It is difficult to conceive of two positions that are so diametrically opposed. At least one of the two solitudes is dead wrong about the nature of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Essentially no discussion or debate is occurring between the two sides. Deep dialogue between does occur, but is generally limited to private exchanges between two individuals. Positions otherwise are quite hardened, largely because the two groups' foundational beliefs about the nature of truth, sexual orientation, and identity are in total conflict, and non-negotiable.
In an ideal world, constructive dialogue between the two solitudes could result in a cooperative research program that would study the true nature of sexual orientation and identity. Ideally, much of the conflict would evaporate, as the two solitudes harmonized their differences. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world. Any resolution would require at least one side to fundamentally modify its understanding of reality and truth. That is probably too much to hope for. Most people's allowable rate of change on ethical, moral, and particularly sexual matters is extremely limited.
Forgive me, but in moments of weakness, I sometimes wonder whether both solitudes prefer that the conflict not be resolved, and are trying to prolong it. It certainly generates revenue in large quantities.
Over the past two centuries, a series of moral and ethical battles have been fought in North America to end discrimination and oppression of of people on the basis of their religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
The conflicts included oppression of people on the basis of their:
In 1969, the Stonewall Riots in New York City's Greenwich Village, triggered a major drive for equal rights for lesbians and gays. Later, equality for bisexuals, was added. This introduced a fourth conflict over:
Finally, in the early 21st century, growing attention has been given to a fifth conflict:
The latest move is the creation of a bill in Congress to end employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Although some states have passed this type of legislation, they remain in a minority.
Definitions of sexual orientation:The vast majority of religious liberals and mainliners, therapists, human sexuality researchers, etc. define sexual orientation by the gender of persons to whom an individual is sexually attracted:
However, many social and religious conservatives define sexual orientation in terms of of behavior. It is what people do, not what they are. It is something that one chooses, not discovers. Conservatives often ignore bisexuality, and classify people as either homosexual or heterosexual depending upon their recent sexual activity.
A few fundamentalist Christian groups define sexual orientation in a unique way. They include:
Needlessly to say, debate, discussion and dialog are essentially impossible if:
The result is mass confusion over the bases over which individuals are protected by hate crimes and employment discrimination laws.
Definition of gender identity:For the vast majority of adults, the gender that they sense themselves as being match their genetic gender. A person who regards themselves as a woman will have a female genetic gender; a person who identifies as a male will have a male genetic gender. This is called being "cis-gendered."
However, for transgender persons, who form a very small minority, a mismatch occurs. Some describe their feelings as being a woman trapped in a man's body, or vice versa. The internal conflict that most transgender persons feel is unbelievably intense. Many end their pain by committing suicide before they are 30 years of age. Therapy, prayer, and other methods of harmonizing their feelings with their genetic gender have a zero or essentially zero success rate.
Some transgender persons, often called transsexuals, enter into gender reassignment surgery and medication programs to change their appearance to match their perceived gender. If carefully managed, this has a very high success rate.
Again, there is a difference between many religious and social conservatives and the rest of the population. Take the case of a male to female transsexual (MTF). This is a person with a male genetic gender and a female gender identity. Many conservatives consider the person to have remain a male even after gender reassignment surgery, hormone medication, and years of living as a woman. Almost everyone else regards the individual as a female. This conflict produces obvious problems:
Many Americans assume that persons of different sexual orientations, whether heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian, are protected against job discrimination. Not so. There are state laws against employment discrimination on the basis of gender, race, and other grounds. But most states do not have a law protecting the jobs of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and heterosexuals, based on their sexual orientation. Even fewer protect cis-gendered persons, transgender persons and transsexuals on the basis of their gender identity.
Various unsuccessful bills have been introduced at the federal level since 1994 to safeguard the jobs of persons of all sexual orientations. The 2007 version originally added protection on the basis of gender identity. However this provision was later deleted in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain its passage under a Republican administration. Gender identity protection was restored to the 2009 version.
So far, none of the bills have become law. However, the 2009 version may yet succeed.
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Consultants on Religious Tolerance
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