We are a culture in motion and I wonder what sort of force it would take to stop us now.
You have been outspoken about your concerns with current perceptions of homosexuality and many have publicly and silently accused you. For my part, I have remained mostly quiet. The reason is almost shameful to admit. I fear not only what my own friends already think of my opposition, but also what my children and grandchildren will be taught to think. Fifty years from now, a hundred years, what will history think? It is there before us already like an absurd wigged judge—ludicrously waving the old wood gavel.
We have not been shy on our blog about opposing many (though not all) elements of the LGBTQ(etc.) agenda. And by their own rhetoric, our opposition is the sort of thing that will find its way into a textbook discussing the forms of bigotry and sexism displayed by our era. I really do believe we will be on the losing end of these issues and I don’t want to leave it to the historian (a person I know too much about) to pick our bones dry. He will consider us with as much charity as he currently extends to the Structuralists, Victorians, or Puritans.
But if we were wrong, it was not for malice. If we were blind, it was not for apathy. If we indeed preached hate as some may believe, it was unaware of itself. Beyond any potential humiliation or condemnation, I hope these accusations are wrong because I don’t want to be guilty of their import.
Often, when my friends learn that I oppose many gay-rights initiatives they believe that my opinions must be the result of ignorance or inexperience. Brian, I assume you have received the same or similar treatment. They think we are inherently ignorant in our beliefs, that we could not know or have seen much to believe what we do. But they are wrong in this criticism at least. While our lives have indeed been limited to our own experiences, I have heard many of your stories and even your own struggles. And I maintain many of my own.
So if the future condemns us, it ought not to suggest that we were unkind, or that we hated. I do not believe it was so. We both know and love dearly many friends who fit untraditionally into the sexual spectrum. I am thinking now of the girl from highschool, who I’m sure you will remember, the one who asked me to Winter Formal. I have often thought of her. She was not motivated in her transition by internal necessity. She loved and was loved by a girl. It was her chance for romance and she had never had much success with boys. A spouse isn’t much more than an intimate friend, and sex isn’t much more than intimacy with that friend. And so why wait for what might never happen. It was far more practical than some will think.
Growing up our dear friend, an older man, would take us to movies. He taught us to put burgers down our pockets to get them into the theater. He baked us elaborate birthday cakes and teared up when one of us accidentally called him dad. We must have been very naive to not realize some of his struggles. A man never married. Lived alone, or for a time with his mother who we all called grandma. It was obvious once I learned it. He had experienced homosexual attraction for much of his life. Our heroic parents were not shy to leave us alone with him, and to let us love him.
There will be many to insert themselves into his story and suggest that if society had been more accepting of his predispositions, he would have had a better chance for a happy, fulfilling life. I will only shake my head and tell them that there are a million things they don’t know about this man the first of which is that he is sincerely happy and that his life has been blessed. He does not consider himself gay and he does not support that community.
There are many other stories, but here is a place to turn the essay in on itself. I know how the future historians will read these arguments. They will be looking for the ways we mirror older more ancient bigotry. And just now they will have found one example. Slave owners often used slaves to publicly defend the system of slavery. Of course that did not make the institution moral.
People will no doubt say similar things of me and my using an anti-gay homosexual man—and they make a good point. Even if a man with homosexual attraction defends a society that promotes heterosexual marriage, it is hardly a reliable defense. Good could be found in any life and we are creatures designed to see it. When the old and penniless professor lays prostrate on his deathbed he claims he would do it all over again. While another career might have brought fame and money, it would be treason to deny the work and the people he has known. We are all old professors like that and our loyalty to our own lives says little of it’s actual value.
Our future historian will no doubt know this and remain unpersuaded by my stories. His critical eye will see right through the confirmation bias of our lives. But if he is an extraordinary historian, perhaps he will be able to wonder if there could have been a world where gay men and women would be happy and fulfilled without gay marriage as we have suggested—some unmarried and others living fully realized heterosexual lives. I imagine there will be many who do not fit into the imposed bifurcation of straight and gay. There will be many who could have been gay in another world who will not realize it. And there will be some who will take it as a sacred trial to bear—like Atlas, Perseus, or Hercules. Not excluded, but welcomed and loved dearly. The idea may fascinate the future historian, but he will no doubt return again loyally defending his own life and times.
All great tasks from another perspective are inconveniences. Psyche never chose to marry the bridegroom. Abraham’s quest was shameful and inhuman. Sure, if they choose it for themselves, but who are we to ask it of them? And yet I believe it could have been. But now, what was once a sacred boulder is a shameful crumb that no one will roll anywhere or perhaps has been repositioned and renamed.
While I will continue to believe that there could have been a good and loving world where gay marriage was not permitted, the question remains could there still be a good and loving world where it is? I believe the answer may also be yes. But is it a better world? Or do we feel we are flying only because we continue to jump? Do we think we move forward when we change games? The rules are new but the playing chips are old and I don’t know that we are any better. In sanctioning gay marriage are we kinder and happier? Did love win? I believe our vitals may suggest otherwise. The vitals I mean are happiness, goodness, generosity, and yes love.
That is the great question: Has our age of the “sentimentality of love” made us more loving? Or has it hindered our hearts? Are we living increasingly ironic lives where our passions numb us, our expiations condemn us, and our liberalities enfeeble us? If this is the case, as I believe we are suggesting, what is the process by which we digress? I assume the foliate of gay-rights only cloaks the mighty boughs that bring it proudly towards the sun. I would be much interested to know by what forces marriage and gender have been deinstitutionalized, privatized, and reimagined.
But before we are too critical of the gay rights agenda, let us imagine for a moment if history sided with us. There would certainly be a sacrifice in that as well. We must admit that there are many happily married gay men and woman that would never have adopted or given birth to children. And now that we see them, it is hard to go back and wish for something else. We always elect to keep what we have because we are not willing to give up what we know to be good even for the possibility of something better. And how could we? How could we look on a happy couple and say we wished things were different. It is against our nature.
But this only. I do not believe we were wrong. My fear is that like so much well intentioned charity our society may impoverish those it seeks to bless. Self and sexuality are two great riddles unsolvable. We are all bound to struggle across these ropes and the slack may only make the trip unmanageable.
With love, fondness, and deep respect,
P.S. As I have said, I believe we have and will continue to be on the losing end of these issues. I hope we will be allowed to find a way to make peace even if it is not the peace we would have chosen.
5 thoughts on “Being on the wrong side of history”
My favorite line: “Self and sexuality are two great riddles unsolvable. We are all bound to struggle across these ropes and the slack may only make the trip unmanageable.” I do think the traditional moral structures (or, to use the rope analogy, tautness) made the trip more manageable (and continue to do so for those who adopt them, even though society has largely rejected them). And I don’t think those structures were or are incompatible with love and compassion for all. Some people have been malicious, blind, hateful–but that was not the fault of the structures.
But I would also say that I’m not so sure that we will be on the wrong side of history–at least not in the way you suggest (with future historians completely misjudging us and all). The government will no doubt cease to maintain the last remnants of institutionalized sexual morality, but the various moral systems will continue to co-exist side by side among the People in a way that segregation and non-segregation could not continue to co-exist. Toleration will be established and sexual orientation will cease to be such a big deal (at least I hope so). The moral systems will make peace with each other–even as they compete with each other. Survival of the fittest is a law in morals and doctrines as well as in biology. Traditional families will, I predict, produce more children and more successful children. And traditional morality will, I predict, produce more fulfilling lives.
I am fascinated by the idea that the two ideas will “co-exist side by side among the People in a way that segregation and non-segregation could not.” I intuitively agree but I am wondering what allows this moral system to coexist.
Promises of joy,
Gold pot at the end,
Beautiful to the eye.
Yet the end never comes,
There is no gold pot,
It is just a mirage.
The Rainbow from both sides now-
Yes it is a mirage,
There is no gold,
It has no end,
A symbol of Gods love
Shedding smiles on all who see it
Makes beauty where there was none.
Beautiful! I do LOVe rainbows!