Saturday, February 04, 2012

Do "gay parents" pose the biggest social conundrum? GOP in VA thinks so.

The GOP in the Virginia legislature is thrashing around and making itself seen on the social issues, including drafting a bill that faith-based agencies can turn away gays trying to adopt (or give foster care to) children. (Presumably these agencies still get state or federal funds.)  The GOP also wants women to have an ultrasound before abortion. The Dems came back on that one and proposed (without success) that men have heart stress tests and digital exams  (both perceived as invasive and maybe humiliating) before getting prescriptions for medications to handle erectile dysfunction.  Here’s the link from the Washington Post Feb. 5 by Laura Vozzella and Anita Kumar. 

There’s a bit of a logical tangle here.  My experience has been that I have, as a gay male, been viewed as “cheating the system” by not taking on having a family and having more discretionary income and being able to lowball the system.   As an only child, I did not pick up as much as others did in the 1950s that parents expect their kids not only to continue the family (the vicarious immortality implicit in procreation), but also to be prepared to step in and help raise other people’s children (such as siblings’, after family tragedies – the subject of several movies like “Raising Helen”), and to grow up as social beings.  Parents believed that they had both the power and responsibility to impart this to their kids.  That sort of thing is coming back, after a couple decades of more hyperindividualism, because of “demographic winter” – people living longer with fewer kids – and I got a dose of this with my recent experience in eldercare.  In part, I felt very much like a second-class citizen. 

There are a couple of solutions, and they invoke some logical contradictions.  One is to embrace – and expect – not only gay marriage but for gays to step in and become involved as parents of the many “Wednesday’s children”.   And then the Right comes back, on the “sanctity of marriage” thing (“a man and a woman” and the “birthright of a child to two married parents of opposite gender”, even on “what was meant to be” by Nature, or God, etc.).  If seems as if same-sex couples are in the game as 100% equals, then the whole institutionalized setting for heterosexual marriage is lessened – the whole courtship game and male double standard – to the point that heterosexual couples – at least those less “fortunate” (or more financially capable) no longer believe that they can stay interested for lifetime in their own relationships without the external props.  Doesn’t the idea of a pre-nup undermine the idea of “till death do us part” and “in sickness and in health” (and “for richer or poorer”)?  So, by logical exclusion, we’re left with the idea of gays as second-class citizens by definition.

Yet, for about three decades of my own adult life, “second class status” meant very little in practice.  I was the one with the disposable income, often consorting with Log Cabin Republicans, then with libertarianism.  I rather liked Ron Paul’s comment that marriage is just a private contract (the “license expired” thing).  If heterosexual couples fall apart with age due to lack of pampers, so be it.

It was only when coercion was applied, both in the eldercare area and, oddly, with phone calls for “social jobs” that I didn’t want – attracted by people who wanted to conscript me away from “freedom” and “self-expression” – that the equality thing hit home.  (Partisan hucksterism supports real “families” and “takes care” of people, after all.)  Of course, the “don’t ask don’t tell” debacle had highlighted the problem since Bill Clinton’s days – if gays aren’t “morally suitable” to share in the sacrifices it takes to defend freedom, they were free pickings later on.  It’s interesting how DADT really wasn’t about “privacy” in the end, and how “unit cohesion” as a concept could apply to the society at large.

It's true, you can construct the "social contract" around the "common good" notion that everyone has intergenerational reponsibility at a personal level, but then the tie between sexual intercourse and responsibility for the children that come from that act is weakened, and men may feel entitled, if they're going to be held responsible (for the choices that others make) anyway.  It goes back to the kind of thinking (and double standards) the days we had a male-only military draft. 

“Complementarity” and “equality” are “complementary” but not “equivalent” concepts.  (And it’s “e”, not “i”, in that word.)

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