The "Order" Of Things: Let Them Kill...Yes - Let Them Marry...No genre: Gaylingual & Just Jihad & Nouveau Thoughts & Uncivil Unions

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I'm always amazed at public opinion...especially when it provides some insights into human nature in 21st century America. Over the years, I've always marveled at the prudish obsession with all things prurient.

I could be wrong, but I suspect a majority of Americans would rather allow their children to watch depictions of violence on television and at the movies than anything remotely sexual. In some ways, I understand how this happens, but in my moments of lucidity, I wonder why we never take the time to understand or alter this seemingly incoherent ideation.

To find evidence of this phenomenon, one need look no further than the polling relevant to same-sex marriage and the military's policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Despite the occasional outlier, it's fairly safe to state that more Americans oppose same-sex marriage than favor it. At the same time, numerous polls in recent years suggests that a significant majority of Americans are in favor of allowing gays to serve in the military. I find those two incongruent positions fascinating.

First, a look at the latest polling on both issues.

From The Washington Post On DADT:

Public attitudes about gays in the military have shifted dramatically since President Bill Clinton unveiled what became his administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy 15 years ago today.

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.

From CBS News On Same-Sex Marriage:

(CBS) Most Americans continue to think there should be some legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples, and 30 percent say same-sex couples should be allowed to marry - the highest number since CBS News began asking this question in 2004.

Twenty-eight percent think same-sex couples should be permitted to form civil unions, but more than a third - 36 percent - say there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship.

Americans' views on this issue have changed since 2004, although opinion has not changed substantially in the last two years. In November of 2004 (soon after the presidential election) just 21 percent of Americans supported the idea of same-sex couples being allowed to marry.

Majorities of both men and women support some form of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples, but more women (36 percent) than men (24 percent) back the idea of same-sex marriage.

With regard to DADT, it seems fairly clear that the country is ready to embrace gays serving in the military. Virtually every constituent group agrees. As such, it would be difficult to contend that the favorable response is due to the vague or uncertain nature of the survey question.

With regard to gay marriage, the results are more nebulous. Don't get me wrong, there's little doubt that the trends are encouraging. In fact, one could make the argument that a narrow majority of Americans actually favor some recognition of same-sex relationships. Defining the specifics of that recognition would likely provide less encouraging results.

I'm intrigued by the disparity. On the one hand, it seems that patriotism and a desire to defend one's nation elicits thoughts of equality on the part of the electorate. In other words, if gays are willing to kill and die for their country, by God, we shouldn't deny them that opportunity. [Wave flags now] On the other hand, who a gay person chooses to love and how that love is recorded by society apparently elicits thoughts of moral rectitude on the part of the electorate. [Cover eyes now]

In other words, views about homosexuality seem to mirror the general pattern of allowing our children to be exposed to violence (masculinity...or behavior associated with men?) while shying away from exposure to, or discussion about, sexuality (intimacy...or behavior associated with women?). Is that an anecdotal observation and a broad brush approach to the subject? Perhaps. Does it offer a plausible explanation for the divergent data? In part, I think so.

Let's take it a step further. When one thinks about the treatment of those in the LGBT community, three things emerge. One, lesbianism (often associated with being a tomboy), while still objectionable to many, is also a source of male fascination, and as such, serves to insulate lesbians from intense societal derision. Secondly, gay men (often associated with being effeminate) draw the intense ire of a number of heterosexual men which is much more likely to lead to acts of derision and/or violence being perpetrated on homosexual men. Lastly, transgender males, seeking to identify as women (adopting virtually all aspects of feminine behavior), are potentially at the greatest risk for vitriol and violence.

I contend that if one were to ask all voters to quantify each groups social acceptability, each groups acceptability to serve in the military, and the acceptance of the love relationships each group forms, the discomfort would mirror the rankings I've noted above.

Let's return to the apparent discomfort with all things sexual and the seeming tolerance for depictions of violence. If one looks at the dance of sexuality, generally speaking, the male is in pursuit which can easily be construed as an aggressive act. Since men generally accept this role...and they also have daughters...a disconnect emerges which may well lead to the seeming silence with regards to all things sexual.

In simple terms, men, aware of each other's inclinations, are uncomfortable admitting and acknowledging that their daughters will be pursued sexually and anything that reminds them of this creates dissonance that is rarely resolved. The carnal nature of sex as conquest (masculine) can prevent them from viewing sexuality favorably as intimacy (feminine).

This may also explain the difference in men's and women's reported acceptance of gays in the military. Men, by virtue of their own views of sex, are apt to view the homosexual male similar to themselves...meaning they assume a gay man is in pursuit of a sexual encounter. At the same time, women are apt to be more comfortable with gay men as a result of their inclination to share expressions of intimacy.

I'll offer one additional observation. Sex, by its nature, involves unspoken understandings about penetration and being penetrated...tops and bottoms if you will. That again brings us back to the above ordering. Lesbianism, from a conventional view of gender roles, is often thought to be about penetration...meaning there is a perception that someone adopts the position as the top (the masculine aggressor). With gay men, the perception is that someone adopts the position as the bottom (the feminine placater). Lastly, with regard to the transgender male, the assumption is that the individual seeks to adopt the feminine role...although in this instance, with a heterosexual male.

Simply stated, the subconscious predisposition to favor masculinity over femininity (imposed over centuries by the prevalence of misogyny as opposed to any innately ordered hierarchy) therefore leads to ranking the three accordingly.

All of the above, in my opinion, helps explain why voters are more inclined to support gays in the military than to endorse same-sex marriage. The former is consistent with established societal norms that favor masculinity which makes it more palatable. Conversely, the latter serves to threaten the established order and unseat the stereotypical male identity from its lofty perch.

When it's all said and done, I contend humanity hasn't navigated that far from its awareness that the king of the jungle's demands are usually met (he writes the rules) and he is therefore afforded a wide berth...simply based upon an unspoken understanding that he has the ability to impose his will (penetrate) upon those who can't do the same.

Whether all of this suggests that love does or doesn't exist as we define it is open to debate. In the meantime, the message to the LGBT community is rather convoluted...and fully impeachable. In a world too easily inclined to violence, it's a shame to be rewarding gays for propagating aggression as the acceptable status quo while stifling their potential to act as loving agents for constructive change. It's time for the sleeping giant to assemble its parts and uproot the tree to which it has too long been tethered. It's time for a new order.

Comments

1 On July 21, 2008 at 8:15 AM, RainBro wrote —

I am in total agreement with you Daniel - but what are we fighting for?

The right to come home to a country that treats us as second class citizens, it would seem.

Peace,
=RD=

2 On July 21, 2008 at 2:27 PM, daniel wrote —

Rainbow Demon,

You ask an excellent question. I've pondered it for many years as I've watched the gay community assimilate into the larger society. unfortunately, I fear that process has been more about our adaptation to the heterosexual culture than preserving our uniquely gay culture.

For me, I find that extremely troubling. While I support our efforts to obtain the rights afforded to our heterosexual counterparts, I'm opposed to doing so as an act of capitulation.

In fact, I would suggest that the institution of marriage is a failed proposition in need of reformation. The fact that there are those who would deny gays the opportunity to partake in it merely highlights the degree to which marriage has become little more than the symbolic line in the sand. I'm of the opinion that the "protection" of marriage has become the vehicle by which religious and political leaders acquire wealth and hold power.

In the end, the question you've asked demonstrates the dilemma facing the LGBT community. Our efforts to win rights by abandoning our cultural identity and mimicking the cultural standards of other may well be far too high a price to pay. At the very least, it is a tacit admission of our willingness to conform to the standards of others.

Rainbow Demon, it's always good to hear from you. Thanks for sharing.

Regards,

Daniel

3 On July 21, 2008 at 7:51 PM, RainBro wrote —

I love reading your insightful articles. You state things so eloquently, Daniel. It is indeed as great a pleasure to read your beautifully fluent words on the subject, as it is dispiriting to entertain their most dismal meaning.

The disappearance of diversity truly brings with it the death of a thriving society. Equal rights are necessary for all citizens, but if it means having conformity forced on anyone - I agree with you - is it really worth it? ...but our right to the "rights" as citizens still remains.

I believe we've made enough money for the cancerous hate machine of the religious right. We need to retain our own traditions - which they may or may not already have named for us: "Gay Marriage". Gay marriage cannot be between a man and a woman... I vote we exclude them, like they have us.

4 On July 23, 2008 at 9:01 AM, Ben in Oakland wrote —

Great article, as always, daniel.

As I have often said, the various battles we as gay people face are not about their supposed subject matter. Marriage, sodomy laws, adoption, DADT, and on and on, are really about how much the very existence of gay people bothers some straight people, and some wanna-be-straight-but-ain't's. I've never seen an argument against the ending of this stupid prejudice and the full inclusion of gay people in our society that doesn't boil down to I hate queers, my religion tells me to hate queers, or sex of any sort SCARES THE HELL OUT OF ME.

No fact, logic, reason, or compassion makes headway against the tide of those emotions.

5 On August 2, 2008 at 7:44 PM, daniel wrote —

Rainbow Demon & Ben,

I hope you both know how much I appreciative your kind words of encouragement. I'm happy to know that my words are able to find those who share a similar view of the world.

If only those on the far right would allow themselves to see and hear beyond the constructs of their narrow ideology. I suspect many of the problems we face would suddenly be resolved. So much for wishful thinking, eh?

Regards,

Daniel

Thought Theater at Blogged

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Underlying the polling related to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and same-sex marriage is a snapshot of a society still encumbered by gender disparity. The juxtaposition of the masculine and feminine highlight an unhealthy hierarchy. The order of things is diso... [Read More]

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