After briefly complimenting him for the toned physique that he showed off in the photos, despite the fact that he went back on his aforementioned promise to pose fully nude, Joy asked him a pointed question. Coming from his conservative Alaskan background and knowing that Playgirl cators mostly to a gay audiance, how did he feel with the reality of now being seen as a gay icon?
He thought awhile, and though he admitted that he never thought he had actually seen a real, live gay person in Wasilla (something I don’t really buy… but you never know) now that he had been exposed to lots of them during the past few months he realized that “they’re people too…It doesn’t matter to me, more fans, it’s great.”
Although Levi’s sudden gay-friendly attitude could just be the result of graciously accepting whatever publicity or attention comes his way, the exposure to other gay people could have indeed been a profound eye-opener for him. Or perhaps, not so profound. Through exposures with other gay individuals, he just saw that they weren’t outrageously different form other persons, they were just like everyone else.
Could the leaders of the Church learn from this phenomenon?
Just a few weeks ago, the Prefect Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers; Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, caused quite a stir and yet another awkward public relations incident for the Vatican, when he made a few comments during an interview regarding the subject of homosexuality. In his words, “Transsexuals and homosexuals will not enter into the Kingdom of God, and I do not say this, but Saint Paul does.” He went on further to explain that in his view, “One is not born a homosexual. One becomes a homosexual. It is for various reasons, such as education, or for not developing one’s own proper identity in adolescence; perhaps they are themselves not responsible, but acting against the dignity of the human body, certainly they will not enter Heaven. All that goes against nature and against the dignity of the human body offends God.” This grim and aggressive theological interpretation eventually pressured the Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, to respond to the cardinal’s renegade comments.
Essentially, Fr. Lombardi simply echoed the same train of thought that the Catechism of the Catholic Church currently espouses, that all homosexual acts are “instrinsically disordered.” However, he went on to note that the Catechism states that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity…every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” Although at face value, it might look as if the Church is simply putting forth its same old, “Love the sinner, hate the sin“ mantra, but another dynamic could be at play.
By being forced to admit that homosexuals must be allowed and treated with the same dignities, respects, and privileges that other citizens of the globe enjoy, a subliminal trend is taking hold. Acknowledging these realities affirms that homosexuals are not second-class citizens. Once the perception of homosexual persons as being marginalized, creatures of a gay “sub-culture” is eliminated, perhaps true dialogue and comprehension can ensue?
The next logical step of course is personal engagement. Just as in Levi’s case, when most people are in the company of homosexuals, and realize that they’re not always trying to secretly seduce them, they see that their pre-concevied notions of what “these people” were like fall away. Ultimately, they are forced to realize that gay and lesbians are people just like everyone else.
This could be what the leaders of the Church are afraid to do. For whatever their reasons, they cling to their fears and misconceptions of homosexual persons. It’s comfortable and easy to see them as morally deformed individuals rather than confronting these “lifestyles” personally and seeing that instead of being a negative alternative form of existence, they are simply another, equally valid, equally fulfilling way of living out the human experience.
Until His Holiness and the bishops break down the barriers of fear and ignorance that prevent them from genuinely and directly engaging with the homosexual members of the People of God in a personal and empathetic manner, progress on interpreting the matter of homosexuality will not be made and the same definitions and affirmations of the past will continue to be repeated and solidified.
A perfect example of this precedent just occured this weekend. Annise Parker, a lesbian, was just elected as the first openly-gay mayor of Houston, Texas; and has now become the leader of one of the largest cities in the United States, in the midst of the Bible Belt no less! Despite homophobic attacks of fear and misinformation that were directed against her, the citizens of Houston chose her because they considered her to be the best candidate for the job. So, slowly but surely, it can be seen that civil and social equality will not simply triumph by force or imposition, but truly by comprehensive and genuine engagement, human being to human being.