The title for this piece came to me after a focus group meeting on sexuality with some Incedo missionaries. This is not a research based paper. It is not a report on the statistics about sexual and relational atrocities. It is not an attempt to compare heterosexual behavior with the behavior of any other expression of sexuality. It is simply an expression of a realization that, because of the behavior of heterosexual males historically and currently, being heterosexual does not give me superiority over people who identify with an alternate expression of sexuality.
The debate on sexuality for much of modern history, particularly in the Abrahamic, monotheistic faiths, seems to have been framed largely in a dichotomous and polarizing discourse that says “I’m heterosexual and that’s okay.” The converse implied or blatantly stated is “You’re homosexual (or lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, inter-sex – LGBTI) and that’s not okay.” This means that the whole debate starts off with one group assuming a dominant position.
Foccault has written extensively about how language gives the group that says “I’m okay” the position of power in an argument because, if I am okay, I must be superior to those who are not okay. And, if you are feeling that you are not okay, as many LGBTI people do, especially in Christianity, then you feel disempowered.
I started thinking about what would happen if we changed the discourse of this debate. What if we started from a discourse of “I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay.” How would this change the way we approach and debate this significant issue in society and in Christianity. This led me to think about why being a heterosexual male is not okay. So here is my thinking.
I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay because heterosexual males are still the perpetrators of far too much partner abuse – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – that is sometimes blatant but all too often surreptitious. And, even worse, Christian heterosexual males are guilty of this abuse of their partners. As a result, women are suffering and, therefore I cannot help thinking that “I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay.”
I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay because heterosexual males are responsible for far too much pedophilia – particularly in the Christian church. Children are abused emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally because of this and that is why I feel compelled to say that “I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay.”
I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay because heterosexual men are the prime broadcasters of sexist jokes about women that take away their dignity. Women are demeaned by these jokes and that is another reason why I have come to think that “I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay.”
I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay because gender equality has not yet been fully achieved due to heterosexual males continuing to openly or subtly deny women certain roles in society, in general, and in the church, in particular. Women are being discriminated against which leaves me with no alternative but to think “I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay.”
I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay because the media that promotes women as sex objects is largely controlled by heterosexual males. This use of women, especially young women, as things for the visual, emotional and sexual gratification of heterosexual men, objectifies women and, because of this, I cannot escape the thought that “I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay.”
I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay because statistics show that heterosexual males are as promiscuous as males of other sexual expressions and this unfaithfulness is undermining the sanctity of committed relationships, spreading infection, promoting casual sex, hurting wives, partners and girlfriends, and devaluing sex. Because heterosexual males are so promiscuous, I have begun thinking that “I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay.”
I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay because heterosexual males are responsible for almost all the hate and prejudice crimes against people of different sexualities. This behavior of heterosexual males against these people damages the victims physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally and leaves them fearful and stressed, So, I am left thinking that “I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay.”
I am not trying to bring about an instant change in the church’s treatment of LGBTI people or a change in attitude or belief about the rightness or wrongness of certain sexualities. That is the subject of another debate, another discussion, another exploration. I am trying to bring a change in the way we conduct the debate about sexuality, especially in a Christian context.
“I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay, ” is a plea, particularly to those of us in the monotheistic, Abrahamic religions – especially in the Christian expression of these religions – to drop this divisive, unhelpful and hurtful discourse. It is a call to embrace, instead, a discourse framed by honesty, humility and love which seems to me to be more the way of Jesus. When confronted with those whom society, and in particular, religious leaders, had declared not okay, Jesus chose to offer a different way and say that they were okay in a discourse with them that was honest about their situation, that was humble in its exposure of their condition, and was loving in its acceptance of them.
It is my hope and prayer that we stop the discourse framed on, “I’m heterosexual and that’s okay and you’re another expression of sexuality and that’s not okay.” That we embrace, instead, a discourse that says, “I’m heterosexual and that’s not okay and I want to be honest and humble and loving as I now engage with what it means to be a sexual person and follow Jesus and to engage with the experience of those who are of an alternate sexual expression and, especially, with those who are LGBTI and are fully committed to following Jesus.”
Mal Green is a member of Incedo, a mission order in New Zealand exploring what it means to follow Jesus with young people 24/7 outside of the structures of Christianity so that we can invite them to join us in our faith adventure. He has been hanging out with young people since 1969 while studying, lecturing, mentoring, pastoring.