Without the act of sex, what does it mean to be LGBTQ?
A person of faith sent me a link to an article featuring a video and photos showing very muscular, attractive Eastern Europe men almost nude in a Christian, religious setting. The article portrayed these hunks as priests and sought to make a political statement, an in-your-face bravado to further LGBTQ civil and human rights.
The sender loved it. In fairness to him, he may have viewed it as a matter of art. I looked at it from a standpoint of, “How does this change hearts and minds in a highly homophobic culture?” It doesn’t. Not only could it be perceived as mocking the faith of a majority of the population, but it could also reinforce a negative stereotype that LGBTQ civil and human rights is all about legalizing a choice in the kind of intimacy a person wants. [pullquote]Sex is a gift—awesome, spiritual and beautiful. It cannot, by itself, sustain a healthy relationship. It is a component of intimacy, which must include spiritual and emotional elements.[/pullquote]
It made me think about how LGBTQ civil and human rights advanced in this country from the election of Harvey Milk to the positive portrayals of gay characters on television. One of my first recollections was Tony Randall in a series called “Love, Sidney” playing a middle-aged gay artist who takes in a single mother and her child. It was the first time television featured a main gay character. It ran for two seasons starting in 1981.
The decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalizing same-gender marriage sent shock waves throughout the nation, forcing Americans unfamiliar with LGBTQ rights to think in terms of fairness—inheritance, tax benefits and hospital visitation rights, among other things. The video and photos referenced above may have done something else. They may underemphasize the importance of a spiritual and emotional foundation in healthy LGBTQ relationships, especially to a young LGBTQ population still learning and growing in a backward part of the world.
No healthy, long-term relationship—gay or straight—is based on sex. Physical intimacy is, of course, important. However, it cannot be the primary element in a relationship. If you have kids, you’re often too tired for intimacy. As time passes, it could become a chore, not something wonderful. If the career is demanding, there’s less time for intimacy because you’re stressed and overworked.
Imagine this. You marry in a state that accepts marriage equality. A tragedy occurs. An accident makes you a paraplegic from the neck down. Physical intimacy becomes impossible. In addition, your face is badly scarred. You are deformed.
Should your spouse leave you? If sex is the primary motivator in the relationship, why shouldn’t your partner leave you if you’re no longer attractive on the outside and can’t have sex? [pullquote]Should your spouse leave you? If sex is the primary motivator in the relationship, why shouldn’t your partner leave you if you’re no longer attractive on the outside and can’t have sex?[/pullquote]
Sex is a gift—awesome, spiritual and beautiful. It cannot, by itself, sustain a healthy relationship. It is a component of intimacy, which must include spiritual and emotional elements. Hopefully, this isn’t breaking news to most people.
At some point the body declines and external beauty fades. It’s inevitable. Hopefully, what you’re left with is a powerful emotional and spiritual bond till death. And, because of an empowering bond, an exchange of spiritual and emotional energy feeding one another, you will always be beautiful to each other.
*Paul is an attorney, seminary-trained priest and founder of CorporateChaplaincy.biz, a firm committed to the spiritual wellness of professionals. He is also author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically.”