Body, Self, and Sexual Identity: Reflections on the Current Evidence

Is the body the self? What about the body and rights? Does the self have complete control of its body, or can that control be usurped in some situations? Is the body the self? Yes. But not the whole self. When we examine the lives of people who have suffered ongoing pain in the body—victims of torture, chronic illness or chronic abuse—we find that fighting the pain becomes their whole world. Pain takes over one’s life as well as one’s self. Theft of one’s body is theft of one’s self for the most part.[1] It is critical to accept the unity of the body and the self because we know that all damage done to bodies affects the self as well, so that to love the selves of others means caring for their bodies, and to love ourselves means caring for our own bodies. But hope depends upon a recognition that the self can transcend body. This transcendence is not to be understood in terms of opposition, as in soul/body dualism. Rather, the body is the locus of the self, which the self can move beyond.