03 May “Sexual Orientation” 101
May 3, 2013
Sexual 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.
Gender identity: referring 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 physical anatomy.
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 Jersey, Vermont and Illinois 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 as fashion, music 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 York, Arizona and Idaho. 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 laws.
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 classroom).
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?
- The 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.
- The 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 ammunition.
- There 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.
- Along 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?
- One 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?
“…[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