Response to Mainwaring’s “I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage”

Hello faithful blog readers! Another topical one today, away from my personal story, though it contains a little bit about me of course. There has been a certain article floating around by a guy named Mainwaring called “I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage.” I’m writing a response to this because I’ve seen too many people read this and say, “Aha! See, he doesn’t want gay marriage and he’s gay, that means something!” I hate to burst your bubble, but it does not mean anything for the millions of gay people and our allies who are fighting for Marriage Equality, and it certainly has no legal relevance.

The article in question can be found at http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/03/9432/

First let’s get the topic of slant out of the day. Mainwaring’s article is an opinion and anecdote article, and my response will be the same, so the political stances of each author will be important for anyone who plans to read them.

The author, Doug Mainwaring, has been described by the Human Rights Campaign stating, “This Doug Mainwaring is not just some random gay man but rather a Tea Party activist who has adopted opposition to marriage equality as a major (if not most major) focal point on his conservative agenda.  He is an advocate who, increasingly, seems to be working with (if not for) NOM [National Organization for Marriage]. (http://www.hrc.org/nomexposed/entry/nom-determined-to-make-doug-mainwaring-seem-like-a-coalition-rather-than-an#.UVR6rxyG1yw) In the article itself, at the end it reads, “Doug Mainwaring is co-founder of the National Capital Tea Party Patriots.”

The publisher, the Witherspoon Institute, is described by its Wikipedia article (go there for further sources) with “The Witherspoon Institute is a conservative think tank in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded on religious principles, the group is opposed to same-sex marriage, stem cell research, and abortion.”

As for me, if you’ve read my blog you know I am a non-religious, gay man who believes in full, federal, legal, marriage equality regardless of gender. I was raised in an active Mormon household and have a solid grasp of typical LDS and also mainstream, Christian theology.

Now, with all of that aside, time to dig into the guts of Mainwaring’s article. If you haven’t read it and would like to, please go do so now.

The very first thing Mainwaring does it use a quote from Reagan to cast the entire issue in a right vs. wrong, good vs. evil battle, stating that what it is good will always triumph. While perhaps a little dramatic, this is a very sensitive issue, one that both sides imbue with a lot of passion, some with some supernatural involvement, so I understand why he might go there.

He makes a lot of statements near the beginning of his article that he never goes on to substantiate or give any evidence or reason for. The first glaring example is, “The notion of same-sex marriage is implausible… Genderless marriage is not marriage at all.” Why? No reason. He doesn’t even attempt to give any of the typical, though refuted, positions of procreation, benefit of the children, nothing. He just moves on.

Obviously I disagree with his notion here. Marriage is the legal and sometimes religious recognition of a commitment between two people to love, support and protect each other as long as they are able to do so, typically with a ‘till death do you part’ at the end. You can’t just say something you disagree with isn’t marriage without offering a definition yourself, at least if you want to be taken seriously.

Mainwaring’s next issue is perhaps my favorite issue with his entire article. “As a young man, I wasn’t strongly inclined toward marriage or fatherhood, because I knew only homosexual desire.”

I’m sorry… what? This is a classic black and white fallacy that creates a false dichotomy. In his mind, these two ideas are mutually exclusive. You may have one or the other, but not both. You can’t have any inclination towards fatherhood if you also have homosexual desire. My experience and the experience of millions of other LGBT people utterly discount this statement. I want to be a father someday, whether that’s through adoption or some other method. My lack of any interest in being intimate with a woman has absolutely no bearing on that.

Also, I’m curious what this has to do with marriage? I’ve been to a few weddings in my life. Traditionally, the vows uttered were not focused on children, or the commitment to having children. Marriage simply cannot be about children only for gay people if we do not also hold straight couples to that same standard.

The next mistake he makes is in regard ‘Philos love’ and ‘Eros love.’ These are Greek words used by ancient Greek Philosophers such as Plato to describe relationships and the world itself. Not only does he show a blatant misunderstanding for the definitions of these types of love, he also makes the mistake of assuming they are mutually exclusive. I’m seeing a pattern of very strong black and white thinking that is pervading every view this man has.

He talks about friends he made in his twenties, “I had many close friends who were handsome, athletic, and intelligent, with terrific personalities. I longed to have an intimate relationship with any and all of them. However, I enjoyed something far greater, something which surpassed carnality in every way: philia (the love between true friends)—a love unappreciated by so many because eros is promoted in its stead.”

Ask any happily married couple or really any dedicated loving couple, gay or straight, and I bet they would tell you they have both philia and eros love in their relationship with each other. In fact many psychologists would argue that the best romantic relationships must contain both due to human nature.

Back to address his definition issues, I turn again to Wikipedia where you can follow the sources there to find more information on the subject. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_words_for_love)

Éros (ἔρως érōs) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Modern Greek word “erotas” means “intimate love;” however, erosdoes not have to be sexual in nature. Eros can be interpreted as a love for someone whom you love more than the philia, love of friendship. It can also apply to dating relationships as well as marriage.”

Philia (φιλία philía) means affectionate regard or friendship in both ancient and modern Greek. It is a dispassionate, virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. In ancient texts, philosdenoted a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.”

I hope you can see through this where his entire notion of Eros vs Philia goes out the window. Of course all of this is completely beside the fact that he fails to mention Agape or Storge love in any way. (See the Wiki article).

Moving on, I’m not trying to be mean with this next point, because I know it is heartbreaking, but am I the only one who sees the irony that after deciding to marry a woman, he discovered they were infertile as a couple and were forced to seek out adoption, and then later divorced?

He proceeds to go on making more unsubstantiated claims: “ Over several years, intellectual honesty led me to some unexpected conclusions: (1) Creating a family with another man is not completely equal to creating a family with a woman, and (2) denying children parents of both genders at home is an objective evil. Kids need and yearn for both.”

There are so many issues with this single statement that it’s almost difficult to enumerate them. What is intellectual honesty, aside from a way to call people who disagree with you intellectually dishonest? How is creating a family with another man not equal to creating one with a woman? How is the denial to children of parents of both genders an ‘objective evil?’ What evidence do you have that kids need and yearn for both?

All of this is utterly opposed to all, if not most, of the major psychological and sociological associations in America. The most recent of which, the American Academy of Pediatrics, that just came out in support of marriage equality, stating that it is in the best interest of the kids already being raised in loving, supporting families with same-gender parents.

Am I the only person bothered by the fact that this man, whose own children had to live in a broken home without both parents for ten years due to divorce, has the gumption to criticize loving, same-gender-parent families? It just blows my mind.

It gets better… He goes on to say, “One day as I turned to climb the stairs I saw my sixteen-year-old son walk past his mom as she sat reading in the living room. As he did, he paused and stooped down to kiss her and give her a hug, and then continued on. With two dads in the house, this little moment of warmth and tenderness would never have occurred.”

He’s absolutely right. If Mainwaring had been married to a man, the son might have paused, stooped down to kiss his loving dad and given him a hug before continuing on instead. How terrible that would be! The reason Mainwaring thinks this won’t work is revealed in his very next sentence, where he displays his staggering gender issues:

“My varsity-track-and-football-playing son and I can give each other a bear hug or a pat on the back, but the kiss thing is never going to happen. To be fully formed, children need to be free to generously receive from and express affection to parents of both genders. Genderless marriages deny this fullness.”

Obviously. Only women can be hugged and kissed by sons. Only men can give bear hugs and manly pats on backs to their sons. There can be no gender crossing of any kind! Men cannot hug! Women cannot give bear hugs and pats on backs! What is this, the 70s with your free-flowing love fest? We’ll have none of it! (He seems to say).

Sarcasm aside, let’s be honest. I know men much more loving and sensitive than many mothers I know, and I know women who are tougher and stronger than a lot of fathers I know. The idea that each set of husband and wife will be this perfect 1950s cookie-cutter dynamic with the strong, protective man and the doting, sensitive housewife, is a notion we gave up a long time ago. Well, at least for straight people we did. Two opposite-gender people can get married that we know will be absolutely horrible parents, and we don’t care when they want to get married. When it’s two men or two women we suddenly declare that they must prove their ability to be good parents? Where did that come from? Two men can be caring, and strong, and sensitive, and compassionate, and protective, and a provider for their children. The same is true for two women.

Moving beyond sexism, we run into another great nugget of wisdom from Mainwaring:

“Here’s a very sad fact of life that never gets portrayed on Glee or Modern Family: I find that men I know who have left their wives as they’ve come out of the closet often lead diminished, and in some cases nearly bankrupt, lives—socially, familially, emotionally, and intellectually. They adjust their entire view of the world and their role within it in order to accommodate what has become the dominant aspect of their lives: their homosexuality. In doing so, they trade rich lives for one-dimensional lives. Yet this is what our post-modern world has taught us to do. I went along with it for a long while, but slowly turned back when I witnessed my life shrinking and not growing.”

Perhaps these men should never have felt pressured to be married to women in the first place?

Living proof of the falseness of his statement can be seen all around. My sexual orientation is definitely an important aspect of my life, and a source of great joy and pride, but it is not the only thing that defines me. I’m still a brother, a son, an uncle, a boyfriend, an employee, an IT professional, an on-and-off again college student, an atheist, a skeptic, an activist, a musician, a gamer, a nerd, an avid book reader, a Science Fiction/Fantasy fan, a huge Star Trek and Star Wars nerd, and so much more.

Coming out and searching for real love and happiness in my life didn’t diminish my life at all! Do you know what I’m not anymore now that I’ve come out? I’m no longer a liar, a pretender, afraid, self-hating, unhappy, alone, and I’m no longer content with living my life for someone else’s happiness at the expense of my own. Embracing my sexuality has done wonders for me, I’m sorry that it never did for Mainwaring.

People don’t become financially bankrupt because they’re gay. They become so because they make bad financial decisions. Also to assume that people become intellectually bankrupt by living how they choose is not only insulting, it’s blatantly inaccurate.

I’ll agree with Mainwaring on one point, “Same-sex relationships are certainly very legitimate, rewarding pursuits, leading to happiness for many, but they are wholly different in experience and nature.” At least we have a tiny sliver of common ground.

He dwells briefly on the slippery slope argument about polygamy or polyamorous relationships, which gay people are not pushing for by the way, so I won’t spend any time refuting that particular red herring. Oh and he also cites the scholarly mocked, and apologized for on behalf of the author himself, study by Mark Regnerus that has been widely refuted.

Over and over Mainwaring rejects any notion that any of his decisions have been based on religious or ‘traditional’ views, that it all comes from experience and reason. He then chooses to end his article with a very curious statement:

“Marriage is not an elastic term. It is immutable.”

First and foremost, unless belief in a higher power or some kind of eternalspiritual code is part of your motivation, marriage is just a word that describes a legal contract. Languages evolve every day. I mean, look at how we speak compared to ten years ago, fifty years ago, one hundred years ago. Terms and definitions, especially legal ones, change all the time. Marriage is no exception. It used to mean a man’s acquisition of a female by trading work or goods to that female’s father. We’ve evolved past that decision.

To show how marriage has changed even in the past century, I’ll use the following example: I have two very close friends who are married. They are both atheists, come from two different racial heritages, and were married in a beautiful bed & breakfast inn by a female judge in the presence of friends and family. They have absolutely no interest in having children, and have taken steps to ensure they will have no children.

To recap: no church, no minister, no children, interracial, all reasons people in the past might have used to keep them from marrying. Yet absolutely no one bats an eye at the legality of their marriage because they’re the correct gender, and because we’ve come to a point in our culture where we accept that they love each other, want to commit to each other and spend the rest of their lives together and be afforded the rights and benefits of a married couple.

So if theirs, why not your gay relatives or friends?

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11 thoughts on “Response to Mainwaring’s “I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage”

  1. Got here by way of a Facebook share, and so I went to both articles and read… mostly cause I’m bored, but your blog peeked my interest and kept me reading, so goodonya for that! 🙂
    You know what I find fascinating? As I read your story, I found that It wasn’t that long ago that you were on the other side of this issue, and yet it appears you have already forgotten what its like to see both sides. Hopefully this can be a reminder to you:

    You are disputing a mans experience (which for him is valid.. just as your experience in-which you shared (the faith-shattering testimony meeting post -very profound by the way is also valid,) to shreds.

    You are acting as if his conclusion on this issue (which he was guided to by way of creating his own path, and exploring on his own time-table, just as you explored your own political path at BYUI even though you were surrounded on all sides by others who were conservatives,) is wrong, and that yours are right because you share them with millions of other gay people in the world.

    I think it probably took courage for him to stand alone (or so it seems in his population) just as it took courage for you to stand alone (or so it may have felt when you made your choice about following your path).

    It’s just so interesting to me, how we are. The older I get the more I wonder about how silly this will all seem some day. How we got caught up in semantics and perception so much of the time. How things of right now seem SOOOOOO vital and important… and when we look back will be a drop in the bucket of all that has, is, and ever will be.

    In your post about suicide, (which I was attracted to because I am highly involved in prevention efforts) when you quoted Jeffrey R. Holland, I had a profound experience: As a 31 year old single LDS strait woman, I can’t say that i know what it’s like to feel ostracized for being gay, but I can say that I know that LDS culture can be a unique and sometimes difficult challenge when you feel you don’t fit the mold. Politically I lean much more toward the middle, and so it becomes very difficult for me to “pick a side” on MOST issues, the reason being, that I can almost always see both sides.

    On this issue particularly, I feel like I’m holding the coin in my hand, turning it every which way, looking at all the angles. And in seeing both sides of the coin, it makes it difficult to say whether it’s heads or tails. I feel that most people are looking at the coin as it sets on a table or the ground, and therefore they can so clearly state: “THE COIN IS HEADS!” or “THE COIN IS TAILS!” Anyway, when I read Elder Holland’s quote I got my answer: which is, I give it to God. I don’t understand all the ins and outs of this one, and I don’t have to. I’m just giving this one to Him. So thanks for helping me get an answer that I’ve long been searching for on this subject. 🙂

    And for you or anyone who can only see one side of this issue, no matter which side that is, I have only one piece of advice: PICK UP THE COIN AND HOLD IT IN YOUR HAND, THEN TURN IT FROM SIDE TO SIDE. It’s still a coin. People are still people, valid and beautiful in all of our imperfection, no matter who we are, where we come from or what we believe.

    All my respect,
    Casey

    • Casey,

      Thank you so much for taking the time not only to read with a beautifully open mind, but also to share so much of yourself in reply. I really do appreciate everything you shared.

      I’m afraid that in the sarcasm of my response I failed to convey a few things. First and foremost, I wasn’t trying to attack him, his life or his courage and right in sharing his own opinions. I was simply trying to refute the arguments he put forward for his positions and also the positions themselves.

      I’m still very closely connected to lots of active LDS people, friends and family, who help me keep perspective, and I know I can’t simply call out people who disagree with me with wide-sweeping statements because they would also include my immediate family and some close friends.

      I do very vividly remember what it was like to believe many of the same things that he did, once, which I think is what gives me a unique perspective to offer countering opinions. It is possible to see both sides and still decide which one you agree with more.

      I would love to meet Mr. Mainwaring, shake his hand, or give him a hug if he didn’t oppose, and pick his brain in person, friend to friend. I’m always of the opinion that more discussion is better than less. Discussion and the sharing of ideas strengthens one’s own convictions as well as gives you better insights into the mind of the person you’re conversing with. I’ve learned more about the true Christlike perspective that Mormons have the ability to have after leaving the church and engaging in debates, sometimes heated, with one of my best friends who’s still very active, with whom I’m very much still close.

      As a skeptic I have to keep open the option that maybe I’m wrong. I could be suffering from personal bias or all kinds of errors in thinking and logic which is why I don’t hesitate to enter into debate, I have to accept that possibility.

      I hope that helps clarify my positions. Thanks again, Casey, for your comment. I like to hope that there are more people in the church like you.

      With love and respect,
      Trent

      P.S. I’m glad you liked the rest of my blog, keep reading, my goal is at least one a month, though I always have the back-burner goal of one a week, we’ll see how it goes lol.

    • I feel I owe the author of this post more than my 5 word comment, so I’ll respond to your comment as well Casey.

      My problem with Mainwaring’s essay was him claiming that he was arguing against same sex marriage with reason and experience, but what I read in the text was experience and unsubstantiated claims. Now I don’t mind reading his experience and thoughts on the matter, but I do not believe that one man’s experience is a valid argument against the experience of many others who do want marriage equality. My problem comes when Mainwaring says having same sex parents is an objective evil with absolutley no argument to back it up. He believes that having 2 loving parents of the same gender is somehow much worse than the broken home situation his own children grew up in. I have a couple friends who grew up in similar situations where the father came out as gay, divorced mom and went to discover their sexuality. Although they both have decent relationships with their fathers now, I doubt either of them would describe their home situation growing up as healthy. The scientific literature is also against him. It is very clear that growing up with 2 parents of any gender is better than growing up in a single parent household. So for him to herald growing up in a gay family as objectively evil seems narrow minded and hypocritical of him.

      It is easier to see both sides of an issue when it is of little concern to you. To those that have a dog in the fight it is much more difficult. To you the outcome may matter little, but those gay couples currently raising children are much more invested in the outcome of supreme court’s decision and the national dialogue concerning same sex marriage. If Mainwaring’s essay had received little attention, then it deserves little repraisal, but as it is gaining attention (or at least I’m seeing it pop up more and more on Facebook) the more it needs critique, arguement and discussion. So again I’d like to thank this blog for offering a critique and place for discussion. I think author did a great job of dismantling Mainwaring’s arguments and unsubstantiated claims without attacking him or his experience.

  2. @ Danny, Pardon my referencing, I’m not sure if you are gay or not, so I don’t want to assume, and I don’t mean to generalize, as this may not speak for everyone:
    I think most people are aware that the number of gay people that are FOR same-sex marriage far outweighs the number who share Mainwarings view. I understand the fight is much more personal for others than it is for me, but it will never cease to amaze me how quickly these unique viewpoints by gay men or women, that pop up only every once in a blue moon) get combatted and “critiqued” by THEIR OWN, which is what gives it the “gaining attention” in the first place.
    ie. never would have heard about Mainwarings article, if it hand’t been combatted on here.

    @ Trent
    Thanks for your reply. I have enjoyed reading your blog. I particularly appreciate when you are careful to differentiate church doctrine vs. LDS culture, because the two can be very intertwined, but they are indeed separate. I’ll be the first one to admit that our culture has many flaws, and I try to learn from stuff like this how to be more loving and accepting of people who don’t think like me. “The worth of souls is great in the sight of God right?” EVERY SOUL! 🙂 God bless you!! (is that offensive to someone who is atheist? if so then.. namaste??)
    🙂

    • Casey, thanks for pointing that out. I was seeing only the original article linked by several people on facebook, and I wanted to make sure there was a good critique. Again, I don’t mind him publishing his experience and thoughts, it only needed rebuttal when he claims his feelings are an argument against marriage equality. I’m of the mind that all arguments should be critiqued, attacked, and combatted (and as long as only the ideas are attacked, the participants shouldn’t feel threatened or silenced; that’s where I draw the line). It makes the resulting discussion stronger and more salient.

  3. Well . . . unfortunately everyone who identifies himself/herself as “gay” is jumping on a bandwagon they don’t belong on. Successful homosexual couples who desire to have a family are one thing. However, the hordes of “swingers” really need to back away from this one. This group includes a population so promiscuous that it singlehandedly proliferated the most deadly virus this nation has ever known. This population hosts “PRIDE” activities so wanton and freakish that even gays are disgusted. Granted, there are plenty of heterosexuals who mirror these behaviors, but they are not lobbying for marriage rights.

    • Myrtle I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to comment, though I do have a few issues with what you’ve said. As someone who’s obviously on the outside looking in to the LGBT community, it is understandable that you have a few things that you misunderstand.

      To start, I’ll quote Ellen, “First of all, being gay or pro-gay isn’t a bandwagon. You don’t get a free ride anywhere. There’s no music. And occasionally we’ll sing ‘We Are Family’ but that’s about it.”

      There’s no ‘bandwagon.’ There’s no charter, no mission statement, no agenda, no dogma, no signing contract, no recruitment anything, no pledge. The only thing that designates one as a member of the LGBT community is if you identify yourself with that community. I’m afraid you’re allowing yourself to fall into quite a lot of stereotypes. Just as many straight people as gay people are promiscuous, just as many straight people as gay people desire monogamy.

      Also do a little research on HIV if you would, we haven’t single-handedly done anything. Today a straight person in the south is just as likely to become infected with HIV as any gay man in New York or San Francisco, why? Education. We take it very seriously. Most of us get tested regularly and take precautions that most straight people don’t. HIV is a virus that spreads through straight sex, gay sex, and some activities that aren’t sexual at all. Please let go of your 1980s stereotype on this.

      Also, the ‘wanton and freakish’ people that are off doing whatever it is you think they’re doing probably don’t want marriage in the first place, and it should have absolutely no bearing on the people that do.

      Thanks again for reading!

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