But Why the Binarism? On “For the Bible Tells Me So”

by jdavidcharles

I started watching the intriguing documentary For the Bible Tells Me So the other day (it’s on instant watch on Netflix)–a documentary that is an “exploration of the intersection between religion and homosexuality in the U.S.” The film follows five families, all “strong” conservative and Christian, and how each has dealt with a child or spouse coming out as “gay or lesbian” [sic]. The film also includes a list of notable theologians, most of whom take a very favorable stance towards the inclusion and acceptance of homosexuality.

I give the caveat that I haven’t finished the film yet, but, given what I am to talk about, I really don’t think that is too, too relevant. The film does a good job at first of supplying “alternative” interpretations to passages from Leveticus, Romans, et al. Most of these have to do with the complete lack of context, both literal and historical, that so-called “literalists” bring to the passage. Aside from the eating of shrimp being an abomination, the wearing of wool with cotton being an abomination, etc., the film also makes the (all-too-well-known) point that other abominations of sexual origin include male masturbation and “pulling-out” (Onan is struck dead by God for this). It also dismisses the Sodom and Gomorrah interpretation that God-hates-gays as ludicrous given that god destroyed S&G precisely because Lot is the only hospitable human in S&G. Lot simply refuses to let his guests get gang-raped. This is why the reason he is righteous–he is the only one who upheld Jewish hospitality laws by accepting the angel/guest/neighbor/other inside. In other words, it was Lot’s tolerance that made him righteous.

The film continues along these lines with touching narratives about the families interjected with theological banter. That being said, I have agreed so far with these theological and practical implications of the film. I admit it’s not terribly in-depth and if you have any deep-seated theological reasons for thinking homosexuality is a sin you probably won’t walk away persuaded (but hopefully a little more open-minded at least).

BUT….

The film had this ridiculously offensive cartoon shoved right in the middle that includes among other things, the stereotype that all male homosexuals are biologically more “feminine” than straight men (whatever that means), that all lesbians are angry feminists, that gay men are attracted to any and all men (awkward glances and flirtation of the male homosexual character towards the straight character throughout), that bisexuals are really weird, as well as the classic argument “well because identical twins are oftentimes of the same sexually orientation it must be determined by one’s genes (and has NOTHING to do with ANY social constructions).” I am not trying to say homosexuality is a choice. Really. But it also seems incredibly miopic and reductive to take the stance that an entire community and culture (i.e. the male homosexual culture with its general association with “feminine” posture, clothing preference, etc) is equivilant to whats in one person’s genes, DNA, et al. This strongly essentialist view of orientation is one of the reasons that has lead to physical reparative treatments as well as the sad question almost every parent asks throughout the film, “are you sure you’re gay?” It also leads toward a certain hostility of less biologically definable gender identities and orientations (thus the bisexual joke in the cartoon).

I really do not see why this rank binarism (omg bisexuals are so funny!!1!), ciscentrism (transgenderism has yet to be mentioned), gender essentialism (well, she always liked pants, so, I guess we should’ve known she was a lesbian) and reduction to obvious cultural stereotypes belong in this film. I really appreciate what the makers of the film are trying to do, I do, I just wish it wasn’t at the expense of other members of the LGBTQ community.

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