THE TONY CROSS COLUMN
Article No. 30
Is homosexuality an obsession?
I was browsing in a bookshop the other day and came across a description of homosexuality which stated that a homosexual person was really in love, not with the lover, but with homosexuality. That for the homosexual person everything is subordinated to his love of homosexuality itself.
My immediate reaction was disbelief and denial of the very idea, but as I pondered it, I began to see that there was an element of truth in the saying. I don’t want to dismiss the idea out of hand – but neither can I agree with it entirely. So I want to explore the idea in this article.
On the one hand the author seems to be dismissing homosexuality as an aberration – something less than true love – a kind of self-love. On this basis what the gay person has might be termed ‘obsessional’. They are saying that a homosexual is, to use the old alternative word, an ‘invert’.
Let me digress for a minute to discuss obsession, a term which can apply to heterosexuality as well as homosexuality – and indeed to a whole lot of other circumstances as well. What is an obsession? The dictionary simply defines it as a persistent preoccupation, idea or feeling. In reality, someone with a sexual obsession becomes totally hooked on finding and exploring sex, and maybe doing so in all kinds of ways. In effect it dominates him. We are still talking about heterosexual and homosexual obsession.
The question then becomes: is homosexual obsession different in kind to heterosexual obsession. That is, is homosexual obsession turned in on itself, whereas heterosexual obsession is seen as directed to someone outside the self?
I have to say that, from a layman’s point of view, I am convinced that they are in exactly the same situation, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Indeed, when there is true obsession I would say that probably more times than not, it is ‘preoccupation with self’ in both cases. To the person concerned it may seem that the feeling is directed to a third party, but in fact the person is switched on inside himself to a picture of himself making headway with the object of his obsession. It is a case of inversion – whether heterosexual or homosexual.
So if the person (whether heterosexual or homosexual) is under the influence of an obsession – then, yes, there is inversion – a turning in upon the self. However if the love is not obsessional, then the person – whether heterosexual or homosexual – can be said to be truly in love with the third party. And in my view it makes no difference whether the person loved is of the same sex or not.
Having looked with the case of obsession, we now need to return to the main question in hand: even if it is established that it is not a case of obsession, is the homosexual more in love with homosexuality than the person he thinks he loves?
When a person first admits to himself that he is gay (excluding for the moment those who knew from their mother’s knee that they were gay), there often follows an intense period of what I will call ‘immersion’ in all matters gay. This is the time when a whole new world opens out to the young man. His new found homosexuality affects every aspect of his life. This is the period when the newly gay person may discover that he has a kind of third sense – an intuition - about other people who are gay – whether those people know it or not. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘psychic response’. It is a kind of invisible radar (gaydar) that tells the gay person when he is meeting with another gay person.
Sometimes that intense initial period is called the ‘slut’ period, because his need for affirmation as a valid gay man is so great that he may well go out and do almost anything, in his desire to celebrate his new found gayness. All the previous checks and balances that have held him back have been discarded. All the wise advice of others is dismissed. He may unwisely seek sex with almost anyone – so caught up and entranced is he in the whole new world in which he finds himself.
It is hard to describe this feeling to anyone who has not experienced it – it is perhaps best described as a new kind of ‘liberation’. All the old prohibitions – and there are many of these imposed by a society that is not sympathetic to homosexuality - are discarded, old beliefs overturned, old relationships broken, and new liaisons sought so that the gay person can actualise his vibrant homosexuality. It is a heady time – it is also a dangerous time!
In this ‘slut’ period it certainly looks as if the gay person is more in love with his homosexuality than he is with any other person. Other people simply become the means he uses to explore and celebrate his homosexuality.
But that is not the whole story. In fact it can be paralleled by a similar period in the budding heterosexual man, although of course he does not have to suffer the disapproval of society or his peers because of his form of sexuality. When he suddenly discovers, as a young man, that girls are there for the taking, and that they want it, he may well go through a period when he too is merely celebrating his sexuality, irrespective of whether he really loves the girl or not.
So we must discount this early period of the young male – whether heterosexual or homosexual; they are in love with themselves, and sex is an expression of themselves.
But now we come to the next phase of development. This is when a man ceases to ‘play the field’ (whether heterosexual or homosexual) and settles down somewhat. At that point he has realized that plain (or even fancy) sex is not enough to really satisfy in life – now he wants deeper relationship, and is ready to discover what real love is.
Of course there are some men (both heterosexual and homosexual) who never grow up. They remain stuck in a kind of permanent late-adolescence stage. They never advance to discover that love is better than sex. But we can dismiss these. We all recognize that they are on a byroad leading nowhere. With luck they may discover it for themselves before it is too late.
So I would suggest that the writer of the observation with which I started has only come across either young gay men or older gay men who are still stuck at the obsessional stage. In fact, they are no different than heterosexual men at the same stage of life. But both sorts can move on to a more mature attitude and be ready for real love. Love that wants to give not grab. Love that is passionate and which seeks pleasure for the other before all else. Love which will go the extra mile and do the small chores and services which show the beloved that he does truly love him. Two men or two women can love each other in that way in exactly the same way that two heterosexual people can. There are many examples to prove it. There is no difference in the decision to commit their lives to each other. There is no difference to the types of self-giving that each will be called upon to give. It is no easy matter to live with a person for twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years.
It has to be pointed out that a gay couple may well have to jump over extra hurdles because they are part of a minority. For example, they still cannot go into just any church and have their partnership blessed. Extraordinary, but true. Christians still think that they are guarding something precious by refusing to help thousands of young gay couples make vows and promises to each other before God and the family of God. So these couples start their life together without any church blessing, with all the obloquy and hurt that that implies. And this refusal is in spite of the fact that no one is calling it a ‘marriage’, which, clearly, it is not.
What are my conclusions? It is that homosexuality is no more an inverted preoccupation with itself than heterosexuality is. Both may have become ‘stuck’ at the immature stage of obsession, but men of both types can pass through this stage, where their sexual adventures are largely an expression of their desire to celebrate their sexuality and explore it, to a more mature attitude. Both types move on (in the majority of cases) to a more mature outgoing love for a chosen person and settle down to a life of commitment and self-sacrifice.
Thank God that he has made human beings capable of self-sacrificial love for another person. Thank God that there are countless couples – both heterosexual and homosexual – who demonstrate that their partnership, with love and commitment, is a reality. Their continuing life together will call for much patience, much self-giving, much humour, to get over the difficult times. And thank God too, that he gives us his Holy Spirit in our lives to show us how to live, when to apologise, how to lay down our lives for each other.
Love is love the world over. It is a relationship between two people, not two people of opposite sex. It is a commitment between two people. Not two people of the opposite sex. It reflects the love of God shown us in Jesus. Let’s thank him that we can understand and endeavour to live that to the best of our ability. We shall fail often to live love but that is why there is the Cross – it shows the inexhaustible love of God, which transforms us.