In his most recent newsletter –shared with me yesterday by a friend who follows pronouncements from the fringes– Micah Clark of the American Family Institute professes amazement at the notion that there is anything newsworthy about the recent “coming out” of NBA player Jason Collins.
“When asked about this previously unknown mid-level player, I said “with 12 million Americans out of work, 48 million Americans on food stamps, and 32 million US adults functionally illiterate, an athlete announcing that he wants to have sex with other men isn’t really that newsworthy. It is all media hype.”
Collins was certainly “previously unknown” to me–I don’t follow sports. But I gather he was a bit more prominent among those who know, for example, the difference between the NBA and the NFL. Leaving aside that snide reference, however, it’s telling that Clark is suddenly so concerned with poverty and unemployment; the newsletters I’ve seen previously have given me the impression that he feels there is nothing more important than regulating the sex lives and reproductive choices of other Americans.
The rest of the diatribe, however, is typical Clark, to wit:
I also pointed out that, as a parent, I don’t appreciate hearing about the sexual behavior of athletes over the airwaves. I didn’t like hearing constant coverage of Wilt Chamberlain’s claim to having slept with 1,000 women, and I don’t like hearing about this Collins matter at every top of the hour news break. What we should care about is how they play basketball. I also said that we should never base our standard of what is right and wrong upon the behavior of athletes.
Hate to tell you this, Micah, but we aren’t hearing about “the sexual behavior of athletes.” We have learned something about the identity of an athlete. Most of us are able to distinguish between who someone is and what they may or may not do. (I think your obsession is showing.)
There are some things that can be learned from Jason Collin’s stunt. For example, Mr. Collins’ announcement was a surprise to his former fiancé, Carolyn Moos, who played in the Women’s NBA. It was also a surprise to Jason’s twin brother, Jarron. The media may mention Ms. Moos, but they may not want to mention Jason’s identical twin too often. Doing so may remind people that, unlike race, there is no genetic cause or “gay gene” driving homosexual behavior. If there were, Jason’s happily married, father of three, twin brother would also be involved in homosexuality, and he’s not.
I’m not sure what the existence of an ex-fiancee is supposed to prove; we all know gays and lesbians who’ve married and raised families. Sometimes, those marriages were attempts to suppress or deny an orientation that society despised, sometimes they were “arrangements.” But the insistence that having a heterosexual twin is “proof” that there is no “gay gene” simply betrays a lack of understanding of basic genetics. Most studies of twins and homosexuality have found that if one twin is gay, the other has a 50% chance of also being gay. Fifty percent is far higher than chance, and underscores a heritable component in sexual identity. The reason incidence isn’t 100% is because there isn’t a single gene that determines sexual orientation; current science suggests that there is a complex interaction between several genetic markers and environmental factors that produces sexual orientation. Whatever the biological mechanisms, they are beyond the power of individuals to change–although there is a spectrum along which sexual orientation lies, any given individual’s sexual identity is what lawyers call an “immutable” characteristic. In plain language, it isn’t chosen.
It’s hard not to feel sorry for the Micah Clarks of the world as the culture shifts around them. The newsletter from which I’ve quoted has a forlorn tone; suddenly, those Micah has relentlessly marginalized are being welcomed into the human family, and he isn’t taking it very well. I have always assumed that the loudest homophobes are men who feel threatened or inadequate; looking down on gays allows them to feel “better than,” much as the “bubbas” who still populate the south desperately need to believe that their skin color makes them superior to at least some others. (Those guys aren’t taking the election of an African-American President very well, by the way.)
Another item in the newsletter references the upcoming National Day of Prayer, and Clark says that now more than ever, America needs those prayers. I wonder what he thinks about the Mayor of Charlotte (recently nominated to be Transportation Secretary), who has just jettisoned that tradition in favor of a Day of Reason.
Man, these days, the theocrats just can’t catch a break.