September 21, 2005
The Exclusive Territory of Straight Men
There are lots of posts on this topic. They are, in order of posting, Mormon Social Taboos, A Happy Marriage with a Good Man, the post you're reading right now, The Society of Buggers, Brokeback Mountain, Old Testament Weirdness, It's Not Just Mormon Men Who Don't Want to Lose the Beard, The SL Tribune Joins the Chorus, Will, Grace and Angels in Brokeback America: Straight Women, Gay Men and Mormonism (the introduction), Will, Grace and Angels in Brokeback America: Straight Women, Gay Men and Mormonism (the excerpt), Marriage Manifesto, The Ex-Exes from Exodus and the Agency of Gay Men, Sex, Misogyny and My Blog Stats, Narcissism and Misogyny, and Really Long Comment, In Which I Disavow the Cow Part.
I don't understand people who call themselves liberal and progressive but are threatened by homosexual reparative therapy enough to try to stop people like me from having that option. In my mind, this kind of thinking is anti-progressive. The whole point of the civil rights and women's liberation movements was to allow blacks, women, and other minorities to break free of what had been their traditional roles. We live in a world where it's okay for blacks to do what was once considered "white" and for women to do what was once considered "male"--get an education, have a career, etc. Why then is it not politically correct for a gay man to venture into what is usually considered the exclusive territory of straight men--to marry a woman and have a family--if that's what he chooses to do?
God, where do you even start with a paragraph like that.
I guess I'll do this sentence by sentence.
"I don't understand people who call themselves liberal and progressive but are threatened by homosexual reparative therapy enough to try to stop people like me from having that option."
I'm not "threatened" by homosexual reparative therapy, and I would never stop anyone who truly wanted to pursue it, provided that person is over 18 and pursues the endeavor willingly. I would add, however, that while I would never "stop" someone from pursuing reparative therapy, neither would I particularly respect a decision to pursue it. There is considerable evidence that while it may convince people not to have gay sex, it doesn't make them straight. And it seems a sign of such self-loathing and desperation, that I can't help feeling the time, effort and money devoted to reparative therapy could be better spent in other ways.
"The whole point of the civil rights and women's liberation movements was to allow blacks, women, and other minorities to break free of what had been their traditional roles."
Actually, no, that was not the whole point of the civil rights and women's liberation movement. Both of those movements had and continue to have many goals during their long existences. An important goal of the civil rights movement in the 1960s was to pass and enforce legislation that would remove the threat of violence blacks so often lived under. It was not simply about acquiring the right to go to school or keeping a seat on the bus; it was about living without the fear of lynchings and murders. The same goes the feminist movement: there has been a long struggle to force law makers and law enforcement agencies to treat sexual and domestic violence as they crimes they should be.
"We live in a world where it's okay for blacks to do what was once considered ‘white' and for women to do what was once considered ‘male'--get an education, have a career, etc."
Actually, we live in a world where some people think it's OK for blacks to do what is still considered "white" and for women to do what is still considered "male" (interesting that the only examples Christensen cites are the basic human rights of getting an education, seeking meaningful employment) but the fact that it might be "OK" for racial and sexual minorities to pursue the same goals as white men does not mean they have as many opportunities to do so or receive the same rewards for their efforts.
"Why then is it not politically correct for a gay man to venture into what is usually considered the exclusive territory of straight men--to marry a woman and have a family--if that's what he chooses to do?"
Has this guy REALLY never read about the social structure of ancient Greece, where citizens (who were always and only male) routinely had both wives and male lovers? Has he never read The Symposium? Has he never heard the theory that Shakespeare was gay? Has he never heard anything of Oscar Wilde's biography (Wilde married and fathered two children) or read Blanche Dubois' speech about why her young husband shot himself in A Streetcar Named Desire?
It is not accurate to say that marrying a woman and having a family has usually been considered the exclusive territory of straight men, since "straight" and "gay" are relatively new categories. Before that, there were pretty much just men, and even men who had male lovers routinely married women and conceived children for any number of reasons, including a desire to appear respectable, to be "righteous," to appease parents who wanted grandchildren and heirs, or simply because that's what people did.
It's called "having a beard," Ben, trying to appear butch so you can get on in society, and men who wanted to do so have managed to have both wives and male lovers for millennia.
And of course it must be pointed out that one need not enter into a straight marriage to have children. There is such a thing as artificial insemination. Lesbian couples manage to bear children and gay men manage to adopt or father children. One of my friends fathered a child with a cherished friend who was a lesbian; she and her partner have primary custody of the child, but my friend is an involved and dedicated father, and his partner is an active parent as well.
Christensen's comments reveal his factual ignorance, his emotional and spiritual naivete, and a profound sense of entitlement. He tells us he feels he was dealt a bum hand by being gay, but he also feels he should retain the blessings and privileges of white male domination and patriarchy. He should still be head of his narrow little world, in which the civil rights and women's movement are about "education" and "career" and marriage is a "territory."
Having been involved in the struggle to legalize gay marriage since the early 90s, after a lawsuit on the issue was filed in Hawaii (which brought about an alliance between those two historical enemies, the Mormon Church and the Catholic Church) and believing that couples of consensual adults who desired to have a union of love recognized by the state deserved that right regardless of sexual orientation, I was astonished in the late 1990s to meet gays and lesbians who believed that not only was the right to marry something they did not need, but that if acquired, it would harm the gay community. Marriage was so sexist, so patriarchal, so obviously an economic and political proposition designed to support a diseased status quo, that opting into it would not bring equality to gay people but would instead insure that one partner in all marriages--gay or straight--remained submissive while the other was dominant. The better option, they argued, was to pursue non-traditional, egalitarian partnerships, and wait for the straight world to abandon marriage after it recognized how vastly superior these egalitarian gay relationships were.
Christensen's essay supports that argument. Marriage as he sees and practices it is perhaps socially respectable, but it is not ethically respectable. It is born of ignorance and fear rather than wisdom and courage. It is neither generous nor enlightened but is instead a self-serving attempt to claim as many of the privileges and as much of the power that society can possibly offer him. If that is marriage, it is something we should all shun.
Posted by holly at September 21, 2005 7:32 AM