Monday, June 29, 2009

Pride Parades, Mark Sanford and the "Fear and Ignorance" that Spurs Support for Traditional Marriage

I'm listening to an outrageous caller to my fave radio talk show who says the people who resist redefining marriage are the same as the mullahs and Taliban, because both hold perspectives resulting from their "fear and ignorance," and are attempts to hold back progressive change.

This suggests that those who would stone a woman to death for infidelity are equivalent to those of us who want to recognize there's something fundamentally different between male and female.

Funny, because I'd bet this caller would agree that men and women are not the same or interchangeable, because if they were, then any man could just as easily marry a woman; there'd be no need to insist on marrying one of the same gender. Yet his argument in favor of same-sex marriage is that male and female should be interchangeable--isn't that a huge conflict?

The whole point of marriage is to combine opposites, for the socially important reason of promoting stable, two-biological-parent homes for children. The fact that some couples marry old or can't have children is irrelevant; they're the exceptions, and you don't discard the underlying mechanism and purpose because exceptions exist.

Yesterday, I happened to be in downtown Seattle with my husband, son and a friend, and though the "Pride" parades and displays had concluded earlier, an enormous rainbow flag was still flying, suspended from an apartment balcony across from the Space Needle. This doesn't bother me, though having such a demonstration to flaunt and glorify a certain type of sexuality strikes me as symbolic of a drop in society's general dignity. After all, the only thing that makes gays different from other people, "gaydar" and affectations aside, is what they do sexually. (And what they can't do, which is to have natural children.)

I liked it a lot better (and yes, I know that the toothpaste isn't going back in the tube), when sexuality was a personal thing, not so obvious that it has to be an ingredient in the way individuals are viewed. When I was a kid, it never occurred to me that any particular person was gay or not; you might retort it's because gays were so repressed then that they dared not let on about their preferences, but unlike one's skin color or gender, gayness is a characteristic that can be revealed or not, according to choice. And when it's revealed--"I'm out and proud"--the only thing I learn about a gay person is that he limits his sexuality to those of the same gender. I'd rather not think about his sexuality, one way or the other.

I do resent the talk-show caller asserting my "fear and ignorance" because--yes it's true--I do not want the definition of marriage to change. I resist change in this word because it's not merely change but loss. The language loses its term for the lifetime combining of male and female, with no word to replace it. Under the proposed definition, marriage can be any two people, regardless of gender--with a host of other limits I doubt the caller would say represent "fear and ignorance" --limits on number of spouses together, or incestuous relationships, or supplementary marriages.

Would the caller say it's "fear and ignorance" not to accommodate poor Gov. Mark Sanford, who wants to keep both his wife and present family, and his passionate love for Maria Belen Chapur, who wrote to him last July 4: "You made me realized (sic) how you feel when you realy (sic) love somebody and how much you want to be beside the beloved. Last Friday I would had stayed embrassing (sic) and kissing you forever." It must be "fear and ignorance" that makes the law forbid the permanent expression of such enduring love.

I know gays consider marriage to be their civil right, comparing man-woman marriage limits with previous bans on inter-racial marriage. Their argument is that like skin color, sexual preference is biological and immutable. That argument might work well for siblings who want to marry--it's not their fault they were born with the same parents. But not so much for gay sexual preference, which Jeffrey Satinover, MD, Ph.D. has found often moves to heterosexual: "The desire to shift to a biologic basis for explaining homosexuality appeals to those who seek to undercut the vast amount of clinical experience confirming that homosexuality is significantly changeable.." (p. 114, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth) Anne Heche is quoted in Wikipedia as saying, "Just because I'm married doesn't mean I call myself a straight," despite the fact that she boasts a series of public straight relationships, and only one famed foray into gayness with Ellen de Generes, at which time she vowed she was lesbian "from here on out!"

The caller to the radio show didn't drop the H-bomb--and I don't mean hydrogen--but might as well have. The means used to discredit anyone who wants to defend man-woman marriage is homophobe. I can insist on my love and friendship with gays till I'm blue, and even my support for their forming lifetime commitments with the benefits of marriage, but under a different term that recognizes the union of a man and woman as unique. Doesn't matter: if I don't support gay marriage, I'm a homophobe. That's the re-definition of that word.

Last year, we did happen to catch the Pride parade downtown. Quite a colorful crowd, many wrapped in rainbow flags, with rainbow tie-dye everywhere. Flamboyant costumes and flamboyant people all made the event festive. I love festivities, bright colors, people enjoying themselves. It's just odd to put on such a lavish event not to celebrate history (eg Independence Day) or achievements (Ethnic parades, or for returning soldiers) or a holiday (Thanksgiving or New Years), but sexuality.

I'm far from "afraid" of gays, including those who want to say they're married to each other. And I don't know what the caller would say is my ignorance, either; I've read dozens of books and hundreds of articles on the topic of gay marriage. I'd like each person to feel self-esteem, even pride, if it's for accomplishments or positive attributes, but I think all these rainbow parades aren't as benign as they seem--they're to push a minority's political agenda and non-life-affirming sexuality on the rest of us, and that doesn't seem any more festive or friendly than the accusations and comparisons with the Taliban I heard on the radio today.


  1. You have said it so well. I don't really care what someone's sexuality is. It doesn't affect my life. I don't flaunt my own sexuality, so why must they flaunt theirs?

    Thanks for saying it so well.

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