Columnists > Voices

School days

Time to actualize every tickled fancy

Issue: "The trouble with Tommy," May 4, 2002

Last month approximately 1,900 high schools from sea to shining sea joined in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students, something that never entered our minds at St. Clare High, class of '69. It is possible that many of us were gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender back then too, but because we didn't pay the proper attention to it, we grew up mainly under the delusion that we were heterosexual.

Or if some of us were occasionally (and privately) aware of libidinous stirrings in that direction, that gnosis was soon enough snuffed out in the seven-times heated ovens of Calculus, Latin, and English Grammar.

Now we learn that snuffing out impulses is not a good thing. Now we have helpful teachers in the high schools and outside (the April observance was sponsored by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Educational Network) who will keep your children from the imbalance of focusing overmuch on what we used to call our "subjects."

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These mentors (who have dispelled in one generation the folly and ignorance of a thousand generations that preceded them) will encourage your children on a path to self-discovery-which in my day used to refer to one's gifts, but which in these more enlightened times ("No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you" Job 12:2) means the monitoring of one's fleeting hormonal impulses. Certain endocrinologic surges that were given scant berth in the Cro-Magnon era of my youth are now stoked, in the democratizing and equalizing of all human inclinations.

Oddly though, never is the possibility considered by these moderns (who pride themselves on "all things considered") that there may be danger in rousing that sleeping bear, just emerging from the slumbers of preadolescence. Never is it gleaned from the empirical stuff of daily life that sexuality is a powerful force that one unleashes at one's peril. Anachronistic to them is the dark refrain of Song of Solomon's otherwise joyous celebration: "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem ... that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases" (Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5; 8:4).

The usual testimonies are assembled by GLSEN for the occasion: 10th-graders reaching back into the mists of earliest memory and finding inklings (yea, assurance!) that theirs is no Johnny-come-lately conviction but that gayness is who they are, as indelible as blood type and fingerprints.

For this is the crux of the argument, you understand, the supporting beam on which the whole edifice rests: We are not gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender by anything so frivolous as choice, or parental failings, or the confluence of social forces, but by the hard wiring of genetic destiny. It's nature, not nurture, stupid. We can no sooner stop being gay than stop being Norwegian or French.

"I wonder what they do teach them at these schools," the old professor shook his head in dismay at the children's logic (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). King David traced his proclivities back to the womb (Psalm 51:5), and far from considering it exculpatory evidence that mitigated guilt, he wailed that the fault was more entrenched than he had supposed. The dye was in the wool, the wound profound and not a simple graze. Double up on repentance!

Leviticus, the book on God's holiness-and on where it would leave you if Christ had not come to quench its consuming fire!-makes the distinction between sores that are "only an eruption" and those that have "spread in the skin" (13:6-7); the bearer of the latter is made to announce his appearance in society with cries of "Unclean!" The blemish on a garment is closely watched to see if it be merely surface (less serious) or "in the warp or the woof" (more serious). If the latter, it must be burned (13:52). (And let the reader understand: It is not with leprosy and moldy tunics that God is really concerned.)

But these are all ancient and obsolete Near Eastern thought forms, no doubt, and speak nothing to us. Nor does Paul's tortured Romans 7:15 rumination on the warring voices within ("I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate"). Why fight it, rabbi? Actualize every tickled fancy; it's the very definition of honesty; "to thine own self be true." Did our unimaginative forerunners in the sexual-freedom movement suppose themselves to be merely gay, but now you of the new guard discern a desire more eclectic and rapacious? No problem: Broaden the label to "bisexual" and "transgender." It's a big tent, after all.


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