Been a while since I have posted to this blog, been a busy year. Haven’t really had access to this particular blog for a while. Hmm, need to finish the Virtues posts…
Inspired by this post on the New Civil Rights movement site.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a straight ally of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. A friend of mine posted the above link to her Facebook, and at first, it was simply another in a series of pastors bashing gays for being gay, and trying to come up with reasons and excuses for why they should not have the right to marry, or even in some cases the right to live. Then it took a turn, and I decided that I wanted to rant.
“Any effeminate person will not enter into the Kingdom of God just for acting like a homo,” Manning instructed. “I mean, you just act sweet, you ain’t going to Heaven, homie. Read it right there. Read it and weep.”
Put aside the fact that for the better part of the millennium, the culture of Europe and the United States has been constantly changing. At one point, it was commonplace for a male to have a flamboyant appearance, and speaking with a lisp was less of a social gaffe than, oh, say, allowing an insult to go unchallenged. In different parts of the world were different styles of clothing, some of them suspiciously close to female attire (the leine, the kilt, robes, etc.). So, on a purely historical note, Mr. Manning’s comments on the effeminate person not entering the Kingdom of God is ignorant, at best.
Not that he has no basis for his argument, mind! If he is a closet Gnostic, he has a verse of scripture to back him up if misconstrued (and on the other hand, if he’s not, he’s got nothing). The last verse of the Gospel of Thomas (114) states,
Simon Peter said to them, “Mary should leave us, for females are not worthy of life.” Jesus said, “See, I am going to attract her to make her male so that she too might become a living spirit that resembles you males. For every female (element) that makes itself male will enter the kingdom of heavens.” – Layton Translation, Gospel of Thomas
However, as a Gnostic, he would also have understood that the terms “male” and “female” were Greek shorthand for “sacred” and “profane” or “spiritual” and “mundane”, and have no bearing on our modern uses of the words. Okay, so even then, no basis for a believable argument. So where is he getting this?
Try as we might, we cannot get past basic prejudices against the effeminate within Indo-European society, which has influenced our culture from the Greeks and Romans to the Germanic tribes to England to the first American colonies to now. Looking into Viking culture, especially, is a disturbing look at the origins of our cultural aversion to the effeminate, and has some bearing on the current issue of equality in marriage rights.
The first thing to remember, of course, is the fact that Viking Culture was an extension of the previous Germanic tribal cultures, which likely was either influenced by or branched out from (we may never know for sure) the culture of tribes which spanned from Gaul to Galatia (often called the La Tène culture, and yes, I’m already aware that is a tad of an overgeneralization). Germanic culture mixed with Christianity at many points in the timeline, but none so cleanly and viciously as with the Frank, Charles the Great (known commonly as Charlemagne). Much of what was Germanic culture was at that point muddied with our understanding of Roman Christian culture, so we are uncertain what influenced which or how. On the other hand, we have a guide in the form of the Vikings, whose culture became a force to be reckoned with. It was a three-hundred year period which would etch itself into European history and partially ensured that Germanic-influenced culture would never fully be forgotten.
The second thing to remember is the concept of ergi, as well as its related words (argr, sorðinn). The idea was that effeminacy led to indecision, an inability to lead, and even ignorance. Ergí was traditionally associated with the passive male in homosexuality, i.e., the receiver. There was never much said in what has survived of the one giving, or dominating the other. (This can also be seen in the Roman “education” of younger boys and slaves: a Roman who penetrated was seen as normal, while the ones penetrated were seen either as children or as somehow defective.) In short, being called ergí was being called a coward, a trend which has continued from that society to the modern day.
Effeminate-bashing is perpetrated both by males and females. I have always found this ridiculous. I can count the number of times I have been told by female friends, “I don’t want to date [him] because he just acts so… emotional,” or “[He]’s such a pussy!” or “What a sissy!” However, why would I want to? The number is in the triple digits, as in, multiple hundreds. Females are treated the way they are by society because of the perception of the effeminate in society; that perception affects them negatively, and yet they perpetuate it in their response to effeminate males.
All of these things reinforce and re-establish the “traditional” gender roles that our culture has accepted. These gender roles are starting to change, as they have several times before. However, part of the resistance in that change, and in the resistance of same-sex marriage and similar issues, lies in our society’s prejudices against the effeminate, and especially the effeminate male. That prejudice, linking effeminacy to the emotional to the passive and cowardly, has caused a fair amount of damage to the progress of this society from violence as a part of daily life to the present notions of civility, self-mastery, and peace. It remains to be seen whether that damage can be repaired.