What's Your Relational Orientation?


(Thinking about why “I see gay people” all around me)

Spurred by the news that Florida’s House of Representatives has banned talk about sexual orientation in grades K-3, I started thinking about whether or not this is a good law.

Donned the “Don’t Say Gay” Law, which is still to be signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, this is what the legislation actually states:

“Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Critics are concerned that the law will become a de facto ban on teaching LGBTQ history and will prevent educators from addressing queer identity in schools.

Before I share my thoughts on this legislation, let’s set the stage.

Truth be told, much like the little boy in the movie The Sixth Sense says “I see dead people,” I say “I see gay people” all around me.

Unless you live in a cave, you’re in denial about the legitimacy of this relational orientation. It is as natural as love is prevalent in the world.

In regards to the law itself, I tried not be reactionary about the news. After all, this is coming from a community where gay talk is problematic because of prevalent religious beliefs, which likewise should be respected.

Moreover, I have five children of my own, and so I lean a little more towards being a bit old fashioned, when it comes to “sex talk” with my young children.

Ignorance is bliss and better sometimes when you don’t have the life experience and context to understand matters that concern grownups, which is why I still cringe and occasionally protest when I’m pressured to allow our third and fourth graders to watch PG-13 movies.

Thus, in contemplating the ramifications of the law under question, I realized that the problem really isn’t about the people per se. Whether you’re hetero, straight, bisexual, homosexual, gay, queer, lesbian or whatever - it really doesn’t matter as much as “how we talk about and frame” our differences.

Simply by using the word “SEXUAL,” as in “sexual orientation,” we automatically orient our thoughts and feelings toward something prospectively taboo, especially when it involves children.

However, call me naive, but before sex, I like to think there is love - or at least, in these modern Tinder-times, if you’re lucky, lust begets love (as it does children sometimes too).

And, as the creative genius, Lin-Manuel Miranda - actor, singer-songwriter, playwright, and film director best known for Hamilton and the soundtrack of Encanto and Moana - famously declared in his 2016 Tony winning acceptance speech - “love is love is love is love..”

In other words, when it comes to talking about human relations, LOVE is far more meaningful, inspirational and enduring than sex ever was or will be.

And at the end of the day, what most people stand and fight for is the right to LOVE whomever you want.

Besides, traditionally, I believe that on both sides of the aisle, people are apt to keep who they go to bed with private, regardless of their orientation.

So, I’m proposing that instead of sexual orientation, we really should be talking about our differences in terms of “RELATIONAL ORIENTATION,” if we need to talk about them at all.

I will admit a very strong bias here.

First, although I do consider myself spiritual in the most humane sense, but I do not formally practice a religion, I grew up Catholic, had the privilege of going to a Jesuit prep school, and I learned from the teachings of Christ that kindness and love and consideration of and compassion for others should and shall overcome their counterparts.

In sum, despite my agnosticism-bordering on-atheism, I support the underlying implications of what His Holiness Pope Francis proselytized when he famously replied in 2013, when asked about the legitimacy of gay brethren in the Church, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?"

“Who am I to judge?” is a question I ask myself often, because I believe one of our greatest fallacies as a “thinking”-animal is that “one doth think too much,” sometimes, if not, all-too-often. As a result, we harbor a lot of prejudices and make a lot of erroneous presumptions about others’ intentions, thoughts, feelings, beliefs and experiences, rather than allowing the truth to speak for itself.

Moreover, we all are from time

-to-time inherently contradictory, for we play different roles for different people; we err, and occasionally we change, and throughout our lifetime we remain merely human.

If we are lucky, we learn to love and be loved; loving not only those who we are inclined to love based on our relational orientation, but learning to love everyone, regardless of who they love themselves.

Ironically, I also offer this new frame of reference of “relational orientation,” as a way to combat the narrow-minded ideas of fundamentalists, who I dare say misinterpret scripture and the stories that model for us - the best way to live.

Perhaps ignorantly - for “what do I really know?” - I’m proposing that by changing the frame of reference we can diffuse the debate, by simply taking the question out of its antiquated context. So, that eventually, we begin asking “Whom do you love?” instead of “Whom do you lust?”

After all, if there is no war, what are you fighting for?

Granted, perhaps my idea is rather naive and simpleminded, but “they all laughed” at Jesus and his crazy notions two thousand years ago too. Yet, somehow his teachings still prevail for millions around the world, two millennia later.

Ironically enough, a few weeks ago I had a conversation with a married couple, the son of my mother-in-law and his husband, who were visiting from Canada, and they said that they prefer to be referred to as “queer,” rather than “gay.” In their mid-thirties, the thought is that by using queer, you’re moving away from using a term that has long had a stigma attached to it.

However, if you’ve been around long enough, you know that not too long ago, when Baby Boomers were becoming adults, “queer” was the pejorative term.

Through the beginning of the gay rights movement, which is generally thought to have begun with the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village New York City in June 1969, on through to today, as we still fight the good fight to get all people, regardless of orientation, to be recognized as equals - for many “gay” still serves as the accepted term du jour.

In sum, words are powerful weapons, tools and means of communication that influence how we feel, how we interact with one another, and that ultimately help us see the world differently.

Granted, I don’t expect my Sunday morning sermon here to resonate much beyond my dear friends on Facebook, but I still have faith the wings of a butterfly can start a storm that sweeps the world.

So, if you believe in Chaos theory…feel free to share this post and help me start a revolution.

Thus, I ask you, what is your “relational orientation”? Whom do you love?

Although at the risk of sounding exploitative or gratuitous, I’ll start. Even though I may have led a crooked path and consider myself straight-as-an-arrow, lucky to be in love with my wife Chelsea, I readily will admit that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a number of men and women of a different relational orientation, whom I consider some of my best friends: Matthew, Jorge, Beth, Jeff, Scott, and so many other wonderful people.

“Agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it's what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men.” - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.