Tuesday, June 01, 2010

How stupid are you?

OK, let’s just be out front with it…what is wrong with being gay? And what is wrong with gay people getting married? I pride myself on being a reasonably intelligent, rational, logical human being but I gotta tell ya, folks, this is something I just don't get it!

A friend of mine has just announced to the world that she proposed to her girlfriend, and her proposal was accepted. Everybody is over the moon…they just set a date and congratulations are flying thick and fast. It’s a champagne and confetti moment for us all…and yet, apparently my friend’s family is taking the news like she was announcing a funeral, not a wedding! They cannot be happy that their daughter is happy, that she has found someone to love and who loves her in return? Someone with whom she wants to spend the rest of her life? Someone who will care for her when she is sick, celebrate with her when she is happy, and just generally share her life and give it depth and meaning, colour and texture, and a rhythm to carry her through the rest of her days? What kind of parents are not ecstatic when their 35-year-old never-wed daughter finally finds “The One” and wants to settle down and make a life for herself with her beloved? I don’t get it.

In South Africa, gay marriage is legal, but much of the rest of the world lags behind in enfranchising all of their citizens in this regard. But despite the government having enfranchised us all, unfortunately not all of our citizens are so generous of spirit. It is somewhat more understandable in a place like America where homophobic hysteria is shared by government and citizen alike, but in a place sufficiently enlightened to recognize that equality under the law includes marriage, I find it rather sad that the faceless monolith that is government has more compassion and enlightenment than those whom we would expect to accept and embrace my friend and share her joy: her own family.

So what is wrong with being gay? The “it’s unnatural” argument no longer flies since intelligent vertebrates from bonobo chimps to dolphins have been observed engaging in what we would call “homosexual behaviour.” Somehow I doubt that the dolphins or the chimps (our nearest genetic relatives, BTW) find anything sinister in enjoying a sexual experience with members of either sex. I suspect they might find such concepts as marriage and monogamous, opposite-sex-only sexual relationships to be unnatural, truth be told.

You cannot argue that same-sex relationships are “against god” and expect to be taken seriously outside of the particular group with whom you share such a belief. Not only are there multiple gods worshipped on this planet, the interpretations of the pronouncements of those gods are almost as legion as our own numbers. The secular world may recognize and respect the existence of gods, their followers and their beliefs, but in no way is it beholden to them. The very act of a government adopting the tenets of one faith disenfranchises all those who do not share that faith, and with the exception of a theocracy, few governments can survive such an act: consider what would happen to America if the religious right got its way and the US government adopted a religious posture…but it adopted something other than Christianity as its touchstone. Whatever you believe your god(s) think about homosexuality, the rest of us are not beholden to it, and you simply cannot disenfranchise an entire class of people from the benefits and protections of law simply because of your personal belief. If you could, then I would have the same right to disenfranchise homophobes from certain protections of the law…say, the freedom of speech and the right to worship as they please. It is no less fair and makes no less sense.

What about the notion that some people “choose to be gay.” Well, aside from the complete ridiculousness of the whole idea…when, after all, did you “choose” to reject gayness and choose to be straight? (if you actually did, then I have some disconcerting news for you)…so what? So what if people do choose to be gay? What is wrong with that and why should people make choices about their lives according to your beliefs/attitudes/notions? You don’t have the right to tell me what job to choose, what car to choose, what colour to dye my hair, what politics to support, how many children to have, which god to worship…why on earth should you be able to dictate my choices regarding my sexuality? As long as some other person’s choice of partner is adult and consenting, what business is it of yours? (And yes, “other person” includes members of your family!) Suppose a bunch of people came to you with the demand that you give up your spouse because s/he belonged to the “wrong” religion or race or political party…wouldn’t you consider that intrusive and outrageous and completely beyond the pale? I imagine gay people have similar reactions when people of a different orientation make a similar demand. Your choice in partners is none of my business…and the choices that other people make for their partners are none of yours. So, even if people “choose” to be gay, so what?

I have heard it said that allowing gay people to marry harms the institution of marriage. Unfortunately, nobody ever seems to explain that silly notion and I, who can usually come up with good arguments for anything (I know the value of understanding the position of the opposition) am simply blank on the subject. In an era in which large numbers of people cohabit before marriage…indeed, some cohabit serially without marrying while others simply cohabit in what would once have been called a “common law marriage”... it seems peculiar that a group of people clamouring for the right to marry would be perceived as potentially destroying the institution. An objective view of the present social mores might indicate that heterosexual couples are chipping away at the institution with their willingness to forego certain legal benefits of marriage in exchange for the freedom to simply walk away from the relationship without being put through the meat grinder of divorce. By the same token, homosexual couples look more like the saviours of the institution rather than its destroyers, championing marriage in a time when their heterosexual brethren are abstaining from or abandoning it.

What is destructive about two people who marry, establish a home together and join “the system” rather than live outside it? In addition to demonstrating the desirability of marriage, gay couples gain the legal protections marriage offers without taking one thing away from heterosexual couples, from the government or the society. Indeed, their very insistence on being enfranchised points up the benefits of marriage that numerous heterosexual couples may be overlooking. What happens if an unmarried woman (straight or gay) falls desperately ill and her long-term partner and her parents are at odds over treatment options? The partner may know what she wants, but has no standing in the face of her parents, her legal next-of-kin. And suppose she dies—intestate—leaving a sizeable estate? Inheritance laws do not include unmarried partners: a spouse of just two days has more rights than a partner of twenty years. By demanding the right to marry, gay people champion the institution by demonstrating its desirability and protest their being excluded from participating in a favourable enterprise that the rest of us can freely enter at will.

I have heard a few people opine that the fundamental purpose of marriage is for the production and protection of children. This makes me laugh…loudly. First of all, given modern technology, there is no reason gay couples cannot have children if they so desire. But more importantly, this is a ridiculous definition of marriage that, if taken to heart, disenfranchises a lot more than gay couples. Infertile couples…when the infertility is confirmed as being irredeemable, should they be forced to divorce? Older couples…should my grandmother have been denied the right to marry in her 70s, after a 52 year marriage to my grandfather and subsequent widowhood? Couples who do not want children: should they be denied marriage because their love for and commitment to each other is simply not sufficient to warrant the white veil and pastel tux? Without even going into how poorly marriage protects children in a society in which 50% or more of marriages end in divorce, even if there are no other viable reasons for marriage than the production of children, gay people are perfectly capable of doing that. The “reason” just doesn’t fly.

Frankly, I cannot find a single reason…well, valid reason…to deny gay people the right to wed. And I think people who object not only to gay marriage, but homosexuality, are being exceedingly selfish in their views, attempting to force their sensibilities onto people who simply do not share them. The bottom line is that, once I am an adult, nobody has the right to dictate the choices I make in my life and nobody has the power to change who attracts me.

If I am to be true to myself, I must be myself, and in my case I was attracted to a man who, not too many years ago, I would have been prohibited by law from marrying for no other reason than his skin colour. My family would have been horrified (and possibly even hoped it was a phase I would grow out of) and they might even have boycotted my wedding. The multitude of objections that would have been offered then are echoed today in the arguments against gay marriage, but they are just as specious today as they were in the days of miscegenation and apartheid.

And they hurt. It hurts your child, your sibling, your grandchild, that your prejudices and beliefs mean more to you than their happiness. Is the happiness of your family member important to you? Will you rejoice that she has found the love of her life…or be a killjoy because the partner was not who…or what…you wanted? How selfish can you be, to spoil her happiness because she…an adult…doesn’t put your happiness ahead of her own in falling in love with the person with whom she intends to spend the rest of her days? Shame on you!

This whole issue about rights for gay people is just stupid…not because gay people do not deserve full enfranchisement but because there simply is no valid excuse to deny them. How stupid are you?


  1. Yay, I love this post. I am not gay, but my sister is and I love her no matter what. I wish she would get married to her partner of more than ten years. I'd love to attend her wedding.

  2. SV,

    Bravo to you, my friend! This is an outstanding post! We need more people to shed awareness on one of the most widely spread acts of discrimination that still exists throughout the world.

    I honestly don't get it either--but then, I have lived in San Francisco for the majority of my life and have multitudes of gay friends (I really do have as many gay friends as I do straight friends).

    I find it incredibly sad that a family would CHOOSE not to celebrate their gay daughter's marriage to someone she loves. What a terrible shame that is. But I hate to say, I am not surprised. When my very close friend died of AIDS in the 1980's, I called his parents, whom he'd not been in touch with for at least five years. I told them their son was dying and that he needed them. They hung up the phone on me. Even more incredulous, these people go to church every week and proclaim they are "Christians" yet their behavior toward their son was the most un-Christian like behavior I have ever witnessed.

    I hope your friend has many other loved ones who will celebrate her marriage. And I hope her family finds the enlightenment to bless their daughter's happiness in finding her true love.

    My congrats to your friend, SV!


  3. I think that gay marriage is a tragedy.

  4. Why does it not surprise me that the comment above was left anonymously?

  5. I am a gay liberal woman who has a partner of ten years and it gives me hope when I hear Laura Bush and Cindy McCain actually step up in support of gay marriage. This morning I listened to Colin Powell speak about repealing the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy and it makes me feel very confident that some day soon in my life time this will all seem so ridiculous that it was ever an issue. Thank you for your post.

  6. Ms Peeler, I sincerely hope you are right. It IS ridiculous that this was ever an issue, that anyone could sincerely believe that they have the right to withhold equality under the law for something as fundamental...and private...as one's sexuality. While I am not gay nor do I have any gay family members (that I know of, anyway), I have numerous gay friends whom I cherish no less than my straight ones and it hurts me to see their hurt in such matters, and it incenses me that they continue to be victims of discrimination, even within their own families. Enlightenment, for some, comes very, very slowly.

    Gay people are fully enfranchised in South African law, but sadly, not in the hearts of many of their families. I hope I live long enough to see discrimination against gay people go the way of discrimination against people of colour...

  7. Thank you so much for your wonderful comments and wishes it brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye....as you can imagine besides my family being a bunch of homophobic idiots! I have an incredible bunch of friends hand picked! :-) x

  8. Congratulations to your friend, and I couldn't agree with you more. I have asked the question as to why gay marriage threatens hetero marriage and my answer is always 'it just does'. I would love an actual answer to that question.

    Maybe Anonymous can tell us? They are always the most outspoken . . . .

  9. Thanks SV for your great post. I can tell this was one of the natural outpourings of which you are so talented. I've wondered why anybody cared what went on in somebody else's home, life, etc. When do people even have the time to worry about someone else's privacy? Because I choose a non-sexual life, am I subject to persecution? And, I'm equally offended when people of any persuasion hit on me. Let's just let people keep their hands, body parts (and opinions) to themselves if they can't ask a courteous question about being a friend/lover, etc. Bizarre. Maybe the other Anonymous can clue me in.

    Norine (in one of the strangest outposts of "Christian" behavior).

  10. Sweet Violet, Thank-you. I am the lucky one who said 'yes', and I plan to make her my family despite her family.

  11. Well, I think you made a good choice...she's a sweetie. And I wish you both a long and happy life together. And when the uproar in my life dies down, I'll be inviting you two over for a celebratory dinner. Cheers (and mazel tov) to you both!


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