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?