I am now three days into a wild and woolly debate, of sorts, on Twitter about the creation of homosexuality as a new category of being.
When last I checked, there are almost 1,000 comments, many of them vulgar, some of them threatening, and hardly any demonstrating real knowledge about the issue, only Tourette’s-like grunts, burps of outrage and political correctness.
I am not sure how it happened, but on some thread about Donald Trump, I was moved to say, “Homosexuality was invented in the eighteenth century.” I did get the century wrong. It was actually more recent, the nineteenth century.
A few years ago, Michael Hannan, who is now known as Frater Urban at the Norbertine Abbey of St. Michael in California, wrote two brilliant essays at First Things showing how harmful are the categories of “heterosexual” and “homosexual.” He argued against any notion of “sexuality.”
Hannan wrote, “Contrary to our cultural preconceptions and the lies of what has come to be called ‘orientation essentialism,’ ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ are not ageless absolutes.”
He argued that over the centuries the West had largely given up “Christianity’s marital architecture for human sexuality,” and then 150 years ago “began to replace that … with a new creation: the absolutist but absurd taxonomy of sexual orientations.”
Heterosexuality was invented as a category in order “to serve as this fanciful framework’s regulating ideal, preserving the social prohibitions against sodomy and other sexual debaucheries without requiring recourse to the procreative nature of human sexuality.”
As an ally to this argument, Hannan enlisted gay philosopher Michael Foucault and his History of Sexuality in which he wrote of this new creature called “homosexual”: “The nineteenth-century homosexual became a ‘personage,’ ‘a type of life,’ ‘a morphology,’ Foucault writes. This perverted psychiatric identity, elevated to the status of a mutant ‘life form’ in order to safeguard polite society against its disgusting depravities, swallowed up the entire character of the afflicted: ‘Nothing that went into [the homosexual’s] total composition was unaffected by his sexuality. It was everywhere present in him: at the root of all his actions because it was their insidious and indefinitely active principle.’”
What had previously been an act—sodomy—became a person, the homosexual.
To put a finer point on it: If you walked up to a man committing sodomy in one of the bathhouses of Pompei and suggested he was a new person called homosexual, he would have had no idea what you were talking about. He would have viewed himself as a man, no more nor less, with a taste for anal sex with young boys. In the same way, had you come upon a man walking through the Roman Forum arm and arm with his wife and said he was a “heterosexual,” he, too, would have been confused. He was a man. Period.
That is not to say sodomy did not occur in Rome. Even at the highest levels, there was plenty of it. There was even same-sex “marriage.” But there is no evidence that these people thought of themselves as a new category of being.
And this is not simply adding a name to something that had been happening for centuries. As Foucault points out, this was a new person, a new creation based on what formerly was merely an act.
And so, on Twitter, I said, “homosexuality was invented in the eighteenth century” and have been lambasted pretty much every moment since. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a rollicking debate. In my twenties and thirties, while slowly becoming Catholic and politically conservative, in various bars of Washington DC and New York City, I would take on all-comers. Often it was me against the whole room. I enjoyed it.
The argument on Twitter reveals a great deal about those who consider themselves “gay” or “allies.” They cannot brook even a bit of dissent. There is panic in that thread, as well as bitter anger and genuine hate. Some want me dead.
Part of the problem is that gays have this tendency to claim all and everything. Everywhere they look, they see gay. Abe Lincoln shared a bed with his law partner and so Abe was homosexual. And so, when faced with the notion that a category called homosexual did not exist prior to a certain point 150 years ago, they literally cannot fathom what this means.
And the responses are telling. Some denigrated my race. Others denigrated my age. There was even homophobia as countless people accused me of being homosexual. This is the old smear used against gays called “gay-baiting.” Anyone who engages these arguments from our side will almost immediately experience gay-baiting. Now, understand, I do not cry racism, or ageism, or homophobia but I insisted they live by their own rules. They do not take this well. They don’t even understand the charge; after all, they are pure, spotless, and sinless. It is only the likes of us who are unwashed.
The bottom line is they have become their “sexual identity.” They have become this new creation “the homosexual,” they cannot separate their sexual acts from their identities. What this means is they cannot imagine an ancient sodomite would not have had the exact same self-understanding as they do. It is a kind of chauvinism of the modern. Everyone must have been like us. You can see this in their condemnation of people throughout history who might have said or done things that violate their own modern sensibilities. It was rather odd that one of my most aggressive interlocutors sported a Che Guevara tattoo, as he was a murderer with a special taste for killing blacks and “homosexuals.” The irony was lost on him.
I am convinced that the panic and even mania I experienced on Twitter is good news. It demonstrates how unsure they are of their cause. A mature Christian, for instance, can handle those who may differ and those who may even be hostile to the faith. This mania is also reflected in the laws that are now being enacted around the country to force others to conform.
Twitter debates tend to go on and on and eventually peter out. This one is still going strong. So, if you want to see it, or participate, come to @austinruse and join the fun.