Friday, May 08, 2009

Resistance is Futile

Recently, I've been meeting with a group that's putting together a gay-themed film festival which they hope to make a yearly event. I've enjoyed discussing rare and classic movies, and while I found that their criteria were a bit different than mine: they wanted to highlight important eras in the gay rights movement, while I tended towards movies that were just artistically unique, we ultimately put together a list of five movies for the five nights.

The issue of "gay marriage"* came up- nobody could think of a great film on the topic- and it occurred to me how quickly it has become a non-issue in Canada. Some of the group members are married and one of them actually got married partly because she felt like she owed it to those who had struggled for her to gain the right. It actually became legal in Canada a few days before Claire and I got married almost four years ago. So far, the society hasn't collapsed.

Similarly, this year began in the United States with gay rights groups heartbroken about losing the right in California, and now it looks like they'll win the right in several other states. I wonder if there won't be a domino effect wherein state after state legalizes the practice. History moves so quickly, doesn't it? New York has proposed making it legal, and I'll vote for it when it's on the ballot. What will gay rights groups do when they're equal under the law? Will they all start holding film festivals instead of marching?

I wasn't surprised by Maine- half of my family are Mainers; they're all Reagan republicans, and they're all fine with gays being married. The reason I think gay marriage will eventually be legal everywhere in the US is simple- to get me to vote against it, as a reasonable person, you have to convince me that if two guys down the street get married, it has any bearing whatsoever on my life, which it just doesn't. It also doesn't hurt that I've lived in four different cities, been actively involved in the arts, and am very used to being around gays. To me, they're like Trekkies: maybe not so common, but not particularly strange either.

I've tried to understand why some people are so uncomfortable with gays and I'm not sure I can fathom it. The closest comparison I can think of is to the unease that I feel about certain sexual fetishes. However, this comparison doesn't really hold water because there's a fairly clear difference between sexual practices and emotional relationships. For the most part, hearing about anybody's sexual practices is awkward, but a wedding isn't about that- (thank goodness! Could you imagine if you had to sit there listening to the bride and groom talking about blow jobs or something?) It's simply about welcoming a couple into the larger society and celebrating their union. Most of the problems people have with gay marriage seem irrational to me. Why is it their business?

I also don't understand why the Republican Party, which talks a lot about getting the government off our back, thinks the state should be in the business of deciding whose relationships are valid. But the "coalition" of libertarians, gun nuts, and blue-nosey busybodies never really made much sense to me. Personally, I don't see the merit in having state marriage licensing. And honestly, I think my generation finds something rather grotesque about the cultural struggles of the right, even if we can see the value in fiscal conservatism. In this case, they've hitched their wagon to a star that burned out long ago. They should cut themselves loose.

For some people, there will always be the religious issue- certain religions are fairly straightforward in their condemnation of homosexuality, and I can respect that believers can't pick or choose their beliefs, although most of them do to some extent. Maybe certain churches won't perform the service. But, who cares? Honestly, getting married is friggin' expensive! It's hard for me to believe that there are many gays who would want to spend a fortune to be married by a priest who is opposed to them being married. Actually, that doesn't even make sense to me.

Besides, there are always churches that will perform the services. I think there's a value in letting other people live their own lives as they see fit. It seems like Americans are increasingly okay with getting their noses out of each other's business- I don't know if this constitutes a "civil liberties surge", but it's certainly welcome.

*"Gay marriage" is a pretty stupid term for what's basically just marriage, isn't it? I can imagine that we'll have "gay home owning" next, or "gay gardening", or maybe "gay napping". Let's hope that portmanteau fades into obscurity ere long.


The Pagan Temple said...

I can only speak for myself, but I'm sure there are plenty of others, Republican and otherwise, who share my view that it's just not any of the federal governments business one way or another, and that its also not the place of the judiciary to decide the issue.

Other than that, I'm fine with state legislatures or state ballot initiatives voting for gay marriage. I would probably vote for it myself.

I admit I'm a little squeamish about the adoption issue, but that's my only real concern. I just don't want to see a situation where adoption agencies adopt kids out to any gay couple that wants one just to avoid a civil rights lawsuit.

All right, and there's a lot of other problems I have with the gay community but they all mainly boil down to their overall political leanings, and nothing really to do with their sexuality, though I can see how they might perceive it that way. Not that they don't have the right to have opinions on other issues, but they seem so monolithic about it, so naturally they are going to get opposition on this front. That would be the same with any monolithic voting bloc, be it from the right or the left.

Seriously, its the Perez Hiltons of the world that I find the most objectionable, and I would hope that people such as him don't find themselves viewed as poster children for the gay community. But I'm afraid that, rightly or wrongly, people like him are perceived as just that.

All that being said, I find the religious objections and the drive to declare such things as the Defense of Marriage Act and other such garbage to be the standard law just as objectionable. The feds are the judiciary should just stay out of this, regardless of which side they are on.

Rufus said...

Honestly though you have to accept at some point that there's nothing particularly objectionable about people having different political opinions than yours in a democracy. Even if they are 'monolithic' about it. And the problem these days is that everybody is monolithic about politics. I used to play this game where I would wait until a news event happened, and then see how Drudge or the WSJ responded to it because within three days their response would be repeated verbatim on every single conservative blog I read. And I'm guessing it's the same with lefties, although I just don't read many of their blogs.

In terms of gays, the only area I've ever seen them be genuinely monolithic in is in terms of gay rights, which kinda makes sense. I know plenty of gun-owning, flag-waving, small-government, fiscally conservative gays. But I don't know any of them that are opposed to gay rights. What you have to admit is that most US Republican organizations have made it clear that they are strongly opposed to gay rights, and maybe it's marriage today, or adoption tomorrow, or the right to visit each other in the hospital after that: but, whatever it is, they're against it, mostly because the religious right hates gays, and they want their votes.

So, it's hard to imagine gays looking at the party that has been saying 'fuck you' to them since the days of Ronald McReagan and Anita bin Bryant, and deciding that, okay aside from that, they agree with the Republicans. That said, I'm willing to bet that more of them vote Republican than you know. In Europe, at least, there's a long tradition of conservative old aristocracy homosexuals. Law and order, tradition and high culture, and all of that.

And if the GOP really wanted to attract more voters, they could stop taking these positions that are aimed first and foremost at people who have a very narrow understanding of the world, and then at the rest of us. Why not revive conservative high mindedness? Or just stay out of these matters altogether- who in their right mind really wants to listen to a politician talking about sex and values anyway?

As for the federal government, we're in total agreement there- most of these states seem to be making the decision on their own, and I don't see any reason the feds should decide either.

In terms of the judiciary, I find the argument lacking. Marriage licensing is a judicial issue- it's actually used primarily to sort out legal obligations. So I don't see why the judiciary shouldn't decide if there's some legitimate legal reason to deny this license to one group of people, or if it violates equal protection.

Since, again, it's a matter of a legal right, I think it's sort of ridiculous to put it up to a vote. Honestly, I don't want the public deciding who gets legal protections and who doesn't. But, I'm admittedly a bit of an elitist, and in the end, it looks like it's going to be decided in most places by public vote anyway. And, here as well, society will be just fine.

Anonymous said...

As a gay person, I find your reference to "gays" and "them" as somewhat disturbing. I know the limits of language make this somewhat unavoidable, but let me assure you, not all gays think alike, act alike, or hold the same political opinions. First and foremost, I and other people who happen to be sexually attracted to members of the same sex are human beings, and embody all the permutations of human personality, experience, etc. that exist. Sexuality is generally not the sine qua non of the lives of gay people no more than it is for straight or bisexual people. Reflecting an understanding of this in your discussion of "gays" or "them" would be nice.

Holly said...

Anonymous, They and Them are pretty standard terms to use for anonymous individuals.

You may not have noticed, but Rufus has referred to his family as they/them, as well as members of certain religions, and members of the anti-gay-marriage factions. I think you'll find, if you can take a step back from spreading the message of gay grammatical correctness to the world of the internet, that it is a fact that "gay people" IS a group, and that the people who are for gay marriage are just as much speaking for that whole group, with and without permission, as are the people who are against it.

Now that we come to it, who authorized YOU to speak for all the gay people who have worked so freakin' hard for so many decades to be recognized as a unified group, a community, a recognized sector of society? There are lots and lots of gay people out there who tried really hard to BE the Us that Rufus so casually refers to here.

Rufus said...

I think the main problem is the limitations of language and a secondary problem is the limitations of my own writing.

In the post, I'm trying to talk about gay rights organizations, which define gays as a group in order to achieve certain political goals; the law, which defines gays as a group lacking specific legal rights; and lastly people who are anti-gay, who define gays as a group reduced, indeed, to sexual attraction or behavior. Therefore, it's fairly hard to talk about these topics without resorting to the use of some abstract nouns.

Such is the problem of 'to be' verbs. I certainly don't think of letter carriers as a monolithic group whose identity can be reduced to the one thing they have in common either. However, if letter carriers are specifically denied a legal right as a group, or organizations define them as a group with specific political goals, then by discussing those topics, we will be discussing letter carriers as a them based around the one thing they have in common.

I think you missed some of this in your reading of the original post. And I certainly think you missed my response in the comments in which I specifically argue that, in my experience, the only things uniting gays are: 1. being attracted to the same gender, and 2. that I've never known any who were opposed to gay rights. In other words, you don't need to reassure me that 'not all gays think alike, act alike, or hold the same political opinions'; that's what I said in the comment directly above yours.

So, I think we're in general agreement here. To be honest, I should admit that I'm also uncomfortable with the terms 'gay, 'straight', and 'bisexual' in general because I don't believe in sexual orientations as fixed and stable categories. I believe the most we can say is "I'm attracted to this person now, and that person later, and that person after that..." In my own experience, I can only really say who I've been attracted to or had sex with; however, I will answer when called a bisexual. It's just easier in most cases.

Maybe I should have been more straightforward about that, but somehow when we're discussing a group being denied legal rights, it seems demeaning to refer to that group in ironical quotation marks- i.e."I don't understand why some people are so uncomfortable about "gays"". And, changing it to, "I don't understand why some people are so uncomfortable about other people whose attractions have been primarily to those of the same gender, thus far", seems to obscure more than it clarifies.

Anyway, thanks for the interesting comment!

gregvw said...

Oh anon, you so whack.

Rufus said...

I suspect that all of the "anonymous" posters on the Internet are all one person, who is sort of like a very angry Santa.

gregvw said...