It was two years ago that after a gathering I had organized, a young lady wearing a baseball cap & leather jacket walked up to me & asked, “Are you affirming?” I hesitated in my response. My first thought was, what are you meaning by “affirming?” I knew the inquiry was a quantifying question with the expectation of answering a quick polarizing yes or no. On a much deeper level though, I also knew it was meant to either mark me as accepting & embracing all that is considered Gay Rights & in support of the full moral right of what it means for one to identify as being LGBTQ2, or… exclude me to the outer farthest reaches where all bigots, hypocrites, & “egotistical ignoramuses” belong. The problem I had was that I felt the question was far more complex & dynamic then just a yes… or no response.
The Science Of It All…
This past week, my friend & I were conversing again over this same question & he stated, “I’m open to what the science says.” So what does science say about the genetic rigidity of sexual choice?
In a recent article published in Science Magazine last October 2018, researchers report after a GWAS study was done that they, “identified four such variants on chromosomes seven, 11, 12, and 15, respectively.” Each of the common variants were linked to the LGBTQ2 community & related to variable traits & behaviours. Reflecting on the behavioural commonalities, researchers report that participants were, “more likely to have experienced major depressive disorder and schizophrenia, and women were more likely to have bipolar disorder.” But, this was also explained as, “findings should not be taken to mean that the variants cause the disorders. Instead, it ‘might be because individuals who engaged in non-heterosexual behaviour are more likely to be discriminated [against], and are more likely to develop depression,’” More on this in a moment.
The physical traits that were found to be common within the LGBTQ2 participants are male pattern baldness and in a, “variant on chromosome 11 [that] sits in a region rich with olfactory receptors. Ganna noted that olfaction is thought to play a large role in sexual attraction.” This characteristic however, is complicated by the findings that, “Heterosexual people who possess these same four genetic variants tend to have more sexual partners.” Meaning the choice of a person’s attraction is not necessarily determined by such chromosomes.
Ultimately, their conclusions were:
“Overall, the findings reinforce the idea that human sexual behavior is complex and can’t be pinned on any simple constellation of DNA. “I’m pleased to announce there is no ‘gay gene,’” Ganna said. “Rather, ‘nonheterosexuality’ is in part influenced by many tiny genetic effects.” Ganna told Science that researchers have yet to tie the genetic variants to actual genes, and it’s not even clear whether they sit within coding or noncoding stretches of DNA.”
The problem of relying solely on the science behind sexual choice & behaviour is that it can only produce physical evidence that is left behind following a particular narrative of controls. As identified earlier in this type of research, “geneticists have had only a handful of underpowered studies to address a complex, fraught, and often stigmatized area of human behaviour.” Science itself, is stigmatized by the philosophic hypothesis’s to which it uses to measure its results.
So then, to where do we turn to find clarification on the morality of homosexuality & the LGBTQ2 affirmation? Human identity is hardly centralized to the sexual choices & affirmations we make, both personally & socially. Our understanding of ourselves becomes intrinsic not on personal ego driven bias, but an open awareness to the greater relationships we have in human existence & creational consciousness.
Theology, Psychology, & All The Ology’s Of The World
In his book ‘Exclusion & Embrace’, Miroslav Volf writes that, “Most theologians would agree that God is beyond sexual distinctions. We use masculine or feminine metaphors for God not because God is male or/and female, but because God is “personal”.” This thought is significant when we consider what it means to be created as sexual beings because as Volf points out, our sexual identity is not solely dictated by our own personal choices or beliefs alone (even the belief that there is no choice), but by the personal & social relationships we are created in, develop, & foster in life. Our identity is not built on the assumption of, “I think, therefore I am.” It is fostered through an understanding of, “We relate, therefore we exist.”
While we then recognize that our relationships form in some part, the sexual identity & behaviours we have, we can also realize the human psyche speaks into the growth of our genetic make up, too. The ways we choose to learn & develop our social worldview create a perspective of communal & personal morality & ethic.
From a theological perspective, we might also be willing to accept & question the role our spirituality relates & speaks into our understanding of sexual consciousness. The role of any religious thought pertains to the deep & centrally entwining reality that one’s identity is being developed & found in relationship with a divine narrative &/or being. Most people in the world agree that within some form or definition of religious morality, sin has corrupted the world, a state of brokenness has left creation in a state of decay, & things are not always as they are meant to be. While humanity competes for possession of this objective truth, it always seems to centre on some form of balance between the justice & rights of creational order & the ability for humanity to find empathy & grace for the other.
Our willingness to bring the complexities of the sciences to our physical being, our psychological state & development, along with our spiritual consciousness & awareness into a harmonizing conversation with each other becomes the practice in which we can truly discover & affirm our human identity. Now that is some very deep & all encompassing ology’s for us to take on in our lifetime!
The Affirmation Of Justice Through Shared Hope
Growing up, my home was surrounded with pictures of rainbows. My mother loved them & would have them hung on the wall in great big pictures. She’d create crafts of rainbow artwork & have rainbow stickers on just about everything, including her guitar. My mom was proud of the message of the rainbow long before Pride!
The story of the rainbow comes from the Jewish narrative of Noah & the great flood. Following the worlds destruction, after God sent the rains to wash away the earth & everything in it, Noah’s ark landed upon the mountains of Ararat. Debarking from the ship that they had spent nearly a year on, Noah prepared an altar & his family presented a sacrifice on it for the thanksgiving of God’s mercy. God, moved by their devotion, responded by creating a beautiful multicoloured rainbow in the sky while saying, “I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh.” (Gen. 9:15) The rainbow was meant to be God’s divine symbol for a justice of hope for all living creatures & not just one singular people group or demographic.
As a follower of Jesus, my theology reveals the world & human nature as broken & in need of restoration. As Volf states, “To be a follower of Jesus Christ means both to affirm that God’s justice transcends all cultural construals of justice and to strive for that justice.” Part of that existence is the sexual identity & nature we have wrestled with since the fall. (Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:26-27) But human identity is also far more complex & dynamic than to be reduced to just the sexual choices & anatomy we find ourselves created in. As the apostle Paul shares, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) And as Jesus so passionately demonstrates throughout his life, “[God] desires mercy, not sacrifice.” (Hosea 6:6; Matt. 9:13)
But the question I was asked was not a theological one; it was a relational one. The desire to be affirmed had implications to theological understanding but, was more pointed towards my willingness to see them as belonging & being embraced as part of my community life. Using the very illustration of hope given through God’s justice in the rainbow, the communal life becomes a unified expression through the diversity of light; each with its own quality & characteristics of beauty & colour. No singular essence makes up the whole of the bow, just as all the quintessences of the bow becomes interdependent on all its relational splendour to display the promises of becoming whole & magnifying God’s hope.
The question of justice for the LGBTQ2 community in the world today is far more complex than just a yes or no to their sexual choices. As human beings we must embrace these justice issues with a mind & heart keen to acknowledge their own sovereignty over personal freedom & the need for human communal rights & healthcare provisions. The hope given through God’s kingdom is one that blesses all nations & not just its own. (Jer. 29:7)
I don’t pretend to say that answering this relational question is easy for us all but, if we are willing to see God’s justice through a Spirit of hope, & live unified in the hospitality of mercy & grace; together we just might find the beauty & answers to human identity that stretches us beyond our own imaginations. And in searching for that, together we can embrace each other always & affirm one another with the love of eternal pride!