Wednesday in the Christian Post (and probably other outlets) Eric Metaxas writes “Is Sexual Orientation Fixed or Fluid?” Metaxas is a far-right Christian Fundamentalist who worships at the tomb of the late Charles Colson. Metaxas is best known for his book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer which is very popular in US evangelical circles but has been widely panned by historians and Bonhoeffer scholars for its many flaws.
Getting back to the current work, the very first paragraph depicts the ineptitude that will surely follow:
Picture a man changing in a women’s locker room in front of your daughter. You have not entered the Twilight Zone.
Obviously that bit of transphobia has nothing to do with sexual orientation let alone whether it is fixed or fluid. I will answer his question once he takes a hack at it. But it’s on to the second paragraph:
Last October, millions of Americans were shocked when Houston mayor
Annise Parker targeted area pastors in response to their efforts to
repeal a controversial ordinance …
Mayor Parker didn’t target anyone. Those pastors sued the city, a fact that seems lost as this tale is retold. That, too, has nothing to do with sexual orientation or its fluidity. Come on Eric — answer your rhetorical question so that I can correct your anti-gay BS.
Finally, by the sixth paragraph (I have spared you the inanity of paragraphs three through five) Metaxas we start to, well … not quite:
But all of these changes are happening without anyone answering the
most basic question of all: What is sexual orientation?
Writing in the Federalist, social researcher Glenn Stanton argues that
we can’t protect sexual orientation in law because, “it doesn’t
Glenn Stanton is a spokesman for Focus on the Family with degrees in history and philosophy. Stanton often refers to himself as a scientist but he has never (to the best of my knowledge) published a paper in a peer reviewed scholarly journal. In past articles, Stanton has had the habit of referencing his own articles as if they were scholarly cites, using the form “(Stanton, 2006).” In other words, Stanton is pretentious.
Stanton’s claim is that the terms gender identity and sexual orientation are meaningless, even introducing pedophilia as an orientation. I’m not going to quote any of Stanton’s nonsense. Follow the link (above) if you like.
This proposition is becoming increasingly popular in Conservative Christian circles. The fallacious theory is that you cannot protect what you cannot define. In a very lengthy comment thread on this site Austin Ruse challenged people to offer a legal definition of sexual orientation. The answer is quite simple.
- To date (as far as I know), with respect to the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws protecting sexual identity and sexual orientation, no one has successfully challenged a law based upon the possible ambiguity of terms.
- The United States Supreme Court has had no problem with the term sexual orientation. Sadly so in Bowers v. Hardwick which was overturned by Lawrence v. Texas. Lawrence struck down anti-sodomy statutes in Texas and 13 other states. In United States v. Windsor the Court had no problem providing quasi-heightened scrutiny to sexual orientation. Moving to Obergefell v. Hodges none of even the dissenting opinions question the meaning of the term “sexual orientation.” More specifically, the Court upheld sexual orientation as a protected class in New Mexico when it denied cert to Elane Photography v. Willock.
We get a step closer to the subject of Metaxas’ post a bit further down (at the cost of too many brain cells in between):
Now wait a minute. Is sexual orientation immutable and fixed or fluid
and changeable? The answer depends not only on which expert you
consult, but on which social taboo people are trying to make
According to Stanton, this glaring contradiction ought to give us pause
before we embrace such radical social engineering. If we’re not
careful, he argues, such confusion will fling wide the doors to those
whose attractions and behaviors are still hovering at the fringes of
society, waiting for their chance at acceptance.
Aside from Metaxas’ word salad (this schmuck wasted his money to attend Yale), he seems to refer to Glenn Stanton as an expert. Neither of these guys has the training or experience to hold themselves out as experts.
The overwhelming consensus of science (including every medical, counseling and psychological professional organization) is that sexual orientation is innate and immutable.1
There is some fluidity in sexual orientation. However, that fluidity is like outdoor temperature. Nothing that anyone does can influence those changes. It is extremely rare for that fluidity to result in a change in sexual orientation.
I personally experience that fluidity. It is something that I am very conscious of. Assume that sexual orientation is a continuum with homosexual and heterosexual on the extreme ends (which I will designate as 0 and 10 respectively). I am usually at about three. Over the past two or three weeks I have been at five. In the past I have even briefly experienced being at six, or so. Nevertheless, I identify as gay. Over time my dial always moves back to three or so. Moreover, when I am at five I’m not looking for women to couple with. Even if I wanted to, I lack those social (and sexual) skills. But I don’t want to. I am gay. My primary and lasting attraction is to other men.
Metaxas eventually gets to the intellectually dishonest “point” of this exercise in sophistry:
Stanton is right to caution us when it comes to changing laws based on
confusing and contradictory definitions. What passes easily enough in
pop culture has no place in the exacting world of law. So long as we
carve out protected classes based on personal feelings rather than
objective truth, employers and others can never be sure if they’re
complying with the new laws. And well-meaning people are bound to be
attacked, fined, and possibly imprisoned without ever knowing what they
It only seems to be “confusing and contradictory” to conservative Christians. Quite frankly they seem to be routinely confused. Furthermore, their selective observation of scripture is often contradictory. These folks are probably smart enough not to trot this out in a court of law. However, we are likely to see this in ballot and legislative contests. The idea that someone could be fined or imprisoned “without ever knowing what they did wrong” is preposterous. Absurd to the extreme.
As confusing as they might wish to make this, it seems perfectly (and sadly) clear when someone is denied service, employment or housing because of their sexual orientation or sexual identity. And that is a fact.
1 The following professional organizations concur that sexual orientation is innate and immutable:
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Counseling Association
- American Association of School Administrators
- American Federation of Teachers
- American Medical Association
- American Psychological Association
- American Psychiatric Association
- American School Health Association
- American Sociological Association
- Interfaith Alliance Foundation
- National Association of School Psychologists
- National Association of Social Workers
- National Education Association