Gay Marriage, Stronger Families

A friend mentioned to me recently that he is no longer cruising since he can admit to himself that he is gay. I am sharing that because my friend’s case illustrates the benefits of a rational and open approach to sexuality.

His experience reflects a larger trend in western societies. Since Frank Wedekind, Sigmund Freud, and Bertrand Russell have shifted attitudes towards sex from denial and hypocrisy to open and rational engagement, sexual exploitation such as prostitution, which used to be central in every town of the western world, has been marginalized.

When young men and young women begun to interact openly and on an increasingly equal footing, venereal disease rates plummeted even before the invention of penicillin. The reason was the demise of the red light districts that used to dominate the hearts of every town in the western world.

Arguably, even aids would be less of a problem had we treated our gay brothers and sisters with respect instead of hounding them out of our families and communities.

Likewise, illegitimacy statistics are only a fraction of what they used to be during the Victorian age. If we had reliable numbers about sex crimes, I suspect that they would also show a decline by an order of magnitude.

To be sure, we do have problems with media images that trivialize sex with an anything goes attitude. Instead of pushing gays into the margins of society, we need to blame lazy and unimaginative marketers for that. The solution is to stop buying so much garbage and demand quality programing.

(In my opinion, the best way to empower our children to deal with the mass media manipulation is to properly educate them about sexuality. The earlier sex education begins, I suspect, the better the results. Answering a child’s question immediately and forthrightly is a good start.)

Family traditionalists are especially concerned about supposedly high divorce rates. It is true that divorce rates increased when gender relations were renegotiated, but that trend has since been reversed and divorce statistics are falling again.

Nationwide, divorce rates dropped from 4.7 divorces per thousand residents in 1990 to 3.7 in 2004. With 2.2 divorces per thousand residents in 2004, Massachusetts, the only state in the nation that allows for gay marriage, has a lower divorce rate than any state in the bible belt. With 3.9 divorces per thousand residents, Utah is not even close.

The bottom line is that domination and denial are imposing a steep price on individuals and society in terms of intra-family violence, prostitution, venereal disease, and sexual violence. Openness, on the other hand, has substantially reduced the self-destructive behavioral patterns.

Although I can empathize with the emotional challenges that gay marriage presents to family traditionalists, the argument that gay marriage would institutionally undermine the family does not hold up to the facts. For all our problems, our families are a lot healthier than their Victorian predecessors. On average, contemporary families are also performing better than the fifties model. At least that is what family violence, prostitution, and venereal disease data show.

When we project our concerns about ourselves by scapegoating a small minority, we might temporarily feel better but ultimately, the damage will catch up with us and our children. Reason and liberty, which means to respect the rights of others, create the strongest foundation for healthy families.

If we do not allow for gay marriage then our freedom is much more limited than it needs to be. Gay marriage is an indicator of the limits and influence of reason and liberty in a society.

I am glad that my friend does not need to be cruising any longer. I am sorry that I didn’t sustain his liberty earlier.

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10 Responses

  1. Mike Kessler says:

    Hellmut, not only does Massachusetts have a divorce rate that’s lower than the Bible Belt, it’s also the lowest of any state in the union. See what kind of an impact allowing gays has had on marriage? It intimidates people into STAYING MARRIED!

  2. Hellmut says:

    Good point, Mike. Good to see you!

  3. Hellmut says:

    Speaking of cruising, Reuters reports that Larry Craig cannot withdraw his guilty plea.

  4. chanson says:

    Lowest divorce rate of any state in the union? Haha, the irony!!! We’d better stop gay marriage quick before it wreaks more havoc… 😉

  5. Todd O. says:

    A brief explanation of cruising for those who want to better understand (cross-posted from FLAK, with a few modifications):

    In American gay male culture, “to cruise” means the delicate dance of picking up men in public places. Sometimes this is in safe gay spaces, like a gay bar or coffee house where gay men openly congregate. But the word dates back from a hundred or more years ago when men who wanted to have sex with men had particular areas they would go to to procure a partner. In America, there were usually areas of town (e.g., Chelsea docks in NYC or Buena Vista Park in San Francisco), or public spaces such as restrooms, or bus stations that were known for their “cruisiness.”

    It is important to note that although initially these relationships were anonymous and fleeting, for most men who formed lifelong partnerships and relationships and friendships with other homosexually oriented men, this was the way they met. It was, in short, the social interaction that ultimately gave rise to what today we might call “gay male” culture in America. (The trajectory is slightly different in Europe and elsewhere, where the history of same-sex sexuality among men was different.)

    To this day, having sex is one of the primary ways that gay men form initial bonds with men that often become part of their kin groups, whether or not they form a “pair bond” in the straight sense. For most gay men, this is a relatively normal way to meet and form bonds with other gay men. Obviously, sex serves different functions among gay men than in the general society.

    In the “olden days,” this was more or less the only way that homosexual men could have sex with men. Often cruising was also a sexual outlet for otherwise heterosexual men “in the know” as well (they were referred to as “trade” back in the day, but that word has many different meanings now)). The social context of seeking sex partners for homosexual men has changed dramatically. Rather than most homosexual men being married with kids and seeking sex with men on the side when they could get it, now gay men have the option of coming out, being part of a community, and openly finding partners. It is difficult to underestimate the impact of this transformation, both for homosexual men and for the larger society.

    Incidentally, this has not only resulted in a greater openness for gay men, but also a loss of a kind of sexual and social interaction between homo- and heterosexual men who didn’t mind getting down with other men when the occasion *cough* arose.

    [To be clear, humans have many reasons to have sex, and historically in the United States, men whose primary sexual desires were to women have had reason and occasion to have sex with men (e.g., the merchant marines and whaling ships; the Bowery in early 20th century New York; Barbary Coast in San Francisco; etc.). This was before Americans thought of such strict categories as gay and straight, and before we thought that a sexual act defined a persons character, and before Americans impugned a man’s masculinity if he had sex with another man.]

    In America today, it is important not to overestimate this culture of openness. For many reasons, many many men still remain in contexts where openness is not possible. This has a psychological dimension, e.g., the inability to shape a self-awareness that includes same-sex desire or the refusal to claim an organizing identity based on one’s sexual orientation. And it has massive social dimensions, where the risk of exclusion or rejection from family, friends, employment, politics, and communities is still very real. And so the pressures not to embrace one’s sexual desires and seek relatively “normalized” gay relationships is still immense (at least in the United States). This is most evident among gay men of conservative religions, most notably Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, in the U.S.

    In a nutshell, these are the still-closeted or conflicted men who haven’t been able to figure out a way for themselves to integrate their sexual desires into their everyday lives.

    There is a further dynamic involved here which is that gay men argue among themselves about when and where cruising should be appropriate or desirable after one has come out. For openly gay men in today’s gay male culture, ‘cruising’ in public places is usually about the erotics of the adventure. The danger and risk involved add to the pleasure of the hunt and the consummation. Some gay men chose to practice “the old ways” simply because it’s “hot”. But public cruising has been a point of heated debate and much anger among gay men themselves since at least the 1960s. Out more-liberal gay men often view cruising for sex in public as self-hating and closeted; more-conservative out gay men often view it as immature and bad for all gay men’s image of respectability.

  6. Stormin Post Mormon says:

    This one was also posted to FLAK . . .

    I don’t entirely understand what you and your friend mean by, “I stopped cruising when I admitted I was gay.”

    By “crusing” do you mean anonymous sex?

    If so, how does one man have anonymous (or any other kind of) sex with other men BEFORE he admits that he is gay? I realize that “being gay” and “having gay sex” aren’t necessarily the same thing, but it does seem like there’s a pretty high correlation . . .

    I could better understand the statement, “I stopped cruising when I decided that being gay was okay.” It makes sense to me that if someone is fighting their gay nature, anonymous sex might seem less like giving in than sex within a committed relationship.

    Are the two statements equivalent? Or am I missing something?

  7. chanson says:

    Re: “If so, how does one man have anonymous (or any other kind of) sex with other men BEFORE he admits that he is gay?”

    The person in question is encouraged to view these anonymous encounters as “occasional slip-ups” that have nothing to do with his real life. He would likely see such episodes as shameful errors requiring repentence, and not something he would want to accept as a part of his identity. This attitude goes hand-in-hand with the idea that being gay is a choice and not an inherent quality. The closeted individual might easily see himself — not as gay — but as weak, and hope to train himself to stop making bad choices.

  8. anonymous says:

    As well, there are people (men and women alike) who are so brilliant at compartmentalization that one aspect of their identity can stand separate from their social personae. I would argue that a small percentage of them do not see their anonymous trysts as any more pathological than indulging in p*rn – simply because they may not view the act of same-sex (not same-gender, I believe that to be a different ball o’ wax altogether) sex as ‘not as normalized’, therefore not as egregious as having a heterosexual affair on their spouse. It behooves them to continue pathologizing (sic?) gay sex so that they are not called to reckon with a ‘sin’ that is equal to having a ‘straight liason’ outside marriage. This is my own opinion based on reading Judith Butler, Pat Califia, etc. Those involved in queer politics may want to correct my stance. However, for church officials to think of homosexuality (gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer) as same-gender attraction is a fallacy. I learned from early on that ‘sex is between your legs and gender is in your head’. Hope I’ve added something worthwhile to the topic and not confused things. BTW, I identify as a straight-married, bisexual who is politically a lesbian. My anonymity is political, too, sorry.

  9. Hellmut says:

    Wow, that’s certainly something to think about, Anonymous. I hope that you will come back.

  10. Deangelo Terell says:

    Divorce causes major issues with health insurance benefits. Many families have employer provided and/or paid for health insurance benefits that cover the entire family. It is not uncommon to see situations where the other spouse is a stay at home parent, with absolutely no access to health insurance benefits, or employed at a job with either no health insurance benefits available or those benefits available at a substantial cost. After a divorce, the spouse with the family health insurance coverage can no longer cover the other parent. They are no longer “family” members who can take advantage of one health insurance policy. How to then ensure that everyone stays insured does become an issue for negotiation and/or divorce litigation.”‘

    Till next time

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