Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Asexual stereotypes: Everyone loses

There was a wonderful post on Feminists with Disabilities about the intersection of asexuality and disability.  The main point of essay, I'd say, is that stereotypes of asexuals and disabled persons hurt everyone involved.

A common stereotype of disabled people is that they're asexual.  This stereotype is offensive, because it deprives disabled people of their sexual agency.  There is a parallel stereotype that a person's asexuality is due to autism, hormonal problems, or some other disability.  This stereotype is offensive because it is an attack on the validity of asexuality.

The great irony is that the stereotype hurts most of all the people who are disabled and asexual.  The stereotype might superficially describe them, but just a scratch underneath, it's all offensive nonsense.  The author gave the following example: the stereotype is used to justify giving disabled people less sex education... but even asexuals need sex ed!

What's worse is that people in the asexual community and the disabled community see the person as affirming stereotypes.  So they get hit by ableism in the asexual community, and asexohate in the disabled community.

I myself am non-disabled, but it occurred to me that I have a similar experience with another stereotype.

The stereotype that hurts me the most: Asexuals are simply closeted gays.*  This stereotype hurts many asexuals because it is completely false for them.  I think it hurts me even more, because it is superficially true.  A little over a year ago, I identified as straight.  Then for many months, I identified as asexual.  Now I identify as gay and asexual.  Yes, indeed, it was "just a phase".  But let's go just a bit under the surface, and see how accurate the stereotype really is.

*You have to wonder where these stereotypes come from, since it's not like asexuality is well-known enough to be common in public discussion.  Nonetheless, many people seem to start with the same wrong ideas.

The first inaccuracy, in my case, is that I currently place myself in the middle ground between gay and asexual.  I am not completely rejecting my previous identity.  My identity as asexual was based on a life full of experiences: always being confused by popular enthusiasm for sex, being entirely left out of relationship dramas, etc.  Those past experiences never change, and should not be rejected.  I can only add new experiences to the collection.

Some people have the expectation that people like me will suddenly switch to the opposite extreme, hypersexuality.  Why?  There's no rhyme or reason to it.  If someone mistakenly identifies as fully asexual, they were probably not too far off the mark.  If someone experiences a shift away from asexuality, they will probably always be more asexual than average.

Another aspect of the stereotype says that I was afraid to identify as gay.  But there's a fundamental flaw in this narrative.  It's much easier to be out gay than out asexual!  I speak with some authority on this matter, because I've outed myself both ways a number of times in different contexts.  If I say that I'm asexual, most people don't know what that means.  Some people react by quizzing me.  I have to make sure, before I out myself, that I am in a good position and the right mood to answer questions.  I also end up playing the role of the sole representative of asexuals, however atypical I may be.

Other people don't quiz me.  This can be just as bad, because I don't know whether they understood what I meant.

And of course, there are the people who react with denial.  Some people are just unwilling to accept asexuality.  Sometimes they are willing to accept asexuality, but unwilling to accept my asexuality.  These people are the exception rather than the rule, but I have know way of knowing who will react this way.  Politics are not a predictor.

Also, on Facebook, there's a place to indicate gayness, but not asexuality.

Most of my friends know I'm gay, but fewer know I'm asexual.  Look at me, I'm contributing to asexual invisibility.

According to the stereotypical narrative, not only am I afraid to be out as gay, but I'm also afraid to admit gayness to myself.  But at least in my case, I was far more afraid of admitting asexuality than admitting homosexuality.  Simply being attracted to a different gender is not as radical as being attracted to no gender whatsoever.  At least, that's how it seemed to me.

When I've identified as asexual, some people have said to me, "Maybe you're gay.  You should look into that."  Well, duh, I should look into it.  As if the thought never crossed my mind.  People think they're encouraging self-exploration, but they are not coming from a position of understanding.  Why is the very first reaction to asexuality to suggest alternative explanations?  It's tantamount to denial.  I mean, forget about politeness, it's just plain ignorant.  I did look into it, and I am gay, but not in the way that you think, thank you very much.

ETA: Hat tip to Asexual Curiosities for finding the original article on asexuality and disability.

25 comments:

The Barefoot Bum said...

Gay/straight, sexual/asexual, I think you're an interesting and cool person. If I knew you IRL, I would hope we would be friends.

SlightlyMetaphysical said...

Wow. I have such a lot to say to this.

Firstly, this post is way, way better than the one I wrote about the same article, which was basically "Lookie, cool article". I feel a little outdone.

Secondly, amazing, you read my mind. I have literally just, for the last few hours, been considering what it'd be like to fall in not-really-love-but-conveniently-close with a man (I'm demihomosexual, but don't really have a romantic orientation), and it mostly consists of this conversation:

"So, here's my boyfriend."
"I didn't know you were gay."
"Well, actually, I'm not..."
*long, awkward conversation, in which they either find out too much or too little about me*

"Oh, hi. Have you met my boyfriend?"
"Oh! Are you gay?"
"No."
*long awkward conversation*

"So, me and my boyfriend are getting pretty serious."
"Cool. I didn't know you were gay."
"I'M NOT GAY!"
*long awkward conversation, in which I have to persuade them I'm not in denial*

The thing which would outweigh this all, though, would be my ability to legitimately yet ironically wear a T-shirt that says "I'm not gay, but my boyfriend is."

A lot of the other stuff you talk about is so very true. The effort you need for even a simple coming out (especially if you're not a 'simple' asexual). The way people could accept asexuality but still have no way of understanding your asexuality. And that wonderful:
"I'm a sexuality which barely anyone has heard of, which it takes a lot of effort to find, research and identify with."
"Really? Have you considered this [very commonly known sexuality]?"

Which is doubly amusing because almost every asexual coming-out story involves "For a while, I thought I was gay. Then I realised you had to actually be attracted to people of the same gender for that."

Hmm, I think you've inspired me to write a post. That's unusual.

Jack said...

This is very interesting that you thought you were straight a few years ago and changed from a position of asexuality to a position between that and homosexuality.

I respect your decision but your path strangely suggests being gay is a choice. I've always been skeptical over homosexuality being treated like it's some biological condition rather than a state of mind. Though it may be a factor, there's never been a clear definitive biological identifier for this condition.

It's not like doctors can take your DNA and identify a pattern sequence for homosexuality. As a skeptic and an almost gay person, do you believe homosexuality to be a genetically born as condition or a sort of psychological condition, or nature or nurture, or a psycho/biological disorderly mutation even?

I can't wrap my head around homosexuality's place in evolution either; I've read many arguments, but the condition of attraction to a non-reproducing member of the same gender makes little sense to me.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Miller, I hope you don't mind me answering here. I'm obviously not at all competent to speculate on your particular state of mind or experiences. Jack, however, is asking what look like objective scientific questions.

I respect your decision but your path strangely suggests being gay is a choice.

Miller's path doesn't look at all like a choice; it looks much more like coming to self-awareness of a complicated and subtle phenomenon. People who are making choices typically look at the consequences of various outcomes; people who are engaged in self discovery typically try to sort out how they themselves actually feel as opposed to how they've been taught or indoctrinated how to feel. Miller's struggle has clearly been the latter.

As a rather trivial analogy (trivial cases often give important insight) I myself became a computer programmer because my more-or-less ineluctable personal nature is more suited to the profession. I didn't choose the personal characteristics that make me a good programmer; I had to discover them. There are perhaps other professions I would be equally well-suited to, but I know there are professions (medicine, law, academia) that, regardless of their extrinsic characteristics, I would never have been able to competently or happily pursue.

In contrast, I chose to specialize as a Windows programmer because that's where the work was. Had the work available been predominantly for Unix or Mac, my personal nature would have been just as well suited to those

I've always been skeptical...

You should of course always be skeptical about everything. But to be skeptical doesn't mean to disbelieve. To be skeptical means to believe or disbelieve on the basis of evidence.

... over homosexuality being treated like it's some biological condition rather than a state of mind.

This is a false dichotomy: biological conditions and states of mind are not mutually exclusive. Indeed states of mind are nothing but biological conditions. The question you should be asking is: how labile or stabile is sexual orientation? How do individuals subjective feelings of satisfaction correlate to expression of sexual orientation?

Though it may be a factor, there's never been a clear definitive biological identifier for this condition.

This is not a crucial evidentiary element. I'm not a geneticist or biologist, so I can't give more specific examples, but there are a lot of things that are strongly believed to be genetic with no clearly definitive biological identifier: our ignorance of biology and genetics still far exceeds our knowledge.

As a skeptic and an almost gay person, do you believe homosexuality to be a genetically born as condition or a sort of psychological condition, or nature or nurture, or a psycho/biological disorderly mutation even?

Note that Miller's particular characteristics give him no special expertise regarding the particular underpinnings of sexual orientation, any more than a tall person has any special expertise on the specific genetic underpinnings of height.

I can't wrap my head around homosexuality's place in evolution either...

Remember that natural selection selects against; there is, at best only ever the appearance of selection for. So long as nature does not select very hard against homosexuality (as hard as it selects against, for example, having no hemoglobin), we can expect a certain prevalence in the population.

The Barefoot Bum said...

To draw out the analogy further: I would have been just as internally happy as a Mac programmer as I am a Windows programmer; the extrinsic characteristics of the specalities determined the behavior; the relevant intrinsic characteristics (mostly specialized knowledge) were labile, easily capable of change.

I would not have been just as happy as a lawyer regardless of any extrinsic characteristics; my stabile intrinsic characteristics constrained that behavior: I could not have altered my internal nature to be happy or productive as a lawyer.

I do not need to locate a computer programmer or a lawyer gene to have this more-or-less obvious degree of self-awareness. It's not at all necessary to determine whether those characteristics were genetic, congenital, imprinted or the result of my "nurture". Introspectively, I can just feel that I would be happy as a programmer and unhappy as a lawyer.

Indeed, it would be completely ridiculous for anyone to suggest that I could have been just as happy and competent a lawyer, a profession of medieval French literature, a financier, a car salesman or a real estate agent as I am a programmer. It would be ridiculous to suggest that my choice of profession was constrained only by extrinsic factors, and my intrinsic personal characteristics could just as easily adapted themselves to any profession. And it would be ridiculous to disbelieve that my personal nature was stabile unless a clear definitive biological marker was found.

The underpinnings of sexual orientation are controversial only because of a history of mindless bigotry, unreasoning fear and bullshit religious indoctrination. At the end of the day, the only interest in the underpinnings of sexual orientation should be scientific; even if homosexuality or asexuality were a choice (which the evidence we do have clearly indicates it is not) it should have no more moral dimension than the choice of professional specialty.

The Barefoot Bum said...

Let me also say this: genetic evolution operates mostly at the gene level: natural selection ends up selecting mostly against individual genes. For any characteristic that is the product of the interaction of many genes, selection gets complicated.

For example, sickle cell anemia is the product of the interaction of just two alleles (more precisely two different alleles of the same gene). The allele that causes sickle cell anemia cannot be selected against, because when paired with the allele that does not cause sickle cell anemia, it provides substantial protection against malaria. Likewise the allele that does not provide protection against malaria cannot be selected against because it protects against sickle cell anemia.

And that's just a case of the interaction with two alleles of the same gene. The genetics that drive the construction and formation of our brain and mind — i.e. sexual orientation — are plausibly considerably more complicated.

There is nothing heritable that precisely controls the choice of alleles from the parents and the resulting combinations in the offspring. When dealing with characteristics that arise from unusual combinations of alleles, there is very little for natural selection to actually select against, other than entire species.

Jack said...

Thank you for your responses, barefoot bum. I hope to hear Miller's response on whether or not he clearly felt one orientation at some point in his life and decided to change it to another; whether or not he believes his was self awareness or an intentional choice.

Also, thanks for reframing my questions, I hope Miller can respond to those as well.

I've often felt sexual orientation is complicated, contrary, and lacking in understanding to make conclusions in whether it is a choice or something people cannot control. Seems like some people perhaps can choose and some people perhaps cannot.

I actually think recent popular culture has been more favorable/indocturational towards homosexuality and unfavorable to religion. An unfortunate bias, in my opinion as both deserve equal freedom and respect.

It's funny, it's like I could almost make an analogy of sexual orientation to that of spirituality. Are spiritual people just becoming self aware to their own natural tenancies or choosing it? ha ha.

The Barefoot Bum said...

I actually think recent popular culture has been more favorable/indocturational towards homosexuality and unfavorable to religion.

Hardly.

An unfortunate bias, in my opinion as both deserve equal freedom and respect.

I don't think religion deserves any respect. People deserve religious freedom only in the sense that they deserve the freedom to smoke tobacco (and I say this as a smoker): both are stupid choices, but it's your right to make stupid choices, and you're substantially harming no one but yourself.

Are spiritual people just becoming self aware to their own natural tenancies or choosing it?

Self-delusion seems like a choice to me, although it's entirely possible that some people really have do a neuro-biology that renders them incapable of rational thought. Still and all, I've seen too many religious people straight-up lie about facts when they are apparently otherwise competent enough to understand facts in general that religion seems very much to be about choice.

Jack said...

There does seem to be many different gradations of sexual preference... for some a choice others some sort of biological or psychological condition. Some it may be both.

No offense, but given this, there may be validity for some people (not everybody), that it can possibly be a clinical disorder in the same class as depression or addiction are disorders. But I think the decision not to explore this viewpoint has become clouded by political correctness than scientific study in the United States.

I'm all for making people comfortable with their sexuality but I'm not entirely convinced all people are comfortable with themselves.

Jack said...

I think it's good to be fair to everybody. Even people of low intelligence, the disabled, differing points of view, old people, young people, etc... deserve to be treated with a level respect.

Jack said...

I mean if being who we are is only an matter of personal nature and self discovery, it's really difficult for me to see sexuality as a matter of self awareness and career as a matter of self awareness but by the same reasoning not see one's spirituality as another matter of self awareness. It doesn't seem fair or reasonable.

The Barefoot Bum said...

[T]here may be validity for some people (not everybody), that it can possibly be a clinical disorder in the same class as depression or addiction are disorders.

There may be validity to David Icke's theory that the world is controlled by shape-shifting lizard people.

But I think...

Beyond a certain point, what you think isn't all that important. I'm more curious as to what do you know, or at least think you know.

I'm all for making people comfortable with their sexuality...

You could have put the period right there.

... but I'm not entirely convinced all people are comfortable with themselves.

Again, it's not particularly interesting what you personally are or are not convinced of. At what point does someone else's comfort level with their sexuality become any of your business?

I think it's good to be fair to everybody. Even people of low intelligence, the disabled, differing points of view, old people, young people, etc... deserve to be treated with a level respect.

What do you mean by "respect"? In one sense it means merely ordinary politeness; in that sense, everyone deserves to be treated politely until they forfeit that presumption.

In another sense, "respect" means "esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability." Any religious person who makes a claim on my esteem for their excellence will succeed only despite their religion, not because of it.

But I'm encouraged to some extent that you consider religion to be in the same class as low intelligence or other disability.

[I]t's really difficult for me to see sexuality as a matter of self awareness and career as a matter of self awareness but by the same reasoning not see one's spirituality as another matter of self awareness. It doesn't seem fair or reasonable.

Fair is irrelevant; the truth isn't fair. And if you mean "reasonable" in the sense of "moderate", the truth isn't moderate either.

If you want reasons to consider spirituality a matter of choice, I've given you one: spirituality entails at best deluding and at worst lying to oneself (and others) and other about the nature of objective reality. There are perhaps some people who are incapable of distinguishing reality from fantasy and fact from lie, but most people who profess spirituality appear competent enough to make these distinctions in ordinary circumstances that we must see their failure to do so about spiritual matters as a matter of choice, not capability or intrinsic nature.

miller said...

Hi Jack,

"I respect your decision but your path strangely suggests being gay is a choice."

See, this is exactly what I was talking about in the post. People take one detail (the fact that I changed my identity) that confirms their own narrative or stereotype, and then just ignore all other details, assuming that they all fall in line with the narrative.

There are two major reasons why people change their sexual identity. One is, as The Barefoot Bum said, increasing self-awareness. Knowing one's own sexual orientation requires collecting a lot of experiences and information. The other reason is fluidity, change in orientation over time. My experience was more about self-awareness than fluidity. It's easy to tell because I can retrospectively look at past experiences and find that they fit my current picture. So right off the bat, my experience doesn't fit your narrative.

But even if it were a case of fluidity, this does not imply choice. Most people who experience fluid orientation do not experience control over their orientation. If orientation were really a conscious choice, people would probably experience it as such. But they don't.

Confusingly, the most accurate way to determine a person's sexual orientation is through their self-identity, and self-identity is a choice. Self-identity is chosen more or less the same way I choose which words to use when I write. Through word choice, I can exaggerate, understate, or otherwise color my language to suit the context. I could even outright lie, but this is usually inadvisable even if I dislike the truth.

"It's not like doctors can take your DNA and identify a pattern sequence for homosexuality."
Doctors can't identify the gene for left-handedness either. Incidentally, left-handedness is correlated with homosexuality. Listen, I don't know whether gayness is genetic. But even if there is no genetic component whatsoever, this does not imply that it is a choice.

"I can't wrap my head around homosexuality's place in evolution either; I've read many arguments, but the condition of attraction to a non-reproducing member of the same gender makes little sense to me."
Evolution results in lots of traits which are not adaptive. For further reading, I refer you to a biologist.

miller said...

"There does seem to be many different gradations of sexual preference... for some a choice others some sort of biological or psychological condition. Some it may be both."

Well of course. When they thought the world was flat, they were wrong. When they thought the world was a sphere, they were wrong (it's an oblate spheroid). But one is more wrong than the other.

"No offense, but given this, there may be validity for some people (not everybody), that it can possibly be a clinical disorder in the same class as depression or addiction are disorders. But I think the decision not to explore this viewpoint has become clouded by political correctness than scientific study in the United States."

There were a bunch of studies around the 70s that showed that there are no significant correlations with mental disorders. But people tend to ignore these results because they think it must just be a PC myth.

I'm a little more sympathetic towards this view in relation to asexuality, because the studies have not been done. But unless you're actively studying the subject, that's all idle speculation.

Jack said...

There's too much to respond to.

But yeah, saying a person's sexual orientation is through their self-identity and self-identity is a choice, but sexual orientation is not a choice is confusing.

I just don't see enough strong evidence to point sexual preference as an all or nothing trait that people have no control over. There must be people who choose and people who don't.

I can understand the fluidity of change due to experience or external circumstances out of one's control. Like an analogy of a traumatic event changing an individual's personality. But it still can be changed. People can choose to change to deal with their trauma through counseling/ therapy and help themselves get over it.

As sexuality and spirituality are both feelings of self awareness, truth is, everything for and against choosing or knowing easily applies to both. It would be unfairly biased to disregard one over the other.

Perhaps I should clarify the disorder viewpoint. Mentally, same sex attraction are variants of human sexuality. Not necessarily a "disorder" in this respect. Now, the fact is, homosexuality greatly discourages human reproduction. In view of reproduction, this can be seen as a disorder.

I feel the same about depression, shyness, other moods. All encompassing extreme sadness isn't necessarily a "disorder". But in regard to discouraging happiness, it is a disorder.

Jack said...

barefootbum, sorry you are not interested in my opinions. You need not read them if that is the case.

I think respect as in being civil, compassionate, etc... to any human being with humility. Being able to communicate without lowering oneself to name-calling or coarse thought. Especially to the different and unfortunate though this respect is not the same as egotistical pitying. Even criminals deserve a level of decent dignities.

There's a difference in being right with a sense of egotism and being right with a sense of humility. I wouldn't want to deal with anyone who's condescending and so I wouldn't want to be that condescending person.

The Barefoot Bum said...

But yeah, saying a person's sexual orientation is through their self-identity and self-identity is a choice, but sexual orientation is not a choice is confusing.

Perhaps. Complicated questions are often confusing.

I just don't see enough strong evidence to point sexual preference as an all or nothing trait that people have no control over.

What evidence have you actually looked at? I'm no expert in the field — and you're not either — and I can't cite 17 scientific studies, but I've certainly been convinced by the evidence.

But at a higher level, so what? Let us say for the sake of argument that it's not well-proven that sexual orientation is at all stabile. So what? Other than as a matter of pure science, what difference would it make? As neither of us are neuro-biologists or clinical psychologists, in what sense would it be a matter of public or political policy? What interest could you or I have other than purely passive curiosity?

Whether or not an individual is happy and comfortable with his or her sexuality is none of my business, except to the extent that a friend makes it my business as a friend. Otherwise, it's a matter between them and their psychologist.

Were it not for the horrific marginalization, oppression and outright violent repression towards people with alternative sexuality in modern society, sexual orientation would be of no more active interest to me than one's choice of profession. But since the topic is political, I must take an active interest as a humanist and compassionate citizen.

But I digress...

Fundamentally, the prevailing scientific opinion is that sexual orientation is indeed stabile and difficult, if not impossible to change. The prevailing scientific opinion is of course hardly infallible. Still, if an amateur contradicts the opinions of experts, a fairly high standard of positive evidence for one's position is necessary; otherwise one draws the conclusion the amateur is being at best willfully ignorant and at worst intentionally misleading.

So far, you have not supported your position with any argument more forceful than "I just don't get it." A lot of people don't get quantum mechanics; that doesn't make computers stop working.

Now, the fact is, homosexuality greatly discourages human reproduction. In view of reproduction, this can be seen as a disorder.

That's enormous bullshit.

I have a vasectomy, which is an order of magnitude more "discouraging" to reproduction than homosexuality (many homosexuals can and do have children). Do I suffer from a disorder?

The Barefoot Bum said...

barefootbum, sorry you are not interested in my opinions. You need not read them if that is the case.

The point is that I want to know why you have the opinion that you do. That you have an opinion is "dog bites man", i.e. not news. The evidence and argument supporting your opinion, and justifying it as knowledge is "man bites dog", i.e. news.

I think respect as in being civil, compassionate, etc... to any human being with humility. Being able to communicate without lowering oneself to name-calling or coarse thought.

<shrugs> And I dislike people who tailgate. So what?

Presumably you bring up this and subsequent points because it is at issue in this particular discussion. But I have done nothing uncivil than to say that your opinion is poorly supported by evidence and argumentation, and I have said that certain philosophical positions are the result of delusion or mendacity.

I have said nothing egotistical other than believing I am actually correct about a matter of objective truth.

I'm not going to treat your unconditioned opinion as some oracular form of Vox Populi, Vox Dei. If you have a case to make, make it. I'm not interested in anyone's "right" to be bigoted, sanctimonious and willfully ignorant.

Jack said...

Do I suffer from a disorder?
No, barefootbum, you have a reproductive disability that's a physical handicap. (and I'm not stating that in a demeaning way)

To me, this is just a conversation on an interesting topic. There are things I don't know and things you don't know. And that should be fine. I don't expect my thoughts to change the world or anything.

I'm not saying you've been uncivil to me. I just want to express what I think/believe about how everybody should be treated. After all, I wouldn't call this a scientific blog. Nothing's being proven here, it's just a general discussion.

The Barefoot Bum said...

No, barefootbum, you have a reproductive disability that's a physical handicap.

Hardly. I'm quite pleased that I've had a vasectomy and I do not consider it at all a disability or a handicap.

(and I'm not stating that in a demeaning way)

This is a self-refuting disclaimer.

To me, this is just a conversation on an interesting topic.

What precisely do you mean? Of course this is a conversation, duh: we're not dancing the Macarena.

Just come out and say what's on your mind. No one is ever in doubt about what I think or why I think it.

Jack said...

I'm being objective when I state you have a reproductive disability. You have the physical inability to emit sperm from entering the seminal stream and thus the dis-ability of sexual reproduction. How you feel about it is irrelevant.

What I mean by a conversation is I am not just listing a bunch of bare unbiased scientific references/citations/studies/calculations. Not even this blog does that. I'm engaged in querying, opinionated commentary, critical thinking, and discussion. I really don't have a whole lot more to say.

Giving someone else the last word around here seems to be a custom, so I'll let you have yours if you wish.

Ettina said...

No, barefootbum, you have a reproductive disability that's a physical handicap.

Hardly. I'm quite pleased that I've had a vasectomy and I do not consider it at all a disability or a handicap"

I'm glad I'm autistic. Does that mean it's not a disability?

Larry, The Barefoot Bum said...

I'm glad I'm autistic. Does that mean it's not a disability?

Dunno. In one sense, "disability" seems to be mostly a matter of self-identification. I don't self-identify as disabled. If you do, then there you go.

In another sense, disability refers to having a legitimate claim on society for economic support. I do not want any support from society on the basis of my vasectomy.

Regarding autism, I'm not even a well-informed layman, much less an expert. I defer entirely to the prevailing scientific opinion, which, as far as I know, considers autism a legitimate claim to economic support.

Whether autism is pathological is, again, at least half subjective. If a condition does not cause someone distress, they are rational enough to understand the objective characteristics of the alternatives and still choose not to change, then I'm inclined in most cases (I don't feel like being lawyerly enough to fine-tune my definition) to label that condition as non-pathological.

I don't think it makes a lot of sense to go too far trying to base every ethical, political, social, and cultural distinction on specific objective distinctions. Some things we do just because we want to do them.

Non-hetero/monogamo-normative people are, typically, happy about their orientation per se; the chief form of distress seems to come not from their orientation but from society's active persecution. I don't want to persecute non-hetero/monogamo-normative people, and I see no indirect benefit from doing so. Some people apparently do want to persecute non-hetero/monogamo-normative people. If that's what they want to do, that's what they want to do. I don't like them at all. I just wish they'd just be honest and say, "I just fucking hate those people," instead of trying to warp scientific reasoning to conform to their preferences.

Larry, The Barefoot Bum said...

There may be other senses of disability I'm not considering. I think the sense of "disability" as "the inability to do something that other people can do" is not particularly interesting, precisely because everyone is "disabled" in that sense.

miller said...

Very sensible answer, Larry. I think the disability category mostly has to do with needing societal support of a certain kind. Even if it's just a need for medication, and not any lack of ability (as is the case with my boyfriend), that is still a disability.