24 Nov 2014

Identities Crisis: Sex, Gender and 'Sexual Orientation'

Sexual Identity

John is Joan’s husband, but he can be nothing without first being somebody - and nobody can be somebody without being male or female. A diamond facet can be what it is only because of the diamond first being a diamond. The facets of John’s identity, such as tall, kind, and hungry, are possible only because he has a sex - a foundational essence upon which facets can be built. When John identifies as male, he does nothing more than recognise his own physical reality.

Male and female are bonded concepts, in that John can know himself to be a male only by knowing a female to be female. Regardless of John’s thoughts or feelings, he exists in the form of a relational object: his body points towards another; Joan’s body points towards another; therefore John’s body is a form of otherness. Our body, then, has a sexual orientation - ‘other-sexed’.

But John and Joan each have a second sexual orientation: by virtue of pointing towards each other, their bodies also point through each other towards another time - the future. Our other-sexed-ness exists in the form of our actual body, whereas our other-timed-ness exists in the form of a potential arising from the sexual difference between our body and another body. We cannot beckon the future on our own. Since other-sexed-ness and other-timed-ness give rise to a state of permanent and exclusive sexual union (parenthood), we can in the final analysis say the body is sexually orientated towards marriage. The body is marital.

Contraception

Since God has willed the body to be made for somebody else and sometime else, contraception cannot affect the body’s sexed nature. Instead, contraception places a physical barrier between John and Joan, and between present and future, and a mental barrier between the body (as it physically is) and the body (as it is mentally understood). Contraception distorts our perception of the nature of the act of sexual union: the act continues to be orientated towards the future, but our mind comes to regard it to be an act that is defined in terms of the present only. The mind’s understanding of its own body starts to disintegrate.

This disintegration is not what makes contraception wrong: a rotten fish is rotten even if we cannot smell its rot - rot is a cause, whereas smell is an effect. Contraception goes against God’s ordering of the body. It is the body’s rightness that causes contraception to be wrong. One effect of its wrongness is that, in ‘hiding’ the body’s integrity, we mentally become sexually disorientated.

Since other-timed-ness arises from other-sexed-ness, to deny our other-timed-ness is to deny the relevance of our other-sexed-ness. John’s mind starts to ask his body two awkward questions: “since your acts of sexual union no longer point towards the future, why does Joan need to be a woman? And why do you need to be a man?”

‘Sexual Orientation’

The relatively new concept of ‘sexual orientation’ refers not to those orientations determined by the body’s structure, but to sexual desires (states of mind) codified in terms of the relationship between the sex of the person desiring and the sex of the person desired. There exists one type of difference (male/female - ‘straight’), two types of sameness (male/male and female/female - ‘gay’) and a third possibility, ‘bi-sexual’ (either sex/each of the sexes).

If John is tall and thinks of himself as ‘a tall male’, this has no effect on other facets of his identity. But we get a different outcome if John thinks of himself as ‘a straight male’: ‘straight’ qualifies maleness; maleness is John’s essence; to qualify his essence is to qualify every facet of his identity - he ceases to be ‘a tall male’, and becomes ‘a tall straight male’. ‘Sexual orientation’ is revolutionary, then, not because of linguistically codifying sexual desires but because of supposing those desires to be ‘more essential’ than the very thing upon which they depend - sexual identity. No tin can opener exists to open another tin can opener, yet ‘sexual orientation’ asks us to accept that there are people who are defined in terms of sameness, not otherness.

Of course, sexual activity is about more than being male and female, but it cannot be about less than that. If the act of sexual union is no longer considered to point towards the future, it comes to be seen as something men and women do despite being male and female, not because of being male and female. But if the sex we are is irrelevant to the sexual acts we do, there is no context within which our sex is relevant. And if our essence is irrelevant, why have a body at all? In journeying from sexual identity to ‘sexual orientation’, we journey from pure body to mind-and-body. The second and final stage, then, is to leave the body behind and journey into the realm of pure mind.

Gender Identity

If John and Joan identify as male and female, their relationship is stable - they will always be male and female. Suppose instead that they identify as ‘straight’: if John then tells Joan he is ‘gay’, this alters neither his sexual identity nor hers, nor her 'sexual orientation'. But what if John identifies as ‘male Gender’ - not “I am male”, but “I feel male”? What happens when he tells Joan that he is still ‘sexually orientated’ towards her, but now feels like a (‘gay') female? Since ‘sexual orientation’ is defined in terms of a relationship, John has rendered Joan ‘gay’ just by changing his mind. Has Joan really lost control over her own ‘sexual orientation’?

What went wrong? The answer is that sex and Gender cannot mix. John journeyed from sexual identity to Gender identity, but retained the concept of ‘sexual orientation’. In doing so, he defined his ‘sexual orientation’ in a hybrid fashion - as a relationship between his mind and Joan’s body. We can go from having a whole cake to having half a cake to having no cake, but we cannot do the same in reverse - it is not possible to derive a half from nothing. Since Gender ejects sex from law - and since ‘sexual orientation’ is dependent on sexual identity - Gender ejects ‘sexual orientation’ from law. It cannot be re-introduced without re-introducing sexual identity. Gender has rendered ‘sexual orientation’ legally unexplainable and unsustainable.

From all this, we can see that - as a concept - ‘sexual orientation’ acts as a kind of catalyst; a stepping stone leading us just far enough away from our body so as to make us susceptible to the notion of mind-based identity. In blurring the boundary between body and mind, ‘sexual orientation’ helps facilitate the legal/social transfer from sex to Gender. In declaring everybody to legally be no body, Gender effectively declares every ‘sexual orientation’ and paraphilia to be identical.

Since Gender identities are defined in relation to one’s own mind, all Gender identities are also identical. This makes it conceptually impossible for any two people to experience a ‘Gender relationship’, or for any one person to have a ‘Gender orientation’. With our mind thinking we are self-defined, and our body remaining a relational object, we have a crisis of competing identities - are we made for ourselves, or for another; for now, or for the future? If we listen to our mind, we are trapped in a non-relational now. If instead we learn the language of the body, we can rediscover the fact of its marital orientation. In which case, our task is to cultivate a marital mind.