The Box of Sexual Orientation

5 02 2013

In a very thought provoking TED talk (titled “Fifty Shades of Gay”), iO Tillett Wright speaks of boxes. She speaks of how we, human beings, naturally want to put other people into boxes or ‘categories’, if you will, and she implies that by doing so we diminish the humanity of the other. She never does address why boxes are always bad (the underlying assumption in her talk), nor does she explain how self-evident relates to equality (or even diversity!). As much as she works these terms toward the emotional (which isn’t a bad thing), she does offer much food for thought. One such is to ponder how we, particularly Christians, box other people into one-dimensional cartoons, and how that affects the way we engage one another. Recognizing multiplicity isn’t necessarily the panacea for discrimination, but it’s something worth mulling over. (I am also very curious as to peoples reactions to the talk. Comment!)





5 responses

1 03 2013

It’s a very compelling talk and presentation. Thanks for sharing it. It brought to mind some of Wendell Berry’s comments about the wrongness of “condemnation by category.” Her presentation reveals that in the case of sexuality the reality is that we can’t even clearly define the category itself. The reason why the younger generation of Christians supports gay marriage and rejects categorical condemnations of homosexuality is because they’re growing up in an uncloseted world. Knowing gay people personally (“seeing their faces,” to use her concept) makes it difficult for any reasonable person to insist on maintaining institutional discrimination against them, it seems to me.
Anyway, thanks for sharing this.

5 03 2013
Paul P

Interesting observation. Thanks for the comment, Bill!

12 07 2013

Without fully understanding our church’s position on gay marriage (because I haven’t asked), and coming from the perspective of a lawyer and someone from an increasingly uncloseted generation, I struggle to understand the Biblicality (sp?) of fighting gay marriage in politics. My response to those who say supporting gay marriage is against our faith is: this is an issue of political and social equality, which Christians should fundamentally stand for. The DOMA ruling in its most practical effect affords gay couples the same tax and other benefits that they should be entitled to as Americans who work as hard as anyone and deserve the same benefits that hetero couples enjoy under the law. I often feel that Christians, especially in this context are extremely proud, enjoy talking from a moral (not Christian) high ground, and show a utter lack of the Great Commission in context of the social realities. I don’t see how we gain any ground in spreading the Gospel when we go on these “righteous crusades” to put gay couples, or other peoples in society’s fringe boxes at a social and political disadvantage. Boxes can serve a purpose in spreading the gospel if they are used to empathize and teach us how to love those we don’t understand well. Boxes are bad when Christians stand on them as soapboxes from which we look down, oppress, and preach veiled-prejudice and hatred against the world Christ came to save, of which I am the worst.

13 07 2013
Paul P

Thanks for the comment, Matt! One note is that the boxes that Tillett Wright speaks of is dimensionalizing a person, that is, looking at only one part of the person and thinking that is all of them.

17 03 2014

I had the opportunity to share the contents of this article and in particular the TEDx video with some Christian friends who had questions about how to “love” and interact with their LGBT friends/acquaintances. I think it helped all of us to remember that everyone is a person first and foremost and as a person, bears certain distinctives that make them unique. Starting from this perspective and remembering that I am similarly a sinner in the eyes of God, humbles me and leads me to see and treat others compassionately and with hope that God will graciously transform their minds and hearts, as He has done and is doing for me.

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