Minor, Robert N. “Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human”, New Leaf Distributing Co Inc., 2001.
Growing Up In America
“Robert Minor discusses why in growing up in America taking on the “straight” role is damaging to all human beings regardless of sexual orientation. This role is taught from the birth through all of the institutions in society and the major methods by which it is installed are fear-based. Thus it sets up gender roles for men and women and oppressor and victim roles for heterosexuals and non-heterosexuals. The final chapter “How to Be Human” is on how to heal the hurts all human beings suffer from the methods by which we are conditioned to live these roles. Each chapter includes recommended further readings.
“Scared Straight” explains how we are indoctrinated into a way of thinking and argues against it. Robert Minor, a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, describes the process of conditioning into conventional gender roles that dominates and directs our lives. He uses an interesting bit of computer terminology that helps make his argument clear: he refers to gender conditioning as being “installed” the way a piece of software is installed. A small program analyzes your computer and determines what needs to be where for a desired application to work, and then inserts whatever pieces of code are needed.
Now in the installation of gender role conditioning what’s needed are a set of beliefs, opinions and unverifiable assumptions about the nature of human life and sexuality that support and explain the existing system. Minor shows how in fact we are all brainwashed about the tenets of male dominant gender conditioning but can’t realize it because we can never see what it is.
What it is then is the installed beliefs that male is better than female, that males should compete with other males to prove they’re “real men” and not like females, that females should effectively be victims to males’ desires and priorities in order to be “real women,” and that men should want to have sex and women should want to “get a man,” and that nobody should question these beliefs unless the males demonstrate they’re like women and the females demonstrate they’re unworthy to be men–thus proving the assumptions.
If this sounds vaguely familiar to feminist theory it is because it is just that. It is a further reiteration of the original feminist critique. It’s not new. But in this book it is brilliantly and exhaustively argued and explained.
The consequence of this installation of gender roles is unquestioning acceptance of male dominance, hierarchical ordering, competition, scarcity and dualistic thinking–especially the notion of right and wrong–as though these were “God-given.” Even the idea of that “God” is a self-serving, self-verifying artifact of the male dominant conditioning.
Minor shows how heterosexuals are forced into being “straight” at the cost of men’s emotional well being and freedom and women’s self-respect, autonomy and intelligence. He very insightfully explains that being straight is not at all the same thing as being heterosexual, that “straight” means acquiescing to the gender role conditioning, and that because the conditioning suppresses natural responsiveness to feelings, it in fact disempowers real heterosexuality. People don’t respond to their actual heterosexual feelings as much as they react to and obey gender conditioning.
He goes on to show how gay people are taught to be gay by a system that demands everybody be “straight.” Thus we see the notorious terms applied to gay people: “straight-looking, straight-acting.” Even homosexuals try to be “straight.”
The reason homosexuality is so scorned by the system is because the very choice of “coming out” means choosing to be true to one’s own feelings instead of adhering to conditioning. In order to be gay, at least on the surface level, one has to decide to violate the conditioning, that is, to jump out of the water. This, in turn, threatens the system because it shows that human beings can survive without agreeing to the tenets of male dominant heterosexism.
Gay men and lesbians continue to struggle with the installed program of conditioned expectations, values, and self-assessments. But at least we’re potentially aware of what’s going on. And with our struggle we call the “straights” to wake up and be aware.
The gay and lesbian rights movement then is not just another attempt by one group to compete with and dominate another (that’s how the conditioning would portray it and that’s why straights feel threatened, why, for instance, they think that gay marriage threatens their relationships). Our movement is about the human race waking up from a set of assumptions about the nature of life and God that (maybe!) made sense at the start of agrarianism, when our ancestors were coming down from the trees and moving into villages, but that don’t fit modern, technological, egalitarian, psychologically-enlightened society.
In fact, there is nothing new in the book that hasn’t been written about before. What Minor does is to take a lot of research and condense it into an easy, resourceful text. He shows that homophobia hurts everyone regardless of their sexual orientation. The actual issue of sexual orientation has very little to do with the oppression than the issue that someone is perceived “different.” Which also means that gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people must stop playing the “victim role” when dealing with the oppression.”