Tuesday, June 3, 2014

This Is What Dehumanization Looks Like

I saw a popular anti-LGBT writer approvingly promote this silly, self-important, fear-mongering piece by Michael Hanby.

The TL;DR version of this post is that, like many anti-equality pieces, this one's an academic version of National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage's (NOM) ridiculous "A Gathering Storm" ad about the grave harms we are to experience as a society that accepts same-sex marriage.

You can tell right off because Hanby, or his editor, calls his piece "The Brave New World of Same-Sex Marriage."

Which, first off, as an avid sci-fi fan, I find that many conservatives love using Huxley's work as their handy, super profound dystopian reference, no matter how tiny a connection exists between that and whatever it is they happen to be writing about.  It's as though some people are like, "Stuff I think is scary is happening now, and scary future stuff happened in Brave New World too, therefore it's exactly the same."

Hanby starts with some... fun premises:
"Just as feminism has as its practical outworking, if not its theoretical core, the technological conquest of the female body—'biology is not destiny,' so the saying goes—so too same-sex marriage has as its condition of possibility the technological mastery of procreation, without which it would have remained permanently unimaginable."
Hanby's reference to feminism here may seem irrelevant but, for many, being anti-feminist and being anti-LGBT go hand in hand.  Poke a homobigot even a little bit, get them into a conversation about gender, and yep, as NOM claims:
"Men and women make unique, irreplaceable, contributions to parenting. Both genders are needed for human flourishing."
Both progressive feminism and pro-LGBT advocacy threaten this allegedly "natural" world in which all of humanity can be simply and easily reduced to two,and only two, gender complementarist and essential roles (with men on top, of course).  Gay people, trans people, "masculine" women, "feminine" men, intersex individuals, bisexuals - we're all aberrations that, to those invested in "natural law," don't even cause a blip on the radar of what it means to be a true, authentic human being.  Our experiences that deviate from the "nuclear family norm" are, to them, artificial social constructs.

In addition to Hanby's bizarre (macho?) framing of feminism as "the technological conquest of the female body," he makes quite the claim in concluding, without argument, that same-sex marriage would have been unimagineable without the existence of alternative reproductive technologies. That claim, to me, belies an ignorance of the most prominent reasons put forth for same-sex marriage as well as the reasons for its increasing acceptance - none of which are dependent upon the argument, "Well, same-sex couples can use egg/sperm donors, therefore, they too can get married."

Hanby continues:
"To accept same-sex unions as ‘marriage’ is thus to commit officially to the proposition that there is no meaningful difference between a married man and woman conceiving a child naturally, two women conceiving a child with the aid of donor semen and IVF, or two men employing a surrogate to have a child together, though in the latter cases only one of the legally recognized parents can (presently) contribute to the child’s hereditary endowment and hope for a family resemblance."
Gee, something is missing from this picture. Notice how in all this talk of the brave new world of reproductive technologies, Hanby fails to mention that male-female couples also use these practices.  In his brave new world, and even his current world, it's as though all male-female couples conceive children "naturally" while only same-sex couples use alternative reproductive technologies to have children.  Adoption doesn't occur either, apparently.

These omissions, these double-standards in which a practice is highlighted and denigrated when same-sex couples do it and invisibilized when heterosexuals do it are, to me, always a sure sign of the dreaded b-word. And, indeed, he really gets worked up a bit later, culminating in his overall thesis:
"Underlying the technological conquest of human biology, whether in its gay or feminist form, is a dualism which bi-furcates the person into a meaningless mechanical body made of malleable ‘stuff’ and the affective or technological will that presides over it. 
The person as an integrated whole falls through the chasm. This is the foundation of the now orthodox distinction between ‘sex’ which is ‘merely biological’ and ‘gender’ which is socially constructed, as well as the increasingly pervasive (and relentlessly promoted) idea that freedom means our self-creation of both. Technological dominance over procreation imposes this bi-furcated anthropology upon parents and children alike, and codifying it implicitly makes this anthropology the law of the land. 
To declare same-sex unions marriage and their technological ‘reproduction’ normative is essentially to reconceive the child not as a person but as an artifact. It is to deny that he [sic] is his [sic] own being with inviolable dignity who cannot be manipulated or controlled; since it was a process of manipulation and control that brought him [sic] into being in the first place. 
To declare same-sex unions marriage and their technological ‘reproduction’ normative is essentially to reconceive the child not as a person but as an artifact. It is to deny that he [sic] is essentially the natural fruit of a love inscribed into his [sic] parents’ flesh; since love is now a mere emotion with no bearing on the meaning of the body, which has been relegated to the sub-personal realm of ‘mere biology.’" 
Lot going on there, right?

In a nutshell, his main argument is that same-sex marriage results in the normalization of alternative reproductive technology, which results in the dehumanization of all of us in society. It is the academic speak covering a simplistic argument that, to me, is most infuriating: The notion that it is uniquely same-sex marriage that is the harbinger of this brave new world of, quoting Hanby again, "embryo selection, cryopreservation, ‘baby farming,’ three-parent ‘composite’ babies, defective embryos and chimeras manufactured for research."

Now, as some of you might know, I used to guest write at the conservative-leaning Family Scholars Blog, where I was a progressive lesbian feminist blogger in the midst of those who held views much like Hanby's. I've said it there and I'll say it now, the ethics of ART ought to be explored, debated and discussed (and often are).

However, the biggest failing of many anti-ART voices who are also anti-LGBT is the coupling of their concerns about ART with the almost single-minded blame for all ills associated with it on same-sex couples, same-sex marriage, and (as in Hanby's case) feminism.  I once asked a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage and ART how many same-sex couples used ART compared to heterosexual couples and she honestly couldn't tell me. Yet, from her writing and advocacy, one would be led to assume that she had solid information that millions of same-sex couples, and same-sex couples only, were using these technologies.

To single out same-sex couples and same-sex marriage as harbingers of the dehumanization of human beings is, frankly, sickly, and absurdly, dehumanizing.  But, of course, dehumanization is a key feature of gender complementarist theories and practices that push people into simple "pink" and "blue" categories, that ignore and invisibilize actual human experience and difference while masquerading as absolute truth "natural law" about humanity.

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