So many holding various views on the LGBTQ+ question seem to believe there is no common ground to rally around. Therefore, the conversation devolves into a shouting match, or worse, a power play. I believe that if cooler heads prevail, we can find common ground and move the conversation forward. By listening well to both sides, the areas of common ground will begin to surface.
Where There Is Common Ground
Those supporting the LGBTQ+ movement fundamentally desire the freedom to flourish and experience all it means to be fully alive. Those supporting the LGBTQ+ movement believe this is accomplished by living authentic lives—lives that affirm each person’s uniqueness, and collectively celebrate our rich diversity.
Those questioning the LGBTQ+ movement share this fundamental desire to see each person flourish and experience all it means to be fully alive (again, I am speaking of the calmer and more reasonable voices.) There is a common commitment to affirm each person’s uniqueness. There is a unifying vision to foster a more just society—to promote the “common good.”
Therefore, much common ground exists. There is a shared desire to see all people flourish and experience authentic, robust, and satisfying lives.
So Why Is There So Much Disagreement?
Since we all desire the same thing, why is there so much disagreement and conflict over this issue? What must be resolved in order to look together for a way forward?
The bad news is that, even with these areas of common ground, there is still a significant point of tension that must be alleviated. The good news is that, once identified, it seems reasonable that good people on both sides of the issue can have honest and charitable discussions, finding more and more common ground in order to move forward together.
The Fundamental Question to be Answered
The fundamental point of disagreement, which must be identified and addressed, is the means (ways) to reach the end of human flourishing and the common good. The LGBTQ+ movement believes the way to achieve this goal is to foster freedom of choice in all areas, including gender and sexual identity. Only by affirming and creating freedom for these differences to be expressed can we ensure that all people are able to fully express their uniqueness and flourish. In turn, only when this occurs will we live in a just society.
In light of this fundamental commitment to personal freedom, for the purpose of this essay, I will refer to this position the “Libertarian” position (from the Latin libertas meaning liberty). Note: I am not referring to political Libertarianism, but ontological libertarianism—the view that in our very constitution/essence/makeup we are fundamentally free to choose what we are, including our gender and sexual identity.
Libertarians, therefore, believe human flourishing is achieved by promoting complete individual freedom and autonomy, including the freedom to self-determine gender and sexual identity.
Those critiquing the LGTBQ+ movement believe there is a different means to achieve human flourishing and the common good. On this view people flourish only as they live according to their nature—the essence of what it is to be human. The best name for this position is “Essentialism.”
If Essentialism is correct, we all share a nature that defines what we are and, therefore, how we flourish. Living according to our human nature leads to a “fit” with everything else, and hence our well-being. Not living according to our nature causes a lack of “fit” and, therefore, discord, frustration, alienation (from others and oneself), and ultimately the disintegration of the person (literally, the dis-integration of that which is naturally—due to one’s nature—integrated).
Therefore, Essentialists believe the best way to help everyone flourish—including those who identify as LGBTQ+—is to encourage all to live according to our true, shared human nature.
Note how different this is from the desire to limit anyone’s fundamental human rights or deprive anyone of the ability to be fully alive and fulfilled. It is just the opposite, if the Essentialist is right, and will ultimately lead to not only human flourishing, but a more just society.
To better understand the differences between Libertarians and Essentialists we must do a “deeper dive” into the underlying views of reality leading to these two views. I’ll discuss these next week.
Until then, grace and peace.