For good or ill (and despite the best efforts of queer theory’s proponents), the word “queer” is something that people associate with sexual orientation. At the end of the day, “sexual orientation” is not so much about who one loves (as there are many kinds and definitions of love, and most queer people can love anyone of any gender in a variety of ways), it’s about who one has sex with, or with whom one would most prefer to have sex. And, being this column is called “Queer I Stand,” perhaps it’s time to reflect a little bit on what sex and queerness have to tell us about Pagan and polytheist religions.
As a further prefatory note, I’d like to clarify that this is a very important issue to consider in a great deal of the modern “debate” (and it’s really only a “debate” in the minds of certain forms of insistent creedal monotheism, on which more in a few moments) over same-sex marriage.
The Hebrew scriptures and the Christian testament do not condemn same-sex marriage; even the Qu’ran doesn’t condemn it. They can’t condemn something that they don’t even mention.
What all of them actually condemn is sexual acts between men; though Christianity does the Hebrew Scriptures one better by including women in that prohibition in Saul of Tarsus’ first chapter of the epistle to the Romans—and who ever said Saul of Tarsus was sexist and misogynist, because that was incredibly inclusive of him!
What the purveyors of greasy white cock-meat between two shiny sauce-soaked buns and their thousands of “let’s swallow this load to show our support” fans really mean when they talk about “spitting in God’s face” in relation to same-sex marriage is not the legal rights that would accrue to legally recognized gay or lesbian couples, they’re talking about sexual acts that turn their stomachs more than my unflattering description of their food earlier in this sentence. For being biblical fundamentalists, they’re sure taking this issue in a quite figurative manner!
Saul of Tarsus laid out their position nearly two millennia ago in his railing against “idolatry”—you know, that thing which Pagans and polytheists do in terms of reverence for nature (which should instead be given to the “Creator” in Saul’s view), and of worshipping what they call “false gods” (but which are no more false than their own various gods—and, based on what they say about some of those gods, our gods are considerably less false than theirs simply on a logical basis!)—namely, that it leads to “unnatural intercourse.” Exegetes and gay/lesbian Christian apologists have tried to point out that this means Saul considers idolatry a sin, and that these sexual “deviances” like homoeroticism are only symptoms of the sin, but it is not a sin in itself. (They also make a variety of other arguments about this passage, but I don’t think most Christians buy them, no matter how well intentioned and even well founded their logic might be.)
That’s right, folks: if you’re a Pagan or a polytheist and you’re not having hot gay sex all the time—UR DOIN IT WRONG! (At least, according to Saul.) Since he thinks you’re damned anyway, you may as well get as much damnation for your money as you can, right? Yeah, whatever…
But, all kidding aside (though much of the above isn’t really kidding at all), it brings up another set of questions. In the view of most creedal monotheistic religions, sex is for one thing and one thing only: procreation. You know, the way “nature intended.” So, if you use birth control, that’s also unnatural. If you like to have oral sex or anal sex (and lots of heterosexual couples do—and, in fact, in the days before birth control, a.k.a. almost all of human history thus far, those were pretty good alternatives to birth control that didn’t involve abstinence!), that’s also unnatural. If you like to have sex on your own, you’re an Onanist, back in the day the Hebrew God would have struck you dead for it (gosh, the good ol’ days, eh?), and that’s also unnatural. And, if you just sort of like to have sex because it’s fun and it’s a good way for people to develop relationships and emotional bonds with each other, then you should just be married, and then it might be kind of all right to do that; but, if not, and you just find it fun—emotional bonds or no, in long-term relationships or otherwise—then that’s also unnatural.
As Inigo Montoya said: I do not think that word means what you think it means.
Look at actual nature—you know, that thing from which we get the word “natural”—and some animals are having sex all the time, and not just for procreation. Especially the so-called “higher mammals”—those ones that are of advanced intelligence, social organization, and even possibly language-employing, like dolphins and bonobo chimpanzees—have sex for what would appear to be pleasure. Some animals know well enough that if they carry a fetus to term and the environment won’t be able to support another mouth to feed, it’s better to abort and try again another time: female kangaroos do that all the time in the wild. Some animals even have it within their ability to change gender if the population needs more of another gender than they happen to be personally, and they don’t need to see a psychiatrist and meet the Harry Benjamin standards to do it; and others—including many species of birds—can suddenly sport the plumage of another gender while still remaining their own birth-gender.
Looking at nature, which rightfully ought to give the most accurate definitions of what is “natural,” shows that there is pretty much no sexual act that humans do which isn’t also found in another species, and thus there is no such thing as “unnatural sex.” There is also what we would call gender-transgression, including transsexual transitions, that occur in many species, thus “gender-transgression” is also an unnatural concept in that it exists in nature, and therefore is also “natural”! Even for heterosexuals, this should be a supremely liberating realization. Just think of the possibilities! (Unfortunately, most people don’t, but that could fill another column at least this size, if not larger…and perhaps it will in the future.)
Now, look at the purveyors of this worldview where things that actually are “natural” are considered “unnatural,” and nature itself is considered “fallen” and something over which to have “dominion” rather than something to be cherished, respected, and even—their perception of their gods’ forbid—worshipped. Why on Gaia’s green earth would anyone think those people have any idea what is actually “natural” and what isn’t? People who have three gods, that they think are just a single god—which they think is the “only god” and about whom they haven’t the foggiest clues, and most of them say they “believe” in that god while not actually living as though that god really exists and pervades their lives—are pretty far off the mark in their basic theology from a polytheist perspective. Why, thus, would anything that follows from their ethics, which assume that only their singular (but in reality triple, at least for one of the major creedal monotheisms) god deserves respect and worship, be even worth considering as sensible for even a moment?
To them, acting like “animals” in any way is ridiculous for humans, even though humans are just as animal as any manta ray, baboon, great horned owl, secretary blenny, stick-bug, or North American bison. And yet, in this one area of life—sex—their insistence that what is “natural” is to only engage in sexual acts for procreative purposes, which is sort of like saying “you know: like animals,” they have made a very giant mistake, and an idolatrous one at that. They have mistaken their idea of what is “natural” for what is actually natural, and have worshipped that false image to the exclusion of all other gods in this situation, including the god of Love and who is Love according to some of their other scripture authors. Considering many of them have made an idol as well out of their “one God” that they “believe in” intellectually more than actually allowing those gods to be experienced in their lives, why should we take anything they say about nature, sex, or the gods seriously at all?