Gay Marriage and the Curse of Rumpelstiltskin

This Election Day, voters in Maine, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota will be asked to cast their ballots on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Now is a good time to discuss this issue beyond the squeaky-clean case for gay marriage that has been marketed to well-intended, and in some cases gullible, straight allies.  First, let's dispense with the maudlin myths and reductive propaganda.

Same-sex marriage will do nothing to address the five real-life crises facing people with same-sex attractions, many of whom do not end up in lifelong couplings: depression, eating disorders, suicide, sexually transmitted diseases, and addictions.

While bullies, biblical verses, Republicans, and chicken sandwich impresarios may cause some hurt feelings, the five aforementioned crises are overwhelmingly the result of the way gays treat one another.  Straight people do gays no favors by feeling guilty and then blindly endorsing the demands of gay activists, who are largely responsible for the currents of gay culture and therefore the state of gay people's lives.

By convincing a large part of the country that people have no choice but to act upon biological instincts -- going as far as barring psychotherapists from counseling patients to resist same-sex urges -- post-Stonewall activists have created an alternate social world.

In this alternate world, people are subservient to Freud's pleasure principle and incapable of rising above their id to attain higher transcendentals such as the one, the good, and the true (where is Aquinas when you need him?).

I can see where gay activism came from.  There was a century of ghastly repression to bring to an end.  This repression was against "homosexuals," a group first labeled and classified in the 1860s by snooping and perhaps priggish Victorian scientists.

To end the century of police raids, surveillance, and violent suppression, gay activists chose to embrace a certain ideology about man's relation to the carnal realm.  After 1969s famous Stonewall revolt in New York City, the movement based its empowerment on the notion that people are gay against their will and can't help acting the way they do.

The idea was that they could defend their pleasures as a civil rights movement, because their identity as homosexual was as natural and unavoidable as the color of a person's skin.  Soon, too, there developed a fanatical belief that gay people had "gaydar" and could sense another person's homosexuality, no matter how hidden, through telepathy.

With one reckless feint, the gay movement conjoined a natural trait like pigmentation with behavior and soon insisted that not only they, but all people, were governed by mandates in their bloodstream.

Self-determination, free will, and moral accountability were swept away in one Neronian flourish.  The gay world was born.  It was a place where people were not only encouraged to act on urges (the baser the urge, the more urgent the need to act on it); in fact, they were condemned as closeted, self-hating, or lying if they did not act on their perceived orientation.  Hence the particular vitriol against ex-gays, priests, and bisexuals who chose to marry the opposite sex.

By the early 2000s, a new term was coined to describe people with same-sex attractions who married the opposite sex: "mixed-orientation marriages."  The new gay world somehow resurrected taboos against "miscegenation" in a place where rational people could have hardly predicted it.  As a bisexual married to a woman, I've gotten attacked enough by pro-gay zealots to have a vague sense of what it was like for biracial couples in the 1950s.

Some gay leftists have objected to the gay-marriage movement because they feel that it seeks to remake the gay world to look more like the boring, hegemonic straight world of white picket fences and baby strollers.  I see it the other way around.  Gay marriage is about remaking the whole world so it looks more like the gay world.  That's not good.

Almost all religious faiths warn against carnal impurity because they see a danger in being trapped in one's urges.  Gay identity politics, through the choices of its spokespeople, chose to base selfhood on submission to urges rather than mastery of urges.  Had they not made this rhetorical choice, things might have been different.

As things stand, we cannot endorse gay rights without endorsing the sexual philosophy underneath it, which is really a philosophy about who we are and what we seek in life.  Such a philosophy is ultimately destructive and alienating.

The results are predictable.  Not all gays, but disturbingly many of them, are literally powerless against immediate lusts, desperately seeking validation in ephemeral pleasures, and unable to express friendship or love on a higher plane than voluptuous carnality.  Hence, even with all the measures to stop bullying and promote positive images about gay people, psychological surveys find that "gays" are unhappy.

As I discuss in my book The Colorful Conservative: American Conversations with the Ancients from Wheatley to Whitman, three of the greatest early American writers -- John Winthrop, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman -- celebrated love between members of the same sex as spiritually pure.  This was what used to be known as friendship or comrade love, and it is exalted by authors as ancient as Homer, Sappho, Virgil, Plato, Demosthenes, and Cicero.  Same-sex love was a brotherly or sisterly refuge from the raw passions and intrigues of male-female lust, with its political burden of dowries, lineage, inheritance, and rivalry.

None of these writers intended same-sex love to reach its pinnacle in glory holes, the Folsom Street leather fair, circuit parties, lesbian cruises, amyl nitrates, or surrogacy contracts with impoverished women in the third world.

None of these great writers thought that same-sex love could be a source of erotic pleasure totally free of one's obligations to the opposite sex, especially if one wanted children.  Sappho was married to a man.  Fairy-tale villain Rumpelstiltskin may have sought to acquire a baby without making love to a woman, but he hardly comes across as a great example for social engineering.  (Remember that the hapless queen figures out who he is and, by naming him, tricks him and keeps her baby; women have a way of not letting men take their babies even when there is a contract in place.)

As a bisexual professor, I find myself woefully torn, even overwhelmed.  There are people in the "gay" community whom I love.  I want to see them prosper.  For some of them, prosperity means staying in same-sex relationships but distancing themselves from dangerous influences.  If there are children in trouble who need foster homes, it seems perfectly reasonable for stable same-sex couples to cooperate with the children's biological parents and help kids get back on their feet.

For other gays I know, prosperity might mean finding some peace with the opposite sex and having children through heterosexual unions, gay naysayers be damned.  Many of them have wonderful fatherly and motherly instincts.  They might have never had a problem expressing such instincts had the gay community not given them the idea that it was their "right" to have children without a partner of the opposite sex in the picture.

In bygone centuries, their intense emotional attachment to the same sex would have found some balance with their spousal needs.  Today, because of gay rights rhetoric, their emotional attachments to the same sex have become a barrier.  The language of gay rights tells them they don't have a choice and that children have to be acquired through fraught asexual arrangements -- the most problematic one being the contrivance by which a biological father or mother is magically rinsed out of the picture.

Voters in Maryland, Minnesota, Maine, and Washington face a painful choice.  I cannot tell them how to vote.  All I can say is that they should mind the consequences of redefining marriage.  It would be a permanent change, one like Roe v. Wade.  We cannot reverse it if we find that it isn't going well.

I must credit Doug Mainwaring for a great piece recently that pulled together some of the key arguments against gay marriage.  I know how hard it must be for him to write the words "I am gay" while arguing against gay marriage.  I also know where he comes from.  It isn't hate for gays, but a love for all humanity. 

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