Comment submitted to :
www.ldsphilosopher.com on March 20, 2009:www.ldsphilosopher.com/2009/03/19/metaphors-that-confuse-the-same-sex-attraction-debate/
Recommended reading by John Wilson in his Sixteen Small Stones of the same date
Your comments and the conclusions you draw, that "gay" behavior is "learned" are both interesting and informative. Not being gay myself, I cannot evaluate them as effectively as a gay person might.
Your discussion evidences that you are well aware that cultural contexts and implications of thought and observation, including how we perceive (or believe) those thoughts, leads to potential errors of metaphor as well as in our language. You have also identified one of the threads which can then affect (wrongly or deflected) the actual perception, were it viewed outside such contexts.
Great job! Prescient, because it then implies unarguably that one feels "compelled" (good choice of metaphor) by those contexts, which might be loosely referred to as their "social," even "belief," system, not to be confused with religious belief necessarily, although it certainly may manifest aspects of one for a given individual, and can become or act upon resulting behaviors as elements or reflections of it. This is about as succinctly as it could be put, and should clarify to a degree for your readers the importance of reflection upon conclusions of perception and language as an important "intermission," if you will, before permitting them to be incorporated into perceptions or beliefs which might then impel one to unnecessary and incorrect metaphors of thought and speech, followed in course by unnecessary conclusions or actual behaviors. All very well put.
Have you attempted to try this on yourself as a check on the entire concept of the thread you so eloquently discuss? I use this technique as a self-check, and find it very helpful. I'll create an example here, designed specifically for you, to which you will respond with the same process you describe. Note each element according to your model, and record the sequence of thought and resulting metaphors which comprise the "effluent" resulting from them. Here goes:
A "gay" or "homosexual" behavior and self-perception can arise within or be triggered by, social, religious, psychological, and other contexts and influences, such as association. This "class" of same sex "attraction," Thayne and Richardson have elucidated well. This class of attraction, as it might be called, may be unnecessary, as it may be "driven" by a mistaken metaphor related to the processes they describe.
The question then arises, "Are all incidents of "gay" self-perception and behavior thus generated?"
Obviously not, nor do they make such a fallacious and presumptive claim. A careful reading of how they have constructed their remarks and conclusions evidences strictures specifically incorporated into the arguments themselves. So let us assume, based upon their arguments, that there is another "class" of gay individuals (which they neither assert, nor attempt to imply, exists or does not exist) whose self-perception and behaviors stem from a different ethos. What might that be?
I will create and state, as though it were generally known and accepted (or believed), an explanation of "why" this other "class" exists, beginning with a familiar, reported account which itself may be metaphorical, if only in the manner originally related. Like Thayne and Richardson, I am neither asserting nor implying that the event did or did not occur. However, its metaphorical "aspects" are obvious in light of their arguments. See how many you can identify as you read it. For brevity, I will merely paraphrase it. Here goes:
One Sunday, following the sermon, a rural pastor was standing at the entrance to the chapel, meeting and shaking the hands of those in attendance as they left, as is customary. He noticed a five-year-old lingering nearby, who seemed to be troubled, as though she wanted something more than the handshakes and greetings being offered. After the line had trailed off, making eye contact with her again, she followed his cue and approached.
"How are you this morning, little girl?" She replied that she had a favor to ask.
"Well, of course. What can I do for you?"
"I'm worried about my husband and my sons. I haven't seen them since I died in the car accident five years ago, and I want you to go by and check on them. They're not far from here."
Given a child's imagination, the pastor wasn't necessarily surprised, but in an attempt to perhaps ascertain the source this child's perceived memory, he asked where they lived.
"Will you write this down?" she asked.
Without manifesting the least doubt or surprise, he agreeably removed a pen and note pad from his coat pocket. She then told him the name of a nearby town, the street address, and the names of her "husband" and "sons," which he dutifully recorded.
"Why don't you just ask your parents to take you by," he asked.
"I asked them, but they just ignore me and say I'm imagining it. They don't believe me. But you are a preacher, so I knew you could ask God, and then you would."
"Well, I'll see what I can find out." he reassured her.
Thanking him and for the first time, smiling happily, she left and joined her parents, who had been waiting by the car, unaware of the nature of their discussion.
The pastor pondered what had just transpired. He resisted his initial urge just to relate the matter to her parents. During the week, as he sat preparing the next week's sermon, he became curious as to the source of the town name, the street address, and the names she had given him so matter-of-factly. At length, as the town was so near, he decided to drive by and see who actually lived there. Perhaps the visit would provide some bit of information which might help lead to a better understanding of why this little girl, clearly troubled, had approached him with her "concerns."
He drove to the adjacent town, located the street without difficulty, and discovered there was such an actual address. He knocked on the door of the house, feeling awkward and thinking of how to approach conversation with whoever might open it. Momentarily, a woman answered the door.
"Excuse me," he said politely, "I'm probably at the wrong house, but I'm trying to find Robert _______."
"No, you're at the right house, but he's at work right now. Can I help you?"
"I'm the pastor of ______ church in ______. I wanted to speak with him, and see how he and boys were doing." he said, mentioning the boys names.
"We already have a church here in town. But he's fine and so are the boys; they're at school."
"Are you his new wife?"
"Yes. My name's ______."
"I wondered if he had remarried since the accident." He felt he was really out on a limb now.
"We were married last year. He and the boys were devastated when they lost _____. It was so sudden and unexpected. Especially the boys. But we're all very happy now. Would you like me to call him?"
"No, I happened to be here, and I thought I'd drop by."
They exchanged parting pleasantries, and the pastor drove back to the church, somewhat overwhelmed.
The next Sunday, the little girl repeated the previous Sunday's behavior, waiting patiently until most others had left. He was relieved, considering how she might have reacted if he had not followed up on his promise to her. He then related to her that her "husband" and "sons" were fine, that he had remarried, and they were all doing well. She manifested intense, genuine relief, then asked,
"Who did he marry?" He told her the woman's name and that they had been married less than a year, but were very happy.
"I'm so glad it was her. She's my friend, and such a sweet person."
She thanked him almost as an adult might, given the same "circumstances" and walked away. From that time forth, she never mentioned the affair, and seemed to have entirely forgotten it.
This account or story is rich in metaphor at many levels. Like Thayne, I am neither suggesting, nor implying, that it actually occurred, or that it did not, or that it is true or not true. How it is received depends upon the "orientation" and "cultural" contexts, among others, of the reader. I have related it only to provide a context, which could also be considered metaphorical, for what now follows:
The, let us use the metaphor, "veil," drawn between the child's last life and the one she was currently living was obviously too "thin," another metaphor. Due to its "thinness," significant "bleed-over," another metaphor, of memory of her past life into this life occurred. Once the issue of greatest importance, the abrupt termination of that previous life which she expected to live, and the resulting trauma, grief, and concern for those most-loved, yet left alone, had been alleviated, all memory of it vanished, for the veil was then fully drawn.
Within the context of "pretending" or "accepting" that the account is accurate in its essential elements (depending upon one's "orientation"), the above conclusion is both plausible and rather obvious. Now, let us extend the implications posed beyond this single child to a broader context, specifically, the other "class" of gays whose self-perception and behavior did not arise in the manner defined by Thayne and Richardson. Let us use metaphorical "scissors" to separate those whose self-perception and behavior are "learned" from those whose self-perception and resulting behaviors stem from "memory." Clearly, they represent a different "class." Where am I going with this?
To sharpen our focus, let us discuss those who are not members of either "class" of gays, but adhere to a belief in "past lives," sometimes referred to, incorrectly some maintain, as "reincarnation." Reincarnation can imply (or impose upon) the simple belief in past lives that we have all lived before criteria (karma) that may not, some believe, influence subsequent lives. That limitation aside, it is commonly held by both groups that we may have been a woman in the life preceding this one, in which we are a man, and that we may have been a man in the preceding life, but emerge as a woman in this one. While we need not assert, nor adhere to, any element of the examples given, or the implications posed, if in either case, the "veil" is thin, for reasons we will not attempt to address (they are irrelevant to the present comment), what self-perceptions and "behaviors" might result?
Sincerely, Michael Hobby