Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Closet and Religiousity

It's pretty bizarre that after the the Orlando atrocity commenters have focused more on the shooter's vague relationship with Islam rather than his clearly conflicted sexual identity. The latter is surely as much as a factor here as the former. I was trying to think this through, and it occurred to me that maybe Islam didn't make him homophobic but instead he didn't have the courage to come out so he sought out a structure that removed agency from him. And if God commanded him to reject his homosexuality, then all those who don't are defying God.

Then I read a great essay by Jay Michaelson at the Daily Beast in which he explained how this dynamic was at the heart of his own experience as a closeted gay man:
"For 10 years, I lived my life as a closeted, Orthodox Jew. I wasn’t closeted because I was Orthodox; I was Orthodox because I was closeted. Here was a world of spiritual (i.e., sublimated sexual) enthusiasm, of rich community, and of deferred expectations for sexuality. Along with many other misfits, I found a home among the newly religious.
"Of course, that life was also one of self-hatred and self-denial. I don’t think I could ever have shot up a gay bar, but I certainly harbored deeply homophobic feelings about “those” gays with their drag queens and pride parades. They were deviant, slutty, degraded. I was above all that."
The essay is a must read. Check it out.

UPDATE: 6-17-16

Based on this newly posted article at the Daily Beast I'll wager that Islam was a distant third in motivations for the shooter's actions. Apparently he had been an extremely violent and difficult person since childhood. He also abused his first wife. It didn't take ISIS to encourage this guy to do something horrible. Think about that, Republicans.

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