How did you come to be this way?

(A few references to man-on-man sexual acts, which I have, contrary to my usual practice, reworded with technical terminology, rather than plain street talk, so as not to contaminate this whole posting for some readers. But the references remain.)

Today’s Zippy strip:

(#1) Ah, the peri-natal trauma: the film podfolk have robbed Lippy of the ability to experience pleasure

But as Bill Griffith fully realizes, it’s a pressing question: how do we come to be the way we are? Framing the answer in this preposterous fashion only points up the complexity and mystery of the question. And how it nags at us: could I have been otherwise?

One of the themes of my 5/22/2 posting “Reading the face, reading the body”, on what is given by nature, and how we interpret that — using my own face and my own body as the raw material for analysis (not an obvious move for someone as generally photophobic as I am, but I had more material about, and more knowledge of, this subject than any other, so that’s where I was bound to go). The central observations:

What nature gave me. In face, body, and physical and mental states and abilities. Clearly [as a non-believer], I’m not going to frame this as what God gave me, but I’ve also chosen not to frame it as what I was born with, picking out congenital features, states, and abilities, even though that framing is (somewhat) better than a framing in terms of genetic inheritance: it allows for epigenetic effects, and also for genetic effects that are the result of random alterations in genes, rather than inheritance from the assortment of parental genes.

But clearly an enormous number of things that nature gives you are not present at birth, but are instead, potentials, which will (if not balked) unfold at various stages in your development or depend on your having certain kinds of experiences to unfold. (Well, actually it’s all about proteins, but I’ll continue talking about things at this much higher level of abstraction.)

The BTW story. From my 12/8/21 posting “The illusion of macrophallicity”, in a section about Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”:


[gay porn actor Connor] Kline is a big hunky guy, also an enthusiastic bottom and (as you will note from the tribute to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” tattooed on his broad shoulders) celebratorily queer

… Kline’s tattoo is a tribute to Lady Gaga, and also his personal affirmation that he was born this way — by nature gay (in desire, in sexual practices, in association with sexual communities, as a matter of public identity), by nature a bottom by preference. It might also be a boast that nature gave him that big, attractive body.

… The [NOAD] gloss [for congenital] ‘having a trait from birth’ … is far too strong, even for some physical traits. We want to say that Connor Kline’s large-boned frame is congenital, but only manifested itself as a direction of devopment (similarly for my small-boned frame), and we want to say something similar about same-sex and other-sex desire, which aren’t literally present at birth but manifest themselves during development, where they are experienced as discoveries (counterposed to cultural expectations or aligned with and supported by them, of course, but still as discoveries).

The same-sex scenario here is the classic Born Gay story, which fits a great many people, though it turns out that there are other same-sex scenarios and other experiences of same-sex sexual associations, lots of them, so that the Born This Way slogan doesn’t resonate with some people the way it does with, say, me.

… Then there are the attempts to use being Born This Way as some kind of reasoned defense of homosexuality. Perhaps God makes no mistakes (in my snarky unbelieving fashion, I ask, How could you possibly know this?), but in individual cases nature goes awry in many ways, large and small. I don’t think that it’s because I was born that way, I can’t help it, that makes it fine for me to get off on fantasies of [fellating and being pedicated by other men] (or, in days long gone, for me to perform these acts enthusiastically). I think all those acts are fine for me because there’s nothing wrong with them, period.

… Lady Gaga sings her anthem in defiant reaction to frameworks of theorizing, ideology, and belief that take homosexual desires and practices to be symptoms of mental disease (a derangement of “natural” sexuality) or sin (a spiritual affliction, defying God and his word, possibly in obedience to Satan) — frameworks I believe to be not only indefensible but also profoundly wicked. Because of these ideologies, people in modern advanced nations went to prison for homosexual acts until very recently. People were driven from their families, had their lives ruined, were hounded to suicide. Plenty of them still live in the closet to some degree or another, for good reason.

Born This Way is an earnest attempt to counter homohatred based on Nature and God with an appeal to, yes, Nature and God. An appeal I think is misconceived, so I won’t be buying any [Born This Way t-shirts, like this rainbow number:]


… I do note that BTW, intended to be a vehicle for respect and acceptance, can easily be wielded instead for contempt and rejection — consider this long-ago event from the gay baths … :

Men (married to women) arrive at the baths to be serviced by gay men before trooping on to the Super Bowl. A denizen of the baths accordingly [fellates] one of these men, who says to the [fellator] contemptuously: “I know you can’t help it, you were born that way, but I’m no fag.” (Yes, I was that [fellator].)

(Fuller telling of the “I know you can’t help it, you were born that way, but I’m no fag” story in my 1/6/21 posting “Another 1996 Superbowl moment”.)

In the dominant culture that surrounds me, the folk understanding not only of facial and bodily features, but of physical and mental states and abilities as well, is strongly in favor of BTW pretty much across the board, to the extent that the folk understanding looks a lot like a system of castes, hereditary (and thus enduring and largely inescapable) identities. These identities come with a highly culture-specific set of valuations: some identities are highly valued, some of lesser place within the sociocultural landscape (some people are born to be shopkeepers and merchants, that’s just the way the world is, and if you’re Indian and your family name is Agarwal / Agrawal, you are probably among them), some deprecated and despised.

The dominant culture that surrounds me is also ridiculously individualistic, in a variety of ways, one of them showing up in the “I’m no fag” story: my same-sex desire and sexual practices were viewed not merely as the working-out of what nature gave me, but were also viewed as personally reprehensible, an individual fault or defect, deserving of contempt.

Note, finally, the complexity of the idea that experiencing same-sex desire and engaging in man-on-man sexual practices should be understood as defects, rather than as merely minority options in the world of sexuality.

At about this point in my “1996 Superbowl” posting, as I was beginning to explore the idea of male bands and their workings, my writing came abruptly to an end as the insurrection at the US Capitol unfolded on my tv screen; it was 1/6/21, and ordinary life (even in a pandemic) halted for some time.

Today, I’d intended to write on the individualism theme and the defect theme, with a variety of examples, mostly not from the world of male-male sexuality. But it’s late in the day, and I’m once again gripped (in horror, anger, and weeping dismay) by what I see on tv: the latest gun massacre, this time at a grade school in Uvalde TX. Cue Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Caroll”.

Maybe I can face this tomorrow.


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