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Friday, May 17

Gay Marriage the non twitter version

I couldn't quite find the way to express my views on gay marriage and the fallacious arguments against it through the medium of Twitter. So I thought I'd just write my daughter a letter on the subject.

Dear Martha,

As you're too young, at only 5 months old, to enter the gay marriage debate yourself, I thought I'd explain it to you. You won't be old enough to read this for a while, but perhaps when you are old enough to take this in, you will find it interesting, amusing and perplexing in equal measure.

Some people are gay and some people are not. The gay people fall in love with people of the same gender as them, and the non-gay people fall in love with people of the opposing gender.

When people have been together for a while, they may decide to get married. This is something your mummy and I did after we had been together for a couple of years, and we really enjoyed our wedding. It was a way for us to make a lifelong commitment to be together, and have that recognised by our family, friends and the law of the country.

At the moment, it seems that some people don't want gay people to have the right to get married the way that your mummy and I did. These people seem to have lots of reasons behind their views, but I expect that there is an underlying opinion behind any reason they give. The anti-gay-marriage people don't like people to be gay. As they consider being gay to be somehow inferior, they don't think that gay people should have the same treatment as non gay people.

Of course the anti-gay-marriage campaigners can't say that they just don't like homosexuality. That would open them up to accusations of bigotry and homophobia. Perhaps they don't realise that this is their major issue, or perhaps they do realise it, but don't know how to both hold their views and feelings, and still come across as reasonable. So the campaigners use other language.

They say that gay people have enough rights already. Which is very nice of them to judge on behalf of those gay people who see that a particular status, allowed of everyone else, is not available to them.

They say that redefining traditional marriage would devalue it. This is a strange thing for them to say. Let me put it simply. If two gay people in our village decided to get married, or decided not to get married, how do you think it would affect your mummy and daddy's marriage? Approximately, how much do you think our family's relationships would be affected by anyone else's marriage? Zero? I think you're right. The only way my and your mother's marriage would be affected by a gay marriage is if we were invited to the wedding and either had a good time or a bad time.

As it happens your mummy and I met at a same sex marriage ceremony. If it wasn't for this gay couple tying the knot, then you wouldn't have been born. Sadly, the partnership that they're allowed is not the same as the marital partnership your mummy and me enjoy, which is a real shame.

But I digress.

Let's say, though, that somehow we wanted to have ONLY traditional values in this country. Let's say that this land of ours had to somehow stick a stake in the ground and decide which culture to adopt. From where do we take these traditional values? At what point does tradition start? We've been a Catholic country, an Anglican one, we were Pagan at one stage. Should we limit this search for the right tradition to our own country and our own direct history? Should we go back to ancient Greek times where every gent had both a heterosexual and a homosexual relationship on the go? I don't know.

It turns out that the campaigners over same sex marriage have their own idea of which tradition they're trying to uphold. It's the Christian faith they're trying to protect. The strongest phrase in the Bible, in the Old Testament, refers to same sex relationships. Specifically it refers to man lying with man, and describes this as an abomination. I guess it depends on who the other man is, and whether they know what they're doing or "know not what they do". (Is it just me, or does it sound to you like some of the Bible written by Yoda?)

It seems like the Christian traditionalists, or maybe they're fundamentalists, wish to use their book to define what's acceptable for everyone. I don't think that their book is actually legally binding, except perhaps within a church. It's probably supposed to be binding on people who say "I believe that this book is right and I agree to follow its teachings". Such people exist and I would not deny them the right to do as a book tells them, so long as it's legal and doesn't hurt anyone.

The Bible says a lot of things that even its most staunch followers don't actually follow. It says that there should be a veranda on your flat roof. It says that you should put women in huts when they're menstruating. It says that you should cut off the hand of a woman who injures a man's testicles in a fight. In short, there's a lot of stuff in the Bible which simply doesn't work in the modern era, and so isn't followed by any Christians. Which makes you wonder whether the book is so binding after all.

Please note, book binding is important or else the pages will fall out.

So, somehow, it's ok for Christians to cherry pick the bits of the Bible they will follow, especially when it comes to enforcing the rules over marriage and homosexuality. I don't see why this is the case, but perhaps if they're just enforcing what happens within their churches among their believers, then that's fair enough. Perhaps gay people will have the sense not to follow a religion that's so set against them.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be good enough for the campaigners. They believe their rules apply to everyone. I'm an atheist. The guy who sits near me in the office is a Sikh. I don't think we signed up for these rules. I also don't think that a religious marriage is up to the government to define, and yet the campaigners are trying to make their definition of a religiously acceptable marriage the one which applies to a state-issued marriage certificate. It seems a bit one-sided to me.

There was a lovely bit of advice from Stonewall, a gay rights campaign group. They advised that any Christian who was concerned about gay marriage should definitely marry someone of the opposite gender to themselves. Simple.

You can't help but think that there's more than just the definition of marriage at stake to the anti-gay-marriage campaigners. They talk about "God's way" or "Nature's way" and that "man + woman" is the way of the world. They further justify this with comment about the purpose of a marriage being procreation and how a loving and sexual relationship is by definition one which is born out of the ability to have children.

If your mummy and me had not been able to conceive you, our relationship would have been tested, but would still have been a valid loving relationship.

If same-sex is not nature's way, there would be no examples of homosexuality in the animal kingdom. There are examples of homosexuality in animals. I'm not suggesting that we should mimic all animal behaviour, but more that "nature's way" is observably different to "what the Bible says".

I think the worst aspect concerning the anti-gay-marriage campaigners is their lack of understanding of what it means to be gay. The common fallacy is that being gay is a choice. As such these people think their Bible makes being gay the wrong choice. It's assumed that being gay is somehow lesser (for the reasons above) and also a luxury that shouldn't be encouraged. Yet, the research suggests that being gay is just the way someone turns out. It may be a product of random hormone levels during pregnancy, a happenstance, an "act of god" if you will. It might be a random outcome of growing up. It might be a balance between all sorts of things. It's most definitely not a conscious choice or something that you can be trained into adopting.

My darling daughter, you may be gay. If you are, I hope you get to grow up in a world where this is not stigmatised and where you are not frightened to be who you are. I hope you have the right to meet and commit to whomever is good for your heart and soul. You will have choices along the way, but your sexuality won't have to be one of them.

So why do the campaigners campaign the way they do? I think there are a few major reasons. In some cases I think they feel revulsion towards homosexuality and find the growing acceptance of it to be something they cannot accept. I can relate to that. I feel revulsion towards racism and stand against it to avoid it somehow become accepted. The difference is that racism is oppressive where homosexuality doesn't seek to hurt anyone.

In addition, the campaigners have to resolve the conflict between their attempts to protect the dogma they've chosen to adopt (oh by the way, religion is a choice, not innate - the exact opposite of sexuality) and a rational definition of what's reasonable. If you know that you could be considered wrong through reasonable argument, but you've utterly committed to a point of view anyway, then the only way to keep from being broken apart by that conflict is to push harder. This cognitive dissonance is the cause of all manner of extremist behaviour. Ultimately the anti-gay-marriage campaigners have to resort to "I'm not listening" as an answer to reasoned debate because their position is entirely unreasonable. It has internal logic up to a point, but it's quite plainly wrong.

Life lesson, little one, when you're wrong either accept it, or fight damned hard to distract everyone, especially yourself, from how wrong you are. Ideally do the first one. If you're doing the second one, then I'll try to be discreet about noticing it.

Finally, there's a theory that some people who campaign the most against gay rights are themselves gay. This isn't a case of the poacher turned game keeper so much as the cognitive dissonance thing again. If you think being gay is wrong (which it's not) and suspect that you are gay yourself, then you either have to change your opinion, or deny your own feelings. Moreover, there are people out there who think they can "cure" (brainwash might be a better term) people from being gay. Again, this is based on the incorrect assumptions that homosexuality is a choice and that one is naturally not gay. It isn't and one isn't. The outcome of these "curing" sessions is people with conflicting feelings.

So if someone has that internal conflict going on, the best way for them to run from it, is to push very hard in favour of their cause. By committing daily to this thing they say they believe in, they make it seem true. For every fallacious, rancid, bigoted argument they spout, their ability to question their own feelings and what's reasonable is suppressed, and thus they can stay on the run from the truth.

Now, I don't want you to go away and start hating the anti-gay-marriage campaigners. Hate begets hate, and I think these people do enough hating (of themselves and others) for all of us. In a lot of cases, these poor bastards don't realise that they're spreading oppression. They're fighting their own feelings of being threatened by other people's lifestyles. But don't worry - the lifestyles of other people don't need to bother you.

Do you know what the guy who parks his car in the car park behind our house has for lunch every day? Do you? No? Me neither. It's his lifestyle and I don't need to know about it. If it turned out that he ate something I find unpleasant, every day, and I saw him doing that from time to time, I still wouldn't give a fig. It's none of my business. I'm lucky. I don't feel threatened by other people's rights.

So, I hope that we get this mess sorted out before you're old enough for it to affect you. And let's feel sorry for these poorly adjusted people who find other people's lives so impinging on their arbitrary definition of how other people should lead their lives.

With all my love and support

Your daddy.


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