This is an Other Sheep web page
The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson
|An Article by Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson, Other Sheep
Coordinator for Thailand
|"Here I am on the cusp of seventy
years of age . . . a Presbyterian
pastor and missionary" ministering to
fifty or sixty "queers and queens" in
"this northern Thai village context."
The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson
with Pramote, his Thai partner
of ten years.
In this article, Time to Take a Step, Dr. Kenneth Dobson discusses accepting one's self,
coming out again and again, sexual orientations – as many and varied, and then looks
briefly at Thailand and more seriously at Uganda as an example how society and culture
may or may not be accepting to a certain degree. He concludes with the idea that, in view
of Uganda, for gay activists, "it is time to save some lives."
Self-acceptance and Coming Out
At some point in life every person who is a member of a minority group at odds with the
general population has to make peace with the issue of, “Who am I? Where do I fit? Why
am I this way?” I say we have to make peace, because there are no satisfactory answers
to these questions. Why am I blind? Why am I a dwarf? Why is my health precarious?
Why is my IQ so far above average? Why am I gay? From a social point of view these
conditions and many others are disadvantages which require adjusted reactions on our
part as well as on the part of those who relate to us. In many cases the negative aspects
of being unusual can be neutralized or even turned into advantages. That’s the stuff of
movies. It is all about how we deal with these things.
In the 1960s Elizabeth Kubler Ross enlightened us about the stages of coming to terms
with death and dying. In general, the phases she identified were denial, shock, anger,
bargaining, and acceptance. At least that’s how I remember them. Those of us who are
gay have climbed those steps. Somewhere in our youth or childhood we were unwilling to
see the obvious: since we didn’t think about boys and girls the way other guys do, we
were different from them. Then we came to the point where we cried, “Why me?” But the
cry was mostly inside, and so we went deeper inside and seethed with a type of
depressed anger that “didn’t want to talk about it!” Then we tried to buy the best terms
we could get, often by being the “best little boy in the world” and then sometimes “the best
husband and father.” And then we came out (or we didn’t) and at that point we just let
others deal with it. “Hey, Mom. I’m gay.” Then what?
Well, then we found ourselves doing it all over again. Mom and we knew, but it’s a big
world, and a big family. Tell Dad. Tell Grandma. Tell your good friend who thought she
was your girlfriend.
First you hide, then you turn your hiding into a game, then you try to win somehow, then
you deal with it and move on. Our comings-out go on and on. Just when we think, “We’ve
told everybody. We are out. It’s over.” Whoops! There’s another group that we have to
deal with. After a while we decide, “It’s not fair!” And, whoops, we’re dealing with “Why
me?” all over again.
Dr. Robert Chapman conducted an experiment with his anthropology students that I’m
dying to replicate. He asked them to list questions they’d like to ask gay people. They
came up with such questions as, “When did you first know you were gay?” “Do you think
you were born this way?” Chapman then asked the students to go out and ask those
questions of heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. The students felt “stupid” asking
straight people who had obviously always thought they were born straight questions like
that. But the double standard was obvious. So they went out and did the interviews.
Chapman said the results surprised everyone. The straight students either did not take
the questions seriously or they became defensive, feeling their heterosexuality was in
question. But the homosexual students gave long informative responses. The same
questions, one student observed, started long meaningful conversations with
homosexuals but short, uncomfortable and defensive ones with heterosexuals. The
students concluded that while society accepts the inborn nature of sexuality, it does so
only for heterosexuals. For homosexuals the nature of their sexuality is still questionable.
I’d like to try that experiment out here in Thailand where there are three traditional
sexualities. I suspect that the majority would bristle, “I’m a real man,” and gays would also
be uncomfortable and brief. But the main point is that it’s not fair that we have to
continually interpret, explain and reveal ourselves, while the others don’t have to do that.
I’m sick and tired of coming out. Whoops.
Let’s go back a minute, there may be a way out of this. How many sexual orientations are
there? In the USA for a long time we thought there was one. There was one natural
sexuality even though some people chose to behave perversely. Then we began to think
of two sexual orientations, hetero and homo, gay and straight. Here in Thailand there are
men, women and katoey (women born in male bodies, girls with the wrong physique. Ok,
chicks with dicks). Social scientists list up to seven sexual orientations that people are
born with. All of them are natural, or as Christians would say, “God given.”
The majority of human beings around the world are heterosexuals. The minorities include
homosexuals, bisexuals, pansexuals and asexuals. As I understand them, homosexuals
are attracted romantically and/or sexually to other members of the same sex. Bisexuals
are attracted to both sexes. Asexuals are not sexually turned on by either sex, or by
anything, although they may be romantics. And pansexual is a fairly new term that is
somehow broader than bisexual. Gender specialists say each of us is “hard-wired” for
one of these orientations and some specialists add one or two more. Some, they say, are
auto-erotic, meaning that no matter how they have sex the turn-on is self-focused. Others
would conclude that everyone is self-focused as they climax, so auto-erotic people is a
small group who are just made up of those who are in fact turned off by the presence of
The message from all this is that there is a range of orientations that defies sharp
distinctions. We are spread out along a spectrum pretty much as Kinsey discovered 60
years ago. Things aren’t as black and white as they are made out to be. We may not be
on exactly the same spot on the scale as most others, but neither is anybody else. We
are all, all over the place.
Maybe there’s less to being gay than we were afraid there was.
Society and Culture: Thailand and Uganda
I wish that was all there is to it. Life would be much simpler without this orientation mess to
have to explain so often. We could all just relax and be who we are, love who we love,
and marry them when the commitment is mutual and appears to be permanent.
But we are not a planet of individuals. We are imbedded in cultures and societies. To an
extent they make us who we are. For example, in Thai society how far one is born from
“the core” determines ones birth status. The core of Thai society is composed of those
families who have inherited the power and the wealth that goes with it to run the country
and set the rules. One’s social status might be altered from one’s birth status by
something like education or sudden riches, but it is also impacted by such things as one’s
intelligence or sexual identity. Being male is an advantage, being gay reduces the
Now, if one is a gay male in Uganda, for instance, the stakes are entirely different. There,
under the impact of cultural tradition and, we hear, due to the influx of Christian
fundamentalism, new laws will criminalize a wide number of sexual behaviors to try to
eliminate homosexuality, even though being gay is not a matter of choice. In Uganda it’s
going to be, “Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass GO. Do not collect 200 dollars.”
Moreover, anyone in Uganda who aids and abets, who fails to report within 24 hours, or
who consorts with homosexuals will be criminal if this law is enacted. Repeat offenders will
be hung by the neck until dead. The Ugandan church is behind this. The law is good as
far as the majority of Christians is concerned. It’s on the agenda of the Christian right in
the USA, too. The Rev. Pat Robertson in 2001 agreed that the execution of homosexuals
is in accord with God’s will for us who are gay. [See Pat Robertson’s “200 of Life’s Most
Probing Questions” on www.cbnindia.org/200Questions/article.php?topic=14]. This
intensity of gay hatred hasn’t surfaced since the NAZIs forced homosexuals to wear pink
triangles as they shipped them off to Auschwitz.
No, being gay may be as natural as being a certain race, or right or left handed. But the
point is muted if we are being criminalized and rounded up. It’s time to end the vendetta
against us before the killing really gets started again. Gay rights might be about where
we can get married and serve in the military, but we need to be about more than gaining
social acceptance and job security. The crisis that is unfolding is about loathing that is
spiraling out of control, and it’s about politicizing this loathing, encouraging rage,
legitimizing violence, and allowing terror.
I wish there were time to get the word around that we are gay because God made us this
way just as others are heterosexual because they are. I wish there was time to let that
sink in and to advocate better tolerances for gay and lesbian kids struggling with their
steps out. But things are getting bad faster than we expected. The Christian right is
wrong, but they are powerful and ruthless, and they are spreading into the places in the
world where minority rights aren’t a deep-rooted tradition.
Being a gay hedonist isn’t the right stance to take right now. It’s time to march for
something more than gay pride, even. Its time to try to save some lives, maybe our own.
|Time to Take a Step
Dr. Kenneth Dobson
|This web page was created in the Bronx, New York,
Friday, December 4, 2009
Visits to this page since December 4, 2009.
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