’ve touched on something I want to build on. We could go round and round about the causes and associations of same-sex attraction and the politicization of the social sciences; but where we agree is that homosexuality is not of itself a social danger that requires repressive social measures. Where I think the LGBT lobby has a good point re the gay marriage debate is that we Christians do have other moral points that are escaping our attention — fornication, adultery, divorce, etc. — and to single gay people out for special attention is a kind of hypocrisy. And beyond the sexual, there are other deadly sins besides Lust (Avarice, Sloth, Anger, and so on). I’ve been blessed to have many friends with whom I’ve not seen eye-to-eye on every issue, and we’ve been able to separate debate on those issues from our friendships. That’s not to say I’ve switched my position but to say that good friendships are possible even with differences on such sensitive issues.

    By the way, I’m a Catholic-American … and Westboro Baptist embarrasses me. |^|

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