The tone of my last few posts has been towards the bitter end of the spectrum…if I may be permitted to understate the case. I would like to make it clear that I don’t resent the kind, straight Catholic ladies who are inspired by my story. It’s good for people to be inspired by seeing the power of God working other people’s lives. It’s one of those feminine tastes that I tend to think of as sentimental, and it’s a vibe that I find it really hard to get into, but I’m able to see that it’s a good thing. Also, just as God’s way of making fun of me, since my last post two different people with SSA have confessed to being “inspired” by my story…
Anyways, with regards to the bitterness, it’s partially because I’ve been reading a whole bunch of stuff from the reparative therapy crowd recently. I’m not ready to try to write about that. I think there’s too much anger for me to see it clearly, and I’m still in the process of researching. The point is, that it’s reminded me of the connection between same-sex attraction and childhood ostracization/bullying. This is one of the few connections that is generally admitted by both sides of the debate (though, of course, there are dissenters in both camps…) The causal relationship is not agreed on: groups like NARTH say that bullying and rejection by same-sex peers causes SSA later in life, while LGBTQ groups say that homophobia causes people who are innately gay to be bullied in childhood. Anyway, the thing that really got to me is that apparently there’s this diagnostic test that will allow the shrinks to pick out the gays, and one of the main things that allows them to suss us out is that we will be able to name very few, or no close same-sex friends during childhood.
So it becomes a sort of feed-back loop. All of the kids that no one wanted to hang out with on the playground grow up to be the adults that no one wants to hang out with because we’re “unnatural” and “objectively disordered.” I realize that’s not what the Vatican means, but it really is what’s meant by a lot of Christians who aren’t able to distinguish between “disorder” as a moral-theological term, and “disorder” as a psychological illness label.
Thinking about this has also dredged up a lot of stuff from my own childhood. Like there was this monkey-bar climber at school, and I remember that the popular girls used to come along and tell me that I had to get off of it, because it was “theirs.” I also know that I hurt myself on that climber, and dislocated my shoulder, and something in my brain keeps telling me that these two things are related – that I fell and dislocated my shoulder because I was being pushed off the monkey-bars by the popular girls. But I can’t remember whether that’s true or not, and if it is true, I’m pretty sure I never told anyone. It’s really bothering me, at least in part because it draws attention to the malleability of memory, to the fact that all of our past selves are deeply self-constructed.
The irony is that some of the traits that caused me to be excluded and picked on as a kid were feminine traits. I liked to wear frilly girly dresses with puffed sleeves, or pioneer pinafores that reminded me of Anne of Green Gables. All of the other kids were wearing blue jeans, spandex bicycle shorts and hypercolour t-shirts. I also refused to watch any movies or TV shows that were violent or gross – though if I’m going to honestly deconstruct that one, it wasn’t out of any feminine sensibility, but out of a belief that such programs were immoral. I liked Nancy Drew, and Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it was hard to find other kids who could sympathize with that at ten years old.
My experience seems to fit in with Riche Savin-William’s finding that children who go on to develop SSA tend to gravitate not towards gender-bending activities, but rather towards solitary activities which are not gender specific. (From The New Gay Teenager) What this suggests, at least to me, is that a big part of the difficulty facing queer kids is that our society has a needlessly narrow understanding of what constitutes “feminine” or “masculine” behaviour: that there is an excessive concentration of attention on particular masculine or feminine stereotypes, and the kids who don’t fit into these one way or another get singled out as weird, sissy, or queer.