Gays and Conservatism

Gays are people. Not “gays are people, too,” but “gays are people.” Period. With the approach of CPAC and the obstinate withdrawal of the FRC and CWA from the event because of GoProud’s sponsorship, now would be a good time to remind people about Conservatism and how gays fit into it.

It’s the Liberty, stupid.

Today’s Movement Conservatism publicly appeals to the aims of Maximum Liberty. This is not the anarchic disorder that ultimately leads to the emergence of a despot, but an Ordered Liberty that emerges from the dynamics between individuals and groups acting on agreed-upon rules of engagement.

The Conservative paradigm of the relationship between the citizen and his government is one of a contract; that the government exists by consent of the governed. The relationships between individuals, however, is not so clearly defined. A person does not exist by consent of his fellow man. The Libertarian ideal—“your right to punch me ends as your fist approaches my face”—is a good rule of thumb, but it is a rule of thumb. Every person, or group of people acts to maximize their exercise of rights, and society has a competitive aspect to it.

The heart of the “gay conflict” in Conservatism is over the very nature of homosexuality.

As our understanding of psychology, human behaviour and genetics expands, we further see that a person of one sex being attracted to another of the same sex has a Natural Cause, no matter how un-Natural this may appear. We’re learning that same-sex attraction is not a Construct, but a Phenomenon. It’s associated with certain Behaviours, but the Nature of homosexuality has to be assessed separate from the Behaviours it evokes.

As I engage these discussions in person and on Twitter, I’m seeing a common misconception that Homosexuality and Queer Culture are one and the same. It is not. This distinction has been recognized by none less than the Catholic Church, in its stance to “love the sinner but hate the sin” and by calling upon Catholic Homosexuals to live a life of celibacy. While the Catholic recommendation of celibacy places a gay’s spiritual health mainly as his responsibility, I do not understand why some American Evangelicals—Protestants—find that being homosexual is irredeemable.

Aaron Brazell reminded me of the Calvinist, deterministic background of what we see in American Protestantism today. While an in-depth discussion would detract from this article greatly, here’s how I see the thought process goes:

  1. Being homosexual is a sinful nature in and of itself.
  2. Therefore, choosing celibacy while maintaining one’s homosexual nature does not produce a state of grace.
  3. One can only be in a state of grace—salvation—if one has renounced one’s homosexual nature.

Whereas the Catholic approach challenges a gay to live a celibate life on the off chance that the deprivation of an appetite would lead to a state of grace, the Protestant approach is to demand that a gay deny his very nature. This demand is easy to make because no matter how much Knowledge is gathered that gives us a greater understanding of Homosexuality, this Does Not Matter in that Homosexuality is Evil By Nature. This does not compute to me; this appears to be a spiritual Catch-22.

The politics of gaydom is about moving the Overton Window.

Not the Glenn Beck book, but the process by which what seems a radical concept gains normative status. Less than sixty years ago, the very idea that a gay man can openly associate with other gay men in public was unimaginable. We’ve heard the stories of closeted men and their sympathetic lady friends posing as their “beards” for the world to see when they associate in public.

Without going into a whirlwind tour of gay history in America, it’s sufficient to say that even in mildly insular suburban areas, it is no longer socially acceptable to publicly shun a gay or lesbian merely for being who they are. As our understanding of homosexuality increases, so has acceptance.

We’ve gone from a society whose fathers “beat the gay” out of their sons into one where few do, and one where we are worried that our gay children are having the gay beaten out of them by their schoolmates. This is not a bad thing, and as with all organic changes in society, there will come a time when different challenges will face the gays of that generation.

While the politically savvy Social Conservative organizations are working at keeping the status quo, a vocal minority does receive attention for trying to roll back society’s mores. Without an open debate between the two extremes of radical progress and regressivism, one side will gain dominance.

The FRC and CWA want to marginalize gays. For now, it seems that they’re marginalizing themselves. But we don’t know how this action will impact the environment down the line. We don’t know if this will be a long-term positive or negative for gays, Conservatism, and the relationship between both.

Tolerance and acceptance do not equal approval.

To appear at CPAC with GoProud does not mean you cosign the statement that “it’s okay to be gay.” State recognition of gay marriage does not say that either. The only people I’ve heard say this anyway are those who think that homosexuality is a chosen state of being, and I want to emphasize this.

When I say that homosexuality is “normative,” I do not mean that one is not “normal” unless one is homosexual. I mean that one can be homosexual and not be “abnormal.” The Social Conservative condemnation of gays focuses on one key difference between gays and straights: choice of sexual partner. To the Social Conservative, this detail eclipses everything that makes us similar, enough so much so that anything that comes forth from a homosexual is by nature of its origin, a fruit of a poisonous tree. I don’t know what to call that kind of objection. “Bigotry” seems hackneyed and politically loaded.

I don’t know how to end this write-up.

I’ve dreaded most that in contrast to most of my written work, I have no conclusion to this post, even one this long. I just want to reassert my thoughts on the matter as I’ve shared them on Twitter. Hopefully this gives anyone who reads this some additional perspective.

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