In light of the confusion stirred in some readers of recent texts on Social Media and other online portals, regarding the Church’s clear teaching on homosexuality and the pastoral need to care for those suffering in particular from the social trend to regard it as “natural” or a thing to be accepted as part of human nature, the following text is provided for contrast. Presented as a “reference text” at a clergy meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in the USA last year, it offers a clear response to many of the social arguments used in the attempt to diminish the Church’s pastoral teachings, which always aim for the loving care and conversion of all who fall into any sin.
OrthoChristian.com is offering this in-depth report as a series of posts.
The entire PDF version of this article can be found here.
The Judeo-Christian view of homosexual behavior was dominant in the cultures of Western nations from the 4th century to the mid-20th—a period of some 1700 years, and also was, officially at least, the view of the Muslim world. Even cultures outside the Abrahamic religions were influenced by their dominant worldview.
How then, did an almost complete reversal of this understanding occur in little more than a generation?
It should be emphasized, at the outset, that it had very little to do with science—rather, it has been characterized by the systematic suppression of science.
The roots of the change in popular attitudes are much deeper than the last 50 years. In the 18th century, the writers and philosophers of the Enlightenment largely saw the fallen state of man as natural. Associated with this was an increase in religious skepticism, challenging Western culture’s Christian foundations and restraint of man’s passionate impulses. The psychological theories of the late–19th and early20th centuries (e.g., those of Sigmund Freud and his contemporaries), following their Enlightenment forbearers, described attempts to curb the spiritual illnesses of fallen human nature as unhealthy “repression.” In the characterization of sociologist Pitirim Sorokin and others, the cultural mentality of the West became increasingly “sensate”—that is, one in which truth is drawn exclusively from the senses, and in which pleasure is therefore always the goal, because pleasure is always the (material) good.
In literature, the years prior to World War I saw few novels with homosexual characters, and in these novels the homosexual characters typically came to a bad end. Following World War I, Hemingway wrote a number of short stories with homosexual characters and themes that may be described as descriptive and cynical in tone, as opposed to cautionary. However, the first novel to deal openly with homosexuality and to achieve wide distribution was Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar, in 1948. In this novel, Vidal—himself a lifelong homosexual—portrayed overt homosexuality as a natural behavior. Even among the literary establishment of that day, this was too much; major newspapers would not advertise the novel, and magazines blacklisted Vidal’s work for a number of years. Eugene O’Neill’s famous play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, in 1955, brought an underlying homosexual theme to Broadway, complete with a star-studded cast, but this aspect of the play was written out of the 1958 Hollywood film based upon it.
In the field of scientific research—although perhaps it is now more aptly regarded as science fiction—the Kinsey Reports of 1948 and 1953 opened sexual topics for discussion, including homosexuality, that had formerly been taboo. Although Alfred Kinsey’s work is now widely recognized as flawed, it had a significant impact for many years. The notorious 10 percent figure for the incidence of homosexuality in the general population originates with Kinsey. During the 1970s and 1980s, gay activists quoted this figure as often as possible. (Although one would think that it should have been so thoroughly discredited as to be extinct today, it can be found in contemporary brochures prepared for adolescents questioning their sexuality. Notwithstanding the discrediting of much of his research, Kinsey was treated sympathetically in a 2004 film.)
However, underlying changes in Western culture were laying the foundation for a major shift in the attitudes of the general public. Although couples had long controlled their fertility with various prophylactic devices, the introduction of oral contraception in 1960 contributed to the separation of procreation and sex in the mind of the public. The affluence and leisure of the post-war period facilitated pleasure-seeking in all its forms. And although nominal religious observance remained strong through the mid-1960s, at least in America, there was a significant “social” dimension to this participation, which masked a strong current of theological liberalism and the decay of traditional religious belief.
These intellectual and social currents contributed to what is usually referred to as the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. These trends led to an increase in divorce, premarital sex, and abortion, and also paved the way for the mainstreaming of homosexuality. Popular “sex manuals” (e.g., The Joy of Sex, in 1972, followed by The Joy of Gay Sex, in 1977) presented sex as a recreational activity to be practiced using an array of techniques, including sodomy. The widespread adoption among heterosexual couples of sexual practices formerly associated principally with homosexuals—for example, oral sex, mutual masturbation, and anal sex—tended to blur the distinctions between the two in the mind of the public.
In a broader context, the movement to remove traditional attitudes around homosexuality (and a myriad of other sexual constraints) was part of a larger project, to bring every aspect of traditional culture under skeptical challenge.
The movement to mainstream homosexuality has been, from the start, a political struggle.
The start of a formal movement in the United States can be traced to the New York Stonewall Riots of mid-1969. In the 1960s, the New York City Police Department routinely raided bars, bathhouses, and clubs catering to a homosexual clientele, in enforcement of then-current anti-sodomy and public decency laws. Their raid on the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969 attracted a large crowd, and the police lost control of the situation. Rioting occurred over several days. This event served as a catalyst, and within six months, two “gay rights” organizations focusing on confrontational tactics and three homosexual periodicals had been founded. The first “Gay Pride” march was conducted in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago on June 28, 1970, the first anniversary of the riots. Such events are now held worldwide at this time of year, in commemoration of these events.
If the Stonewall Riots were the initial catalyst, unquestionably the most significant enabler of the homosexual revolution was the 1973 removal of homosexuality as a psychiatric illness by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The story of how this occurred is representative of the politicization of science pursued by homosexual activists from the very inception of the movement.
As an example of the status quo ante, in 1963 the New York Academy of Medicine asked its Committee on Public Health to report on the subject of homosexuality. The Committee reported that:
Homosexuality is indeed an illness. The homosexual is an emotionally disturbed individual who has not acquired the normal capacity to develop satisfying heterosexual relations.
Significantly, however, the same report also noted that:
Some homosexuals have gone beyond the plane of defensiveness and now argue that deviancy is a “desirable, noble, preferable way of life.”
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the APA, homosexuality was initially (in 1953) defined as a “sociopathic personality disturbance”; in the DSM-II of 1968, as a “sexual deviation.” DSM-II read, in part:
This category is for individuals whose sexual interest are directed primarily towards objects other than people of the opposite sex, toward sexual acts . . . performed under bizarre circumstances . . .Even though many find their practices distasteful, they remain unable to substitute normal sexual behavior for them.
No new scientific evidence emerged during the 1960s and early 1970s to contradict these statements. How, then, did the APA come to make such an extraordinary reversal?
Franklin Kameny, a homosexual activist, said, “I feel that the entire homophile movement . . . is going to stand or fall upon the question of whether or not homosexuality is a sickness, and upon our taking a firm stand on it.” Indeed, it would be difficult to promote a mental illness or pathology as a civil right. Their principal target therefore became the classification in the DSM-II.
In the absence of supporting scientific evidence, the only possible avenue was political action. This took two forms: internal and external.
In the early 1970s, open homosexuals were not permitted to practice psychiatry. As a result, homosexual psychiatrists were very closely closeted; not surprisingly, they regarded overturning their professional association’s definition of homosexuality as an illness as a most-desired goal. With this in mind, they began to work their way into the upper echelons of the Association.
In parallel, outside homosexual activist groups began a campaign of disruption against APA meetings and conventions. At the 1970 annual meeting, Gay Liberation Front members disrupted events with what they termed “guerilla theater,” in an effort to delegitimize the proceedings. At the 1971 meeting, Kameny stormed the conference at the head of thirty protesters, shouting “We are here to denounce your authority to call us sick or mentally disordered . . . For us, as homosexuals, your profession is the enemy incarnate . . .” He followed up this disruption with a letter to the Psychiatric News which promised future action, and threatened that if the APA did not change their position on homosexuality, they would act to discredit the entire profession of psychiatry.
If these sound like storm trooper tactics, this is quite literally true. The co-founder of ACT-UP/DC, Eric Pollard, stated frankly:
I have helped to create a truly fascist organization. We conspired to bring into existence an activist group that . . . could effectively exploit the media for its own ends, and that would work covertly and break the law with impunity . . . we subscribed to consciously subversive modes, drawn largely from the voluminous Mein Kampf, which some of us studied as a working model.
Meanwhile, the efforts of the underground homosexual lobby within the APA were beginning to bear fruit. Dr. John P. Spiegel became president-elect of the APA in 1973. Dr. Spiegel was a homosexual so carefully closeted that his own family did not suspect it until he revealed it on his 70th birthday. In fact, Spiegel had for some time been leading a covert group of activists within the APA, some of whom began referring to themselves informally as the GayPA. They had facilitated the disruptive activities of outside agitators by providing press passes that gave them access to APA meetings.
At the 1973 Honolulu meeting, Dr. Robert Spitzer, head of the APA’s committee on nomenclature, was convinced by a meeting with homosexual activists to draft a change to language in the DSM. The key phrase in the forthcoming DSM-III would be that
Homosexuality per se is one form of sexual behavior and, like other forms of sexual behavior which are not by themselves psychiatric disorders, is not listed in this nomenclature of mental disorders.
The sole caveat to this change was that homosexuals who were unhappy with their same-sex attraction could still be diagnosed with “ego-dystonic homosexuality.” Even this caveat would be removed in 1987, in the DSM-III Revised.
The new language was submitted simply to a vote of the Board of Trustees, without a single supporting scientific paper. The matter was later submitted to a referendum of the membership, who were lobbied in advance by a letter signed by unidentified GayPA members, and funded and partly written by the National Gay Task Force (NGTF), which had purchased the APA’s mailing list. Because a majority of the APA members who responded voted to support the change in the classification of homosexuality, the decision of the Board of Trustees was allowed to stand. But in fact only one-third of the membership did respond. Four years later the journal Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality conducted a survey of the membership, which reported that 69 percent of psychiatrists disagreed with the vote, and still considered homosexuality a disorder.
As lesbian activist Barbara Gittings put it,
It never was a medical decision—and that’s why I think the action came so fast. After all, it was only three years from the time that feminists and gays first zapped the APA at a behavior therapy session to the time that the Board of Trustees voted in 1973 to approve removing homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. It was a political move.
Dr. Charles Socarides, a psychoanalyst in the field of homosexual treatment, noted that the decision “involved the out-of-hand and peremptory disregard and dismissal not only of hundreds of psychiatric and psychoanalytic research papers and reports but also of a number of other serious studies by groups of psychiatrists, psychologists, and educators over the past seventy years.” The 1973 APA decision, he said
remains a chilling reminder that if scientific principles are not fought for, they can be lost—a disillusioning warning that unless we make no exceptions to science, we are subject to the snares of political factionalism and the propagation of untruths to an unsuspecting and uninformed public, to the rest of the medical profession and to the behavioral sciences.
The decision appalled even some liberal psychiatrists. Drs. Rogers Wright and Nicholas Cummings noted that it was “the first time in the history of healthcare that a diagnosis or lack of diagnosis was decided by popular vote rather than scientific evidence.” Even a supporter of the homosexual cause, Professor Ronald Bayer, commented
The entire process, from the first confrontation organized by gay demonstrators at psychiatric conventions to the referendum demanded by orthodox psychiatrists, seemed to violate the most basic expectation about how questions of science should be resolved. Instead of being engaged in a sober consideration of data, psychiatrists were swept up in a political controversy . . .The result was not a conclusion based on an approximation of the scientific truth as dictated by reason, but was instead an action demanded by the ideological temper of the times.
The American Psychological Association followed suit in 1975, and today states, as a “scientific fact”, that “being gay is just as healthy as being straight”, and that “same-sex sexual attraction, behavior, and orientation per se are normal and positive variance of human sexuality.”
The APA has not slowed in its march towards a polysexual future. The 1994 edition of the DSM (DSM-IV) further altered its definitions of “paraphilias” or sexual perversions. In order for an individual to be considered to have a paraphilia—such as sado-masochism, voyeurism, exhibitionism, and pedophilia—the DSM requires that, in addition to having or acting on such impulses, the patient’s “fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors” must “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” In other words, it’s only a “problem” if it’s a problem for the patient. In the 2013 DSM-V, “gender identity disorder,” in reference to transsexualism, was replaced with a more neutral phrase, “gender dysphoria,” in the context of an embrace of hormone therapy and gender-reassignment surgery as clinical “best-practice.” (To a considerable extent, transgenderism has now replaced homosexuality as the next psychological and civil-rights frontier.)
As the mainstream psychiatric and psychological associations abandoned science (and credibility) on these issues, dissenting practitioners established the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which continues to regard homosexuality as a treatable dysfunction.
This particular part of contemporary history has been discussed at length to make the point that the Church need not concede the science around this issue and rely on spiritual arguments alone. The science has been politicized from the start, and the new orthodoxy ferociously defended by homosexual activists and their allies.
With the science discredited, the homosexual movement was able to move into high gear, positioning its activity as a new phase of the civil rights struggle. The public health scourge of AIDS in the 1980s was turned to an occasion for public sympathy, which took care to skim over the key behaviors which led to the epidemic (some may recall the ostracism which commentator Andy Rooney received in the late 1980s for simply stating the fact, on the television program 60 Minutes, that HIV/AIDS is overwhelmingly a disease of receptive anal intercourse). Only a few in the medical community remember that the original name for this illness was GRID—“gay-related immune disorder.” The nomenclature was changed to direct attention away from origins of the epidemic.
Gay activists took pains to portray homosexual life, especially among male homosexuals, as patterned upon heterosexual norms. It was important to avoid alienating otherwise sympathetic heterosexuals by confronting them with the realities of the gay lifestyle. One late-80s activist guide recommends, for example, that “In any campaign to win over the public, gays must be portrayed as victims . . . Persons featured in the media campaign should be . . . indistinguishable from the straights we’d like to reach.” Another strikes a similar note: “The masses must not be repulsed by premature exposure to homosexual behavior itself.”
Organizing took place on college campuses and in high schools, where so-called “Gay-Straight Alliance” clubs became a common feature. Idealistic young people were recruited and indoctrinated with the new post-scientific mythology of homosexuality’s normality and innocuousness. These new orthodoxies are now largely institutionalized in curricula.
In academia, certain faculty in the humanities began to gravitate to studies related to homosexual figures, influences, themes, and the rapidly-evolving cultural landscape itself. These specialists began to coalesce into their own field, with the first program in “gay and lesbian studies” established at the City University of New York in 1986, and the first department of “Queer Studies” (officially the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Studies Department) established at the City College of San Francisco in 1989. At present, there are over 40 such university programs and departments. Emerging from the activity of these specialists came, by the early 1990s, “Queer Theory”, which challenges the idea that sexual activity or identity is part of the essential self, and that all such identities are merely social constructs. The anarchist thinking is obvious; those who recognize its post-structuralist roots are, of course, correct.
In the military, a historic ban on homosexuals in the service was modified to a so-called Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy in 1994 that excluded closeted homosexuals. This nuance was eliminated by a bipartisan act of Congress in 2010. Despite assurances that the repeal of DADT would have no adverse effect on discipline, serving officers report that homosexuals now flaunt their orientation and behavior, in mockery of traditionally-minded officers and service personnel. In 2016, the Defense Department lifted the ban on transgender individuals serving openly in the military, and provided funding for hormone therapy and surgery for service personnel wishing to transition their gender.
The broadcast media, ever alert to social trends and fashionable left-wing causes, began aggressively to insert homosexual characters and themes into television and films. It is almost quaint to recall some of the early homosexual characters on television (older readers may recall a portrayal by Paul Burke in a 1970 episode of the television series “Medical Center”, where he sadly declares to a teary-eyed woman with a romantic interest in him, “I am a homosexual—not one of the obvious ones, thank God!”). Times change. By 2003, we had Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, based on the premise that homosexual men are superior to heterosexual men in matters of fashion, style, personal grooming, interior design, and culture. Homosexual characters are often depicted on television as wittier, hipper, more creative, and better dressed than straights—in every way, a superior class of human. They are also represented vastly out of proportion to their incidence in the general population. This has affected public perceptions to the point that a 2011 Gallup survey found that “U.S. adults, on average, estimate that 25 percent of Americans are gay or lesbian” (versus an actual figure of around 1.6 percent).
As the homosexual rights project became increasingly institutionalized in the public’s mind as a civil rights struggle, homosexuals began to seek—and receive—protected class status. This has led to the assertion of a full range of “rights”: to nondiscrimination in housing, employment, and retail trade, to adoption, and most recently, to marriage. This progression is unstoppable, given the assumptions of officially secular (and some not officially secular) governments, and the suppression of contrary science. Politicians, rarely better (and often worse) than the publics they serve, have responded both to these changes in public attitude, and also, to the political clout of organized homosexual activists. The assertiveness of organized homosexual pressure groups has already been discussed; their significant financial commitments to sympathetic (or purchasable) politicians should not be underestimated. Nor have the courts been a source of restraint; to the contrary, they have been quicker to appreciate the implications of protected class status. Although politicians, in 1996, could still be influenced to pass the Defense of Marriage Act (excusing states from recognizing marriages in other states not recognized in theirs), a 5–4 majority of the US Supreme Court struck that down in 2013, and the same 5–4 majority in the 2015 Obergefell decision established homosexual marriage as a constitutional right in the United States of America, superseding all previous federal, state, and local legislation and judicial decisions to the contrary.
The Obergefell decision, by the way, enjoys wide popular support. A May 2016 Gallup poll found that 61 percent of adult Americans agree with the Court’s judgment that same-sex marriages be legally recognized, similar to the 58 percent found in a 2013 WP-ABC survey; in the latter poll, support among younger adults under age 30 exceeded 80 percent. Polls in Western Europe find similar sentiments.
Activist groups have not been inclined to be generous in victory, and openly call for private associations (including the Church) to “change with the times.” Many organizations have already submitted to these demands. A number of large mainstream Protestant denominations—the United Church of Christ (UCC), Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and Presbyterian Church—USA (PCUSA)—ordain openly homosexual clergy, and are moving to (or have already established) ceremonies that recognize same-sex unions. The Boy Scouts, one of whose stated methods is to provide “strong male role models,” now allow openly homosexual leaders, following the opening of the youth ranks to self-identified homosexual Scouts, although these are officially barred from engaging in homosexual activity at events. Girl Scouts and Camp Fire are officially “inclusive,” and prominent LGBT women are held up as role models. Uniformed Boy and Girl Scouts participate in Gay Pride marches.
In response to a 2012 state law, California public schools have developed curricula “that ensures kindergarten through 12th-grade students learn about LGBT figures and the roles they played in shaping society.” Proposed themes and topics include “Teaching second graders about family diversity and non-traditional families”, and fourth-grade lessons on the “possibilities and motivations for same-sex relationships in Gold Rush-era California.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed the adoption of children by homosexual couples.
Nearly all large public universities, in pursuit of diversity goals, have active programs to identify and support self-identified LGBTQ students.
Punitive measures are imposed on individuals whose Christian consciences will not permit them to facilitate same-sex unions. In Oregon, a couple that refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding was fined by the state’s commissioner for labor and industries an enormous sum that bankrupted their business, making of them an “example.” Others call for the withdrawal of tax-exempt status for traditionalist religious groups, on the grounds that they “discriminate.” First Amendment protections of religious expression and association are summarily dismissed with the slogan, “freedom of religion is not freedom to discriminate.”
The attention of activist groups has now turned to mainstreaming a wide range of transgendered identities, seeking to institutionalize the “Queer Theory” mentioned earlier, asserting that all gender identities are essentially a matter of taste, and should be fully supported and accommodated by society.
That’s how the revolution happened, and where is stands today. Let’s turn now to the science.
Next: The Science of Homosexuality