a little east of reality

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

orson scott card is an idiot...oh sorry, was that unkind?

Craig posted this document (Disagree But Don't Be Unkind) from Orson Scott Card. It should not be understood from that sentence that Craig agrees with the document. I had too many problems with it to contain within one comment on his post, so I'm writing my thoughts here. I'm also including some TG/GID-related thoughts, because that's something I've been looking at a lot lately and I think there are some connected issues. This post is way long...apologies in advance.

From the document:

Legalizing gay marriage has huge legal implications far beyond letting same-sex couples enter into marriage contracts. Once "marriage" has been so radically redefined, it will become unlawful and discriminatory for schools or any other public facility to favor, for instance, heterosexual dating or dancing.
Okay firstly, as to the (largely misunderstood and sometimes made up) legal implications, OSC really needs to read this document. It is written by a member of his church and very aptly deals with the misconceptions under which he is clearly suffering. Secondly, same-sex marriage has already been legalised in many places and the things he is describing DIDN'T HAPPEN.

Homosexuality itself is simply not understood. The available evidence suggests that bisexuality is far more common than exclusive homosexuality, that same-sex attraction may be a phase in some individuals and is merely an option for others. Even where individuals feel they have no option except same-sex attraction, we do not understand the cause.
I agree. We don't know the cause. He is using that idea to argue that we shouldn't be 'rushing into' legalising same-sex marriage. In doing so he is really arguing that we cannot allow what we do not understand. I think he is missing an important point. We cannot identify the causes of sexual orientation (there are theories, but nothing definite) - which means that we therefore can no more identify how heterosexual attraction is caused than we can how homosexual attraction is caused. We understand the purpose of (hetero) attraction (to propagate the species...some people even think homosexuality is Nature's way of doing the opposite, though Nature should really take away the parenting instinct with it if it wants to achieve that goal...) but that's not the same as defining what causes a particular orientation to occur in one and not another. Card may consider heterosexual attraction a gift from God, but wouldn't that mean that, by implication, homosexual attraction is, too? Not that his religious beliefs are the defining marker here, even if he wants them to be.

According to some members and leaders in the LDS church, homosexuality is indeed from God, but not so much a gift as a burden that will bring reward if the person can only bear it long enough. (Being born with a disability is sometimes explained the same way, except of course for the major difference that acting on a handicap isn't considered a sin, whereas acting on a homosexual attraction is.) This is the most common explanation I have been given (that it's a test) and I've been a member almost my whole life. I've been thinking a lot about this issue lately - the concept that some things are just meant to be borne and do not instead indicate flaws in religious thinking- and not just in relation to homosexuality, but also in relation to gender identity disorder (the Mormon church also believes that gender is fixed, eternally. The official church handbook used by ward and stake leaders, I just found out today. indicates that persons who are considering an elective transsexual operation should not be baptized and that while persons who have already undergone an elective transsexual operation may be baptized if they are otherwise found worthy, such persons may not receive the priesthood or a temple recommend. I have no idea what the official policy is (if one exists) on people who are intersexed). Overall, the conclusion I have come to is that homosexuality (or GID) makes no logical sense as a trial, temptation or life burden. The implied personality of God in that scenario is disturbing.

In the interests of being honest, and also describing how my thinking has changed, I used to see these issues like this:
Homosexuality can be accurately described as unnatural because it denies the biological imperitive on which so much of our instinctual human behaviour is based. Therefore the LDS doctrine on homosexuality as a wrong seemed logical to me on the basis that it was unnatural. GID to me was also an anomaly, even an aberration, to nature, to the way things were supposed to happen. Often I felt that GID was caused by imposed conformity to unnecessary and often illogical society-defined gender roles (and I have to admit that in thinking this I pretty much ignored the relevence of how the Church teaches and continually reinforces traditional gender roles in its doctrine and policy). I knew very little about GID and had no understanding of the way the physical body itself (its shape, development and function, which of course is defined by biology not society) can be a major part of gender dysphoria. I think I just put both of these things in the 'too hard' basket and forgot about them. I think that was the wrong approach.

The flawed underlying premise in my previous thinking, whether I saw it or not at the time, was that 'difference is wrong'. Over the last several months I've come to the realisation that difference is...well, different. And that's all. Difference doesn't need to be threatening, or wrong. I knew that logically, and I didn't see myself as a person who feared or rejected difference, but I think I still believed it on some other level, perhaps because my belief system didn't make sense otherwise. I don't even think it (difference) is inherently good (though it is often positive and productive for various reasons).

Something that is different to the norm ('norm' defined only as what the majority of the population experience) can be described as an anomaly...it's technically accurate...but so what? I mean seriously, people born with six fingers used to be considered in some societies to be cursed or of the devil and killed at birth. In other societies these things were seen as signs of a person destined to be a shaman or spiritual leader. My point is, sometimes (often even) societies assign meaning to things that have no meaning. This is especially true in terms of religion. We want an explanation. We want to understand why things are not as we expect them to be. Because uncertainty ~ lack of a discernable reason for something happening or existing ~ makes us nervous or afraid. We start to contemplate just how little we really know or control in this life and we don't like it.

Some people think difference is to be celebrated, others that it is to be tolerated, and still others that it is to be shunned or hidden. I think it depends on the difference at hand. I also think that there is a big difference between believing something (which everyone has the right to do as they choose) and legislating it. I like to use Mill's harm principle for these decisions. It's not strictly applicable in the sense that the principle refers to personal choices, and there's no denying that homosexuality and GID in almost every case is not a choice (I say 'almost' only as an acknowledgement that the feminist movement in its more radical forms did spawn a small number of 'political lesbians'). But the point is that if it doesn't harm other people (and causing offence is not considered a harm), it shouldn't be legislated against. Even if people really believe that a person is hurting themselves in doing some particular thing, they should not legislate to prevent the action.

And to be clear, my understanding of these issues, apart from what I've already explained above, is now is more like this:
I do not know why some people are homosexual or experience GID. I have not seen any convincing evidence that either of these things are caused by environment or upbringing. I assume there is a cause just as there are causes for all matters to do with human development and exceptions to the usual course of human development, but I acknowledge that we may never be able to define what that cause is. I don't think it matters, morally, if we ever can. Regardless of whether or not they are statistically anomalous, these things are real. That is a truth.
Religious belief should not be legislated. The Harm Principle should determine whether or not an action is allowed or forbidden in the law. (For the record, this is not something that has changed. I've never believed that religious beliefs (mine or anyone else's) should be imposed on others by law.) Impact on religious belief is not a valid reason to prevent an action or state that does not violate the Harm Principle. As an example, the above reasoning would allow marriage between two adults of any sex (and actually more than two as well), but wouldn't allow marriage to a cat or a child, because neither a cat nor a child can give legal consent and others are responsible for protecting them from (in the case of children even self-inflicted) harm.

The best evidence is that children are most likely to be reproductively viable -- i.e., able to mate successfully in circumstances likely to produce children who grow up to be reproductively viable -- when they have two parents, one of the same sex, and one of the opposite sex.
Given that statistically most gay people have straight parents, I do not see how this can possibly be true.

Growing up with opposite-sex parents, but in a society that has normalized and actively promotes one-sex marriages, will certainly affect the children of opposite-sex parents, potentially tipping the balance for children whose sexual identity is still formable.
I am stomping my feet under the desk.
1. No-one is talking about 'actively promoting' same-sex marriage. And even if they were, they would only be promoting it to people who are already gay, because hello, straight people are not going to consider same-sex marriage just because the advertising is good ~ this isn't a decision between holidaying at the beach or in the mountains, for crying out loud ~ and that being the case they would actually just be promoting the idea of marriage, full stop. That's wrong how?
2. 'will certainly affect the children of opposite-sex parents'
By itself, I agree. They may become more tolerant and less likely to bully other children for their sexual orientation or for the situation of their parents. I'd be cool with that.
3. 'will certainly affect the children of opposite-sex parents, potentially tipping the balance for children whose sexual identity is still formable'
With the rest of the sentence, that's a crock. Sexual identity is not formable in the way he's claiming it is.
Yet we are proceeding headlong into a vast social experiment whose consequences, as far as we can see, risk serious damage to many in order to create only the most marginal benefit for a few.What's the hurry? Why the hostility toward even the slightest opposition? Can't our opponents wait to get their way until they have persuaded a clear majority?
Setting aside the obvious point that no, as far as we can see, legal same-sex marriage does not 'risk serious damage to many in order to create only the most marginal benefit for a few'...wait for what? How should that persuasion take place? Political action is appropriate and seeking rights and recognition in the law IS a form of persuasion. It brings issues to the attention of society and allows a decision to be made. If Proposition 8 fails in November, it will be because a majority HAVE BEEN persuaded.

Can't they listen to people with ideas that are different from theirs?
Can you, OSC?

Labels: , , ,