Orientation & Gender Identity 101
The controversial term “sexual orientation” has been receiving much attention
recently as the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) released their proposed resolution
that will receive an up or down vote at a gathering of BSA representatives in
Texas on May 22-23. On that date, some 1400 voting members will decide
whether to change current policy and now allow boys who openly acknowledge
same-sex attraction to participate in the BSA program.
You can read the entire proposed resolution here,
but the most controversial sentence is the last one in the proposed resolution:
No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual
orientation or preference alone. [Emphasis added]
One may feel that the
inclusion of individuals who experience same-sex attraction is in keeping with
one’s moral and religious values to reach out to all individuals. Our
inclination may be to be accepting, tolerant, and non-judgmental as the current
vernacular goes. But those honest and noble feelings do not account for
or allow for the implications of what others know the terms “sexual orientation
or preference” to mean. There is great danger in not gathering full
information on the cultural and sociological understanding of these terms – let
alone their legal and policy implications.
We at United Families International feel that it is important that we take this
opportunity to briefly share our understanding and our experience in regard to
these, and related terms, in the hope that individuals might gain a broader
perspective, not only to the dilemma faced by BSA, but in whatever arena or
policy discussion that these terms might arise.
Sexual Orientation vs.
Gender Identity: Is there a difference?
In international and
United Nations forums, there is a concerted effort on the part of gay advocacy
groups to have included in resolutions and documents not only the term “sexual
orientation,” but also the term “gender identity.” For example at the last
major UN conference, The Commission on Population and Development, the hotly
contested draft that was intended to discuss the needs of migrants, included
multiple references to the term “sexual orientation” and multiple
references to “gender identity.” Fortunately, pro-family
delegations, with assistance and input from pro-family NGOs, were able to stop
the inclusion of the two terms (just
as we did in March at the UN Commission on the Status of Women).
“Sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are terms that have never been
legally defined. In the case of “sexual orientation,” there is no
acknowledgement of what
types of behavior the term may entail. But here are some basic definitions:
Sexual Orientation: an enduring
pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction. It may be
an attraction to men, women, or both sexes. “Sexual orientation” is defined in
terms of relationships with others; it is about who you are sexually attracted
to the psychological sense of being male or female. One’s
biological/anatomical sex and one’s “gender identity” can be two very different
things; they do not necessarily correlate with each other.
“Gender identity” describes what you perceive yourself to be, or what your
identity “preference” is. Your “identity” may be in a range including male,
female, ambiguous, androgynous, evolving, or fluid. This is often
referred to using terms like “gender variant” and “perceived gender.”
In layman’s terms,
“sexual orientation” is about whom you are sexually attracted to while “gender
identity” refers to what you perceive yourself to be regardless of your
The term “sex” is
not used because it infers only a “binary”
understanding of individuals (male or female). The most
widely-accepted terminology seeks to make a clear distinction between a
person’s “gender” and a person’s sexuality. There is a distinction and the
legal implications can be quite different. That’s why you see those who
advocate in favor of normalizing same-sex behavior work so hard to put that
distinction into law.
If you want an interesting experience, go to Wikipedia and look up the terms
“sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” Click around on a few of the
link on the pages. We suspect you will come away with your head spinning
as you try
to make sense of all the attempts to distort reality and the chaos that is
inherent in such an attempt.
Some implications of the
term “Sexual Orientation”
As efforts to include “sexual orientation” in anti-discrimination legislation
have swept over the U.S. and the world, the negative repercussions have
followed. Most of them have been direct attacks on individual rights of
conscience and religious freedom.
The owner of Arlene’s
flowers in Washington State knows only too well what can happen when
personal convictions run up against the addition of “sexual orientation” to the
state’s consumer protection laws. Arlene’s Flowers is being sued because
they declined to do the flowers for a same-sex wedding.
A business in Kentucky was accused of unlawful
discrimination based on “sexual orientation” when they declined to print
t-shirts for a local “gay pride festival.” The shop did not want to be
involved in a celebration of homosexual behavior and same-sex relationships.
Businesses in New
have become defendants in lawsuits because they declined to open their
properties to same-sex wedding ceremonies. A
city in Kansas went so far as to try to pass an anti-discrimination law
based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” that would have forced
churches to open their facilities to same-sex ceremonies.
Add to this list a photographer
in New Mexico and a hotel
owner in Britain who have had their convictions attacked and their
livelihoods disrupted because of inclusion of the term “sexual
orientation” in various policies and statutes.
For a continuing list of examples, including numerous international cases,
please visit the research brief prepared by William Duncan
for the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.
Some implications of the
term “Gender Identity”
As we have already
mentioned, more and more we see “gender identity” being included in conjunction
with “sexual orientation” language. “Gender identity” issues have, in recent
years, been moving to the forefront of the LGBT rights crusade
(Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender). Once the forgotten stepsister of the
movement, “transgender rights” now enjoy more media
attention and endorsement
from the psychological community as well.
Although flying well
beneath the general public’s radar until recently, the androgynous
movement has also been steadily growing. We see it manifest in such things
and even parenting style. You may remember the UK couple who plan
on raising a “genderless child.”
But we are now beginning to see these movements manifest themselves in law and
policy. One way you can see it being played out is in laws/bills that are
being referred to as “bathroom bills.” Gay advocates are trying, among
other things, to put in place laws that force “genderless” bathrooms upon the
public, as is the case in New
While on the other side, pro-family advocates and legislatures are trying to
pre-empt this type of situation from occurring, as is the case in Arizona.
Think this is a lot of
commotion about nothing?
Parents in Washington State would not agree with
you. Their nine-year old daughter was subjected to a 45-year-old naked
man in the women’s section of a public swimming pool shower. They were
informed that there was little to no recourse because the man (who identifies
as a female) is protected by the state’s gender identity anti-discrimination
Consider what has occurred in Massachusetts. In conjunction with the 2012
Massachusetts law titled “An
Act Relative to Gender Identity,” the Massachusetts Department of
Education recently released an 11-page directive as to how the new law will be
implemented in the schools. James Ehrhard,writing for the Wall Street Journal, has
reviewed the guidelines and shares this:
"Some of the highlights include allowing transgendered and
gender-questioning students to use the bathrooms of their choice or to play on
sports teams that correspond to the gender with which they identify. Schools
are directed to eliminate gender-based clothing (at some graduations, boys wear
blue robes and girls wear white, or they used to) and gender-based activities
(including not having boys and girls line up separately to leave the
Transgender students are those whose assigned birth sex doesn't match their
"internalized sense of their gender," the directive says, and they
"range in the ways in which they identify as male, female, some
combination of both, or neither." Therefore, "the responsibility for
determining a student's gender identity rests with the student."
Under the order of the guidelines, a 16-year-old high-school junior who says
that he believes he is a girl has the right to use the girl’s bathroom and
locker room. (But before boys who are unconfused about their gender get any
bright ideas, the guidelines are ready: The transgender feelings must be
"sincerely held." School staff can challenge anyone who seems to be
making the assertion for "some improper purpose.") If a female
student feels uncomfortable and objects to the boy's presence when she is in
the bathroom, the rules say, the complaint "is not a reason to deny access
to the transgender student." (Read
the entire article here.)
What are the implications
for the Boy Scouts of America?
No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual
orientation or preference alone. [emphasis added]
passage of this resolution will jeopardize
the protection provided to the scouting organization in the 2000 U.S.
Supreme Court ruling BSA
v. Dale where the court upheld BSA’s right to “expressive association.”
(First Amendment). The passage of this resolution would establish
that BSA does not object to open acknowledgement of same-sex attraction,
at least for some individuals in the organization, weakening if not
destroying their basis for precluding open acknowledgement of same-sex
attraction and behavior in adult leaders.
resolution appeases no one. Least of all the gay lobby who view
the current resolution as nothing more than a continuation of a
discriminatory policy. As far as Human Rights Campaign is concerned,
the resolution "continues
discrimination against parents and in employment."
If the resolution passes, gay advocates and their legal teams will
certainly not cease their attacks on BSA – now they will have more
is a healthy amount of incoherence and even schizophrenia in the
policy. ‘It’s OK to be gay” until you’re 18, but when you
acknowledge that inclination after age 18, suddenly your “sexual
orientation” or “preference” is unacceptable and does not align with
BSA standards. Gay youth are ok, but gay adults are not.
with the term “sexual orientation,” the inclusion of the word “preference”
is also problematic as it closely aligns with the current understanding of
what constitutes “gender identity.” (What you think you are.)
With that in mind, what if a person who is anatomically a female, yet
self-identifies as a boy, and dresses and acts like a boy, wants to join
the Boy Scouts? Does this proposed policy not open the door to the
possibility that a girl could join a scout troop?
final question: Why would it be OK to place in close proximity (ie,
housing/tent and bathroom/shower facilities) a young man who openly
acknowledges that he is sexually attracted to other young men, yet it
would be widely considered inappropriate to allow a heterosexual female to
be in similar proximity?
In conclusion, John
Stemberger of OnMyHonour.net points out that under the current BSA policy,
the scout application does not even ask about sexual orientation.
"...[T]here are currently Scouts and adult leaders in uniform
who have same-sex attractions and who are in good standing with the program.
They are discreet... they are private, they are discerning, and most of all,
they conduct themselves appropriately in front of other young boys...
The real issue is this: Homosexual-rights activists are not satisfied with
membership in good standing and being allowed to fully participate like
everyone else. They want to be able to openly promote homosexuality. They want
to promote a gay-rights political agenda. They want to act out publicly and be
“loud and proud.” They want to inappropriately inject sex and politics into the
BSA program…” (Read entire article here)
There is still
time to contact your local Boy Scout Council and express your opinion.
You could contact the national board, but your influence might be better felt
by contacting those who will actually be voting on the resolution – member(s)
of your local BSA council.
President, United Families International
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