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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

More heat than light

It was and is easy for me to pick sides in the gay marriage debate, given what a vehicle for homophobia the debate has become. And, no, I'm not claiming that all opponents of gay marriage are homophobic, just that the homophobes seem to be the loudest voices among the "no" side.

Don't believe me?

Just before Christmas, Wild Rose Forum hosted a discussion on the place of religious language in public discourse. At least, that's what they claimed the discussion was about - what it was really about was that the guests that day didn't care for gay people.

This jewel of a sentence has colonized my brain: "The gay lifestyle is one I don't agree with." Huh. Well, first of all, since being gay isn't a declarative statement initiating a debate, I'm going to assume that "agree with" means "approve of." I'm more concerned with the subordinate clause - "the gay lifestyle." What exactly is that? What does "the gay lifestyle" involve? Does the preacher who said it object to the frequency and quality of touring former Broadway musicals? He probably objects to the sodomy, but I don't think it's the form of the sexual activity per se that he's talking about when he's "disagreeing" with the "gay lifestyle". (If it is, tough luck, buddy. It's been forty years since then Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau decriminalized sexual activities between or among consenting adults, and we're not going back.)

This preacher was objecting to something else. There is a word being studiously avoided by both sides of the gay marriage debate. It's a word that man probably finds interchangable with "the gay lifestyle". I hadn't given much thought to it myself, but researching this post has led me directly to it. The subtext rapidly became text.

The word is "promiscuity."

Why does Stephen Harper risk making the new Conservative Party look like the old Reform Party, with weird declarations about polygamy? It makes perfect sense if you follow the unnamed logic - since gay men are by their very nature promiscuous, doesn't it follow that if you approve of gay marriage, you approve of non-monogamy? Won't we eventually have to acknowledge that choice in law by recognizing relationships that are polyamorous?

Solid logic built on a foundation of a crazy-sounding assumption. So why doesn't the gay community bring this assumption to the surface, so they can dispute it head-on? Well, because the assumption has a kernel of truth, and gay-marriage advocates don't particularly want to talk about it.

I knew about the assumption, but I always thought it was nonsense - like making assumptions about how two billion Asians drive because of the one who cut you off on Deerfoot Trail. Among my friends, gay couples seem as long-term (or not) as the straights among us, and if their relationships are sexually open, they aren't talking about that part to me.

Then I started reading for the post that stood in this place earlier today. I wasn't reading anti-gay tracts, and I wasn't reading clucking disapproval. Here's an excellent example:

Why then do present-day gay men believe that promiscuity is so central to who they are? - the answer is historical and ideological.


...Gay Lib and the gay rights movement which emerged in the 1970s were deeply distrustful of authority. In particular, gay men and lesbians had come to hate, with good reason, those who argued for any restrictions on sexual freedom.


...instead of following the traditional, hetero, monogamous model, gay men invented a new one, it which it was both our right and our duty to have sex with as many of our fellows as possible.
No wonder some people feel that gay marriage is an attack on old-timey marriage, which relies on sexual and emotional fidelity as a cornerstone of stability. Those are the relationships we prefer to see children raised within... that's the institution people want protected and encouraged as a building-block of our social arrangements.

Marriage or not, civil union or not, no one is asking for my approval of their sexual relationships, either in style or number. However, the more accepted and absorbed a subculture is by the larger culture, the less differentiated the subculture becomes. The Civil Marriage Act marks the beginning of the end of the closeted exclusion which feeds that subculture. True supporters of traditional relationships should become advocates for gay marriage, because there may be no faster way to encourage the alignment of the subcultural mores to those traditional values. At the same time, the radical gay and lesbian movement, the people who want to tear down the rotted institutions and rebuild everything from the ground up, should probably be loudly opposing the Civil Marriage Act.

Funny enough, if this became the actual split point in the debate, I'd still find myself on the side of gay marriage.

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