This is not a statement diary. I am not at this point claiming to have any bright ideas whatsoever, neither on the real roots of the problem or the shape any solutions might take. Rather, I want to have some place to jot down some thoughts I have on the topic and gather other peoples’ thoughts as well.
The topic of discussion is:
“What are the components of the resistance to same-sex marriage in the United States?”
Only by getting deep into the soil of this issue do we stand a chance of understanding it and therefore killing it off entirely. My concern is that the bulk of energy expended at addressing the issue will be based on indignation and emotion which – no matter how righteous – will be ineffective. So, inasmuch as possible, I would like to engage with you all in an attempt to verbalize as many of the pieces and parts of the issue here, in as dispassionate a way as possible.
Let’s see if we can take this broken machine apart and start finding out how to fix it.
My opening salvo, in no order whatsoever:
1. “Different”. In dealing with racism, one of the issues that imho needs to be understood is that there is a deep-rooted “different is dangerous” imperative. I posit that this goes back to the very dawn of the simplest creatures’ awareness of their surroundings. I believe there is a component of this in dealing with fear of differing sexual relationships in human culture as well.
2. “Progeny”. Every living creature is descended from creatures that have reproduced, and the blind compulsion to continue that trend is a part of every species. As a human father I feel this both at the personal rational level with all its complexities and I believe I recognize the chattering reptile brain inside that drives this desire beyond cognition. For entirely selfish reasons of many kinds I want at least one of my children to reproduce: so I can enjoy their children in my later years; so I can imagine my descendants living beyond me; so I can imagine the children that I cherish being able to benefit from these same emotions. I posit that this is a component of the issue at hand.
3. “Loss of masculinity.” As I described in a comment on Brit’s “Father” diary (which I will quote from below), our culture includes a minefield to be traversed by every male, full of hair-trigger devices designed to rob a man of his masculinity. While I think this minefield is more of a symptom of the disease than a cause, deconstructing it is in my opinion a primary key to addressing this issue.
While the Feminist discussion has done much to redefine Femininity (with still much to be debated, as we all know) and to provide positive guidance to our girls, I have always felt that we have done little – frankly I think we have done less than nothing – to provide positive guidance to our boys. There was nothing wrong with my girls when they were born, there was nothing wrong with my boy when he was born. But for the girls there was a well-developed raft of positive memes that they could consider to help them find their strengths while for my son there were really only sets of either negative or simplistically cartoonish characterizations more apt as hurdles to be dealt with than as anything beneficial.
Look what we have for girls. You can be strong but caring, you can nurture and you can fight. A show of strength does not reduce your femininity, a display of emotion does not reduce your power. Young girls can explore their sexuality in any manner and they are just experimenting.
Look what we have for boys. Big boys (still) don’t cry, if they do they are weak (heck, they’ll probably end up repressing their latent homosexuality all their lives). Simultaneously, boys that show strength are simply showing their latent thuggish stupidity (probably as a way of suppressing their latent homosexuality). Young boys who explore their sexuality in any manner that is not strictly prescribed have proven their latent homosexuality and should just stop hiding it. The stock analysis accepted ubiquitously in our society of anything not strictly within the allowable bounds of Real Male Behavior is, “that’s just gay”, which is also the descriptive to be most feared and avoided at any cost, however steep. Even from strong feminists on the left, “grow a pair!” is a not-uncommon retort to perceived weakness on the part of a man.
What was the most inflammatory accusation against Sen. Obama? Larry Sinclair, which if proven true would have been nearly universally seen as an out-of-hand disqualification for office. At the same time, widely believed rumors of homosexual tendencies on behalf of Hillary Clinton are not seen as any impediment at all.
And we wonder why our men are so dysfunctional? We wonder why the frenzy to support atrocities like the anti-gay-marriage amendments in Florida, California and Arizona are so intense? Why, if you speak out against these things you must be weak, you must not be a Real Man! “Grow a Pair!!” You are, in fact, probably just suppressing your latent homosexuality and should just put on a dress and take what you have coming to you…
4. “Loss of femininity”. While I believe this is less at the root of the resistance to same-sex marriage in American culture than (3) (and I also know less about it), these is no doubt that it is a component of the problem. I leave this to those with better thoughts and experience than I to address.
5. “Lack of visibility.” Unlike many other areas of discrimination, sexuality is truly private. Not only is it possible for straight people to be unaware that they have gay friends and family, the same applies to gay people. both those discriminating and being discriminated against are blind to the reality of the situation (and in fact are able to be both the discriminator and the discriminated at the same time, as part of maintaining their invisibility). [dtox]
5. “Religion”. There is a lot of blind-following of religion that is a component of the anti-gay issue. This one could use a lot of peeling, imho, because it wraps up or is a handy-carry-all for all the other components.
6. “Voyeurism”. This is another complex component, summed up in “caring what other people do in bed”. The Icky-Face reaction to other people’s sexuality is a circularly defensive reaction, imo, tied to the “sexual guilt” that is such a large part of our culture. No-one else knows what naughty tricks you get up to in bed, so in a defensive move you project your guilt onto what others do.
7. “Generations”. There is a wide gap in opinions on all of these component issues between the generations. Generally the younger generations are more liberal in their attitudes than the older generations. [John Allen]
8. “Ethnicity”. Different American ethnic groups treat this issue in very different ways. The black community in particular is statistically much more resistant to gay marriage (and homosexuality in general) than the population at large – though it is worth noting that the black community is represented within the gay community in direct proportion with the general population. In several conversations offline with gay friends and family this issue has been stated clearly, the statistics and life experience is there to support it. This is imho a very difficult component to address without invoking strong emotions, but not addressing it would be disingenuous.
As I said in the introduction, this is a working thread and not by any means intended to be even a complete compilation of my own thoughts.
What are other/brighter/deeper thoughts on the pieces of this puzzle?