Monday, May 18, 2009

What Do "Marriage Defenders" Want From LGBT People?

Ah, that eternal question. What is it that anti-gays want from we LGBT-Americans? Perusing anti-gay blogs, I do sincerely try to get to the bottom of this. "Marriage defenders" are not a monolithic group, but I do tend to notice certain themes within their argumentation. The other day, I came across an interesting contradiction that I'd like to share.

Some of these folks, I have found, really truly want gay men and lesbians to leave their abhorrent lifestyles and go on to lead normal lives within that oh-so-natural state of complementarity that is man-woman love. For instance, responding to a gay man on her blog, anti-equality Digital Network Army blogger Pearl recently wrote:

"I am sorry for the pain you have experienced in your life. I, too, believe that God loves you. He loves us all, but He does not love all of our choices. You may have been born with a tendency toward same-sex attraction, but you are not beholden to your emotional appetites. None of us is."

This opinion that "same-sex attraction" is an appetite to be overcome is one that many anti-gays and "marriage defenders" share. It is, in fact, the yin to another of their fave arguments. Namely, the one that says that gay men and lesbians are already free to get married, as long as they marry someone of the "opposite" sex, of course! As but one of many examples of this argument, another "DNA" blogger recently wrote:

"The biggest argument coming from this ever-growing group is that homosexuals do not receive the same rights as heterosexuals. But in reality, they do. A man who professes to be gay has the same right as a straight man: to marry a woman."

If you're at all involved in this debate, I'm sure you hear that argument all the time. The argument that homosexuality is an appetite that people can and should overcome and the argument that gays already can get married (to people of the other sex) fit together like a lock and key. Gay people, who perhaps are or aren't born with same-sex attraction, choose to enter into homosexual relationships. If they would just choose to enter into heterosexual relationships, then they too could get married. Yet, what I found the other day was something quite interesting. I observed how "marriage defenders" react when confronted with a gay man who actually has done what they so often point out that he is capable of doing. At Pearl's blog, a gay man who took advantage of his already-equal marriage rights by marrying a woman appeared and relayed his current unfortunate situation. Sadly, this gay man, "jScott," who married a woman is now very unhappy and is only able to admit as much pseudonymously to strangers on the internet. To Pearl, he responds:

"'You are not beholden to your emotional appetites', people say this to me all the time. That's why I ended up marrying a woman to convince myself that I will learn to love her. It's very painful to look at my wife every day knowing that I am deceiving her. I love her but I am not attracted to her."

Let's sit back and watch, folks, how reality unfolds in the reality-based world.

First, you will notice the anti-gay folks backtracking a bit. One person, who writes almost exclusively on anti-gay issues, responded:

"Scott, your situation is really hard. It makes me sad that you were somehow coerced into marrying. I'm not going to give you marriage advice. But I will say that marriage is not about sexual attraction-- at least in the governments eyes" (emphasis added).

"Somehow coerced." That passive-voice is just precious, isn't it? I appreciate this "marriage defender's" somewhat sympathetic response, but these folks really need to acknowledge that a gay man's unhappy marriage to a woman is only a logical, natural extension of the anti-gay framework that treats homosexuality as an "appetite" that can and should be suppressed, denies the reality of non-heterosexual orientations, denies same-sex marriage rights, and continually reminds gay people that they Already Have Equal Rights to marry people of the "opposite" sex.

I think, in fact, there's a concept for what's happened here. Oh yes, it's called Cause and Effect.

In all seriousness, I like to think that this backtrackage was due to the fact that, in the face of real human pain, even the most virulent anti-gays would reconsider some of their prior convictions. Yet, I am starting to believe that many of these people don't even see the inherent contradictions in their arguments. On the one hand, they believe that homosexuality is an appetite ("same-sex attraction" they call it) that people can overcome and then go on to lead "normal" lives. That is certainly the expectation that many of these people have of us. Yet, on the other hand, when gay people try to lead so-called normal lives by marrying people of the opposite sex and end up unhappy, these folks back away with their hands up and shake their heads at the situations we've "somehow" found ourselves, wondering how and why we could make such a poor, selfish choice.

Let's watch a bit more of the action.

See, I also observed an over-eager tendency for these folks to distance themselves from being any sort of cause of human pain in these scenarios. It sort of reminds me of when Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage complained about the, "not thanks to [her]" rise to prominence of the same-sex marriage debate as though she has played no part in this rise to prominence even though the organization she's a part of launches million-dollar marriage ad campaigns, debates marriage equality on national platforms, and so forth. It takes two to tango, Maggie. But I digress.

The commenter who goes by the generic "op-ed" chimed in within the comment thread to make sure everyone knew that when the gay man married a woman:

"That, like all [his] actions, was [his] choice. Nobody here would advocate such a choice and I doubt [he] would, either."

No less than 8 times in his comment, "op-ed" informed the gay man of the poor choice he made and of the shoddy situation in which the gay guy somehow found himself. Methinks the lady doth protest too much. Directly, it certainly is true that the gay man made the choice to marry a woman. It's not a choice that most gay men and lesbians make, but it's certainly a choice that society, families, and anti-gays do encourage us to make every. single. day. For a "marriage defender" to suggest that "nobody" at that particular "marriage defense" blog would "advocate such a choice" shows a real ignorance of his side's own argumentation.

Inherent in the argument that homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle" is the argument that it is something that gay men and lesbians can discard and, instead, opt for a better choice: The Heterosexual Lifestyle. Observe, some of Pearl's thoughts:

"Saying that lesbianism is normal because they can procreate is misleading. True, they have the right equipment to procreate...if employed properly...with a man. But in their chosen lifestyle, with their chosen partner, they cannot naturally procreate" [emphasis added, ellipses in original].

She continued, in a comment to this post, to insist that homosexuality is a choice and that gay people can happily form heterosexual relationships:

"And there are countless recorded instances of gay individuals who have walked away from the lifestyle to happily live out the remainder of their mortal lives in a heterosexual relationship. This ongoing occurrence evidences the fact that homosexual behavior can be turned on and off....Homosexuals can choose to pursue same-sex relationships, but they also have to accept the consequences of such a choice (i.e. no access to same-sex "marriage"). You see? They can still get married, like the rest of us, to someone of the opposite sex..." (emphasis added).

Now, it's been my experience that this "op-ed" persona has never been a fellow to concede any point, no matter how small. But why would Pearl continually speak of homosexuality as a "choice," regularly point to examples of people walking away from the "lifestyle," and remind everyone that gay people "still can get married... to someone of the opposite sex" if she were not advocating such a choice? Was she just saying all that for shits and giggles?

It's crystal clear that in Pearl's worldview (and it's a worldview that many "marriage defenders" hold) homosexuality is a mere choice, and a bad choice at that. The ideology of "choice" is sort of what the entire marriage debate (not to mention the ex-gay industry) hinges on. After all, it would be far too cruel of anti-gays to demand certain pathological-by-choice segments of the population to opt out of "normalcy" completely. It would just be flat out rude for "marriage defenders" to continually remind everyone that gays already can get heterosexually married while knowing full well that gays shouldn't actually get heterosexually married.

So, I like to think that many "marriage defenders" just aren't thinking out their arguments to their logical conclusions. I think many people, for whatever reason, profoundly misunderstand what it means to be gay. Yes, Captain Obvious, gay men and lesbians can form heterosexual marriages. But by decoupling marriage from attraction and compatibility, I will always be reminded that it is they, rather than us, who so misunderstand the marital relationship.

This confusion, both as to what marriage is and what being gay means, perhaps explains why "marriage defenders" are so flummoxed when confronted with a gay man who "somehow found" himself married to a woman. For one, if gay men "choose" to be gay but they marry women and are unhappy anyway, it suggests that maybe homosexuality isn't such a choice after all. Two, it suggests that maybe marriage is about something other than the happenstance of people's sex parts fitting together like a lock and key and something other than what can be produced by such a combination. Maybe they know this intuitively and that's why, when confronted with this gay man's very real pain and suffering, these folks slowly back away, chastise a gay man for making even more poor choices, and then scurry from the room as though they themselves have played no part in insisting that gay people just marry people of the opposite sex (because a-der gay people already can get married!).

So, let's live in the anti-gay World of Choice for a brief moment and ponder the central questions that this post asks:

If "marriage defenders" do not want us to marry our same-sex partners and if they truly, as "op-ed" claims, do not "advocate" for us to marry opposite-sex partners, what exactly do they want us to do? In what ways are we to live that is acceptable to them? What is our place within "their" society, "their" legal frameworks, and within "their" institutions? Recognizing that we have families to protect and provide for, recognizing that many of us are law-abiding tax-paying citizens, in what legal framework are we to protect our families and utilize the benefits and privileges that society has created for familial protection?

Since we all know that gay people can already marry people of the other sex, but we also know that it would be a poor choice to do so, what, then? What? I know this would all be easier if LGBT folks chose not to exist at all, but given that we do exist, what is it that "marriage defenders" want from us?

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