From The GAPHR Advocate

January 2001

(Co-)Presidential Ponderings:

HEAVEN OR HELL

HEAVEN OR HELL – YOUR CHOICE read the small sign she was holding above her head. It was the end of Pride and I was hot and tired and carrying things back to my car. She was an older Asian lady with a stooped posture whose English was not good. Was it osteoporosis or Parkinson’s disease, I wondered.

"Heaven or hell – your choice homosexuals," she rasped. Oh no, now we have to hear it, too... And she was coming closer. But I remembered the rules for this kind of thing: don’t make eye contact, don’t engage, maintain a neutral facial expression. Doesn’t this light ever change...?

Now she was right in front of me. "Your choice..." That does it. It was 95 degrees and I was dripping with sweat. I didn’t need this. But what would I say to her?

Then I looked down. Boy, she was tiny. Every step deliberate, painful. Eyes which conveyed a sense of resignation, but with a certain intensity still remaining. How long has she been in the U.S. and what brought her to Pride to deliver this message? I had to know. She was eyeing the cross around my neck. Crap, why did I have to wear that today...?

"You Christian?" she asked, her tone registering a great sense of surprise. Her head was tilting one way, then the next. Oh, I get it... this does not compute, the pinball was having difficulty finding its way to the slot. I was one of "them," so how could we possibly have something in common?

"Yes and I don’t think much of what you’re doing." With that, a conversation started.

She trotted out the usual Bible passages. I responded that I didn’t believe the Bible was literally written by God, but rather by a group of men and reflected what was going on around them. That we were given minds and knowledge to come to new understandings. This was foreign to her. This is not someone who had been given much encouragement to think, I sensed. Certainly, no meeting of the minds here... but, oh yeah, there was that one thing we had in common:

For, to Christians, Jesus arrived on the scene as a questioner, a heretic, and most central of all: a Liberator. To no surprise, we disagreed on what that meant. While ambiguity may have become the new cornerstone in my life, it was something she just couldn’t deal with. At least not yet. Our conversation had come to an end.

"I’ll pray for you." she said. Yeah, nothing new about that, assuming I’d burn eternally because of what I am. A Sinner. How presumptuous, I mused. Then I thought for a minute.

"I’ll pray for you, too." My words surprised me almost as much as they did her. Her facial expression registered shock and a bit of indignation. Who was I to be praying for her? But here beside me was someone who carried a tremendous burden, whose Christian identity revolved around conforming to a litany of legalisms and absolutes and urging others to do so, as well. Someone whose faith appeared steeped in fear, rather than in hope. Someone more oppressed than I ever could be.

Did our conversation give her food for thought? Perhaps – although I doubt her beliefs changed because of it. But I know it did something for me.

She was no longer one of "them."'

Happy New Year!

Dan

Dues are Due

Hard to believe, but its already time to pay your 2001 GAPHR dues. Members may mail their dues to our P.O. box or bring a check with them to the meeting and give it to a board member. In order to keep costs down, we will stop sending the newsletter and meeting notice to anyone who hasn’t paid their dues by March 1, 2001. We don’t want to lose you – so please don’t let that happen. Send in your check today.

Literary Pearls

Scanzoni LD, Mollenkott VR. Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?: A Positive Christian Response. San Francisco:HarperCollins; 1994.

The authors note in the preface of this book that the answer to the question posed by its title should be obvious. However, it’s clearly not to everyone, as is revealed by this poignant letter, written in response to a special issue of an evangelical Christian magazine on the theme of torture:

"...I don’t know why I’m homosexual, nor why neither prayer nor Bible reading, neither psychotherapy nor healing lines have ever ‘cured’ me. I wish I could ‘come out’ openly and share what I know, but the time is too early. ...I’m tired of seeing the gay bars filled with so many youths who once sincerely accepted Christ as Lord and Savior – only to find they hadn’t become heterosexual and thus feel excluded from the body of Christ. ... Less than two months ago I was told by a sincere Christian (!) counselor that it would be ‘better’ to ‘repent and die,’even if I had to kill myself, than to go on living and relating to others as a homosexual..." (pp. 6-7).

While reflecting biblical scholarship and, at times, academic in tone, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? is also steeped in new understandings that only changing life experiences can bring. The authors – both evangelical Christians who had written previously on the intersection of their faith and contemporary social issues – chronicled their experience as Mollenkott disclosed her lesbianism to Scanzoni for the first time. The book thus combines two important perspectives: Mollenkott’s experience as an "insider" and Scanzoni’s growth in moving towards acceptance of an esteemed colleague and friend.

It is the combination of the personal with the scholarly that keeps this book from being merely a rebuttal of scriptural passages believed by some to condemn same-sex love and sexual expression. Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? also masterfully summarizes scientific understandings of potential origins of sexual orientation as well as proposing a homosexual Christian ethic in one of its last chapters. The latter makes for thought-provoking reading, as it introduces the notion of "constitutional homosexuality" – a subject of wide debate in the L/G/B/T community.

The book’s scope is, at times, limited. While the authors are to be commended for examining important contemporary issues such as gays in the military, ex-gays, and adoption from a theological perspective, they are silent on the thornier issues posed by bisexuality and "elective"same-sex expression. In light of the book’s purpose and the authors’ areas of expertise, there is, understandably, no mention of the responses of other world faiths to homosexuality. Hopefully, other volumes will be forthcoming to address these important perspectives.

Compassionate in tone and engagingly written, Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? affirmatively answers the question it poses by combining biblical, scientific, and personal perspectives. Written by evangelical Christians, this book provides an invaluable resource to family members and friends – and to gay people, as well – seeking to reconcile same-sex orientation with Christian identity.

 

L/G/B/T Medical Watch

Turan MT, Esel E, Dundar et al. Female-to-male transsexual with 47,XXX karyotype. Biol Psychiatry 2000;48:1116-1117.

Noted that while six cases of male-to-female transsexuals with 47,XYY chromosomal pattern have been previously reported, no cases of female-to-male transsexuals with 47,XXX karyotype are evident in the literature. A 21-year-old woman presented to an outpatient psychiatry clinic with depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. Upon psychiatric interview, the patient reported pronounced and persistent gender dysphoria since childhood. Cytogenic investigation using blood culture and G chromosome banding revealed a chromosomal pattern of 47,XXX. Authors conclude that sexual chromosomal abnormalities in some transsexuals may cause a vulnerability to development of a gender identity disorder.

Kendler KS, Thornton LM, Gilman SE, Kessler RC. Sexual orientation in a U.S. National sample of twin and nontwin sibling pairs. Am J Psychiatry 2000;157:1843-1846.

Investigated the role of genetic and environmental factors in the determination of sexual orientation in a nationally representative sample. Sexual orientation was classified as heterosexual or nonheterosexual based on subject response to a single item in a U.S. national sample of twin and nontwin sibling pairs. Compared the concordance of sexual orientation in monozygotic (MZ) twins to its concordance in same-sex dizygotic (DZ) twins and sibling pairs, and all DZ twins and sibling pairs. Analyses revealed familial concordance for sexual orientation. Concordance was greater among MZ twins than in DZ twins or in the DZ twins plus nontwin siblings. Biometrical twin modeling suggested that sexual orientation was substantially influenced by genetic factors, but family environment may also play a role. Concluded that familial factors, which are at least partially genetic, strongly influence sexual orientation.

Friedman MS, Blake PA, Koehler JE, Hutwagner LC, Toomey KE. Factors influencing a community-wide campaign to administer hepatitis A vaccine to men who have sex with men. Am J Public Health 2000;90:1942-1946.

Evaluated the men who have sex with men (MSM) community’s response to a publically funded vaccination campaign developed in response to a hepatitis A outbreak. Surveyed cohorts of MSM from 5 community sites. 19% of 178 potential vaccine candidates received the vaccine during the campaign and the likelihood of vaccination was positively associated with the number of exposures to campaign information (p < .001). Vaccination was independently associated with awareness of the outbreak and the vaccine, having had sexual relations with men for 12 years or longer, having recently consulted a physician, and routinely reading a local gay newspaper.