Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

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Completely unknown to the world until just a few years ago, the neologisms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” have suddenly become key terms in political debates concerning human rights, human dignity, marriage and the family. While the actual meaning of these concepts remains uncertain, they constitute a veritable mantra  of all those who, using a euphemistic terminology for what are objectively disordered behaviours, seek to change society’s understanding of human sexuality.

Although both terms are nowadays frequently used in policy statements or parliamentary resolutions, there is no legal definition for either of them. While the European Court of Human Rights affirms that Article 14 of the European Human Rights Convention prohibits discrimination on grounds of “sexual orientation” even more strictly than any other kind of of discrimination[1], the term actually does not appear anywhere in the Convention, be it in Article 14 or elsewhere. The new EU Fundamental Rights Charter, by contrast, does use the term in its Article 21 (1) – but it does not define it. Quite remarkably, even the European Commission’s controversial draft for a new “General Antidiscrimination Directive”, while referring to “sexual orientation” as a possible ground for discrimination, does not provide any definition for it. It is somehow generally pretended that the term were of long-standing and current usage so that everybody could be expected to know what it is. But this is actually not the case.

One place where definitions can be found is the so-called “Yogyakarta Principles”, a manifesto of the international gay rights lobby. In an introductory text that was published together with these so-called “principles”, but technically speaking does not appear to be an integral part of them, there are two footnotes in which the following is explained:

“Sexual orientation is understood to refer to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender.”

and:

“Gender identity is understood to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.”

This, it appears, is how the international lesbian and gay lobby, which has coined those two weasel-words, would like to see them interpreted.

Before venturing to further examine these two definitions, let us nevertheless clarify from the outset that they have no legal status. The “Yogyakarta Principles” themselves, despite having been drafted by “the (sic!) International Panel of Experts in International Human Rights Law and on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”, have no legal status at all. They are in fact not “principles”, but (rather temerarious and far-fetched) interpretations of international norms that, in their turn, were once meant to give expression to the ethical principles that are otherwise known as Natural Law. The “International Panel of Experts” that drafted them is, despite its rather pompous self-description, not an international legal body, but simply a group of lawyers meeting in a private capacity following an invitation of a number of “LGBT rights” lobby groups. Moreover, the two above-quoted definitions are not even part of the “Yogyakarta Principles” but appear only as footnotes in a text that “introduces” them. Like the “Yogyakarta Principles” themselves, this introductory text has no claim whatsoever to a legal status – but if the “Yogyakarta Principles” had a legal status, the status of those footnotes would still remain uncertain. It is not clear who drafted them, or under which procedure they were “adopted”. This is hardly the appropriate way to make binding international law.

Nevertheless, this being the only definitions of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” we have ever heard of, we do not consider it beneath ourselves to comment on them.

“Sexual Orientation”

The “Yogyakarta Principles” define “sexual orientation” as a capacity, namely a person’s “capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with,” other persons. Discrimination on ground of “sexual orientation” would therefore relate to differences of capacity.

Upon closer examination, these grandiloquent words appear rather nonsensical to us. In actual fact sexuality is by nature “oriented” towards procreation: this is not only the purpose for which, but also the reason why, it exists. Without sexuality being oriented towards procreation, the human race, and hence human sexuality itself, would cease to exist. A healthy person’s sexuality must therefore be oriented towards procreation, and hence towards a person of the other sex of appropriate age. A man cannot procreate without a woman, and a woman not without a man. This “orientation” thus has to do with the natural purpose of sexually within the process of Evolution. It has been so from the dawn of time, and will continue being so until the end of history. It is a strictly “objective” fact and leaves no room for any subjective choices. The “orientation” of male sexuality will therefore always be towards women, and the “orientation” of female sexuality towards men.

A quite different matter is the fact that persons experience feelings of emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to other persons, including, in some cases, persons of their own sex. But there is obviously a difference between emotional or affectional attraction on the one hand, and sexual attraction on the other. It is not clear why they should both be put into the same basket bearing the label “sexual orientation”. Everybody can feel emotions and affections for person of his or her own sex: consider the love a mother can feel for her daughter, or the friendship that one boy can have for another.

Homosexuality and other sexual disorders are in fact not peculiar “sexual orientations”. In actual fact the “orientation” of sexuality is objective and universal; it remains the same for all persons, at all times and in all places. The problem for homosexuals is that they – probably through no choice of their own – experience feelings of sexual attraction that stand in contradiction to the orientation of their sexuality. It is this tension between subjective feelings and the objective orientation of sexuality that makes homosexuality difficult to live with.

Having disordered sentiments is as such not morally reprehensible. Rather, it can come as a difficult and strenuous emotional and moral challenge. Persons experiencing such disorders should therefore not become the easy targets of mockery and derision; instead they have the right to be encouraged and helped in resisting and overcoming their misguided feelings.

If, by contrast, a person acts upon a disordered sexual attraction, that act will itself be objectively disordered. And given that the natural order of things can be discerned by everyone who makes proper use of his intellectual capacities, those objectively disordered sexual acts are morally reprehensible. Even if someone feels strongly attracted to his neighbour’s property, he can be expected not to steal it. Even if someone feels strongly attracted by his neighbour’s wife, he can be expected not to seduce her. In the same vein, someone feeling sexually attracted by persons of his own sex can be expected not to engage in sexual acts with them.

“Gender Identity”

The word “identity”, derived from the Latin words id (correlative for Engl. “this”, “that”, “it”) and esse (correlative for “to be”), has to do with what we really are, not with what we may subjectively feel, or want, to be. The above-quoted definition of “gender identity” is therefore an absurdity: making a person’s “gender identity” depend on feelings and experiences, it subverts the meaning of the very same word that it seeks to use for its purpose. The sex (or “gender”) of a person is an objective given, even if, in the case of so-called “intersex” persons it can be difficult to determine. The feelings and experiences of a person, by contrast, are subjective. The problem of homosexuals, transgender persons, etc. is that their feelings and emotions do not correspond to their identity, i.e. to who they really are. But that reality does not change only because of our feelings.

A political theory that wants to make a person’s “identity” (gender or other) contingent upon subjective feelings and emotions is a peculiar form of collective solipsism.

The Antithesis: the Virtue of Chastity

In order to live happy and successful lives, we need not only rights. We also need virtues. The legal order should protect and foster such virtues.

The novel concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity are nothing else than the direct contradiction to, and rejection of, the virtue of chastity. Logically therefore, if society does not want to accept a public morality based on those two concepts, it must re-discover this virtue, and understand why it is desirable.

In Latin, virtus (virtue) is derived from vir (man); it is the attribute of manliness, i.e. of a person who is able to master and control himself. Having virtue means to have control over oneself, as opposed to being enslaved to one’s instars and desires. This is an important pre-condition for truly being a free and happy person.

Sexuality is one of the most powerful forces in human life. It can without doubt be a source of great fulfilment and happiness – but only if it is correctly integrated into the human person and its various relationships with other persons. Chastity is the virtue that ensures this integration of sexuality into a person’s life: a chaste person is a person whose sexual behaviour corresponds to his station in life. If that person is married, chastity means that it will live its sexuality in a way that is conducive to a happy and fruitful family life. If the person is unmarried, chastity will help it to find the right spouse or, if that is not intended, to live happily as a single person. Like all other virtues, chastity is conducive to happiness; like all other vices, debauchery is conducive to unhappiness.

As one can easily understand, the first and foremost pre-condition for acquiring the virtue of chastity is to understand the purpose of sexuality. But as one can see from the above analysis, the novel concepts of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are diametrically opposed to such a correct understanding. They have been designed to subvert not only public morality, but, in a broader and more general way, our language and our thinking. The very purpose of these new weasel-words is to prevent us from thinking and speaking clearly about sexuality – as if man were not able to know what his sexual organs are good for, and therefore might try out whatever comes to mind. Once again does it become apparent that the attempt to legitimize moral corruption inevitably leads to intellectual corruption.

Chastity means to be aware that there are not several different “sexual orientations”, but that sexuality has only one orientation: a caring and loving relationship with a person of the other sex in order to found a family. It means to understand that (leaving aside the sad and not self-chosen situation of intersex persons) a person’s gender identity is either that of a man or that of a woman, and to adapt one’s behaviour to that identity.

Chastity means to live a life in a way that remains in touch with reality. It is like not overdrawing one’s bank account, not driving while drunk, or not eating unhealthy food. In other words, it means applying reason and self control to one’s sex life – a pre-condition for happiness and fulfilment.

A slogan often used by the gay rights movement is: “everybody should be free to love whom he wants”. We not only endorse this statement, but we go even further: everybody should love everybody else. But only the virtue of chastity ensures that our love for other persons remains true, i.e. that it is genuinely directed at the other persons’ well being. Only through the virtue of chastity will we be able to integrate our sexual behaviour into the wider array of our social relationships and give to others that kind of love which is appropriate to them: to our spouse, to our children, to our parents and grandparents, to our friends, to our colleagues at the workplace, to our superiors or subordinates, to our neighbours, etc. An ideology that uses “love” solely as a synonym for sexual intercourse subverts the true meaning of “love”; it only reveals that those promoting it do not know what love is.


[1] Cf. ECtHR, Smith and Grady v. UK, Applications nos. 33985/96 and 33986/96, §§ 89 and 90

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