Magazine article Commonweal

Is It Ideology? the Agenda of Real-Life Gays

Magazine article Commonweal

Is It Ideology? the Agenda of Real-Life Gays

Article excerpt

In my initial reading of David R. Carlin, Jr.'s April 9 column on gays in the military ["Searching for the Soap"], I felt he made a large leap when he listed the rising social acceptance of gays and lesbians - along with the prevalence of divorce, premarital sex, out-of-wedlock babies, absent fathers - as a significant cause of the decline of marriage and the family as institutions. A problem with that argument, as a couple of letter writers point out in this issue, is that it's not gays but straights that cause these other social evils. Since then I've come to see the link: For Carlin, acceptance of homosexual liaisons is like unto tolerance of the heterosexual aberrations he lists because it too undermines sexual norms that are needed to preserve and strengthen familyhood.

Well, yes, a little. Some of the people who don't object to the homosexual "life style" are people who have little respect for any of our inherited social and ethical norms, particularly those that have something to do with sex. Such people don't understand family as institution, think we all should do our own sexual thing ("as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else"), and rank intolerance, very broadly defined, as the worst of social and personal evils. I think that's what Carlin means by "the gay rights ideology" [Correspondence, May 7]. Others think of it as liberal individualism gone amok. Such an ideology exists; is present in but not confined to the gay rights movement; is false and dangerous.

But the situation is messier than Carlin portrays it. First, not all gay supporters of gay rights are apostles of normlessness. Second, not all opponents of gay rights are moved by high-minded concern for marriage and the family.

Some of the letters we've published, in this and previous issues [Correspondence, January 29; February 12 and 26; April 9; May 7] bear witness to the first point; their writers aren't pushing an ideological agenda that includes free-for-all sexuality and/or disdains family values. What the letter writers say confirms what I've already come to grasp. The gays and lesbians I know best are people who respect their families of origin and the family as institution, aren't themselves promiscuous but faithful, and would like their own unions regarded under the rubric of family; some would like to have, or do have, children under their care.

My personal experience, along with second-hand knowledge gained from books and the media, says that gays are as different from one another as straights, and are as likely (or as unlikely) as straights to be honest citizens, good workers, dutiful sons and daughters, brave and competent soldiers and sailors. The real-life gays of my acquaintance want gay rights, including social acceptance; but they are not anticommunitarian ideologues. In this they are like the homosexuals I saw interviewed during the April 25 march on Washington, who may have been carefully selected by sympathizers in the media, but who were nevertheless real and impressive people; in my judgment they represent the gay/lesbian mainstream. …

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