That Which We Do Not Understand

Here are a list of personal observations. They are unscientific and based completely in my own experience:

  1. Everyone I know who is frightened or angered by the idea of gay marriage does not know anyone who is gay. Or, to put it more accurately, they most likely know people who are gay, but these people would never out themselves to someone who is bigoted against gays.
  2. Everyone I know who is opposed to gay marriage has a very minimal understanding of gay relationships, and frequently confuse homosexuality with free love, orgies, pedophilia, polygamy, polyamoury, and even communism.
  3. Everyone I know who has had minimal interaction with openly gay people are full of misinformation about homosexuality and perpetuate hysteria and false ideas about them.
  4. Everyone I know who has a friend who is gay is not threatened by the idea of gay marriage.
  5. Everyone I know who is friends with a gay couple supports marriage equality.

Has anyone else in Outer Blogness had a similar experience? I’ve had this confirmed for me so many times over the last few years, and in so many settings, that I’ll stand by it as fact. People fear that which they do not understand. Those opposed to gay marriage often deliberately avoid thinking about people who are gay as human beings, and this allows the ignorance and hatred to go on. Some things to set the record straight:

  1. “Gay activist judge” is nothing but a catchy phrase used by religious bigots and Fox News. It is only useful for convincing people that they do not need to think and they will never have to change their minds. Find out who Judge Walker is and you’ll see him as a person, not the label slapped on him by right-wingers with sour grapes.
  2. It is possible for a gay judge to be objective about a case involving gay marriage. Just as it is possible for a black judge to be objective in a case about racism, or for a woman to rule on a case involving sexism. To insist that no gay judge could be objective about Proposition 8 is as silly as claiming no heterosexual could be objective about it.
  3. Gay couples who wish to be married are no different from heterosexual couples in their desire for a stable, monogamous relationship.
  4. Gay marriage does not automatically kick down the door for polygamy or polyamoury. Gay marriage requires no meaningful alteration of government forms, tax law, child custody law, parenting conventions, and so on, making the introduction of same-sex couples a non-disruptive process. All that needs to happen is change words like “husband and wife” to “spouses” or “parties.” All done! Polygamy and polyamoury would be a mess to implement and the nature of the relationship has no legal precedent in modern Western society. Polygamy and polyamoury will not be legal issues any time soon, so quit blaming the gays.
  5. Gay rights groups tend to take issue with authoritarian religious groups and sexism. Polygamists mainly come from authoritarian religious groups who are deeply sexist. Gay rights groups won’t be helping the cause of polygamy any time soon, and the polygamists will not want their help.
  6. “Bisexual” does not mean “needs to be with people of both genders at the same time . . . in bed.” It means they have attraction for both sexes. Most bisexual people are monogamous, in my experience.
  7. Although it’s probably inevitable that polygamists will push for legalisation of their lifestyle, society at large will tend not to rally behind them (see above comment about authoritarianism and sexism) and their tendency to engage in coercion and rape will undermine their cases.
  8. The ultimate fear of conservatives — polyamoury or “orgies” as they like to put it — is the least likely of all to be implemented. It would be a bureaucratic cock-up from the onset. How many parents? Which forms do they need? Who gets custody of the child? The case that gay parents are inferior to straight parents did not hold up. But there are probably numerous examples of the damage done to children by a revolving door of parent figures that results from most open relationships. While there are those who could implement a polyamourous family well, most will have a hard time convincing the public and a judge that legalising their relationships would not constitute a bureaucratic and societal drain.

I’ll descend from my soapbox here at Speaker’s Corner now and say this: if you find yourself feeling anxious, angry, or confused over the thought of two people who love each other marrying and having a family, perhaps you ought to wonder why. I’m going to guess that you don’t understand because you have no experience, so you’re just making it up as well as you can, or worse, allowing your religious leaders to make it up for you. Ignorance is not bliss. In the case of our gay neighbours, ignorance is toxic.

6 thoughts on “That Which We Do Not Understand

  1. Yes. I agree with your assessment 100%. I wrote an analysis of the case this morning (it’s certainly produced some interesting responses, I’d be interested in yours), and I’ve written before about the fact that legislating morality doesn’t generally work out so hot. Just ask the folks in Afghanistan. I’ve discovered, though, one general observation you’ve left off your list: just ask anyone who’s studied terrorism, or been involved in the so-called “War on Terror” (Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom), or who’s dealt with victims of the Taliban in a humanitarian capacity, what they think about theocracies. Much like the Spanish Inquisition, the Taliban started (and finished) on the same basic premise: that we need to “protect people” and “safeguard our children’s future” by making laws concerning what is and is not “moral”.

  2. Your experience is not exactly mine. I have a gay brother. My mom’s response was to embrace him because she had been taught that men were turned gay by bad mothering. So once her son was so gay that even “straightening out” to go on a mission didn’t “cure” him, her choices were that she was a bad mother or he was born that way. She chose born that way even though in my early years she had railed against letting gays teach in schools, etc. and was very homophobic. My dad doesn’t know what to think, but he loves his son. My brother’s boyfriends have always been welcome at family events, even though my dad dutifully contributed to the Yes on 8 campaign and voted for it as the prophet commanded him to do. So he knows a gay man well and sees long term gay relationships up close but still fights against gay marriage. He’s an “okay with civil unions” kind of guy. He has fallen for the propaganda that the church will be forced to perform gay marriages in the temples, etc. if it’s a civil rights issue.

    My favorite comment during the Prop 8 run-up was my daughter’s response to the “they’re going to teach your kids about gay marriage in school” scare propaganda ads on tv. She said, “Like we don’t already know there are gay people in the world and they don’t all come from some other planet where nobody wants to get married to the people they fall in love with.”

  3. I think I RT’d the link you posted from that one LDS sociologist (or whomever he is)…but isn’t it so interesting how he has a very different perspective and bent (e.g., he knows someone who is gay — his son, but does NOT support him)…but he has similar conclusions about the perceptions of Mormons.

    For example,

    1) Everyone he knows who is frightened by the idea of Mormons don’t know any. Or, more precisely, they know people who are Mormon, but who aren’t active with testimony-sharing, etc.,

    2) Everyone he knows who opposes Mormonism has a narrow grasp of Mormonism, or only knows “less active” Mormons who are least prepared to present a good view of Mormonism.

    3) Full of misinformation…

    4) etc.,

    5) etc.,


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