Thursday, August 13, 2015

Modern marriage

I don't write much about same sex marriage because:   it is, without doubt, the trickiest topic to address without feeling that you're hurting someone's feelings without actually wanting to; sexuality is actually a difficult matter theologically given that all types of relationships involving sex can be loving ones and God's supposed to be about love; and some of those on my side of the issue (against it, basically, while accepting that it appears virtually inevitable) are people:

1.  only too willing to use derisive and insulting language with respect to homosexuals;
2.  make it clear that they have a problem with homosexuality merely because they personally find the very idea of some forms of sex repulsive; and 
3. have the worst possible judgement on the matter of actual great significance to the future of the planet*;

and as such it's embarrassing to be on their side.

Nevertheless, here we go:

a.   I'm sorry, is this just an age related thing?, but whenever I see a same sex marriage ceremony on TV as part of their advocacy for a change in the law, I cannot help but feel it looks like a parody of what I, and (let's be truthful here) several billion other people both now and over history, have understood as a wedding.  I have my doubts I'll ever get over that feeling, especially when you see things such as female couples in bridal gowns, cutting of wedding cakes with same sex couples on top, etc.  

b.  While we're being frank here,  I've noticed what I think is an increasing strain of victimology coming in to some of the advocacy, particularly for those who claim that not being able to marry has made coping with their sexuality much harder psychologically.     This at first blush sounds very plausible, but I was just checking around again on the matter, and as far as I can tell, homosexual people even in remarkably gay endorsing countries such as England still seem to suffer about twice the rate of mental health issues compared to the general population.  Now, sure, I guess that no matter how many gay celebrities are on national television and how gay friendly your national laws are, being gay may well still cause tension and difficulties within families, and that can account for some incidence of depression and other mental health issues.

But....that being the case, and while fulling acknowledging that gay people were genuine victims of some appalling legal treatment via the criminalisation and medical definition of of their sexuality until quite recently, it seems near certain that gay marriage is not going to be a dramatic cure all for the increased rate of  mental health issues which gay people suffer from.

Of course, the argument could be made that, even if the "gay gene" carries with it a predisposition to greater susceptibility to things like depression, that's all the more reason to remove any possible social reason as to why they might feel left out and unhappy.   Maybe.   But I still think some SSM advocates are overselling the benefits of this law reform as a cure all for what makes them - OK, some of them - unhappy.    It reminds me a bit of the cases of the rich and ostensibly successful who find themselves puzzled because there is no longer any obvious reason why they still feel depressed much of the time.  (Stephan Fry might fit into that category.)

c.  I thought that Katy Faust last night on Lateline was actually not a bad advocate for the conservative position - but it's terribly unfortunate for the sake of the political and social argument that she is Christian.  I have never heard of her before, and maybe if I read some of her stuff I might not find her as good as she appeared last night, but it seemed to me that her argument was not religiously based, but SSM advocates will dismiss her views because she is religious.

d.  As Katy Faust would seem to agree, much of the issue that conservatives have with SSM is actually more to do with how SSM inter-relates with child bearing and child rearing.   But heterosexual use of reproductive technology broke the ground for that, so there is no doubt that there has been a "slippery slope" effect in social views.  Conservative Catholics would argue this started with modern contraception severing the natural connection between sex and child bearing, and as much as I disagree with them on the validity of trying to hold back the tide of improved methods of contraception, I have to admit it is a fair enough argument.   The problem is, by over-reaching on the matter of how proscriptive they could be on the matter of what sexual acts are automatically against God's will, they lost all credibility for drawing lines anywhere else on matters of sex and reproduction amongst everyone except Latin loving Mass types, who also invariably happen to be nuttily against science on climate change.

e.  On the matter of social attitudes towards reproductive technology and child rearing, people on the SSM side seem to always be inadequately acknowledging the degree to which they can change back to more conservative positions.   Use of anonymous donor sperm is a great example of this:  it was all the rage for a while there, and advocates for "anything goes" at the time never seemed to credit the importance with which the children from such a system could come in future to view knowledge of their biological parent.

It seems to me that with surrogacy, we could entirely face the same backlash in future, and all the gossip magazine current coo-ing over gay men happy with their adorable new baby pushed out by some well paid poor woman in India is not going to change that.  (I find it deeply ironic that it tends to be women's magazines that see to be so gushing over celebrity gay male families using surrogacy.   One commercial use of a woman's body is fine and dandy, apparently, yet a male celebrity using a prostitute doesn't get quite the same reaction.)

Even with lesbian couples, people seem blithely unwilling to question the matter of the relationship of the child with the biological father.  Now, unlike commercial surrogacy, it may be that some such couples will be on good terms with the father who the child may always know (and, in fact, he may be something of a father figure to them if he is with them enough.)   But it's clear that to a great many SSM advocates that this simply does not matter enough to even question - I'm thinking the case of Senator Penny Wong, for example - it's the fulfillment of the lesbian couple that counts.   As with those who were thinking 30 years ago that anonymous sperm donation would never matter to the kids resulting, this is just a patently shallow attitude that is, in effect,  the mere intellectual fashion of the moment. 

f.  Having said all of this, the popular tide of opinion, especially amongst the young, is strongly for gay marriage, and it appears socially inevitable and will not mean the downfall of civilization, so I don't quite understand why Tony Abbott, if going for a plebiscite on the matter, would not just bring it on for the next election.

I think it is pretty clear that however Abbott proceeds, it will come in, and any approach which is seen to be dragging out the inevitable only hurts him politically.

In order to keep face with his supporters, such that they are because, let's face it, he is a failure of a PM and you have to be nuts to disagree, the plebiscite idea is not a bad one.   But why delay it for 3 years?

*  global warming and climate change, as if you don't know...


TimT said...

I think Penny Wong has said somewhere that they have a strong and ongoing relationship with the child's father (of some sort)? Can't remember though.

A good post, Steve, and one I generally agree with. The issue that is troubling be most about all this is the relationship of children with an absent genetic parent. I absolutely think a missing surrogate mother or an anonymous sperm donor dad could cause a lot of trouble and emotional disturbance to a child, and there seems to be a lot of denial about this. Some of it is understandable; for instance, if someone has gay parents, or is related to lesbian parents, they're not exactly going to want to publicly dish the dirt on them, are they? But, I believe that the stronger the denial, the more overwhelming will be the backlash when it does come from a generation of children growing up in these circumstances. Actually, occasionally one hears grumbling from lefties about how conservative kids are these days - and perhaps that is partially caused by generations growing up under circumstances similar to that outlined above.

TimT said...

... 'troubling be'... should be 'troubling me'! Bah!